I am not perfect {and I don’t know everything}

Sometimes, trying to start-up my little business is very frustrating.  Sometimes, I want to give up, or pretend like I never tried.

But.

I can’t do that.

I can’t do that, because despite my pride, and fears, I need to do this.

For myself.

And so, I need to keep pushing forward, working hard, and learning more every day.

I know that I don’t know everything, I certainly don’t know everything about running a business.

But every day, I try to learn something new.  Every day, I work on something, anything, that gets me a little bit more ahead than I was yesterday.

This is a slow, tedious, and painful process.

But its worth it.

I need to start a more structured Facebook, blog and website presence, so that others (such as yourself!) have more access to me, both as a person and as a business owner.

I admit, that I frequently avoid this blog, partially because I am embarrassed by my infrequent (or at the very least inconsistent) posting.

That is going to change.

I also admit that I haven’t done any of the Etsy Boot Camp tasks in *weeks*, and my “buddies” haven’t messaged me in a month.

That might not change.

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This post is a promise.  That I will keep working, that I will update online more consistently, that I will learn more, and that I will not run away from the work I find less fun.

But, this post wouldn’t be here without the amazing support and advice of this blog that focuses on particularly small businesses (such as my own).  I have blogged about Itty Biz before, and honestly, I have not found another business tips and advice site that I love more.  If you run a business out of your home, on your own, you owe it yourself to read all of their posts.

Thank you for reading, and I hope that you can bear with me while I undergo some personal and business growth and development.

xoxo

Holiday Boot Camp 2011 {week three}

Okay, I’m going to try to move past the fail that was last week..

I can’t believe that I am already on week three of Etsy’s Holiday Success Boot Camp.  I feel like I still haven’t been working on things enough.  I think that might mean that I haven’t been..  Oh no!

First though, a few updates on previous week’s tasks and previous goals that I had set:

In week one, I was confused by offering gift wrap and faster shipping.  I have since found that that you *can* offer gift wrap as a separate option, however it HAS to be able to be purchased on its own, without the purchase of anything else from my shop.  I think that this works wonderfully for sellers that want to offer traditional gift wrapping, but does not work as well for sellers who want to offer more sustainable and less wasteful forms of gift wrapping.  I am thinking that I will offer gift wrapping for free during the holidays, and suggest that customers request it at the time of purchase?

These are the initial goals that I had set during week one:

  • Maintain my blog with at least two posts a week, and update my website at least once a month.
  • Online Roller Store Catalogue.
  • Produce small series in time for Halloween.
  • Introduce a new product series for Christmas.

I am trying really hard to maintain the blog with two posts a week.  I am just starting to figure out a blog schedule, and writing out every idea that I have for a blog post.  I admit, that writing these boot camp updates really help with the two posts a week thing, and so I really should have no excuse.

I will be working on the Roller Store catalogue this week, thanks to the tasks that were assigned!

I’m not going to produce a small series for Halloween.  When I made these goals, I admit, that this one was thrown in just to try to push myself.. but I think that I already have a little more than I can handle (especially with Halloween coming up, and my costume isn’t even started yet).

I do still want to work on a small series for Christmas, however I am still unsure what it will be.. but I better get started on that soon.

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Okay, so now on to Week Three’s tasks and goals.  This week focused on an aspect that I should be really good at already, but is something that I have not put as much effort as I could: photography.

Seeing as how I went to school for photography, this should really be a piece of cake.  But, I was never actually trained in product photography and admit that I am still getting better.  I think I really need to just take the time to set up shots nicely and cleanly.  I need to set up a white box somewhere in the house. All of this being said, reading through all of the Etsy posts on cameras and photography was a little bland and boring, but since I am always willing to get better, and learn new techniques and ideas, I still read all of them.

  1. Go through get to know your camera checklist:  DONE
  2. Read Etsy’s guide to photography: DONE
  3. Photograph holiday packaging:  … none?
  4. Master depth of field: DONE DONE!
  5. Compare photo critiques with buddy:  NEED TO DO!!
  6. Add new photos to listings

So, I need to touch base with my boot camp buddies, and hopefully we can help each other out with the photos a bit.  I’m not 100% happy with my current product photographs, and so I really need to re-take literally all of them.  This will also get me working on the Roller Store Catalogue that I have planned.

Current listing photograph of Wade

Current listing photograph of a Grey Kittopus

If any one else wants to critique my product photos, please do!  I’m always open to opinions, and ideas, just leave your thoughts in the comments.  As always, thank you for reading,

xoxo

Holiday Boot Camp 2011 {week two}

Okay okay, so this is really late.  I actually started this post on Monday.. but never got around to finishing it.  Now, I already have to make another Holiday Boot Camp post (I just read week three’s e-mail..).  But, I guess no one even suggested that this was going to be easy, in fact, everything has told me that this is going to be hard.

This (past) weeks tasks:

1: Read Etsy Blog Post “Study Stocking Up for the Holidays”

DONE

2: Fill out Holiday Product Worksheet

I still have to do this.. although it really doesn’t help that I don’t really have a specific demographic that I target.. or do I?  Either way, today I *AM* going to sit down with my products and try to get through the worksheet that Etsy suggested.  This exercise is actually probably better for me in the sense that I will have a better inventory after.

3: Create to-do list for launching Holiday products

First, I need to decide on what to launch.. I suppose.  I’m not really interested in making Holiday specific (themed) products.  I have a lot of things in “development” stage, which means I really need to pick one and then push it into final product stage.

4: Check in with Etsy Success Forum thread

DONE

5 Check in with Boot Camp Buddy (buddies?)

Done and done.

6: Keep an eye on Search Ad Stats

I don’t have Search Ads.. and I don’t plan on purchasing them this season.. so.. done?

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I guess the main thing I need to do is sit down with my products, and use the Holiday Product Worksheet to try to re-work how to list them.. I also need to figure how to list of the stuff I have.  I am a little disappointed in myself for not actually completing week two, however I do think that I will somewhat adjust the time periods for the rest of the Etsy Holiday Boot Camp.  I don’t get a lot, if any, work done during the weekends right now (due to other job work, and forcing myself to have at least some relaxation time), and with the Etsy weeks running from Thursday to Thursday, it doesn’t mesh well with my schedule.  I think I will try to focus on having things done from the Monday to Friday of the following week.  That way, I can read next week’s goals and to do’s on the weekend and focus on the tasks during the week.  I am going to try to make my Holiday Boot Camp post early in the week though, and just go back and edit it as I complete tasks.

To see my post on Week One of Etsy’s Holiday Boot Camp click here.

xoxo

 

Holiday Boot Camp 2011 {week 1}

Since this is my first year at Etsy during the Holiday season, I have decided to dedicate myself to their “Holiday Boot Camp”, where they give out weekly goals, tips and business practices to help sellers have a successful season.  I am always trying to make my business run smoother, and make myself run smoother, and hopefully this is the sort of motivation I need to push forward and get off the ground.

Since this is only the first week, the goals and tasks are a little light:

Read Etsy’s blog post “A Flying Start”– DONE

I have to say that I am a little disappointed.  The post did focus on using the Budget Worksheet, in order to fully understand your costs and the season’s selling potential, however I was a little confused by these points:

  • Offering customers express shipping options at higher rates so you aren’t left paying for rush shipping/mailing.
  • Being clear about order cut-off dates so that you aren’t paying too much for help to rush through last-minute orders to meet the demand.
  • Offering custom wrapping as a separately paid add-on to help cover some of your costs.

As far as I know, Etsy does not allow different shipping options and having separate listings for shipping is against Etsy rules.. so how are we supposed to offer rush and express shipping?  (Not to mention the fact that my shipping costs are already higher than I’m charging…)

I do agree that I need to figure out cut off dates well before the Holiday season is upon me.  I really hope that Etsy helps with figuring this out, since I don’t have a lot of experience shipping, let alone shipping during busy Holiday season.

Again, offering custom wrapping as a separate paid add-on is against Etsy rules and will result in your listings being removed… or are we allowed to do this during the Holidays?  I simply don’t know why Etsy would recommend things that are directly against their clearly stated rules.  Based on the comments from other sellers, a lot of people have noticed this and asked about it, but no one has answered (yet).  I would certainly like to add custom gift wrapping as a separate listing, but at the risk of my store.

Holiday Budget Worksheet – DONE         

Now I have to admit, I haven’t filled out Etsy’s Worksheet, I did look at it though and decided that I prefer my personal balance sheets over theirs.  This step seems a little redundant and unnecessary for those who already keep track of their finances.                                                          

Print and Apply boot camp stickers                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Okay.. maybe I did miss something somewhere? I don’t remember stickers being mentioned (in fact sticker isn’t mentioned in the blog post at all).  Is this boot camp supposed to be helping new sellers?  Shouldn’t these steps be explained a little?  What are these stickers for?  The day each week to have all the tasks done by?  What ever.

Find a boot camp buddy – DONE!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 I did leave a post looking for another plushie maker to be a boot camp buddy (although I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of the term buddy, I feel a little stupid even posting that).  However, I don’t see this as a necessary aspect, although I agree that having someone to support/ encourage me through this could be helpful (especially when Etsy provides tips that are less than helpful themselves).  

DOUBLE UPDATE HELL YEAH:: So, as it turns out people on Etsy *are* friendly, despite my initial unease.  Its nice to be talking to a few people though, who know about much work goes into being a Solopreneur.  Roxie is Canadian, and she makes adorable fancy hats and felt accessories.

 

UPDATE::  I would say that I found a fellow Etsian, but truth is she actually found me (even on the Internet, I’m probably too shy to approach people).  Any who, she makes OOAK Cloth dolls, and I’m looking forward to learning to having someone to talk to a bit more about the pains/ triumphs of Etsy and this “Holiday Boot Camp”.                                                                                                                                                          

Share personal Holiday goals

Now this is the part that I think is the most helpful.  I have some high hopes for this Holiday season, but I need to work work work.  Here are some of my big goals for the  next few months:

  • Maintain my blog with at least two posts a week, and update my website at least once a month.
  • Online Roller Store Catalogue.
  • Produce small series in time for Halloween.
  • Introduce a new product series for Christmas.
  • Sell Sell Sell!

I am trying really hard at balancing what is actually a reasonable amount of work for myself, and pushing myself to really excel during the months ahead.  I frequently get in over my head, and have recently been pulling in the reins and accepting that I can’t do everything all at once.  Of course, I also have to accept that this is the BEST season to sell hand-made items and I don’t want to waste it.

And so, all the best of luck to those following the Etsy Holiday Boot Camp.  I hope I can keep up with it, and I hope that I don’t lose my sanity by 2012.

xoxo

It is Autumn {winter is coming, better get ready with a blog overhaul}

I can’t believe that it is already more than a week into September.  It seems that Summer has gone and past once again, and my stomach is already craving comfort foods and soft blankets.  Despite how much I despise Winter (mostly due to my 15minute walk to the bus stop in order to get to work, in a neighbourhood that is frequently neglected by city snow plows), Autumn is easily my favourite season.  Luckily for me, Autumn seems to be starting a little early, as it has been sweater and jacket weather since September 1st.    I enjoy the unique smells, watching the leaves turn colour, and the cooler weather.

To celebrate Autumn, I decided to do a *huge* overhaul of this blog.  This includes basic aesthetics, such as an updated banner, and background.  I also tried to make the blog a lot easier to find specific things, by completely removing all of my previous categories and re-organizing everything into a few, more focused and descriptive categories.  Previously, I had categories all over the place, and admittedly, I used categories the same way as categories.  This quickly became very confusing for me, so I can’t even imagine how a reader would have went about finding specific topics.

These are my new, hopefully more specific and organized, categories:

  • DIY Home Decorating {you don’t need money to make your home beautiful}
  • Inspiration and Motivation
  • Art {sketches, printmaking, painting and multi-media}
  • Fine Art Photography {process, reflection and beautiful images}
  • the Wins and Fails of a Solopreneur
  • Sailor Moon {screen shots, merchandise, fan art and more}
  • Pokemon {screen shots, merchandise, fan art and more}
  • Hand Sewn Plush Creations {OOAK, series, gifts, commissions, and craft swaps}
  • Movie Reviews {she’s a real cinephile}
  • Story Telling and Free Style Prose

Looking at this list.. I am starting to think that either I still have too many categories, or I just have too much variety.. But what do others think?  Are these effective categories?  They are certainly better than my previous categories, but I’m not sure if they are as focused or organized properly yet.

I also did a bunch of work on stuff that you can’t see, such as SEO.  But I won’t bore you with that sort of stuff.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to do some changes, such as font size and spacing between lines.  Unfortunately, I do not think that I can customize those things on my wordpress.com blog without paying extra for blog custom design.  Maybe this will push me to move my blog over to my official site?

Of course, this blog overhaul is only one step in a larger project that I’m currently working on.  I will be updating my official sweater eyes website and the sweater eyes etsy shop over the next week or so.  All of this is in preparation of my Autumn 2011 Catalogue (at least that is what I am calling it for now), and I am planning on it being a “look book” of sorts.  Yes, this also means a lot more products will be available for purchase, just in time for Holiday shopping.

Any Internet savvy people out there, if you want to try to help me customize my blog to be better organized, easier to read.. anything, please do!  I want criticism, and tips.

xoxo

Lists {read: how I organize my life}

I like to think that I have great time management.  I mean, I managed to get through my under-grad degree, while working part-time and still getting good marks.  Now, I’m working part-time AND trying to kick-start my own business (by myself).  I *must* have some good time management.  My problem?  I forget everything if I don’t actually see it in front of me.  I also allow myself to waste a lot more time if I don’t have a clear idea of what I *should* be doing.  My solution.. many many lists.  (Although I feel that another problem is one that is incurable at the time being, which is that I simply do not have enough time in the day).

I remember being thirteen years old, and having my cousin over for a week during the summer.  Being thirteen, and living in the country I had way too much free time on my hands.  Even as a kid, I thrived off of creating, and thrived off of being so ridiculously planned and organized that I don’t actually have to think about what to do.  My cousin was pretty horrified at my structure and weekly schedule. Not that I blame her, my schedule included everything from basics like brushing my teeth at proper times of the day, to time to draw, to when I shower.  At the time of my cousin’s terror, I was a little embarrassed.  I knew that this was surely not something that many thirteen year old girls did to their summer, but in a weird way it made me feel comfortable.  Something just feels happy inside when I can check things off of a list.  (Weird I know)

Now, eleven years later, I am once again returning to the glory and comfort of lists and schedules.  However, my new lists are a lot more flexible than they were previously, and I try not to get too worked up when things don’t get done (I tend to put about twice as much stuff on a weekly list than I’m ever able to do).  I use these “master lists” kind of like inspiration boards, and a place for me to store all of my ideas for a wide variety of projects.  I’ll spare you the banal lists of cleaning and chores, and instead show you my much more fun lists:

This way, I always have something to do.. and if I can’t think of anything to do, all I need to do is find something that I feel like doing.  I’m sure that not everything will be done on these lists (and some of the things on these lists aren’t even things you can check off… more of a reference I suppose).

I even have a list on the front of my fridge:

No, that’s not a shopping list, that is a list of food that is in the house that I should/ can eat.  Remember how I mentioned my out of sight, out of mind brain?  Well it applies to food too.  This way, there is a variety of ideas staring at me when I go into the kitchen.  I don’t need to rummage around the freezer or cupboards.  Plus I waste a lot less food, as perishables are less often forgotten.

Thanks for reading.  ^_^

xoxo