I don’t know about you, but I read a LOT of awesome and useful articles on creating & thriving in life and work every week.
In fact, after my morning walk, I spend anywhere up to an hour each morning just reading helpful, educational, and enlightening articles from dozens of different websites and blogs.
I know I share a lot of these posts with you over on twitter and facebook, but I thought you might find it useful if I put together a weekly ‘recommended reading’ list of the best stuff I find on my daily dive into the internet rabbit hole. Yes?
Okay! So, here we are with the very first C&T Sunday RR post… on Week 41 of 2013. No time to start like the present!
P.S. Why Sunday? Well, Sunday is not only the end of the week, it’s also the day where many of us have the most free time to catch up on news and other informational goodness without having to rush off to work. Think of it as your weekly Sunday paper… especially for creative, inquisitive, & entrepreneurial souls.
Visual marketing is a key trend in business right now – people are visual, social media is visual, and visual resonates in a way that words alone often do not.
As hand-makers and product sellers, chances are that you have a lot of product photos on hand to use for visual marketing. Your product images are a great asset to your business as a way to draw people into your shop, much like a shop window would do.
But what about those times when you need something other than a product photo? There are times when your purpose will not be to share information about your product, but rather amplify your brand message in some way – to inspire, to entertain, to help, to educate, to enthral, to entice, to commiserate… well you get the idea!
Stock photos can be a great resource for communicating a message with your audience… but I know that there is often a lot of confusion about where to find stock photos and what you can and cannot do with them.
Stock photos 101
There are tons of stock photo sites online – a search for “stock photos” would probably overwhelm! The key thing to remember with stock photos is that you MUST check the terms & conditions on the stock photo sites before you do anything!
This is what you need to be aware of:
FREE stock photos generally come with the requirement that you do NOT alter the photo in anyway, that you credit the author AND link back to the stock site, and that you can only use the photo for certain things (e.g. yes you can pop it in a blog, no you cannot use it for commercial purposes.)
PURCHASED stock photos also come with requirements. Always check to see what you are allowed to do with the photo (there are usually limits to how you can use them commercially, and you usually cannot use them for something like a logo).
Note: this also goes for things like clip art, textures/backgrounds, fonts and any other content you find online. Always check the terms.
Know your purpose
The key is really to know what you wish to do with the photo before you start looking. If all you want is to pop the photo in a blog post, then you are probably fine to use most of the free stock photos you come across.
However if you want to alter the photo in any way – add text to it, crop it, use it creatively (in an eBook or a promotional flyer etc.) then you need to make sure you are allowed to do so.
I do think that the best way to make the most of visual marketing opportunities IS to brand the images you share – add text, add a headline or a call to action, share your brand message, include your brand colours and fonts and logo… *stamp* that image with your brand vibe.
The best visual content resonates with your audience AND creates brand recognition AND serves a purpose for your business.
If all you do is pop up a cool photo, it may resonate with people but that might be it! They never take action and they don’t remember your biz in conjunction with the photo.
Where to find stock photos
Here are some of my favourite options:
pixabay – authors have waived all copyright to these images – you are free to adapt and use the Images for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source – they ask for a link back to pixabay if you wish.
morguefile – images are free to use in creative projects – you must alter the image or use it in a creative way – they ask that you credit the photographer when possible.
unsplash & death to the stock photo – these two sites are subscription based – you sign up and receive free images to “do whatever you want” – no mention of attribution or link back
123rf – for low cost licenced stock photos (say you want to use them for commercial purposes – check the licence terms)
An alternative to stock sites
Even when you know all of the rules around the use of stock photos it can still be really stressful. “Can I use this?” “Can I alter this?” “Do I have to ask?” “Do I have to credit?”
One of the best bits of advice I can give is to start building your own stock library.
This is really the ONLY way you can be absolutely positive that you can do whatever you want with your photos, wherever you want, whenever you want.
While your product photos do indeed need to be perfect, a lot of the other images that we use in our businesses can be *amateur*. And nowadays it is very easy to take great digital photos, even using your phone! In fact Instagram has made it cool to take weird and funky and fun and different and imperfect but cool photos. So don’t be afraid to experiment with this.
Here are some ideas…
landscapes and cityscapes
behind the scenes of your work
papers, fabrics & textures
extreme close ups of your work that show detail and hint at the product
the stuff around you that inspires your work
photos related to your niche or target market
objects and surroundings that include your brand colours, brand icons, or fit with your brand message (do you have lollipop in your logo? take photos of lollipops!)
Just remember as you build your stock library (either from online stock sites or from your own photographs) that your goal is to share your brand message, to resonate with your audience, and to serve some purpose for your business. Start by brainstorming on those things, and build from there!
karen gunton is a teacher, brainstormer and visual marketing specialist, and she is passionate about helping business owners SHINE online.
This week’s question is from Jane of Earth Apple Jewellery, and she writes…
I am excited that I have been asked to guest blog, but now I am not sure how to start and specifically what format to write it in so that it transfers to the host blog. I know you do it all the time and so that is why I came to you.
Many thanks as always!
Okay, first of all – yay! Congratulations on being asked to guest post on someone’s blog.
Guest posting is a great way of reaching out and finding new readers for your own blog, as well as building your reputation in your sphere as an ‘expert’ in something.
Let’s go through and answer a few questions people might have about guest posting, including your question, Jane.
1. How do I get a guest post spot?
Well, there are 2 ways you can get a spot guest posting on someone else’s blog.
Either they will approach you and ask, or, you can approach them.
If there’s a blog you’d love to post on, first look around that blog to see if they accept posts from other people. Then, spend the time looking around their pages to see if they have guest posting policies – many popular blogs will, and some of them will be quite specific.
Once you’re armed with this information, and you’re convinced that you have a great guest post topic that would be a perfect fit for their blog, send them a brief email introducing yourself and your guest post idea.
Make sure to be very personable and direct – as popular blogs get a LOT of guest post requests – many of them from spammers, so they will be very quick to delete anything that looks like a guest post request from someone just looking to score a backlink.
Make sure to address them by name, get the name of their blog right, and introduce yourself and who you are. Feel free to send one follow-up email after a week or two if they don’t respond, but after that, give it a good six months or so before you approach them again.
Even better, try to make a connection with the blogger on social media first so they know you’re a ‘real person’ and will recognise your name when you email them again.
2. How do I format the post?
Ideally, the blogger will give you the info on this. They should tell you what format they like you to submit your post in (text or word doc etc) and what size and format they want the pictures in. If they don’t, the easiest thing to do is just ask!
Send them a quick email asking how they’d like the post submitted.
If they don’t get back to you, or say ‘however!’ then I’d advise that you submit it in a .txt document and attach each image separately to the email. Try to make all your images the same width, and not so huge that they clog up the blogger’s inbox!
Also remember to include any links you want throughout the blog post – I usually just put the URL in brackets after the word/phrase I want the link to be.
Also remember to note where you want any pictures included – and name/number the pictures so it’s easy for the blogger to insert them!
3. Who owns the copyright?
You. You wrote it, you own the post.
That means you are fully within your rights to use that piece of writing anywhere else you choose. The blogger may ask that you don’t re-post the same post elsewhere, as that could affect the google ranking, but in the end, it’s up to you.
If in doubt, and if you want to use the same text elsewhere, just check with them BEFORE they publish it so there aren’t any issues.
4. Remember to send a bio + pic!
A big point of guest posting is to get your name out there – so take advantage of it!
Always send a short (2-3 sentences) bio and a nice headshot of yourself along with any guest post, and include 1-2 links in there, too.
Most bloggers will happily include this with your blog post, and it will make it a lot easier for readers to find out who you are, and where they need to go to read more of your wisdom.
I have personally found guest posting a great experience – it’s worth the effort!
What vision pops into your head when I say the word ‘success’?
Do you think I’m talking about success in your business – or success in your life?
And really – are they even two separate things?
Because to me, they’re pretty much one and the same.
I can’t define the success of my business separately from the success I feel in my self.
The success of my business is wrapped up tightly with not only my sense of achievement and self-worth as a person, but also with the sense of freedom and joy I feel when I think about the life and lifestyle I have chosen for myself.
I say chosen, because it is a choice. It’s not luck (though there is some of that in the mix). It’s not a blessing (because I worked my ASS off to get where I am, there was no divine agency involved).
I chose to walk the path less travelled.
I choose to live the life less lived.
I choose to live a lifestyle that can be supported by my choice of work.
If I wanted a big house in the suburbs, 3 kids, 2 cars, and the latest everything, it would be almost impossible with the money I currently earn.
So, instead, I choose to live in a converted shed with no bathroom or kitchen (they’re down in the main house) until we can build our own house. I choose not to have children so I have the freedom to travel and devote my life to my work – because that’s my joy. I choose to work longer hours than I ever did in a ‘real’ job so that I can make the money we need to live the life we do.
None of this – NONE of it – is a sacrifice. It is a choice, a choice I make joyfully, each and every day.
That being said, it’s also not something I’ve done alone. Without the love and support of my family, friends, customers, online colleagues, and, most of all – my partner-in-life-and-crime/husband/rock/one-man-cheer-squad/food-maker/big-bunch-of-balloons-like-in-that-movie-UP – Nick, it would have been infinitely harder.
However I got here, and whatever here is… I feel like I have achieved a modicum of ‘success’ in my life. There are certainly many more mountains to climb, lions to tame, and rivers to cross… but for now, life it pretty damn great.
So – what is success?
I can’t tell you what success looks like to you, because honestly, it’s going to be hella different… but I can tell you what it means to me, and you might see some echos of your own version of success in there.
How to define success? I don’t think I CAN define it in a single sentence or pithy statement. What I can do, however, is give you (and me) snapshots of what success looks and feels like in my life, and from those snapshots, a broader and more beautifully vast vision can emerge.
And so, I give you my Success List.
writing this blog post while sitting in a hotel room in Seattle, half-way through a 2-month trip around Canada and the USA that we were able to just decide to take – on a whim – because of the flexibility of our lives and the money in the bank – and because I wanted to attend the World Domination Summit (#WDS2013)
being able to get up and go to sleep every day at whatever time I want
structuring my day to suit me, rather than someone else’s schedule
doing the work I want, when I want
living in the country because I don’t have to commute
making enough money so my husband doesn’t have to have a job – he can stay home and work with me, and support me and our life by doing the bulk of the domestic chores, too
being free to chuck in work for a day and go to the beach (though, lets be honest, my inner workaholic doesn’t let me do this TOO often!)
making/having enough money to buy whatever I want whenever I want… thankfully, I prefer op shop clothes over designer duds, and my idea of fancy is a bottle of $20 wine and a block of good Lindt chocolate
being able to stop work at any given moment, walk into my bedroom, and cuddle my cat/husband/read a book for a while/go for a walk/lay outside in the paddock looking at the sky
(interlude – have you noticed that so far, I’ve pretty much been talking about my life, rather than my actual business? There’s a lesson there…)
being able to make beautiful things with my own two hands, and people loving them enough to buy them, so I know that my little droplets of beauty are spreading around the world
the joy of standing in front of a group of people who have a dream, and hopefully sharing something with them that will spark an idea or give them inspiration to make that dream a reality
having someone email me to tell me that something I put out there into the world changed their life. (This is a BIG one.)
getting to speak at this year’s Problogger Training Event (alongside people like Jonathan Fields, Darren Rowse, Clare Bowditch, Trey Ratcliff, Pip Lincolne, Amy Porterfield and Tsh Oxenreider)
being truly loved
laughing with my family every day
enacting my new ideas with passion
having the time to read a couple of novels every week on my kindle
making enough money to travel multiple times every year
being happy every day
That, right now, is what success means to me.
But hey… why stop there? Why not have a FUTURE Success List, too?
In the future, Success will be:
giving a TED talk
making my husband feel loved and valued every day
teaching people that they CAN live life differently and make a living following their passion
buying a beach house
taking care of my parents in their old age and making sure they never feel alone
taking care of my own health so that I can live to whatever age I live to in full health and vitality – able to do what I want to do until the day I die, because I never want to ‘retire’
finishing and publishing a book
speaking regularly all over the world
getting my jewellery in gallery shops
having a ‘proper’ art show with some unique, conceptual jewellery pieces
starting my own charity/legacy (I have one in mind, and have for years)
making every day joyful and meaningful
It’s amazing how writing this list opens you up – not only to the possibilities, but also to the awesome things you already have in your life!
It really makes you grateful and thankful for every wonderful thing you already have… and hopeful for those experiences to come in the future!
I would love, love, love to hear what success means to you, too.
In fact – here’s a challenge for you.
I challenge you to write a post on YOUR blog outlining your Success List.
(Feel free to steal the above photo and use it!!)
Come back here and leave the link below in the comments/tweet me/facebook it etc etc… however you share, I’d love to read it.
P.S. You can share this post on twitter by clicking here to tweet: What does Success look like to you? @JessVanDen challenges you to share your #SuccessList with the world.
There is so, so much that goes into having a successful online craft business.
Truly, the path is long, and can be hard, and has so very many steps.
However, I’ve been in the handmade business for a long time now, and over the last few years I’ve built up my business to the point where I am now earning MORE than I did in my last professional job.
Some days, I can’t quite believe that I’ve reached this point. A few years back, it seemed like a pretty unattainable dream.
But here we are. I am lucky enough to be making a living making beautiful things – doing something I love.
I don’t say this to brag or toot my own horn, I say it to give you hope.
Not a false hope. Not a hollow – you will succeed if you just do what you love.
But if you’ve dreamed of doing what I do – making a living from selling your craft, I’m here to tell you that it IS possible. No, it’s not easy. No, it’s not a quick process. But it can be done. I, and many other artisans, are living proof.
Today, I thought I would dig deep into those years (and YEARS) of trial and error to share with you 10 things that I believe are absolutely crucial to the success or failure of your online handmade business.
1. Create something people actually want to buy
This is number 1. I’ve written about this before – the uncomfortable fact is that when you make the transition from making things simply for your own joy and satisfaction to making things to sell, you need to change your mindset.
This can be HARD. Of course you love what you make – that’s why you make it.
But is there a market for it? And is the market willing to pay what they need to in order for you to build a profitable business?
Before you dive into setting up an online shop and learning everything there is to learn about selling your work, you need to seriously consider this question.
2. Work on it every day – but be patient
One of my most favourite mantras when it comes to business is this:
Remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Whenever sales are slow, or I’m not getting as many comments/likes/tweets etc etc as I’d like, I remember this.
Are you in this for the long term? Because if you’re doing this to try and turn a quick profit, just stop now.
If you’re not sure that you want to be doing what you’re doing in 5 years time – don’t try to turn it into a full-time business.
You need to be dedicated and patient.
If you’re both of these things, and you take steps every day to grow your business, success WILL eventually come your way.
3. Be friendly but professional
Part – an important part, I believe – of having a handmade business is being open and friendly with your customers.
They are buying from you because they prefer to buy unique things, direct from the person who made them.
Don’t make it difficult for them to get to know you (i.e. have a good About page with photos of you and your work, and the story of how you came to be making what you make) BUT at the same time, remember that your customers are not your buddy.
By all means be friendly and lighthearted with them, but remember to treat them with professionalism and respect.
Use salutations when you write to them. Always respond to questions promptly and in detail.
Don’t get het up with a customer who is making unreasonable demands – just respond calmly and professionally with reference to your strict and reasonable policies (you have those, right?).
NEVER NEVER NEVER complain about a customer in a public forum. Just don’t. Ever.
No matter how unreasonable they may be, or how mad they have made you, they, and every other customer you have, deserves respect, and to know you won’t air their issues in public.
When you sell online, your photos will make or break your business.
The photo is the first thing that captures the eye, and usually the largest part of the decision-making process when all is said and done. I even know people (and am totally guilty of doing this myself at times) who barely even READ the description, but just buy pretty much immediately based on the photo of an item.
Suffice it to say, once your business starts growing, the time it takes to photograph/describe/title/edit etc etc every new product will be time you will not have.
6. Believe in yourself and your work – fiercely – but be open to change
If you don’t believe in yourself – and your product – you will never succeed.
It takes so much time and dedication to really make a go of selling your craft online, that if you don’t make something you absolutely love – and are convinced that others will love, too – you will run out of steam, get disheartened, and give up.
Put your soul and passion into what you make. Love it fiercely.
BUT. Be open to change. If you’ve been working and working and working… and STILL aren’t gaining any traction after weeks/months/years… something might need to change.
It might be what you make. It might be something about what you make. It might just be your photos or price point.
Love what you do… but be open to the fact that in order to succeed, you might need to make a change.
This is not a bad thing. Don’t be discouraged if you do need to make a change. We all know the story of Edison and the lightbulb, right?
7. Get a Mailing List
Email is still the most direct and effective way to connect with your customers.
Once your customer or prospective customer has taken the step to trust you with their email, they have given you permission to contact them directly.
These are your best prospects for making a sale – the people who love what you do already! You don’t need to convince them that what you make is awesome, because you already have.
Treat them with respect, give them value in the emails you send, and stay in touch with them on a regular basis. They will reward you by becoming loyal customers.
8. Price for Profit
This is one of THE most common problems in the handmade community.
Most of us start off selling our work from a hobby perspective. We have no idea what price we should be selling our work for, so we tend to drastically underprice it. We know how to make it, so we tend to underestimate the skill that has gone into the process.
DO NOT TRY TO COMPETE ON PRICE.
There will ALWAYS be someone selling something similar to what you make for much less than you. Even other talented crafters and artisans.
You need to do the hard work to figure out what price you need to sell your goods for to make a decent living, and that’s the price you need to sell it for.
This is hard. It can be confronting. It will probably take you out of your comfort zone.
But if you’re serious about making a living from your craft, it’s something you need to do.
You’re a professional – so you need to LOOK like a professional.
You’re selling online, so your online presence needs to be professional and welcoming.
At the very, VERY least, invest in a $12 domain name, and re-direct it to your online store.
That way, on your business cards, your email signature, your social media accounts, and everywhere else you list your website, you can use mybusiness.com rather than mybusiness.etsy.com or madeit.com.au/mybusiness.
Such a small change can make a BIG difference to the impression people have of your business.
And yes, you should be blogging. It’s the best way to craft a story about you and your work. Don’t freak out or get overwhelmed if you don’t know what to blog about, just start. In fact, here are some ideas to get you rolling.
10. Learn, Learn, Learn
In business, there is no such thing as DONE.
There is always more to do.
New things to try.
Mistakes to be made.
Things to learn.
When you’re in business, you need to be constantly learning, experimenting, and taking leaps into the unknown.
If you don’t try, sure, you can’t fail.
And if you do try, you will fail. Over and over again. But each time, you learn something more. You might take a step back, but you’ll take two steps forward.
It’s a fascinating, thrilling, exhausting, invigorating, and life-changing journey. And if you set your mind on succeeding, are smart about what you do and how you do it, and get help when you need it, your chances are success are pretty darn high.