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Why Ease and Self-Care are Vital Business Tools

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{Felt box from the manusmade shop}

This is a guest post by Tania Wojciechowski.

I’m traveling for my day job this week. My meetings ended early, so I returned to my hotel room to do some work. In my head, I had a rambling to-do list that had been talking to me all day. I hadn’t written any of it down, but knew each item intimately from all the internal chatter: write a post, set up skype interview, email S and D, edit the interview I did on Sunday, respond to the person who wants to put my goods in their shop, start preparing questions for a different interview, follow up with H. And so on.

Returning to my hotel room, I set up my laptop to get to work. I didn’t have time to transition from my meetings to my “other” work – building my new part-time business, organizing the retreat that I’m hosting, following up on the other handmaking business I run. I grabbed a nutrition bar and sat down.

My hands hung over the keyboard without doing anything.

If I was honest with myself, I didn’t have the energy to write that post. I didn’t have the words to connect with the people I wanted to. I had felt like crap for a couple of days. If I was honest with myself, all I wanted was a warm bath.

So, I got honest with myself, and I had a bath. My shoulders came down, and my breath deepened. Much better. I got out, wrapped myself in a robe, and promptly fell asleep for an hour. I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself to take a nap.

I awoke refreshed, and happy that I had listened to my real needs. Not the to-do list, not the stress of not getting things done. But the real need for rest, for pause, for ease.

Ease as self-care

I picked Ease as my word for 2013 for a reason. Because as much as every time I say that word aloud it comes out in one long breath (Eeeeeaaaaaasseeee), I also come to Ease kicking and screaming. Ease is lazy. Foreign. Non-productive.

But what if Ease was, well, easy? What if I incorporated Ease into my life?

What would that look like?

  • I’d hear my body when it’s telling me it’s tired.
  • I’d work when I felt most productive, and not work when I my energy levels were lower.
  • I’d tap into what truly makes me ME and let that guide me.

Well, it would really start to look like honest-to-goodness self care.

Tapping into your Ease, your self care, your truest self, can be as simple as listening, identifying your most unique qualities, and letting them to guide your life.For example:

  • For example, do you love playing with strangers, like Dyana Valentine?

  • Write a TED Talk and work a big crowd.

  • Are you an art-maker who also loves experimental music?

  • Find a band to work with and create the most amazing sound and light show ever produced at your local community centre.

Ease. Alignment. Happiness. Hard work filled with passion and flow. It’s finally starting to sound really quite productive to me.

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Tania

I’m Tania Wojciechowski, and I’m a creativity coach-in-training, a maker of handmade goods, and a wellness aficionado. Oh yes, I also have a day job. All these activities are a reflection of the thing that I’m most passionate about, which is finding ways to become my best and most joyfully authentic self. I use humour, creativity, and an inordinate amount of daily dance-breaks to really explore this in myself. Even my day job – which, to be honest, is not quite my dream job – is an opportunity for me to test out being my best self in a bureaucratic setting. As a creativity coach, I’ll be guiding women, who may have forgotten the deep connection to their creativity and wellness, back to a place that makes them feel whole again.

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C&T Q&A – How did you choose your business name? {Share your Story}

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

My question is how do people arrive at their business name? I love yours, Epheriell. It’s a beautiful word, but why not Jess Van Den Jewellery Design? Why and how do people choose what they choose? It’s such an important first impression, that one word or phrase chosen, or to put their whole personal name out there. How do you know what’s the right choice for you?

Also, the boring bit, the legalities of it all. I believe using your name doesn’t require registration, but put ‘Jewellery Designer’ after it, and it becomes a business name, and will cost a fee. It’s so hard to know what your business will look like in 6, 12 months time. I suppose one just has to hope the name will still fit.

I bounce a round a bit with this question Jess, but I would love it if you and your posse would have a go at tackling it.

X Karen

I LOVE this question, and its one that I often wonder about, too.

business name

{photo of Jess by Paul Harris of see saw photography}

Let’s break it down and start with the first question – where does a name come from?

Funnily enough, as often as I get asked about the genesis of the name Epheriell, I’ve never written about it before.

In my case, the word ‘Epheriell’ is one I made up over 10 years ago now. I used to use it as my online handle for many years… and when I started my jewellery business, it just seemed natural that I use it as my brand name.

So, what does it mean? Epheriell is a mash-up of the words ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Ethereal’ – with the addition of the ‘ell’ on the word, which came from a book I was reading at the time. I believe it was one of Jostein Gaarder’s books, and it had angels in it. I noticed that all the angels’ names ended with the ‘ell’ sound, and thought it was pretty.

And so, the word Epheriell was born!

Honestly, at the time, I didn’t put a great deal of thought into using this as my business name. It just ‘fit’. I certainly didn’t consider using my name, as I was only a hobbyist at the time, playing around. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been a good move, but on the up-side, my name is now still free to represent me and all that I am and do, rather than being tied to my jewellery brand exclusively.

As for the second part – the legalities – alas, I can’t give advice on that, because every country and every state will have different laws and regulations surrounding business names, so the best thing to do would be to search online for the business regulations in your area, or talk to a lawyer or someone else who has the qualifications to tell you what you need to do.

So, where did YOUR business name come from? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

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? 

Grow Your Business with Pinterest (4) – Is Pinterest Worth The Effort For Small Business?

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Source: DecalsForTheWalls

We all know how much time can be enjoyed within Pinterest. Plenty of time is ‘invested’ in Pinterest but what if you are running a business? You need results.

Why Measure Results?

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said ‘Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will all be judged by only one thing – the result.’

When you are running a small business (or any organisation for that matter) you should aim for maximum results from minimum input. This is true whether you’re focused on profit, brand awareness or social responsibility.

To be able to measure results you must first set goals otherwise you won’t know where you are going. How can you know you’ve achieved something if you aren’t sure what you’re aiming for?

Tape Measure Rounded

Source: Whachuneed Supply Co.

What To Measure

Knowing what to measure depends on your goals. For example, if you are seeking to improve brand awareness by 20% you’ll want to focus on content types that are shared the most and the best time of day to post.

If you want to attract a particular target audience you will need to identify where that audience is currently found and the keywords they use to find the type of products and services you offer.

Other results you may want to measure include:

  • Community engagement
  • Quantity of traffic referred to your website
  • Quality of traffic to website

 

Tools To Help You

To find out which images people are pinning from your website use the following URL:

http://pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com

For example, Create & Thrive would type:

http://pinterest.com/source/createandthrive.com

You can also use Google Analytics to measure traffic from Pinterest reaching your website:

“If your goal is to drive traffic from Pinterest back to your website, you can use Google Analytics to see how much traffic you are receiving from Pinterest compared to other social networks.

You can click on Pinterest in Google Analytics to see which pages on your website have drawn the most Pinterest traffic.” – Social Media Examiner

Of course, just like the proliferation of app development following the introduction of smartphones, Facebook and Twitter the success of Pinterest has seen rapid release of apps to the market. Let’s take a look at four that will help you analyse your results and generally save you pinning time.

pingraphy-logo

Pingraphy

The number one challenge for small business owners is time. That is, time to get everything they want done, which is why they love Pingraphy and you will too.

Pingraphy enables you to upload multiple pins at once and schedule them for future periods. You can track the clicks, repins and reach for each pin as well as find out your best performing boards. This allows you to analyse the data and pin based on the image types receiving the desired response from your audience.

Curalate

Curalate

Curalate is one of the more recent additions to the marketplace and offers a range of functions. In addition to general analytics you’ll be able to refine future campaigns by identifying trends of a viral nature. Curalate offers competitor monitoring and a contest platform.

Where Curalate differentiates itself from the competition is the ability to monitor keywords. Curalate finds pins and gives you details about them such as the pin’s descriptions and the number of followers for that pinner.

Repinly

Repinly

Repinly helps you identify the trending content and habits of top pinners. You can leverage this by pinning around these themes, capturing some of the traffic and engagement for your own account.

Pinfluencer

Pinfluencer

Pinfluencer is not a free app but does offer a 60 day trial to help you decide it’s worthiness for investment. It tracks your most influential pinners, most engaged users and compares your Pinfluence against other brands.

Pinfluencer has the added benefit of being a contest and sweepstakes platform. These promotions can be hosted on your website and have specified entry requirements such as hashtag use or number of pins from a specific website.

Actions

You’ve learned about the importance of measuring your pinning effort and the tools available to help you.

Now it’s time to test, evaluate, refine, test, evaluate, refine, test, evaluate, refine. Yep, rinse and repeat.

Start with one goal, one tactic to achieve that goal and one app to measure performance. When you are happy with the results from this tactic move onto another that will assist with achieving your goals.

Wishing you every pinning success!

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Caylie Headshot

Caylie Price is the founder of Better Business Better Life.

A social strategist, copywriter, SEO consultant and all round great chick, Caylie helps you blast your business to success so you can live the life you want.

Sign up now to be first to know when she releases her new Pinterest For Business ebook!

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

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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.