Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Interview on Handmade Packaging and Etsy

I had a chat today with Sara from CrochetBusiness.com and Squidoo about packaging, craft shows, and other business stuff. Watch the video below or on YouTube.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New Ways to Use Etsy Coupons

Recently Etsy made some improvements to their coupons codes. The new features are:
  • Thank you coupons. You can set one of your coupons to be automatically sent by email to your customers when they order (this option can be set on an existing coupon as well as a new one).
  • Fixed amount coupons. If you want to offer $5 off purchases you can now do that with this coupon setting.
  • Minimum purchase for coupons. You can set a coupon to only be valid for purchases over a set amount e.g. 10% off orders over $25.
These new features make coupon codes even more flexible. Personally I'm thrilled to have the thank you coupons emailed, I think that will make customers more likely to use them than the printed coupons I currently send. I also see some great potential for the other features, I think a set discount like $5 off might be more appealing than a percentage and having the minimum purchase means someone can't use that $5 off coupon to buy just a $5 item. Here are some ideas from Etsy on using coupon codes.

How do you think you might use the new coupon code features? Leave a comment.

Friday, January 18, 2013

5 Simple Steps for Building your Facebook Audience

A Facebook fan page is all but mandatory for a handmade business. It gives you a way to interact with those who like your products easily and show them the face of your business every day (nearly a quarter of Facebook users check Facebook 5 or more times a day). However to do this you have to build up the number of people who like your page. Here are 5 easy ways to do this, they won't immediately rocket your page to thousands of likes but they give a consistent trickle of new likes and those snowball. You might also notice that only two of these suggestion actually involve doing anything outside of your page. That's because getting people to view your page is easy, you want people to press that like button and for that your page needs to be engaging.

1) Pictures. This is a big one, share photos of your work in progress, events, people modeling your creations, funny or inspiring quotes, your own lolcats (or lolcephalopods). Make sure they are relevant to your business or what you make but have fun with them. Photos on facebook get 39% more interaction than other posts, and that includes being shared and shared photos often lead to new likes. Also on the subject of pictures, make sure you have a good cover image and profile picture that represents your business and products, that's the first thing a new visitor to your page sees.

2) Invite your friends and share your page posts on your timeline. Don't share every post you make on your page and don't invite your friends over and over, you don't want to annoy them. However they are your friends and family and they probably want to see your succeed so invite them to like your page and share your posts with their friends.

3) Get the word out about your page other places on the web. Etsy offers a way to link your facebook page to your shop so take advantage of that, include it in your email signature, invite peopel to like you in transaction or shipping notifications, post a link or button on your blog, add it to your YouTube Channel, post it on your own website, link to it on Twitter/Google+/Tumblr/Squidoo/Pinterest/DeviantArt/etc. Make it as easy for people to find as possible.

4) Post frequently, and post at all times of day. This can be difficult when you're just one person running a page but there are ways to make it easier. First take advantage of Facebook's scheduling feature to write a bunch of posts at once and schedule them to post throughout the day. You can also use an app like RSSGraffiti so automatically share new items from your Etsy shop RSS feed (or the rss feed from any other selling venue, most offer one). You can also use Networked blogs to share your new blog posts to your page as well. If you have a smart phone I really recommend getting the Facebook Pages app so you can post or reply to comments when you aren't at your computer (this is especially useful at events like craft shows so you can share photos of what's going on). What's the ideal balance between enough posts and too many? I don't know, the estimates from social media experts vary widely so you need to experiment to find the sweet spot for your own page. I will say that posting several times a day (as opposed to once) is more effective as is posting at different times of day instead of only int eh afternoon for example, because you reach people who have different patterns for when they check facebook (almost no one looks at everything that's been posted since they were last on).

5) Tone matters. Don't be overly professional and formal. You're a creative business, let that come through. Let your personality come through on your page. Let people know that they are interacting with a real person who is passionate about what they make. Some of my most successful posts ever in terms of likes and share is when I've shared the process of developing a new jewelry line including pictures of the prototypes and asked for feedback on what to use for the name.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year Resolutions

I've seriously neglected this blog int he last year which is a shame because I really think I was building a good repository of information. So the new years resolution for this year: post more. At least weekly and more often if possible.

I also have a new Pinterest board where I'll be posting interesting business related stuff I come across online.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quick Tip #30 - Gift Wrapping

The holidays are the busiest time of year for retail, and it's pretty busy for customers too. Why not help our your customers by offering free gift wrapping? It's one of those extra touches that a small business can do so much better than a big store.

For Etsy sellers, since we don't have any way for a buyer to select gift wrapping directly, make sure you include gift wrap information in your listing along with instructions to add it in the note to seller or to send a convo. I also suggest putting that information in your shop policies and if you want your shop announcement as well. If you are using your own shopping cart and can add a checkbox or other direct way to request gift wrapping that would be the best way to do it.

For all handmade sellers online, make sure you are promoting your gift wrapping option on your blog/website and all your social media accounts. Offering gift wrapping can be a great selling point for your products but only if people know it's available.

For some other thoughts on packaging check out Making your Handmade Products Stand Out.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Etsy Prototypes

Over the past few months Etsy has started letting users opt in to prototype features before they become available to all users. I really recommend keeping an eye out for the prototypes because they can give you some great new features before everyone else gets them. The downside? These are prototypes which means they often still need a little work and change frequently.

Etsy makes it easy to try out the prototypes, you just join the team for the prototype and start using the features. Here are the prototype teams currently available, but keep an eye on the Etsy Announcements for new prototypes that are available.

Shop Stats - This team is for people who want to test and provide feedback on new Shop Stats features.
Listing Variations - Allows you to add options to your listing that can be selected in drop down menus.
Add Item to Treasury from Item Page
Saved Item Stash - This prototype makes it easy to gather items as you shop. Just drag and drop items to the bottom of the page.
Seller Opportunity Tools - Help find product ideas and trends
Similar Items in Search Results - Find what you are looking for faster when filtering by similar items in search.
Shipping Improvements - This Prototype is for people who want to test and provide feedback on improvements to Shipping features before they're available to everyone

And a bonus team I suggest joining: Etsy Apps. Discussion and reviews of 3rd party Etsy Apps.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Preventing Burn Out

Running your own handmade business is great, you can work in your PJs, your boss always agrees with you, and you get to have fun at work. Most of the time.

Day in and day out creating the same jewelry, bags, soaps, etc. can wear you down. The stress of keeping up with everything can lead to burn out. I hit that point at the beginning of this summer. After preparing for, and selling at, a big event (which went great) I didn't want to even look at clay again for a while. After a self imposed vacation from making jewelry I feel much better than I have in a while. I think I may make time for doing the same again after the holiday season. So here are my tips for avoiding burn out while still keeping the creative juices flowing:

  • Explore a new or different medium. I spent a whole month drawing and painting, neither of these things is new for me but I hadn't done much recently.
  • Make time for yourself. Go running, take long hot baths, get a massage, etc. just focus totally on yourself for a while instead of your business (or partner, or kids).
  • Learn something new that is unrelated to your business. Take a class or watch a lecture series on iTunesU.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Watch Project Runway.
  • Take your camera on a walk and photograph anything that look interesting, resist the urge to look at the photos until you get home.
  • Go to a concert.
These are just a few ideas. What do you do to avoid burn out?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

App Review: Square

Okay, getting back into the swing of writing this blog (how do you like the new theme?). Sorry I didn't post much for a while, between moving, getting used to living with another person again, selling events and life in general made this blog not a high priority. However now it's holiday preparation time so I'm going to be writing more. This includes this new App Review feature.

As I use new apps in my business I'll write reviews here about my experience. First up is one you may have already heard of: Square.

Square is a payment processing app that can be used on iphone, ipads, and most android devices as well. A little card reader plugs into the headphone jack that you can then swipe a credit or debit card with. The Square app lets you enter the amount of the payment (including sales tax if you have it set up for that) and processes the cardin seconds.

I've had the Square reader for a few months but I didn't have a chance to really give it a good run until late June when I had a booth at PortCon. It was a very busy event with a lot of people, many of them using cellphones and other devices that could affect reception (and did for phone calls). I was able to process payments for customers very quickly and I think the app must not use much bandwidth because I never had a problem with the reduced reception due to the number of people on the local cell network. At one point at the event the ATM in the hotel ran out of money so being able to take credit and debit cards made me sales when otherwise customers didn't have access to cash.

  • Card reader is mailed to you free after signing up.
  • Fees are low, just 2.75%
  • The app is compatible with most smart phones
  • The app is pretty simple and straightforward to use
  • Works in areas of low cellular reception (though obviously you need some reception or wifi available)
  • Deposits are made very quickly
  • Good stats available
  • Business directory you can add your business to, though this is most useful if you have a B&M location that customers can visit.

  • You have to own a compatible smart phone or tablet which can be pricey.
  • The card reader takes some practice. You'll want to use your own credit or debit card to practice swiping at home until you have it down (don't worry, you can swipe without charging the card). Don't go to your first selling event without practicing first.
  • Some customers are wary of doing payment processing via your phone but as it becomes more common that seems to be fewer and fewer.
  • The app can drain your battery so it's best to be in a place that has electricity available to recharge or invest in a portable power source for your phone and make sure it's fully charged.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5. I honestly wouldn't consider doing a craft fair or other event now without one. If you prefer to keep all your payments with one service Paypal now has a similar service called Paypal Here which I have not used.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Easy DIY Jewelry Displays

I just updated my page on making jewelry displays for craft shows with instructions on making a plain cork bulletin board into a nice display board using fabric. The page also has instructions for display trays made with old picture frames, using fishbowls for a display, and ideas for re-purposing and recycling objects as displays.

Weekly Inspiration

Tropical Visions Bangle, originally uploaded by RenGalSA.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

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