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[117] Round Table Q&A with Thrivers in Winchester, England

 

This week, I’m bringing you something special!

When I was in England recently, I had a Thriver meetup – and 5 wonderful makers (who also happen to be Thriver Circle members) came along. We spent 2 hours talking all things creative business!

In the first part of the session, each maker had 15 minutes to ask questions about their business. In the second session, I opened the floor to general handmade biz questions.

I did record everything, but alas, half of the first session didn’t save (darn technology!) so today I’m sharing with you that second session – the open Q&A.

We cover some important topics – from pricing to finding and marketing to your ideal customer, to collaboration and SEO. We packed a lot in this short session!

Enjoy, and a huge thanks to my guests for not only coming along and being awesome, but being willing for me to share this with the world via the podcast. Their names and details are below – do check them out!

 

My Guests

 

Quotes and Highlights:

  • Adela sought advice on marketing her card-making business for adults, Della by Design.
  • Try bundling and marketing kits for events – hen’s parties or girls’ craft nights in.
  • Market these event packages on the website separate from the individual kits to increase reach across audience markets.
  • Victoria, of Toria by Victoria Jowett, asked about establishing a creative partnership.
  • Approach your potential partner with a concrete proposal package.
  • Ensure that collaborative partnerships are formalised in a written contract.
  • “Remember, when you’re working with someone else it doesn’t just double your problems it multiplies them as there are two people wanting to get things done.” {Jess}
  • Jo, of Stitches to Treasure, enquired about how to establish a business focus.
  • “You don’t just have to have one group of target customers. You make different ways to engage the different groups.” {Jess}
  • Use a variety of marketing messages and customers will connect with the ones that resonate to them.
  • Suze, of Suze Harris Decorative Woodwork, sought advice on how to set an hourly rate.
  • Ensure you cover all of your time not just the making.
  • In the early stage of a business your time will be skewed towards learning lessons. This will shift as you gain experience.
  • “You can do all the maths you want with your pricing but at the end of the day it’s just the starting point. It’s not the end point.” {Jess}
  • Remember business is about experimentation. Take risks. (Jess shares an anecdote about product lines that have been trialed and retired)
  • Victoria is looking to boost her SEO.
  • Ensure photos are saved with key words and your business name in the title.
  • Mix up your key words and utilise the power of the Alt Tag.
  • Adela wants to run an Instagram Christmas promotion featuring styled images with objects from other businesses.
  • Try working with a different maker each day to increase reach and build relationships.

 

Download or listen to this episode.

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

PicMonkey Vs. Canva – What to Use When in your Handmade Business

PicMonkey vs. Canva

 

Do you use PicMonkey or Canva? Have you tried them both and decided that one’s your ‘thing’ and you just don’t get the other one at all? And even though you love a whole bunch of things about the one you do use, there’s some tasks that you can’t do in it and it just frustrates you?

They’re quite different beasts for sure – and the difference really stems from their purpose. PicMonkey is aimed at everyday photo-editing – so it covers all your basic edits plus filters and overlays (including a few special tricks especially designed for correcting/enhancing photos of people), whereas Canva is aimed more at producing graphics that are suitable for a range of digital and print applications such as images for social media and blogs, infographics, special document layouts, letterheads, business cards, posters, etc.

In both systems, you can upload your own images, layer things, and alter their transparency to create interesting texture and effects. Both allow you to do basic edits to photos, adjusting qualities such as brightness, contrast, saturation and more, and both offer a range of pre-set filters.

But as you’ve no doubt discovered, each platform has its limitations.

So, have you ever considered using them in tandem?

PicMonkey to do the the things that Canva can’t, and vice versa? Their capabilities are quite complementary, if you’re looking for cheap/free image editing solutions. I’ve put together a summary of the best points of each, as well as some of things I find the most limiting/annoying.

Also, I’ll mention that in each system, the paid versions extend their functionality considerably, so you might want to consider that option too (PicMonkey Royale is $64AUD/year and Canva is $157AUD/year… although if you’re prepared to fork out moola, I’d probably get a sub to Photoshop CC instead as it’s around the same price as Canva for Work and has a huge amount more functionality).

 

Canva

 

Some things I love…

  • The huge array of perfectly pre-sized canvases for almost any application you can think of, from social media posts to e-books to desktop wallpapers to business stationery and a whole bunch more
  • Intuitive layout, easy to find your way around and get what you want
  • The great series of tutorials on design, as well as a fab blog on various aspects of graphic design
  • Some nice pre-made (and free) graphic templates, so all you need to do is alter the text and colours to suit your needs and you’re done
  • A fabulous ‘snap’ functionality, which helps you centre your work, or snap it to the edge of the canvas
  • A good range of preset filters, with a dialogue box that shows you what changes the filter has made to the image, and allows you to tweak aspects such as brightness/saturation/contrast/tint/blur/etc at the same time
    you can create a free account, which will always keep the graphics you’ve already made (AND they remain editable), as well as all of your own images that you’ve uploaded
  • Canva auto-saves your work as you go. Download it whenever you want

 

Some things I don’t like about Canva

  • You can’t stretch many of your elements; photos can be resized by holding down the shift key and dragging, and lines can be extended; but generally, the rest of the elements you can only resize them in their correct proportions
  • You can’t upload your own fonts in the free version (you can in the paid Canva for Work)
    you can’t make an image with a transparent background, so creating logos is not an option (you can in Canva for Work)
  • You can’t change the image size once you start (you can in Canva for Work), although you do have the option to save for either low quality (.jpg) or higher quality (.png), and in two different resolutions for PDFs
  • Making a text mask (where you have an image showing through text) is painfully slow, and you can only use the one block font they offer frames in

 

 

PicMonkey

 

Some things I love

  • You can make overlays with transparent backgrounds for your brand which you can use for your images wherever you need them. You could also make a simple logo in PicMonkey which you can overlay onto any graphic you choose. Consistently branded images are great for blog posts, social media, etc
  • You can use your own fonts from your computer
  • Stretching anything to fit is easy – hold down the shift key while dragging a corner of the image or overlay
  • Making a text mask is a piece of cake, and you can use any font and any image you like
  • A MASSIVE range of filters and effects, so you can really make your images distinctive
  • A draw tool, and an eraser tool so you can do spot-editing, pixel by pixel
  • A good series of tutorials, written for non-designers

 

Some things I don’t like

  • You can’t save any of your designs into their system, and you can’t save editable images to finish later – when you save, the layers are automatically flattened before it’s downloaded to your computer
  • Update: you can now save editable files in their Hub, which is an add-on to PicMonkey Royale (the paid version)
  • It’s SUPER hard to centre anything (like text, or shapes) – PicMonkey doesn’t have any ‘snap’ function, nor any other easy way of figuring out if things are lined up (and that’s why I made this handy overlay grid a little while ago. You’re welcome)
  • It’s much harder to find your way around because you have to click in and out of the individual sections each time to test the effect of each one, and some effects and overlays are also hidden in the Themes section

 

What I’d use when

 

Creating logos

Firstly, I would definitely use PicMonkey to create any sort of logo, or other brand element that you intend to use as an overlay in your graphics, because it allows you to create a shape with a transparent background.

The thing that you need to remember when you’re saving your shape with its transparent background is that it needs to be saved as a .png file – if you try to save it as a .jpg, it will automatically convert your transparent background to solid white – which means that it becomes completely useless as an overlay.

With this example, there are two steps – first creating the separate shape file so you can use it again and again; and then creating a new file for your chosen image including the overlay.

simple logo example

In the first step, I used PicMonkey’s Design option to create a canvas with a transparent background, then into Text. Click on ‘My Own’ at the top of the side panel, before choosing the fonts you want (I used a combination of Goblin, Times New Roman, and Helvetica Neue). To do this, you’ll need to load up three separate text boxes so that you can make them different colours, change their sizes slightly, and layer them up. After moving them around, then I simply save (remember, it has to be a .png to preserve the transparent background).

Once you’ve saved your logo, every time you need to use it on an image, you can simply go into Overlay / My Own, and choose it from your files (but you’ll have to load it up again, every time you need to make a new graphic).

2016 aug - graphic

EVEN BETTER, switch over to Canva now, and upload it into your Canva account – that way you’ll always have it handy for every graphic you want to produce!

 

Image editing

PicMonkey every time. Canva will only add filters or change simple aspects such as brightness, contrast, tint, and blur to a WHOLE image; there’s no “Draw” tool to add in your own bits.

PicMonkey has a “Draw” tool in Effects; you can change the size and colour of the tool, and you can alter things as small as 1 pixel. It also has an eraser so you can erase parts of one layer or effect so that the original image shows through. Clever use of the eraser and the pencil together can create elements that look like they wrap around each other.

 

Templates

Always, always in Canva for this! For two reasons:

1. It always keeps your files editable, so all you need to do is make a copy of your original template (from the main page that shows all your designs, click on the little arrow in the top right of the image you want, and “Make a copy”).

2. Good graphics need good alignment, and I LOVE their snap tools to help you get everything centred/justified. Perfect for when you need to change text and other elements around frequently.

 

Resizing

As I pointed out earlier, once you’ve chosen your canvas size in Canva, you’re stuck with it. If you want to resize things, or start with a flexible size because you’re not really sure what you want to end up with (like when you’re creating a logo) use PicMonkey, every time.

These are a few of the specific situations I’d choose one over the other. There are many, many other specific situations where the flexibility of one outweighs the flexibility of the other – it’s up to you to choose what suits you best. Hopefully the list of likes/dislikes above will help you figure that out.

 

Have you used the two in tandem? Have you only stuck to one and now you want to try the other? If you have combined them already, I would LOVE to hear what you’ve made and why. Pop a comment below!

 

[54] 5 Ways to Increase Your Profits

Ep 54 - Create & Thrive Podcast

You could be eating away at your profits without even realising it. However, there are lots of ways you can make little tweaks to your handmade business in order to increase your profit margin.

I ran a week-long free course a few years back on this topic, and I thought it was time to bring these ideas to you in the podcast.

By following these five steps you will be able to cut out wasted time, reduce your expenses, and therefore increase your profit margin.

For more detail on each point, the links to the course lessons are in the show notes below.

If you have any other ideas for ways that we as makers can cut expenses and increase our profit margins – while still maintaining the integrity of our business – please share them below!

 

Ep 54 quote - Jess

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • 1. Streamline and organise
  • Disorganisation will eat into your profits.
  • Decrease the time spent to make the same amount of money by being streamlined in your work practices.
  • This includes organisation of your digital life.
  • Work out what you can do today to become more streamlined and organised.
  • Pinterest is a great resource for finding ideas to create a more organised space.
  • 2. Plan your packaging.
  • ‘Packaging can put a huge dent into your profits.’ {Jess}
  • You need to make sure you account for your packaging costs in the cost of your postage or the item itself.
  • Make sure you always have what you need on hand and try and buy in bulk.
  • Don’t forget to add in the time it takes to package the item.
  • 3. Do your calculations and price your work properly.
  • ‘You don’t want to be leaving money on the table.’ {Jess}
  • It is important to get realistic about how much it is costing you to make your products.
  • You need to cover the time you spend marketing and planning not just making.
  • 4. Can you make it reproducible?
  • This is especially important when selling work online.
  • Can you recreate your item?
  • If you can it will increase your production capacity saving time on each item.
  • These items can then become your bread and butter range.
  • Make sure you keep detailed notes so you can easily reproduce work.
  • Think about minimising materials used across your product range.
  • 5. Buy in wholesale or buy in bulk.
  • This will usually involve planning ahead.
  • Do your research, are there things you can cut out?
  • ‘We always have to place our creative and business integrity above our profit margins.’ {Jess}
  • Only you can decide where you can reduce expenses and save money.

 

Download or Listen to This Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

[44] The Ins and Outs of Selling Handmade Goods Wholesale… from a Retailers Perspective

Ep 44 - Create & Thrive Podcast

Meredith Ireland runs a retail space in Tasmania promoting local makers and creatives. She is also a weaver and my right-hand gal here at Create & Thrive.

In this episode, we discuss what the process of wholesaling your products looks like from a retailer’s perspective, the do’s and don’ts of approaching a retailer, and also the reasons why retailers charge what they do.

As a maker and a retailer Meredith sees both sides of this relationship and so we discuss this and how best to go about approaching retailers with a good chance of success!

If you would like to hear what it’s like to be on the other side of the handmaker-retailer relationship, don’t miss this one.

image

 

Quotes and highlights from this Episode:

  • Meredith Ireland runs the retail space Old Franklin Store.
  • Meredith is a weaver and also runs weaving workshops in her retail space.
  • The decision to run weaving workshops felt natural.
  • Customers wanted more than to just buy her products, they wanted to know how and why.
  • Old Franklin Store started with only consignment based suppliers to keep start up costs low but is now moving more towards wholesale.
  • Makers are selected based not only on what Meredith likes but what fits aesthetically in the space and what doesn’t directly compete with other makers work.
  • The best way to approach a retailer is via email as turning up unannounced can be confronting for both parties and the timing will almost always be wrong.
  • Within your initial contact email make sure you include good quality photographs of your work.
  • Send a back story as an attachment to the email. This means the retailer only has to read it when they want to and gives you the opportunity to keep the body of your email short, sweet and to the point.
  • Are follow ups OK? Yes! Retailers are so busy and have so many offers coming in that it is easy to put them aside even if they are very interested.
  • Never be offended if you don’t hear back. This usually has nothing to do with you or the quality of your work.
  • ‘That first contact has to be respectful of the retailers time, feelings, and energy.’ {Jess}
  • Remember that one ‘No’ is not the end of your wholesale journey.
  • ‘Having confidence in your work and letting your work speak for itself is important.’ {Meredith}
  • Social media is one Old Franklin Store’s most effective marketing tools as well as local radio and newspapers.
  • ‘It is important to start local and grow from there.’ {Meredith}
  • The time and expenses involved with running a handmade retail space are incredible. As a supplier it is important to remember this as the reason why rates are sometimes as high as 50%.
  • A big lesson for Meredith was to ride out the hard times because they make the great times worth it.
  • If you are unsure with any aspect of packaging or displays for your retailer just ask. All will be different.
  • The relationships built with suppliers and customers have been one of the biggest rewards for Meredith.
  • Old Franklin Store focuses on promoting the maker and encourages relationships between the maker and the customer.
  • Decide prior to contacting a retailer if you will sell only wholesale or consignment or both so you can be prepared.
  • Have a basic wholesale list ready with photos and pricing information
  • Don’t be afraid to approach retail spaces and put your name out there. They can only say no.
  • ‘Keep trying until you succeed.’ {Jess}
  • You can find Meredith and Old Franklin Store at her websiteInstagram or Facebook.

Download/Listen to this Episode

(You can also subscribe to the podcast and listen to this episode on iTunes + Stitcher – just search ‘Create & Thrive’.)

 

P.S. If you want to dive into the world of selling your goods to retailers, but don’t know where to start or what to do, our eCourse Wholesale Know-How is perfect for you!  Check it out here.

How to Sell More at a Trade Show

 

 

 

 

How to sell more at a trade show

 

For any first-time exhibitors at a trade show it can be an exciting but daunting experience. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of exhibiting at the Life Instyle Sydney exhibition. It’s one of a handful of retail trade exhibitions that occur twice a year, connecting business owners of products and brands directly with retailers.

If you are unfamiliar with trade shows, these differ to weekend markets in that all products are sold on a wholesale basis, with the buyer (shop owners) ordering at the trade show. Exhibitors later fulfil the order by providing the stock after the trade show period has ended.

As thousands of potential buyers can pass your stand, it literally pays to be prepared. Here are a few tips that I learnt through exhibiting at my own first trade show.

1. Set and know your terms and conditions inside and out

Your wholesale terms and conditions are the backbone of any wholesale transaction with a buyer.

Terms and conditions define certain obligations and outline key points of the selling agreement between the buyer and the seller (you!).

I recommend that terms and conditions include details of minimum order amounts, payment options, turn-around time, shipping details, and refund and cancellation policies.

Cancellations do occur from time to time and the last thing you want to be is out of pocket due to a buyer who has changed their mind.

Women who have confirmed the fashion trend

2. Be prepared for buyers to ask you about ‘exclusivity’.

Exclusivity (also known as postcode block out) is a popular word at trade shows.

Buyers may ask you for exclusivity before placing an order.

Essentially this means that once an exclusivity agreement has been made between yourself and the retailer (and an order placed), you have committed to not selling your product to new buyers that operate stores within the neighbouring area, often within the same postcode.

This is one method that a buyer will use to ensure that their store does not stock the same products as competing neighbouring stores.

Having a well thought-out response to this question before exhibiting at the trade show is integral.  Determining whether you will offer exclusivity is a business decision and there is no right or wrong answer.

3. You need Line-sheets and business cards

At the end of the trade show you may feel like a nightclub promotional girl (or guy!), but handing out brochures, business cards and line sheets (or catalogues) to buyers is essential.

A good line sheet has a list of all your products currently available for wholesale purchase, each with a photo, an SKU or product code, wholesale price and a short description if necessary.

When asked for your line sheet don’t be afraid to ask for the buyer’s business card in return. This provides you with their contact details so you can follow up with them post trade show, should they fail to place an order.

My advice to you is to ensure you have enough line sheets printed and prepared well and truly before the tradeshow. I had the unfortunate experience of having to re-print hundreds of line sheets the day before flying out to the trade show after a printing error on my behalf.

It was a stressful experience that could have been avoided had I been organised with my line sheet 2-4 weeks prior to the trade show.

4. The days are LONG

Be mentally prepared for some seriously long hours. If you’re anything like me and spend most of your days sitting at your desk beavering away in quiet isolation, well… trade shows are the complete opposite.

Trade shows generally run between 8-11 hours a day over a 3-4 day period.

During this time you will be standing (not sitting!) and speaking to various interested buyers. While it is a challenge to appear permanently happy standing for ten hours a day it is important to greet each customer as if they are your first customer for the day.

Smile, be polite and answer the questions regardless of whether you’re at the end of a ten hour day. Impressions last with buyers and you want to make the purchasing experience pleasant and as easy as possible.

-While it is a challenge to appear

5. Provide a time sensitive sale for the trade show

To secure a few extra sales, it may be beneficial to have a time limited promotion that is valid only for orders placed at the trade show.

This could include offering a percentage off your wholesale amount, free shipping or a free product.

This may be all that’s needed to bump a waning buyer into a committed buyer.

6. Send your invoices immediately after the trade show

Yes, immediately.

Not next week, not even when you return to your home city, but after the trade show when you get back to your hotel.

It keeps your order fresh in the buyer’s mind and it allows them to prepare financially for your order. Buyers often attend multiple trade shows and buy from tens (or hundreds, depending on the size of the retailer!) of different exhibitors.

By doing so, it shows the buyer your commitment to fulfilling their order and keeps your business fresh in their mind.

Better yet, your invoice may be a given higher preference for quick payment than other invoices received at a later date.

7. You don’t have to do business with everyone

While it is tempting to accept orders from a diverse range of stores, I recommend that prior to accepting an order with a buyer you first learn about the type and style of store the buyer owns or is managing.

The best stores are the ones that attract customers who align with your ideal customer.

While uncommon, some exhibitors reject orders from certain industry retailers when there is a belief that the store is not suitable for their product. I heard of one exhibitor rejecting a $6000 order because they believed that the buyer’s franchise would potentially cheapen their brand!

 

Finally, for anyone who is contemplating attending a trade show, I would recommend first walking the trade show prior to applying to exhibit, so you can get the feel of how a trade show operates.

Exhibiting at a trade show can be hard work before, during and after the show.

However, it’s a rewarding experience with great opportunities not only to connect your business with buyers face-to-face, but also to meet and network with like-minded creatives to build lasting friendships.

If you want to expand your wholesale biz by attending trade shows, make sure to join us for Gold or Platinum Membership to the new C&T e-course: Wholesale Know-How.

Not only will you take part in a 30-day course that will teach you all you need to know to successfully wholesale your handmade goods to stores, Gold + Platinum Members will also receive an extra module of lessons that teach you everything you need to know to have a successful trade show – with all the nitty-gritty details.

Click here to register now!

Class starts May 25.