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Epson Artisan 800 printer review

So, I was told about this yummy new all-in-one inkjet printer (the Epson Artisan 800) that is great small business owners and for someone like myself (who is involved in craft and design) this printer could prove itself to be incredibly handy. So with the help of the nice folks at One 2 One I got my mitts on the said printer and I’ve road tested for one week.

Ohhh pretty! More information here.

Looking at the literature this printer seems to be aimed at the demanding mid to high end home user. You can see a lot of thought has gone into the design and the feature set. Epson has made this printer into an eye-candy design piece, but more importantly it has packed it with quality features to match the sleek design.

So, I’ve lived with it very happily for one week and it’s made my holiday photos look absolutely amazing. This are a few things that I’ve had a play with up to now:

  • Photo printing – the quality is far and away the best I’ve seen on any home printer and it prints really fast too.
  • Colour and B & W printing – also smashing quality and very fast. Also you can get edge to edge printing on popular sizes of paper.
  • LCD panel front control – it looks sexy, and it looks sexy and it makes flipping though the features easy.
  • Fax – works just fine.
  • Scanning and copying – both are vivid and finely detailed, again fast speeds. One groovy feature of copying that I like is that you can copy up to 30 different pages without you needing to feed each one in separately. You can also re-size copies.
  • Looks – did I mention it looks sexy yet?
  • Wireless – I was really impressed by this. A 2 page document took less than 20 seconds to be received from my upstairs computer to the printer – which was downstairs. No cables, as if by magic!
  • Consumables – there are loads of different papers, stickers and labels etc. for the printer. I had a play with some, they make such a difference!
  • Playing with printing – as a business crafter I particularly like this feature. You can fade photos or other images and then turn them into notepaper (think headed paper). You can also print graph paper (perfect for pattern making).
  • These are just a few things this baby is capable of. The list of what it can do is looooog. The editing software alone is brill for us design bods.

A free template for business invoice. Epson have provided LOADS of groovy stuff that you can print for your business and they’re all free! Loads of other templates can be found here.

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So why would you consider getting one?

It might be tempting to spend less on a cheapie printer to save money, but I would heavily advise against this. I have learned from bitter experience of my first printer with packed up after 7 months of solid use. My old crappy printer made everything look pixelated, it was painfully slow, ink hungry and worst of all it died on me – ahhhh! (running an internet business from your local internet cafe is a miserable experience, one of which I don’t care to repeat). If you invest in a quality versatile printer you are going to save money (and with a bit of imagination you can make some money too…). Other reasons to consider this printer are:

  • Print quality – If you own your own business and you need to print anything that is destined for the eyes of your customers it’s important to give a good impression. It is worth designing attractive looking headed paper and invoices (at least) because each slip of paper is like telling someone else about your brand. But then after you’ve gone to the trouble of designing a great looking logo and headed paper you need the print quality to be as good as the design.
  • Speed – goes without saying, if you have loads of receipts and invoices to print you don’t really want to have to wait for an age.
  • Reliability – you need a machine that’s always ready to go as soon as you hit print (or it’s down to the local internet cafe for you).
  • Versatility – in my opinion this is where the printer comes into it’s own for Craft Business owners. With this printer you can create knock-out quality: paper patterns, product hang-tags, post cards, flyers, business cards, calendars, posters, thank you notes, and heaps of other promotional paraphernalia. I haven’t designed my own patterns (yet), but I copied one onto glossy paper just to test and it looked fab! So much cheaper and less hassle when you don’t need to print squillions of an pattern (for example).

Disclaimer:

Just so you know I didn’t get paid to do this review, though Epson did provide me with a printer to use so that I could review it. I NEVER get paid to do any reviews, no sir! Epson did sponsor the Sparkplugging team to go to the BlogWorld Expo, but I wasn’t able to go on that trip myself. Just so you know, ya know?

How I hired my lovely team for my craft business

If you are at the stage where you are thinking of taking on help, I salute you. It’s a brave step to make and I know how hard you must have worked to get to the stage where you need extra hands.

Amy of Coco Crafts recently asked me how I went about finding people to help me run my business so in this post I’ll talk a little about some of the issues I considered before hiring people and how I went about looking for them.

Issues that I considered before taking the plunge:

  • Trust – it’s very scary when you run your own business to give up some of that tightly held control and admit you need help. Of course it’s scary for a good reason; you care dearly about your business and you need to feel that anyone who works for you will consistently pay attention and care as much as you do. Also you need to feel that you can trust them with your ideas (and everything else…) and that they won’t slope off and start up a business based around what what you do.
  • Expense – wages do form a large percentage of expense for any business. In the beginning I tried to put off hiring folks for as long as possible because I felt I couldn’t afford to pay wages (let alone a decent wage). So for quite some time I was doing everything myself. About 5 months before I eventually took on help I was getting seriously tired and ratty (Al says I was even scary at times!) Something had to give, I couldn’t manage everything on my own. When I finally hired folks it took about 3 weeks for us to settle into the new rhythm and it’s given me and my business a new lease of life. I should have done it way earlier than I did. The extra expense has proven to be a worthwhile investment.
  • What roles – what did I need help with? Did I want help with packing, sewing, production, design, IT, book keeping, website maintenance etc. etc. etc.?
  • Personality – when you have a small business I think it’s even more important for a team to get on well with each other. There are less rooms, less departments and less roles and that equals less privacy from each other! Even if you don’t work in the same building it’s still a huge bonus if you get on well with each other so you can more easily communicate roles, duties, how you like your tea and which donuts you all prefer :)
  • I’m sure there are other issues to consider dependent on the type of business you run. Can you think of any to add?

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How I went about looking for my team:

I think I’m very fortunate with my team. I can honestly say we all get on really well, we are happy, enthusiastic, conscientious and we want this small business to do well And we all make a decent cuppa. I’m thinking that most of you folks would be looking for a crafty person to help with production. Here are a few places you could try looking:

  • If you have a blog why not ask folks out there (who are local to you) to see if they are looking for some craft work. I’m a convinced that most all crafters are lovely people and far less likely to be weirdos. This belief has served me well so far.
  • Look for help on craft forums.
  • Do you have any regular customers that you have struck up a nice relationship with. It doesn’t hurt to ask… Actually, this is exactly what I did for one of my team and she’s absolutely flipping wonderful!
  • Ask if you can put up a job notice on kindergarten, school or supermarket boards. There could be mum’s and grandmas out there who would love to knit or sew for a bit of money for a few hours a week.
  • Try looking for local sewing, knitting, pottery, jewellery making etc etc. classes /colleges in your area and ask the teachers if you can ask the students if they’d like a crafty job.

Good luck in your search!

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Are you at the stage where you are looking for extra help? Or how did you go about employing your team; share your experiences with us :)

Reporting on my first week on ETSY – what I’ve learned so far…

I listed my first Etsy items last week (on the 14th), I made my first sales on the same day and I celebrated by eating a dee-lish-ush gooey toffee muffin. So a week later I am reporting back to you good folks with what I’ve learned and some of my observations so far…

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Why I’m liking Etsy so far…

  • It’s the one of the most established ‘Craft Mall’ sites – which means that it has more users (sellers and buyers). Of course, the only thing with having lots of other sellers in the same mall is that it can be easy to get lost in a sea of other shops. This means that there is more of an onus on sellers to market themselves, but then, business marketing is important. You gotta do it!
  • Ease of use - I was genuinely surprised at how easy it was to set up shop. Yes, I already do run another shop, but my main shop’s admin and payment system is completely different to that of Etsy’s. I tell you what, I wish it was as easy to set up my main shop as it what to set up my Etsy shop! The steps to setting up and listing items on Etsy are pretty intuitive and if you get stuck the help, FAQs and forums are excellent.
  • Etsy community - I really like the convo facility on Etsy. This is a messaging system that buyers and sellers can use to message you and say Hi!, ask you for product info, or other comments. It’s nicely laid out, efficient and easy to use. I also really dig the feedback system. I think that customer feedback is a very good thing to have on your site and because it is widely used on Etsy it’s an added motivation for buyers and sellers to be good to each other :) The forums are an excellent source of news, business advice and support and encouragement.

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This Weeks Top Etsy selling tips;

  1. If you can, list around 3 items every day (or as often as poss) – be they brand new items or adding to stock of existing items. Doing this will keep your items and your shop high in the list of searches so buyers can more easily find you. So if for instance you have 6 of the same bracelets to sell consider listing them over 3 days instead of in one go, on one day.
  2. Choose tags carefully and be generous with them, (but stay relevant, or Etsy may delete them). When choosing tags think of what a buyer would type into the search box when trying to look for a given item, think of as many relevant word combinations as you can and include them all. It’s worth the effort. Take for example a glue that I sell. This fabric glue happens to be wonderful for purse making so the tags that I have for this glue are as follows: gutermann, glue, fabric, purse, making, frame, sewing, supplies, commercial.
  3. Market yourself. I know I keep going on and on about this, but as you have already heard me say (umpteen times) there’s not much point in making something beautiful when no one out there knows it exists. I made a big noise about the opening of my shop by blogging about it, but instead of just letting folks know about the shop opening I offered a tempting freebie to the first 10 customers of the shop to get the ball rolling. It worked pretty quickly! If you can, do periodically offer gifts to customers because everyone likes a gift now and again.

Win a top of the range (very sexy) Epson printer AND a professionally designed custom logo!!

  • NOTE:  contest open to US readers only.  Sorreee!

  • Do you want to be able to print your own business cards, letterhead, brochures and postcards from your own home office?

  • Does your logo need a makeover or do you need a logo for your new business?

  • And do you want to be able to print from anywhere in your house?

Thanks to our Fairy ‘PrintMothers’ at Epson, you can have it all!

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Here’s the Prize Package

  • A sexy Epson WorkForce 600 Wireless Multifunctional printer
  • Extra set of full-color ink cartridges
  • Paper, cardstock, business card paper, labels, envelopes and everything else you could possibly need to create a complete set of business collateral.

And to top it all off, Randa Clay from Randa Clay Design is going to give our lucky winner a new logo to plaster all over your new marketing materials!

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Here are the shiny new prize goodies:

Epson Workforce 600

Epson Workforce 600

Here’s the Epson WorkForce 600. Mmm very slick design, I’ve seen this in the flesh. Yummy!

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Client Service Network Logo from Randa Clay Design

Client Service Network Logo from Randa Clay Design

Reynoldsburg Baptist Church Logo from Randa Clay Design

Reynoldsburg Baptist Church Logo from Randa Clay Design

Zoom Administration Logo from Randa Clay Design

Zoom Administration Logo from Randa Clay Design

Here’s some of Randa’s amazing logo design work. Also yummy!

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Entering this contest is easy. Pop over to the Sparkplug CEO blog to see how. Good Luck!

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Blog Action Day – Poverty. It’s helping, that’s what counts….

This isn’t a post about craft business. As its blog action day I just wanted to reflect a little on a very important issue.

2 months ago my partner, Al went to Thailand to work in a make-shift clinic run by volunteers on the Thai/Burmese border. Straight away he was faced with the effects of lack of funding in an over subscribed tropical clinic. These effects were only amplified by the fact that Al has spent his medical years training in the privileged West in hospitals which have access to the newest technological advances. In this tropical clinic many procedures are performed in very unsanitary conditions often without anaesthesia.

The most shocking thing that Al had to deal with was the discovery of 400 plus Burmese refugees living on a civil dump. These poor  individuals (displaced by the usual crap that affects the small guy: warring parties and politics) literally have nowhere else to go and no welfare support whatsoever. These families have made themselves huts in which to shelter and they try to eke out a living by recycling plastic and other materials. I won’t go into what they eat…

Al and some of his colleagues raised some money to purchase first aid kits, immunisations, vitamins, and to buy boots for the children to protect their bare feet from infection. Looking at the scale of the problem (for this was only one dump of many and soon Al and his colleagues would leave for their Western homes), I think it might (at times) have been tempting to turn away in hopelessness…

Al says that it was a difficult thing to do, it was hard work, humbling and frustrating, but on the day when they gave out the boots to the children there was a lot of happiness on both sides! There’s no moral to this post. I just think it’s important to help those in need when you can, and the way in which you can help doesn’t matter so much, just that you do. Every little helps.

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I think these little ones are pretty happy with their new boots :) More pics in Al’s Flickr.

Why U-Handbag is now also on Etsy – expanding your Craft Business with Etsy

Thanks for your lovely engagement congrats everyone! To be honest I’m a bit nervous about the wedding organisation plans. I think it’s much easier to run a business. Heh! :)

This last week have been busy planning and setting up my new Uhandbag Etsy shop and I’ve had great fun doing it! Most folks who have read CraftBoom! will know that I’m a fan of Etsy for all sorts of reasons, one being that Etsy shops are wonderfully easy to set up and for that reason Etsy is a brilliant training ground for when/if you gravitate towards setting your your own website. I know that lots of folks do just that, they set up an Etsy shop and they learn about running a craft business on the fly, then when their business grows they branch out into other outlets (such as their own website) whilst keeping their etsy shop active. As for me, I’m doing things the other way round. I already have my own established and happy website, but now I have just opened an Etsy shop and in this post I’ll explain my reasons for doing so.

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My Etsy shop banner (it took me flipping ages!)

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Etsy will help me gain new customers (my main reason for opening an Etsy):

I think that U-Handbag has a pretty shiny record when it comes to happy customers and many of our new customers become repeat customers (which is wonderful!). We try our very best to keep all of our customers happy, but in some ways it is harder to find new customers. In the past I used google pay per click to help with marketing and advertising. I’ve since decided it’s way too bl*%dy expensive and in my experience, very hit and miss. I now market U-Handbag by blogging, writing in magazines and now my Etsy shop will hopefully be put in front of thousands of potential customers who haven’t heard of us before.

The best thing about folks who are surfing around on Etsy is that they are either craft buyers or they are crafters themselves this means that the Etsy audience is more targeted to what we have to offer, which is craft supplies. Not only are there thousands of folks surfing on Etsy at any one time, these folks are from all over the world, all looking for some international crafty goodness! This means that hopefully we will also gain more international customers.

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Etsy is wonderful for SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimisation folks):

Most anyone who has their own website or blog will love to have their own site appear in the first 10 searches on google/yahoo,ask etc. etc. etc. (in other words, having your site at the top of the list on the first search page is flipping great!). Search engine searches are ranked by popularity which means the higher your site the more (apparently) popular it is and hopefully the more likely folks will click on your site. Actually, my U-Handbag and blog site is at the top of the list on the first page of Google for all sorts of bag related searches. But let me tell you, for me to appear at the top of the Google search page took MUCHOS time and LOADS of twiddling about. One of the brilliant things about Etsy is that it takes no time at all for your Etsy shop appear high on the list of search engine searches (without all of the usual pfaffing around).

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Etsy is very resourceful when it comes to craft business advice:

We can always learn something new everyday. Etsy does try to support it’s shop owners by providing business advice, and good advice it is too (it has to be otherwise folks would shut their Etsy account down!) I’ll be checking out their Storque regularly to see what business tips and inspiration I can glean for FREE! I’d be mad not to, right?

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The timing for us to expand with an Etsy shop is right:

There are a few major milestones in the life of any business and when they are reached/overcome you can congratulate yourself/heave a sigh of relief. (Don’t quote me, I just read them in various places) in general they are:

  • The first 6 months for bricks and mortar – and 1 year for web based businesses is a sensitive time, get past this milestone and things are looking promising.
  • Break even in 2 years – of course this will vary from individual to individual and is dependant on the type of business and what the start-up costs were, but on average businesses can expect not to turn a profit for first 2 years.
  • Expansion - get this wrong and you can really mess things up! Expansion isn’t always about being bigger and better, often it is also about staying one step ahead of the competition or keeping things fresh and exciting for your customers. Either way business expansion requires careful thought, planning and sometimes a considerable amount of investment.

So I’m am very grateful to say that U-Handbag has safely passed the aforementioned milestones. We’re doing OK and things are steady. So I feel that it is safe and prudent to expand, I have taken on new staff, (one of which has her own Etsy shop) so we can cope efficiently with the extra work load.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the progress of the Etsy shop set-up and any tips that I learn on the way :)