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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Change is Good

Whenever an online selling venue makes a change, or Google updates it's algorithm, or Facebook changes the layout (again), there is a flood of "woe is me" posts from business owners. Sometimes it's the very changes to exact same business owners have been clamoring for but it's not exactly the way they pictured it working so they aren't happy and want it tossed out immediately and everything back the way it was.This immediate negative reaction to a new feature that has just been released (or has only been announced and not released yet) is counterproductive.

If you are doing this, stop it, right now.  This is plain and simple fear of chance because the new feature hasn't even been giving a fair test ride yet and is being dismissed.

Stop immediately looking for what is wrong with new features and start giving them a fair chance to work for you. Look for the opportunities just as hard, or harder, than you look for the faults.

What prompted this post is Facebook Timelines for Pages. When they were announced many people hated them for a number of reasons, the big one for businesses was that you could no longer have a custom landing page to welcome people who hadn't liked your page yet and encourage them to do so (often with a coupon, free video, etc.). However now a month since Timeline became available for Pages and a few days after it became universal for Pages we have this article from TechCrunch on the impact of Timeline. Here's the key points for Pages under 1 million Likes (that's most of us):
  • Rate of new Likes was virtually the same (down by 0.04% which is statistically insignificant)
  • People Talking About This numbers went up by 67.4% on average
  • Comments per post went up by 40% on average
  • Likes per Post went up by 60.3% on average
So while Timeline isn't getting pages Likes at a faster rate than before (or more importantly the rate hasn't gone down even with the loss of custom landing pages), your existing fans are interacting with your Page far more and that is incredibly important.

Sometimes new features do flop or negatively impact your business no matter what you do. When that happens it's terrible and you may feel at a loss for what to do and it makes you fear every new change. Fearing change though makes you less flexible and adaptable which becomes a cycle where every change, even those that might have helped you, are resisted until you either pull out of the cycle or your business fails. Even big companies that have been around for decades can succumb to this, look at Kodak which used to be the premier name in photography but is now in bankruptcy because it held on to film for so long that it was too far behind when it started making digital cameras to catch up.
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