My Etsy Highs & Lows so far…

I have now owned an Etsy shop for just over a month. So here some of my comments on it’s progress so far.

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I’ll start with the positives (as one always should).

  • Increase in new customers - By far the best thing about my Etsy shop is the number of new customers have filtered through to my main shop. I was expecting a modest rise in new customers for my main shop as a result of my Etsy shop, but not this many!
  • Increased visibility on the web - Etsy always shows up higher in the web searches so if you carefully link all of your websites/blogs/shops together it is a lot easier for visitors to find you. So for instance if someone new clicks on my Etsy shop (which I gave the same name as my main shop and blog) it won’t be long before they discover my main shop…
  • Community – The Etsy community is huge and members can participate at so many different levels from just buying stuff on etsy to setting up groups/teams etc. Members can get seriously involved with al sorts of Etsy community stuff and the more you put in the more visibility in the Etsy community you will receive, but to be honest I personally don’t have the time to spare.

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…and the not so postive…

  • The copy-cats – Before I set up my Etsy shop I was pretty much aware that copying goes on in the craft world online. Now I have my own Etsy shop I of course have more of a vested interest in the copying that goes on with in Etsy. And IMHO it is worse within Etsy than is is outside of it. I was copied within 2 weeks and I know of sellers who’s top selling items have been copied and then undersold by copyists. I’m personally not bitter about it, after all I sell supplies so it hurts less than when someone copies your design and reproduces it. Also I’m sure my philosophical and calm outlook is partly a result of my not relying on my Etsy shop for my main income. I am dismayed by the lack of soul and morals that copyists have, but I firmly believe in moving on and always striving to be head and shoulders above them. However, I’m aware that I do have the luxury of simply turning the other cheek. I do feel for others who have tried their hardest to offer beautiful and unique items only to have some lazy s**thead come along and swipe their designs.

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Conclusion (this is all sounding like an essay)

I still think that having and Etsy shop is very worthwhile because of the sheer number of new customers you can potentially attract and Etsy is important for search engine searches, but I think (if you can manage it) you need other selling venues besides Etsy (such as your own website, other Etsy style shops and how about your own blog – more about that in a minute). Take the time to link all of your selling venues together. Sprinkle the links of your various sites within each other regularly. You MAY want to consider selling your more sensitive/special items outside of Etsy if you are concerned about copyists.

I am going to be selling my own patterns on my other blog. Do you remember I spoke a while back about E-Junkie? Well I am going to be using them and the juicy discount code for 3 months FREE remains active indefinitely. Check it out for yourselves if you like.

E-Junkie the stunningly simple selling solution for your craft business – Exclusive discount.

Writing good shop newsletters

This last week I have been trying to learn about creating and sending email newsletters for my shop because: I should have started doing them ages ago, I have actually had loads of customers ask me for one and I am working on a few exciting new product launches that I want to tell lots of folks about.

I have chosen to go with Vertical Response to handle my email newsletter campaigns because the founder Janine seems like a nice and helpful lady, the pricing is competitive and the site (so far) is approachable, informative and not too hard to get to grips with (I am after all a newsletter dummy).

So now I am putting the finishing touches to my first newsletter (created with the help of their simple to use wizard) and I have a cool (and rather bright) join-up widget at the top my U-Handbag blog. Hopefully folks will sign-up :)

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Here are some suggestions for writing newsletters that folks will be happy to get in their Inbox:

  • Include members only discounts or freebies.
  • Include sneak peaks at product launches (with maybe special discounts for early bird buyers).
  • How about some simple tutorials?
  • Spotlights on your customers. Do you have pics of customers wearing/using your crafty goodness?
  • Members only competitions.
  • Members only discounts for other shops (that you have links with).
  • Provide upcoming dates of shows, sales, competitions, etc.

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Do any of you use newsletters to keep in touch with your customers? How are they working out for you?

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Running your own Craft Business – Overcoming the guilt

For me the month of September feels like the crafters New Year. There is so much to look forward to; the little ones have started/gone back to school (freeing up time for busy Mums), there are all of the rich autumn fabrics to drool over, we start spending more and more time in our work rooms cosying up and making or handmade goodness. It is for these reasons and more that September is one of the most popular times of year for folks start up their own craft business, that and we want to be ready for the Christmas holiday (one of the busiest times of the year).

So, for all of you craft business newbies (and not so newbies) it is November; 2 months on into your new business. How are you all getting along? My guess is that amongst other things it’s all still very new, you’re still learning on the job and there are lots of new routines to get to grips with. This is all very normal and as long as you care deeply about your business, there is always something new to learn no matter how long you’ve been a business owner.

But today, I want to talk a little about the emotionality of running a new business. The thing that a majority of you will have in common is that you have a craft business, you work from home and you are women with families. Firstly, I want to congratulate you on having your own craft business (BIG CHEER, WOOT WOOT!), it isn’t easy and it’s a big decision to make. It’s an even bigger decision to make if you also have children because running a craft business (and most types of businesses) will involve taking some time away from the family to devote to your business – which I’m sure results in guilt pangs.

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There definitely IS more to life than this!

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I’m guessing that this guilt is one of the hardest emotional hurdles to overcome when running your craft business. If it is I just wanted to say some words of encouragement. Stick ‘em on your fridge if you like :)

  • It’s just as essential for women as it is for men (I’d argue more so) to feel fulfilled in an activity/ies outside of the family. It is easy for women in the role of (busy) main caregiver to loose sight of the things that they enjoy. Doing other things for yourself strengthens your sense of identity. See it as a necessity NOT an indulgence.
  • Committing time and energy into ‘Me projects” such as running a craft business is such a positive thing for a Mum to do because of the confidence you will gain, it’s fun, it’s challenging and absorbing. Most importantly it has the potential to make you feel great about yourself and if you feel great about yourself it stands to benefit everyone around you (HEAPS!)
  • Women often feel more guilty about striving to achieve goals because women just don’t receive as much encouragement as men to Go For It! We know that this a silly nonsense, don’t we?
  • The dishes and the ironing aren’t that important (were they ever?), they will still be there after you have finished making your craft items. As soon as they’re old enough why not rope the kids into doing more household chores?  It never did us any harm. I’m sure that why my siblings and I can all cook and iron a great shirt…
  • Get your family and your friends behind you to encourage you in your business. Call them when you are feeling anxious and tell them when you are happy. Oh, and if your partner isn’t keen on you taking time away from them for you to do your own thing – your partner is at fault not you!!!!!
  • Rather than spending any time feeling guilty, how about using that time to figure out time management strategies to help make it all fit in for you and your family?

Tips on How to write good SEO blog post titles

The title of a blog post is important for search engine optimisation (or in other words ranking high up on web searches) because the words in your title are used by the search engines to fish out sites for web search results. If you’ve spent yonks on writing a blog post (that you’d love to share with a wider audience) you don’t want it to get lost in sea of other blog posts and sites by not giving your post an equally strong title. In this post I am going to give some tips on writing titles that will hopefully please readers and the search engine robots. This post was inspired by Shannon who was kind enough to share some of her knowledge of good SEO. Thanks Shannon!

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Tips on writing blog post titles that will help your blog stand out:

  1. Is it a tutorial? – if yes than say so. I enjoy writing tutorials and folks generally love a tutorial. How many times have you web searched for a tutorial on how to do something or another? Lots of times I bet. Make your tutorial easier to find on the the web to find by beginning the blog post title with ‘Tutorial on…’ or ‘How to…’.
  2. Does your post include a list of information or a breakdown of points? If yes than say so in your title eg. “My 10 top tips for….” Lists/bullet points are easy to digest for the reader and they are an easy way to organise information for the writer (that’s why I like them so much!)
  3. Is your post about a rant, a happy experience, a memory etc.? If yes than say so in your title eg. “Why I love nothing more than…” or “The …est day of my life was…”. Blog posts which offer an intimate peek into the life of the writer always stir an interest in readers because as humans we are fascinated by each other. Great isn’t it?
  4. Keep your titles shorter rather than longer. Try to be succinct, but at the same time informative. Search engine robots only read a certain number of words so longer titles tend to get cut short. So your title needs to have the most important words in the first half of the title (just in case).
  5. Writing the title for yourself vs writing the title for search engines. If you are not bothered by appearing high in search engines than (arguably) you would write your posts and your titles in a way that suits you eg. they could be funny, daft, abstract etc. etc. etc. BUT search engine robots/spiders are ultra efficient and totally unfeeling, they don’t care for writing with flair, they are just after cold hard keywords (see below for more info on keywords)
  6. Try to put yourself in the mindset of your readers – what search terms/words do you think they would type into the search engines? Including words in your title that readers are likely to search for will help your post will appear higher in the search engines.

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Further Reading

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 :)