10 Ways to Improve Your Online Craft Business in 2018

With the New Year rapidly approaching and the Christmas rush dying down, here are ten ideas for ways you could tweak your online craft business to help get more sales (yay!)

1 – Refresh your pictures

Check out your competition, do their pictures look better than yours?  What could you do to make yours more attractive?  New backgrounds?  Improved setting?  Or simply add more to show off your fantastic creations to the max.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words – with online selling this is very true.  Many sales are lost because a potential customer isn’t really sure if they want the product on offer.  Ensure they can see all around the product, and all its great features, so as to lessen their dilemma.

2 – Double check your SEO

Good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can make such a difference to whether your products get found or not.  Read over your selling venue’s guidelines for SEO (or Google’s if you sell on your own website).  There are literally thousands of websites, blogs and YouTube videos available with hints and tips for improving SEO.

3 – Set up a schedule for Social Networking posts

It is much easier to post regularly with a schedule.  Look into websites/apps such as HootSuite that let you schedule posts – writing a batch at once can be a real time saver.  Use a planner, diary or calendar to plan what posts you will be writing throughout the year (or at least for a few months ahead).

4 – Review your product range

Are there items that never sell?  What could you do to change that or do you think it is time to retire that line?  Which are your best sellers?  Could you make more similar items?  Many business gurus will recommend you concentrate on your best sellers wherever possible as their earning potential is so much better.

5 – What is happening this year?

Are there any events coming up that relate to your products (or potential future products)?  For example, Prince Harry has just announced his engagement. Great news if you sell wedding products!  Check what is coming up to see if you can utilize the events in your product range, marketing, blogging or social networking.  These could include big sporting events, movies and so on.

6 – Be ready for the big times

Work out when you want to begin promotions (or making stock) for the big retail events of the year.  When do you want to list your Easter products on Etsy (remember you get 4 months), when do you want to start knitting for the big craft fair in August, when are you going to start sending out Valentine’s Day themed emails?  Make notes in your planner or diary.

7 – Review your branding

Many sellers find that their shop’s focus changes over time.  You may have started out selling very modern styled children’s wear but now you are concentrating on the popular traditional styles – perhaps a change of branding is in order?  That “it will do for now” logo is not really popping.  Or perhaps you are sick to death of looking at that colour scheme you used to love.

Whether it is just revamping logos, colour schemes, website design or packaging, or whether a whole new name and look is required, New Year is a great time to freshen up.

8 – Check out the competition

For some reason, when this subject is brought up on the Etsy forums, many sellers will respond with comments like “I mind my own business!”  It has long been standard business practice to be aware of what one’s immediate competition is doing – indeed many business experts will tell you it is essential.  If you don’t know what your competition is doing, how can you compete?  Grab a notebook and jot down your observations.  Does their branding look fresh and exciting?  How does their product range compare to yours?  Are they selling something that you should? (I don’t mean you should copy their specific products!  But if they are selling a type of product that you aren’t then it might be something worth considering.)  If they are not doing as well as you (let’s hope!) then why do you think that is?  What elements of your own business could you strengthen in comparison?  Do they have any special features or exciting details that you could consider (if they offer all their jewelery in gift boxes, do you think  you should as well)?  How do their policies compare to yours? (things like offering a longer returns’ period than your rivals can be a very easy way to give your business a wee boost.)

9 – Research new tools and techniques

Are there any new gadgets, apps or tools that would make your job easier?  Check out forums for either your niche (cermaics forums, jewelery making forum etc) or ones for selling online (Etsy forums, entrepreneurial forums).  Ask if anyone has any tools or apps that they love, you may find something that is perfect for you too.

A friend recently discovered a gadget that lets you quickly string beads – it has saved her a lot of time, and is fun to use.  I recently started printing the receipts for my vintage Dog Print shop direct from Etsy – saves typing up my own versions.  Lots of craft stall sellers are now using credit card readers that work with their mobile phones, meaning they can take orders they would have once had to pass on.

A bit of research into the latest products and apps may reveal a real boon for your business.

10 – Study your stats

Take some time to study the large number of stats that are available to you to help you better understand your business and make improvements.

If you sell online then you should be able to find lots of info.  If you use Google Analytics on your website you will have access to even more.  If you sell on a marketplace app like Etsy, or use one like Shopify, see what stats they offer, there may be new ones you didn’t realise were available.

Some things you could look at include:

  • what are you best sellers and what products do you rarely, or never sell?
  • when are your peak sales times, both throughout the year and in shorter periods?
  • where do your customers actually come from?  Do you get a lot of international sales, or mainly domestic? This could help you better target your marketing
  • Google Analytics etc will let you see how long people spend on your website, what links they click and how long they spend on each page – valuable information
  • Are there places you could improve your profit margins? Could you raise any prices a little? Could you reduce any costs?

 

UK Craft Magazines – What Free Gifts are On the Latest Issues?

Let’s be honest, often we crafters buy a particular magazine because of the cool “free” gift that is on the cover, don’t we?

Many papercrafting, knitting, crochet and other craftmagazines have all sorts of physical gifts as a bonus with each monthly issue.  Sometimes they are “just what I always wanted”.  I have had some really good crafting tools, materials and accessories from magazine cover gifts.

Here is a way to find out what is on the covers of the latest magazines without having to keep checking the newsagents.

Over on my crafting community site, Craft Llama, I list details of the free gifts from many upcoming British craft magazines.  You can easily see what the latest edition has (and the next one to come).

Just hop on over to Craft Llama on this link – Craft Llama UK Magazine Free Gifts

Why not join Craft Llama whilst you are there?  There is a lot to see and do!  Check out all about Craft Llama here.

The Great Zentangle Book by Beate Winkler – Craft Book Review

Title – The Great Zentangle Book – Learn to Tangle with 101 Engaging Patterns
Author – Beate Winkler & Friends
Publisher – Quarry
ISBN – 9781631592577

Although I have other Zentangle books, this one caught my eye as being very useful – and indeed it is.

The book is 140 pages long and 10″ x 8″ in size.  The first 12 pages cover what Zentangle actually is, the materials need and how to get started.

101 Great Patterns

The patterns are presented in a very clear format.  For each pattern there are step by step diagrams of how to form it, together with a finished example and some samples of pieces of art that include the featured pattern.  Some variations may also be included.

Whilst some of the tangles were ones I had seen before, I was impressed at how many new ones were included.  This made the book a very handy addition to my Zentangle library.

 

The tangles are divided into two sections.  The first being “beginners” and the second “tangles for the master class”.  However, they are all clearly described so one would be able to tackle the “master class” ones with just a little practice.

And More…

The final part of the book includes a section of “Questions and Answers”, a list of “Good Reasons to Tangle”, a glossary of technical terms, an article on Zentangle Inspired Art, tangling swaps and classes.  Finally there are handy links to other resources and a list of the “friends” who contributed artwork to the book.  A handy gallery of all the featured tangles is at the back, with page numbers so you can quickly go find the tangle.

I am very pleased with this book.  It has lots of new, fresh tangles that I am enjoying using in my artwork.  Many lend themselves to customization and variation too.  I believe this book would be equally suitable for a new Zentangler or for the more experienced artist.

This link leads to the item on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase it from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Little Girl Journal Page – Tutorial Journal Page and Background

Today I am making a new page in my art journal, using some new Tin Teddy graphics in the process.

I printed out the Tin Teddy Vintage 1920s Paper Dolls set and chose one of the little girls for the layout.  I then had fun trying on and deciding on her outfit.  I went for a snazzy green number.  I glued the clothes onto her with Cosmic Shimmer glue and coloured over her shoes with a clear Sakura Glaze pen to make them shiny like patent leather.  I put her to one side whilst I worked on the background.

The Background

First I masked the edges of my journal page with low-tack tape.  I then painted the page with a light pink emulsion paint (I actually used one of those test-pots of emulsion you get from DIY stores).  My paintbrush began shedding hairs half way but I carried on as a perfect finish is not necessary at this stage.

Next, I used a home-made brick stencil and dabbed Abandoned Coral Distress Ink through in patches around the page.

Then I used two different background stamps to apply first more Abandoned Coral and then Picked Raspberry Distress Ink randomly over the page.

I then gently sponged more Abandoned Coral Distress Ink around the edges of the page to darken them.  It looks a bit messy right now, but…

Now for the dramatic change!

I sprinkled Yellow and Brilliant Red Brusho colour pigment all over the page.  I then spritzed it with a few squirts of water.  I waited about 10 seconds then blotted the page with a kitchen towel.  The water reacted with both the Brusho and the Distress Ink to create a lovely, soft background with lots of texture and interest.  I left it to dry for an hour.

I added a bit more Picked Raspberry Distress Ink around the edges then used little stamps from Leonie Pujol’s “Arrow to the Art” stamp set to add some little decorations in the two colours of Distress Ink.

The Quote

I stamped a quote from Lavinia Stamps on to some vintage watercolour paper with Memento Tuxedo Black Ink. I used my Tim Holtz Stamping Press (Tin Teddy review here) for this so I could stamp multiple times to get a good impression – I did this as the paper has quite a tooth and it is hard to get a perfect stamped impression the first time.  I used an X-Cut corner punch to round the corners then added some Picked Raspberry Distress Ink around the edges.

Assembly

I removed the masking tape (always exciting) and fixed the doll to the page with Ranger Multi Medium Matte.  Next, I cut three green fronds and two pink flowers using dies by Tattered Lace.  I used a pink alcohol marker and added simple “veins” to the middles of the flower petals to make them a bit less flat looking.  I glued the top two-thirds of the sentiment down onto the page then poked the fronds in place under the bottom.  I added the flowers and then put a large dot of Pastel Yellow Dovecraft 3D Pearl Effects in the middle of each flower.

Finishing Touches

I used pink CreaBox Acrylic Mousse through a (Barbie!) stencil to add some dimensional little stars around the page.

Finally, I added a few little blobs of Brights Green Dovecraft 3D Pearl Effects (mainly because I bought it this morning and am itching to use it!).

These are links to some of the products that I used, on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase after clicking this link, I will receive a small payment from Amazon for sending a customer their way.

 

Preparing for the Christmas and Holiday Rush

Many craft sellers will be hoping that the upcoming holiday season will bring in lots of sales.  For some it can be quite a stressful prospect with long hours and rushing around.  Whether you sell online or have Christmas stalls, for a short period of time it is a big increase in your workload.

Here are some actions you can take now to help make your Christmas shopping period a bit easier this year:

1 – Shipping Materials

Make sure you have your basic shipping supplies ready in plenty of time.  As well as things like boxes and mailers, don’t forget sticky tape, Sharpy pens and the other bits and bobs you need to safely package your products.

You may also be able to save money by buying shipping supplies in bulk.  If you have a friend who also needs the product, share the cost of buying a larger quantity and you also share the savings.

2 – Materials

Whilst it is very hard to predict how much one will sell, running out of a hard to get material could scupper your Christmas production.  In particular, make sure you have ordered any materials that come from overseas and might take longer to get to you.  It might be worth making a list of alternative sources for important materials, in case you find yourself needing last minute supplies.

3 – Prepare Bases

Are there some products that you could partially prepare in advance?  For example, if you sell painted peg dolls then you could undercoat a big batch now so as to save this step during the holiday rush.  Whilst this is not practical for all shops, for some, it can be a lifesaver.

If you are making products to order, but know that some products sell regularly, have some “in stock” now.

4 – Rope the Family In

Explain to your family that you may need their help in the upcoming seasonal rush.  Allocate any tasks they can help you with.  Consider asking friends if they will be able to help if necessary.

Decide now who will be taking the children to school, who will cook dinners and so on.

5 – Start your Personal Preparations

Avoid panic over your personal holiday preparations by doing what you can now.  Plan the big dinner, buy and wrap presents, create or buy cards and so on.  Then you can concentrate on your business when you need to and still enjoy your own celebrations.

6 – Prep Your Life

Consider how you can make your busy period less busy.  Prepare and freeze meals away so you ensure you are eating properly during the rush.  Get in the healthy snacks (I have to say that, but hey, you can have chocolate if you want, I won’t judge).    Reorganise your workspace so everything is as efficient as possible.   Make sure your supplies are clearly labelled so you can grab what you need quickly.  Invest in any extra storage or tools now so you are raring to go.

7 – Hang on to Invoices

Get a box, wallet or similar to store the invoices from business purchases over the busy period.  Then you can deal with them after the rush without things getting lost in the meantime.

For example, pin a cardboard box up.  Whenever you post something, put the postal receipt into the box.  They are then all safe until you have a chance to add them to your accounts software, accounts book or however you handle accounts.

8 – Work out and Prepare your Marking Strategy

Create blog posts, social networking posts and other marketing materials now.  Use scheduling software and plugins so you can release the marketing automatically if you can.

9 – Make a Date

Make sure you know when the last posting dates are for the various places you ship to.  You could prepare a message now to send to anyone who orders after that date (saying it is after the post office’s recommend date so delivery for Christmas may not happen).  Prepare any other “cut and paste” messages you might need: for example asking for more information for personalized items, checking on details or warning of any expected delays due to weather etc.

10 – Schedule in some Me Time

A busy holiday season can be exhausting.  Stock up on relaxing bath soaks to unwind in, and music or audiobooks to listen to whilst creating.  Try to ensure you take breaks as often as necessary and get a good night’s sleep wherever possible.  You will be more efficient when rested and get more done in less time.  If you are overtired and stressed you are far more likely to make costly errors!

Have Fun!

I hope you have a fun and profitable holiday season!

Busy Days Creative Planner – Review and Comparisons

For the past fifteen years, I have used a daily planner or diary to organize my life and thoughts.  I have had a few different systems over the years and have been using an A4 Filofax for the past 3 years.  I decided to try something new – a Busy Days Planner from Box Clever Press.  I rather fancied combining planning with a bit of creativity, after admiring some of the amazing planners on blogs and Pinterest.

I purchased my planner from Amazon.  There was a choice of just the planner or with stickers and washi tape, or with a hole punch too.  I decided I only needed the basic planner.  I chose the above design from the 3 or 4 on offer. 

The planner has heavyweight (140gsm) pages – ideal if you want to use pens in your journal.  They are bound together with plastic rings and can be easily removed or replaced.  This system is compatible with the popular Happy Planners by My & My Big Ideas as well as other similar planners.   It is also the same size as other popular planners being a very chunky 7.75” x 9.75”. 

Each month features a sturdy divider with a colourful protruding tag.  There are pages for each month where you can note down your plans for the month, your goals and, at the end, what you achieved during the month.  I rather like this feature and hope it will help me stay on track with my projects.

At the back of the planner, there is a double-sided pocket for storing bits and pieces.  Inside this are two sheets of colourful stickers that you can use to decorate your planner.  These are very nice indeed.

The planner also includes pretty calendars for 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

The planner has 16 months worth of pages in it.  It starts with September 2017 (very convenient!) and runs through to the end of December 2018.  You can easily remove any months you don’t require.

There are both month-to-a-view and week-to-a-view spreads for each month.  The weekly spreads have each day divided into three horizontal boxes.  Ideal if you like to do morning, afternoon or evening, or want to split up work, home and school, for example.

I will be doing some posts on planner use, creating planner accessories and getting more from your planner in the future.

The following are links to the Busy Days Planner on Amazon.co.uk.  If you purchase from these links, I will get a small payment from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Link to Box Clever Busy Days Planner Website.

 

 

 

Sparkling Crochet by Mitsuki Hoshi – Craft Book Review

Title – Sparkling Crochet
Author – Mitsuki Hoshi
Publisher – Harper Designs
ISBN – 978-0-06-234859-3

I couldn’t resist this book when I saw it.  Such cute amigurumi!  It is about 9 inches tall and 7 inches wide and has 72 pages.

The book includes patterns for 16 cute little crocheted animals and 3 little accessories.

Beautiful Pictures

The first half of the book is full-page, colour photos of each of the animals.   The examples have been knitted with sparkly yarn, but of course, could be knitted with more usual yarns too. Specific yarn choices are not given.

Colour Instructions

There then follows a photo tutorial on how to make one of the animals, Earnest the Shiba Dog.  This shows you what you need and step by step photo instructions of how to crochet the dog.  The photos are close up and nice and clear.  The other animals are based on similar principles so this section serves as a good tutorial for all the other designs too.

Crochet Charts

Next are the crochet charts themselves.  There is not a written crochet pattern, instead, the book uses the Japanese style diagrams for each part.  Some crocheters may not be familiar with these, but with a little practice would hopefully find them easy to use.  Start with a small component to get the idea of how the charts work.

 

Crochet Chart Symbols

Finally, there is a short section that shows the symbol for each type of crochet stitch with a step-by-step series of diagrams to show how to make this stitch.  Whilst a total beginner may not find this enough to learn to crochet, it is a clear, helpful guide for those with a little experience already.

Summary

Whilst this is a small book, the patterns are very adorable and lend themselves to experimenting and creating your own additional variations.  The instructions are clear and would suit a new crocheter.  One could easily create the animals on different scales by using thicker/thinner yarn and different hooks – a bit of experimentation would, of course, be needed.

A cute and fun book with really attractive designs that are difficult to resist.

This link leads to the item on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase it from this link then I would get a small commission from Amazon for sending customers their way.

Craft Llama – a New Crafting Community Website

Launching today (1st Septemeber 2017) is the new crafting community website, CraftLlama.com.

I was looking for a safe, friendly, fun crafting community to join and my son suggested: “why not make your own?”

Seven months, many sleepless nights and grey hairs later – I have!

Craft Llama is totally free for everyone. If you join before 1st November you will get Charter Member status with a special badge on your profile page.

Craft Llama is for everyone who likes to craft. All crafts, all ages, all nationalities, everyone!

 

 

Tim Holtz Stamping Platform by Tonic – Craft Product Review

 What is the Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

The platform is made of very sturdy plastic and metal.  The base is very flat with rulers along two sides – these are in both inches and centimetres. The other two sides are flat so you can easily put large pieces of paper inside. The lid has a grid on it – this is moulded on and will not be rubbed off.  It comes with two very strong flat magnets.  The overall feeling is that this is a very strong product that will last through many years of use.

  Using The Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

Using the platform is very easy.  You just remove the lid and turn it so that the right side is upright – one for clear stamps, one for rubber ones.  The options are very clearly marked and turning the lid around is quick and easy.  Magnetic hinges make sure it goes back in quickly and accurately.

You then place your paper or card on the base and lay your stamps on top, wherever you want them to be.  Close the lid and the stamps transfer to the lid.

Then ink up and close the lid again – simple as that.

And you have your stamped images.  If any didn’t stamp quite perfectly you can reink that area and close the lid again – very easy to get perfect stamped images every time.

Uses For the Tim Holtz Stamping Platform

The Tim Holtz stamping platform can help with multiple everyday stamping situations/issues.

1 – When stamping very large stamps it is easy to have part of the image not stamp properly.  Even with a clear stamp, it is very difficult to stamp over the top to correct the error.  The THSP allows you to restamp in exactly the same location, again and again, until the image is perfect.  You can also do this to get a darker impression.

2 – The THSP is ideal for use with the new layered stamps from companies such as Alte New.  These require each layer to be lined up neatly with the layer below – something that can be quite tricky when stamping with traditional acrylic blocks.  With the THSP you can line the layer stamp up precisely on the layer below ready to print.

3 – The THSP really comes into its own when stamping multiple projects.  If for example, you wanted to make a set of thank you cards, all the same, you can easily position each stamp and then stamp it on all the cards in succession, knowing they will all be in exactly the same location.  Very convenient.

4 – The very large surface of the THSP means you can lay out a large group of stamps and stamp them together.  This is handy for designing backgrounds and scenes as you can position the stamps and move them around without having to stamp anything first.

5 – If you shake or have poor hand control then the THSP makes it much easier to get the perfect stamp every time.  You can take your time positioning your stamps just where you want them then pick them up and stamp them without fear of misalignment or double-stamping.  This is also a handy feature for stamping onto acetate and other slippery surfaces.

6 – You can create corners and borders with the THSP.  Cut a square (or rectangle) of card and place it in the corner of the THSP.  Stamp and rotate the card to add all corners or border edges.  You could create all sorts of kaleidoscopic effects this way too.

7 – Many people are using the THSP as a general purpose work surface too.  The base is very flat and the included magnets are handy for holding work in place when colouring and doing other crafts.

Summary

I am very pleased I invested in this product.  I had seen a LOT of videos and reviews of the various stamping platforms currently available and felt that this particular one offered the best value for money.  Now I own it, I feel I was right.  It is very sturdy, easy to use and does its job very well.  It was also a very reasonable price compared to some of the other devices out there.

This is a link to the Stamping Platform on Amazon.co.uk.  If you purchase after clicking this link, I will receive a small payment from Amazon for sending a customer their way.