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7 (achievable) New Year Resoloutions to make 2008 the start of something Craftacular!

Happiest New Year Everyone. I hope you all had lovely time with your family and friends over Xmas. I myself was really ill from the 22nd of Dec to…well…I’m still feeling a bit pants, but thankfully over the worst of it of now.

A new year brings the promise of a whole host of wonderful craft business opportunities all of which with a few tweaks and time management tricks are within everyone’s grasp. I do feel that that the best way to proceed with something new is to continually set new achievable goals. The more ticks we can put on our achievable goal list, the more we are likely to make new ones and the more confident our goals will become. Here is a list of my general craft business goals for 2008. Anyone can achieve these, and I guarantee that if you can tick off most or all these goals your Craft business life will improve!

  1. If you haven’t already get yourself blog – initially (for most blog providers) this won’t cost you anything but a couple of hours of fiddling about with getting used to the blog editor. Hordes of craft business bloggers will tell you blogging is essential in getting your business out there. How much time you decide to invest in keeping your blog up to date is up to you, the more you put in the more you will get out of it. I have written more about setting up a blog here.
  2. I will set aside a regular time to tidy up my office and clear my desk – if you don’t yet have a designated work area for crafting and paperwork do try and get yourself one. When my business began I was using the corner of our the dining table which wasn’t practical and it drove us both bonkers! If you can at least get yourself your own well lit table, put up some shelves above your table, and book case too perhaps for your supplies and your paperwork you’ll be amazed at how much more productive and professional you’ll be (and feel) when you have your own clutter free work space.
  3. You will convert all of that energy that you use to make up reasons why you won’t succeed into looking honestly at your strengths and building upon them – I like to think I regularly have good ideas, but most of them don’t ever come to light because of ME! I tell myself that it’s too time consuming, expensive, I’m not skilled enough blah blah. The truth is they aren’t reasons for failure, they are in fact steps in a process which can be overcome. It’s so true, it all starts with believing you have something special to bring to the table and then acting upon it.
  4. I will share and get involved with the crafting community because amongst other crafty things it’s good for business - here’s a groovy post that will help you get started.
  5. I will have fun and enjoy this Craft Business it’s something that (with a little help) I set up and I have the right to have this thing to enjoy for me – Whatever level you decide to take your craft business to, be that selling the fruits of regular evenings spent sewing or running a website with a warehouse and the full works (one must dream) I think it’s important to love what you do. There is something special about craft and that something is that craft is created by the hands of individuals. Handmade is wonderfully stubborn in that by it’s very nature there can be no mass production. Handcraft is an expression of what we as individuals think feel and see, I think that that should be enjoyed and celebrated to it’s fullest. Love what you do and I promise the financial rewards will be well on the way to taking care of themselves.
  6. Find a way to delineate time for you, time for your family, and time for your craft business – I’m no time management guru, but I do know that if you do this and you do it to it’s fullest you will be happier, more productive, and (more or less) guilt free!
  7. Ask for help and ask for opinions - you shouldn’t go it alone. There is plenty of business help out there on the web, in you local bank, your fellow crafters (either virtually or face to face). Don’t be shy about asking those around you for advice and opinions, of course not everyone will have something helpful to say, but lots of people will. Get the support of those around you, swap services, get chatty about what you want to do/are doing. Folk will be happy for you and you will feel motivated to get going/keep going, and of course if you are nice to them they will be they will be there when you are having crap days :)
  8. Always be proud of who you are and of your talents – and be proud enough to strive for just a bit more!

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Have a wonderful New Year everybody :) What are you going to do differently in 2008?

How to use Flickr to increase traffic to your craft business.

The best way to get your name out there is to market yourself, and one of of the best ways to market yourself on the internet costs NOTHING! NADA! Ta dah! That’s right folks using social sites like Flickr costs a big fat ZERO. I am speaking from personal experience and Carrie Sommer, Kristin, and Amy all use Flickr to great effect to contribute to the crafting movement, market their businesses, and invite their readers/customers to get involved with what they do. I can’t tell you how enthusiastic about this kind of marketing not least because it has cut my Google Adwords bill in HALF!!

A lot of this info will apply to most any business or blog on the web all you’ll need is few hours a week and a digi camera.The main thing to remember is when using these sites for marketing purposes is to play nice; that means it’s not a good idea (and it is frowned upon) when users just plain advertise themselves without making any contribution. For instance on my own blog I don’t make any attempt to hide the fact that I use it for marketing purposes, but I hope that by writing tutorials, personal content, highlighting the work of others, and holding some draws on my blog, the marketing for my shop isn’t offensive to my readers. With sites like Flickr it’s the same; it’s good practice to give your readers a bone and make it worth their while to read your content especially if it contains marketing…

**UPDATE** Carrie has very helpfully reiminded me of this important Flickr guideline:
“Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes. Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account. Any other commercial use of Flickr, Flickr technologies (including APIs, FlickrMail, etc), or Flickr accounts must be approved by Flickr. For more information on leveraging Flickr APIs, please see our Services page…”

Today I will look at my favourite social site – Flickr. It is very powerful, slick and it has so much to offer in terms of communicating and marketing. Flickr is much more than storage site for your photos. Here are some groovy marketing things that you can do with Flickr:

  • Upload relevant images - and put your web link in the description box like I have with this image. The link is for a tutorial on my other blog that I have written on how to use purse twist locks in the hope that it will encourage readers to give them a try on their bags. In the blog tutorial there are links to my shop where the twist locks can be purchased if they so wish.  In this way the link on my photo doesn’t lead to a product in my shop, so I am not flouting the rules!

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My purse twist lock photo in Flickr.

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  • Join and create Groups - If you look at the right hand side of my photo you will see that the photo also belongs to different Pools. Pools are photo groups which have been set up by Flickr users to group photos in a manner of their choosing. I have set up 2 pools of my own; the U-Handbag Handmade Bag Pool (which is a pool for anyone to put their handmade bag pics where we can comment on each other’s handy work), and the Amy Butler Bags Pool (which is a pool that I use for the Amy Butler contest that I run every month, and I use the pool to show my customers what other folks have made using Amy’s patterns). If you can’t find pools that are relevant to you, just set up your own, it’s easy! If you click on any of these pools in my twist lock image you will see that my twist lock photo is included in other Pools (groups of photos). This means that my image is potentially being viewed by thousands of folks all around the world (and it doesn’t’ cost me anything)! If your photo and title is useful, relevant, or just offering something nice it has a greater chance of being clicked on and viewed by more folks.
  • Comment on other people’s images – Do you see the ‘Add your comment’ box at the bottom of my image? You can also put your own link in that box too. Of course it’s a good idea to stay relevant and be respectful if you are going to do this. For example someone could comment on my twist lock photo by saying “I’ve made a purse with a twist lock too, I’ve blogged about it here http://…………” – which could link to their blog which could then link to a bag shop etc. Therefore, anyone who views my twist lock photo will also view the comments on the photo too.
  • Add your links in your personal Flickr profile - like I have in my profile.
  • AND WHEN - When you’ve done some or all of the stuff above take the Flickr links to your photos and your groups and place them on your site/your blog and link back because those search engines like them Flickr Urls – YAY! Spend a few hours each on Flickr each week and see your traffic increase, have fun!

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Do you use Flickr? Have you tried any of the above tools, do you you know of anymore Flickr tricks? :)

Crafting Heroes Interview with Carrie Sommer; Owner of Sommer Designs & Crafty Mom!

Woo Hoo! Here is another fabulous Crafting Heroes Interview hot off the press. I am really loving these interviews. Like you, I am finding them so inspiring and full of great advice on how to run my own business. For those of you who don’t yet know, I asked the lovely readers of my other blog to vote for their favourite Crafting Heroes and LOADS of them responded, it was great! There are more wonderful Crafting Heroes interviews in the pipeline and this one is no exception…

This time the I’m featuring the lovely Carrie Sommer. Lots of you will already know and love Carrie from her delicious handmade bags and accessories that she sell through her shop Sommer Designs. Not only is she a whizz at the sewing machine, she is great at marketing herself too and this has really really helped in getting her business out there (in various magazines and such!) Rather than me giving you Carrie’s bio; Carrie has written an amusing one of her own: “My husband and I have been married for almost 19 years, but we dated for 8 and were friends for 4 before that. So, I’ve known him more than half my life! We have 3 boys – twins that are 15 and a 12 y.o. My twins just got their drivers permits and I’m scared to death! I am afraid of heights, but have climbed to the top of Mount Baldy, Mount San Jacinto & Mount Whitney. I have two silly doggies that keep me company all day in my studio. Lately, I’m really info refashioning, and it’s keeping me sane by allowing me a a much needed creative outlet from my creative business.” In our interview Carrie shares with us her experiences of starting up and running her Craft Business.

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Carrie with one her yummy aprons and bags. How does she manage to craft like crazy AND have lovely looking hair??
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CraftBoom!; How long have you been in craft business?

Carrie: I’ve been in the craft business for 4 years now.

CraftBoom! Where/how do you sell your items, and do you work from home?

Carrie: I do work from home. After my production line took over the formal dining room and started to encroach on the living room, we did a soft conversion of our 3-car garage. I love the wide open space, and I can cut out fabric in the middle of the night. Not that I do, but I could.

My products are sold on my website (www.sommerdesigns.com) and at local outdoor craft fairs and shows. I never thought I would enjoy the shows, but it’s become very gratifying to interact with my customers, and it’s expanded my customer base tremendously.

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Carrie’s booth looks great; it’s very professional and inviting.

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CraftBoom!: What made/inspired you to go into craft business, and what were you doing before?

Carrie: I have a degree in Political Science from UCLA, and I later became a paralegal. I always knew I wanted to stay home once I had children, but after my third son was born I started to get a little fidgety. I started freelance writing, which morphed into desktop publishing (this was 1996!) and finally website design. I started my business in 1999 as a web design studio. That was fun for a while, but when things slowed down a bit in 2003, I started thinking about my next creative venture. At this same time, a friend was pregnant, and I made a diaper bag for her. I hadn’t sewn in years, but somehow, I started receiving requests for more bags and the proverbial light bulb went off!

CraftBoom!: How did you finance the start-up of your business?

Carrie: When I started my business in 1999, it was service-based, and everything pretty much went right back into it. So I already had a small cushion with which to work. Everything I made in the beginning was reinvested, and that allowed my business to grow organically as opposed to financing it through loans. I’ve definitely bootstrapped this to the hilt!

CraftBoom!: How do you decide what you are going to sell?

Carrie: I have a set collection – 5 handbag styles, 1 apron style & my lavender drawer liners. The collection stays the same, but I change the fabric seasonally, or just when it strikes me to do so! There’s so much cool fabric out there, I sometimes can’t stop myself! (“Yeah tell me about it!” – Lisa)

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One of Carrie’s bag designs in scrummy fabric.

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CraftBoom!: When did you realise that your craft business had real potential?

Carrie: After I made that first diaper bag, I got a few requests for bags from friends and family. Then I put some up for sale on eBay (this was before Etsy!), and those sold well also. After about a month or two, I realized it was silly to be paying eBay fees when I already had a website. At that point, I transitioned from service-based web design to a shopping-based site. It was very easy for me to do.

CraftBoom!: What things do you do to market your business?

Carrie: What don’t I do?! I have to say that marketing is almost as much work as creating! And since I can’t afford to hire a PR firm (or I’m too stubborn and cheap), I’ve tried to be as creative as possible. I maintain a blog (www.sommerdesigns.typepad.com) and have tried to establish and maintain a online presence, not just on my website & blog, but also online communities, forums like The Switchboards (www.theswitchboards.com), places like Flickr, Facebook, etc. It all trickles back down, and I routinely get traffic & sales from these places. ["I agree this kind of marketing is so important and it's well worth the time & effort." - Lisa]

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One of Carrie’s aprons. Professional looking photos really do add value to your products.

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CraftBoom!: What things do you know now that you wish you knew from the beginning?

Carrie: Focus! Focus! Focus! There are so many ideas I’ve had over the years that I’ve tried to incorporate into the business, and they’ve actually taken time and money away from the core concept.

CraftBoom!: What do you love most about running your own craft business, and what do you like least?

Carrie: Well, I love that I make all the decisions, and can go where I want to go with my business. As I mentioned, I’ve done a lot of other things during this whole ride, and I love the flexibility that being an entrepreneur allows me. I’m home for my kids and family, and they support me 100%. This is so important because I have to count on them a lot as well when I’m busy.

The thing I like the least is that it’s me 100%! Everything pretty much falls on my shoulders and I’m responsible. I don’t mean that in a legally responsible way (even thought that’s the case also), I mean that I am designing, cutting, sewing, pressing, photographing, editing, writing, updating the website, keeping up with inventory and orders, shipping, PR, press submissions – everything, it’s all me, and it can be all consuming.

It’s hard to close the door on it at the end of the day.

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This is where the magic happens: in Carrie’s big garage.

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CraftBoom!: What advice would you give to newbies who want to start their own craft business?

Carrie: I’d say go for it! If you have an idea, just put yourself out there and see what happens. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s dumb, or you can’t do it. Step out of your comfort zone, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Join networking groups, both online and off, with other inspiring and creative women. If you don’t think you have a business mind, check out the multitude of free business resources, like SCORE, The Small Business Administration and The Small Business Development Center. Also the local Chamber of Commerce has a lot of resources.

Try to create a little niche, even with something tried and true. When I launched my handbag line, I named the styles after little pocket neighbourhoods in my community. This has been very successful for me locally, especially when I do shows. The whole community aspect is very important to me, both online and off.

If you are selling something, make yourself legal! Don’t assume that nobody cares about your little craft endeavour! You must always put on a professional face – get a business license, open a business checking account (do not comingle funds!); get your resale permit; order professional business cards (they’re cheap!). Make it official!

Appearances are everything!

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When you pack your goodies with love and care you increase the chances of repeat custom and it also shows pride in your products.

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CraftBoom! Are you satisfied with the income that your craft business brings?

Carrie: Yes, I am. I love mapping my progress over the years to see the growth.

This is especially rewarding because it’s everything I’ve put into it, and my business is still growing. I always look at it cumulatively at the end of the year and think, “Now, how am I going to top that?”

CraftBoom! What are your plans for future growth?

Carrie: I really don’t know! I know I won’t be doing this forever…that’s my MO. I kind of go where life leads me. That’s what it’s all about…for me, at least…the flexibility of my own business and the direction of my whims.

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A trio of Valmonte Bags, perfect for smart Moms on the go.

Thank you so much for your open and informative interview Carrie; keep up the good work with lovely accessories, fabulous marketing efforts and your shop (I love your homepage!). Best of luck with everything you do. :)

Etsy as your Craft Business – this week’s fave Etsy shops.

Most of us will already know that Etsy is a wonderful resource for newbies who want to go into craft business for the first time, and many sellers have made a great success of selling through Etsy alone. Etsy shops are easy to set up, attractive, easy to use, they attract lots of customers, and best of all there is heaps of help and support for sellers.

Here is my weekly round-up of my 3 fave Etsy shops. Every week I review 3 Etsy shops from a Craft Business point of view rather than just commenting on yumminess of the products that are sold. This means I will be looking things like:

  • the photography
  • the product descriptions
  • the mix of products
  • and signs of marketing activity such as other websites or blogs

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This week’s Etsy Faves…

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Dragonfly Necklace by Doris works

Etsy Shop Name & Type: Doris Works

Website/Blog: None

CraftBoom! says: “In this attractive shop you’ll find very tasteful jewelry. Doris not only has a good eye for colour and form, she takes great photography too. The photography is nice and clear and the backgrounds are all very similar which makes the shop look tidy, and the products distinctive to her shop. There are also several views of each item which is also helpful. The product descriptions are also clear and informative. Doris has no other website or blog.
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Custom Christmas Winter Gift Tag Label Rubber Stamp- holidays by Sweetpaperie

Etsy Shop Name & Type: SweetPaperie

Website/Blog: Sweet Papery

CraftBoom! says: “In this lovely looking shop you’ll find all manner of customizable groovy stamps. There are loads of stamp designs to choose from, but you can design your own if you like. Farrah also stocks inks in lots of yummy colours. The photography is nice and clear and the backgrounds are all very similar which makes the shop look tidy, and the products distinctive to her shop. The product descriptions are also clear and informative. As for marketing activity the shop now has a new blog, and there is also a newsletter available.

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Yume Collection- Bag 4 by Malhuia

Etsy Shop Name & Type: Malhuia Designs

Website/Blog: Flickr


CraftBoom! says: “Jonah specializes in handmade bags and purses which use fun fabrics. The photography is nice and clear and there are lots of views of the same product such as reverse and internal which is helpful. The product descriptions are also clear and informative. As for marketing activity Jonah makes good use of Flickr by storing her product photos, and pics of the shows that she attends. If used appropriately Flickr is a wonderful way to market your business, and I will be talking about that very soon.

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Do you have a fave Etsy shop that you’d like put under the spotlight? If so please comment on this post to let me know. :)

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Coming next: Another fabulous Crafting Heroes Interview with Carrie Sommer of Sommer Designs

How we started our Fun Craft Business by Claire of Miso Funky.

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Miso site

Miso shop

Miso blog

Claire says” As a new reader to Craft Boom, I’m finding it very entertaining and learning a lot – thanks! I saw your post about looking for business owners to get in touch, so I thought I’d tell you about how we got started and see if you could use it :)

Back in 2005, me and my best friend Jo were stuck at our boring office jobs, bemoaning the fact that we were bored. It was coming up for winter and we decided to learn to knit again, having learned and forgotten when were both at school as kids. We started wearing our creations and friends and family immediately started asking us to make things for them, and so our business began! We named ourselves Miso Funky, as an homage to our love of all things
Japanese and of course to our funky stylings :)

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I just love this: it’s so daft!

Pretty soon we wanted to learn more new skills, so we branched out into making jewellery and sewing. We are very much “have a go” type gals, so we’ve enjoyed self-learning lots of new skills like embroidery and decoupage. Pretty soon, we’d worked up quite a large product range and opened our online shop (http//shop.misofunky.com) with the help of our friend Marceline from Asking For Trouble (www.askingfortrouble.org/crafts).

We’ve learned a lot over the past year or so about getting and retaining customers – we’ve ran promotions at different times of year, offered discounts to groups and worked with local press to try and gain as much exposure as possible. One of the main things we did to gain exposure was to start our own regular alternative handmade market (“this is very clever, and it helps other crafters” – CraftBoom!) . We’d been looking around for a local craft fair or market to sell our stuff at and found nothing, so we did the only sensible thing – started our own! Through that, we discovered that there are actually a lot of people in our town (Glasgow, Scotland) who are on the same wavelength as us and many of our new crafty colleagues and ourselves formed the Glasgow branch of the Craft Mafia earlier this year to further our promotion of the idea of handmade over high street and support each other.

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Characters like Hamish are dotted around the site. This gives the site a lot of warmth and fun personality, which is a great selling point.

Balancing time between work, crafting and family is difficult, and we are both very lucky to have supportive other halves who don’t mind driving us to venues in the early morning! The most frustrating part for both of us is that we still have to work at our day jobs, but as business is booming,
hopefully not for too much longer!

Our main tip is to just take the plunge and give it a go – it’s definitely worked out for us. But be prepared to put a lot of hard work in to promoting yourself, even on places like Myspace, Facebook, etc. People start to take notice once they have seen your name pop up in a few different places and will click through and on to your website. For us, without our website, we’d be lost and we’re very lucky to have a friend who knows what they are doing there! It’s definitely worth investing in a good web design as your site is what is representing to you to your biggest market – the entire internet!

Thanks!

Claire :)

Thanks for that Claire! Some great start-up tips there. You have a great ‘just do it’ attitude (I couldn’t run a whole craft market!) and it’s wonderful to see that you are having so much fun with what you do. I really like the way that you put so much emphasis on fun in your site; it suits your products very well. I wish you all the best of luck with your shop.

If you’d like some groovy exposure for your site and you have some Craft Business wisdom that you could share with us, click here for more details ;)