My Yearly Review – 2017 Edition


Since I’ve been sharing the #LookBackMoveForward process and course with you this week, I decided to also share some of my own review findings from the year just gone.

I decided at the beginning of 2017 that this would be a ‘consolidation’ year – my year of not starting anything new.

Pretty much every year since I started business – back in 2008 – I’ve started a major new project (or multiple new projects!).

This year, I wanted to solidify what I had done, and take a bit of a break from creating anything new. This was our first full year in our new home, and I’ve been loving just enjoying my home and family.

Funnily enough – alongside this, I inadvertently did the same in my personal life. I usually have at least one personal ‘project’ going at any one time, but this year, I haven’t – I’ve just been enjoying what I already have in my life.

Taking the pressure off has allowed me to have more space in my life – more time to relax and enjoy the lifestyle that my businesses allow me to have.

Now, as the year draws to a close, I’m feeling a new surge of energy, and I’ve got tons of ideas of where I want to take my work into the new year and beyond.

Let’s have a look at how my businesses went in 2017.




We saw sales slow down a little in the jewellery business this year, and there have been a couple of reasons for this:


  1. We have had 2 major vacations this year – a 3-week trip to Japan, and a 5-week trip to the UK. We had to close up shop for 5 and 7 weeks respectively for these holidays, so that was almost 3 months of the year where we weren’t earning any income from Epheriell.
  2. We released literally zero new designs in 2017. All of our orders have come from pre-existing designs.
  3. We closed the shop on our own website in October, and since then we’ve been working on a re-design, with a planned re-launch in early Jan 2018.
  4. I took a bit of a step back from marketing this year, so most of our sales have come strictly via organic traffic and searches.


I was originally considering taking a sabbatical from the jewellery business this year, but ultimately, decided against it. Instead, we kind of set it on auto-pilot.

Sales have still been good (a solid few thousand dollars a month) but I can, by now, see the results of this approach (i.e. a slow decline in sales), and am ready to step things up again!

I’ve put together a plan for the new year – incorporating monthly marketing tasks, regular releases of new designs, and an increase in social media and blogging.

I’m most excited about a new range of wedding rings we’re releasing in January. For those outside of Australia, you may not know, but same-sex marriage has just been (finally!) passed into law here, so we’re going to celebrate that with our new release, and we’re planning on donating a percentage of sales of this line for a period of time to a LGBTQI youth charity.


Create & Thrive and the Thriver Circle


The biggest change during 2017 was that I moved away from doing monthly video workshops, into running monthly projects for my membership community, the The Thriver Circle. This has been super-fun, and it’s been a great way for the members to work alongside each other to move their businesses forward. However, I started to feel like I wanted to get back to offering more fresh content to members each month, while only doing a few video workshops a year.


There are a few big changes happening in 2018:

  1. I’ve decided to experiment by moving from having membership windows to having evergreen membership. That is – rather than the doors only being open a few times a year, the doors will be open all the time! This means people can join the Circle when it suits them, rather than when it suits me. There are a number of logistical reasons why I’ve avoided doing this up to now, but I’ve decided to give it a try and see how it goes. I was getting a bit of launch fatigue (running effectively the same launch 4x per year) and I’m sure a number of my email subscribers and community were feeling the same. This way, I won’t be running so many big launches – I will be, instead, consistently reminding folks about the Circle and all the benefits of membership via the podcast, blog, email list, and social media channels, while still aiming to produce top-quality free content for everyone.
  2. I am moving from having a weekly podcast to having a twice-monthly podcast. Mostly, this is so I have more time to spend on other content. I’m going to be releasing a Q&A video on YouTube at least once a month, for example – and I plan on uploading the audio of that to the podcast feed, too. Also, it’s because I’m not sure a weekly in-depth podcast was even necessary. After all, everyone is busy! By balancing the longer, in-depth episodes with shorter bite-sized videos, I’m aiming to draw in some new people. I’m also hoping to get back to creating proper written content once in a while! This is the first proper written post I’ve done in a long time.
  3. That said, I am still going to be producing 3 meaty podcast episodes a month – but the third one will be members-only for the Thriver Circle. As I said above, I love doing the projects, but I felt that the long-term, loyal members (the ones who’ve taken all the workshops and completed the Your Year to Thrive Program) might have been missing out due to the lack of new teaching content. So – this is my way of bringing that back to the members: making my best episode each month for them, because they are the ones supporting me, and without them, the free podcast wouldn’t exist.


I also did a re-design on the Thriver Circle website this year, which I’ve been tweaking consistently – and will probably continue to do so until I’m completely happy with it. The Circle has been running for 3 years now, and I felt it was time for a re-fresh of the look and feel of the site.

My aim is to also update the Create & Thrive site to bring the design up to ‘the now’, since it hasn’t changed since I launched in 2013, and I feel like it’s a bit dated. My goal is to have this complete by April 2018.

I don’t currently have any plans to launch new courses in 2018… but this may change, as I’m currently going through a period of growth and ideas, so I’m open to what might arise out of this.

2018 is also the last time I plan on running the Wholesale Know-How course ‘live’. After this, I’m aiming to convert it into a self-study course.

I’m looking to work directly with more makers via my Shop Scrutiny services. (P.S. If you’re a Thriver Circle member, hold off on purchasing one of these until February… you guys are going to get a special deal!). I really love helping people improve their shops and websites, so I want to be a bit more vocal about the fact I offer this service, as I very rarely talk about it!

Finally – I will be running Set Up Shop twice in 2018 – probably March and October, though I haven’t yet set concrete dates.

And that, thrivers, is that!

I’ve been teaching this stuff here on C&T since 2013 – and for even longer on my old blog. I’m in the absolutely wonderful position now of seeing a number of makers who found me at the beginning of their businesses journey’s making a full-time living from their craft.

I’m really excited about what 2018 will bring, and about helping even more people to realise their dream of growing a thriving, profitable handmade business.

Here’s to a wonderful new year! 

~ Jess x

P.S. If you’re reading this before January 8th, and you’d like my help to set yourself up for the best year your biz has ever had, don’t miss the Handmade Biz Bootcamp. It’s a 21-day program that will help you find your focus for the year, gain clarity about the purpose of your biz, and create a rock-solid plan for your business. If you sign up now, you can get the whole bootcamp for just $15!

[109] The Digital Tools I Use to Run my Businesses – 2017 Edition


Do you ever wonder what digital tools and software other people use to run their businesses?

I do – and I get asked about various and sundry software solutions a lot, too. So, this week, I decided to do a big round-up of all the digital tools & software I use to run my own handmade business – and Create & Thrive, as well.

I discuss what I use and why in detail in this episode – covering social media tools, website design, shopping carts, time management, photo editing and graphic design, file storage, audio & video recording and editing, outsourcing, book-keeping… and more!

Take a peek behind the scenes of my businesses, and see how I keep everything running (mostly) smoothly!

P.S. While finishing these shownotes, I realised I left one or two things out of the ep. I’m sure more will come to mind, so I’ll update the links below if that happens!

Love the show? You can show your support by:

  • Leaving a review on the C&T FB page.
  • Leaving a review on iTunes.
  • Donating a few dollars towards the costs of producing the pod.
  • Joining the Thriver Circle – without the members of the Circle, this podcast would not be possible.



Quotes and Highlights from this Episode:


FYI if I have (R) next to a link, this means it is a referral or affiliate link. This means that if you click that link and sign up to the service, I get some form of reward. If you’d prefer to avoid that, just google it.) I am only listing and recommending tools and software that I use myself and would recommend to others wholeheartedly.


Digital Tools/Software I use to run all my online businesses:

  • My main social media are Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I used to love and use Twitter a lot (not so active on there now) and I have a Google Plus account. I’m also starting to use YouTube more.
  • Handmade sales venues: Etsy (R) (I’ve also sold on, Dawanda, madeit).
  • My own websites are created with WordPress self-hosted, and I’m currently transitioning to Divi Theme (R)(and lots of plugins – I’ve used a free theme called Pinboard previously on some sites).
  • My web host is Dreamhost (R). I’ve been with them for over 10 years and have always been happy with their service.
  • My current shopping cart on my e-commerce website is Ecwid, but I’m moving to WooCommerce.
  • I use E-junkie & Paypal to sell my C&T courses, ebooks etc.
  • I use Trello to keep track of my work and life, and I also use the Cal app on my android phone as my appointment-keeper (as well as some paper in my office – a whole-year wall planner and a weekly desk planner).
  • I use focusbooster on my computer when I really need to get stuff done – it’s a pomodoro-style app. I schedule work periods of 45 min and rest periods of 15 min each hour.
  • I use Canva for all my graphic design.
  • I use Picasa (now transitioned to Google Photos) for most of my product image editing.
  • I use GIMP for any image editing I can’t do with Picasa or Canva (it’s sorta like a free version of Photoshop – and it’s open-source).
  • I use Snapseed on my phone to edit photos on the fly – especially for Instagram.
  • Insta Downloader is the app I use to repost another person’s Instagram post. It has awful ads, but it works!
  • I use Grum on my desktop to schedule up my Instagram posts once a week.
  • I use Dropbox to store all my business photos and documents so I can access them from any of my devices.
  • I use Google Docs for some of my business docs, too.
  • I currently use Xero accounting software for my book-keeping.
  • I forgot to mention my mailing list software! I use Mailchimp (R).


For Create & Thrive Specifically:


Download or Listen to this Episode



You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher

How a Head Full of Dreams Became petal & pins



petal & pins cards tableau vertical


Guest Post by Sandra Alcorn.


A Head Full of Ideas & Dreams

When I began petal & pins I didn’t start with a plan – but I did have a head full of ideas and dreams – and if that’s you too, it’s a good place to start! My project manager husband would say it’s an agile approach, responsive to change and opportunities.

I wasn’t new to running a small business, but like all new creative start-ups, I found you bring skills with you, discover ones you didn’t think you had and find new things you need to learn – sometimes quickly and sometimes with a bit (or a lot) of trial and error.

Starting a blog before I had a product to sell was a great way to get feedback and firm up my thoughts on what I wanted to do and allowed me to build up a following while researching the market as well as how I would produce and sell them.

Taking the plunge to get my product to customers, I started with a small print run which I listed on etsy with a link on my blog as well as selling them from my studio.

I soon discovered I enjoyed writing and it has been instrumental in getting featured in an article in Faerie Magazine (Issue 27 Summer 2014) and on other blogs and it also led to my first wholesale customers in Australia and America.



  • Blogging takes commitment, you need to do it regularly and if writing has never been your strength get a friend or partner to proofread what you write before posting – it will help you improve your writing skills and develop your own style over time.
  • Make sure you put your name/website on images you post so if people share your images (which they will) it leads back to you.


Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

When petal & pins was still just an idea my father was diagnosed with cancer. Designing and blogging provided a calming positive space for me throughout his illness and I am pleased that before he died he got to see the fledgling beginnings with the launch of the first petal & pins card collections – Spring Gala & High Tea.

The dream was starting to become a reality but I realised to build up sales and a significant wholesale base would require me getting out there promoting, selling and cold calling retailers not to mention more of my time.

My experience is in a studio environment and when I designed clothing ranges in Sydney someone else did the selling so with this side of building the business I was out of my comfort zone. Grief also scattered my focus and I still had other work commitments so for a while I let the sales side just amble along without much pushing.

A year later I applied for a space at a local design market which helped renew my focus and I started the petal & pins Facebook page to work on promotion – it was the beginning of the next phase in the petal & pins story.



  • Be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your project – it will influence the time it takes to achieve things.
  • Give yourself an objective strength vs weakness analysis and set yourself a challenge to build/work on them.


Time to Dream Bigger

My dreams are now our dreams – my husband Simon has always helped behind the scenes with his IT expertise and he happily stepped out front with me at that first design market, we both enjoyed the face to face interaction with customers talking about something we’re passionate about.

Twelve months on, with a year of design markets under our belt, the addition of art prints to the range and a beautiful petal & pins website (credit goes to Simon!) sales have grown.

I’ve discovered the fun and value of having an Instagram account as another promotional tool and I’m proudly still blogging!

Doing the markets has led to new stockists, new friends, a weekend magazine feature, a wallpaper commission and the confidence to tackle our first trade fair in February.

We have tons of ideas and other plans for 2016 so there are new things to learn, excitement and fear but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All this from a head full of ideas and dreams … where might yours take you?




Sandra Alcorn – Bio
Sandra Alcorn studied fashion design in Sydney and after working for several fashion houses made a sea change to Hobart where she opened her own successful fashion design studio.

Swapping fabric for flowers from her Tasmanian garden, Sandra started creating petite ephemeral dresses and in 2012 launched petal & pins to retail and wholesale greeting cards and art prints featuring images of her garden couture.

You can find Petal and Pins in the following links:






Image Source: © 2016 Sandra Alcorn

4 Steps to a More Compelling Product Description or Blog Post




4 Steps to a More Compelling Product Description or Blog Post

Whether you’re writing for a blog post or a product description, connecting with your audience is vital.

Do you have something important to share that you want your reader to relate to? Do you want them to trust in the information you are giving them? Do you have a great product that you want someone to imagine owning?

Yes – but how do you do that?

The good news is if they start reading your blog post or product description the hard part is done. Your reader is already interested. Now you just have to keep them reading.

Some super simple changes to your writing can connect you to your reader and get your message across.


1. Keep it simple

Everyone is busy. Save them time.

We’re writing for a purpose. You’re not trying to impress – you’re writing to communicate. So you need to get your message to them quickly. Keep to one idea each sentence. Don’t clutter your piece with unnecessary or complicated words.

Use short paragraphs, short sentences and short words. Your message will flow better and be easier to read. Your writing will be so much simpler for your reader if there are no extra words to get in the way. And you’re writing for them. Right?

How about trying some sub headings so they can find what they are looking for quickly? Or, if you have something you don’t want your reader to miss, add a bolded sentence to give it emphasis.


2. Have a conversation

Be yourself!

Don’t try to sound like someone else when you are writing. Ask yourself if you would say what you have written in a conversation. If not, change it to something you would be comfortable saying to a friend.

How you write is how you will be perceived. It is your opportunity to really connect with someone who is already interested in what you are about. Don’t scare them away now!

If you write stiffly, that is how you will appear. If you appear uneasy, that is what you are in your reader’s mind. You have an important message. Remember what your message is. Take a breath. Then be clear about that idea and tell your friends about it.


3. Mix it up

Variety is the spice of life.

No one keeps reading if they are bored. If your message is exciting but your structure is blah, your reader won’t be interested. But there are simple techniques you can use to keep your reader engaged.

Vary your sentence length to keep your reader attentive. Include one short sentence. Then change the rhythm by adding a long sentence to mix it up a bit. Then use a partial sentence. You’re not writing a piece literature so breaking the rules of “proper writing” is ok. We don’t talk like Mrs Dalloway, so we shouldn’t write like that either.

Use a dash every now and then. Break up your message – provide a point of difference.


4. Make it about them

Focus on your reader.

Keep your reader in mind whenever you are writing. Make your message compelling. Speak directly to them and make it personal. Involve them in what you’re saying.

How does your message relate to your reader? How will your product make them feel? Remember that the reason you’re writing to your audience is to give them something. What is that something?

When you’ve finished writing, read it through. How many times do you say “you”, and how many times do you say “I”. The “you’s” should far outweigh the “I’s”. If they don’t, think about your message. Are you giving them something or providing a lecture?

Make these simple changes to your writing and you will stand out from the crowd. But more importantly, you’ll involve your reader in your story. It is about them after all.

3 Passive Income Streams for Your Creative Business




Passive Income3 Alternative Income

There are loads of ways to make money out there and often, as Creatives, we can get caught up in the art of what we’re doing and forget about the business of art.

To continue doing what we love, the undeniable truth is: we need to make money.

Without money, there are no tools and materials to work with.

Without money, we don’t have time to take a holiday to find our muse and allow creative thoughts to flow.

Without money, there is no food to fuel our creative imagination.

In short, just like everyone else, Artists and Creatives need money to do what they love.

Now that we’ve established that ‘making money’ aren’t dirty words and the act of making moolah is, in fact, extremely necessary, we can start thinking about options of getting that cash into your hands to help you live your best life.

You might have a small or burgeoning creative business where you make items individually by hand and this takes a lot of time (but you totally love it).

This can be so rewarding – but there is always going to be a time when you hit a ceiling of how much you can make in the time you are awake.

You can take on staff and grow your business if that’s what you want.

OR you could try to find some passive income to supplement your income from your handmade business.

What is passive income?

Usually it’s the kind of thing you can ‘set and forget’ and it slowly ticks over and makes you money.

Passive income is not necessarily easy and it can take hard work to get it up and running, but the reward is rarely having to work on it once it’s done and available to the world.

I’m going to give you a list of income streams which you can get going that might compliment your creative business, but that you don’t have to work on day to day after the initial set up.


  1. Write an eBook

Whether you’re a writer or not, chances are; you are an expert at something. {Hint} Whatever you’re making and selling – you’re an expert at that!

If you’re a silversmith, perhaps you could write a simple printable with tips and tricks that a beginner might need to get their own workshop started and how to sell their own products.

Or perhaps you’ve had loads of success with marketing your business and getting excellent PR. If you write that down and offer your expert information in the form of an eBook, you can charge a fee each time it’s downloaded.

The passive part: Once you’ve written the eBook, you only need to advertise it from time to time and let people pay for your expertise.


  1. Sell Stock Graphics or Photos


Have you mastered the art of photography through your work on your business?

I see so many amazing Creatives who have incredible photos in their online stores. If that’s you, I bet you have a catalogue of awesome pics which you can sell to people who want stock images for their own website, blog or business.

Some great places to start are Shutterstock, iStock Photo, Alamy and 123rf but there are loads out there which all have differing payment options.

For the graphic designers out there, some of the photo sites will also sell your graphics or you can find companies which specialise in using your graphics for saleable items.

Most people know Threadless Tees and then there’s Society 6, Redbubble, Zazzle and inPRNT which do most of the hard work for you – you just submit the design and forget about it.

The passive part: Take new photos or just grab some from your collection then submit and forget.


  1. Monetise your blog

So if you’ve been reading this website for a while, you’ll know that having a blog is still a must for your business these days. It tells your story, helps with your SEOs, builds relationships and lots more – read all about it in Megan’s excellent post here.

There are lots of ways to monetise and you can definitely do your own research but the first thing you should consider is whether or not you want ads on your blog.

It’s ok if you don’t – you absolutely don’t have to – but it is a way of adding a passive income stream for almost no effort. Some companies will let you target ads so that they match your target market which means they won’t turn off your loyal followers.

You could also charge for premium content on your blog by having a members-only section where VIPs get exclusive access to content. This could include printables, downloads, special discount codes or expert information.

Affiliate marketing programs are another great way to get some extra income however they can take a little more time (making them less passive). If you have become an authority in your field, you can recommend products adding an affiliate link which identifies you as the referrer and rewarding you with payment.

It’s best to always identify that you are being paid for your review or link to ensure your followers are on the same page.

The passive part: Once you set up these items on your blog, you will only have to come back to add content or write a review


There are so many more ways to make passive income to supplement your income from your creative business. 

At some time or other, every Artist and Creative worries about money and how to make sure their business is a success.

Just as in life, diversifying and adding alternative income streams might be a way to give you some breathing room via a regular and reliable income.

As I said before, it’s not easy to set up a successful passive income stream. But once you have, it will hopefully make you more financially comfortable in the future to get on with creating what you love.

Pin It on Pinterest