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Q&A with Megan Auman – September

Please welcome the fabulous Megan Auman – jeweller, business strategist, artist, designer, brilliant entrepreneur, and my lovely friend. Megan is going to be stopping by every other month to answer three of your burning questions – think of her a little like a whip-smart, no-nonsense business advice columnist.

Take it away, Megan…

I make body care products with EO. I just can not seem to sell via social media as people want to feel and smell them. A storefront is just out of my pay grade. Selling at flea market outdoors has not done well. What would be my next step?

There are a few options here that can help encourage people to try and buy your products. The first is to use really lush, beautiful images on social media that help give people the idea of the smell. For example, if a product contains vanilla scent, photograph it with some vanilla beans. This helps customers make a connection and imagine the smell based on a visual cue.
You can also offer small sample or trial sizes. Since it would probably be cost prohibitive for you to offer free samples, you could offer them at a low price (that includes shipping) and then include a coupon for that amount off their first purchase. It then becomes like a free sample, but only if they commit to making a larger order.
I would also recommend reaching out to friends and family on social media. Ask them what it would take for them to get them to buy a body product they aren’t familiar with online for the first time. They may surprise you with some unexpected ideas.One last avenue to explore is wholesaling your products to stores. This is a great option that gets your products into people’s hands without the upfront costs of a store front. (And since stores buy your products outright, but at wholesale prices, it can be a fairly risk free way to go!) For more info on wholesale and approaching stores, be sure to check out my Sell Your Products to Retailers class on Creative Live.

How do you distinguish yourself?

The first way to distinguish yourself is through product design. If you’re making products that look similar to many others that are out there, it can be difficult to stand out. This could mean taking a look at your competitors and asking yourself what you could do differently. The classic example of this is when Apple released the iPod. Everyone else in the portable music market was using black earphones, so Apple made theirs white. This led to an incredibly distinctive product.
As a product, this may also mean taking additional classes and learning or developing new skills and techniques. When you are limited to the same basic skills as your competitors, it makes differentiation all the more difficult.
Another key way to distinguish yourself is through your brand. Branding is about more than just a logo, aesthetic and color scheme. (Though those certainly make up part of it.) The best brands stand for something. They espouse a core belief that is shared by their customers and raving fans. They create stories that other people can share about the brand, which helps them achieve an almost mythical status.The key to solid branding is to define what it is your business is really about. Apple is in the business of challenging the status quo. I am in the business of confidence. Ask yourself what it is you truly want to provide for your customers. From there, the key is to choose a visual strategy (your logo, fonts, colors, product photography, etc.) that supports the core mission behind your business.Because branding is difficult to cover thoroughly in a column, I’d also recommend that you check out my upcoming class on Branding Your Creative Business on Creative Live.

How do you get out of a creative slump and get back on track?

I’m a big fan of Megan’s work and ethos. I would like to ask, ‘ I know you make jewellery, but you are so diverse with your designs. What has been your most successful product line and why?’

I’m going to tackle these two questions together, as they’re very related for me! When I find myself in a creative slump, one of the things I do is give myself permission to experiment with other mediums, techniques, processes, and product types.
Often times, a creative slump comes from burnout and taking some time to experiment in other areas can give you fresh perspective. But it’s also important that you don’t let those experiments take you too far from your main focus. In the past year and a half, I’ve ventured from my jewelry line to experiment with painting and textile design. But to answer Kate’s question, my most successful product line by far is my jewelry.
The reason for that is simple. I’ve spent years (eight since I’ve left graduate school, but who’s counting) developing my jewelry line and building a solid reputation. And because I’m more familiar with that world than any other, I’m able to produce jewelry that is more profitable than any other product line I’ve developed.Which brings me to the second part of coming back from a creative slump. And that’s to rekindle the romance and remind yourself of why you fell in love with your chosen medium in the first place. This could mean taking a class, pulling out some books, or heading to a museum (my personal favourite.

Another way to rekindle the passion is to design something that you have no intention of selling. Try making something as a gift or something for yourself “just for fun.” When Tara asked me to design a simple necklace that she had been looking for, that opened of a flood of creativity that led to my newest jewelry collection.

Got a question for Megan Auman?

Leave it in the comments below or email it to megan@createandthrive.com (that’s direct to Megan Eckman, Assistant Editor).

Set Up Shop Registration Open Now for October 2014!

 

Yes, it’s time… the final class of Set Up Shop for 2014 is now open for registration!

I’ve had the honour of guiding over 300 creatives through this course over the past two years, and I’m looking forward to helping you turn your online shop into something that you can both be proud of, AND that sets you up to actually bring in sales and grow your business. In this course, I’m coming from a place of hard-won experience – I’ve done what I’m teaching you, and I have a successful online craft business that supports me and my little family (and employs both me and my husband).

I have (and am still) ‘walking the walk’ of running an online handmade business. I created this course because I’m passionate about sharing what I learn, AND helping others to realise their dream of having a successful craft business – because I want you to enjoy the freedom, joy, and fulfilment that comes from doing just that.

Registration is open now, and will close midday Sunday the 5th of October AEST (that’s Australian Eastern Standard Time!).

Class begins Monday the 6th of October, and runs for 30 days.

To find out exactly how the course works, the options you have for Membership, and what we’ll be covering, head on over to the course page here.

If you’re worried that you won’t be able to afford this course, because you’ve seen all the super-expensive courses that are out there – don’t be. The entry level Membership to Set Up Shop is just $85* – because I want every single person who needs this course to be able to afford it.

According to conventional wisdom (and what many of my past students have told me) I should be charging a lot more for this course, but you know what? I don’t need a Ferrari (my campervan is just fine). I don’t need a fancy house (my two rooms are enough). I don’t need to make a million from this course: just enough to make you value it, and for me to justify spending the time on it. What I need is for YOU to be able to take this course and experience the huge positive changes it can help you make in your life and business.

Oh – and one last thing… if you’ve been considering doing the course for a while now, and you were planning on signing up for Gold Membership (where I give you a full shop critique after the course) OR for Platinum Membership (where you also get a one-on-one skype session with me) – this is your last chance!

I’m reorganising the Gold and Platinum Membership levels after this run of the course – and you will no longer get a full critique with Gold Membership – only with Platinum (which will be changing to the 3-month-mentorship model similar to what I offer with SHIFT). I currently charge $95 for a full critique outside of the course, so getting it in the current Gold Membership is quite a bargain. If you want one, and you want to do Set Up Shop, don’t miss out – there are only 20 Gold Places available.

If you have any questions, please just leave them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you asap.

I hope you can join us and get your shop ship-shape just in time for the Christmas rush!

Jess x

 

(*price in AUD, and GST applies to Aussies)

C&T Recommended Reads ~ Week 39, 2014

From Megan:

From Jess:

Holiday Prep + Reality Check

How many times have I said it? This year was a huge transitional year for business and for me personally. It has impacted nearly ever aspect of business and so obviously, this holiday season is no exception.
Because I am planning some big and different things for 2015, I am aiming to use this holiday season to make room ( read: clear out ) a lot of stock! I’ve added action steps for you to take as part of each of my preparations as well to help you sort through it!

Action step: prep your holiday season calendar, mark off newsletters and their content and set order and shipping deadlines for national and international orders!

I’m in the process of brainstorming and nailing down some ways to take advantage of the “official” start of the shopping season in the states, Black friday – and the whole of Thanksgiving Weekend. It’s an embarrassing time for us Americans wherein we leave our family gatherings to go fight it out for a huge discount on a TV. It’s shameful really, but there are some positives to the whole thing. This is a huge opportunity for retailers and it is, in fact, foolish not to take advantage of it.

Action step: make sure any holiday items are renewed, correctly categorized and tagged appropriately!

Beyond the Thanksgiving weekend show down, I have already added a few key Holiday specific items to my shop. On Etsy, I always try to have a few items that can be pulled for features or treasuries even if I don’t plan on selling a million of them. They bring in the interest and help me get some placement in Holiday specific site-wide marketing initiatives.

Action step: order new marketing materials and packaging supplies now so they are ready to go!

My other main goal this season is to implement some of my favorite marketing know how. During times of (hopefully) high traffic and sales, it’s best to make the most of packaging materials and follow up! I like to include postcards with my orders advertising my website and this holiday I am going to include a piece with all orders about the big things I have planned for 2015.

Action step: Stock up on tea and chocolate now. Haha.

The holidays are so exciting but can be so stressful. Honestly the past three holiday season wore me out through to march. Completely chaotic. This year I would like to leverage the opportunity to make money, obviously, but also maintain some sense of normalcy in my life, I have no plan for that yet, and it truly is a wait and see sort of situation, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Take care of your customers, but don’t forget to take care of yourself as well! And enjoy the holidays with your friends and family. That should be part of the goal as well for us all I think!

 

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