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Showing posts with label business and blogging tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business and blogging tips. Show all posts

Why Do You Create Handmade?

Crafters, artists and designers from around the world share why they create handmade.

We live in a world where convenience is often king. Most of us can easily obtain everything we need or want from a local big box store. That may be one reason that a lot of people just don't understand why anyone would invest the time (and often money for quality materials) to create something completely by hand.

So why do you create handmade?

I recently posed this question to my crafty followers on Facebook and Instagram. The varied responses I received were better than anything I could think of alone, although you will notice many common threads woven through the answers.

First, some humor


"It's a practical life skill for surviving the zombie apocalypse." alittlebirdhouse on Instagram

"I create handmade because I can!" kwiltypleasures on Instagram

Well Being


"I do it for various reasons. It's therapeutic, it helps me slow down in a hectic world. It reminds me I have a talent, and that I am very, very lucky to have that. And, I realized that I can make other people smile through my creations. The warm happy feeling when I see that is what makes me create." jacs.studio on Instagram → The Little Welsh Studio on Etsy

"I craft because it gives me an outlet for creativity. It soothes my brain. Knitting/crocheting is a place that I strive for perfection in and to expand my knowledge. Some people learn to play complex pieces of music on the piano. I am learning all about the art, structure, design, and even history of fiber arts. It also gives me opportunities to give a piece of myself to people I love." withsnowinmind on Instagram

"It's a way to relax for me. Others do yoga, I knit and spin. I also love the smile on the faces of the people who appreciate handmade items. It's such a joy to see them wear my handmade hats and shawls and socks. I do feel extremely good and proud when I finally finish a project. It feels like 'look what beautiful things you can create with your hands, out of two sticks and wool'. And of course it's a way of expressing my creativity." kanitterina on Instagram → The Science of Knitting Podcast

It's Who I Am


"Because I HAVE to for one thing. It's part of my makeup. I love the process of creation, seeing where an idea goes. And I love seeing the end result. It exercises my mind--which is important for someone who's suffered brain damage. I couldn't imagine a life that doesn't involve making things." Lin Collette on Facebook

Being Connected


"I love creating it's relaxing and keeps the mind thinking. My grandmother taught me the basic crochet stitches and embroidery at night after dinner she was always working on something. I feel close to her when I crochet even though she has been gone so many years. I don't think there's a person in the world that doesn't feel great when they get good reviews on their work. Makes me smile and we all need more smiles. Just shake your head at that person that obviously doesn't know quality work and keep doing what you do. We crafters know are work is high quality besides it's in our blood!" forpawsandhome on Instagram → forpawsandhome on Etsy

"I create handmade because it helps me to express myself as a woman and share artistic images and cultural pride with others. Many hand crafts come from or are influenced by cultural traditions around the world today and from the past as well. It's a type of self-sufficiency and response to the sped up consumer culture that helps to share and foster a sense of community among people. I love and appreciate the art, the craft, and the soul of handmade. We need to keep on with this movement and support each other and keep growing!" joliefemmebydiana on Instagram → joliefemmebydiana on Etsy

Quality Control


"I create handmade so I know nothing icky or bad goes into the products I use/eat." skinfulessentials on Instagram → skinfulessentials on Etsy

Originality


"I started making my own jewellery because I have always loved one of a kind pieces. You will not find these in a big box store anywhere. That's what I love about handmade. The creative ideas and process that translates into these beautiful pieces of art whether they are made out of yarn, stones, porcelain, paint, whatever the medium. They look like they are made with thoughtfulness, creativity and love, and they are! Walmart can't even compete." AudacityWear on Facebook → AudacityWear on Etsy

"People have always crafted--made things with their hands. I think it satisfies something deeply human in us. For me, beading is a time to get lost in colors, shapes, textures, and composition--also to experience a little of the history and culture different beads represent. For my customers, my pieces are more personal than something they could buy at a department store. Each piece is one of a kind. I think they value the difference." catchingwavesonetsy on Instagram → CatchingWaves on Etsy

Lifestyle and Values


"For some, convenience and speed is something they place a high value on. They would rather spend their time in other ways that they find fulfilling. For others, they place value on the time spent creating - whether it's the joy of learning or the sense of achievement with bringing an idea to life. Neither perspective is wrong. It's just figuring out what is important to you - and embracing that path." dellcovespices on Instagram → Dell Cove Spices Shop

"... I must admit though I do get similar comments, even from students who say things such as 'its a bit uneven and wobbly' when they make a pot. My response is always.... 'well, if you wanted perfection you would by it at Ikea. This is handmade and unique and captures the makers mark' and they always get it! Personally I create because it is part of my overall lifestyle - growing food, recycling and making... I can't imagine living any other way." dawnwhitehand on Instagram → deedeedeesigns on Etsy

"I create handmade items because it's fun, because I can earn a little extra money, because handmade gifts and more personal and loving, because it's less corporate consumer culture, and sometimes because I can turn worn out things into useful things or make reusable alternatives to disposable products." beeasinbumbledesigns on Instagram → BeeAsInBumbleDesigns on Etsy

Showing Love


"I create because it's soothing - I'm much less anxious when I'm knitting or crocheting - and because I want the recipients to feel warm, cozy, and loved." agnesmarielovesyou on Instagram

"I design and create because I love to, and I am grateful that I can. Creativity can be the basis for valued friendships. Whether it is from my garden, kitchen or sewing table it is lovely to share. Those who value handmade make the effort worthwhile." arabella_blossoms on Instagram → arabellablossoms on Etsy

Making the World a Better Place


"I create as therapy for myself, a way to make the world more colorful and beautiful. I also hope that in making my creations it brings pleasure to those who receive it, as either a gift or purchase. I create because without it I lose my color." shawnidarling on Instagram → threefatesfiber on Etsy

"What a great question!... I think I create because I enjoy it for sure, and also because it gives me the impression that I somehow contribute to the world, in a tiny way for sure, but in a concrete one. I find it empowering, and I like the feeling that I can combine productivity and enjoyment, so my free time is occupied with something that produces results and bring me joy and pride." HanjiNaty on Facebook → HanjiNaty on Etsy

Sense of Accomplishment


"Because I love to crochet and knit and the sense of accomplishment of creating something beautiful that I can be very proud to say I made it." RonHelen King on Facebook

Thank you to everyone who shared their answers on both Facebook and Instagram. You creativity, beauty and kindness is inspiring.

Happy Crafting!




Twined Colorwork Knitting Video Tutorial

Video Tutorial: Twined knitting is a traditional Scandinavian technique where two yarn strands are twisted around each other creating an unconventional texture.

I am pretty much a self taught knitter. Books, online tutorials and much trial and error. When I first began two-color knitting, I guess I was doing it the "wrong" way. Instead of holding one strand of yarn in my left hand and one in my right, I twisted the two strands around each other with one hand.

Little did I know that this method is actually a traditional Scandinavian technique known as twined knitting (tvåändsstickning in Swedish and tvebandsstrikking in Norwegian). I'd like to say that this method just felt natural to me because of my Scandinavian heritage, but maybe that's just in my head.

On one side of your work, twined knitting looks just like plain, old stockinette. On the other side, the twisted strands become a design element and you get a beautifully textured pattern.

To get an idea about how twined knitting works, here's a quick video so you can see the twisting and untwisting motion of the working yarn strands in action.


The complete pattern for these Spring Violet Socks is available in my Craftsy Shop.

Happy knitting!




Crafter Thoughts: Reflect, Reform, Refresh

If you are a fan of The Chilly Dog, you probably know that I take two breaks from the blog every year, once in the summer and again in the winter. Blogging takes up a lot of my life and sometimes I just need to reflect, reform and refresh to ensure that my blog and business continue to thrive. Does that mean I spend my time off just sitting around catching up on daytime TV? Absolutely not! My July break was packed with work and fun.

Reflect


When I started my blog and shop in November of 2011, I did it because I am passionate about crafting and all things handmade. Crafting has brought me so much joy over the years. Making something with your own two hands enriches your life and just makes you feel good. I want to share my crafty knowledge so others can experience that joy.

I did not start my business because I was looking for a way to spend more time staring at a screen. Yes, I have to be here to write, but lately I have also spent a ridiculous amount of time promoting my blog and shop on social media with limited results.

The reality is, I could spend my entire day promoting my work on social media and still not reach every potential reader and customer.

If I want to create quality content for my blog and quality patterns and products for my shop I need to spend more time in my studio and less time in front of this darn computer.

Reform


Over the last four and a half years I have written and self-published 30 knitting patterns. Some are for sale in my shop and some are free here on the blog. My July blog break gave me the opportunity to reform those patterns into a book. Yeah, I'm writing a book!

Right now it's at 118 pages and my husband and I are in the process of editing. Fingers crossed, The Chilly Dog's Big Book of Knit Patterns will be available on my shop's virtual shelves this fall as an e-book.


Refresh


All work and no play makes Ellen a dull girl. Luckily, I got to spend over a week traveling through Scandinavia with my favorite person. Hubby and I did a tour of the capitals of Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. The weather was fantastic, the food was delicious and the people were friendly.

Of course I brought some knitting with me, but overall it was a nice escape and a relaxing adventure.


Reboot


Wait. WAIT! There is no "Reboot" in the title of this post.

When I decided that needed to re-balance my routine with less screen time the Tech Gods frowned down on me. One morning in early August, just as I was reaching the final pages of my book, my computer (that is less than three months old) refuse to turn on. No matter how many times I pounded on the power button... the screen... remained... dark.

Luckily, the repair is completely covered by the computer manufacturer's warranty, but (with terror in my heart) I shipped my computer halfway across the country to be fixed. Yes, I have a hard copy of the book, but I had spent hours making edits that I had not yet backed-up.

As I wait for the return of my computer I am in limbo. Blogging is not easy on a borrowed laptop and I don't want to invest time to redo book edits that are hopefully intact when my computer returns. So for now, everything is kind of on hold in my world, but hopefully I'll be up and running at full speed soon.

Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement!





10 eCommerce Alternatives to Selling on Etsy

10 eCommerce alternatives to selling handmade arts and crafts on Etsy.

Creating a profitable business based on your artistic skill and crafty prowess is no easy task. When launched in 2005, Etsy gave many artists and crafters a revolutionary new outlet for selling their handmade creations as well as hope that they could turn their creative passion into a successful business.

However, since Etsy went public in April of 2015, many longtime sellers have become dissatisfied. Artisans complain of decreased sales and visibility as the marketplace expands. Some feel that selling their handmade wares has become an expensive hobby rather than a flourishing business.

The good news is there are plenty of alternatives to selling on Etsy. Each require different levels of technical skill and social media saavy and of course the cost of setting up shop varies from site to site. The platforms charge different combinations of monthly fees, listing fees and commissions and of course there are always transaction fees paid to your payment processor.

For comparison's sake, let's start with some basic info about selling on Etsy.

Etsy (Marketplace with eCommerce Store Option)

  • no monthly fee
  • $0.20/item listing fee
  • listings expire after 4 months
  • 3.5% commission fee on sales
  • 3% + $0.25 transaction fee for payments processed via Etsy or 2.9% + $0.30 for payments processed via PayPal
  • Option to create a shop website for $15 per month (listing fees, commission fees and transaction fees still apply to sales made through your shop website)
For more information visit selling on Etsy.

And now, let's explore some other options.

Amazon Handmade (Marketplace)

  • Professional selling plan is $39.99/month (the current $39.99 monthly Professional selling plan subscription fee is waived through December 31, 2017 for Handmade at Amazon artisans listing fewer than 40 items)
  • no listing fee
  • 15% referral fee on each sale
For more info visit Handmade at Amazon.

ArtFire (Marketplace)

  • $20/month for up to 1000 items
  • no listing fee
  • 3% commission fee
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal
ArtFire offers two additional selling plans. For more information visit Selling on ArtFire.

Big Cartel (eCommerce Store)

  • technical skills recommended but not required
  • 4 price plans that range from free to $29.99/month based on the number of products you sell
  • no listing fee
  • no commission fees
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal
For more information visit BigCartel.

PrestaShop (eCommerce Store)

  • technical skills required (however, there is a comprehensive user guide available for free)
  • no monthly fee
  • no listing fee
  • no comission
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal
For more information visit PrestaShop-Free eCommerce software.

Shopify (eCommerce Store with Social Media Selling)

  • technical skills recommended but not required
  • 3 price plans starting at $29/month
  • no listing fees
  • no commission fees
  • 2.9% + $0.30 credit card processing fees
  • ShopifyLite is available for $9/month and offers social media selling without an eCommerce Store.
Fore more information visit Shopify.

Spreesy (Social Media Selling with eCommerce Store)

  • no monthly fee
  • no listing fee
  • 3% commission fee
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal
Fore more information visit Spreesy Features.

Storenvy (Marketplace with eCommerce Store Option)

  • no monthly fee
  • no listing fee
  • free to set up a custom store (a free template is available, but it is helpful if you have basic html coding skills)
  • 10% commission fee on sales made through the Storenvy Marketplace (no commission fee is charged for sales generated through your custom store)
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal or Stripe
For more information visit Open a Store on Storenvy.

Zibbet

  • 3 price plans ($4/month for up to 50 items, $8/month for unlimited items, $16/month for unlimited items with no Zibbet branding)
  • no listing fee
  • no commission fee
  • 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee for payments processed via PayPal
For more information visit Selling on Zibbet.

My final two selling alternatives won't work for all handmade businesses. These two sites are geared towards artists that want to put their artwork or photography onto every day items like tote bags, pillows, cell phone cases, tshirts, etc.

Artists provide images of their work to be placed on items that are manufactured elsewhere.

Redbubble

  • no listing fees
  • no commissions
  • no transaction fees
  • earn a self-set margin or royalty on each item sold (typically 10-30% of the item price)
For more information visit Selling on Redbuuble.

Zazzle

  • no listing fees
  • no commissions
  • no transaction fees
  • earn a self-set margin or royalty on each item sold (typically 10-30% of the item price)
For more information visit Selling on Zazzle.

Where have you set up shop? Are you making regular sales? You are welcome to share your tips for selling handmade goodies in the comments below.



5 Ways to be a Great Handmade Customer

5 ways to support and promote artists, crafters and small handmade businesses

If you have ever purchased a handmade item at a craft fair or online, on behalf of all artists and crafters, I would like to say, THANK YOU!!

It is very difficult to build a profitable business selling handmade goods. Artists put a lot of time, money, energy and soul into their creations and trust me, every customer is appreciated.

But did you know there are a few quick and easy ways to be a great customer and support crafters and artists both before and after your purchase?

1. Ask Questions

If you have questions about the size, color, materials, shipping, etc., ask the artist BEFORE making your purchase. They can give you information that will help you decide if their creation is right for you.

2. Celebrate Opening Day

When your handmade creation arrives, let the artist know.

If there are any problems with your purchase, let the artist know. Most crafters take great pride in their creations, want you to be 100% satisfied, and will work to make things right if you are not pleased with their product. However, some problems can be difficult to resolve if you don't contact the artist in a timely manner.

3. Leave a Thoughtful Review

Marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon Handmade, Zibbet, and Storenvy may use reviews as part of the algorithm that decides where an artist's items rank in searches so it is very valuable when customers leave a positive review.

You can also use your review to help address concerns that other buyers may have. For example, when I purchased a large art print I was worried that it may be bent or crumpled during shipping. When I reviewed the item, I was happy to say that my product was beautifully made and also carefully packaged in a plastic sleeve between pieces of thick foam board. That is much more helpful to other buyers than just saying the item was nice.

4. Share a Picture on Facebook

Snap a picture of your purchase being used in its new home and share it on the artist's Facebook page. Not only does this let the artist know that their work is appreciated, it also helps them reach new customers.

5. Tag the Artist

When you share a picture of the item on Facebook or any other social media, if possible, tag the artist. That way they will be automatically notified of your post. Also many artists are proud to share posts showing that their customers are happy customers.

Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy handmade and that's almost the same thing. Thank you so much for supporting small handmade businesses.




Saving Time on Social Media

4 ways artists, crafters, bloggers and Etsy sellers can save time promoting their handmade business on social media.

When I started blogging and selling my handmade items online almost five years ago, I envisioned making a modest living by crafting and writing, two of my favorite activities. At the time I was not on any social media, and was quite naive about the art of self-promotion online.

I quickly learned that the idea of "if you build it (or write it, or craft it) they will come" is only true in the movies. I was getting a handful of visitors to my blog and sporadic sales in my shop. It became clear that if I wanted my business to grow, I needed to get the word out to more people than just my immediate family and close circle of friends. So I began my journey onto social media.

Gradually, I started spending more time each day promoting my blog and shops than crafting or writing. YUCK!!! I'll be totally honest with you. I would much rather be crafting.

So how can an artist, crafter or blogger save time on social media so they can get back to what they love?

1. Start Small

You do not have to tackle every social media platform at once. Do a little research and choose the one or two that work best for you. You want a place where you will be able to tell your creative story.

Let your followers see the passion and effort that you put into your work. Celebrate successes. Don't be ashamed of failures, or as I like to call them "learning experiences". Enjoy everyday life. Your social media followers will likely be more engaged if you share your process and progress not just the finished product.

2. Make a Plan

Decide what, how often and when you want to post something on social media. Then, make a simple weekly posting calendar. Again, it's okay to start small by posting two or three times a week on your social media platform of choice.

I love lists and spreadsheets, so I use this type of Social Media Posting Schedule as a template to help me plan my posts each week.


3. Pre-Schedule Your Posts

Once you have a weekly calendar planned, you may be able to write and schedule many of your social media posts in advance.

Facebook has a built in feature so instead of publishing a post immediately to your Facebook page you can schedule it to be published later. There are also services available online where you can write and schedule posts on other social media platforms. (Search for "social media scheduling tools".)

I like the free plan on Hootsuite. It can be used to schedule posts for up to three social media platforms in one place.

4. Get Back to Work

Hurray! After your social media posts are planned, written and scheduled for the week you can relax and get back to doing what you truly love.

Happy crafting!




Google AdSense, You're Fired!

5 reasons why I stopped using Google AdSense to monetize my craft blog

Most bloggers would likely agree that using Google AdSense is the easiest way to monetize a blog. You sign-up for the program, copy and paste the code for 1-3 ads onto your site and watch the money start rolling in, fractions of a penny at a time. As your readership grows, your earnings increase. It sounds like a great way to make a few extra bucks for doing what you love.

Why then, have I removed all Google AdSense ads from my blog?

Google AdSense is very unclear about how much you earn by placing ads on your site.


Honestly, when I started blogging and using AdSense I knew very little about ad networks and how they calculate what the ad space on your blog is worth. Some networks pay publishers a specific amount when someone clicks on an ad. Some pay  a specific amount based on the number of views the ad receives. Others pay a commission when someone clicks and purchases a product that was advertised. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these types of networks.

Unfortunately, the Google AdSense terms and conditions don't clearly specify exactly how a publishers earnings are calculated. Here's a snippet:
Subject to this Section 5 and Section 10 of these AdSense Terms, you will receive a payment related to the number of valid clicks on Ads displayed on your Properties, the number of valid impressions of Ads displayed on your Properties, or other valid events performed in connection with the display of Ads on your Properties, in each case as determined by Google.
Umm... I am providing some valuable property on my blog and Google gets to determine how much they are going to pay me but they don't have to tell me how much they're going to pay me. No thanks.

AdSense penalizes publishers for invalid clicks and impressions.

Google is very clear about their AdSense Program Policies. In theory, I agree with the policy regarding invalid clicks and impressions 100%. It's not fair for people to click on the ads placed on their own site just to make a few extra bucks. It's also not fair for people to try to inflate the number of page views they receive.

However, even though I have NEVER clicked on an AdSense ad from my own blog and I do not view my blog a million times a day to inflate my page views, I have had money deducted from my AdSense earnings because of invalid clicks and impressions. What's worse is that there was no explanation of why the money was deducted other than a statement that invalid clicks and impressions occurred.

AdSense has a high payment threshold.


In the US, you don't see a penny of your earnings until they reach $100 and then, you have to wait up to a month for funds to be deposited into your account. Unless your blog is getting well over 100,000 page views a month you can expect it to take months to reach the payment threshold. In AdSense's defense, many other ad networks have similar thresholds, but it just doesn't work for me.

My blog was filled with ads irrelevant to my readers.


I'm sure there's some magical algorithm used to determine which ads get shown on each site. Unfortunately I began to witness and receive complaints about ads that had nothing to do with my blog content (i.e. crafting, hobbies, tutorials), and more worrisome, ads that were simply not family friendly (think sleezy dating services or worse).

If I may or may not be earning ad revenue based on people clicking the ads on my blog, I don't want the space filled with junk.

More importantly, I value my readers and do not want to offend them with ads that are blatantly inappropriate.

It's deceptively difficult to restrict the ad content that is displayed.


To protect publishers like me, there are AdWords Policies stating what types of ads advertisers are allowed to share. There are even some topics that are classified as sensitive because not all publishers want to promote products or services that are not family friendly. I greatly appreciate that publishers are allowed to block the sensitive ad categories shown below.

There are also currently 262 other general categories for ads ranging from Arts & Entertainment to Occult & Paranormal and publishers are allowed to block up to 30 of these categories. As a publisher, you can even block ads for specific ad networks or even specific URLs.

Unfortunately, even when I blocked categories or URLs, the ads continued to appear on my blog. My only guess as to why blocked categories and ads continued to be shown was either because it takes an extended period of time for the blocks to take effect or advertisers (intentionally or unintentionally) categorize their ads incorrectly so they can reach a larger audience.

Either way, no matter how many times I see these notices on my AdSense dashboard, I am not going to approve this type of content.

5 reasons why I stopped using Google AdSense to monetize my craft blog

Farewell, Google AdSense. My readers are much more valuable than the meager earnings you sent my way.




Social Media Icon Set for Artists and Crafters

Free social media icon sets for crafters and handmade artists
Before I started blogging and selling my hand crafted items online in 2011, the only social media I used was Pinterest. Over the last four years I have become active on a variety of platforms because as blogger and small, handmade business owner it is critical to have an online presence.

Unfortunately, when I decided to add social media icons to my blog and my e-mail signature block, I ran into a problem. I could not find a set of graphics that contained all of the logos that a crafter needs. For awhile, I used a hodge podge of designs because I couldn't find a matching set. Eventually I decided to just create my own set.

You are welcome to use any of these designs for free. Simply drag and drop the images you like onto your desktop. Also, it would sure be appreciated if you share this post on your social media.

64px Square Social Media Icons for Crafters


   

   

   

   

32px Square Social Media Icons for Crafters


       

       

64px Round Social Media Icons for Crafters


   

   

   

   

32px Round Social Media Icons for Crafters


       

       

If there are any icons you'd like to see added to these sets, leave me a note in the comments and I'll try to add them next time I am doing some graphic design work.