Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Do I Procrastinate Now?

I hate being late for anything. When I'm given a project, I generally start it right away and finish long before I need to. The exception to my virtually flawless on time record occurs when I'm faced with too many projects at once. They don't have to be big projects with the same deadline, just one too many will do me in. I simply can't decide where to start and as my husband would say, I BSOD.

So here I am with one day left to finish my entry for the Spring Beading Challenge and what am I doing? I'm stalling. It's almost as if I've already decided that I'm going to fail. I have Mother's day gifts to make, an article for Belle Armoire Jewelry to write and I really should make something new to list in my shop, none of those things are due tomorrow, but I've spent far more time on them than on this bloody beaded necklace.

I'm going to get on it now, I swear. Maybe I'll even finish it on time. The funny thing is, as soon as I finish these project, I'll probably have weeks of free time. Flood or famine...damn, I'm stalling again.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Business Hours

Shopping handmade has spoiled me...rotten. I'm afraid I have begun to expect many things that I have no right to expect from sellers. I know that I'm dealing with a real person and as a result, I expect a one on one shopping experience. Not so outlandish you say, but consider this, I want said one on one experience as if I am in fact not only their sole customer, but the only thing they need to deal with until my order is complete. I expect immediate responses to all questions. I expect a free gift or at the very least some great promotional item included with my order. I assume the order will be shipped out immediately after I pay and will arrive with speed inconsistent with the current USPS system.

All this is absolutely ridiculous and I know that. Why have I begun to think like this? Simple, too many sellers are actually accommodating some or all of these requests. Most of them are new sellers, trying their hardest to attract and keep new buyers. Please, I beg of you, stop it! Oh, I get it, you want to offer the best possible customer service. That's fine, but you want to know a secret. The best customer service is a quality, accurately described product, shipped when you state it will ship, that arrives in good condition. Questions answered in a timely manner, not two minutes after you asked and perhaps a nice thank you note in the package. When you do too much more than that, you will undermine your ability to keep it up. Trust me, I know.

When I first started selling, I included a tatted bookmark with every order. The bookmark actually took longer to make in most cases that the actual order. I stopped when I started getting more than one order a week. I was scared that without the free gift, people would stop buying, but it didn't happen. I used the time I wasted on making free gifts to create new, more complex designs. Now I write a thank you note, pack my pieces carefully, notify the buyer that I'm shipping and my customers get just what they were expecting. I'm not saying you should add a little something to the package occasionally, but don't get carried away.

I am a stay at home mom, so I can answer a email or convo almost immediately most days of the week. If an order is not custom, I can have it packed and ready to ship by the next pick up. I have to remind myself that I don't have to keep that up. I do have other things that need to be done. Kids need food, dishes shouldn't really spill out of the sink like that, the cats will revolt if I don't get them some fresh water. Occasionally, I should leave the house.

My solution, business hours. Just because I can be available 12-14 hours a days, certainly doesn't mean I should be available that often. I'm even thinking that I should post hours on my profile page, so people don't think I'm ignoring them on Sunday when we visit the in-laws. Then, and this is the tricky part, I should follow those hours. We accept business hours from brick and mortar businesses, why shouldn't we accept them from online sellers. Remember that you are are probably not the only customer they are helping and they might actually have a life outside their business.

People, take back your lives and let others have theirs back too! I know running a business is hard work and can be long hours, but don't let this instant internet world make you too available or too demanding. Don't let your need for customers overwhelm your common sense and offer more free stuff than you can actually afford. Treat your customers well, but not like royalty, that's all most people expect, that's all you should expect.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Way Back Machine

KungFuCowgirl & VerukaDollsLand

My very first etsy purchase in May of 2006 was a Totoro plush from KungFuCowgirl, it was her second sale. Since that point she's managed to racik up well over 2000 sales and I just hit 250, so clearly she's doing something right. Now I know some of you may point out the copyright infringement issue with this plush, but all I knew was my daughter loved the movie and I couldn't find a plush anywhere. It's a little worse for the wear, but is still doing quite nicely. It stacks up well next to the commercial plushes I have since been able to buy. I don't know if she would remember me at all, but I'll never forget my first.

That August I returned to etsy for more plushes. This time, I was looking for something off, something different and I found it at VerukaDollsLand. She hand sews the most adorable little creatures and I feel in love with many of them. I managed to set up a trade with her for one of the knit teddy bears I used to make. Even though it's obvious that this was a handmade piece it's sturdy, well made and the handmadeness of it is actually a very attractive quality. This little wubbie is still sitting in my daughters room and I have since bought a second one for my youger daughter in a pretty purple. These are the kinds of one of a kind pieces that I think they will have fond memories of forever.

I can absolutely see how these sellers have done so well over that last two years. They both make quality products that actually do stand the test of time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

First off, does anyone else have the song from the Buffy musical stuck in their head right now? No...alright, moving on then. Yesterday, I managed to reach my goal of 250 sales in exactly 2 years. I spent way too much time in the forums to do it and I'm fairly certain they were pity sales, but I'll take them. Maybe ten minutes after reaching what should have been a wonderful milestone, I found myself in a familiar funk. The melancholy that is, "what now?".

We've all been there after a big event or milestone, a birthday, wedding, vacation. Anything that seems to consume your every waking moment looking forward to or planning produces this sensation. As soon as the event is over you experience the emotional equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Even though I have several small projects that need doing, I have like zero motivation this morning, because I have no event to look forward to. My next milestone sales are very far away, I just past 1000 hearts, so it'll be awhile before I get a big number there either. It's a month before the next big family birthday and I've got no other events on the horizon.

Why do we seem hardwired to need the high of an event, why can't we live in the present? I know what I'm suppose to do, plan for tomorrow and live for today. Like most sage advice it's easier said than done. I mean, I know that these so called milestone sales are just arbitrary numbers, they don't have any real meaning. 100 is not any more momentous than say 112, yet we make such a fuss over round numbers. The logical thing to do would be to celebrate each and every sale with the same amount of joy or to celebrate significant increases over previous sales regardless of their number. We're not gonna do that though, we love round numbers and will continue to look forward to them regardless of logic.

I'll tell you what I think I'm gonna do though. I'm going to make myself some creative goals to look forward to. First, some I might achieve like coming up with a new tatted scarf design or actually completing a piece today. Then, some ridiculous ones that I can look forward to for years, like getting a celebrity to wear my pieces in public or make tatting the next big crafting craze. That ought to keep me looking forward well into my golden years, right?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Why Am I Not Famous Yet?

What am I doing wrong? Why isn't this selling? Why am I not a millionaire yet? Okay, I haven't actually seen that last question yet, but the others are asked seemingly every hour at Etsy. I assume the same thoughts swirl around at DeWanda, ebay, icraft and all the other handmade marketplaces online. We, as a culture, have been infected with the, 'if you build it they will come' mentality. This, I'm afraid to tell you is a fallacy, a lie, complete untruthiness.

Let's explore why it might be that no one is buying your goods. Without even looking at your shop, the first thing that pops out to me is your product. It actually might not be worth buying. Harsh, you say, but perhaps it's the truth. Are you making jewelry in the same style as a hundred other people with the same beads? Are you knitting dish clothes with the pattern off the back of the yarn label? Are you making candles or soap from a kit you found at the craft store? I could go on, but you get the point. If you are doing these or dozens of other simple and unoriginal things, you have your answer. Unless you do these things with amazing skill and flair, they are not worth buying for most people. Don't take other sellers word for it in the forums either, they are not likely to tell you the truth. They are simply too nice and too supportive. Most of them honestly want everyone to succeed even when they know not everyone can.

If you've past that first test, then you're ready for the analogy portion of my diatribe. Imagine if you will, a mall with 10,000 jewelry stores. I really shouldn't have to go on, it should be clear where this is headed, but for arguments sake, I shall continue. If you were to walk into that mall,with no preconceived agenda you are probably only going visit the first few stores you see. So that's 9995 unseen stores. Maybe you're an organized shopper so you check out the directory. You're looking for stores that stand out in some way, a great name, a description that includes exactly what you're looking for, or something familiar and you're still only going to visit a few stores.

Here's the lesson in all this. If you want to be one of the first stores they see, you need to list or re list often enough to see seen easily. You don't need to go crazy, just once a day could help a lot. If you can't do that, then you need to catch the organized shopper. To do that, you need to use all your tags wisely so you come up in all relevant searches. Ah, tags, the illusive grail of shopping. You know that they are the key and yet you can't seem to use them right. I have a tip, pretend you're a shopper and searching for something that you sell. What words do you actually use in a search? I've looked for formal jewelery, casual jewelery, beautiful, elegant, simple, unique, soft, bright, dark, etc. Are you using those kinds of words to describe your pieces. This is how you can use all your tags without resorting to tag abuse, which doesn't help your cause at all.

I hear a lot of people responding to these "why" questions with the horrible phrase, "You just need to wait for the right buyer". This akin to telling the needle in the haystack, "you just need to wait for the guy with the magnet." What you need to do is make that needle so cool and easy to find that people don't even have to try to look for it. There are plenty of buyers out there for everyone making a quality product, but most of them are not looking for an expedition. They want stuff to fall in their laps, so make sure you're throwing it out there where they can find it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Free Tatting Patterns!

Since I started this little blog, I've noticed a steady stream of folks landing here after searching for free tatting patterns. I do this all the time too, mostly for inspiration, but it can be a tiresome search. So I have a wonderful link to share with you, the Antique Pattern Library. This place is overflowing with amazing knitting, crochet and tatting pattern books that are all in the public domain. That means you can download the PDFs for free and there's no one to yell at you for selling your finished work created from these patterns.

Although I do have to warn you, these were written in a completely different pattern format than you may be used to. It's best to try and read through the entire pattern and visualize the finished piece before you begin. The patterns tend to assume that you have a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the art and their particular names for stitches to begin with, so do look through the first few pages of each book for unfamiliar techniques before attempting a pattern. All these tatting patterns are written for shuttle tatting, but they can be adapted for use by needle tatters, if you have problems, let me know, maybe I can help.

I love using these old books as a jumping off point for my own patterns. I see an old collar pattern as a Gothic choker and small motifs as pendants. Some patterns need a massive re haul to make them wearable today and some are perfect as they are. If you are inclined to sell what you make from these patterns, I highly suggest sharing the origin of the patterns and never claiming that you made them up yourselves. I find that people love knowing that the pieces they buy have a history and they aren't bothered that you didn't do all the design work yourself. With that in mind, experiment with beads and colors, but not black, black's mine...seriously, I'll find you, I'm a spy remember.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Demand Instant Gratification

My children are a product of the Internet age. They will grow up never needing to wait 6-8 weeks for delivery. They will not need to take a trip to the library to find a book to read. They will never have to take me at my word when they ask a question, they will just Google the right answer. It is a brave new world in which they live.

While I'm a good old Gen-X'er, I'm what is referred to by marketing folks as an Early Adopter. When I see something new and interesting the single factor keeping me from owning it is money. I will buy most anything I can afford, I will try every new technology offered to me. I may not have been born in the Internet age, but I sure feel at home here.

The byproduct of all this wonderful technology and all these convenient gadgets I own, is a complete lack of patience. I just don't need to be patient very much anymore. All the information I need is a click away and when I order something, I can have it in a couple of days. Thanks to my computer guy husband I have the fastest access we can afford and more computers in my home than any family should really be allowed to have. Like Veruca Salt, I want it now!

So now that I'm sitting comfortably in a womb of instant gratification, I can't help but wonder why it is that everyone else hasn't joined me here. When I send a message to someone online, I really do expect to hear back right away. I keep forgetting that there are really people out there without constant Internet access. There are people who are actually not plugged in every waking moment of their lives.

I mention all of this as a reminder to everyone who needs one. My husband had to remind me yesterday as I agonized over the lack of response to a convo I had just sent. This is not Ghost In The Shell, we are not all connected all the time, even though it may truly feel that way sometimes. Give people a moment to respond, give yourself a moment to relax. You don't really need to know everything right this instant. Try to think back to a simpler time, when you did have patience, when no one expected you to ship something out the second they ordered it. Dwell in that moment, get off the computer, live your life, if just for a couple of hours. All the people in your life that love you will thank you for it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More About Me

Kat Roman: FEATURE OF THE WEEK - Pamela Quevedo

Check out this lovely feature of my work on Kat Roman's blog. You can even enter to win one of my pendants by visiting.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Anatomy Of A Custom Order

I've done quite a few custom orders in my time, mostly single color changes and simple adjustments. Sometimes I get one that hurts my head a little and here's a breakdown of what happens in my head during that kind of custom order.

First, the request:

What they said: Could you make this design in purple and green?
What I heard: I have no idea how you make this item, but I assume it's magic and can be done anyway I like.
What I said: Sure I'll make that up right away.
What I meant: Hell, if I know, but I'll sure try.

Then the creation:

I will spend the next two hour agonizing over how to do this. Then I'll probably make three or so failed attempts before succeeding. I will then spend a hour just staring at the piece thinking, 'is this alright and will she like it?'. I'll take pictures and then debate actually sending said pictures.

Then I present my photos of the piece to the customer. This is accompanied by extreme anxiety and fear that after all my hard work, the product will be dismissed as "not what they wanted".

What they say: Wow, it's beautiful. I can't wait to get it
What I hear: Looks alright, I'll let you know when I get it.

I pack up the order and send it out as quickly as possible. Then I wait and wait for the feedback to arrive, terrified that the second they open the package, they'll realize what a hack I am and send it right back.

What they say: I love it! Thanks so much, I can't wait to wear it!
What I hear: Thanks for your time, maybe you'll get right in the future.

I'm not really that hard on myself, but I would be lying if I said I didn't doubt myself on a regular basis. I do love custom orders though, they allow me to stretch myself as an artist. They make me think outside the box and play with colors, which I tend to avoid. Of course I already screwed up this custom order and have to make another. That'll teach me to watch my DVR'd comedies whilst tatting.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Happy Etsyversary To Me!

Two years ago today, I signed up for my Etsy account. Just a few days later, on the 24th, I listed and sold my very first tatted bracelet for five whole dollars. I've come a long way in that time both in style and substance. To celebrate this momentous occasion I shall be having a blog only sale.

Each and every blog visitor that makes a purchase at my etsy store shall receive a free black art deco pendant and 25% off any non-custom order. Simply enter the phrase "happy2year" in the notes to seller and wait for an adjusted invoice. This sale will not be advertised anywhere else and will not appear in my shop announcement. It is super secret, just for people willing to read my ramblings. This is the perfect time to pick up a little tatting so get to it!

Thanks to every single person that has made a purchase from me in that last 2 years!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What American Idol Has Taught Me

Okay, this may seem like an odd statement, but I have learned a few things over the years by watching American Idol contests unfold. Most recently I have seen parallels between the public voting habits and how I pick sellers to buy from on Etsy. I know I should be ashamed that I am a dedicated Idol fan, but everyone needs a guilty pleasure and this is mine, so here goes.

People like to help people, but more than that they like to help people that seem to really need help. If a seller is too confident, has it all together, lots of sales, etc., then they don't need me and I will probably only buy from them if their product is awesome or exactly what I was looking for. Basically they won't get an impulse sale from me. I saw that in the bottom three of Idol last week. No one thought they needed help, so they didn't get votes.

Conversely, if the seller has little talent or a generic product, but needs the sales, I'm not biting. The person people want to buy from has talent, modesty and you feel good about buying from them. I think we also love to say we were there at the beginning of a potentially big career. I remember voting for Kelly in the first season, (don't worry, I don't vote anymore) and thinking how awesome it was to help such an amazing talent get started. Somehow we can then feel partly responsible for their success. I feel the same way about buying from people like Lollibomb, TimothyAdamDesigns, StilettoHeights or a dozen others I've bought from in the couple of years. I think, man I must own something from them before they get too important for the likes of me.

Of course that's the great thing about buying handmade, you get to buy from a person who cares that you bought something from them. It's not really true of Idol that you make a big impact like that, but in a small way you still get that satisfaction of knowing you had a part to play in someone else's success. I imagine a few of us hope that karma will reward us for our good deed, but isn't the reward an amazing handmade product and maybe a new friend....who might buy something from you later?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Alchemy Made Me A Shrug

All the way from across the pond, I received my brand new shrug! I wanted something different, something unique and most importantly something handmade. I posted an alchemy request for this mystery item and this is what I got.
The picture on the left really doesn't do it justice. The one on the right is the same shrug with a red vampire bat wings. It fits great and has the unique look I was going for, so thanks fallenangelgothtogs, I love it!

I already showed off my purchase from kindredspiritsyarn by showing you the amazing orange scarf I tatted up as a custom order, but I'd like to give special mention to her wonderful customer service. The yarn came lovingly wrapped very quickly enabling me to finish my order in a very timely manner. The colors were brilliant and perfectly captured in her listings which I image can be hard to do with dyed yarn. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What Is This Needle Tatting You Speak Of?

I've only been tatting for a couple of years and when I mention my craft I can just about count on one of three stock responses.
  1. I've never heard of that, what is tatting?
  2. My grandma used to tat, I tried to learn, but couldn't get it.
  3. Wow, that's a lost art.
I could spend hours debating the history of tatting, there seem to be a lot of myths about when and why people began to tat. If you want the history wikipedia is a good start. Instead, I'll just tell you what it is that I do. I needle tat, it's a cousin to the shuttle tatting you may have seen. It is all but indistinguishable from shuttle tatting in the finished product, but it differs in method. The closest craft to tatting is most likely macrame. Both processes involve the trying of knots. Tatting has really one trick, the double stitch. When used with picots the ds forms rings and chains that work up into fairly durable pieces of lace.

I often hear from people that they could never learn to tat. Nonsense, it's much easier to needle tat than many other fiber arts. Grandma probably tried to teach you shuttle tatting and all those wrist twists and shuttle weaving confused you to no end. Trying the same thing on a needle makes it easier to understand what you are doing. Try it, you'll like it.

Tatting is not a lost art. When I was teaching myself to tat, I went online and was bombarded with patterns and tutorials and many communities full of creative tatters. No it's not as popular as knitting or crochet, but it's far from lost. I've seen hundreds of tatters online and dozens of books for sale on the subject. Here's a few links I ran across early on, you can also just Google tatting or needle tatting and you'll be surrounded by information.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pretty, Pretty, Shiny, Shiny

...or why I choose not to take advice from you.

I've been online since 1995 mostly because my husband is a computer guy. I've seen a lot of things change because of the Internet, but human nature remains basically the same. People are crows. They like their entertainment shiny, full of pretty pictures and just a dash of substance. I know this, yet I was surprised when I read a thread that suggested that text heavy blogs were not worth the time to revisit. We are, it seems a culture that loves to read... captions on photos.

I know folks who won't see a movie if it has "too much talking" or read anything more complex than People Magazine. Don't get me wrong, I flip through magazines and enjoy a good popcorn movie just as much as anyone, but I refuse to let that sort of thing be my sole source of information or entertainment. I am certainly not going to write to the lowest common denominator just to get more readers in a blog. This is my outlet, my little corner in cyberspace and I'll write how I want to! Read it or not, that's your choice.

Now, I know a lot of folks blog for the sole purpose of advertising themselves, their business or just to gain a small degree of fame. Those folks need to listen to the public and learn to be shiny in order to make that work for them. I would never fault someone for working within the system, that's just not my thing. I will definitely try to write things worth reading, full of substance and hopefully interesting. I'm certain to add a few shiny pictures when it serves my purpose, but never for the sole purpose of attracting crows(or buyers).

What did your mother always tell you? If they don't like you for who you are, then they aren't worth having as friends anyway.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

And I Thought Birthing A Skein Was Hard

A few years back I was an assistant for a local knitting instructor. As she explained to the class how to start a pull skein she warned about the giant yarn fetus that occasionally comes out of the center of the skein instead of the just the end of the yarn. She referred to this occurrence as 'birthing a skein'. We've all had this happen more times than not and you must spend the extra time untangling the yarn baby before you can begin rolling it into a ball.

I've been a knitter most of my life, a really cheap knitter. I had never considered purchasing hand dyed yarn. It was pricey and I'm a solid color kind of gal anyway. I do however love to trade with other sellers. So when I was offered a trade by a yarn seller, I thought, this is my opportunity to get some of this popular yarn and try it out. It was beautiful and purple and wrapped in a neat little twist that I assume is standard practice. Then I attempted to undo said neat twist...disaster. I spent the better part of a evening untangling and winding it into a ball.

I used it to tat up the most beautiful tatted scarf. I enjoyed making the scarf so much that I offered to make it in any sock yarn a buyer could find on etsy. Very quickly someone took me up on the offer, so I bought another skein of hand dyed yarn. It too arrived quickly and lovingly wrapped in that neat twist. Maybe I had just been too hasty the last time. I carefully uncoiled the twist and proceeded to make the exact same mistakes I had previously made. This led to very long afternoon of untangling and winding.
I did manage to tat a gorgeous orange scarf from the yarn, so I'll let my offer stand.

I assume that there is a trick to this skein stuff. I know I just should have just asked first, but I had to get started. I'm hoping at this point that I'm not alone, that I'm not the only one perplexed by a skein of yarn. I'm not...right?

quick update: I have been educated in the way of the skein, thanks so much!
twentypoundtabby says:
When you undo the twist there's going to be two hopefully obvious ends that form the loop of the skein (the one end went through the other to hold the twist).

Put your fingers in the ends and untwist, BEFORE untying any little pieces of yarn securing the skein.

Once it's untwisted, put it on your swift (or spouse or inverted chair legs), put the cat outside, and unwind.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Way Back Machine

BeaG & Mamadelic

While reviewing my newest purchases, I thought, too bad I didn't have a blog two years ago when I started my etsy shopping spree. I then proceeded to rush about my house collecting all the various items I could find and began taking photos for a Way Back Machine review series. A great many of them became gifts and I've clearly used and abused others. I still need to find some more things that are strewn about, but I've got enough to start with.

This review series will be different not only because of the time lapsed, but also because I will be focusing on the longevity of the items. These will be short and sweet, so you shouldn't get bored. If I bought something from you in the last couple of years, don't be surprised to see it here.

My first two are from my first real shopping spree back in August of 2006. These items are special because I not only still use them daily, but I couldn't imagine not having them around.

BeaG makes these simple crochet key chain holders for lip balm and Vaseline tins. I do crochet, so as soon as I received these, I immediately tried to figure out the pattern. Then I stopped and realized for the first time that I did not need to learn how to make these. Why? Because she makes them so well, I'll never need another one. That did not stop me from buying more as gifts. Sometimes we must simply bow to the superior skill. Two years later, these are still in my bag daily and have held up amazingly well. I am really hard on my stuff and I have two small kids who play with everything, so when I say they hold up well, it's practically a guarantee.

Mamadelic is an awesome seller too. Back when I bought this in August 2006 , I saw her almost everyday in the forums. I figured it was time to get a business card holder, so I picked one up from her. Guess what, its still in my bag packed with cards on one side and tissues on the other. Did I mention I'm mom.

This was very well made, professionally packaged and again has held up to an amazing amount of abuse. It's just stiff enough to hold up and is made from some lovely fabric. I notice that she doesn't make these anymore, but you can still check out her other amazing products, I haven't bought a tote in a while...

On another subject, lest you think I've stopped creating if favor of deep meaningful blog posts, here's a sneak peek at my entry for the Spring Beading Challenge. Clearly, I am no a beader. It is a challenge for me to simply add beads to an existing tatting design, so I participate in the challenge as a learning exercise. I'm fully aware I have snowballs chance in hell of winning, but I press on.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Community and Competition

Part 2 - Street Teams

A little while ago, I read that street teams were growing at a really steady clip over at Etsy. This got me thinking more about the original purpose of street teams and what they have grown into. I used to work at a music store and had more than my fair share of experience with the street teams that work for music groups. They are generally hard core fans that do promotional work without any compensation, save for the occasional free CD or other promo material. They are passionate about their cause and seem willing to do most anything that they are asked.

Flash forward to Etsy street teams. When they first appeared they were exactly the same as the music versions. People so enamored with Etsy that they were willing to do the foot work in their community to get the word out. Then something weird happened. The first street teams based on demographic rather than geographic location started cropping up. The first one was the now defunct Etsy Dark Artists. I know that because I was in that one. We all sold different products that appealed to the same basic customer base. Well it made good sense, we could target a specific group with ads that would help us and Etsy. We got along very well, until money and participation issues got in the way. We imploded partly because we were misunderstood by others and partly because, like any large group of people, we disagreed on what our individual contribution to the group should be. Some of us were looking for a community and others were looking for a lucrative business arrangement and we discovered that the two could not co-exist for us.

At least we were careful to not let too many of any one craft in, so we were never competing with each other. That is why some of the new street teams have me scratching my head. I mean, if you had a brick and mortar store that sold baby clothes, would I want to not only invite 12 other baby clothes retailers to move in next door, but advertise with them as well. I'm all for community spirit, but it seems a little backwards to me. What would make sense as that same store owner is to invite a maternity store and nursery furniture retailer and a toy store store to move in and combine advertising.

If you wouldn't do it in the real world why would you do it online? I have heard the argument that since everyone has different taste, as long as your styles are varied you can still support each other without cutting into your own potential sales. It's a valid argument, but that's not really what I see happening with these street teams from the outside. I don't honestly know how each of them really works, but you can see what's got me a little confused based on the original purpose of the street team. I imagine a lot of them have the same business versus community argument brewing under the surface. Maybe we just need to redefine the street team or just rename it. I'm afraid I don't have a solution with this one, just a whole lot of questions and concerns.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Before & After

Pinkchihuahuaart & TimothyAdamsDesigns

I thought that I might actually convince a few people to share their before and after listings for my countdown to 1000 celebration, but no one bit. Instead I will use two of my most recent purchases to show not only where we all come from, but where we can all get to under the right set of circumstances.

While playing the, "look at my blog" game, I ran across a picture of the cutest little polymer ladybug. I immediately proceeded to the sellers etsy store and picked it up for my bug loving daughter. It was pinkchihuahuaart's first sale and I have to admit, I didn't pay that much attention to the details, it was perfectly priced for an impulse buy. I didn't receive a confirmation convo, but I didn't really expect one. When the package arrived, I was impressed with the careful packaging and pleasantly surprised with the cute felt pin included as a gift. I have to point out that the ladybug, while "super cute", was far from flawless with little fingernail marks and a slightly peeling antenna. I still love it and I will add it to my daughters birthday gifts next month. The reason I mention the flaws, other than my sick need to always speak true, is to make my before and after point. Pinkchihuahuaart is clearly talented, but has quite a way to go before she could ever sit at the table with the creator of my next purchase.

The one thing these two purchases have in common is, I found them both through the sellers blog. TimothyAdamsDesigns was launching a product test of a new necklace design at a reduced price. I could not pass up the deal. I've wanted one of his pieces for quite some time and like a lot of other new Etsian bloggers, I've been visting his blog regularly for tips and whatnot. As soon as his test necklace was available I ran to his store to pick it up. Soon after I received a convo confirming my purchase and letting me know when it would be shipped. It arrived the other day, professionally packaged and in pristine condition. I know that he has recently joined the 700 club (sales that is) and the reason is obvious. The necklace is well constructed, each cut deliberate and well designed. It hangs beautifully and comfortably from the amazing magnetic steel cable, perfect in its simplicity. In fact I'm wearing it right now and I'll most likely be wearing it tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

I guess, I'm somewhere between these two sellers and I hope to one day join the ranks of TimothyAdamsDesigns, but it might be awhile. My two year anniversary on Etsy is coming up on April 18th and I'm 7 sales shy of 250 and just broke my goal of 1000 hearts yesterday. I think I might feel a sale coming on...stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Are You A Spy?

When I first started selling on Etsy, I was the one and only tatter on the site. That is one of the reasons I chose to sell tatted jewelry as opposed to my knitting or crochet pieces. As Etsy grew, a few tatters migrated over and I would be lying if I said I didn't panic greatly. Was I good enough to handle competition? Would the other tatters mock or hate me?Almost every day, I would check the other tatting shops, not only to see how they were doing, but also to make sure I was doing something that they were not. I figured the only way to stand out was to be different and the other way to know if I was different was to spy.

There are some great reasons to spy on your competition that have nothing to do with copying designs. You can really grow as a seller by really looking at how other shops are doing. Look at their prices, their sold items, color choices, and stock numbers. Look at how they describe their items and how they take pictures. Compare your sales with theirs and try to make better items than them. Try doing searches for your products using your tags and see what else comes up. Never copy them or bad mouth other sellers that you feel are doing something wrong, just point out what you are doing right and use this info as a jumping off point. Never stop spying, because there is always more to learn.

Today there are quite a few more folks selling their tatted jewelry there, but I'm not nearly as stressed out about it and I'll tell you why. Most of us have dramatically different styles that would not appeal to the same buyers. We have each carved out our own niche and I know this because I'm still spying on their shops on a regular basis. I swear it's a good thing. Sometimes a shop will make me giggle because they have designs suspiciously similar to my own making me think they must be spying on me too. For some reason I enjoy watching someone else try so hard to compete with me, perhaps because it makes me feel like I've arrived.

You'd think I'd be upset that someone might be copying me, but most of the time I'm not. I know my work is original and my workmanship is as good, if not better than anyone I've seen doing similar designs. There are a few tatters on Etsy that I really admire for their skills, some that hand dye thread, others that make beautiful shuttles, and some that make designs I don't like at all, but I appreciate the skill and time that goes in to making them . I'm not afraid of the competition anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm not watching...always watching.

Now for Something completely different:

I got featured on not one, but two treasuries yesterday:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Why Didn't I Write Down The Bloody Pattern!?!

I've only been tatting for a few years now, but I'm been knitting and crocheting for decades, so I should really know better by now.

If you're new to your craft, you're probably still dutifully following patterns with very little modifications, but after a while, that will all change. You will find yourself working along and think, maybe I should change this or remove that, so you do. Then when you look at the final piece and think, wow I should write those changes down so I won't forget them. Listen to yourself!!!

I really have lost count of the times I've designed a pattern on the fly and didn't write it down only to find myself counting the teeny tiny knots in the finished piece weeks later. Even worse, selling the only piece and trying to reconstruct it from the pictures I took for the listing. I do have a little notebook, right next to me in my little crafting corner, but I seldom reach for it. I did recently start making prototype pieces in easy to see white thread, but that still leaves me counting knots over and over again.

I can't be the only one with this problem, right? There are dozens of you out there nodding along in agreement, I can hear the rattling. So, why do we do it, or rather not do it? I've decided that it's because it interrupts the creative process. We can't possibly create, if we are constantly stopping to write things down. Seriously though, take my advice and write down your patterns and those simple changes that you think you'll remember later, because you won't. It's for your own good. That is, unless you enjoy counting stitches or beads or tracing images from the pictures you took. If that's the case, then enjoy!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Of Course I Like You...Now Buy My Stuff!

Community and Competition
Part 1 - Promotions

Let me start out with the positive stuff. Etsy was my very first forum experience, I met my first troll, saw my first flame war, and over the last two years, I watched some truly amazing acts of kindness unfold. We are, it seems, all in the same boat and because of that we are bonded in a very real way. People freely give advice and wisdom without hesitation. I wonder however, amongst all this goodwill, if people are really forgetting that we are all ultimately, in competition with each other.

Some of us are only competing in a loose sense, for the disposable income of consumers, but others are in very direct competition. I've always been a bit confused at the way this dual relationship plays out, especially in the Promotions forum. To make my point, I'd like to break down the basic kinds of posts we see there:
  • New Listing/re listed, etc. - Basic cry for attention.
  • Show me your Red/vintage/wedding/flowers, etc. - Focused cry for attention, slightly more likely to draw customers with a specific need.
  • BNR/buy from this list - Snake eating its own tail.
  • Sale/Milestone/Hearts and Views - advanced cry for attention, unlikely to draw customers, only other sellers with a similar need.
  • Let's support each other - often begins with the phrase, "aren't you just sick of people who post and run". Seemingly designed to make people who have other things to do with their time, feel bad.
The weirdest promotion thread, in my opinion, is the last one. I'm sure that there are people around that honestly just want to support the community, but how can those people fault others for wanting to make a buck without wasting time in the forums. I've noticed that most of the top sellers stay out of the forums for any length of time. They come by and chat in etc., or offer wisdom or ask questions in one of the other categories, but rarely venture into promotions. Why do you think that is? I think it's because they have separated the community and the competition of etsy. They are probably spending time promoting in places that more consumers gather and making quality products.

Let's face it, we all want a little attention for our shops, for our products and for ourselves, but does that mean that we need to spend hours making false compliments and replying in the same forum thread to legitimize posting your newest item. I get it, I do, you don't want to spend your time looking at my listing, if I'm not gonna look at yours. What I think a lot of people don't get is, getting views, especially from other sellers does not equal sales. Sure, we've all gotten a sale or two from the forums, but not because you spent an hour complimenting other people. You got a sale from the forums because someone, a buyer, saw what you posted and liked it enough to buy it. That same buyer could have seen you on the time machine or a simple search.

After I had my baby, I took a long forum break. When I returned, I began to quickly notice that the familiar faces were gone from the forums, but not etsy. I tried to get back into the swing of things on the forums and I'm ashamed to say it took me a long time to figure out why they had most likely left. I'll still jump on the promotion bandwagon from time to time, but I refuse to feel guilty for not looking at something I'm sure I won't buy or not leaving an insincere compliment so you'll look at my stuff. No one really needs 100 views on an item from people who would never buy it, when 1 view from someone who would is so much better.

Next: Part 2 - Street Teams

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Happy Birthday Xandra!

My baby turns 1 year old today...

so that's all I'm doing today! Just a quick update on my countdown to 1000 hearts. I'm at 965 today, Yay! In other great news for me, I sold my favorite piece yesterday, Portrait of An Elegant Lady, so I've re listed it as a custom item until I finish a new one. See You tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Man

After what I thought was an amazing turnout for my last article, I was repeatedly bombarded with comments regarding the legal issues of selling a product. I feel compelled to briefly address this issue. First off, I was not attempting to give anyone legal advice, but rather give people a jumping off point for making these decisions themselves.

I am fully aware that, in order to sell a product, you must first comply with your local and state laws. After many hours of research, all I can say for certain is that these laws vary widely from state to state and even from county to county. The enforcement of these laws varies just as widely. I don't honestly believe that the government will be hunting down all those who make and sell a small amount of crafts, but please believe that if you start turning a huge profit they will indeed want their piece of the pie. I know that some will wholeheartedly disagree with this statement, but please don't scare the crap out of people with doomsday statements!

I believe, based on the feedback I received from readers, that most people read the post in the way it was intended, not as business or legal advice. I hope that the points I brought up will help people in regards to how they look at their hobby and themselves.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Who Do You Want To Be Today?

Hobby Vs. Business

Nothing causes quite as much confusion for a crafter, artisan or artist than the concept of business. I imagine this is partly because creative types, by nature, are a little uncomfortable with the mundane details involved with having a business. I see folks questioning daily, whether they should be a business, or are one already. The debate also spurs on controversies regarding pricing, advertising, quality, taxes and countless others. Using what I've learned I'd like to break down for the newbie the basic, honest questions you should ask yourselves in order to get the answer right for you.

There are, in my opinion, four basic things you should question to understand whether you are starting a viable business or what I like to call a self sustaining hobby. First, do you have a real talent or skill at your chosen craft. Second, how much time do you actually have to spend on your craft? Third, what is your turnaround time for your craft. And lastly, what is the cost versus profit of your craft.

Do you have a real talent or skill?

I want to tackle this one first, because it is the hardest one to answer for most people. I see people everyday asking for critiques and sadly getting few real answers. Most people are simply too polite to give you an honest answer, instead they say thing like, "it's cute", "i like the color", "you just need to wait for the right buyer". This is all bull and you should know it. Be honest with yourself. If you think the product you make is just ok, stop trying to sell it and hone your craft first. Pick something else to try that you enjoy or just make things for friends and family. If you want me to give you an honest opinion on your stuff, just ask!
If you feel like you know what you're doing, then good on ya and keep reading.

How much time do you actually have to spend on your craft?

See, I have two small kids, so my day does not revolve around tatting. If it did, perhaps I would have a business. How is your day structured? Do you set aside a block of time for creation and promotion? Do you craft whenever you get a quick moment and then head over to the forums to play? If you can't treat your craft like a real job, then you can't expect it to be a real business. Don't forget that if you want to be a business, you must also factor in the time you need to promote and advertise as well as creating your product.

What is the turnaround time for your craft?

This is really a make or break question. A lot of products lend themselves to reproduction and those are best suited to starting a business. Artists and photographers may spend a great deal of time on their pieces, but at the end of the day they can make nearly limitless prints, buttons, t-shirts, bags, magnets and countless other products with relatively short production times. If you're a knitter, you still have to knit each piece one at a time and while you may get faster, you'll never be that fast. So, you need to look closely at how long it will take to stock your store, then imagine if you sold 2 or 3 things a day, could you keep your store stocked? If you're sure you couldn't, put yourself in the hobby category and stop stressing out. If you can, then you may have a viable business idea.

What is the cost versus profit of your craft?

This closely relates to the previous question. If you can't make hundreds of something quickly, but you can charge and get a large amount for it, then you're gold. First, take into account how much your material costs are to make your craft, don't forget online fees, then make a guess at how much you'd like to pay yourself an hour or a piece. This should allow you to come up with a ballpark price. Now I suggest doing a very thorough search of many different online outlets for the average price of whatever you are choosing to sell. Don't forget to check and see whether sellers are actually making sales at their prices. If you came up with an unrealistic price for your items, then let it go and charge your cost plus a small profit and you have yourself a sustainable hobby. If your price is comparable to others or lower then you have a shot at becoming a business.
Back to the artist and photographer for a moment, if they are talented, they can charged a good amount for their original pieces as well as reasonable prices for ancillary products. This again makes a potentially profitable business. If it takes you 10 hours to knit a scarf that you can only get $40 for, then clearly you're not going to be making a living off of your craft, but you can sustain your hobby.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a self sustaining hobby, that's what I have. Of course, I dream of a day when I could make good money with my tatting, but I asked myself these questions, and for now, it's not in the cards. Perhaps when the kids are a little older, I'll have the time and resources to make that happen. The real reason to learn these things about yourself, is to reduce stress. If you know it's just a hobby, you don't need spend hours a day promoting yourself, you can just enjoy your craft and put whatever money you do earn back into your craft. If you've done your research and feel a business coming on, then you need to spend time promoting and worrying about making a profit.

More controversies to come...