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How to Build a Better Creative Business

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Last year around this time, I got on the phone with Timothy Adam (the man behind Handmadeology), and we had a chat about the creative community we both love so much.  You see, the economists are calling what we (as creative business owners) are doing the “maker’s movement.” Basically, they’re trying to figure out where this billion-dollar industry came from. And here we are: the people that created that movement from our own imaginations. We all followed our bright ideas into business!

That’s good news, but it’s only going to continue to grow from here. And it’s only only going to get harder to stand out in an already overcrowded marketplace.

Sometimes not knowing how to market your business, or even what to do next in order to grow, can slow you down or worse! It can stop your progress altogether. How many of us have asked ourselves (because who else is there for us to ask), “How do I get to the next level? How do I achieve the high sales and success of those around me?”

Tim and I understand; it’s who we are too. And what we’re realizing now more than ever is that our interconnectedness … our having a network among each other, is vital to our individual AND collective success.

We feel that THIS is your year, before everything gets too vast and everyone gets lost in cyberspace. You need the tools, you need the resources, and you don’t have the luxury of time that I had, even a couple of years ago, to figure it all out.

So, we created a learning curve.

Tim and I emphatically agree that you, as a creative entrepreneur, should be able to experience whatever level of success you’re striving to achieve. It’s 100% do-able. We also know that we have the experience and passion to teach the skills, share the insight, and offer the information that you need.  We teach what we’ve already tested and proven …

Tim’s been in this industry since 2007. He knows how to sell online, how to gain press, how to grow a blog into a community of 20,000 creatives, and how to attract 40,000 fans.

In 2010, I started an Etsy shop and set out to build a work-at-home career. To date, I have marketed my shop into a top-selling success story and made more than six figures with my creative business. It now provides my family a hearty and reliable second income.

Here’s how it works:

The Build a Better Creative Business course is run on a password-protected website, and participants have three months’ access to the material. Enrollment is open for the current session through March 9, 2014. There are eighteen classes inside the course, ten of those are led by either Lisa or Timothy. The rest of the classes are taught by an extraordinary line-up of expert contributors (including Kerry!).

In addition, there are four mastermind sessions, and these are live events hosted by Tim and Lisa. If you’re not familiar with mastermind sessions, think private group coaching + brainstorming session + solution-generating magic.

Inside the course, experts in the field unleash an abundance of insight, next actions, downloadable tools, resources, and specific how-to information. The classes are broadcast on our website 2 times per week throughout the first eight weeks of enrollment. After those first eight weeks, the course remains open to the participants so that you may revisit any lessons, gather all of the downloads, ask any further questions, etc.

What You’ll Get

The Build a Better Creative Business Course includes:

  • 10 Private lessons led by either Tim or Lisa.
  • 8 Bonus lessons from our selected group of masters: we called in the big guns of our industry, and you’re going to be blown away by the people you meet inside this course.
  • 24/7 Personal email access to Lisa: Ask her anything and everything, day or night
  • One-on-one coaching calls with Lisa: Two weeks’ worth of private shop critiques, marketing strategy, brainstorming sessions, and more by scheduling a Skype chat.
  • 4 LIVE mastermind meetings with both Lisa and Tim present and catered toward your needs
  • Private networking and support among like-minded creative business owners
  • Tools and resources for your creative business: we’re throwing it all in–worksheets, planners, checklists, marketing calendar, media contacts, and more.

This is a semester that you don’t want to miss! We know we have a spectacular course for you, and we want this to be the biggest running yet. The 2014 spring session includes more lessons, more bonus materials, more workshops and worksheets and more personalized attention than ever before.

On Thursday, February 27, we are going to announce an early-bird special that is so amazing and valuable, you simply won’t be able to pass it up. Click here to check it out.

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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.

What You Ought to Know About Starting Your Own Website

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If you have or are starting a business to sell your products to the rest of the world, your own online store is a necessity.

When launching your online store, you will probably have concerns. Will I have enough time? Am I technical enough? How will I attract people to my store? Can I actually afford it?

All very legitimate concerns, but all concerns that can be answered with ease. Promise!

MadeFreshly is the perfect software platform for independent sellers. Those with a passion for their small business, and who need their own dedicated website to sell their products.

Time:

Online stores and businesses take time. Plan wisely. If you already have a business or store (or are simply thinking about it), you know that business plans and preparation takes lots…and lots…and lots…of time; however, if you plan your days accordingly and practice organization techniques, your online store does not have to keep you up at night.

Technical:

It’s incredible (we think so!), but MadeFreshly is simple to use and makes it easy to get your business started. Follow the steps in our first article here and we promise to take stress and anxiety out of the building process. The planner guide will help you create a five-day plan to launch your store, and after that, it’s all about the fun and enjoyment of growing your business.

Marketing:

Marketing your online business isn’t always easy, but social media and guerilla marketing is a great, and often free, place to start.

If you don’t already have a social presence, sign-up for Facebook and Twitter. Start sharing the social love with your own personal connections (friends, family and existing social base). Network, Network, Network! Post regularly and engage with your audience. Consider building an email database to provide regular (but well-thought out) messages to your audience. Read through our feature article, Easily increase your Facebook fans with these 3 proven tactics, for some creative ideas to engage and communicate with your audience.

Affordability:

You’re in luck. MadeFreshly offers a free plan to get acquainted with our platform, so you can get your online business set-up at no cost. Once you feel comfortable with your store, we encourage you to sign-up for a paid plan.  MadeFreshly ranges from $11.99 – $34.99 per month, a much more affordable alternative to hiring a designer, developer, hosting and more. We give you all the tools you need to do it yourself.

When you’re ready to upgrade, Handmade Success will give you 25% off your first 3 months. Enter code handmadesuccess at the upgrade page.

Have questions for us? Any other concerns you need debunked? Leave us a comment!

Editor’s note: I am so in love with the passion MadeFreshly has for helping the handmade community – check out this video I just watched on their home page. I know you will totally relate! (Handmade Success has teamed up with MadeFreshly so feel free to ask me any questions too!)

Q & A with the Buyers from Uncommon Goods: Part 2

We are back this week with the the rest of the answers to our questions for the buyers at Uncommon Goods! These are great tips for getting into retail. Be sure to check out last week’s post too!
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Do you prefer to work with the same handmade artists on a long term  basis?

[Heather Thompson] Of course! We believe passionately in supporting the “makers” of the world – working with artists on a long term basis is our goal.  Additionally, building lasting partnerships with artists and designers helps us, as well – it’s mutually beneficial.  As we strive to bring the freshest, most unique, creatively  designed goods to market, partnering with our artists to create exclusive goods is a big part of how we execute those additions to our assortment.

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Is there a set criteria that the sellers have to meet?

[Sharon Hitchcock] We love to look at what the wonderful design community creates!  I am constantly amazed by the creativity of designers and makers.  As buyers, we are always on the hunt for creatively and uniquely designed , well made products.  We look for pieces that have an interesting materials story – items in our assortment are often made from recycled or upcycled components.  We also like items that have great functionality.  One important criteria for UncommonGoods is that we sell no products that harm humans or animals,  so we are mindful of that as we source for new products.

We work with many different types of sellers – folks who are just starting out, as well as those who’ve been in business for a while.  It is very rewarding as a buyer to nurture those relationships and watch a business grow.  It’s my favorite part of what I do.

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Does the seller have to be a certain size to be considered?

[Candace Holloway Gregory] Absolutely not!  We have vendors of all sizes who’s products are in the UncommonGoods assortment, everyone from Jane Doe building pots in her basement with 1 kiln to vendors that work with huge factories with many employees.  However, things can  get intense for small vendors when being considered for the printed catalog.  The vendor will have to guarantee they can make a certain amount of product by a given time.  That being said, we have worked with very small vendors that have had big success in the catalog.  We (the buyers and entire UG team) help trouble shoot challenges so that everyone is set up for success in these circumstances.  I think the key is to be transparent about what can be accomplished and open to think out of the box to get things done.

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Is it a typical 50% wholesale arrangement that is usual with brick and mortar stores, or are they looking for something different?

[Candace Holloway Gregory]  I think that 50% is the lowest margin that most brick and mortars are looking for but it really depends on the business, type of product, etc.  Here at UG we are looking for more than 50% as there are many costs associated with bringing an item into the assortment as well as making sure our customers have an excellent experience when shopping and receiving their products.  Price should be something a vendor is always open to talking about even if at the end of the day they can’t lower the price.

Thanks again to Rocky Taft and a big thank you to the buyers who took the time to answer our questions!

Q & A with the Buyers from Uncommon Goods: Part 1

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Are you looking to branch out and wholesale your work? I had the opportunity to submit your questions to the buyers at Uncommon Goods to discover how they select the handmade goods that they sell on their site. Have you heard of Uncommon Goods? My husband and I have been fans for a while. He gets so excited when their catalog comes because it is always filled with so many amazing and unique gifts. They are super supportive of the handmade community, the focus on sustainability and with every purchase they donate $1 to the non-profit of your choice. Click here to check out all of their handmade items and read on to discover how they were picked!

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Where do you look for potential sellers for your site?

[Erin Fergusson] We are looking for outstanding creative design that makes us think, “Wow I have never seen that before!” This can mean that the product solves a problem in a unique way, is made of an interesting material, or is a really innovative combination of form and function.

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Do you look for a certain type of merchandise or a certain look?

[Erin Fergusson] Not necessarily –our products have a wide range of aesthetics. We have some sleek, modern design products and other handcrafted natural-looking items. However, everything we sell has an element of creativity that earns it a place on our site.

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As a buyer of goods from handmade artists, what advice would you  give an artist seeking to place products with your company?

[Melissa Bishop] Have a clear point of view and be able to articulate your story, your inspiration, and your process. Figure out what makes your items different, and the best way to showcase them – we are a web and catalog company, so we need an item to have an impactful presentation in a photograph as well is in person. Be friendly and open – we’re in the business of supporting artists and small business owners, and we like to like the people we work with!

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Do you have some kind of benchmark for what the minimum amount  would be that I would have to produce monthly? 

[Melissa Bishop] Great question – but not really. It would depend on a number of factors – what kind of marketing presence it has (are we showing it in a catalog? in an email?), how expensive it is (a higher ticket item may sell at a slower unit velocity than a lower ticket item – though that is certainly not a rule), how fast inventory can be produced, etc. I would say that having a healthy production capacity makes catalog placement more possible – ie: we couldn’t grant catalog placement to an item that has a low production limit, as we wouldn’t get the return on investment for our marketing dollars. I think that being upfront with production capability is important, too, as we can help troubleshoot and brainstorm with artists who are reaching their limit, but it is better for everyone (and for everyone’s sanity) to not run into the issue at all.

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When you select a product for your site from a handmade artist, how many units of a product do you typically request (for a purchase order)?

[Heather Thompson] It totally depends!  How much does the item cost? What’s the retail?  Is it Drop Ship (shipping directly from the vendor/artist)? Is the item planned for a catalog?  Speaking [very] generically, Retail orders (and casepacks) are planned in dozens.  Hopefully that helps!

A super big thanks to Rocky Taft from Uncommon Goods for helping me put this post together! Stay tuned next week for Part 2!

Handmade Team Created in Response to Etsy’s New Policies.

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It all began normally enough. One bright and sunny October morning, all over the world Etsy sellers logged in to their accounts, ready to check their shops and work on their businesses. Then things took a turn: Etsy made an announcement.  A change to their policies.  It was plain and simple. Etsy was now allowing sellers to work with outside manufacturers, technically allowing factory made or massed-produced goods in to what had started as a Handmade platform. While undoubtedly great news for some sellers, allowing their shops to expand, many handmade sellers stared at the screen in dismay.  Many felt upset and the fear of becoming lost in a sea of new goods seemed very real. Massed produced products would make searching for something truly unique and one-of-a-kind more difficult.  Customers might have a hard time finding truly handmade shops.  They might NOT have the time to wade through so much. Thoughts like this ran through the heads of these artisans.

One of these sellers was Stacey Sobelman, a young graphic designer from St. Louis, and like numerous others she was appalled. However an idea entered her head and like a tiger she sprang into action. A team. A team just for handmade products, a place for artists to join together and remain true to handmade. The “All Handmade By Me” team was born!

Joining is simple; sellers have to have made their products by hand and provide a description of their process. Of course they do not have to be entirely by hand, sewing machines and small things like that are allowed. Once approved they can display the team’s badge, designed especially by the captain, as a sign of honour. The team provides not only a place to club together but also comradeship, promotion, support and advice.

When shopping on Etsy and wadding through the hundreds of pages of results, customers wanting true handmade items only have to look of the badge and can be reassured that it is a handmade item.

What started out as a small reaction to a change, just a few people coming together, grew and grew. Now just over two months later the team’s membership has exceeded 1500.

I had a few words with Captain Stacey about the team and where she’d like it go in the future.

“I started this team because I thought that it was important to give handmade sellers a voice. I never dreamed that anything of this magnitude would come of it, but now that we have over 1,500 members, I could not be happier! This team is truly my proudest accomplishment. Every single day I wake up, amazed that this has really happened!”

“I would like to take the team farther. In the immediate future, I’d like to increase the general public’s awareness of our team. My goal is that someday soon buyers will come to look for my handmade badge of honor when shopping online”

I also spoke to several of the team’s leaders about what the team means to them.

Teresa from CreativeTreasures

“I was extremely disappointed that having just gotten my business going Etsy decided to change the definition of handmade into something that nobody in reality would recognise. So while people are still looking for actual HANDmade products, this team has ensured that true handmade artisans stand out in the crowd, and between us we can continue the true traditions of our crafts.”

Erin from LadyHonsa

“As a one-person shop, it is very important to me to try and keep the handmade vibe of Etsy alive. Joining this team and being a leader has allowed me to meet and get to know many other handmade shop owners. Running the promotional threads, I get to see a plethora of new, exciting handmade items.
It’s a fun community that is growing by the day, and it’s lovely to see that handmade isn’t going to be stopped!”

Katie from UniquelyYouJewellery

“I am honoured to be a part of this amazing team dedicated to handmade products. In a world full of mass production, it is fantastic to see artisans and crafters make unique, special, high quality items for consumers to cherish. Each handcrafted item is made by very talented people. I am very glad to be a part of that.”

It is good to know that in a world full of mass-commercialism, the handmade sprit of small artisans still going strong. It always will as long as there people to support it.  If you have a handmade shop on Etsy or just like to shop for handmade goods remember to look for the team badge!

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Maisie — Ma’at Silk

Maisie is an artist and designer. Working on silk, designing patterns and finding inspiration everywhere.  Setting stories to silk, summing up images and always working in bright colours. She is committed to blogging, painting and having as much fun as possible while doing it.

http://www.maatsilk.com