Set Up Shop Success Story – AussieJules

aussie jules red necklace

My Set Up Shop e-course is running again this July, and preparing to run it again got me thinking about my April students.

I’ve been hearing some fantastic success stories from them recently, so over the next few days I’m opening up the floor to let them tell you their stories – starting with where their business was at when they started the course, and detailing how their business has changed thanks to taking the Set Up Shop course.

Today we kick off with a fabulous story from Julie Frahm, who is a veteran glass bead and jewellery maker… but who has only now taken the leap to selling seriously online.

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I’ve been making and selling jewellery full time for the past 4 years through various outlets: consignment shops, markets and a little bit of wholesale. I’ve had an Etsy shop for a while now, but I wasn’t focusing much attention there. I honestly found it TOO HARD (photographing, editing, listing etc)! Then, I’d expect instant sales and be disappointed when that didn’t happen.

This year I moved to the country!

So, where I was used to doing regular markets, that side of my business slowed down considerably, and I knew that selling online was the next step I had to take for my business.

But where to start?

I had a Facebook page that I found fun to put up photos of my work. I also had a website but it was terrible! It was something I had written myself, and it didn’t really do anything apart from be a place where people could visit to find out where I sold my work. And I had an empty Etsy shop which I thought of as hard work.

But in the back of my mind I had a feeling that it could work.

It clearly works for many people, it could possibly work for me. I had looked through the Etsy Seller’s Handbook, but found myself getting confused, and unable to determine where to spend my time. What did I need to focus on when there were so many things that could be “tweaked” in your shop?

When I saw Jess’ course being offered, and knowing how successful she is with selling online, I knew I had to sign up and find out her secrets for success!

Honestly, I found the course overwhelming at first, there were so many things to think about!

But… there were also little action steps every day, and prompts for putting some of my thoughts on paper where they could be edited and reviewed.

I spent the month of the course just writing down my ideas, my dreams, where I thought I was going to go with it all. I kind of needed to see the whole course before I felt confident in committing to anything.

I found by the time the course finished I was a lot clearer on my business.

I knew both what I wanted to achieve AND what I needed to do to make that happen.

Aussie Jules Making Collage

I used May to put my thoughts into action.

  • I redesigned my website, and started work on my core reproducible items.
  • I signed up to the various social media options that had been suggested (twitter, instagram, Pinterest).
  • I signed up for a MailChimp account.
  • I listed 10 products for sale on my website.

I guess I created the framework that I was going to operate within going forward.

By the end of May and I had it all up and running.

Etsy had 14 new product listings, and I re-listed some old ones (with a bit of tweaking). I replicated these efforts on Made-It.

Since then I’ve been a lot more active with my social media, I have gained new fans on Facebook, directed a lot more people to my Etsy store. And had 5 sales there in the first 2 weeks that it’s been properly open.

They are 5 sales I definitely would not have had if I hadn’t put in the work to get things up and running, so I am extremely grateful for all the advice, and the push to get going.

I’m not stopping there, I’m already working on the next series of work that I will upload to Etsy. I am using social media of some description on a daily basis. I’m researching, working out what works for me, and I’m feeling more confident than ever before about the future of my online business.

Julie Frahm – www.aussiejules.com + AussieJules on Etsy

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To find out when Set Up Shop runs next, click here.

C&T Q&A – Can I Have a Successful Online Handmade Business if I Make Mostly OOAK Items?

 

Today’s question is from Annaliese, who asked on the C&T Facebook page:

I’m struggling with how to manage multiple ways of selling (eg. own site, etsy, madeit, markets, consignments etc) when about 95% of my work is OOAK and can’t be listed in multiple places at once. How do you make sustainable business when the product is OOAK?!

I hate to say it, but my initial reaction to this question is: you can’t.

Let me explain why.

When you sell your handmade goods to stores or at markets, it doesn’t matter if all your goods are OOAK (one-of-a-kind). You send them to the shop, or you lay them out on the table, and people love them and buy them, or not.

Selling online, however, is a totally different ballgame.

Making the item is only a small part of the work that goes into listing a handmade item online. Whenever you decide to list an item in your online shop, you need to:

  • Photograph it
  • Edit the photos
  • Write a title
  • Write a description
  • Come up with tags
  • Upload the whole lot to your shop
  • + more!

This takes time. LOTS of time.

To run a successful online handmade business, you really need to be selling multiple items every single day. Depending on the price-point of your items, anywhere from 5-20 items a day.

Imagine if you had to go through the above process for every single item you add to your shop?

Major time suck.

Therefore, once you get busy, doing this is really not sustainable in the long-term.

However, I’m not saying not to make OOAK items – far from it!

What I AM saying, is that if you want to have a successful online handmade business, you really need to produce a range of reproducible designs that you can list once, and then sell over and over again without having to do any additional work.

This should be the core of your range – your ‘bread and butter’ items.

They should form a substantial proportion of your product line. You still have the freedom to make and list OOAK items, but you’re not spending a huge amount of time listing new things all the time.

This also eliminates the problem Annaliese is suffering from – not being able to list her items across different venues. You can list your reproducible designs in as many venues as you like, as they are pre-made or made-to-order, and it doesn’t matter how many times you sell them. Then, just list your OOAK designs in your main online venue – whether that be your own site or your Etsy shop.

{If you’d like to learn more about this, or just how to craft a successful handmade shop, make sure you check out Set Up Shop – our 30-day online course to take your shop from go to WHOA}

I’d love to hear from you – how do you balance reproducible designs and OOAK items in your online shop?

C&T Q&A – How do you know it’s time to take the leap from hobbyist to business owner?

1-when is it a business final

{Comic Book Jess says ‘Hmmm…’ – photo by smilebooth Australia, edited by moi} 

This week’s question is from Grace, who writes:

How do you take that first step from being a hobbyist to a business owner? i.e …How do you know when the time is right? and What knowledge do you feel is essential before starting your biz (there’s gotta be more than just being ‘crafty’ to succeed).

I love this question – I think it’s one that a lot of people struggle with.

When is the right time? What do I need to know? When do I make the leap from hobby to business?

The short answer?

When you make the decision.

The long answer?

I don’t care how long you’ve been doing your craft as a hobby. It might be 10 years, or you might have started yesterday. I don’t care how much you know about ‘business’. You could have an MBA, or, you could be like me when I started and know pretty much nothing.

Your craft hobby turns into a business when you start treating it like a business.

When you decide to take it – and yourself – seriously.

When you start keeping track of your numbers – your income and expenditure.

When you start thinking like a businesswoman.

When you believe in yourself and your product.

When you start looking at your products from the perspective of your customer, rather than just yourself.

When you attack the Google machine with any question that comes up, and you’ll be dammed if you stop before you find a solution.

When you start to get strategic.

When you analyse your prices to see if you’re making a profit.

When you say ‘I have a business’ to yourself, your family, and that dude you meet in the line at the coffee shop (you gave him your beautiful, professionally printed (or handmade if you’re in letterpress) business card, yeah?).

That is when you have taken the leap.

It’s a leap of faith, to be sure. You don’t know if you’ll ‘succeed’ (whatever that means to you). You don’t know if you’ll ever be able to make enough to quit your job. You don’t know that you’ll still want to be doing this in a year/5 years/10 years time.

You know what? None of us do when we start out. I certainly didn’t. I still don’t know if this is what I’ll be doing in 5 years time. Do I let that hold me back from putting my heart and soul into what I do?

Nope.

None of that matters.

It’s enough that you want to do it NOW. That you want to throw yourself into this crazy dream and make it happen.

No-one is going to make it happen for you.

You have the power. You have the control. You have the choice.

It’s a business when you say it’s a business.

*****

Need help making the transition from hobby to business? Want to set yourself up for success from the get-go? Come join us and I’ll teach you how to Set Up Shop and get it right, right from the start.

4 Rules to Follow When Considering a New Venue for your Wares

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{image by BlueBerry Ash textiles}

With so many new websites appearing, it is very tempting to open online shop in each and one of them.

More exposure, new customers and better promotions are promised to us. Moreover, a shiny new front, more functions and less fees – it is all oh so inviting!

After I had been invited to sell on 3 new websites that appeared recently, I started wondering… should I spread my efforts on many shops in the hope of more exposure; or should I pick one or two and promote them like crazy?

How many shops is enough and how many is too many? Which one do you promote first? Will your customers get confused when you send them in 6 different places?  So many questions!

I admit, I am writing about this not only because I’ve been asking this question of myself (and of Mr. Plushkin and my family) but because I was caught in this “trap” of too many online shops before…

I found that yes, it is confusing for the customers when there are too many shops available to buy from.

It is better to pick one shop (unless you have your own website) as a main one that will get linked to in your newsletter and your blog.

I am sure that each and every one of the online marketplaces that are available are  great in their own way, but how do I choose just one or two that are right? It feels like I am missing out on something wonderful by eliminating the other shops.

How do you choose an online shop?

4 rules to follow venue

I have 4 basic rules that I apply when considering opening a new one:

1. Easy to use with helpful functions. For me, it`s important for the shop to be easy to use! It’s actually vital as, with over 100 items in the shop, when listing an item takes too long, it just won’t work.

If there are too many boxes to tick with messy layout, I give up fairly quickly. Moreover, I am now looking at how many functions website offers.

Is it easy to apply coupons so you can encourage customers to return? Does it give you an opportunity to list different colours/sizes in one listing? Does a new shop offers something to your customers that the current shop doesn’t?

2. Fees. There are websites that charge for listings plus take a fee. Alternatively, there are website that charge only commission on sale.

I have heard an opinion that websites that charge only commission work better as they are more interested in you actually selling your creation. I am not sure myself as the one commission might be higher then listing fee+sale fee combined.

Get you calculator out and write down how much it will cost you to list and sell the best sellers on different websites.

3. Traffic. Do they have a good google rating? How long have they being around? Check out the shops that sell through the website similar items, how many have they sold?

4. Advertising. Have you seen this website contantly advertising in the magazines/websites/blogs that your target market reads?

The rule of finding a perfect shop for what you make is simple – try.

It will cost a bit in time and fees but if you apply those 4 rules, it will eliminate the ones that are not worthy of the time and effort. Do your research and give it a go. But don’t be afraid to close the shop and walk away thinking that it might take of in a month or two, maybe Christmas…..

Test the shop

Try not to promote it yourself via your media at first.

List items actively, make sure your tags and wording is right so you can be easily found in the search, buy some advertisement on the website without introducing your customers to it and see how it performs.

Look at your stats/analytics and see what’s happening with the traffic and where it comes from. It’s obvious if you will start promoting the new shop via media you use, traffic will come – but does the website that you are paying for gives you more exposure and attract new customers?

Besides, every maker needs to remember – you creations are valuable, you need to believe in that.

You worked hard to create your reputation and customer base and you are bringing it all with you when you open a shop on another website. I hear you saying: “Having a shop open that charges only commissions doesn’t really cost me anything” but having a standing still shop doesn’t really make your brand looks great as well as take into account all that time you have to spend taking listings off that were sold on the other website. Close it, I would say!

I would love to know  how many online shops you are running at the moment? Are you happy with the online shops that you currently have? 

How I Started Studio MME {Megan`s Story…}

commissions page

I have always been competitive, which is probably why when I heard only 10% of art students make a living from their work, I swore to be part of that percentage.

There was no way I wanted to work at Starbucks till I was 30 while dabbling on my illustration in my free time (which is sadly what most of my former classmates are still doing 4 years after graduation).  That’s why before I graduated with my degrees in art and English, I opened Studio MME Illustrations.

My parents wholeheartedly encouraged me to pursue my ‘artsy fartsy’ degrees so long as I started a business.  So I did!  Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that I could fail.  This blind ambition definitely helped me overcome the struggles I had to go through to get where I am today – a self-employed artist.

After earning my diplomas, I applied to 6 graduate schools…and was turned down by all of them.

I wallowed in self-pity (and ice cream) for about a week.  Then my boyfriend got accepted into a graduate art program and I had to start packing for a cross-country move to California, thus leaving my ice cream wallowing behind in my hometown.  While I had visions of setting up shop immediately as a self-employed artist, Silicon Valley rent crushed that dream.  We were literally paying double the rent for an apartment so tiny we had to set up our studios in the kitchen.

For the first time in my life, I had to hunt for a ‘job’.  I landed one as a bookseller at Borders and, honestly, I thought it was going to be the best job ever.  After all, what English major wouldn’t want to be surrounded by books all day?

Well, the appeal quickly wore off when I learned about sales quotas and my bosses learned that my Midwestern background made me a natural seller.  It only took 6 months for my ‘job’ to demoralize me.  I dreaded going to work, I loathed my bosses, and I hated how the company put sales over customer happiness.

Every day I grew crankier and during the holiday season, I would wake my boyfriend up to ask if he was ready to check out.  I had no desire to make artwork because all I wanted to do was lie on the couch and dread the next time I had to go in to work.  Obviously, the world of ‘real jobs’ was getting to me.

about page pic

Proof that I have always been a bit creative.  One year I trick-or-treated as a snow tiger (ie snow gear and a tiger nose) and when I moved to California, I couldn’t help but pose on my first rocky beach.

Finally, I sat down on my lunch break (in the Borders café) and wrote a great big plan entitled, “Quit My Day Job in 6 Months.”

I was ready to work for myself and by golly I was going to do it before the holiday season came around again.  The act of writing down a plan fired up my enthusiasm to create more artwork and make my dream of being a self-employed artist come true.

The universe must have heard because not two weeks later, Borders declared bankruptcy.  I had a few weeks to start on my big plan and tell my boyfriend about my intention to NOT look for a new ‘job’.  After 6 months in a company that valued money over the happiness of its customers I knew I couldn’t go into any other retail business that wasn’t run by me.  My time at Borders taught me how NOT to run a business and I could now put that knowledge to good use in Studio MME Illustrations.

That’s probably why I was the only employee to dance out the shop door when the last day came.  Everyone else thought I was bonkers to go off on my own but I was blindly ambitious again.

I’d tried the ‘American dream’ way and it had sucked the life out of me and replaced it with crankiness.  Now I was going to do it the ‘Megan dream’ way!

love whale 1200 x 1200

“The Love Whale”

So, almost two years later, I’ve come a long way.  I’ve illustrated the covers of two children’s books, released an embroidery line, illustrated and designed a CD cover, and been featured in 2 nationally published art books.

I’ve self-published a book of my short stories and illustrations as well.  I love the interactions I have with my customers.  I always strive to create things with them in mind.

I’ve even started a new series on my blog where every week I write a silly story for them so they have something fun to read during their work day.  At the start of 2013 I also started a 365 Portrait Challenge where I’m drawing 365 portraits of my fans, bloggers, artists, etc.  Embracing my talent allowed me to grow as an artist but embracing my customers has allowed me to gain what Borders never had – fans!

While I’m not 100% sure what 2013 will bring, I know that I can truly say that I’m part of that 10%.  A competitive nature, blind ambition, and experience in how NOT to run a business got me to my dream of being an artist.

My goal for this year is to help other people, especially former art students, become part of that 10% because I truly believe the world will be a better place if there are more artists and makers.

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