Today we lower the price of Handmade Spark from $12 per month to $6

lower price

To increase traffic even more, we lowering our price by 50%.

“Why?” you ask.

Since we introduced the Product Pages our traffic has increased a lot. The traffic increase is the result of the SEO on the product pages kicking in on Google and the other search engines.

Our math goes like this: lower price means more customers will sign up for Handmade Spark; more customers means more product pages; more product pages means more searches leading to Handmade Spark’s customers; more searches leading to Handmade Spark’s customers means more customers selling more items; and more customers selling more items means more customers will sign up for Handmade Spark to market their Etsy business.

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Etsy Shop Banner Design Advice – Perfecting Your Brand

One of the major things I have noticed that could need improvement among newbies on Etsy is the design of the shop banner. Since I went to art school, I inevitably took some graphic design classes, and I am constantly using Photoshop for one thing or another so I hope I can give some advice to those who might not be graphically inclined.

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The design of your banner is very important, it is the first impression people get of your shop, it shows them what you sell, and most importantly your creative style. If you have a banner that is not well done, or that is not accurate to your shop, it could put a buyer off. So having a good banner is a must!

First the Do’s and the Do Not’s

DO: 1. Include your shop name

I cant tell you how many times I have been to a shop to just see a plain picture of something for a banner, or nothing at all. This is your chance to show people who you are! Make them remember the name of your shop! If your name is prominently displayed it will sick in your buyers heads.

2. Include pictures of something you currently sell in your shop!

Do not use out dated pictures, they give the wrong impression to the buyer. If your banner is old and shows a picture of something you no longer sell then its time to update! And please never show pictures of things you never have and never will sell in your shop, thats just not doing anyone any good!

If you have these first two things you are off to a good start! But making a good banner doesn’t stop there, there are a few design no nos that you will have to remember in order to make a good impression with your buyers.

DO NOT’S:

1. Never scale up an image to fit the size you need!!

If you find an image that you want to use but it is smaller than the size of your banner, it is NEVER acceptable to scale up your image. This causes the image to become blurry and pixelated and that never looks good! Find high resolution images that you can scaledown to size in order to ensure your images look good. If your using google images to find pictures you can change the search options to only display images that are medium to large size, those should be adequate for use on your banner.

2. Use a font that is readable, and clear!

Choosing a proper type face is a very important part of graphic design, and it has a big impact on how people view your design. There are lots of cute fancy script types out there and I’m sure that they are just adorable, but you have to remember the purpose of your banner is to clearly display who you are and what you do, if your font is too small or two complex it may be hard for people to read and that is not what you want!

3. Never make your text multi-colored or any bright color

Alternating colors on text makes the words extremely hard to read, red text is also hard to read on computers since the color red bleeds very easily. If you want your text to be any color besides black you need to have a background that is light enough and neutral enough to not clash with your text.

4. Choose one type face and only use one

Once you have found a nice type face stick to it, don’t confuse readers by using more than one! If you have to use two, never use more than two.

5. Do not compress your image.

A banner that is 760 x 100 pixels at 72dpi should have a small enough file size to be able to save out at 100% quality without compression and still be within Etsy’s requirements for file size. When you are saving out your file from your software make sure you check your settings and deselect any boxes or any setting that mentions compression. In Photoshop its very easy to save out an image at 100% quality but I have noticed in other applications sometimes it compresses automatically when saving as a .jpeg. If you are noticing that your file size is still too big then check your resolution, since this banner is for the web it should be no more than 72dpi, you may have opened the document with a default setting of 300dpi which is used for printing. Compressing your image is another thing that can cause your banner to have poor quality, it makes the banner look pixelated and blurry. If you find that your image looks great in your software, but bad when you open it after saving this is probably your problem.

Now that I’ve pointed out some of the big mistakes I see most on Etsy I want to try and explain some basic design rules to those who might have never heard them, once you take these things into consideration your design sense will become much better!

Design 101 Focus:

You can draw the buyer’s attention to important elements by using contrasting size, colors, and position.

Directional Flow: The way you organize your text and images effects the way people view your design, this is important to remember when creating your banner.

Negative Space: The space where there is nothing can be just as important as the space that is filled, make sure you pay attention to the way images and text align with eachother and don’t forget your negative space.

Kerning and Spacing: You can adjust the amount of space between letters, this is called kerning, some fonts create uneven kerning simply because of the way they are programed into the computer. Always try to even out your kerning and always make sure your letters never intersect each other. Spacing is the amount of space between one line of text and the next, this can also be adjusted and the same rules apply, even and never touching.

Text on Background: Use color and type carefully. Contrast, separation, and vibration are all important issues that effect readability. ( as I mentioned before)

Audience: Remember who you are marketing to, your banner is for the buyer not for you so think about your audience when you think of your design.

Image Editing: There is not a single picture in a design that is straight out of the camera, if you take your own pictures or even if you find them on the web remember there are lots of things you can do to adjust the image. Play with the brightness/contrast of the image, adjust the hue/saturation. Change the opacity (transparency) of the image. There are lots of things you can do to your pictures to better integrate them into your design.

There are many many many more aspects to design than I have mentioned here but hopefully after reading this you will be able to make an attractive banner for your shop that will be clear and easy for buyers to read and look great at the same time! If you have any questions on how to do the things

I have mentioned please ask! I can help you especially in Photoshop to find any tools or menus you may need. If you still feel you are unable to make a good design, whether because of time or lack of proper software, please feel free to ask me to help you!

I don’t mind making banners for people if they need me to! Anything to help a fellow crafter!

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Handmade Spark – We Can Help You Grow Your Etsy Business

Designing and creating handmade items is one thing, but listing, selling and marketing them is another thing altogether. Some people enjoy this business side of things, others just don’t. But enjoy it or not, let’s face it, if you want to be successful at selling your handmade goods online, you’ve got to get the business side working. And that’s where Handmade Spark comes in.

Connecting the sellers to the buyers through social and digital media is how handmade spark was initiated; the ultimate blog on what is happening in the handmade products industry giving insights about the place from where the products are sourced and a dedicated group of online brokers are listed in the automated trading system for forex trading online.

I happen to really enjoy selling on the Internet. I’ve put the time into really learning how it works and have sold 1800+ items on Etsy. I enjoy internet selling and marketing handmade items on the internet so much that I helped start Handmade Spark.

What is Handmade Spark? It’s a blog about the handmade scene. It’s also a site where we provide social marketing and a search engine optimized directory, mini-sites and product pages all for Etsy sellers. Handmade Spark helps you with the business side of things enabling you to focus more on designing and creating and to get more out of your selling and marketing efforts.

We want you to try Handmade Spark. So, sign up and give it a try. Not ready yet? Want to know more? Have questions? Then keep reading.

Handmade Spark MySpark Mini-Sites

MySpark Mini-Sites help connect buyers and sellers through social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. I have found that connecting on a personal level with your customers is a key factor is closing sales, both on the Internet and in the real world. When you can not connect with customers in person, the best way to connect is through social media.  In MySpark Mini-Sites, there is a connection hub with links to your important social media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, website and your Etsy shop all in one spot.  There is also an easy “Contact Me” button, where your customers can email you securely and directly without having to log in.  This connection hub allows your customers to catch up on what is going on in your business and connect with you right away. When I am trying to connect with a seller, I sometimes find it difficult to connect. The connection hub on the MySpark Mini-Sites solves this problem.

Handmade Spark MySpark Product Pages

When people what to search for handmade, vintage and supply items they generally go straight to Google (or the other search engines). So, Handmade Spark uses top-notch SEO making your product pages have a greater chance of showing up at the top of web searches. For every item you list on Etsy you get a coinciding product page.  Our product pages are similar to Etsy listings. We’ve also added a few things to what Etsy offers, removed a few things, and done a few things differently. The result is that our Product Pages often get better search engine results than the same Etsy listing. Also, buyers are getting a different experience that compliments the experience offered by Etsy. When a shopper is ready to buy your item, they simply click the “Buy on Etsy” button and they are taken right to the Etsy checkout that they are accustomed to. You can read even more details about our Product Pages here.

Handmade Spark Directory

Because Handmade Spark gets tens of thousands of visitors per month and thousands of page views, many people find Handmade Spark thru the homepage Directory. The Directory is generally the single most active page on the site. It’s where you can find and search for every seller in Handmade Spark. It has some great search features, like searching by category and by location. Its probably the Handmade Spark page that you saw first and you may associate it with the site the most, but it actually represents a very small percentage of our traffic. Most traffic comes in directly to Product Pages and Mini-sites thru social marketing, web searches, and direct links.

This is a very typical and real example: someone does a web search for “handmade elegant gift tags” on Google. Handmade Spark comes up first and the link on Google takes them directly to a Product Page. They check it out, as well as a few other Product Pages from the same seller. Then, they find an item they like, and click “Buy on Etsy” and go to the Etsy shopping cart. This person never sees the Handmade Spark homepage!

Tips On Approaching Design Blogs, Buying Ad Space

The European Etsy Street Team has put together a very informative blog over at Handmade-Europe.com.  We are launching a series covering some of the top posts from their blog that we feel will help improve your handmade/craft business.  We hope you enjoy!  Today’s article covers the topic of buying ad space and approaching design blogs get get your work featured.

OK, there you are with your shiny shop, with beautiful products, and you try to figure out how to spread the word about your awsome goodies. Nowadays there is much talk about utilizing networking tools – such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc etc – for marketing, and a lot of “how-to”-s in this field urge everyone to start networking now. No doubt, networking can be powerful marketing tool if wisely used, but today I want to talk about something more conventional: banner ads and features on design blogs.

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Advertising on blogs
Let’s jump into its core: there are endless debates about the effectiveness of banner advertisements, if it worth or not to spend money on it, or it is better to spend that amount of money on product developement for example.  I think two factors define the perception of a banner’s effectiveness, that are more or less results of subjective and individual decisions.

1) First of all: No one should expect miracles from paid advertising, since CTR (click through rate) is very low, it is less than 1% on average. This means that out of 1000 appearances of a banner only 1 percent of the visitors actually click on the banner. This ratio might be a little higher on blogs devoted to certain topics (like fashion, handmade etc) since their readers are basically interested in the topic so your banner have a little higher chance to be clicked.

Banners are good for showing to a large audience that you exist, nothing more. At least that is how I see them: I do not expect sales directly from them. It is more like an investment: people see my name – most of them do not click – and they start to learn, that my name exists.

photo by Ben Heine

2) It is very important that your banner ad is on the right site or blog. Choosing the “right” is often not easy; you have to check a lot of blogs or sites and decide on each if your product fits to that particular blog and its  audience or not. Checking a bunch of blogs is one thing, but the moment of truth can come only by trials and errors. What works for others may not work for you, and vica versa. For example I wanted to be accepted to a very famous online marketplace for a year at least, but I did not succeed. After many trials I got accepted, but what worked for many fellow Etsy sellers, did not work for me: in that period I got far more views from a design site where I had a banner campaign, than from the famous online marketplace. Lesson learned.

As a 2nd and half wisdom I would like to suggest this very practical guide to banner ads: it is written by Jen from Indiefixx, who obviously have a lot of experience in this field.

Approaching (design/handmade/indie fashion) blogs

How can you spread your name around the (blog)world, if you don’t like and/or don’t believe in paid advertisements? You can contact them directly with your shop, new line of product etc.: bloggers are always searching for new shops, people to feature, and they don’t always have time to browse social media outlets for new talents.

photo by Ben Heine

OK, but what to write? First of all: you do not have to be witty, you do not have to write novel, you do not have to explain your life – just be yourself in a few simple sentences, and do not forget to attach a few photos (under 1 MB!) and your shop’s and/or website’s link.

A while ago Jena from Modish collected all her very useful tips in one post: as a well-known blogger she really knows how to approach them. Here are some of her key points.

– Address the blogger by name
– Answer the the who, what, and where that bloggers are looking for succinctly and creatively
– Try not to get too lengthy

See more of her tips here. Also, I found a similar post on Design Sponge, written with different method: well-known bloggers answered the question of DS: what type of approach do they like and why. Though it is a long post, it really worth to read!

And again: try to contact that blogs that you think your products fit into their line. But how do you know which blog is for you: either for featuring you or for advertising? Well, it is a work you cannot save: browsing through some of those dealing with design, handmade and indie art. Here are some to start browsing, and you can continue to check their blogroll to see more blogs.

Scoutiegirl, Rikrak, Paper’n’Stitch, Designismine, Lushlee, Modish, Indiefixx, Pikaland, Lovely Clusters, Poppytalk, Lillyella…and many more, don’t forget to check out their blogrolls as well!

10 Easy, Thoughtful Gifts to Make for Crafters: On-the-Go Knitting Bag: Guest Post Series by Julie Anne Eason

Handmade gifts are appreciated so much by other crafty-type people. They understand the gift is an expression of your regard for them. They know you spent time thinking about them while you made the object and that each stitch and every cut is filled with warm wishes and creative spirit.All  the trading systems have been developed by the experts putting themselves into the shoes of the traders, taking up their roles and realising what would be the expectations of a normal, casual trader. Visit the following site of the various trading systems to know how and based on what have they been developed. And it’s even better when the gift is something beautiful they can use every day. So, what are you making for the maker in your life? We’ve got 10 ideas for knitters, sewers, scrappers and all around craft enthusiasts. Just for fun, we’re going to unwrap one at a time. And because we’re all super busy this time of year, each project takes just 15 or 20 minutes and little (or no) money. You might even be able to complete all 10 with items you have sitting in your craft room right now.

Here’s gift number eight: On-the-Go Knitting Bag

I like to knit on the go, while I’m watching a soccer game or waiting at the airport. So, I keep lots of these knitting bags on hand with a project inside I can pick up and put down without thinking about it. I keep one in each car, one in my gym bag, anywhere I might have a few minutes to knit. The special thing about these bags is the extra long shoulder strap. You can sling it across your chest and knit away without worrying about my yarn rolling around or falling out. You can also add an outside pocket for a pattern and an inside pocket for a measuring tape, stitch markers and small pair of scissors.

You can use just about any fabric for this bag, though I prefer using heavy tapestry printed upholstery material. The size you make really depends on the size yarns your gift recipient knits with. I tend to knit socks and lightweight items, so my bag is smaller. If your knitter uses bulky weight yarns, be sure to adjust the size accordingly. This is a super easy bag you can make in about 30 minutes with scrap fabric you have on hand.

Step 1. Figure out how deep and wide you want the finished bag. Then cut out a strip of fabric that measures the same width and three times the depth. So, if you wanted an 8″ x 10″ bag, you would cut a strip 8″ x 30″.

Step 2. Fold the rectangle up from the bottom until the folded part measures the same as your desired bag depth. So, in our 8×10 example you would have 2 pieces at 10″ and a 10″ piece left over. The folded part is your bag and the single piece is your front flap.

Step 2-A. If you want pockets, now is the time to sew them on. You can make any size rectangles you want for pockets, hem and sew them onto the main pouch section. I usually add a full-length pocket on the outside to hold my pattern. Also, if you’re going to embellish any part of the bag, with embroidery, applique, or whatever, now is the time to do that.

Step 3. Pin the folded part together. Sew or serge up the sides of the folded part, and hem the flap either with a facing strip or just folding it under. I usually serge all the way around the raw edges. Then iron the serged edge of the flap under and hand stitch it down.

Step 4. Cut a long strap about four to six inches wide. I go for a good 40″ long piece, but adjust according to your preference. With right sides together, sew it in half lengthwise and then turn it right side out and press flat. Now you have a long finished strap and all you have to do is attach it to the sides of the bag (on the inside.) For bonus points, you can decorate the flap and add a fancy closure. Why not throw in some handmade stitch markers while you’re at it?

Julie Anne Eason is making her list and checking it twice. In addition to writing for Handmade Spark, she also runs a number of websites including SeriousSewing.com. She writes helpful reviews on items like the Brother CS6000i sewing machine, Janome Xpression embellisher, Juki sergers and cutting tables.

See the rest of Julie Anne’s tutorials here.

How To Make A Copper Wire Ring

The ring I made before went well so I wanted to play around with that some more. Here I have a gauge 22 and 18 wire. The smaller the number the thicker the wire.

One in both sizes, each a little different. I didn’t get this wire at the craft store, this is wire that Lois from “A Beaded Affair” brought me. I had initially planned to visit some stores personally and carry out a survey of the available varieties. That would have taken some time and effort, but the result would be worth. It was during a friendly discussion with one of my friends who dealt with craft items online that she recommended the item from Lois. She also gave me the full review and I was easily convinced. Great price in lots of gauges and shapes and she’s got nice beads too.

Yes, it’s a handle of some sort. This end makes a bigger ring, something like a size 8. the other end has a metal collar and is more like a size 6 1/2 – 7. The beads I used today are a semi-precious amethyst and they fit both wire sizes.

This is the 18 gauge which I’m wrapping twice. The 22 gauge I wrap three times. I brought the wires together and bent one up and one down in the center.

Work one bead at a time.

Once strung with a bead each wire goes behind in the opposite direction.

Like so.

Time to put the ring back on our “form”. This is when you want to tighten everything up and make sure the wire is going where you want it to go.

Now you want to make the wire and beads symmetrical. What you do on the top, do the opposite on the bottom. I do feel my way through each ring, for me it’s an organic process. I’ve also snipped the wires to and inch, inch and a half. This depends on how big you want your spirals.

I prefer smaller ones so I snipped mine to an inch. Use the round nosed pliers to start the spiral.

With the thicker wire especially I need to get the spiral into my flat nosed and really crank. Let the spiral sit in the bottom part of your pliers and the wire feed through the top.

This spiral will sit below the top bead.

Like so.

Again, what you did with your first spiral do the opposite with the other.

One in both sizes, each a little different. I didn’t get this wire at the craft store, this is wire that Lois from “A Beaded Affair” brought me. Great price in lots of gauges and shapes and she’s got nice beads too.

To Wholesale Or Not To Wholesale? Experiences And Opinions.

The European Etsy Street Team has put together a very informative blog over at Handmade-Europe.com.  We are launching a series covering some of the top posts from their blog that we feel will help improve your handmade/craft business.  We hope you enjoy!  Today’s article covers the in’s and out’s of selling wholesale.

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Piggy Bank Pinata by dollhead
Article by Brenda from Lindecise

If you are selling your handmade products mainly on the internet you’d be likely to want to try other sources to make your sales get higher, and offering your work to retailers has probably crossed your mind sometime already, maybe at this right moment you are asking yourself why wholesale? or some other specific questions about the “how to’s” of wholesaling.
Luckily, there are several sources of good tips on the internet about wholesales (here is a useful link), but the best way to find out how wholesale works and to determine if it’s suitable for your business interests is to review other’s experiences. I asked some EST members (Karlita, MGMart and Swiedebie) and a USA seller (tamar) to share their point of view about wholesales based on their own experiences.
I hope that after reading this article you will have more insights to make your own opinion and decide whether or not to jump in the wholesale adventure.

Karlita said:
I do wholesale but very limited. I have experience selling wholesale to a fashion museum (and they give more than wholesale prices) and to one other company. I sell in the fashion museum and that allows me to have a physical address for Belgium buyers who are not so familiar yet with buying online.
I get asked regularly to sell wholesale but I have decided to be against it because of two reasons:
1. It changes the prices you can ask for retail (since you normally get a lot less for wholesale).
2. I’m already short of time to experiment for new creations, so I don’t want to spend that time only to reproduce things.

MGMart said:
I have been asked lots of time if I do a wholesale, my first my reply was: No, I can’t afford to do a wholesale, as my prices are so low and so many I can do by myself alone in one day, while I am looking after my children.
But I was offering a multiple items deal (what you can see now on my shop announcement), as so many people was asking about multiple items purchase.
Example :
For 5-8 items 5% off,
9-20 items 15% off,
21-30 items 30% off,
For more than 31 items 40% off from the retail price.
Couple of times I was offering a 50% off from my items price, but it just not worked for me, as how long I am working on one piece, I hardly had any profit on it. It’s just breaking my heart to put so much of my money, energy, time and effort to create something and under price my own work to offer it on half price.

So, that is my wholesale experience so far, but I never now what the future brings for me.

Money wallet by giusypatch

Tamar (USA seller) said :
About 25% of my business is wholesale, so far I’ve had excellent experiences with it and I sell all over the world, I have an online “catalog” which is really excel pages with all the items I wholesale on it and an explanation of my terms which basically consist of a minimum of 10 items per category, my shipping dates and payment options, this works very well both for me and my clients that can easily view my items and what is available at the time.

Swiedebie would like to share her so useful do’s and don’ts on wholesaling, here is what she said:

Wholesaling is a long term business. If it is done well, it gains a long term trust and contract. You have to make sure you are willing to do what it takes for the following.

Do you want to craft full-time? This is a question one will ask because wholesaling requires working on long and unusual hours, and it means a full time commitment. If your body and health forbids, don’t wholesale.

In wholesaling business, you have to be ready to feel stressed. Because it can be a moment when you feel that what you do can gain or probably break up your business into pieces. It is a normal situation and one has to be prepared for this level.

You have to buy wholesale supplies in bulk. A question to ask: can you afford that? When you wholesale, you have to make sure you purchase sufficient amount of supplies in stock to make sure you can produce a huge amount of products.

Photo by Artmind

Be daring to raise your prices high enough, so that you can accommodate to a 50% discount. I have done so far a maximum of 40% (not a half price comes by yet, so I guess I am lucky in a way).
When it comes to pricing, you have to determine your prices by being sure to add in all your costs, otherwise your final result will be below what you expect.
Do not compare to online competitors. Make a trip to a store you want to see your items in. The prices of your competitors in the store are the ones that you should be checking out. This will give you a very good idea of what your items should be sold for.
If you are still not convinced, ask a competitor for help! These people are very honest to advice you on your price collection.

How To Make A Barn Quilt

In a previous post, Barn Quilts Across America, I talked about creating a barn quilt to hang at my orchard. Well, the process has begun and I plan to keep you all ‘in the know’ on how it’s progressed and have some basic instructions if you ever feel the urge to make one yourself!

When you decide to decorate your orchard with something handmade and creative you needn’t worry. It is completely easy and interesting to accomplish the same with few quick trips to the shops to procure the required items. Once that is done then making it is easy with few tricks. I have made a humble effort to give you the entire process what I followed to do the board.  Hope this will help you in your mission too. The tag to Andrew king’s creation will give you more leads for the same.

Step One: My husband went to Menard’s and purchased two pieces of 4’ x 8’ treated plywood – top grade. He then put the boards together (with our 2 year old Capri’s help – turns out she’s a good carpenter) and framed the back out with treated 2×6’s (specs say 2×4’s but we happened to have 2×6’s laying around).

How to make a barn quilt

Step Two: Coat the ENTIRE piece (sides too) with high quality exterior primer – I used latex. I also put on four coats to seal it real well.

How to make a barn quilt

Step Three. Using a ruler and a level, I drew on the quilt design for my barn quilt.

How to make a barn quilt

I am going to be painting a slightly tweaked ‘Constellation’ quilt block for the orchard. I know I could have used an more apple-y pattern since it’s going on an apple orchard but I just really liked this block and the rest of the family agreed.

How to make a barn quilt

Step Four. This is the last step I’ll talk about in this post. Using painter’s tape I taped off the design of the first color (it will be orange) of the quilt block. I had to use a straight edge and razor blade to get the points in the middle really nice.

Tune in next week to see how my barn quilt has progressed!

Expectations Not Met – Words Of Encouragement For Etsy Sellers

 

Time
I have never been into games much.  Always thought they were a waste of time.
Time I could be creating new things, or doing fun activities that produce something.
Spending too much time, looking at and desiring things I cannot afford or attain, can be just as much a time waster as playing too many games!
I have caught myself browsing new homes, in other states, always more expensive than what I have.  Or, spending too much time sketching yard designs, remodels we cannot possible do for another 5 years.
When we spend too much time dreaming of things we currently cannot afford, we will definably bring on a feeling of discontent and discouragement.  This can be, for a artist trying to sell their art a huge detriment.  This will pull us away from the real important things in our life!

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We must learn to focus on what we can do, with what we have at this time and space for today.
Not leaving our visions for tomorrow, but carefully protecting our fragile heart towards
producing accomplishments for today.
Make A Plan
If you are a consumer, seeking new things for your family and home, you can find ways to decorate and attain with a list.  Writing things down, will keep you from either compulsive buying, or buying things you do not need, or want.
Some list ideas are:
#1  gift list for family:
Many sites online let you place items in a “favorite” list.  Etsy has favorite stores, and favorite items.  This can then be accessed when the next birthday comes up.  No more running downtown to just buy whatever you see first.
#2  things to re-organize at home to improve how your space looks
#3  learn to make some of your gifts for Christmas this year.
A homemade gift is a treasure!  Even if you are not a artist, craftsman, you might find some easy things to make. Or have a artist make some custom item for you!  Many artists LOVE to customize things.
#4 for Artists, keep your visions of how much traffic you get to your store, or how many sales you make reasonable and attainable.  Do not place such a high expectation that you loose heart and quit. The only ones who fail are those who quit. If you do not NEED the income, just take a deep breath, learn to enjoy the creativity.  Keep putting new things in your shop, do what you can when you can. Learn a little each day. Don’t overwhelm your self with trying to learn too much too fast.
Overcoming Discontent
If you have already been overcome with discontent, use this option:
*Make a list of all the things you accomplish each day.
*Add a list of all the things you already have, that you are thankful for.
Then add the list of things you would eventually like to accomplish or attain but put no
dead line to this.  You can cross things off as they are done or accomplished.
I know many people want a deadline but for many of us, it just brings
about discouragement when we do not meet these high expectations.  It is a fine line to keep ourselves moving forward but not so that we fall off the roof.
We want to keep ourselves with MOTIVATION, but not be overwhelmed.  For example. I want to exercise a little each day.   If I say I am going to walk five miles a day, I have already set myself up to fail.  BUT, to say, ok, for now I am going to walk 1 mile or 20 minutes a day.  I motivate myself by thinking of what new things my neighbors are doing in their yards each day, and how good I feel mentally and physically after each walk.
I keep a calender in a easy to see spot, where every day I do walk, I put the miles. At the end of the month, it becomes a competition with myself to do better next month.
Motivation! Accomplishment is attained!
It is not our expectations but our inspections that will move us forward.  Be ready to see NO improvement as well as achieving our goals.  One is going to happen as much as the other.  Times of no progress, as well as true progress.  Allow both to happen.  Do not quit.  Steady and sure will give us that fulfillment we desire.
All photos by Brenda Salzano
top photo Self photo taken in Canada
Photo 2          vintage typewriter at the beach
Photo 3          rusty bike used by man who lives on his boat
Photo 4          my hubby, John Salzano who makes me laugh!

Make What You Love Or What The Market Wants

The European Etsy Street Team has put together a very informative blog over at Handmade-Europe.com.  We are launching a series covering some of the top posts from their blog that we feel will help improve your handmade/craft business.  We hope you enjoy!  Today’s article is about deciding if artists should sell and make what they love or what the market wants. Click here for the original article

scrabble pendant by LaVieIllustree
article by Minna from karuski

Have you ever wondered why online selling seems so challenging? Sales usually don’t pick up right away, you probably need to do a whole lot of marketing to spread to word and make yourself visible. Meanwhile you might be even thinking, are you on a right track at all. Be assured you are not alone with your thoughts. To make you feel more comfortable when the times are hard we decided to put together an article to gather opinions from an experienced Etsy seller Ira of iragrant (gorgeous bags made from Switzerland) and Tuija of Tuuni (lovely home ware from Finland) with a newer Etsy shop. Hopefully you will find some useful and encouraging ideas and perhaps some new points of view from the interview below. Enjoy!

Being an artist today is not easy, well the creative juices may be eternal, but one has to understand what market wants from them and adjust to tweak in their passion and find a good way to cash in the wave of online digital marketing of handmade products. HB Swiss robot trading investment tool and ,this review  will help beginners in the financial world to navigate and make profit .

The first important question to ask yourself: Do you make what you love or what the market wants?
IRA:
I make what I love but I don’t turn a blind eye and hope for the best! I follow the trends and see what is going on out there but I always make something that I love and I can be proud to use it anytime I want. For me it is this simple: How do you expect someone will trust, buy and love your product if you don’t.
TUIJA:
I started my business by doing what I felt passionate about: rescuing old handmade bed linen from flea markets (you know, the white sheets with beautiful handmade lace) and turning them into something useful and up to date. During my first craft show I learned that white wasn’t the most popular choice of color for home décor in peoples minds. Gladly, when I started looking for more colorful materials it opened up a whole new world of ideas for me! Conclusion is, I adjusted to what market wants and I’m still doing what I love. (And there is a growing market for white items too. At least I’d like to think so).

About your items: How did you come up with your current product line?
IRA:
By looking the latest trends, believe me or not I bought Vogue, Elle and Harper Bazaar monthly. They show the latest colours, style etc. and helped me to decide which bag I will make or which one will stay as sketches in my drawing book.
TUIJA:
It all starts from the materials I find. The fabrics sort of “tell” me what to do. I let them lead the way and greatest ideas always occur to me when I’m sewing or shopping in flea markets.

the key to my heart by ArtMind

Story telling is everywhere today. Is it important to have a story behind your collection?
IRA:
I don’t know about this, I know the story behind my collection but unfortunately I’m not good in telling them!
TUIJA:
That helps a lot. It adds value to the product and gives it a soul. It is very nice to give gifts with meaning and story behind them. It feels more personal. And if you are showing off your new home with handmade goods, there is always a topic of discussion when guests arrive.

pop art pendant by VKnO

How much do you think about existing markets and your potential customers when designing something new?
IRA:
I don’t really think about that, the first thing I do before I make a dummy from my sketches was asking myself, does anyone will use this bag?
I don’t want to make something that is so fantastic that people love them but don’t want to buy them. But Having said that, it’s important also to really believe in your design and product. If you can afford of course you can just go for it even though you know the result won’t be all that popular.

In fact that’s how I came with my Burlap Bags. I didn’t have any clue if those bags will sell at the first time, but I love them and after some time I find buyers who love them too. Maybe I don’t sell them enough to make any profit yet but I feel good about them already and that’s important for my creativity proccess.
TUIJA:
My creative process starts from the material. I’m always looking for materials that have a strong sense of history. Something that is recognizable. So that way I think about customers – can they identify with this color, pattern, texture etc.

happy happy poster by farouche

Handmade life is not always easy. What motivates you?
IRA:
My answer might be little bit silly, beside the sales which I need, I always get excited to see ‘iragrant’ bag spread up around the world!
TUIJA:
The fact that I can create something new every day is a good motivator for me. My dream is to do this full time someday. Its good to have goals (even if they seem like daydreams).

Are you happy with your current situation (sales wise, how your items look like, how to get customer feedback etc.)? What would you like to improve, if anything?
IRA:
I’m ok with my current situation not too satisfied though, sales could be better if I had more time to make and list new products. My pictures aren’t the best but I continue learning to make them better. And for the feedback, I always convo my buyers once the bag has been shipped and ask them to let me know once they received the bag which usually leads to feedback and some friendly convos too.

Etsy is my sole income, I don’t do craft fairs, consignment or wholesale. I just don’t want to do that, I have my own reasons why. So it means I have to make my Etsy shop work for me!
I always want to improve everything but I make peace with myself, for now with my current situation or family wise, this is the best I can do. Of course I want much better situation for the future, but I will do it one at the time.
TUIJA:
Sales could be better. But I’m happy for the time being. I’m taking small steps and learning on the way. The one thing I struggle with is the consistence of my product line. I have two very different “groups” of items -housewares (pillows,
baskets etc) and accessories. Most of my sales comes from the houseware section on Etsy but there is a wider market for accessories in my local resellers. The question is, should I focus on one thing or make everything? Would I sell more on Etsy if my shop had only the home décor items? I’ve been thinking about opening another shop just for accessories, but I don’t think I would have the time to manage them both.

letterpress mini callingcards by sweetharvey

To find your buyers can be a challenge itself. Do you know your target group and does it affect your creative process?
IRA:
I do, sometimes it does but not necessarily.
TUIJA:
I haven’t done any research on this subject. Online, it is hard to know your target group when customers are anonymous. I can only assume what that is. Well, I know the country they come from and that they are mostly women, but that’s about it. From local shops that sell my creations I get information from shop keepers about who is buying what. They have also very different customers and I offer them different kind of product lines. That clearly affects my creative process – I have to think about what kind of products I offer them to match the shop’s product range.

custom card by nounces

Do you know what your target group/customers really like and what they might need? How do you collect customer feedback if any?
IRA:
I don’t go to specific details with what my buyers want from me, I do custom orders for them when I can personally cater their needs.
TUIJA:
I send them a message after purchase to thank and info about the shipping times. I usually also say: “if you have the time, please give me a quick note when item(s) arrive.” I avoid asking for feedback but when customers reply to this message, they usually write something nice about the products too. I also add: “you can contact me with this e-mail if you have any questions”. (I know that line has brought me at least one custom order!).

Do you ever feel like creating something that might sell really easily? If yes, do you get mixed feelings about this?
IRA:
Let’s be honest, I love if my bags sell really well, but I only can make certain numbers of bags every month. [editor’s note: I assume Ira feels she does not want to offer bargains because the time to create is so limited]
TUIJA:
Yes. Sometimes. I’m usually thrilled when I finish something new and cant wait to get it listed. Then, it gets only few views and no hearts… this kind of disappointments happen and its frustrating when you put your time and effort to something you love and then there is no audience for it. But I try to think that maybe it was a wrong time for this item (like flowers in December or candles in June). If it doesn’t sell in few months, I usually move on and focus on other things. There is also big difference what sells off Etsy and online. That is very confusing sometimes.

art print by pocketcarnival

Any advice for your fellow Etsians who might be depating all these questions?
IRA:
Little bit advice from me for my fellow Etsian, it takes time to establish a shop on Etsy and I notice some of the products just don’t work on Etsy. Don’t beat yourself too harsh when sales don’t come as you want. By working hard and improving your shop does make your situation better!
TUIJA:
Try different things. Don’t be afraid to “play” with your shop a little. Look your shop from customers perspective – what would you buy and is buying from this shop easy or does it take effort to find what you are looking for.

These were all very valuable opinions for each of us, Thank you Ira and Tuija