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Archive for June, 2008

Ok, so this might be kind of an odd topic for a craft blog, but there’s a point.

I went to breakfast with a friend this morning, which required me to take the infamous Long Island Expressway a few exits to meet her in the middle, infamous because if you have to commute on it on any given weekday, it’s torture. I know. I did it for 10 very long years. On Sunday morning though, until the Hamptons traffic starts to go home, it’s never that bad…most of the time.

Then I took the LIE back east to go home and I noticed something that was so strange to me. They were closing off the westbound road, which I could only assume was for some kind of construction project because I didn’t see any horrible collisions. I didn’t notice any signs on the way in though.

And here’s the odd part. The police at the exits were at the entrance to the LIE, not at the top of the exit ramp, where motorists would have known NOT to get on at all. Instead, at at least 4 exits in a row, there were state police right at the LIE entrance, and cars backed up into the ramp, maybe 10 or 20…poor suckers. And then, AND THEN… I saw where the main closure was at exit 60, and I was just floored. Because the cops were not blocking the road where the exit let off….they were quite a ways past it, and there were at least 100 cars, if not more (hard to count when you’re going 60 miles an hour in the opposite direction), all jammed up in 4 lanes between where they should have gotten off and where the cops had them trapped. There was no place for them to go, and there was no way, with the cars piling up behind them, they were backing up.

I was so happy that I was going the other way. On a Sunday, the last thing you want to do is sit in traffic in 90 degree heat on the LIE. And let’s not mention the gas–oh the gas–to sit there with the car running for AC…Yikes!

I’d really like to know what brain surgeon set up that traffic closure pattern and why not one of the cops didn’t think to go to the TOP of the exit ramps to avoid traffic jams.

Anyway, if the brass or whoever is making the decisions had just used a little common sense, they could have avoided what may end up being a heatedly discussed topic in the homes of those who were trapped, and people like me shaking their heads in amazement the whole way home.

The point of the story? Common sense. We all need to use it…in our daily lives, our business and on our websites and online stores. Consider the traffic patterns before you lay out your site…how do customers browse? How can you make it easy for them to press that button and buy from you? How can you prevent roadblocks? Have clear directions and make your site/store easy to navigate. Avoid roadblocks. If it’s not easy to drive, people won’t stay and they won’t buy from you. They’re not trapped on the Information Superhighway.

Is my site perfect? Not on a bet. It’s pretty, but functionally, it’s clunky and I think difficult to navigate. I had a designer create it too fast (getting ready for a show), and I didn’t really know as much as I know now. I spent a sizable chunk of money on a website that I barely use. As soon as I have enough money to start over, I will be revamping that site.

That’s why I love sites like eBay and Etsy. They make it easy to navigate, when you do make mistakes, they don’t cost an arm and a leg, and it’s a good place to start so you understand what’s needed when you do have your own site.

I’m so glad I don’t have to go West on the LIE today!

A typical commute on the LIE

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I love making albums with customer photos. Each one is unique and some are quite challenging. But I also love, love, love pretty fabrics and I love to put them together in neat combinations. Sometimes it’s easy because coordinates are sitting right there on the fabric store shelf! I found that yesterday in my local fabric store. yippee!

And I made these very journals with that pretty fabric! Aren’t they fun?

Handmade case-bound journals - New at Iris & Lily

The best part is that making these journals, which didn’t take a terribly long time yesterday, gave me such renewed inspiration. I got so much done on my orders last night and today, and I’m anxious to list more new things. I just wish there were more time in each day so I could just shop for fabric and make new stuff.

And to think, I’ve been trying to stay away from the fabric store because I can’t resist buying fabric. It pays off though when it provides inspiration!

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I just came home from food shopping. Sam’s Club, the supermarket, and finally, the neighborhood butcher, where we have been buying all of our meat and cold cuts for the past 11 years. And I’m always amazed at this little neighborhood store. It’s not a pretty shop; it’s in a strip mall that could definitely benefit from a facelift, and yet, the place is always packed, and I mean always. And I’ll tell you why.

Everyone who works in this store is incredibly accommodating, courteous and friendly. I have never in 11 years had poor service. It is chaotic because it’s always so crowded, but you never wait more than 5 minutes. Everyone smiles and appears happy to help, even the newest generation of young ones learning the ropes. And they still figure out your tab on a little piece of paper, sometimes with a calculator, even though they have high-end registers.

It’s a family business, but the training must be rigorous. It’s got to be tough to smile at every customer when there are at least 15 people crowding the store. However, I bet it’s easy to smile at the end of the day when cashing out the register.

So here’s the thing. The owner of this store probably lives in the lap of luxury because he creates the ultimate customer experience in his little neighborhood shop. Customers buy “the experience.” Sure, they are buying a product too, but I can get cold cuts in at least 5 different places by my house, and I will only go to the butcher, even though he’s not the least expensive. I’ll wait until Monday because they are closed on Sunday if I have to. I know when I go into this shop, someone will always smile at me and brighten my day.

I try to live by those same principles in my own business, even though it’s online. I’m courteous and happy to serve. I’m accommodating and I always try to be cheery, even in the face of chaos. Because I want my customers to come back and have that same experience again. My albums are unique and they aren’t the least expensive. I know if I don’t treat my customers like the gold they are, while they may like my product, they’ll find something else and a better experience somewhere else. To have any thriving business, repeat customers are a huge part of the equation.

Treat your customers like gold. And you’ll go home from your little “neighborhood” shop much richer for the experience.

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While having found indiepublic.com, poshmama.com and others have been wonderful from a community standpoint, I’m having trouble getting my work done!

I’m addicted! I have found so much information already and I’ve checked out so many very cool etsy shops, but I have to figure out a way to condense my social networking activities into a shorter time period. If I’m not careful, the social networking scene, which is oh so much fun, becomes a complete time bandit. I’ve had trouble enough with email and listing new items on eBay and Etsy….the products I make are customized from top to bottom so I communicate A LOT with my customers and often those emails take time. Add to that the blogging (I’m writing this on the train as I head into a social networking class….so I can find out even more ways to spend time on Facebook, tee hee.).

I love being part of a community and I love blogging and sharing what I’m learning and the creative stuff along the way, but man, I need more hours in a day. I work full time, and I need a 36-hour day!

I’m sure this is happening to many of you too. I had started a program a while back called Simpleology, but you know when you get so overloaded that you just don’t have time to learn one more thing? So I stopped. I realize now though that Simpleology may just be the answer to my dilemma. It’s a program that teaches you how to prioritize and get the bigger things done first. The smaller things….and of course the more fun things….have to be put on a schedule. Isn’t that always the way? It’s like chocolate. It’s good for you in small doses, but too much, well we know where that gets you.

I have a long list of things I want to get accomplished this year. I want to write a book, develop new crafty stuff, really develop my marketing plan for my online ventures, and I want to make friends, build a community and feel the support and encouragement of sites like indiepublic and weloveetsy along the way. Oh, and I want to make money, so that means making albums….and that means time away from the computer. And my day job requires me to have gotten some sleep.

Let me know what you do to manage your time. I can guarantee I’m not the only one with this particular problem. Most creative people I have met have what I like to call creative ADD…so many ideas, so little time. It’s hard to stay focused.

And if you want, check out Simpleology at Simpleology.com. It’s free for the organizational stuff. I’m going to give it a second look.

Hey and last night, I learned quite a bit about Facebook and Twitter! I’ll be sharing some of that very soon.

Happy creating.

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So since I joined indiepublic.com and a couple of other social networking sites, I’ve realized i’m addicted to this social networking thing and the forums. So I was on a forum thread yesterday and then today and Etsy sellers were saying how they have had so much traffic but not as many sales. Now, since I’m new, I’m not making any huge sales on etsy either just yet (although I had three yesterday…yay!), but having sold on eBay for the past six years, quite successfully when I’ve had the time to work it, and I’ve learned a few things about customer confidence.

So my fellow Etsians, here’s my advice. Fill out your Shop Policies! Info about you and why you do what you do is great too, but definitely, give your customers some guidelines. What kind of payment do you expect and when? How long does it take to create and ship your product? And do you offer a return guarantee?

On this last one, I recommend you say a resounding yes!!! As artisans, we want our customers to be happy with our creations, we know that. And I know you’re also thinking, but it’s a little scary to spend days on a custom creation and then know the customer can return it if it isn’t exactly what they want. Still, offer that 100% satisfaction guarantee. Whether it’s within 7 days or 30 days or forever, offer it. It gives your potential customer confidence that you are a conscientious seller. In your policy, give your guidelines. For me, I let customers know I will take any album back if they do not love it, and I’ll refund their money or replace their book. I must get the album back within 15 days in its original condition–if they’ve dropped it in a mud puddle, well, that’s where I draw the line :)–and they pay return shipping. Most people don’t even like to take the time to go back to the post office, much less pay for shipping. Hey, who am I kidding? I don’t even return clothes that don’t fit at my local Wal-Mart–I hate waiting on line that much. Besides, I can never find the receipt I need.

On the shipping part? My albums take a couple of weeks to make and ship. I want my customers to know this up front so they aren’t expecting them in like 3 days. That way no one is disappointed.

I go one step further with this and also put my shipping times and my guarantee right in my listings. I hate to make people work too hard to click that buy now button!

The first step to a great store is a great product. I haven’t seen anything I haven’t fallen in love with on Etsy. And then you need to stand above the competition. Filling out your shop policies and adding this info to your listings lets your potential customers know you are a serious business person as well as an artist, and that they can trust doing business with you.

If you’d like to see my shop policies, you can click here and click on Shop Policies on the right navigation bar!

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So in my search to find out all that I can about Etsy.com, I began searching forums this week. And while finding out cool etsy stuff, I also found some great crafty social networking sites.

I joined Facebook a while back, and I’ve been building my friend’s list there and playing Scrabble with one of my friends….so cool! Check out Scrabulous if you are on Facebook. So I’ll digress for a moment…when I was dating my husband and then newly married, we lived near my parents and our Saturday routine was to go to my Mom’s house on Saturday afternoons, drink wine and play Scrabble. Great memories of drunken spelling! My mother passed away before the Internet age, but she would have loved it. Email, social networking and Scrabble online! Who would have thought?

Anyway, back to social networking for crafty people. I found two sites: craftbuddy.com and Indiepublic.com while browsing the forums yesterday and immediately joined both. I was so impressed. Now I can network with other people who are as crazy as I am! I haven’t had a chance to do much on craftbuddy.com but I did spend some time on Indiepublic.com yesterday and I think just about every Etsy seller is on there too. Everyone is so friendly! I can’t wait to spend more time browsing and getting to know the other crafters on these great sites. And it’s great for driving traffic and promoting your craft too. You can customize your home page and put the etsy mini widget on there too (even in comments to other crafters!) Check them out. You can check me out on indiepublic.com too: I’m Diane Falvey on there. Add me as a friend!

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