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Archive for the ‘business building’ Category

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs;

Ask yourself what makes you come alive.

And then go and do that.

Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

—Harold Whitman

I feel alive today, and hopeful. Our country has chosen a new direction, one that will hopefully bring positive change and opportunity.

I plan to hold onto that feeling and do my part to effect positive change and opportunity in my own life as well.

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It really is true what they say. A loyal customer base can make or break your business. I work full-time and have my album business on the side. Some weeks, when work and life get crazy, I don’t get to list as much as I’d like because I run out of day before I run out of things to do.

These last couple of weeks have been just like that. Fortunately, I have enjoyed the good fortune to have customers, some of whom I haven’t heard from in a couple of years, email me, seemingly out of the blue, requesting additional albums. Income without any effort (at least before the sale).

Make your customers’ experiences good ones. Include them in the creative process if at all possible, make the experience personal and add special touches, and say thank you for their business. It goes a long way. And it really helps when there is just not enough time in the day to cultivate new lifelong customers!

PS. Some of my most successful crafting years were in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we were in a, you guessed it, recession. When the economy gets rough, consumers don’t stop shopping. But they do become more discretionary in their spending, looking for value and uniqueness for those thoughtful gifts they must buy. What is more valuable or unique than a handmade necklace, photo album, stuffed doll or wonderful painting or photograph that reminds them of a special place or time? Don’t throw in your crafting towel just because the economy is wonky. Instead, think of the ways you can add value and uniqueness to your products and capture someone’s imagination and heart!

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