Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Link Love :: Creative Resources

I've put together a quick list of interesting information about running a handmade business and being a creative person. I hope you find some inspiring and helpful information!

a video of Elizabeth Gilbert talking about nurturing creativity
Trust via The Business of Being Creative
Advice From an Etsy Veteran via Handmadeology

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Business Tip of the Week :: Get Your Name Out There

Have you ever thought about how many people would love to buy your handmade items if only they knew you existed? How do you reach people who have no idea about your shop, boutique, or website? Here are my top three tips for getting your name out there (without breaking the bank):

1. Advertise on blogs. Many bloggers have very reasonable sponsorship rates and some will even do an ad swap so you both get more exposure. Make sure to think about your target audience when choosing a blog for your advertisement - does it appeal to the same type of person that would be interested in your product?

2. Find some local press opportunities. Many local magazines and newspapers love to feature small businesses. Do you ever partner with local charities or contribute to the life of your community? Do you have a collection of vintage dresses just begging for a spread on the spring style page? Do your homework, refine your story, and submit your idea.

3. Make a video. Shooting a video about your product or your business and putting it on is a great way to show customers your personality and establish a bond. Plus, you can show off all the ways your item can be used, how it's made, or a million other things that potential buyers may find interesting and/or amusing!

A Berry Good Gift Guide - Treasured Finds

You can find more berry themed gift ideas here.
Thank you to Michabella for these Treasured Finds!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Customizable Gifts - Treasured Finds

You can find more customizable gift ideas here.
Thank you to Calamari Studio for these Treasured Finds!

Business Tip of the Week :: Customer Service

Customer service is an important part of any business whether it is an online shop or a local boutique. As handmade business owners we want to be professional, friendly, and encourage our customers to return for more purchases - and this is where having great customer service will make all the difference. Here are my top three tips for keeping your customers happy:

1. Post your policies. Information on returns, exchanges, and shipping should be carefully considered and clearly posted on your website or in your store. Think about being fair to the customer and fair to your business - harsh policies may discourage buyers, but lenient policies may ending up costing you money in the long run. Take the time to find a balance that's right for you.

2. Show your appreciation. Customers love to feel appreciated and noticed when they are patronizing a small business so a little personal attention goes a long way! If you operate an online shop you can include a thank you note with each purchase or include a small sample to encourage repeat business. If you're running a local boutique you will want to greet each customer and consider giving out coupons to repeat customers. It's the small things that count!

3. Listen to your customers. When you get positive feedback from a customer be sure to let them know that you appreciate it - it means you're on the right track! And if you have a complaint to deal with remember to be courteous and patient. Be a good listener and try to resolve the problem while sticking to your shop policies.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Time Management - Procrastination ... Friend or Foe?

Hi, My name is April, and I am a procrastinator.

Do you find it odd that a person that is a self-admitted procrastinator also writes posts on time management? Well, I do!

The thing is, I generally use my procrastination to it's fullest advantage. I know that I get tons more done when I procrastinate than when I try to work steadily along. However, I trick myself ... I fake procrastination.

The way that I have found to "fake" procrastination is by saving things up and scheduling them all on the same days. This includes household tasks like cooking and cleaning, as well as work tasks like making similar things on the same days. I also tend to write due dates on my calendar at least 2 days in advance. So, if I tell a person that their order will ship in 7 days, then I write it down as due on the 5th day.

As for household tasks ... I only do laundry once per week ... as much good that I see with doing a load of laundry each day, I find it much more productive to do all of the washing, folding, and putting away at one time. The same way that I can cut a lot of wood the same size if I cut 3 pieces at one time versus cutting them one at a time.

So, for all of you procrastinators out there ... start channeling that energy ... it can be a good thing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Aspiring Artisan: Moore Magnets


Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi! I'm April! I am the sole owner/creator behind MooreMagnets. My husband and I have 3 boys, so I also answer to mom, hey you, and various other grunts and mumbles. I spend most of my days in jeans or sweats and tee shirts ... it is a rare day that I dawn a skirt or something that needs to be ironed.

Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I love the beach, mountains, and spending time outside. We spend lots of time making fires in our fire pit, cooking marshmallows, and talking about our next DIY project around the house. I wish that I could tell you that I am an avid scuba diver, as I have been certified since I was 12 years old, but I don't get to go nearly as often as I would like.


What does the typical workday look like for you?
I usually get up around 5:30 or 6 am each morning and my day starts with coffee and getting boys off to school. After that I usually plan my work time around the weather. Since I do lots of my work outside I try to spend the nicest part of the day outdoors, and save inside work for the extremely cold times or extremely hot times in the summer. I love the flexibility that being self-employed allows me.


What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

I think the biggest piece of advice I would give is to not take any one piece of advice as the gospel. There are tons of things that people told me to try that worked for their shop, but I either wasn't good at it or it didn't work for me. So, I took each piece of advice with a grain of salt, used the pieces that worked the best for me, and continued to be open to different advice until I found what worked best.


How do you promote your work? What do you find to be the most effective?
I promote in a variety of ways and with a variety of methods. I do craft shows locally and I find that the ones that are strictly handmade items work best for me. I also have participated in online reviews and giveaways that I find to be most effective during the gift-giving season. I am also a big believer in targeted online advertising where I have taken the time to think about the aspects of my items that are most useful to certain groups of folks and then I advertise those specific items to that group.

What inspired Moore Magnets?
I didn't specifically start MooreMagnets as a business, or because I was particularly talented in a specific craft. Really, I just wanted a cute magnet board for my boys to use and I couldn't find one and decided to make one myself. After that I was asked by friends and family to make one for their home, and the business naturally progressed after that. I offer a lot of products now that were either requested by customers or created to fill my own needs.

What specific steps are you taking to grow your etsy shop?
I am continually trying to come up with new product ideas. I think this has been the biggest thing that has helped me to stay inspired and also attract new customers.


In ten years, where would you like to be?
I honestly hope that I am still doing what I am doing today ... only in a bigger space. I would really like a more dedicated space inside my house to work with paper and fabric, and I would like that space to have a door that can be shut when I am off and spending time with my husband and boys. I'd also be happy underwater on a scuba diving adventure!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

DIY: Create You Own, Custom Art Wall

Hi there, folks! Hillary Doggart-Greer here from hilariagalleries. As an artist, I am constantly changing things up in my home and especially on my walls. Here lately, I've been crushing after some of the beautiful, multi-frame botanical print displays that can be found all over home design magazines and blogs these days.

Pottery Barn
Unfortunately, though, I do not have 8-10 beautiful, wooden frames sitting in my basement. So I thought to myself, "Self, how could I recreate this effect without spending major cash?" I went shopping around my house and studio and found eight, 11"x14" canvases that were leftovers from unsuccesful art efforts (no, not every painting I begin makes it to the post office, sadly). If you are not an active painter, no sweat--5-packs of these canvases can be purchased on the cheap at Michael's hobby stores anytime. Just wait for a sale or print off one of their many coupons that are available frequently.

The next step was to paint all of the canvases the same, egg-shell white color (this would prove to be the "matting" when finished).
Then came time to consider the "frames". Firstly, I marked an even inch from each side to create a semi-perfect rectangle.

I then attempted to paint the edges out using a deep, chocolate brown. However, this did not pan out so well--this method produced a lot of brush marks and an uneven tone. Not good; I was really looking for a nice, clean finish. I finally decided on using a piece of cardboard as a reverse stencil for the rectangle. Since my canvases were 11"x14" in perameter, I simply cut the cardboard to 9"x12" size. After laying the card board centered upon each canvas, I then used a deep brown, gloss spray paint to create the "frames." Unfortunately, I do not have a pic for this part, since I had to take a break to prepare dinner for three little ones.
Here is the final result:

While you could use any photo or print you'd like, I chose to use free, vintage printables from NYC Digital Gallery. I picked different images that were relevant to our family. For instance, in this "frame" I mod-podged a print from an antique calendar for the month of October, since that's when my husband and I got married.

To apply the image, simply print the pic using your home printer onto some decent cardstock. Cut to size and then apply mod podge to the back of the paper. Center the print onto the canvas and then mod-podge over the paper itself. Voilà!

I took this opportunity to down play our huge, old school TV. The use of multiple, dark rectangles helps to soften the big, black blah that is the square of our television. Total cost of this project: nada! Yup, nothing. I had all of the materials on hand and even if you don't have them at home it should still be a low cost, high impact project.
Happy Decorating!

November glow - gift ideas under $40 - Treasured Finds

You can find more gift ideas here.

Business Tip of the Week :: Designing a Booth

As the holidays approach many creative business owners are gearing up for seasonal craft fairs - a great place to sell your work, get your name out there, and network with other creative professionals! You can find more about choosing and researching fairs in this great AAG article, but once you've chosen an event how do you go about designing your booth?

Here are my top tips for putting together a great display:

1. Neutralize the background. Clutter behind or to the sides of your booth can be distracting to customers, so hang a curtain or find another way to define your space. This goes for the area under your tables, too!

2. Provide a mirror. If you're selling necklaces, scarves, bags, or anything wearable you should make sure to incorporate a mirror into your display to encourage customers to try things on.

3. Create dimension. Vary the height and depth of your products and display pieces to make the whole picture more interesting and eye catching.

4. Mark prices clearly. Customers may be uncomfortable asking about prices so make sure that you provide tags or signs that indicate the cost of each item or type of item.

5. Replenish your display as merchandise sells. No one wants to look at an empty booth so make sure to restock your displays throughout the fair. Remember to take a step back and view it from the customers point of view!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Aspiring Artisan: Letterhappy


Tell us a bit about yourself.
hi there! i'm christen strang and i'm the artist behind letterhappy. i'm a 25 year old southern belle born, raised, and currently living in mobile, alabama. and i love all things bright, colorful, fun.. and well, happy.


Apart from creating things, what do you do?
although one day i would love to create happy things full time, i currently hold a part time day job at my former high school. i stand at a copy machine as big as my car for five hours a day and make copies of tests, quizzes, and assignments for the entire school. needless to say, i'm a pretty big deal.


What made you first want to become an artist?

i was actually an education/english major for my first two years of college. if you had asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up, from the ages of 4 to 19, i would have said "a teacher". i was making out my schedule for my junior year, and realized that i didn't have any more spots open for the classes i really enjoyed, like art, photography, design, etc. not only that, but i was actually dreading my student teaching blocks. i had to make a decision, and i had to make it fast. i took quite possibly the biggest leap in my life, and changed majors to art business with a minor in graphic design. art had always been my passion, i just didn't realize until that moment that it would also end up being my career. it was the best decision i ever made.

What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?

don't get discouraged. celebrate every single sale. take amazing pictures. give awesome customer service. be yourself. put your personality into what you do. and above all, LOVE what you do.


How do you promote your work? What do you find to be the most effective?
i have a twitter, {} a facebook page {} and a newsletter {}. i use all three to keep my customers and friends in the know about new products. besides those, my most effective method of promotion {specific to etsy} has been renewals. don't just let your amazing work sit there and wait for someone to come along and find it. put your goods out there, wave them in people's faces.. you're awesome and you have great stuff, your potential customers just don't know it yet.


I love the variety of items in your shop, where does your inspiration come from?
a lot of my typography work is heavily inspired by song lyrics. i love taking the beautiful things that we hear and turning them into beautiful things that we can see. the same goes for my cards.. mostly words and sweet sentiments, with a little bit of humor thrown in there. i'm well on my way to making letterhappy a full service boutique of sorts.. a little bit of jewelry, a little bit of vintage, and even a few screenprinted shirts make their way into the shop every now and then.


In ten years, where would you like to be?
ten years seems like a lifetime away, and i'm not sure i should even speculate! above all, i'd like to still be doing what i love.. and happy.. of course. :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Neutral Fabulosity - Treasured Finds

Vintage Chaise Lounge at French Eclectic
Chiffon Romper at Love Baby J Couture
Guardian of Memories by Stephmel Photography and Fine Art
Button Flower Earring by The Angry Weather

For more fabulous items please click here.
Thank you to Peaces of Indigo for these Treasured Finds!

Business Tip of the Week :: Take an E-Course

Most handmade business entrepreneurs love to learn new things - a new craft or technique, business strategies, marketing tricks, you name it and we like to learn about it! A great way for us to learn new skills is by taking an e-course. We can fit it into our crazy schedules and work through the class at our own pace - a definite bonus during the holiday season when things get really busy! Here is a roundup of e-courses created just for creative small business owners:

Dream Job : this is a great course that I took myself! Elsie and Emma tell there own dream job stories and give a lot of practical advice for running a thriving small business.

Indie Business : an interactive class for those building online and local businesses. Previous courses have included printable workbooks and live Q & A sessions. You can sign up for the next e-course on the website.

Handmade Horizons : an eight week e-course that includes videos, worksheets, and group coaching calls. This course is geared towards new business owners looking to take their business to the next level.

Handmadeology : this site has quite a few free e-courses on different topics related to selling on Etsy.

Blogging Adventure : a free e-course about blogging designed for crafters.