How to Kickstart Sales After a Holiday Closure

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{Me at the top of King’s Canyon in the US}

I’m back!

Yes – our epic trip has come to an end, and here I sit, back in front of my familiar computer.

It’s a strange feeling, diving back into work after being away for so long. Simultaneously easy and familiar, and slightly awkward.

My main aim for my first week back is to get organised – to deal with emails and such that I neglected in my absence – as well as taking some time to plan out the rest of the year and ‘get my head back in the game’ so to speak. Along with this goes the process of re-opening my Epheriell shop, and kick-starting sales after being closed for over 2 months.

In an online business – heck, in any business – 2 months is a pretty long time to close your shop. You lose the momentum and rhythm you had going – you lose the everyday awareness of your brand that people had – and you have to find a way to launch your business back into the consciousness of your customers.

So – how do you get the sales flowing again?

Here are my 4 tips, including examples of what I’m doing right now:

1. Do something special for everyone

Re-open with a BANG! Have a sale, a special competition… something that will draw people in and get them intrigued to check out your store.

I’ve decided to give away a $50 Epheriell Gift Voucher to someone. To enter, they need to make a purchase from Epheriell.com by midnight on Sunday. This means that I get a few more sales coming in – and I reward someone who already loves my work enough to pay for it.

2. Give your best customers/mailing list subscribers something extra

Sure, do something for the wider world… but you should go that extra mile to make your best customers feel special.

Because they ARE special.

They deserve a little extra treat for helping to get your sales rolling in again!

My mailing list subscribers are not only able to enter the gift voucher giveaway… I’ve also given them an exclusive 15% off discount if they order this weekend. Are they using it? You bet your ass they are!

3. Get back into your marketing habits

If you had a successful business before you closed, chances are you already had a set of good, daily/weekly/monthly marketing habits in place. Slide on into those familiar habits like that pair of comfy Ugg boots*, and you’ll see sales pick up pretty swiftly.

For me, that means tweeting, facebooking, pinning, instagramming, blogging… and generally being all over social media on a regular basis. As well as sending out regular emails to my list again, of course, and renewing listings on Etsy.

I also did a bit of a re-design on my site (which I’d had in the back of my mind for a while) to freshen things up a bit!

4. Be patient!

Chances are, it’ll take a little while to get the ball rolling again – and that’s okay!

Use the time to plan, make new designs, work on your marketing strategy, dream up new income streams… whatever you think you need to work on to move your business forward.

Because before you know it, orders will have picked up again, and you’ll be so busy working in the business that you won’t have the luxury of as much time to work ON the business.

So, use this quiet time wisely, and be patient – because things WILL pick up again.

Have you ever taken a big chunk of time off from your business? I’d love to know how you got going again after your break.

*If you’re not an Aussie, Ugg boots are deliciously warm and toasty sheepskin slippers.

Small Success Stories ~ August Edition

Every other week we share the success stories of full-time makers but Jess and I wanted to make sure we were also celebrating your successes!  So every month we’re hoping to feature a few Create & Thrive readers who have had a recent success story of their own.  We had some wonderful feedback last month with our first installment of Small Success Stories so we’re doing it again.  Read on to see what your fellow Create & Thrive readers have achieved lately.

Jennifer’s Small Success:

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This week I reached my funding target on Pozible meaning I now have the funds to publish my first illustrated book! In my small business/world this is a huge thing but I guess it’s small in the grand scheme of things.

You can see Jennifer’s project funded by Pozible HERE and more of her work online at http://www.redparka.com.au/.

Viktorija’s Small Success:

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This is my first week of a freelance adventure, so excited! Bye-bye day job hello the creative unknown!
I am very excited about this change and made lots of new goodies to celebrate. Necklaces, earrings and totes.

Viktojia, the owner of AndSmile, also got featured on Crafty magazine’s blog about her big step into self-employment.  You will love the interview (This site/resource is no longer available)!

Grace’s Small Success:

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I was approached by a local lady who is organizing a workshop called “Suicide risk in Depression and Anxiety” and I was thrilled to tell her that Papier Mouse Designs is more than happy to create all design items for her for no charge. Now she has sent some more business my way. Karma is good.

Lora’s Small Success:

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I am thrilled to say I got invited to showcase in a MAD Gallery for our big Downtown Gallery Crawl. I’ll be showcasing a beautiful 5 ft wide copper and coin angel I created from salvaged copper gutter and pennies.  My work has gone from small jewelry pieces to large metal art. I am thrilled to be able to create and share my work! I never dreamed it would grow this big! And now I know there is no end to what you can achieve with LOTS of determination, imagination and supportive people!

You see more of Lora’s work at her Etsy shop: Centsations  (This site/resource is no longer available).

Lila’s Small Success:

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Lila, the maker behind Lingering Daydreams, took a big step last month and hired a product photographer to shoot her products.  Personally, I think her Etsy shop looks amazing now!  Take a peek yourself HERE.

Fiona’s Small Success:

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I am Fiona from Hung Up On Agnes (This site/resource is no longer available) and I received my first custom order today! It’s been so lovely chatting with this friendly customer and I am thrilled to have received a custom order from her. As I was excitedly whipping up a gift for her to go with her purchase, I have stumbled upon a new product line that I have starting working on and hope to have in store soon. Double yay day!

Imogen’s Small Success:

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My small success was realising if there is no clear divide between my ‘work’ time and my ‘own’ time and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing! When I quit my job a couple of months ago to focus on my handmade business I thought one of the most important parts would be the balance between turning off the computer/ putting down the craft supplies and having a social life/ seeing my husband/ relaxing.. that at a certain time of day, every day. I should stop. After reading a post from Paid to Exist last week where they mention the faster you realise there is no divide the faster you will succeed, the happier I’ve been. I make the things I make because I enjoy it, I enjoy “working” in my spare time, and I know when I need a break, a predesignated divide (at this point in the business anyway) isn’t necessary! Yes of course I would like to succeed, but I still enjoy it enough to want to do it as a job and as a hobby because it is fun.

You can find more of Imogen’s work at Imogen Wilson Jewelry.

Linda’s Small Success:

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I create jewelry and specialize in Jewish jewelry and Jewish women’s headcoverings (kippot).  Recently, I had a feature in an online publication: WE Magazine for Women. It’s exciting!

You can find more of Linda’s work online at: Linda B’s Jewelry.

 

***Want to be featured in our next Small Success Stories feature?  Email me at megan@createandthrive.com and tell me what we get to celebrate!  I promise to eat a piece of chocolate cake for every success you have.  (I don’t think my boyfriend will object to always having cake in the fridge.)***

Three Tips for Photographing Small Things

Megan here!  I have some very exciting news to share today.  After three long years, my boyfriend finally received his MFA in Photography.  He’d always dreamed of becoming a professor at a prestigious art school but due to the recession, the colleges weren’t hiring.  So instead, he’s decided to become a professor for makers who want to take gorgeous photographs of their products.

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Today he’s sharing his best tips on how to photograph small things like jewelry.  This is something a lot of makers struggle with because their product is either out of focus or it appears as teeny tiny in the final image.  I think you’ll learn a lot so let’s get started!

When I photograph a small item, there are a few requirements I keep in mind to ensure I get a stunning photograph that grabs people’s attention.  First, I want to have nice, soft lighting because harsh shadows and highlights are distracting on small items. The last thing you want is for the shadow from your piece to overpower the piece itself. Second, I want to get close enough to the item so that the details appear large in the final image. If your customer can’t see the details, they won’t feel confident about hitting the ‘buy’ button because they don’t quite know what they’re getting. And lastly, it is very important to me to show the scale of small items because if you start to show things larger than life-size, it can be hard to discern the actual size and that also decreases your customer’s confidence that they know what they’re buying.

Create Nice, Even Lighting

To get nice, even lighting when photographing something small, I use one or two lights and diffuse them with tracing paper. For shiny or metal objects, I place one light on the left and one light on the right, both pointing at the subject. For other items, I simply use one light from above. Then, to diffuse the light, I place tracing paper between the light and subject.  The easiest way to do this is to stretch some tracing paper over a thin metal picture frame.  Once you tape it over the frame, you can keep it like that and always have it handy for your photo shoots.  It’s a trick professional photographers use when in a pinch or when they don’t want to shell out the money for a ‘professional’ diffuser.

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Wine charm by Lingering Daydreams using a diffuser to create even lighting.

Show the Scale

Showing the scale is important with any product and even more so if it is small. To show the scale, one strategy is to put the object in an environment where it makes sense and where its size can be compared to the things around it. Another way to show scale is to put the object in someone’s hand. While hands vary in size, we understand what the average hand size is and can easily imagine it is our hand in the photo with the product. Psychologists have actually proven that photographing someone wearing a ring or holding a book sans any identifying features such as a face, help sell the product better.  Think of those beach calendars where all you see are someone’s feet and the ocean.  Another great example of this strategy is Apple’s advertisement for the iPad 2. They show how much slimmer the newer model is by placing it in a model’s hand and you immediately imagine what it would be like to hold yourself.

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Close up of Studio MME’s brooches using a macro lens.

Get in Close with the Macro Setting

Virtually all point and shoot cameras, and many other cameras, have a built in macro setting. The macro setting enables the lens to focus on close up subjects. This mode is accessed by the button with the flower symbol. Normally your camera may not focus on something less than a meter away but with this mode on your camera will have the ability to focus with the lens just few centimeters away from the subject.

In the dSLR world, you will find zoom lenses with macro settings and prime or non-zoom lenses that are designed as macro lenses. This is indicated on the focus ring of the lens by the word Macro. Most often it is as easy to use as turning the focus ring toward the word macro. All lenses have a minimum focusing distance that varies depending on the type of lens you own and that distance can be found in the owner’s manual under tech specs.

A way to make a non-macro lens into a macro lens is with a close up filter. This is a special filter that screws onto the front lens that allows the camera to focus on much closer subjects.

Want even more information on how to make your photography eye-catching to customers? Check out The Create & Thrive Guide to Product Photography, which covers basic photography processes that eliminate these common mistakes and help make your products pop thanks to composition, backgrounds, and lighting.

There’s No Shame in Outsourcing

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Seaside Mirror Locket – a collaboration between Studio MME and Polarity

It’s an unspoken myth but when we start out we can’t help but feel that every single part of our product and every step of our business needs to be done solely by you.  We have to design, produce, package, ship, market, and handle all the legal stuff all by our lonesome.  If we let someone help us or have another artist make part of our product, we think our item is no longer ‘handmade’ or that we’re no longer a small business.

But here’s the truth: outsourcing is acceptable.  Heck, it’s even encouraged.

I don’t mean you should be sending your dress fabric out to a Chinese factory to be sewn.  Nor should you hire unpaid interns to do the brunt of your work.

Outsourcing can be much more beautiful than that.  Outsourcing for you could mean:

  • Having a printer print your artwork on paper, tote bags, t-shirts, etc.
  • Having someone sew purses alongside you.  (There’s no reason you can’t have your help come in to your studio.)
  • Having a group of your favorite fans sew embroidery patterns for you before a trade show or photo shoot.
  • Having another artist construct the basic element of your product, such as ear wires or a necklace chain.
  • Having someone take charge of packaging and shipping your products.

Outsourcing doesn’t mean going for cheap.  It means making decisions to save you time and energy so that you can focus on what your customers most value about your work.  Is it your ear wires they’re raving about or the beautiful design of the earrings?  Is it your sewing skills they admire or your eye for putting fabrics together?  Is it your product people swoon over or your brown paper packaging?

The full-time makers you see online got where they are today because they know they don’t have the time or energy to do everything themselves and thus they found someone else to do the parts of their business least exciting for them.  Outsourcing not only allows you to grow your business but it allows you to collaborate and add products you couldn’t make on your own.

For example, I’ve teamed up with a jeweller to create a set of lockets featuring my work and a maker with a laser-engraving machine to make a set of lasercut pins.  If I’d stuck with the myth that I have to make every single thing entirely by myself, I would never have been able to make such well-crafted products.  (Believe me, it would have taken me a decade to learn the welding skills the jeweller has.)

So look over your offerings today and see what someone else could do.  You don’t have to take any immediate steps.  Just realizing that you don’t have to do it all is a big leap.

Success Stories ~ Hania of Moose Design

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Hania of Moose Design

Since I can barely sew in a straight line well enough to hem my pants, when I find a maker who creates handbags that look like they belong in a museum, I’m instantly enthralled and want to chat them up.  That’s exactly how I found Hania, the entrepreneur behind Moose Design.  She’s based in Poland and sews the most amazing handbags characterized by minimalist style and originality.  I think you’ll really enjoy her interview today.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

As a child I loved to sew, embroider, and draw porterty. Creation always gives me a lot of fun. That’s way I decided to become an architect. I graduated architectural studies and started to work in an architectural office. Unfortunately, in that profession creation was only a small part of the whole process…too small for me. After a few years working in architecture offices, I decided to change something in my life. I quit work and I started designing handbags.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

When I decided to change my life and run my own company making bags, I needed to become a boss of my own company instead of simply being a worker doing jobs requested by someone else. I think that has been the biggest challenge for me so far.

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Felt Bag with Leather Handles – Fox Bag

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

It was when I started to cooperate with foreign companies (e.g. from Belgium, UK, Germany, etc.). At the beginning I planned a small business selling bags only in Poland, but it turned out that there were a lot of requests from abroad for my bags and with that I’m really happy.

Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Of course there are lot of ideas in my head I wish I had time for but there are so many things to do right now that I need to take care of. I’m planning now to hire my first employee. It will be a big step for me.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

I like running. It helps me rest and clear my mind. Then when I’m tired after a long run, before I fall asleep a new ideas comes to my mind easily.

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White Cotton Tote Handbag – Seal Handbag

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I wake up, go out of my bedroom, turn left into the next door and I’m already at work 🙂 My home is also my workshop. It cuts both ways. I can walk in sweats all day but as I don’t have to rush to work, I have big problems to wake up and get started.

I’m a seamstress, designer and manager in one person that’s way my day is a bit crazy and chaotic. I answer on e-mails, order materials and of course sew and design handbags.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I believe the decision that I made to cooperate with a professional and talented photographer was a really good idea and had a big influence on my business. I believe that a great photo is needed to attract the attention of customers and sell an item.  (Megan here – I think you can agree with me that Hania’s photographs are absolutely breathtaking!)

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Gray Cotton Tote Handbag – Bear Bag

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

You work needs to be your passion; you do not need anything else.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I hope to develop my business, have a big workshop, and cooperate with shops from all over the world.

You can find more of Hania’s work online at:

Her website: www.moose-design.eu
Her Etsy Shop: www.etsy.com/shop/MOOSEdesignBAGS
Her facebook fanpage: www.facebook.com/MOOSEdesignBAGS

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