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How a Head Full of Dreams Became petal & pins

 

 

 

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.

 

Tips:

  • 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.

 

Tips:

  • 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?

 

Tips:

 


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:

Website:​www.petalandpins.com

Blog:​​blog.petalandpins.com

Facebook:​/petalandpins​​​

Instagram:​@petalandpins​​

Twitter:​@petalandpins​​

Image Source: © 2016 Sandra Alcorn www.petalandpins.com

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

 

 

 

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.

Why I’m Bringing Back My Blog in 2015

 

 

Like you, I have a ton of new things planned for my business this year.

One that I’m expecting to pay off the most though is bringing back my blog. A few months ago, I stopped writing on my blog.

I had one hundred things on my plate and I had gotten zero comments in the past month. There wasn’t much to compel me to keep writing when I was having more fun on Instagram.

 

But then I realised that blogs have super powers.

 

1. They position you as an expert.

There’s no easier way to position yourself as an expert than through the content of your blog.

People love to buy from an ‘expert’ because they trust you to give them a high-quality product. It also helps you get featured on other blogs, get asked to speak at conferences, and even be asked to be interviewed on some amazing blogs like CraftSanity. (shameless plug!)

Use your blog to make yourself appear as the expert you are. Share your skills. Give tips on your craft. Show off professional photos of your work.

 

2. They let people get to know you.

Without a blog, your site can seem a bit impersonal.

Let your customer get to know you through your blog. I don’t mean you need to write personal posts – the voice in your writing will convey more than you think.

 

3. They give you material for your newsletter.

 

There’s no need to use new material for your newsletter because, honestly, few (if any) people are reading your blog posts AND your blog. They just don’t have time.

So use your (now) great blog content in your newsletter to save time and entertain your mailing list.

 

4. They Fuel your Pinterest.

Been meaning to use Pinterest to promote your business?

Well, use the photos from your blog! Link back to your blog post to ensure people come to find your site. This will also help you take better photos for your site as there’s extra pressure.

 

So for these reasons, my blog is coming back this year. Is yours?

5 Things Bloggers Look for When Choosing Work to Feature

 

 

 

 

Ever wondered how you get your fabulous designs/handcraft/artwork featured on blogs? How come you see some makers/artists get their work featured in lots of places all the time? How do they do that?

Or are you even unsure of why you would want to have your work featured – surely the fact that you’ve got an online shop and people can find you with just a few clicks is enough? Ha! The obvious answer is that unless you get yourself out there, nobody knows you even exist…

There are MAJOR benefits to having your work featured, because there are so many other things competing for your customer’s attention. Having your work featured by bloggers regularly can be a huge boost to your business in terms of visibility.

Getting a feature means that not only do potential customers see your work on those blogs, but if they like your work enough, they might also share it on their social media, such as Pinterest and Facebook. And that snowballs. The more places the better I say! Best of all, getting your work featured on blogs is most often free.

So, after featuring hundreds of artists over the past (almost) three years of blogging, and being disappointed many times by great work with poor photos and/or information, I thought it would be useful to write a post on what bloggers really look for.

The number 1 thing is to create beautiful, shareable images. Now of course, that means you have to have great photos of your work – but it’s not the only thing.

 

1. YOUR PRODUCTS have to be excellent.

Good design and good craftsmanship are the foundation of your business. A good photograph can help sell your product, but it still has to be an honest representation. You don’t want your customer to be disappointed when they open your package, do you? Think quality, always.

Bloggers also value originality. When your work has a particular style that is unmistakable, that’s fantastic. It makes it easy for the blogger to pick a group of work and write a cohesive post about you. When your work and your images look like a mixed lunch, that makes it a whole lot harder for them. And when your work and your presentation look like a hundred other shops, well, they might just move onto something more interesting.

 

2. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS are the real clincher.

(You knew I’d get to them, didn’t you!?) When it’s online, it is visual impact first and foremost that you should be thinking about, and your image needs to be beautiful in order to compete.

It really should go without saying that your product photographs need to be crisply focused and in good light. The styling of your product images needs to be consistent too – this doesn’t mean that all products need to be photographed on exactly the same background at the same angle. You could for instance, have a “family” of backgrounds (perhaps 3 – 5) which work together in terms of colour and props.

Create & Thrive has some EXCELLENT tips on getting your photos looking fabulous with the Create & Thrive Product Photography e-book.

Another thing that makes me cringe is large, obvious watermarks on your images – especially ones that slash right across the centre of your pic. I won’t feature your work, no matter how beautiful it is.

I completely understand that it’s important to state your ownership for some things (especially photographers’ images), but you can still get your message across with a smaller, softer watermark in the corner of your image. Wouldn’t you rather receive a heap of publicity for your fabulous work, instead of it languishing alone in your shop? You need to realise too that a watermark is an inconvenience, and not a permanent deterrent to stealing your images/ideas. If you are really worried about people copying your work (and remember that 99.9% of population don’t!), don’t put it out there at all.

 

3. YOUR DESCRIPTIONS might not be as important as your images for convincing bloggers to feature your work, but if you can tell a good story about your pieces, it most certainly helps.

For instance, if you make and sell girl’s dresses, that’s OK, but not very interesting. However, if you sell girl’s dresses that are made from fabric that is handprinted by a textile artist you met at uni a few years back and now you collaborate on the designs – that really gives your work a whole different dimension.

 

4. YOUR ARTIST BIOGRAPHY is a great way to generate interest in your work.

Again, it’s a lot to do with stories – if you’ve got an interesting story to tell about what drives you, and/or how you ended up where you are, then tell it! Be passionate; don’t be shy about what you’ve done and especially about why you do what you do. Share some of your techniques and inspirations too. People love a good story, and bloggers love having something to write about.

 

5. BE PROACTIVE. Last but not least, help yourself.

After you’ve got your work and photos in order, be proactive and approach bloggers to feature your work. There is SO much out there for them to choose from, the more you can reach out and say “Hi!”, the better it is for you. Not everyone will say yes, and that’s OK because each blog has its own particular flavour and you may not be a great fit for them. When that happens, just try another blog.

Often when blogs accept submissions, they’ll have a list of criteria they are looking for in work to feature, as well as a list of what they won’t accept, so do spend some time checking that out too.

Don’t be afraid. Us bloggers are generally a very approachable lot – as long as you treat us like real people!! Don’t address us as “dear sir/madam” – at least spend a few minutes finding out a name to address your email to. Introduce yourself and what you do briefly, and explain why you think your work would be a good fit for that blog. Include 5-6 of your (top-quality of course!) images at medium resolution (around 600px wide is a good size).

 

If you don’t hear back, wait for a week or so before contacting the blog again – don’t hassle us! But DEFINITELY send a reminder if you need to, as sometimes we get sidetracked and crazy busy and forgetful because we’re human…

So what are you waiting for? Go to it!

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