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Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

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?

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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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“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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Let us assume that you want to go somewhere a thousand miles away. You have no vehicle. You can only set off walking and hope that somehow, sooner or later, you’ll get a ride. There’s a risk involved. You have to make a gesture of intention, faith and determination and then see what it leads to. The alternative, however, is to stay at home and decide that as the journey is impossible, the destination can never be reached. With this, there’s no gamble. You can be quite sure that nothing will change. So which is it to be this month? You have no choice. You have to try.

The above is my horoscope for September from Jonathan Cainer. He has an uncanny knack for writing a general horoscope that I feel was meant just for me. I’m a Taurus by the way, so any of you other Tauruses out there, this is your horoscope for September as well.

When I started selling crafts some 22 years ago at craft fairs, I just jumped in. We were fortunate to get a good list of shows to try out and we came up with some products that sold well right off the bat. I left the shows for full-time work and when the creative bug bit again, I started on eBay, again, with little knowledge and not sure how my products would do.

Along the way, I learned the ropes, made some mistakes and revamped my products until I was happy with them. Has it been success all the way? No. I’ve paid my dues, spent some money I didn’t necessarily have and I’m still working to figure out how best to make the most of a craft I love.

Would I trade anything I’ve been through? Not for a million bucks. I’ve learned so much and I enjoy what I do for the most part. I’m still learning and evolving and I’m ready for the next 1,000 miles, wherever that will take me.

The point? Don’t let fear stop you from doing something you think you’ll enjoy. Etsy and eBay are easy places to get started selling your crafts. If you’re considering selling this way, I say go for it. You’ll never know unless you try.

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When you start your business, almost any seasoned business owner or your counselor at the Small Business Development Center will tell you that you need a business plan. Basically, writing down your goals for your business and how you get there.

There have been numerous books written on this subject too. If you want something, write it down. My favorite is Write It Down, Make It Happen.

And if you’ve read or seen The Secret, you know that the Law of Attraction works this way too. Write down all the things you’re grateful for. And then write down your intentions as if they’ve already happened. To be honest, some of this has worked for me in some very big ways. Some, not so much. Of course, I’m not always clear on my intentions too. For example, I’d love a thriving bookbinding business, but I’d also like to sleep. So while I know I’d rather be in business entirely for myself, it has its pros and cons. And until I can get clear on those, this goal may continue to elude me.

But I digress…. I recently stumbled on a very cool website called 43 Things. It is a social network of sorts with the sole purpose of giving people a place to write down their goals, share their successes and be cheered on to completion. For now it’s free and kinda cool. And you don’t have to have 43 goals, but hey, if you start setting intentions, you might be surprised!

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Today I got two almost identical marketing offers entitled “The Elephant in the Room,” and they of course were proposing a book that can help us all get “rich” in an economy that’s quickly heading toward the dreaded “R” word…recession. Now, I don’t know if we’ll land in a recession, but with gas prices and food prices rising and an unstable work environment, you could say the economy is less than desirable. On the Etsy forums, there are numerous posts from artists and artisans worrying about slow sales … “Is it just normal for sales to slow during June?” “Is the economy hurting sales?” In my selling experience (although this is my first June on Etsy), I find that things slow down some in June because kids are getting out of school, people are planning vacations and let’s face it, it’s not a huge gift season unless you know tons of people getting married.

However, I’ve also found ( having been a crafter for too many years to mention) that during the peak show season and the holidays, shows are more profitable the worse the economy gets. Yes, I’m old enough to have been through this before. It seems when purse strings tighten, people look for unique products that they feel give them the most for their money. Unique gift ideas, cute holiday decor, just a little splurge when there was no vacation this summer.

So my fellow crafters/artists/indie designers, take heart. Don’t look at a slow June as an indicator of what’s to come this year in your craft business. Take it as an opportunity.

Over the next few days, I’ll post five things to do to have a killer holiday craft season, starting with:

1. If your sales are slow now, use that time to create the next very coolest thing that everyone has to have. With more and more vendors jumping onto Etsy every day, competition is fierce. If you roll out with something unique that can be a great holiday gift, you’ll see increased sales in the coming months.

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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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