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HANDMADE + CREATIVE BUSINESS

Are you ready to be a tough boss + a good employee?

toughboss1Here is the deal.  I really should fire my employee and here is why…

She comes to work late and leaves early.

She takes personal calls while at work (she doesn’t even get off when I come in the room!).

She calls off for reasons like taking a walk with a friend, lunch invites, school parties, and even a great sale at target.

She checks facebook, instagram, and email every half hour (or more).  

She takes regular breaks to get drinks of water and ends up chatting up the babysitter about her grandchildren for like 20 minutes.

Her work space is a total mess (usually).

She does not accomplish important business tasks I give her like getting her photos edited and blog post written and instead sews her adorable 2 year old a new dress.

She watches English period piece mini series on her ipad during work hours.

She is terribly indecisive about fabric purchases and waits until the last minute to get important sewing projects done.

She even uses old needles and dull scissors because she is too lazy to go get new ones even when I have set aside money for her to order them.

She has the GALL to complain about wanting a raise…

Maybe I am too tough of a boss?  Is it too much to ask this woman to shape up and do her best?  I know she can do it!  She is smart and motivated!  She has been with me since the beginning and she works really hard when she is under pressure.  She has made such cute and successful sewing patterns in the past but what am I supposed to do with her now?

It’s true, I cannot fire her.  But she does need a reality check about her work performance.  Did you guess who the employee is?   Yes- the employee is ME and I am sick and tired of my poor work ethic lately!

fired

Recently I laughed with a friend about getting my annual job review back when I worked in the city many years ago.  I remember being surprised by criticism that I was too tough on workers that I was in charge of during large projects.  Me?  Too hard on people?  I just expected them to work hard and get their jobs done!  Maybe my expectations were too high?

It did get me thinking about my current job performance and how that tough boss would treat me.  How did I get to be such a slacker?  If you are the sole worker in a handmade business, have you ever tried to give yourself an honest job review?  BE TOUGH.  Are you really using your precious work time efficiently?

Here is how I have gotten better…

I try really hard to be ready for work as soon as my sitter gets to my house. 

I turn off my email, facebook & instagram during work time.  Unless using them to promote my handmade biz of course!  

I listen to classical music (or nothing) and no more watching shows (even if downtown abbey  or the good wife is calling my name with a new episode) or listening to podcasts/ audio books.  Even regular music is distracting to me so I have switched to classical which I find really good for work.

I don’t take phone calls or send texts that are more than very quick scheduling things.

I schedule all friend and school stuff  on my non work days.

I make a list of what I want to accomplish that day and give myself rewards for getting that hard stuff done. Rewards are checking instagram or going upstairs to chat for FIVE minutes with my beloved babysitter.  She is on board now with my tenuous work situation and makes me go back to my studio ASAP!

I did tell my tough boss to chill out about the messy work space and give me a break about indecisive fabric choices.  I am doing the best I can!  AND, I told her that I work best under pressure so if it seems to her that I am waiting until the last minute, that is simply how the best creative me reveals herself.  She still wants me to work on those, but understands they are not such a quick fix.

Here is a check list for you from one tough handmade boss to another…

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I actually printed mine out and it is hanging by my desk to remind myself not to be such a slacker.  It’s pretty ugly too, so the sooner these good habits (40 days makes a habit!) take hold, the sooner I can take that ugly piece of paper off my pretty studio wall!  Here is the PDF so you can enjoy the ugliness too…

So, what do you think?  Do you have something to add to the tough handmade boss checklist?  How could you be a better employee for yourself?  How would you want an employee to act if you could hire one?  I would love to hear what you think!

virginiabiowashi

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 and Fabric Stash Cuties:  Pretty Little Birds.

The Network: Cultivating a Support Group of Empowerment

TheNetwork

The saying goes “Behind every successful man is a great woman”, an antiquated adage that acknowledged a woman supports her successful man, but she herself could never achieve success. There is still a lot of work to be done, but these times, finally, they are a’changing. Women have become great successes of their own accord, but often, it could not have been done without a powerful support system.

I recently came across the quote “Behind every successful woman should be a tribe of women who have her back”. This quote, which came from one of those very women who have my back, speaks volumes about how women need to support each other to be successful. In fact, I would change the quote to “Behind every successful woman IS a tribe of women who have her back”.

When I started the grand adventure to launch my own jewelry company, which meant doing everything from designing to fabricating to marketing to financials, I leaned on friends and family for support. And they have delivered in spades, but I did not expect to develop such a strong network of female empowerment. Through every aspect of this journey, there has been a woman that has supported me, taking me one step further in the path of success. The opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences, while also learning from others comes through this very site, a virtual network of support, knowledge and experience. Through a variety of events and markets, I have amassed a collection of fellow female independent makers. Whether it is as simple as a like on social media, an answer to a question via email or a brainstorming coffee break, this group is a foundation of support. I am thankful for the web of “brand ambassadors”, connected women that wear their Crusoe Jewelry with pride, pointing all inquiries directly to the website. And of course there are the dynamic women, who took a chance on an unknown designer, who own some of the stores that carry Crusoe Jewelry that continually push the brand to their clients.

Without this powerful network of women, Crusoe Jewelry would be nothing more than a passionate idea. I count on each of these women for support, inspiration and knowledge. And of course, there are the incredible men who have bolstered Crusoe Jewelry along the way, but there is something so potent about the power of women. Embrace the power by creating and expanding your own network. Connect with fellow makers via social media, by email or take the conversation offline. Think about who have helped you in developing your business and pay it forward by supporting their endeavors. Express gratitude for the relentless encouragement. Share in the comments what your network has done for you.

mayabiowashi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maya AhluwaliaCrusoe Jewelry

Maya Ahluwalia is the designer behind Crusoe Jewelry, a fashion jewelry line inspired by nautical motifs, but interpreted into stylish designs for the fashion-forward consumer with an appreciation for quality with an artisanal approach. Each design is hand-crafted in her Brooklyn-based studio.

In addition to creating Crusoe Jewelry, Maya is a marketing consultant with expertise in jewelry, fashion and luxury. Clients include Michael Aram Jewelry, Shawn Ames Fine Jewelry, Wells House Bed & Breakfast, and the LOU Lookbook App.

Business Shopping with a Tax Refund

$Did you get your tax refund yet? How do you plan on spending it? Are you putting it back into your business?

How can creative entrepreneurs can use their tax refund to grow their business? What items do you have on your business shopping list?

“Tax refunds are a great way to put some fire under back burner business plans.  And with the average personal return over $3,000 (according to the IRS) people can accomplish quite a bit.  They can also extend a return further with an injection of capital from P2P lending, credit cards or small business financing from Kabbage .

Some projects may include consulting, website upgrade, brick and mortar makeover, POS or tech upgrades, training or seminars, inventory expansion, advertising and marketing, trade show or festival fees…the list goes on.  How might businesses prioritize for the most impact?”

The real reason I want to share this post is to see what you are planning on spending your refund on if it is business related. I think your answers can inspire and help other business owners discover smart ways to invest in themselves.

So are you planning on spending your refund to grow your business?

(this is NOT an affiliate post – I just loved the idea so much I wanted to share and hear from you on this subject)

How To Craft The Perfect Newsletter

feat_hsIf you are business owner or even just a blog owner, you should perfectly know how vital a newsletter is in the marketing process of your activity. Not only it is vital, but if looked after with particular care it can bring great revenues and, most importantly, a one-to-one connection with your followers, leading them to trust both you and your activity more than ever. Making readers want to sign up to newsletter services is a big issue, as nowadays spamming is all over us and we only want to read interesting information that really appeals to us. And that’s the key, making your newsletter as readers would want it, with all the content that you think they’ll love and all the extras that they can gain by suscribing to your service.

Remember these 4 golden rules:

1. Always state the frequency of the newsletter, so that readers can make a conscious choice;
2. Explain why subscribing will give them extra stuff that just blog readers won’t have and state some examples of typical content they’ll read;
3. Use a simple and un-stressfull opt-in process, asking fundamental data only (probably e-mail and name): you don’t want people running away just because they’re obligated to give their phone number, it’d be unfair and counterproductive.
4. Use Call to Actions! We’ll never stop saying this. Use them everywhere, in the subscribing process, on your shop, in your emails, on your website, on blog posts, on social media.. wherever you can put them, it means you must. People are curious and love buttons!

Once all of this is set, the techy part of setting up the newsletter can be an itch of a problem, but with this step-by-step guide you’ll be able to set up your MailChimp Newsletter in a bit. What we’re going to make will look something like this. The whole process takes up to about 2h of work the first time, the process will then speed up to 1h if you get confident. Let’s dig in!

11. Subscribe to MailChimp and login. Your home screen might look different from ours if it’s the first time you use it. Don’t worry, search for “Campaigns” and hit “Create Campaign > Regular Ol’ Campaign”. (more…)

Improve Your Handmade Product Descriptions in Minutes

Got a few extra minutes of time to devote to your handmade biz? Spruce up your handmade product descriptions with these quick and simple tips!

Wrench Charms
Wrench Charms from Qutie Supplies

Handmade sellers have many “plates” to spin: product design, copywriting, product photography, marketing, customer service, etc. You’re busy.

Extra pockets of un-scheduled time are few and far between, but when they do come along, I have an idea for you: use that time to make some improvements to your product descriptions.

The following tasks take just a few minutes of time but can have a lasting impact on your customers (and your bottom line).

Add Testimonials or Positive Feedback (10 minutes)

Handmade artisans who sell their products online already know the importance of social proof.  A great way to include social proof in your online shop is to include testimonials or positive feedback in your product descriptions. If you sell similar items, gather testimonials or feedback you’ve received about those items, and include them in the product description. Customers love to read about others’ experiences with your products, and some won’t make a purchase if they can’t find any positive reviews.

If you sell on Etsy, you have access to your customer feedback in your account, but you’ll need some sort of system for tracking and/or gathering your product testimonials.

Testimonials often arrive in the form of:

  • Comments on your business Facebook page
  • Emails from customers
  • Convos from customers on Etsy

Create a document called “Customer Testimonials.” Copy and paste testimonial wording into the document (along with the name of the customer, if desired), and keep it handy for including in your product descriptions.

Answer some FAQs about the Product (10-15 minutes)

If you’ve ever received an email or an Etsy convo with a question about the product, consider including that question (and your answer) in the product description! If one person had a question, it’s likely that others will too!

Creating a section in the product description called “FAQs” draws the potential customer’s eye to that section. If the product details are buried deep within the description, the customer might skim right over them. Pull out the important details in an FAQ section.

Add Upselling Links (5-10 minutes)

I’ve talked about upselling here and here on my blog, but in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, upselling is linking customers to other products you sell that are similar or complementary to the product you are currently featuring.

There are two ways to include upselling in your product description:

  1. Add links to coordinating items (think matching pieces).
    1. If you sell necklaces, add links to matching bracelets and/or earrings.
    2. If you sell pillow covers, add links to the pillow inserts that go inside the covers.
    3. If you sell tablecloths, add links to the matching napkins.
  2. Add links to items from the same category/section in your shop.
    1. Use wording such as, “Click here to view the other ___ in my shop.”

Remember that on Etsy, links to other Etsy listings or shop sections become clickable, making it easy for customers to click over and view your additional products. Your goal should be to keep customers in your shop as long as possible.

Organize Your Product Description Layout (10-15 minutes)

Customers can easily become overwhelmed by a lengthy product description. In fact, if your description is long, they might just skim over it or not read it at all! Yikes!

Organize the description however you wish, but here are a few sections to include:

  • keyword-rich description of the product
  • product details (dimensions, materials, etc.)
  • FAQs
  • your creative process (if desired)
  • your inspiration (if desired)
  • upselling (links to other products in your shop)

You could even use characters to separate the different sections of your product description. I like how this seller sets off certain parts of her product description with lines above and below the sections:

JillianReneDecor Pillow
Pillow from Jillian Rene Decor

NOTE: Avoid using creative characters in the beginning of your product description. Remember that the Google snippet comes from the first several characters of your product description, and you don’t want to waste that SEO juice with nonsensical characters! Read more information about the Google snippet for your handmade product listings.

Proofread Your Product Description (10-15 minutes)

We talked about proofreading in this post, but just to re-cap, a product listing with errors could cause potential customers to doubt the quality of your product. Check your product listing for wording errors by using a free online editor such as PaperRater or Hemingway Editor.

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I’d recommend that you schedule a regular check of your product listings. Create a monthly calendar and update one listing daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly—whatever you have time for!

The next time you have an extra 10-15 minutes to devote to your handmade business, use this list of tasks to improve your product descriptions. You’ll be glad you did!

Juliebio

Julie Corbett – On The Dot Creations

On the Dot Creations features handmade creations and shares biz tips with those who sell them. Check out Julie’s free video series3 Reasons Your Product Photography Might Be Turning Customers Away, or her brand new online workshopDIY Product Photography.