The Worst Advice Ever ( + What to Do Instead)


As I was brainstorming what I would write this month for Handmade Success, I thought about my blog topic sampler post, 27 Blog Topics You Can’t Wait to Write About (& Your Readers Can’t Wait to Read!). I’m working through all 27 myself to show how much fun they are, and I’m currently on #8: The worst advice I ever heard.

As we are all in creative business, an industry where advice and seller tips abound, I thought this would be the perfect topic to discuss with you! Thinking back on the building of my creative business, I think the worst advice I’ve ever received is the most common advice around! I’m super excited for the chance to dispute these myths here today.

3 Examples of the Worst Advice Ever:

1. Use the maker’s story as copywriting.

In the handmade industry, we’ve been sold on the idea that you should put yourself front and center; that customers will be interested in buying because they love the story behind your products.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

Let’s understand that humans are narcissistic creatures, and we are almost always thinking of ourselves. Please keep that in mind when you think of your customers. Reflect on the way that you shop AS a customer. When you make a purchase, you want to be pleased, proud, and comfortable with the product you bring home.

Please realize that it’s quite natural for small business owners to approach business thinking only of themselves and their needs. However, successful sellers know that this thinking needs to be rearranged.

You must have a clear picture of what you’re offering the customer, how she can benefit, and what her end-result will be. In fact, successful marketing involves thinking from the end: you see the satisfied customer with your product in hand. What is she feeling? What is she thinking? How does your product improve her day?

Listen to this advice from Scientific Advertising written by Claude Hopkins in the 1920’s:

“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, ‘Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.’ This is not a popular appeal.”

Therefore, practice putting the customer’s needs first, and switch the focus of your shop onto them.

2. List as many items as possible in your online storefront.

There are many reasons we’re advised to do this: because it will help you get found in search, because it give your customers more options, because Etsy collects listing fees for your 16 pages of items (cha-ching!) … oh wait, they never mention that part.

In coaching, I often run into clients who are spending their days doing something that’s not working, yet they keep doing more of it. If you’re still making and listing hundreds of items and getting only a few sales, you’re doing a lot of what’s not working.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

First of all, I’ve never had more than two pages of inventory in my Etsy shop, and I average 1,000 sales per year. I spend about 20% of my time making and shipping, 40% of my time blogging, and 40% of my time planning and marketing.

Sure, you’re getting found more often in search when you list hundreds of items, but how much time are you investing in doing so? And what’s the actual return on your investment? My guess is, it’s not worth it.

Moreover, your Etsy storefront (especially) isn’t set up to organize hundreds of products. You only have ten categories to work with! I always use Old Navy as an online storefront that knows how to organize and handle a large inventory – you can easily navigate it and see everything that’s available. However, you’re more likely to overwhelm your customer rather than entice them when you offer them so much on Etsy’s format.

3. Tag your products as handmade.

The last piece of advice I think we’ve been pushed a little too often is to “show off your handmade;” I think it feeds into the branding of our store hosts (i.e. “Etsy has handmade sellers”), but I’m not sure it belongs in our shop announcements and copywriting.

I love handmade. I am handmade. However, it’s not a keyword for my business.

Here’s why that’s bad advice:

What are you trying to build here? A handmade Etsy business? Or your own creative business as a recognized brand in the industry?

If you’re happy to call yourself “an Etsy business” forever, then go ahead and keep marketing yourself as handmade. If you’re out to become an independent creative professional with a respectable business model, call yourself what you are: an entrepreneur; or a jewelry designer; or owner of [insert your business name here].

What is the worst advice you’ve ever received? And what did you do instead?



 Lisa Jacobs — Marketing Creativity

Lisa Jacobs writes Marketing Creativity for fellow creative spirits who aim to build a career with their own two hands. She leads group webinar programs and offers one-on-one coaching designed to help you get paid to be … you.

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Using a Kanban Organization + Productivity Board for your Business


Have you ever heard of Kanban? Well if not, right now can be your most recent “ah ha!” moment because kanban is an incredibly simple and wonderful way to organize your work time. Kanban was originally developed by Toyota back in the 1950s as a way to maximize productivity and encourage the development of new ideas and concepts quickly. A true challenge in the car industry and a true challenge in own own handmade business.

I first heard of kanban from a sewing friend of mine, Monica Donahue of Monica’s business has grown really fast (no wonder since her products are super stylish and beautiful!) and after her 2013 holiday season, I asked her how things went. She said she was grateful for all her orders but felt like she had just been through an exhausting storm and barely made it through to January!  She mentioned she was going to try a kanban board to get more organized and prepared for 2014 . Of course, I wanted to know more about kanban boards and after Monica gave me a simple explanation, I did some of my own research.

All that is needed to make your own kanban board is a white board, a pencil and some sticky notes. Of course, being a creative person, you may want to makes yours pretty! But make sure you also make it changeable. You basically just draw 3 columns that are titled to do (or ideas), Work in Progress (WIP) and Completed. When you have a task that needs to be completed, you write it on a sticky note and place it in the TO DO column. After you have begun, move the sticky note to the WIP column, finally when you have finished the task, move the sticky note to the Completed column. So easy, right?? Of course, kanban can be much more complicated and huge businesses (like Toyota!) use it to create new technology, but it also works great for creative people like us working on a small scale.

My friend Monica is a production sewer who develops new products and sews them herself in her home studio. Although I only production sew a little around the holidays, I wanted to try kanban for myself as a pattern designer and creative business owner. The basic concepts of kanban are to encourage new ideas, reduce works in progress (WIPs) and help you achieve the completion of your projects. Easy right???

The real genius of kanban for us handmade business owners is to really work on those pesky WIPs that muddle up our time and clog up our creative spaces (physically and mentally!). WIPs are a business bottleneck that plague Toyota and Microsoft as much as it plagues someone trying to come up with a new sewing pattern. The idea is that visually seeing all those WIPs on your board will help you to move them through to completion and make your precious work time more productive.

My board is divided into the 3 columns discussed above but also into 3 additional sections to make my board look like a grid. This grid helps to remind me that not only do I need to design (favorite thing!), but also sew(a close second!) and work on the marketing(not my favorite but VERY necessary) of my handmade business.

So, will you try kanban? I love the visual organization of my board and it gets me focused in a way that I never had before. The concept is so simple but truly helpful. Want to learn more about kanban? I have only scratched the surface here so there is a lot more to discover. Here are some links so you can learn more about the concepts and how to apply it to your life and work…


Virginia Lindsay — Gingercake Patterns and Design

Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design.  She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things!   Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell ( to be released in Nov 2014 ) and Fabric Stash Cuties:  Pretty Little Birds (to be released January 2015).

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Happy Friday! 3 Inspiring Links for Small Businesses

3linksHi everyone! Such a busy week trying to get my new biz up and going while still getting into the swing of the school year. Anyway, I have a new contributor to share with you next week and more as month goes on but for now I am sharing some links I have found helpful and inspiring lately. Have a great weekend!


Inspiring Workspaces: Flapper Doodle’s Mobile Studio on Etsy

- seriously this chick is awesome! Just wait to see her blog too! So fun :)


Don’t Stop Now on Jessica Swift’s blog

- one of our former contributors is always so good at inspiring me to keep moving forward and to go after my dreams. This post doesn’t disappoint! (this one about comparison is pretty awesome too!)


The Little Black Book for Creative Business on Marketing Creativity

- if you sign up for Lisa Jacobs newsletter you will get her new little black book for free. Tons of great info from a successful handmade seller. Check out her newly updated website too!


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Get Started! An Inspirational Desktop Wallpaper Just For You!


Hey makers! After our conversation here last week I thought of the quote above and thought we could all use it as a reminder. So many things need to be taken care of as a business owner and sometimes we allow so many things to stand in our way. I hesitated so many times pushing the purchase button on Spoonflower when ordering the fabric I designed. I even cancelled an order because I wasn’t sure of the type of cotton I picked. Geez! Now I am wishing I ordered it as soon as it was created. I chickened out signing up for a sellers permit with the state and city over the summer only to finally do it this week and find out it takes up to 4 weeks to process. Again wishing I didn’t wait. I am not being too hard on myself and realize that I am learning a lot on the way but I am ready to bust past fear and doubt with you so that a year from now we are enjoying our success and working on new projects for our amazing businesses!

1600 x 1200

1680 x 1050

1366 x 768



To Download: Just click the link and it will take you to the image. Some computers will allow you to right click your mouse and give you the option: “Use Image as Desktop Picture.” On my computer, I have to save the image then I can right click the icon to get the option of using it as my desktop picture. Or you might have to save the image to your computer and change the background in your computer settings.

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Getting Past Fear and Doubt

gettingpastHello! I am back after a wonderful break with my husband and two boys. In the past week, they have all gone back to school and work. It is now time for me to focus on and organize all of the creative ideas I have. I mentioned before the break that I designed some fabric that I plan on making into eye pillows and donating a portion of the profits to charity. Four styles of fabric arrived last week and it was so exciting to see them! Although I was thrilled, I have been working all summer on getting past fear and doubt to share my ideas with the world. Has this happened to you?

I have been amazed at how I can get caught up in how my website looks, designing labels, worrying about a logo, creating a perfect workspace and a gazillion other things (I haven’t even thought about my Etsy shop!). These things keep holding me back. I have come to the conclusion that if I want to get my project out into the world I just need to do it and be okay with everything not being perfect right away. Seriously, that perfection that I am seeking is never going to happen. I know that as a new business owner I will receive feedback, learn tons of lessons and evolve over time.

I have spent time emailing people and asking their opinions and waiting to hear back. I realized I was actually waiting for their approval. I knew I wouldn’t be able to dedicate a lot of time to this until my kids were back in school and my husband went back to work but I didn’t realize how many insecurities would pop up along the way.

So I am creating goals and deadlines (including signing up for a local handmade market in October!) this week plus sharing with you in an effort get myself on track and take my life in the direction that I want it to go.

So, all of you lovely business owners out there, how have you gotten past fear and doubt to share your ideas and gifts with the world? We all want to know! Please share in the comments.



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