What is your business name and what kind of products do you sell?
My name, and my business name is Sam Osborne. Mainly I design and create colourful, patterned and typography prints, cards, homewards and gifts. But I also design wedding stationery, branding, commissioned illustrations and do some freelance design work.
Is there a story behind your business name?
I ummed and ahhed over having a company name, coming up with huge list of possible words but as I do so many varied things it quickly became clear that the link was me, so I stuck with my name. Plus Orla Keily did it so there’s a pretty good precedent there!
How did you get started in your business?
I started by opening an Etsy shop (http://www.etsy.com/shop/SamOssie) in late 2010, booking a load of local craft fairs for spring 2011, creating and printing a bunch of designs and seeing what sold! I’d like to say it was more scientific than that but I’ve always learned best by being hands on. Starting the Etsy shop was pretty low risk, and I got instant feedback, and booking the fairs gave me deadlines I knew I had to hit. I changed my personal twitter to my business, set up a website and facebook page and started to get my brand and products out there.
Where do you sell your products both online and offline?
I sell via my shops on Etsy, Folksy and Bouf.com, I sell in person at craft fairs and markets (some of which I also run via http://handmademakersmarket.wordpress.com that I set up with my friend Michelle) and I sell wholesale to various shops.
You told me that 90% of your website visits are from your free marketing techniques! Can you share those with us?
I LOVE social media, I tweet ALOT, but very rarely about my products directly and when I do I try to tie them into something that is happening, the weather, the season, upcoming celebrations, even some thing on the news that day. I prefer to use it to chat to people, it’s all about making connections, and share a lot of my work in progress. I’m also active on my blog, Facebook page, pinterest and behance for my branding and design work. Someone once told me that with your social media, blogs etc you should think of it as curating a lifestyle so I try to make sure all my communication is consistant in that sense so people can ‘buy into’ what I’m talking about and hopefully by extension buy my products
I’m also building up the mailing list for my email newsletter and working on a content plan to create new and interesting articles to go in there.
Have you found your niche? Did you have a process of doing this?
I still think I’m working on this to be honest (and probably always will be) it took me time to work out what I wanted to produce but it comes down to what I love really: colour, type and pattern. I write a series colour-palette posts on my blog, share a lot of work from my sketchbooks and run a self-directed challenge called Literary Types (http://literarytypes.tumblr.com/) and theses are all things that keep me in people’s minds when it come to my three key areas. Also my little strapline ‘Brightly-Coloured Designer Nerd’ has been a bit of a guiding light for me in terms of narrowing my focus and finding a niche.
Any tips on how to stand out from other crafters?
Every time I have to make a business decision I ask myself how I can “do it better, do it differently? Raise your game, treat your customers better, offer something different, market yourself in a different way. Pitch yourself as the expert in what you do.
How did you make the transition from part time to full time?
Pretty suddenly to be honest! I’d been working as a graphic designer for various agencies for 8-9 years before I decided to strike out on my own. I loved (and still love) graphic design work but it had taken me a long way from my more artistic roots and I was keen to get some of that back, I’d been drawing and working on a few things in my spare time but knew that I needed to be pushed so I quit my job. Just like that. I had no idea how crazy it was at the time! I had a vague plan about what I was going to do and spent a lot of time experimenting and doing about a million things till a few stuck and started to earn me some money. It was a scary time but I loved it, finding my feet and learning.
Do you have tips or tricks in regards to running your business that you learned the hard way?
You can’t do it all – When I started I was trying to do about 7 or 8 different things and it’s just too much, you end up not giving anything enough attention. While I still have a pretty wide portfolio of services I focus most of my attention on my products with everything else having a supporting role.
It’s OK to ask for help – I was so worried about spending money on things I could do myself, but you know what I’m not an accountant or a web designer, or a book binder so it’s OK, more than OK, to find experts to help you out. It makes financial sense in the long run.
Play – don’t forget to do some stuff just for fun, it’s so easy to get caught up in the making, promoting, selling cycle that you think you don’t have time for a bit of play. Experimenting is so important!
Don’t get hypnotised by your stats – there are so many sites, gadgets and widgets that will give you info about who looked at what, for how long and why, that it is easy for your whole day is disappear just watching them. This is not a productive way to spend your day. Stats can be useful but don’t get caught up in them
How do you get past fears and self doubt to share your awesomeness with the world?
Honestly it never occurred to me to have any. I don’t want that to sound conceited, it’s more that I didn’t think it through long enough. Before I knew it my online shop was up and running and I was sat behind a craft stall full of my work with customers about to descend on it. Luckily they seemed to like it! Once it’s all moving and sales start happening then you have some proof to fend off future wobbles – the key is to take that first step!
What is your schedule like on a typical work day?
As my commute is about 10 steps down the corridor I don’t generally wake up that early. I’m usually safely at my desk by about 8.30/9 with a cup of coffee and the iPod on. I check in with email, social media and any orders that came in overnight and then update my list with what I need to do today – at the start of every week I write a master list and pull items off that day by day and this also gets added to as things come in during the week.
I try to get ‘real work’ done first thing. This basically means things I’m not crazy about – admin, invoicing, reading contracts, sorting fairs and ordering any stock, blanks and print work. Then I get to do the fun stuff – brainstorming, drawing, designing, creating. I also set aside time to promote, package and post and research future opportunities etc. Often I’ll forget to eat lunch (naughty) and take a break around 6/6.30 to make and eat dinner. In the evenings I blog, do my Literary Types and keep my Etsy shop stocked and up to date. It’s a pretty full day but I love it so much that it hardly feels like work!
How has your business changed over the years?
It hasn’t really been running long enough to have seen dramatic changes but I’ve streamlined how I work and become more focused on what I do and where I want that to go, it’s really only the beginning of the journey and I am excited about where the next few years take me!
What are your hopes and aspirations for your business and where do you see yourself going from here?
The next big challenge is really getting going in the wholesale market. I plan to do some of the bigger trade fairs next year. I’m also trying to re-jig my thinking to a more seasonal based, collection style of planning and include more surface design in my collections which will allow me to broaden my product offering.
*Editor’s note – Thank you so much for this awesome interview Sam! I have loved getting to know you and your work over social media during the last year. Everyone stay tuned for a fab giveaway from Sam tomorrow on the blog!Share on Facebook