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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yes, We Love DC!

Last week, I was contacted by Rebecca from the the site http://www.welovedc.com/, asking if she could use my Red, White and Blue America scrapbook page as the "DC Crafts: Find of the Day". How could I say no?! This blog is really impressive, and is the collective work of several different authors. On top of the other wonderful contributions, I was particularly impressed with the recent crafts that have been featured.

I've been to Washington DC before, and if I wasn't already in love with Portland, this blog would be enough to make me want to move there. Perhaps a visit to our nations capital is in my future.....

I hadn't thought much about it since I gave Rebecca a resounding "YES!", but when I saw referrals in my Analytics from the blog, I knew it had gone live.

Check it out and give them some love! The direct posting can be found here, but the entire blog is definitely worth a read.

Monday, June 21, 2010

To Mishelle, With Regrets


Many Etsians and non-Etsians alike are fans of the hugely popular Regretsy web site. The website’s creator, April Winchell, has just published a book titled “Regretsy: Where DIY Meets WTF”. The title of the book gives context to both the website and the book – both hilarious. April recently made a visit to Powell’s City of Books in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I attended her book signing with a long-time friend and fellow Etsian, Christy (Hippie Chick Boutique). Up until that day, I hadn't seen Christy in ten years. It was Christy who really introduced me to Etsy, and she brought me into her amazing Etsy team. As we stood there in line, waiting for our chance to meet April, I couldn’t help but smile at how the two of us came to stand there together…….

I don’t remember how I met Christy, but the year was 1994 and I was in seventh grade. Christy was in eigth grade, so she was instantly cool to me. Her house sat just off the grounds of our middle school, so I'd often walk home with her and hang out at her house to watch "Beavis and Butthead" and listen to music. Christy and I were both fans of the band Green Day, and at one point even called each other by the names of the band members (she was Mike, I was Tre). Even when Christy graduated from our middle school and started attendng the high school a year before I did, we stuck together.

We remained best friends up through mid-high school. It felt like Christy lived at my house. Before either of us drove, my mom would take us to school and we'd walk home together. I remember playing the "penis game" during these long walks home - the game where you take turns yelling "penis" back and forth to see who was gutsy enough to yell it the loudest. According to her, I always won. When I wanted to take skiing lessons, my mom took both Christy and I up to the mountain. When I wanted to sneak out of the house on my 16th birthday to drink beers with boys, it was Christy who came along (although my parents only punished me when I got caught).

Sometime late in my sophomore year, our friendship began to fall apart. I can't put my finger on one specific incident that broke us apart, but we began to make friends in very different social groups and naturally went seperate ways. By the time I was a junior, we weren't speaking. There was one instance that year where we TP'd each other's houses with our respective group of friends out of anger, but it was all silly kid stuff. One summer afternoon following my junior year, the day before Christy turned 18, she knocked on my door. I hadn't spoken to her in that entire school year. She told me that she was moving to California, and wanted to say goodbye. That was the last time I saw her. I went on to graduate high school, moved to Portland, graduated from college, and moved to Arizona. I would think of Christy, wonder if she was still in California and hoped she was happy.

When the MySpace revolution began some years later, I noticed Christy had a profile, but I was too nervous to reach out to her. Not long before I got married in 2006, I received a friend request from her. We picked up right back where we left off! She was back living in Oregon, I was getting married in Oregon, and I immediately invited her to attend. We had planned on reuniting that day, but emergency circumstances came up and she had to cancel the day of my wedding. Thankfully, we remained in touch after that, through marriages, moves, and the birth of her two children.

When Christy started selling on Etsy, I was so excited and proud of her. I hadn't considered selling myself until we moved back to Oregon from Arizona (Christy has since settled in the Las Vegas area with her husband and kids). I asked her for help, and she generously offered to bring me into her Etsy Team, the Etsy DListers. Being a member of that team has helped me tremendously, and I can't thank her enough! After being friends for so long, this common Etsy bond added a new layer to our friendship.

Several months ago, Christy announced that she was planning to visit Oregon. She had heard of the "Regretsy" signing, which happened to be scheduled during her trip. She asked if I wanted to go with her, and of course I said yes. This past Saturday, the two of us reunited for the first time in ten years. It felt like we'd just seen each other yesterday! She got to meet my husband and our bunny (he let her come right up to him and pet him, which he doesn't do with anybody! its like he knew she was his mommy's old friend), and my husband got to hear old stories about me from somebody other than myself.

Although we couldn't hang out for long, we did get to do something special, which was to meet April Winchell. She signed my book "To Mishelle, With Regrets, April Winchell" - ha! For us, April is a celebrity and meeting her was fantastic. I was ecstatic to see that April put the photo her crew took of us posting with her on her website! Little did April know the history that was behind that photo.

This time it won't be another ten years before Christy and I see each other again - we both agreed to that!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It can all be yours....if the Price is Right!

Today I attended one of the Summit of Awesome seminars via the Etsy Virtual Labs on pricing your work and branding your image. Of all the sessions I've attended, this was by far the most thought-provoking and useful for me, especially the discussion on pricing. This section was presented by Marlo from Creative Arts Consulting. As soon as the PowerPoint slide came up that stated raising your prices = increased time and decreased stress, I was hooked! I've often felt that I might be underpricing my work, but I'm fearful of turning away buyers who are shopping for rock-bottom prices. Judging from the responses in the Lab, many other sellers are having the same struggle.

Within the Etsy Virtual Lab chat, we got into a discussion about how much each artisan was charging for their work. Several of us (myself included) were charging around $10/hour. The rest of the forum was shocked - including an Etsy admin! It seems the average rate is somewhere around $20/hour - twice what I was charging! Marlo had said "there is nothing wrong with selling your products at your worth", so my gears started turning.......am I under-valuing my work? Am I under-valuing my work by that much? Perhaps I am.

Marlo shared a formula with us to determin the cost of any item you list for sale. The formula takes the following costs into account:

-Labor Cost (how much your time is worth for how long it takes you to make it: the aforementioned cost/hour debate)
-Direct Cost (materials cost, packaging; all costs associated with creating your product)
-Overhead Cost (your shop's rent, utilities - monthly fixed costs related to your business

Initially, I tuned out the parts about Overhead Costs, as I work from home and felt I had no overhead; everything I use for my shop (computer, internet access, a space to craft, etc) is something we'd have in our home regarless of my crafting-for-pay status. However, attendees in the Lab suggested later that a portion of housing costs be considered your overhead in this situation - brilliant idea! Others suggested that we factor in education costs, non-product supplies like camera batteries, gas to pick up the supplies, etc. Unfortunately, I had already missed some of her slides relating to this, but I got a good chunk. She discussed figuring out how many items you need to make per month to break even, etc, but I'm not ready to go there yet. In this post, I'm only concerned with basic item pricing.

Marlo's formula for calculating your item prices looks like this:

Labor Cost + Direct Cost x 3 = Wholesale Pricing, and then
Wholesale Pricing x 2 = Retail Pricing

After the seminar, I went into my shop and looked at calculating the true value of my items; the thought of earning more was too exciting to put off until later. I debated on whether or not to give numbers here in this post, but suffice to say that when I calculated the cost of some of my pricier items using Marlo's formula (pricier items defined as items that were listed in the $75 - $85 range), I gasped at the suggested $250+ price tag - and this was just for wholesale! Even after I reminded myself that my work has a value, that I am doing this as my career and need to be paid as such, and that many of my items take 4+ hours to create, I still could not enter a $250 price for any of my shop items. I did work out a forumla I was comfortable with, using a per-hour fee that I feel is justified for my work, and my shop prices now reflect this.

Even though I didn't use her exact formula, I still feel that my shop grew by leaps and bounds today. Marlo said something else at the beginning of the seminar that really hits home now: raising your prices will help you feel confident as an artist (this was one statement that I didn't actually write word-for-word, so sorry Marlo if I was a little off!). And you know what, she's right. Deep down, I knew my work was grossly underpriced, but I was too afraid to do anything about it. I knew I wasn't pricing my work at a value that reflected the time spent. Now that I put a fair price on my items, even though that meant raising some prices substantially, I felt this surge of confidence! Several sellers admitted that they often saw an increase in sales after a price increase, and I'm curious to see if I have the same experience. Here's hoping!

I'm curious to hear the stories of other sellers; please feel free to post your comments below!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Time Management

This is something I'm thinking so much about: Time Management. I'm working just as hard at my stay-at-home job than I did at my former "real job". I lived by my Outlook calendar at my former job, and I'm realizing that its just as necessary now, even though I'm working for myself.

This is a great post I found via MommyTheMarketer (http://www.facebook.com/mommythemarketer), and its so relevant to my life right now! Here's the partial article, you can find the entire post at http://etsymomentum.com/2010/06/16/time-management-101-for-creatives-amber-jordan/:

First off, congrats for being brave enough to open up this post. This signals that you do know the importance of time management and how it directly relates to your small business. I thought I would cover a couple of strategies and time savers that I do to keep my world in check. If you follow me regularly you know a little about my history and my previous “corporate life.” Not surprisingly, a lot of those skills cross over into the creative world and can help you out as well. So hang on..let’s go!

You could say I am a true cross between left/right brain. I’ve always landed straight down the middle on any test of this kind. I can dabble in technology and order or swing the other way into pure creative bliss. I’m a rare creative that can also manage a well tended desk. Yes, it can exist. However, being organized comes down to more than having a clean desk it starts with your approach, goals and tools.


1. Calendar. There are plenty of options when it comes to keeping a calendar, you can have an online one such as google, microsoft office or ical. You could also go old school with a day-planner or white board. Personally, I keep (1) very simple weekly/monthly planner on my desk and take it with me everywhere I go. Having too many calendars..in too many places tends to lead to disaster. If I am sitting at my daughter’s school in a meeting, my white board isn’t exactly handy. Given our track record on flushing phones, I’m not going to be signing up for a blackberry plan anytime soon. I am in panic mode at the moment because I realized last week that my planner ends in Sept. I think the publishing companies are plotting against us and forcing us to buy the next year’s calendar 4 months earlier. Anyway, besides this little blip I would be lost without this coffee stained and well scribbled on time saver. I plan everything. I even write in reminder notes to email follow-up questions to past clients and to check in on them. Today’s note: buy new calendar that still believes in Oct-Dec.

Now, just owning a calendar doesn’t quite classify you as being organized (yet). The key to the calendar is to really work it. You only have so many hours a day, week and month. How do you want to spend your time? How do you need to spend your time for your business to survive and grow? I start by writing out what I need to get done that week. I put notes next to each task for an estimate on how long each task will take. Example: New Blog Post Etsy Momentum-3 hours.

2.Schedules. Once my “list” is complete I open up the weekly section and see what day/times are open for each task. Sometimes, I have to break up tasks between days. My rule is to schedule no more than (2) business related tasks a day. Now, that may seem like a very small number but keep in mind that I know approximately how long each of those tasks will take me. If I planned accordingly, I will get them completed on time and on schedule. If I get them done sooner..then bonus! I have free time to start on the next day’s goals. For example, I know that on Wed. Evenings we have choir practice..I will have zero computer time after 5pm that day. So on Tuesdays I plan in “Extra” time to get caught up on emails or to schedule more articles to go out for the week. You have to know your work load and how to balance it. Your customers are relying on you for timely delivery and top-notch customer service. If you have “made to order” items..know exactly how long that process takes. Your shipping page lists 24-48 hours before your product ships. Is that truly accurate? Is that 24 hours of scrambling like a crazy person to create said product and running into the post office in a full sweat to catch the last shipment of the day?

One of the hardest things for a small business owner to establish is accurate lead-times. If you are already swamped, please, please, put your shop on vacation mode and get caught up on your work. If your lead-times are not coming through as originally promised, contact that customer right away and notify them of the delay. No one likes to wait in line. Customers rarely like to hear that they are the last in line for a 3 week wait. Don’t put that kind of stress on yourself, and don’t put your customer in that position. Turning away orders may sound crazy, but by referring clients to someone else..they might even respect you more. If they are willing to wait, then fantastic but be sure to email them often and update them on your progress. Never assume that they are ok with only one email telling them you got the order.

3. Reflect. Once you get into the habit of using your calendar and schedules daily..go back through at week’s end and reflect on what you planned. Did it work? Were your time estimates accurate? Did you remember to add in Commute time? Family Time? Me Time? Workout Time? Now, I can read your mind. Most of you super creatives are glaring at me through your computer screen. “You CAN’T schedule creativity.” Well, my answer for you..is YES you can. Maybe perfectly boxed out 2-4 hours spots is just not your thing. Fine, then only schedule all your “non-business” tasks. Dinner with the family-6pm-7:3o pot roast/green beans, Lunch date with Mom-11:30-12:45 La Madeline, Order Birthday Card for Aunt Sue 10am. Leave open space and write in FREE. So there you go, you have freedom to roam, freedom to scribble outside the lines and freedom to create. Point is, you know where that time is going. If you know you need 6 hours of studio space then plan it. Our brains can only process so much information. If you are relying on sticky notes and your memory to get through the week..I’m sorry, but at some point that glue starts to un-stick and you will be left with lots of colored little squares flying around your office. Details will get missed and you may find yourself burned out, overwhelmed and simply out of steam. That calendar doesn’t sound so bad now does it?

Again, the entire article can be found here: http://etsymomentum.com/2010/06/16/time-management-101-for-creatives-amber-jordan/.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Must-Read!

I found this wonderful blog this morning, and wanted to share. Its full of tips for online businesses, and I plan to read every post with a fine-tooth comb throughout the day :)

The blog is here: http://www.ataglancegraphics.com/

This one of my favorite posts so far about getting back to marketing basics (a very cute, yet very useful article!): http://www.ataglancegraphics.com/2010/05/back-to-basics.html

Friday, June 4, 2010

Help the Clean-Up Efforts!

HelpTheGulfCoast is a collective etsy shop to help the gulf coast recover from the massive BP oil spill. Etsy sellers have donated their items so that 100% of the proceeds can be given to charity.

We'll be donating 50% of the proceeds (after etsy & paypal fees) to Oxfam America and, pending approval to use their name in our shop, 50% to American Bird Conservancy. (Oxfam America has given permission to use their name.)

The shop was created by a long-time Etsy seller with a high feedback rating, so you know your purchasing from a trusted source. I've donated an item and you can too! If you're not a seller, please consider visiting this shop and giving it your business!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/HelpTheGulfCoast

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A peek inside the process......






I've been asked a couple times about what my crafting space looks like, so I thought I'd give you a little peek. When we were living in Tucson, we had one room that served as a craft room/video game room for Kevin/guest room. I loved it. My least favorite part of crafting is the gettting stuff out/cleaning up process, and having my own space meant I could leave a lot of chaos around if I needed, without being in the way.

Then we were temporarially at my mom's, and I camped out at the living room table; not a lot of space, and no chance of leaving any chaos around. Ever. Here at the Extended Stay, I have a desk for all my shop pruducts and shipping materials, my supply tower fits nicely underneath, and I carve out crafting spaces anywhere I can. The dining room table is the perfect size for crafting, and the part of the bed nearest the window has fantastic lighting, considering that its indoors. (By the way, I 100% recommend the Extended Stay Deluxe chain. Such a great happy medium between leasing a long-term apartment and living in a traditional hotel. Its fantastic!). We're already looking for permanent places, and I'm pretty insistent on having a crafting room again. Until that day comes.......

The day I shot this photo, I was on Day 2 of a major re-shoot. I had quit early the day before as a rain storm moved in, and there wasn't enough light. When I woke up this morning, the light was great, and I didn't even take the time to make the bed before I pulled my supplies out and started to shoot - I didn't want to miss the light! This was the last product to be re-shot, and I left the staging area up as I edited the photos. I was so impressed with how the final shot turned out, and I found it hillarious that it came from such a crazy staging area. It just goes to show you that anybody really can take excellent photos, even when you're in a hotel room (albeit a huge apartment-style one) and the best lighting hits the bed!