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3 ways to find your community as a maker

ccBeing a full-time maker is a wonderful thing. You have the freedom to shape your business and decide how to spend your days, all while doing something that you love. However, with that freedom comes a small price. Working by yourself can be quite lonely. An entire day can pass by without having a single interaction with another person. There are no colleagues with whom you can chat during your breaks, to ask questions when you are unsure about something, or to vent when you are having a tough day.

Finding community as a maker when you are self-employed is just as important as knowing the ins and outs of your business. These people can provide support, serve as a sounding board, or just be people who “get” what it means to be in your world. (Which, let’s be honest, may look like to some like you’re just having fun all day!) Whether you live in a bustling city or a small town, community can be found both locally and globally, in-person or online. It’s just a matter of seeking out those connections. Here are just a few ways to find community as a maker.

Find a local group

Do a Google search to see if there are any local groups for makers. It can be a neighborhood artists’ association, a craft guild, or just a group of people who like to get together to talk about their work. If you can’t find anything, start your own! Meetup.com can be a great way to connect with other like-minded people, or you can even put an advertisement out on Craigslist.

Join or start a Facebook group

Regardless of your feelings about Facebook, groups are a fantastic way to connect with others. The group can be as small or large as you want it to be, and you can adjust the privacy levels to let in everyone with a Facebook account or keep it invisible and invite-only. What’s great about Facebook groups are they allow relatively easy communication: you can post a question or a comment and everyone can see all of the responses and you can search for past posts. If the group is private, you can talk about just about anything without the whole world seeing it! I am part of several Facebook communities, one of which is a regional group for crafters to share information about shows, ask questions related to our businesses, or even to vent when we’re feeling frustrated.

Read & comment on blogs

You may wonder how reading a blog can help you to build community. I have found through commenting and sharing blogs I have formed real friendships, some of which have turned into even in-person ones as well. I feel that many people who are in this world truly want to help each other and connect with other like-minded folks, and if you are genuine in your comments and sharing, then people often want to connect back with you.

The most important thing to know, regardless of how you build your community, is to give back. Communities form from people helping one another. Pass on the wisdom you have gained through your own experiences and invite in people who are also seeking community. It can be a lonely world working for yourself, but with an open mind and little bit of effort, you can easily connect with others.

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Bev Feldman – Linkouture

Bev Feldman is jeweler and blogger in the Boston area busy juggling her small creative business with caring for her young daughter. You can find her work at Linkouture and can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest. She loves connecting with other creatives, so be sure to say hi!

5 Types of Product Photos Handmade Sellers Should Capture

Want to show prospective customers that your products are unique, high quality, and created by a real, live person? Wish you could show how much tender loving care goes into creating the items you sell?

The best way to accomplish this is to photograph the details that make your products great. The following 5 types of product photos can help convince customers to buy:

Detail Photos

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Customers who buy handmade products love the fact that the items were created by an artisan, not mass produced by a big-box retailer.

The following are some examples of detail photos that you could capture:

  • If your items are hand-sewn, capture close-up photos of your stitching.
  • If you sell handmade aprons, capture photos of the bows, the buttons, and the pockets.
  • If you sell handmade jewelry, capture photos of the clasps, and feature the embellishments that make the jewelry pieces one-of-a-kind.
  • If your products are created with wood, capture close-up photos of the wood grain and any joints where pieces of wood are fastened together.
In-Process Photos

In-Process-PhotoRetromama

Customers love to see the time and effort that you put into creating your items, and nothing shows that better than in-process photos.

What materials did you use to create the product? Needle and thread? Glue and paper? Paint and canvas? If your product requires a multi-step process, photograph a few of the steps (without divulging your exact process, of course).

Let customers take a look at your creative process, and that will strengthen their desire for a handmade product even more.

Custom Item Photos

Customize-PhotoSew Happy Girls

Do you create custom products for customers? If so, show customers examples of previous custom orders so that they can see what customizations are possible. Customers love the ability to request an item created specifically for them. Showing photo examples of previous special orders lets your customers know that customized products are available for them too.

Artist Touch Photos

Artist-Branding-PhotoLoveLee Soaps

If you sign or initial the products that you create, photograph that personal touch as well! If you include a label on your products, photograph that! If you can’t attach a label to your product, photograph your product beside some of your shop branding (see the example from the LoveLeeSoaps Etsy shop in the photo above). Isn’t that a smart way to display the business branding?

In-Use Photos

In-Use-PhotoRetromama

Help customers imagine themselves using your product, and they’ll be more likely to buy. Photograph your product on a model. Stage it with a complementary product. Place it in its after-purchase “home” to show customers how the product can improve their life.

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Do you capture all five of these types of product photos? While not all of these photo types would be appropriate to use in your product listing, they could be very appropriate on your business blog, your Facebook fan page, Instagram page or your Twitter page.

Ask yourself what sets your products apart from the run-of-the-mill products found in an average local retailer. Now show your prospective customers those unique selling points with your product photography.

What other types of product photos do you capture? What product photo techniques have you found to be successful?

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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.

Your February To Do List

IMG_0005What are you working on this month? What do you need to do to get it done by the end of February? We are discussing self-care this month on the blog and part of that is taking the steps you need to hit your goals. I am co-hosting this retreat at the end of the month and have a lot to get done to be prepared for it properly. I printed out one of the new To Do lists (I created the heart ones to match The Etsy Business Planner) I have in my Etsy Shop and have written down everything I need to do for this retreat. It is a long but exciting list!

I want you to grab a to do list or pick up one of mine, choose one goal to dedicate the whole list to (maybe write it at the top) and start writing all of the to dos that need to get done to reach that goal. If you have an accountability partner maybe you can let them know that you are shooting to hit this goal by the end of the month. Any extra accountability or encouragement is helpful!

If you want, share your goal in the comments below and I will follow up with you at the end of the month! Now let’s go be productive!

How to take care of yourself & your business to help you grow

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Who hasn’t been told: you need to take some time off, you work too hard, you really need to put your feet up and relax, do something for yourself….? Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? But how do you do that? First, we need to find the time in our busy life. Usually our “free” time is used to grow our business, such as working on our blog, keeping up to date with our emails, sending newsletters, selling at craft fairs…. So really how can we take a break from what we love doing?

The real first step is to consider “taking a break” as part of your work. Being self-employed doesn’t mean not deserving to stop for a while. You don’t need a long break, you just need a useful break. You need to “break” your routine to go back to your work invigorated. Ok, you got the point, so now what? What is a useful break for craftsellers and small business owners?

Here are 3 things I recommend could help you :
  • Take a walk in the countryside or in the forest to reconnect with nature. Breathing pure air will help you to “let it go.” Make sure to pay attention to all details around you, use all your senses: try to see what can’t be seen at first sight, listen to every little noise, touch and pick up wild flowers or branches to bring home so you can remember this “wild” we miss when we work online. Go out in the rain even! That would make your home feel cosier when you return. I recommend you to visit this very floral and inspired blog to encourage following her path and find your own: http://frokenskicklig.blogspot.fr
  • Enroll for a course or sign in for a conference: creative people need to be “fed.” We love discovering new subjects, exploring new paths, getting new skills, meeting new people. That doesn’t happen like that unless you choose to. Finally take that e-class or that online workshop you have been dreaming about (even ask them if they accept multiple payments so you know how to finance it more easily). Or alternatively, take part in a retreat, I would love to go abroad by myself and sit on the seaside, just looking…. Check out this hut, who would not like taking a break there, just for a day (or 2 !): http://www.littlebeachhutofdreams.com
  • Be grateful: choose a notebook for 2015, in which you’ll write down 3 sentences every night before going to bed. The exercise is easy: choose 3 positive things which happened to you during the day, even the most little simple thing, it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be true. From a nice cup of tea, or the smile of your baby when you go to his/her bedroom to wake him/her up in the morning (before he/she burst in tears!), to a nice thank you email from a client, write all that made you happy. You will then be able to go to bed “lighter” knowing that your day was good. Leave that diary on your bedside table with a dedicated pen to be sure to do it every night! Mine is shown above in the picture I took of it to inspire you.

With those 3 simple and affordable ideas, you should be able to take care of yourself for real and start now! So what would you chose first ?

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Sophie Chapman — Ma Petite Valisette

Sophie Chapman lives in Normandy and has graduated 10 years ago from business school. As a mother of 3 franco-english kids (8y, 6y & 2 months old) and with a husband that travels a lot, Sophie decided to work from home by launching her online business. She worked at a famous Parisian ad agency before she became a professional trainer.

She now offers online courses for female entrepreneurs and craft sellers. You can find different downloads in her shop and you can also subscribe for online trainings and online entrepreneurship workshops. Most recently she also co-published a business book for french craft sellers. It was the first book in the french market that covered this topic.

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Spread The Love Online

spreadtheloveIt’s February, the month of love, and I want us to spread it around like crazy! The theme for this month is self-love/self-care. You will be seeing posts related to ways you can take care of yourself and your business to help you grow. If you have something to share, please consider writing a guest post!

In addition to taking care of ourselves and our businesses, I want you to pay attention to how you take of other creatives and their businesses online. Last week, I went on twitter and came across some people being quite rude about something another creative had shared. They linked to it and then proceeded to poke fun and laugh. To be honest, it made my stomach turn. Just writing about it is having the same effect. I always worry about people not taking care of themselves or comparing themselves too often to others. I honestly didn’t think I had to worry about people trying to make other people feel bad about something they created or shared. I debated jumping in the tweets to say something but thought better of it. Instead, I want to make something positive come out of something negative.

I want you to take the time to be positive and loving towards other creatives and their businesses online this month. I do realize that this is what we are probably all doing all of the time but let’s really make a point of it this month and forever after that.

Here are some ways you are already spreading the love online: retweeting a tweet, sharing a Facebook post, commenting on an Instagram photo and pinning a blog post on Pinterest. Let’s amp this up a bit by making a point of saying something positive or kind when you spread the love. Let’s use the hashtag #spreadtheloveonline so we can check in on all of the goodness being shared.

Want somewhere to start? Please share your latest blog post, product, Etsy shop or anything related to your business in the comments below. Then, go through and pick something you like from someone else to share. I will be doing the same. No comments yet? Consider sharing this post to spread the word!

I have always wanted Handmade Success to be a place where creatives are supported and celebrated. I believe that we have a responsibility to build each other up and not tear each other down. No matter where you are on your journey, I want you to know that I think you are amazing, strong and creative. Let’s start making a point of letting others know that we feel that way about them too!

I can’t wait to see what everyone shares! XOXO!