Crafty Biz – 10 Tips for a Successful Blog

This post outlines the 10 steps that Jess believes to have contributed to the success of her blog, which has over 1,200 subscribers, and growing!

Jess Van Den loves to blog about handmade style, indie art + design, and crafty resources at EpheriellDesigns.com.

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When she’s not blogging, she’s working on jewellery for her eco-friendly, modern label, Epheriell.

Crafty Biz – 10 Tips for a Successful Blog

This is a post for those of you who blog – and who want to make your blog successful! I actually posted this on the Etsy forums a while back, when this blog passed 1,000 followers/subscribers.

That was only a month or so ago, and the count has grown to over 1,200. Welcome to all of my new subscribers… and of course a big hug to those of you who’ve been with me for a long time now!

I love this blog, and I’ve worked hard over the last few years to keep it going, growing, and evolving. These are the 10 things that I believe have contributed to the success I’ve achieved so far…

1. Love it

If you don’t love it don’t bother – because honestly, it’s a lot of work for not a lot of reward for a long time. I’m staring to see the concrete benefits of all my work now (getting sales from the blog, as well as a little advertising income) but for a long time the only reward is the warm feeling of nice comments and hearing how people have made sales after being featured – all of which are awesome, but not worth the effort for some.

2. Be consistent

Decide on a posting schedule, and stick to it – or at least blog a few times a week. My blog is a business in itself for me, so I blog every day and I’m working harder at having consistent weekly columns to draw readers back. If you’re all over the place with your posting, it’s a lot harder to build a loyal audience – not to mention, the more you blog, the more chances there are for someone to just stumble over your blog because they’re searching for something!

3. Leave credit, and inform people you’ve blogged about them

My blog, being about handmade style, indie design, and crafty resources, is very image-heavy. I try very hard to always link back to and/or credit the source of images. And I also do my best to always e-mail or convo someone when I’ve featured their work. Everyone loves to know when they’ve been featured, so not only will you make them happy, but they’ll spread the word about your blog, too!

4. Decide what you want from the beginning, and choose a platform accordingly

I always knew I wanted to be serious about my blog, so right from the start I bought my own domain and blogged with self-hosted WordPress. It means I own my blog, I have a professional address (no ‘blogspot’ tacked on) and I can do whatever I want! Of course, when I was doing my research it was against the blogspot rules to have advertising on your blog – that’s obviously changed now.

5. Schedule ahead

I would go mad if I didn’t do this, due to the frequency of my posting – while I’m trying to run my jewellery business as well! As you’re browsing Etsy or the web, save interesting sites in draft posts – and when you get a little downtime, do up as many posts as you can ahead of time, then schedule them to post. I very rarely publish something right after I’ve written it – I usually have a regular schedule to stick to, and I try to have at least a week’s worth of posts scheduled ahead of time. That way, if something happens in my life, I know my blog is a-ok for a week at least without me

6. Promote! You can’t just wait for folks to find you – get the word out!

I actually have an ad or two out there for my blog, but the best promotion for me has always been word of mouth, and through forums. My street team here (DUST – Down-Under-Street-Team) has also been great! Oh, and twitter, and FB, of course. Don’t spam people, but share with them when you’ve blogged about something you think they’ll enjoy! I’ve also been featured by Etsy a few times, and by the Australian site I sell on – madeit.com.au – which helps a lot.

7. Engage your audience

I love to run projects and other things that get my community involved (a good current example is my Great Australian Granny Square project). Give people something to care about – a reason to return!!

8. Be positive

It will take time to build a following… but it will happen if you stick to it.

9. Be professional

In your blog’s appearance, especially – I work hard to make my blog look slick (and I’m sure it could look better!). I do all the work myself, but one day hopefully I’ll be able to afford someone to do it for me! (One day… a looong way away… )

10. Be yourself

Only you can be you – and a blog is a personal medium – don’t be bland and boring, inject your own personality into what you do – people always respond.

Hugs and good luck in your blogging adventure!

Teaming Up on Etsy – Finding The Right Etsy Team For You

I first joined etsy five days after I had my second child (February 2008) – not the smartest move.  I had so much to learn and so little time to do so!  Over the next six months or so I slowly started to gather different advice on how to make a real ‘go’ of it on etsy – one of the things I heard over and over again was – ‘Join a Team’.

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I decided in November of 2008 I made the decision that ‘Yes, I really do want to sell my crafts and art on etsy and yes, this is going to take some time.”  One of the first things I did was look for some teams that I would be a good fit with.  Those turned out to be Team Wist, Quiltsy Team and Team EtsyBaby.

Each of these teams had a different advantage for me personally.

Seashore Beaded Necklace from ThreeFatesDesign

Team Wist has been a great source to find out what’s going on local – different shows, having meet-ups and keeping up to date on various local rules and regulations.  I’ve also made some great business connections as well as friends.

Painter’s Canvas Quilt in Lantern Bloom by Laura Gunn – 69 Inches Square from SFOQuilter

The Quiltsy Team is such an amazingly supportive team.  Everyone is so encouraging and supportive.  They work magic on treasuries by clicking and commenting, love oohing and awwing everyone’s newest quilted creation, having fun swaps, cry with each other when something sad happens, and celebrate the happy moments (we all worked together and made two beautiful quilts for a members newest twins recently).  My quiltsy group has become like an extended family to me.

Black and Yellow – Bumble Bee Earflap Hat from TotzHatz

Team EtsyBaby is a very active team.  There are more guidelines than most to be a part of the team but they are worth it.  I have gotten much exposure from this team and it does a fantastic job promoting the individual members.  One of my favorite parts of this team have been the monthly challenges – they have really made me step outside the norm and inspired me to create some fantastic items.

Rustic Beauty a Treasury curated by TheJoyofColor

One of the teams I have joined more recently has been the Etsy Treasury Team.  This team has increased my exposure in the etsy community ten fold.  Their enthusiasm for creating great treasuries is infectious.  Not only do we help create exposure for each other but a fantastic support system has been created.  A fantastic format for critiques within our group has been created and I was lucky enough to be the critiqued member just a few weeks ago.  The feedback I received was priceless and I will be able to apply it to both my shops.  These critiques are not just helpful for the person who is being critiqued but those that attend as well.  When you bring the group together you can find out what everyone is reading and the different things that have been learned regarding promotions, SEO, and more.

If you are not on a team yet, I strongly encourage that you go and browse the list.  Find one or two to join that fit what you sell, your passions or where you live.  Start with that and see where it goes – add more slowly as you find the time – I am probably spreading myself a bit thin with all the teams I am on but I cherish each one in a different way so I make myself find the time.  They have all been such a boost in my etsy experience (both business-wise and socially) that it makes the time each takes well worth it.

Tips And Tricks For Hosting An Open House Party

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 hosting an open house for your handmade goods.

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article by Greet From Fleurfatale

Some time ago, my friend Veerle and I wanted to come out with our creations. We had the feeling that friends, family and people in our neighbourhood did not really know what we were busy with. Not everyone strolls around in the blogosphere or on internet so much as we do  . So we decided to organize a real life event to show our creations to the world!

We both don’t like the Tupperware kind of home sale and decided to make at a kind of exposition open House. People could come and learn to know and admire our work with the opportunity to buy our creations, but not feeling obliged to it, like you often have with home sales.

That worked! Lots of people came to visit us and also bought, others got to learn to know our creations and contacted us later, or are frequent customers know. Since then I’ve done other Open House exhibitions and all of them were successful.

In the tips below I want to share my experiences. Of course this was a jewellery exhibition, but I am sure you can use the tips also for other handmade goods. Are you ready? Here we go!

Pick a date
Plan your exhibition a few weeks before an upcoming feast or event.
For example: Mothers day, Christmas, end of the year.
There are lots of other (local) feasts where people give presents. Keep that in mind when you chose your date.
Consider to mention in your invitation that there will be stuff that can be bought as a present.

In some countries and regions, special events are organized, like open ateliers for artists , (you visit the workspace of the artist) be sure to hop on that train, because then you are included in a brochure or flyer, that is spread by the organizations of these events. (This is free publicity for your event and you reach lots of people).


Spread your open house over the weekend, starting on Friday evening .
Ok, then you spread the visitors too, but you reach more people that way. We started with a vernissage on Friday eve, where we offered a drink and snack as a welcome. The exhibition went on on Saturday and Sunday, starting at 11 AM.

Be sure to have a little kids corner (especially when you expect young families) with books and toys, mum can look and maybe shop while kids are playing. Perhaps one of your teenage kids will be willing to keep an eye on the kids corner.


Promote your event
Make special invitations for the event, we had them printed, but you can also make them yourself. Use pictures that tease the reader.
Printed invitations can look more professional, but handmade invitations do have the handmade touch, up to you to decide where you are good in.
Make little posters in the same style of the invitation.
Use this invitation to spread the word on internet too.

Define your target group and how to reach it…
Think hard about who will buy your stuff, try to figure out what is your target group.
Do you make little kids stuff, then you need to reach young families, young women with babies.
Do you make jewellery, try to figure out which type of women could wear it.

As we were selling jewellery we invited mostly women. (But also their partners!)
I contacted women organizations in the town where I live and asked if they could spread the word among their members, and gave them an invitation they could send by e-mail.
Send an invitation to your own relatives , friends and family and does your cooperator!
Facebook, Twitter and your own blog are great promotion tools!
Think about places your target group frequents and ask if you can spread your invitations there : shops, library, crèches (for kids stuff), hairdressers (for jewellery), beauty institutions,…
Mention on the flyer that everyone is welcome (it’s not a private exhibition) and that each can bring friends with them.
Add a description of the address where it takes place, so that people can find you easily.

Cooperate
Organising the event with 2 or 3 creative participants gives the possibility to invite more people, each can invite his relatives, friends and family.
Bring different products, but do find a link between your creations.
For example:
-Kids plush and kids clothes
-Jewellery and bags
-Jewellery and home decoration
-Jewellery and soap
-Clothes and accessories

Try to find a link between them:
maybe you both make eco friendly stuff (repurposed jewellery and eco soap) maybe you both make kids stuff ( little kids clothes, plush, baby accessories…) maybe you both create with paper ( paper jewellery and journals….)

Organizing with more participants has more advantages:
-more ideas -more practical help -sharing costs (for printing and
offereddrinks and snacks)

Work with a theme.
Do you both make eco friendly stuff, then this can be a link and a theme.
Do you both make very colorful creations (jewellery and paintings) this can be the theme!
For ex., are you both inspired by ‘ethnic tribes’, it’s obvious to use that theme.
Material you both use can be a theme, for ex. paper jewellery and journals.


Last year I organized an exhibition with a painter and a graphic designer.
A year ahead we decided to create around the theme: once upon a time, fairytales.
I made fairytale inspired jewellery, the painter picked ‘the wolf’ as inspirations for his paintings and the graphic designer created lampshades with that theme. There was a link between our creations which was quite fun.


How to present the handmade goods in your house
Make it look like an exhibition, not a separate table for each (like on a fair), we used the whole interior to show our creations.
You don’t have to investigate a lot , use what is in the house: your sidetables, shelves , the clothes hooks, etc….
Even kitchen ware: pottery, plates, and teapots is fun to expose your stuff.
Remove furniture and decorate onto make place to show your goods, so they don’t drown in the other stuff of the house. Put furniture you don’t need in another room. Do a try out ahead and make a plan where and how you will put your stuff.
Plan a whole day (the day before the exposition) to put the stuff in the right place, you will need that time!
Veerle and I mixed our creations and matched by color, we did not separate our goods.

Some ideas to stall out your stuff:

Cookoorikoo, Birribe, kraplap, wickedmind

Find some great ideas about how to store your jewelry here and here.
This and this is also an interesting read.

If you have a darker home, with smaller windows, a winter house as we say, then organise the exposition in winter.

Use lampshades to create a cosy atmosphere. Use vintage accessories to show your stuff on, create a Bric a Brac look. Offer hot soup and chocolate as a welcome!
I once visited an open door in Ghent, where the lady of the house sold handmade crocheted shawls and hats. She presented them in old vintage suitcases, very original!

Do you have an open house with much of light and big windows, then plan the exposition in spring or summer!
If you live in a country where you can count on bright weather, consider to do your exposition outside.


Some goods, like ceramics, can be exposed very attractive in gardens. But also felted goods, handmade soap will fit perfect in a natural atmosphere. Visitors can wander in the garden while discovering your creations, they do take there time to look at the creations and enjoying the weather at the same time…
In the garden you find lots of ways to present your goods: hang your kids clothes on laundry lines, Present your jewellery on gathered stones or branches you have put on a table.

Organize a special guest during your open house weekend and how to welcome your guests
Veerle and I invited a lady who did color scans.
A color scan is a study of your skin type, so that you can find out which colors fit the most your type of skin. We asked a little price for this service and people had to contact us to make an appointment. After people had figured out their colortype, they could stroll around our house and look at the jewellery that fitted for them (and also buy them)


-Give a demonstration or invite someone who can demonstrate:
For example soap making, book binding, fimo creations, needle or wetfelting,….
Don’t do this yourself, as you have to welcome your visitors, have a chat with them, you have to be there to advice them when they are trying your stuff, you have to explain, to talk about what inspires you, etc….
– Let people have a look into your atelier with unfinished projects.
– Offer a drink (coffe tea or wine) and some snacks (for example home made cookies) as a kind of welcoming , people will also stay around for a longer while then.
– Find some lounge music to play in the background, I am sure there is music out there that fits your stuff

and at last:
be sure you have a place or table for packing your stuff and arranging the payments. Give the packaging task to someone else so that you can concentrate on the visitors.

That ’s it for now!
I so hope that these tips will be a great help for organizing an open House Party at yours.
It’s a cool way to show your handmade work to friends and neighborhood.
but well, a lot of planning is needed, as you see,… and afterwards you will be dead tired, I assure you! But it’s worth it, you’ll see!! Good luck!

How Blogging Can Improve Your Web Presence For Your Handmade/Craft Business

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 all about improving your web presence with a blog.

Moving forward: how blogging can improve your web presence…

Blogging Research Wordle

Picture via Kristina B.

Article by Mitsy from ArtMind
Once my blog was on the world wide web I didn’t really know what to blog about… I wondered who would be interested in what I would write. In the beginning I blogged every Etsy frontpage I was on, every feature that my work got and I participated in every award that was handed to me by other bloggers. Occasionally I told about new work to come and old ceramic work that I had made.I started to like blogging and soon I realized that I was repeating myself all the time… I mean, how many frontpages, features or awards you want to read about?
I decided that if I wanted to keep my blog interesting and attract more blog readers, I needed to approach it from another point of view.So I started sniffling around on other blogs to find inspiration. I made notes about what I loved reading: creative processes, tutorials, eye candy pictures, happy colors, crochet, cooking, nature,… the list grew and grew and it made me happy that suddenly I was inspired to write many posts.
inspiration wall
Inspiration wall by Photobird

So basically, I started to write about what I love reading myself. After all a blog is a personal thing and even if you don’t share many personal facts, it can still reflect part of you.

I began sharing creative processes and ideas that could inspire other people. And nothing beats spreading the love for handmade by showing people how to do things. Tutorials have become a bit of an ArtMind trademark. They draw a lot of readers to my blog and it delights me to know that people love and are eager to try ‘em out.
My creative space
My creative space by ArtMind
I have a blog schedule where I have certain days that I post certain topics. It helped built a community around my ideas. I host a Flickr Favorites post on Tuesday, play along with ‘My creative space’ on Thursday and usually have a crochet post on Saturday. All the other days fill up by itself: the spur of the moment, an inspirational picture, work in progress, a tutorial, …
I had another topic that came back regularly and it kept people curious to come back for more. I called it ‘the secret project’ and showed work in progress of me and my collaboration partner Anna from LilaRubyKing.
Showing sneak peeks of your work is a good way to pique people’s interest and a good way to promote your work. I’m also not afraid to show failures on my blog which makes me actually look human!
Lost Giraffe on the Highway
Lost Giraffe on the highway by Ben Heine

I think it’s important to contribute valuable information when you have it, help other people out, show interest and explore what other people do. Caring will keep your heart and blog healthy.

You can make blogging interesting by using the live updates of what you do with regard to anything which you personally like. Personal blogging is so good that you don’t have to just write a specific topic but can write anything under the sun that which makes sense.over the time you can build on your blog more effectively for which you can learn the facts here now.

Blogs and social network sites are carried by many people and you need to participate regularly to stand out. So, don’t be invisible. If you aim to be seen on the web, make sure you’re not a lurker only. Leave a meaningful comment on a blog, speak up in the community that you joined, drop a message on Twitter,… After all, only when you speak out, you can be seen. Don’t be shy!
Now, go write that blogpost…
Here’s a good post about how to collect ideas to write about.

Questions to ask yourself:
Do you have a clear vision on what you want to share on your blog?
Do you have goals on what you want to reach through your blog?
Do you share your creative processes?
Do you visit and leave comments on other people’s blogs?

Be on the look out for the next installment in this series… we will be covering tips for hosting your own open house party.

Product Photography Tips – Perfect Colors Every Time

Getting a consistent even color and tone in all your product photography is a must when you are selling online.  It helps create a consistent brand with all your photos.  Greenpix , an Etsy photographer has put together a great tutorial on getting the perfect white balance and color.  Here are their 5 top tips for getting the correct colors for your products.

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  1. Make sure your camera has a custom white balance feature.  Check the index in your user manual for something like “White Balance” and then “Custom.”
  2. Get yourself a gray card.  When you look in your camera’s manual, you’ll probably see that you can set your custom white balance by using any white surface.  That’s a bit misleading.  The truth is, any spectrally flat surface will work, but not all whites meet this requirement.  Worse yet, you don’t know if the one you chose is or isn’t spectrally flat, so you don’t know if you can or can’t trust it.  Just compare a few different types of “white” paper side-by-side and see how different they look.  You’re better off going with a gray card specifically manufactured for this purpose.  You can get one at a variety of shops selling photography gear, or you can pick one up in the “Supplies” section of my Etsy shop.
  3. Place your new gray card in the same location as the item that you will be shooting.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a light box, or a table, or on the floor, or outside on your patio.  Just make sure you’re using the same lighting as you will for your photos.
  4. Follow the steps in your camera’s manual to tell you how to capture a custom white balance setting.  It’s usually just a two or three step process, and once you do it a few times you’ll find that it’s really easy to do.  Just make sure that the entire image is taken up with the gray card when you do the capture.
  5. Using your new custom white balance setting, take your photos and be amazed at the accuracy of the colors!

Be sure you head over to Greenpix’s blog and read the rest of this great tutorial.

Perfect Colors Every Time

Watch Out For Poison Apples – Dealing With Negative Comments And Feedback

Vintage Pin Apple

Vintage Pin Apple | $10

Today  I wanted to talk to everyone about poison apples. No not actual apples, it’s pretty obvious we should avoid those, at all costs. Just ask Snow White!

The first film I ever saw was “Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs.” There where parts that I liked & parts that where kind of scary, parts that sweet & parts that where pretty dark. There was the scene where Snow White was offered a seemingly innocent looking apple by the queen, disguised as an old crone, in an effort to rid the land of Snow White & again be the fairest in the land. The apple looked sweet & unassuming, tasty & Snow White took a bite.

Sometimes life also resembles such fairy tales, where everything looks great from outside, and inside it’s a threat to your life. Even the trading platforms of cryptocurrencies too, not all are genuine and as promising as they look.

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We all know what happened from there & how Snow White was finally rescued, to live happily ever after.

Now I’m not saying we’re all Snow White & that there are evil (or misguided) old women everywhere we turn, out to get us or in a way, maybe I am. I’m also not saying that we have to ‘eat the apple’ & wait for rescue. What I am saying is that are there are those who don’t get what we do, who offer comments & advice, in the guise of being helpful or thinking that they are being helpful, that are not constructive, not helpful & we need to watch out  & see these comments for what they are. Whether on purpose or not, by design or by accident their comments tear down rather than build. They make us feel inadequate, untalented, unworthy. Maybe they want to be the “fairest in the land” or maybe they truly feel as if they’re being honest & helpful. Whatever the motivation, these are the bearers of poison apples.

Red Apple (4x4 Canvas)

Red Apple (4×4 Canvas) |$24

There are different ways we can react to these types of comments.  We can take every word in, make it a part of us, make it the truth, become depressed & unhappy, inadequate,safe & secure in the idea that we’ll never amount to anything, take in the ‘poison.’ I’ve been there. A better way to look at this is to listen, objectively &  dispassionately. Look for the constructive kernel of advice, if there is one, but don’t eat the apple & take in the poison. For example, I once had a comment that went something like ‘There is nothing in your shop that I would ever want or need.’ Pretty blunt & not constructive. At first I was hurt & took it all in. I had asked for advice on my shop & quickly withdrew my request. I soon realized that I could take away something constructive from this & discard the rest. It didn’t have to be personal. She was obviously the wrong market & that didn’t have to mean that there was no market. I already knew that there where people out there who did get what I did, liked it even. I needed to find more who got me & fewer that didn’t, find a more targeted market. I also used the opportunity to update listings, tags & photos, also part of  finding a target audience. I felt happier & my reaction was more constructive. I don’t think I’ll ever make a blanket request for that kind of advice again, but it did turn into a positive.

So, this is what I’m really saying: Go ahead & ask for advice, if you want to. Take unsolicited advice even, there’s a lot of good advice out there, sweet, tasty apples, if you will. Just make sure that you listen objectively & dispassionately, you never know when you’ll be offered a poison apple. Don’t let that ‘poison’ get a hold of you & take effect. You’ll be happier & more productive for it! SAM

Poison Apple Locket RIng

Poison Apple Locket RIng | $14

  • Nicole

    Amen! Just because someone has something to say doesnt mean it should be listened to! I got some really harsh criticism of one of my paintings one day and I was really upset until I found out it came from a very articulate nine year old! Ha!

  • http://artistbrendasalzano.blogspot.com/ brenda salzano

    I have been in the business of doing my own art for over 40 years. I still remember the comment made at my first show that almost killed me! I was at a indoor show, with my paintings. A older woman came by and bluntly told me, my art looked like crap and I should pack up and go home, I had no talent. I did nothing to even spark her “critique” but I calmed down and decided to walk around and see others things. I came across the work of that fine woman and found out her work was totally not my taste either! LOL. She was a very abstract work, and I was into simple realism / country style! No wonder she did not like my things. I learned right now, to do as you said very well.
    Take the things we can learn and want to change and throw out the rest. We can always improve but do not put on a shoe if it does not fit! meaning be careful what you take to heart.

    😉

  • http://thebrasshussy.etsy.com BrassyDeb

    There are poison apples everywhere. Great blog writeup. Thanks for including my locket ring!

  • http://www.afinetoothcomb.com Julie

    You’re exactly right that negative comments (even true ones) can suck the life right out of a person! If something negative needs to be said, the “sandwich approach” (something negative between two positives) is always a good idea.

    P.S. My son recently had a bad dream about that old lady and her apple after watching Snow White. That witch scares me too! 🙂

3 Free Tools To Find Out Who Is Blogging And Talking About You

Finding out who is talking about you around the Internet is important for a number of reasons.  First you can know how well your marketing plan is working.  Second You can see if your customers and readers are liking what they buy and read.

So these reviews and recommendation what you have posted about your trading ideas and experiences would actually come back to you with better suggestions and this would help you in having a better forecast at the market aiding your future decisions. Doubts like `is the Qprofit System a scam`, etc would all be eliminated easily if you seek the help of the internet.

Lastly, you can leave comments and thank others for the feature or good comment.  Now not everything is all sugar and spice and sometimes you have to defend yourself or set something straight.

With the vast network of blogs and social media it is tough to know where this  is all going down, so here are three free tools that can help you find out who is talking about you and your business across the Internet.

Google Alerts:

The first tool I like to use is Google Alerts.  I love this tool cause you can set is and forget it.  Once you have it set up it will email you with results everyday.

Here is a little rundown of what it looks like and how it works. (click the pic for a larger view)

google alerts

To set up a Google Alert you must have a Google account first.  After you set that up head over to the Google Alerts page.  Type in the word or phrase you would like to be alerted about. You can pick what category/type, I like to be alerted about every type. Pick how often and how many results.  Make sure your email address is correct and you are done.  You can preview the current alert for the phrase right on this page.

Google Blogs:

The Google Blog Search is a great way to find out who is blogging about you and your business.  This is a straight forward tool, just enter your search terms and there your go.  There are a some options like searching by time and subscribing to the rss feed of the search.  For more advanced options you can click the Advanced Search button near the top right.

google blogs

Here is a look at the advanced options.

google blog search

Social Mention:

Social Mention is a great tool that will pick up on blogs and social media.

Below you can see a screen shot of what a search for Handmade Spark looks like.  I typed in the search “handmade spark”.  I use the quotations to make the search very specific.  I also picked the “All” category to cover everything.  You can see that Social Mention has a ton of great info on the side bar along with the search results.

social mention

Here is a screen shot a bit further down the page with more search results and useful info in the side bar.

social mention

Social Mention also provides an automatic email update like Google Alerts, you can find it HERE.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

I am a girl/woman/lady that wears many hats – a mom, a wife, a jewelry designer, a quilter/sewer/creator, Project QUILTING organizer, retired engineer, and a part owner/operator of an apple orchard. For this ‘How To’ I’m going to be wearing the hat of the part owner/operator of an apple orchard.

This season we have a challenge ahead of us – we are moving the store from our in-laws farm to my husband and I’s farm. We are only about 10 minutes from the old location but it’s still going to be different for our regular customers. One of our main goals with the move is to make the customers feel like they didn’t loose anything in the move – we’re hoping that they’ll be excited about all the new things they’re gaining!

Retaining our most loyal and regular customers is easy when we cater to their needs more personally and effectively.The well-known source of stable profits can be having regular customers visit our business often and purchase a good deal from us. For making this entire journey very special we are undertaking a new mission of making a tire playground at our orchard.

One of the new things we’ve added to our ‘new’ location is a tractor tire playground. I’m going to walk you through a quick ‘how-to’ on putting one of these in your property today along with some of the pictures from our process.

First you have to find a source for tractor tires. The great thing about this playground is that you should be able to find a tire repair shop that will just give you the tires. Normally they have to PAY to get rid of the tires so you’ll actually be doing them a favor and saving them money by taking them off your hands. My husband made three runs with the trailer to collect just over 20 tires for our playground.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

Next you need to decide how you want to get the tires in the ground. Some may find it easier to hire or borrow an excavator with a skinny bucket to dig in each tire but I needed to get some “summer arms”. Digging in the tractor tires was the perfect solution! I also did wear sandals to do the job but I wouldn’t recommend this – a person should really wear some boots.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

Remember to take your time. I had twenty tires to get in the ground which seemed a bit overwhelming at first. I then created small goals of at least one a night or else five done before we leave for vacation. These goals made the task not seem as daunting AND spread out the fun!

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

Fire tires are in…

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

One trick I learned while digging the tires was to do one go through and get all the chunks of sod out of the ground first and put that in one pile. Then I put the dirt below that in a second pile. This was helpful for filling the hole back in once the tire was placed in it. I would put the sod chunks in first and then fill it up with the loose dirt.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

I’m standing in one of the tractor tire holes.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

Jared (my husband) helped me role the tires into place – man are they heavy!

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

I managed to dig all the tires in in just under a month! Someone was wood chipping trees in the right away and they dropped the excess mulch off at our orchard – worked perfectly to fill in around the tires.

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

My in-laws found this slide at the dump and Jared bolted it into one of the tires. Luckily, that tire still has some decent tread so the kids will be able to climb up it just like a ladder!

How To Build a Tractor Tire Playground

Other miscellaneous tips if you decide to dig your own tire playground.

drink lots of water
wear boots – not sandals!
digging after rain is much easier than when the ground is dry (especially if you are digging in clay)
take off your rings

Finding your Spark : Product Photography – The “BIG NO” For Your Product Photos

Product Photography - Getting The Best Out of Your Photography
*Photography by Nay of Moonangelnay on Etsy*

Common Problems: I find myself talking about this particular subject in product photography more than any other when it comes to discussing a seller’s photos, particularly ones that I that I may review like on Link Referral as I have to offer constructive criticism in that area.  With handmade venues like Etsy you are heavily limited with what you can do to the face of your shop, and for that reason certain things are going to stand out.  Your banner being the primary thing, and the item photos being the next thing. You MUST make it look good where you can.  I won’t even say that some of those on Artfire, Zazzle, Zibbet, Folksy etc are immune to this problem.  Fact is most people that join these venues are crafters/artists just looking to share their work with the world and most are NOT photographers.  Not that you need to be to take a good photo.  But it amazes me that some people take clumsy photos, and settle with them without even considering a retake.  I can only assume that they think that a “photo is a photo” and as long as the general item is vaguely discernible then it’s good enough.  Wrong!

Does your product come in different colors or style? Selling children T shirts for example need to cover all the color combinations, prints and designs and the emotions which really could make a difference in their daily life, the focus should be on the product, the efficiency and the comfort all conveyed though the visual medium, Crypto Code trading robot does effective trading with a high winning ratio of more than 80% on the trade signals executed.

Your photo  does not only showcase your item in its finished glory, but it’s a reflection of you as a seller.  Those that take the time and care into their photos whether they make hundreds of sales, or hardly any at all look both professional and positive about what they do.  Dark, over exposed, fuzzy shots look like someone is in a rush, doesn’t have a professional approach and definitely doesn’t have the time to sort it out.  And if you look like you can’t take the time to do your photos, your customers will assume you don’t have time for a lot of things, INCLUDING your business.  That’s not the impression you want to be giving.  And I’m trying not to be harsh as I know most people hold down real jobs, have no idea when it comes to photography, or have really busy lives but I ask these people the same thing every time.

If you looked at any product with photos of the above description, would you be prepared to purchase them, or at least likely to consider purchasing from the seller if you could?  Honestly, I haven’t had someone turn around and say yes to that.  Which says it all.  First impressions are everything, and as a species we are stupidly cosmetic in our outlook to our ideals which is why the commercial fat cats use all the tricks in the book with their products to make us want them!  We don’t have to be dishonest, but we can at least give our work a chance to shine like the best of those do, and all it takes is good NATURAL lighting or a lightbox, a decent camera, a bit of composition know-how alongside great descriptions full of relevant keywords, fair pricing and good advertising.

Here is what I suggest you look out for in your photos.


Top 5 :
 1- Do NOT accept your photos as being presentable if there is glare present on your items (NO FLASH!  Please avoid your flash!), especially heavily over exposed shots.  Glare overpowers your images so all the natural details disappear only to be enshrouded by a beaming great white light.  If someone can’t see your product they won’t be willing to buy it.  Don’t take pictures at night and TRY to find a good source of daylight to avoid the flash where you can, or learn how to bounce light if it’s impossible.

2 – Do NOT submit blurry shots into your inventory.  Particularly if they are close ups.  For close up shots you NEED a macro function or lens on your camera.  Most cameras have that function now.  DSLR’s have the biggest advantage and have the least excuse for getting it wrong.  But that attractive focused image/blurry background you seek… that can only be achieved with a macro function or the technical know-how of managing your aperture and focus.  Not just placing your camera up close and taking the shot.  This may require trial and error if it’s totally new to you and if that IS the case, then I’d recommend a bit of research into both your camera and shooting macro.

3 – Do NOT submit dark or heavily shadowed photos into your inventory.  Just like with over exposure, darkness or heavy shadowing when not intended can hide the true details of your item including the finer details, color and all that love and effort you put into making it look good in the first place!  Always opt for natural light, using white walls/reflectors to bounce the light back onto your items, or if you are out on a bright sunny day, use mesh or a diffuser to take the harshness from the sun away so the shadowing isn’t so prolific.  Better yet, make a home-made lightbox for next to nothing and enjoy being able to take some excellent professional looking photos!

4 – Do NOT take photos with unintentional clutter from your home scattered in the background.  Give your photos purpose and give them their own makeshift “intentional” space.  This is one that I am always surprised to find as it’s one people generally don’t think about when they do it, but it’s not a good look to have your item’s identity tainted by the background.  It’s better to give them a setting, a purposeful space where the item is the only focus as THAT is what you want your customers to see.

And 5 – Do NOT try and disguise the photos that are bad for the above reasons with PHOTOSHOP!  I see people actually try to emulate lightboxes by cutting images away from the background and pasting them onto a white background, i’ve seen photos that have had their brightness played around with, with extremely dark photos.  I’ve sharpness used with blurry photos… my goodness the things.  The problem with photoshopping photos with the above attributes is that they are not high quality enough to work on to begin with TECHNICALLY and not just by appearance.  Dark photos for example have a lot of noise, so brightening them has a more detrimental effect on their appearance, the finer details being further destroyed by the enhanced red and green that dominates images that have loads of noise.  Blurry photos have no sharpness to begin with, so trying to sharpen them is only going to enhance the fact that they’re blurry, and not create sharp fine details.  You get the picture.  Don’t photoshop to disguise!

With a bit of research and application your photos can look amazing and your sales will come from your amazing products!  They have to look as good on screen as they do in real life you your effort is vital.  Keep positive and you’ll do great!

Dealing With Creative Block – And Why Self Promotion counts!

Creative Block Journal by Mypipsqueak

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been in a terrible creative funk.  I haven’t had the motivation to create, and even worse I haven’t even been motivated to promote my work properly.

I haven’t done all those little things I used to do –

  • listing or relisting a new item each day
  • writing regular blog posts
  • posting regularly on my facebook page
  • visiting other blogs and commenting
  • writing for handmade spark (sorry!)
  • participating in online forums
  • participating in Illustration Friday and Monday Artday

And let me tell you, I’ve noticed the difference!  When I stopped doing all these little everyday jobs, my traffic and sales dropped off dramatically – and I only have myself to blame.

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There’s no better way to prove that these little things really do count!

I’m not really sure what my excuse has been, I think it’s more a combination of factors – stress at my day job, my studio (ok, garage!) being freezing cold (it’s winter here Down Under), and just (I’ll admit it) pure laziness.

I’m beginning to pull myself out of this little funk, and I think what has helped is connecting with my customers.  I did a market today and got to chat to people who loved my work.  I met one of my facebook fans in person, and was told by 2 different customers that they were disappointed I wasn’t at the last market.  People chatted to me about the designs they liked, and things they’d like to see.  I think the creative juices might just be flowing again!

So tell me, reader – have you ever had creative block?  How did you deal with it?