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And the winner of the Artful Blogging Journal draw is…

I’m so glad that lots and lots of you entered the Artful Blogging draw, it was heartwarming to read your thoughts on why you enjoy blogging.  It was ace to learn about new blogs too.  In your comments you’ve written in black and white why the crafting community is simply one of the best gangs to hang out in.  We’re funny, we shoot from the hip, we’re nimble fingered (most of the time), we’re warm, we’re generous, we’re tenacious (with the family and with the stitch ripper), we’re open,  we’re multi-talented, we’re sensitive and thoughtful (and smart, which goes without saying), we’re curious, we’re glamorous (even though we often have bad hair), we’re girly (but we don’t take any rubbish either), we don’t have issues with eating nice food like cakes and chocolate, we’re sensualists who are damn good at enjoying the moment, I could go on, but it’s nothing you don’t know already :)
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Up for grabs was this Artful Blogging Journal.
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Anyways, without further ado, there were 50 entries for this draw and the random number picker (so you can’t blame me) stopped on the number 34.

So will Robyn who wrote:

“Hooray! This looks like a *great* magazine. I bet it includes mad tips for being a better blogger! ( I could use a few!)”

Please step forward and drop me an email to claim your prize?

Trends: what are they & why are they important to your Craft Business.

There’s a very good chance that as a crafter you’re not a slavish follower of fashion – because one of the greatest things about craft is that we are not restricted by what we can buy in shops. That said, it is very important for most all business owners to keep abreast of trends because doing so will save and make us money.

So what are trends?

According to Wiki “A trend is something that is popular within mainstream society over a long period of time. It is the direction of a sequence of events that has some momentum and durability.” So it makes sense that if you catch whiff of a trend close to it’s inception and you start a business based on the upcoming trend you have a great chance of being pretty successful! There are trend forecasts for most everything out there from colour trends to automobile trends.

What creates/influences trends?

Well, have a look in the news, read newsstand and trade magazines (in hard copy and on the internet), check out newsgroups on the internet, and you’ll see the very things that influence and create trends. Two of the most obvious current issues are the war on terrorism and the current credit crunch (see how even those two events have their own media-rised titles that we all recognize (urk! I don’t like that), but anyway I digress).

How do trends influence and affect us?

Events such as the war on terrorism and the current credit crunch have encouraged most of us (me too; I’m no different) to look to our homes for comfort and security because going out and spending money on fine dining (for example) seems too frivolous and now we can’t afford it anyway. Also our growing awareness of the ills of globalisation and the need to tighten our belts are causing more and more of us to turn our backs on the faceless pile-it-high-sell-it-cheap high st shops that line our shopping parades/malls (and choke our independent shops) in favor of DIY & MIY (make it yourself). The instinct to nest in our homes and turn our attentions to buying and making handmade has had a HUGE POSITIVE IMPACT on the craft industry. This is largely because buying and making craft is the antitheses of ‘production line throwaway consumerism’ – it just feels nutritious to give and receive hand craft.

Now you can see why the trend in knitting exploded in recent years. Knitting is warm, slower, cosy, giving, tactile, and reminiscent of knitting afternoons with Mum & Grandma etc. etc. etc. Reliable sources (including two rather large book publishers and a well known author) tell me that sewing is the next big thing…

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The good stuff always make a reappearance in trends (except for the 80s perhaps).

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How can we (as craft business owners) act upon trend forecast information?

Whilst us crafters are a independent and free thinking bunch, I still think it’s very important to pay attention to trends. I know it’s tempting to think “well, I’m just a small business, so such things don’t affect me”, but how about thinking instead “I’m a small business so knowing stuff like this can help give me an edge”. Of course trend forecast information is just a guideline and it is open to interpretation, but that’s great because it gives us freedom to interpret the trend our way to create what we love, but to be ‘on trend’ at the same time. This way we won’t go and make 50 pcs of an item that only we like (because pumpkin yellow is our fave colour!). So, if we take the example that sewing is going to be the next big craft trend than perhaps it would make sense to prepare for that upcoming trend by selling items such as: sewing project carry totes, sewing equipment holder/organisers, sewing aprons, designing sewing patterns, designing sewing inspired jewelry (charms bracelets, rings etc) and so on.

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Further Reading

Next time: Winner Announcement for the Artful Blogging Journal – good luck!

And the winner of the Free Ad spot is….

Thanks everyone for your entries to the Free Ad Spot draw. Today the Random Number Generator chose the number 10.

So that means Melanie who wrote:

“I really should do more marketing…

I use the quality of my service as a marketing tool to existing customers and have two mailing lists (one within eBay, one external) that I send to every now and then, usually with an offer.

I also blog, but with that, basically use the type of products that I sell (vintage Japanese fabrics) and highlight ideas for their use. In the beginning, I tried just to “market”, but it felt false and so now I more so just writing about what I’m doing and what is happening in my life.

I plan on opening a store on Etsy soon, but to be honest, finding the time to devote to quality marketing is something that has been delaying my start on there.”

Wins a free add spot. Congrats!

Melanie please email me and we’ll get your prized sorted out :)

Sorry to those who didn’t get lucky this time, you might be interested to know that another lovely giveaway that I am running is ending tomorrow – you still have time!

Discount advertising on Sparkplugging. Win a FREE Ad space for your Craft Business!

Any regular readers will know how much I go on about the importance of marketing for your craft business.  It’s a shame to make all of your delicious craft items when no one out there knows where to buy them!  But advertising can be on the pricey side (even I try not to pay much for ads).  Well Wendy (the lovely boss lady of Sparkplugging) knows only too well how unhelpful marketing costs can be to a small business so she offering mini prices for ads that appear across the Sparkplugging network.

This is where the ads will appear and they will look like this.

Fancy winning a free spot? Do you like cakes and chocolate – like YEAH!

Wendy is letting me (and other Sparkplugging bloggers) give a spot away as a groovy prize and all you have to do is post a comment to enter:

  1. tell us what you things you do to market your business.

We’ll be picking winners TOMORROW afternoon.  Good luck! :)

Artful Blogging Journal Review and Giveaway!!

Here is a review of Somerset Studio’s Artful Blogging Vol 1. This journal is very high quality in both content and build. You probably know by now how evangelical I am about blogging. Blogging is soooo important as a marketing tool and it serves as one of the most pleasant and engaging ways to communicate with and contribute to huge crafting community online. So in recognition of the wonderful craft blogs out there Somerset studios has put together this delicious journal which celebrates our fave craft blogs, interviews their authors about their blogs, and gives hints and tips on how to write good blogs. Read about the authors you know and love, and discover some new ones too

If you already have a crafty blog you can’t fail to be inspired (and perhaps a bit envious) of the gorgeous blogs which feature inside these pages, and if you don’t yet have your own blog you may well want one by the time you finish the journal!

Here is small selection of some of the blogs you can read about (and drool over) in the journal:

Artful Blogging Vol. 1

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Focus on Posie Gets Cozy. Lots of you will be regular readers of Alicia’s cosy and pretty corner of the blogoshpere.

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…the same can be said about the talented Ju Ju’s blog; Juju Loves Polka Dots

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I know quite few of you have entered the Self Portrait Challenges. What a really fabulous idea for a blog and monthly challenge!

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Visual Voice is a sumptuous photography blog that I am definitely going to check out…

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Here are tips on how to write a better blog and how to submit your own blog for future volumes of Artful Blogging (go on give it a try: you never know…)

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I hope you enjoyed the peek inside the journal. I am giving 1 copy of this delish journal away. To enter the draw all you have to do is be a US resident - (if you are from outside the US you can enter the same contest, but on my other blog) and comment by:

  1. Including a link to your blog/and or craft business – if you don’t have a blog and/or craft business include a link to your fave craft blog or craft business and
  2. tell us what you like most about blogging – if you don’t have a blog tell us why you enjoy reading blogs (hopefully you do enjoy them!)

Contest Official-ness

  • ONLY open to legal residents of the United States 18 years of age and older. No purchase required. One entry per person. Void where prohibited by law. Important contest rules and details.
  • I’ll randomly draw one winner in a weeks time on the 29th Apr and I’ll announce the winner on this blog the following day-ish. Good luck!
  • I’ll need to ask the winner to make a donation for the postage.
  • Prizes which are not claimed within 3 week of the winner announcement will be carried forward to the next draw.
  • Sorry I can’t reply to contest comments, but I enjoy reading every single one.
  • Sorry I can’t notify contest winners so please keep an eye out for the winner announcement. This is made easier for you if you subscribe to this blog (although it’s great to have you drop-in for a read :) )

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“Arrghhh!!! I don’t live in the US!” – I know that a lot of my readers are from outside the US and I don’t want you to feel left out. So for folks outside of the US I have set up the very same contest just for you to enter on my UK based U-Handblog. Good luck! :)

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What to do when people say your handcraft is too expensive…

Hey do you like the groovy new site makeover? Please be sure to update your links to this site so you don’t miss out on posts and giveaways. Thanks :)

So what do you do when folk says your handcraft is too expensive? For starters don’t go and slash the price of everything you sell, pick a fight, or throw your hands in the air and give everything up. Take heart there are things that we can do…

How to react emotionally:

People will ALWAYS say ‘ohh that’s too expensive, I could make that myself for less… etc etc.” I used to constantly get this on my market stall. Of course they are entitled to their own opinion (it’s just not very nice when they say it loud enough for your to hear…). It used to hurt a bit at first, but after some months trading I came to the conclusion that a majority of these folks were never likely to sew a stitch and as bargain hunters they were more likely to be driven by cheap prices. And that’s fine, but as you and I already know you cannot begin to compare an item which has been made in a sweat shop (by an exploited worker) with an item that has been painstakingly and lovingly made by hand at home.

When I used to catch a passer-by muttering “too expensive” I used to think “well, it’s not my place to educate you about cut-throat capitalism; if you knew what work was involved in hand making my products perhaps you would think my prices were actually quite reasonable….” So in short, it’s not nice when people grumble about our prices being too expensive, but let them do it; we are not going to market our products them anyway otherwise we woud end up under selling ourselves and going out of business. Instead we should aim to market our products to folks who have an appreciation of items which are unique, high quality, handmade, and therefore a bit more special…

It looks like the price is right for this lady…

How to react practically

  • Are your prices (reasonably) in line with other traders? – I’ve always believed that it’s very important to keep an eye on what your counterparts (or in other words, your competition) are doing NOT so you can copy them, but so you can do things differently. However, if for instance you discover your competitors are selling similar sized tote bags (as an example) to you and their bags are markedly cheaper than yours it is important to ensure that your tote bags have that extra something to justify the extra cost. If they don’t then it’s worth considering finding ways to bring your prices in line.
  • Find ways to lower the cost of producing your items – buy your materials in bulk wherever you can, get more efficient with your time by producing your items in batches e.g have fabric cutting days, inserting zipper days, bracelet days etc., see if you can source materials for free, you’ll be surprised what you can obtain if you just ask for it – I used to get some of my silk offcuts free from a local curtain maker.
  • Be selective with your product range - it’s widely believed (see Further Reading below for studies) that too much choice is not a good thing for sales. I know that we all have a natural tendency to want to please everyone so we try to provide lots of choice, but you can’t please everyone and selling lots of different unrelated items will make your shop look untidy and confused. Par your range down and concentrate on becoming expert at making the items you sell. This will result in you making items faster and better and therefore saving you money in the long run. This is exactly what Carrie has done with great success. Her range is not huge; the shapes stay the same, but the fabrics change and they do all of the talking – and it works a treat!
  • Get strategic with your pricing formula - when pricing a craft item it is normal to take both the cost of the materials and your time into consideration, but if you price everything this way and do both commission work as well as a stock standard range you’ll find your commission items will cost loads and this will obviously put your commission customers off (unless you are famous and you can charge accordingly!). It’s worth being prepared to take a smaller profit on more intricate or commission items to stimulate sales. Consider slightly increasing the price on items which sell well to make up for the short fall. In this way you attract more custom and you do not loose out financially. This is what supermarkets do; for instance they will take a smaller profit (or even a loss) on some items to entice customers to the store, but the supermarket will make up for loss elsewhere on another product so everything evens itself out profit-wise.
  • Get strategic with what you sell - I think that custom work/and or more intricate work is worth selling in your craft business because this kind of work can really show off your talents to your customers and this shows customers that you are capable of making items to a high standard. However, the bummer of more intricate or custom work is that it is more time consuming and therefore (arguably) less profitable. To make up for this I think it’s a wise idea to sell a number of stock standard items that you are expert at making. I know it can be dull making the same/similar things over and over again, but if you can make them well, make them quickly, and they are popular with customers these standard items can form an important part of your craft business (and your earnings!).

Further Reading

Coming Next: A yummy giveaway. Don’t miss it!