Archive | Small Business

4 Handy Tips for Starting Your Etsy shop..

4 Tips for setting up your Etsy shop www.blog.alphabetmonkey.com.au

Hi there,

I thought I might talk about setting up an Etsy shop today.

When I started my Etsy shop back in 2010 no one in Australia (well no one I spoke to) had heard of it.  Now that I think of it I’m not really even sure how I came across it myself, probably through reading the Decor8 blog who I stumbled across through finding My Marrakech blog after my trip to Morocco in 2007.  Oh the internet is wonderful isn’t it!

Anyway back to Etsy.  I thought it was a pretty crowded marketplace back then but its’ just grown and grown and grown around the world and I still think its an awesome place to market your handmade wares to a global market. I still maintain my Etsy shop today.

There are a few pros and cons like anything.  I’ve heard one critic describe how he hates it as it devalues peoples hard work as people will always look for someone selling the cheapest item.  Yes some people are selling things really cheap but for different reasons. But that doesn’t mean you have to.

Many hobby crafters will sell their items to get back the costs of their materials so they can make other new projects.  Someone who is running a business however will need to cover more than just their material costs and may also have other considerations like paying taxes, running expenses, staff etc.  Also you might see that people who are new may sell some items at a cheaper price to get some sales on the board and to get some reviews.  So everyone is doing things for different reasons so you just have to do what is right for you.

On the positive side , it’s an awesome way to reach people all over the world who may love what you do that would never ever have found you otherwise.  Yes it may seem like you will never be noticed in the crowd but I think you have the potential to get more traffic than if you set up your own stand lone site..especially if you are starting out.  Remember this is why its important to have a clear brand and good pics.

This is where I learned on Etsy how really bizarre, niche products can have a booming following as they can really reach people interested in that item whereas at your local market you may not have any takers. Don’t underestimate the interest that will be out there what you do, in your own way if you send through a strong and clear branding message.

Etsy also provided such an amazing array of resources for sellers and to educate you with all you need to know about pricing, positioning, marketing, photography, running a business and more.  There are so many articles to be found that you should make it your business to read through them all if you are even thinking about it.  So much free useful information.

There is also a huge forum to talk to other newbies, ask questions and get involved in the selling community.

And the back of house systems with running your business is so easy to use.

I solely sold on Etsy till only a couple of years ago when I felt that I had built up enough following through sales, my blog and Facebook to get people to visit my own stand alone site.  That was back when your Facebook followers actually saw things you posted without having to pay money , yep  the good old days..lol.

One of the most important things that I feel you should always be trying to improve on is the standard of your photos.  I take a lot on my iPhone as I was always making new things here and there.  Its the kind of thing where you think you have got it down and then time passes and you realise you have to lift your game..constantly. Goodness some of my original pictures were terrible.  A big no no is taking a photo of your item on a piece of furniture , on a ugly floor or anything else that doesn’t come across a bit studio like.  I’ve seen pictures of an item on someones table with bits of junk that can be seen or a fruit bowl or something in the background . DONT EVEN BOTHER.. you will look totally dodgy from the start and in this age of instagram we are all spoilt with beautiful images so you really much do the best you can possibly do.

Try using a white sheet of cardboard and take a photo near a window for nice natural light. Always lighten your photo before using. Etsy has a link with Fotofuze which can whiten the backgrounds for you within the program.  Check out the apps link on Etsy.

Then you can get light tents and that type of thing but I know it all seems a bit much when you are starting out ..but hey do the best you can.  And see the seller handbook for photography tips.. as I mentioned its a constant learning curve.

Secondly , don’t be scared to create a niche for yourself.  The advice about trying to please everyone is right..you can’t do it.  Just do one thing great and be known for it.

When I started out we were one of the first little businesses that focused our offerings entirely for boys.  It made it easy for me to keep things small as I only needed to buy fabrics that would work for boys quilts  and this was important as I didn’t have much money to spend on materials at the start.  Its funny I did have some people write to me and tell me off saying that I was discriminating against girls. But overall we had great feedback from people who were so happy to find our great selection for unisex and boys ranges.  And we did offer customised items too. This is something people come to Etsy for so it’s a great thing to offer.

Thirdly, don’t be scared of technology so that you don’t even have a go.  I didn’t even know how to attach a photo to an email when I started out let alone crop photos and upload them.  I took it step by step and over time I just became more comfortable with it.  A great free online site you can use to resize, crop, create collages or add words to your pictures is picmonkey.com.  Once you have a play around you will find it super easy to use.

Oh and another tip.  Don’t worry about how much your shipping will cost. It costs what it costs and people do understand and pay it.  I know I was worried about shipping costs especially when shipping internationally when I first started out. Maybe because I hadn’t really done much online shopping back then so maybe it’s not something you worry so much about now.

I really hope that my thoughts may have been some help to you if you have been wanting to set one up or if you are wanting to improve one you already have.

Wishing you all the best of luck with setting up your store.

Small Business

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5 tips on starting a creative business…

5 tips on starting a creative biz

I recently contributed this article to the Little One blog and thought you might find it useful.

If you are feeling the creative urge here are 5 things to consider…

1. Do you want to the hassle of starting a business from scratch?

So you’re home with bub and you see all these stories about mums with little businesses that started from nothing that now seem to be empires online and on social media.

You know how it goes.
First they make a bib for their baby and then a friend and next thing everyone at the mothers group wants one. Suddenly it seems that a new and exciting opportunity is opening up. People tell them they could turn this into a business, just like those other people do it on Facebook and Instagram. Do you really want all the hassles that come with creating a business from scratch or do you just like making things for people?
Sometimes when we turn a creative pursuit into a business it just becomes a job..one we can come to resent.

A lot of people may seem like they have created an empire overnight whereas most likely they have plugging away for years doing something they enjoy doing. This gives them the drive to keep going even when times are hard. If you want to do it be prepared to do it at your own pace and not compare yourself to others and where they are at. I love the saying ‘ Don’t judge your beginning to someone else’s end’.  I tired to remember this when I was starting out.  Use those stories as inspiration.

We’re all at different points on our own journey.
Everyone is different and can spend different amounts of time or money and bigger isn’t always better.

Maybe you just want more of a hobby business that’ll cover your costs so you can keep buying materials? Keep your priorities in sight.

2. Are you cut out to be a maker?

You may have experienced a surge of creativity while on maternity leave..wanting to create little things for your baby .

Its interesting how many new mums buy sewing machines. They may have never sewn a stitch in their life (like me) but suddenly they feel the urge to sew up a storm in the name of their new offspring.
Don’t get me wrong I think everyone has creativity inside which can express itself in a million different ways its just that it isn’t always going to be what you will do to earn a living. I believe that this surge of creativity experienced by pregnant women or new mums (accounting for nesting) is bought on by the fact that they have some time out. Maternity leave , especially for your first is often the first time you may have ever had to actually slow right down. You don’t have the busy schedule,your mind is not as bogged down with the everyday stuff. This space allows creativity to blossom. Even the most creative person needs time out … often the way out of a creative rut is just to get out, experience new things, take time out.

So we can take advantage of this creative time… make beautiful things for our babies, our friends, but don’t put pressure on it to become a business that can support you before your maternity leave ends.
If you love making or creating…..you can and will continue to do so even once back at your old job (hopefully part time). If it turns out its all too much once you get back to work..no problem..keep it for your own little creative time outs.
Not everyone is cut out to make a full time business from making.

5 tips before starting a creative biz www.blog.alphabetmonkey.com.au

3. Do you like the idea of staying home with the kids?

You think, hey I can do that and I’ll be able to stay home with this little bundle of joy enjoying all their first moments while the dollars roll in.

While it sounds great in theory I really must stress how difficult it can be. While I love being able to be home I used to experience a lot of anxiety because I needed to get so much done..or get an order made but wasn’t able to do so due to whatever reason. I used to sew at night as I still worked as a visual stylist in a retail store two days a week. But then I’d be too tired and I would be grumpy at my son all day. I could see that this defeated the whole idea of being home with him. I ended up enrolling him in daycare for one day which I used as my business day. Eventually I replaced my part time outside job with my home business but it was quite gradual and I had to take a leap of faith that the business would replace my regular wage. Not everyone is comfortable to do this.

I really don’t want you to believe that a lot of people are out there kid wrangling, creating designer homes and creating pinterest worthy meals all the while making and selling oodles of their own handmade products and making a fortune.
It’s just not the reality!
I know at the start when no one even takes your little biz seriously its super hard to get support but just realise that you do need it and even if you can get a few hours of babysitting to allow you some solid time it will help a lot.

4. Do you think its easy to sell on social media?

And I’d be careful about thinking you can sell and grow solely on social media. A lot of people selling through Facebook suffered when they changed their rules a while back..suddenly they longer reached the customers they used to. I can say first hand that we used to grow so quickly and any pictures posted would often spread and create immediate sales. Good luck if you are starting up a business Facebook page today..its extremely difficult to grow your followers and its even hard to reach those followers you have without paying FB to promote your post. Paying to reach people who have already told you they want to be reached.

Hence the jump over and boom on instagram of business accounts. It used to just be a more behind the scenes approach but over the last 18 months things have grown extremely commercial and professional looking. I do still love instagram and the way people interact on it but I now have a separate business and personal account. The only worry here is that Instagram is owned by Facebook so there is the potential for a similar thing to happen on there. They are already adding sponsored posts and limiting who sees your posts. (update.. they have announced changes this week that we are yet to see how it affects everyone)
So try not to have all your eggs in one basket especially if you are planning to continue to grow your business into the foreseeable future.

But having said that you can’t just set up an online shop and expect people to find it either..I would recommend Etsy for your handmade business because they have thousands of people from all over the world visiting every day. (more on that another day)

5. Do you want to live a more creative life?

Sometimes this down time allows us to see our lives with a new perspective. We see what we do and don’t want for ourselves . Some people make the changes they need to and others don’t. There is an opportunity to be creative everyday.
It can be the way you dress, you can make something, paint, write, bake, play music, draw, sew, sculpt, take up a hobby.. put a smiley face on the kids pancakes. Its the little things that really can make us happier.

So in conclusion I want to point out that I don’t mean to be overly negative. I mean I have always been involved in creative and entrepreneurial pursuits and I love it. I’d love to tell everyone to do it…But everyone is different.
I just want to put the other side out there so you can make a decision thats best for you.

The one thing that I’ve learnt is that everyone needs a creative outlet in life to enjoy a balanced life.. however it doesn’t have to be the thing that provides income for your family.

Small Business

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