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A week or so ago, I got a tweet from Mr. Artfire about something called Rapid Cart. Basically if you have a shop on Mr. Artfire, you can set up a window on your blog or website, and customers can buy right from there without having to go to your Mr. Artfire store. That’s a convenient tool for the customer in a rush!

And then today, I read about Toldya!, a new service that lets you build a portable store on social networking sites or your blog or just about anywhere you’d like it online. There is no fee to set up your store. You pay a $.99 fee if you sell something. However, you don’t get paid until you ship and you have to ship through UPS. That would be inconvenient for me.

But hey, if you use Facebook, MySpace or any other networking sites to promote your products, it might be worth a look.

http://mrartifire.com

http://toldya.com

You can read more about toldya! here: http://tinyurl.com/dl9sz6

Geek-in-Training

A couple of months ago, I learned about Google Base from an Etsy forum. I found a great tutorial on how to use LetsEts and post on Google Base. It was a little tricky, so I wrote my own blog post about posting to Google Base based on my experience. LetsEts picked it up and apparently it’s been helpful to others. I’m so glad!

One of the recent comments on that post was from a woman who called herself a Geek-in-Training (thanks Carla!). I loved that!!! As crafters, we are in tune with non-technical processes. As a bookbinder, I use board, fabric, a scissor, an iron and a cold glue process.  I love working with my hands. But to be able to even afford my craft, I need to make some money from it, and with the Internet, I now have easy avenues for that purpose. So I’ve also become a Geek in Training.

There are so many ways to sell on the Internet, and many of them are relatively inexpensive  or even free. You really don’t even need a website. However, if you are considering selling your crafts online, and you should, you need to know about a couple of tools that can help you and are relatively easy, even for us non-technical folk.

The next time you are on your computer, consider learning about the following tools for selling your crafts and building a following:

Etsy (of course)

eBay (yes, eBay is still a great place for selling handmade items)

Blogging (wordpress, blogger, typepad, take your pick. They are free and relatively easy to learn). Personally, I like wordpress, can you tell?

Twitter (micro-blogging site that is just the hottest networking tool right now. It’s quick, easy to use and a great way to send new potential customers to your website, etsy store, ebay store, blog, etc. You do want to have somewhere to send your potential customers though.)

Facebook, which is a great social network for connecting with family and friends, as well as setting up a page for your business, connecting in groups where you may find the folks who are looking for what you are selling and a way to find new followers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, you can get so caught up in doing all of these techno things, you might find you have less time for your actual craft, but if you aren’t selling it, you won’t be doing much crafting anyway.

So don’t be afraid. Look up information on the above on google and get fearless. It’s really not as hard as you think. I am still a geek-in-training (the web moves so fast I don’t think we ever stop training), but I’ve learned a lot and I love the technical stuff almost as much as the crafting!

In the following weeks, I will be blogging about getting started on etsy, ebay, etc. These will be very elementary for the true beginner. I hope they help!

I had a busy holiday season this year. That was good. I made some extra money, hopefully forged some new customer relationships and was overall really proud of myself that I got all my orders done on time, while working full time and going about my normal routine. I spent a lot of time in my studio on weekends and late into evenings but it was all good.

Until Christmas Day (or a couple of days before). Once the holidays hit and the madness slowed, I seemed to lose my creative mojo. I’ve gotten a few orders, which I’m working on, but I haven’t started listing again and I can’t seem to get into the space of spending time in my studio being creative again. (probably because it looks like a tornado tore through there from the weeks that I was frantically pushing orders through).

I suppose I needed a break. Well, it’s mid-January now and time to get back to work. To reboot my creativity, I plan to clean and organize my studio this weekend, list destash supplies that I will NEVER use, and come up with some new products to add to my line. I always find that creating something new gets everything rolling again. Oh and I bought some fabulous fabric on sale. Not sure what to do with it yet, but it’s so pretty!

My craft studio has always been my haven. I love being down there when I’m stressed or when I just need a break from the world. However, at this time of year, I always feel like I need a break from the studio. Break’s over. Time to get back to work.

We all suffer from creative burnout at one point or another. How do you get going again when your creative mojo is in hibernation?

So says the NY Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/business/23craft.html?_r=1&em

Apparently not so hot economic times turn gift givers into “make it yourselfers.”

It also, in my experience, makes gift givers who can’t craft look for handmade items to give. They are more personal, unique and very often less expensive than store counterparts.

So what does this mean for artisans like us…on Etsy, on eBay, at craft shows and on your own website?

It means it’s time to turn economic hard times to our advantage. I, for one, had a as good a holiday season as my schedule allowed. And I plan to continue having a solid first quarter for 2009 as well. How?

I’ve differentiated my products by personalizing them. I love what I do, but I also love being inspired by and exciting my customers. For those of you who had a great holiday season, keep doing what you are doing.

If you had a less than stellar season, you may have a lot of competition, or you might want to  promote yourself a bit differently. Check out successful sellers in your genre. Don’t copy them. But see what they are doing differently than what you are doing. Sometimes, it may just be that they are in business longer than you and have a following. But sometimes, pictures, description wording, store policies or pricing (and I mean making sure you don’t undersell yourself) can make the difference.

To draw potential customers into your store, you might offer supplies as well. I know as crafters we all have tons of stuff sitting in bins, in drawers, right out there on the table, that we’ll never use. We can’t help ourselves when we are in the fabric store, scrapbook store, jewelry and bead supply store. We have trouble passing up the pretty things and we all say “I’ll find something to do with this….” As a result, I have bins and bins of fabric.

Gather those things together that you know you’ll never use and sell them as destash on Etsy or just plain sell them on eBay. It brings traffic, sales and loyal customers that may then want your products.

Also consider patterns. We can be very proprietary about our designs, but is there one you’ve stopped making or have variations of? Consider offering your designs for sale since there are folks becoming crafters who might now need neat new things to make!

The holidays might be over for now, but there are always occasions and gift giving opportunities. Don’t let those pass you by. Start now, and by Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, you might have the next really hot item in your store!

So I saw it on the Etsy forums today and then on Ina Steiner’s Auction Bytes. Etsy has had a banner month in November with  total sales of $10.8 million, representing a 28% increase over October, and a 157% increase year-over-year. Wow.

I know I am having a very good month on both Etsy and eBay. I’ve been working non-stop, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting, and I will be doing so for the next week at least to get all of my orders out in time for Christmas. I wish I had more time to promote and craft and promote some more. I’m certainly not making tons of money but I almost feel like that’s only because I just don’t have enough time.

And yet, I still see grumbling on Etsy forums from shops that are not doing the sales they did in prior years, or shops struggling to get their craft businesses off the ground. My suggestion is to find successful Etsians and see what they do differently. Find different avenues to promote your wares.

Take the time you spend worrying and complaining about  sales that are down and spend it finding new ways to improve, promote and build your business, using facebook, twitter, bloggers and the etsy forums.

Several years ago, I read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. It was an interesting read…. and one of the things that I took away from it was an exercise in “not complaining.” Spend a week not complaining. It’s not as easy as you think. If you find yourself winding up into a whine session, stop, and turn that into a positive. You will be amazed at how your attitude may change, and in response, your business will change. Things fall into place when we are positive.

So be positive, and grateful….grateful that you have the talent to make things with your hands and that you’ve met such cool people along the way and that whatever extra you gain from your craft business online, even if right now it’s just education,  is something someone else may not be able to do.

Your positive attitude will come through in your listings, in your dealings with customers and in your very own creativity.

You have a craft business, you have an eBay store, you have a website and you’re on Etsy. All great ways to promote your business. But are you on Twitter? Twitter is the latest social media craze, allowing you to microblog (only 140 characters at a time) from your computer, your blackberry, or even your phone! Posts are short enough that they never feel like work!

You can let others know what you’re doing, blog posts, new items you’re listing, or great sales you’re having. You can link to anywhere from twitter (just remember to put the http:// in front of your web address.) And unlike Facebook, where you are a “person” first, promoting your business on Twitter seems to be the norm.

And if you are worried that you’re URL will be too long, just go to http://tinyurl.com to shorten the web address and give an air of mystery to your link!

The idea behind Twitter is to follow those people who interest you and to have those and others follow you back. You’ll be able to see posts of people following you, you can comment or email them directly and they can be in touch with you.

Want to find your target market? Go to Twitter Search, type in keywords or phrases that you think your potential customers might be using and see who’s tweeting about what. Find someone you think might be interested in your products? Follow them. I bet they’ll follow you back and you may even get a customer out of the deal!!

Already have a Twitter account or getting ready to sign up for one? Follow me twitter.com/irisandlily
I’ll be happy to follow you back.

It’s been a while, but I hope to get back to regular blog posts now. We’ve had a lot going on around here and sometimes finding the time to sit and write gets tricky. But there’s so much to share!

One of the things I’ve been busy with lately is album orders. Finally! As we get closer to the holidays, business is picking up, although very few of my orders are holiday gifts or even holiday related. In fact, my life has been so hectic these last few weeks, I haven’t really even had the time to list properly in preparation for the holidays. But enough about me.

There’s something I’ve noticed with my recent orders (still about me…tsk, tsk) that has been a really pleasant surprise. I sell on eBay, Etsy and my own website. I blog, have had some products showcased on blogs (thanks to Etsy) and I have a decent customer base from the years I’ve been doing this.

My orders are coming from all over. Some from eBay, some from Etsy, two from my website in the past month, which is rare but so exciting, and a few from previous customers, who just shoot off an email. I only just added selling on Etsy this Spring and it has already made a huge difference in the exposure I’ve gotten for my albums. I even considered giving up eBay….

But here’s the thing. By having my products in multiple places, very different groups of people find me and I’ve gotten a much further reach for my albums, resulting in more orders than I would have otherwise.

Obviously when you start selling, you want to start in one place to see how things go. Websites are expensive (and that’s not my most effective selling tool), and listing on multiple sites can be quite time-consuming. We need time to craft too! But don’t discount your options. I see quite a few people on the Etsy forums dissing eBay. And while eBay and/or Amazon might not be for everyone, if you’ve got something unique and handmade, you’d be surprised at how much you can sell. Not everyone on eBay is looking for a bargain. In fact, lots of customers go there to find something different that they can’t find anywhere else. And everyone goes to Amazon now. I’m not there yet, but I plan to be by next year.

I like having multiple streams of visibility for my albums. Not only does it give me more sales, it gives me credibility as well. Seeing Iris & Lily in a bunch of different places signals that I am a real business.

If you are only selling in one place, consider your options. I know if I was selling in only one place, my sales would be a little dismal. Try a few different venues and see which ones work for you. With listing fees of only 20 cents in a lot of cases, and now only 35 cents even on eBay, it can’t hurt to try. Weed out the ones that don’t work, but you might be surprised when you find another venue that does.

The holidays are just around the corner, and while money is tight everywhere, there are still gifts to be bought, and lots of consumers are going online to buy them!