Reflection & Planning

With all the end of year activities aside, it’s natural for us to reflect on the year that’s passed and start planning for the year to come. This can be a time of frustration and disappointment, thinking of all that we did not do that we’d hoped to! But if you really stop to think about all that you did achieve and allow yourself to truly celebrate those achievements you’ll probably notice that each year you not only achieve greater things than in the previous, but that you also set yourself higher expectations for the next.

This year has been a big turning point for me, I really set out to dig deep and realign my values with my purpose, rediscover the ‘me’ that got lost in the bigger picture of ‘us’. After putting so much energy into aiding others in realising their dreams I almost lost sight of what my own dreams were, and the fact that they actually serve a greater purpose beyond myself. In the end I realised that there is merit in pursuing my own personal dreams rather than setting them aside, so I stopped to reflect and made some pretty big decisions to refocus on what I personally wished to achieve. Which lead me to go back to university, take on post graduate studies in Collective Entrepreneurship and this has meant I’ve spent the last three months pushing my personal boundaries, maintaining  my current business but shifting from travelling to trade and instead selling my wares more through my online store, word of mouth and wholesale. This was rather daunting, as it was the first peak season in years that I did not do a single market. The irony of this is these last 3 months I’ve had the lowest level of stock in my online store on top of not doing any markets and yet I’ve actually sold more this season that any previous!

The process of digging deep inside of my self to  reclaim my self confidence and personal identity  was reassuring, but also confronting at times. I felt like I was stretching my family’s resilience, as well as my own, we reached Christmas absolutely exhausted and in great need of rest and rejuvenation. Last year we hosted Christmas at our place which spanned over several days, feeding up to 14 people three meals a day, over several days. This year we kept things super simple and quiet, it was just the four of us and it was wonderful. We all really needed the down time; time to reflect and time to just be. For the past week hubby & I have spent almost every day tending to our garden, reading, journalling, lying on the grass under a big old gumtree, napping when we’ve felt the need, catching up on lots of talking… and shared many moments of comfortable silence! We’ve let our boys sleep in each day, spend hours just playing, but have also encouraged them to read in the middle of the day and assist with caring for all our animals. It’s been like taking a much needed holiday without even leaving home.  We needed to let go of traditions and expectations in order to be kind to ourselves, refill our wells and prepare us for service in the year ahead. Our careers are both careers of service to others, honouring our environment and fostering community. 2016 for us has been a year of recognising the need for change in certain areas of our life and then commencing the transformation immediately… 2017 will be about the realisation of more of our bigger picture dreams building on the foundations we lay down in the previous year.


Reaching Christmas exhausted, did also mean we had not truly recognised and celebrated some of our achievements for the year. For me personally it was things like focusing on my studies so much that while the High Distinction’s I received were exciting and reflected the realignment of my values and purpose I felt like I was letting my family down in the short term, forgoing income by not trading at markets in order to maintain the hours required for my studies, and it wasn’t until I entered my sales for the season that I realised I had in fact sold more than any other peak season this period as well as completed my first trimester of study to a high standard. On top of taxiing children to and from school, music lessons, school performances, taking trips to Sydney to deliver stock to retail stores, attend a conference, a PR event & catch up with friends… oh all while contributing to the maintenance of our home and little farmlet and all that entails. It is so easy to overlook what we’ve achieved in life and feel like we ‘should’ or ‘could’ be doing more!

After listening to Marie Forleo’s interview with Brendon Burchard on the topic of his book ‘The Charge’ I took on board the idea of setting an alarm at 3 hourly intervals throughout the day to check in with myself on what I was thinking about & what I should be thinking in order to reach my goals. I discovered after a couple of weeks that I was running on auto pilot, doing all that I could to reach my goals, so instead of needing to be reminded to work on the priority tasks I needed to remind myself to take a break, let my mind rest and recognise my achievements along the way. There is so much that I have achieved this year,  and not all of it was planned for… some of these achievements came about as a reaction to challenges that were not planned for. The challenge of isolation had become so acute this year that events unfolded that opened doors and wounds that I would not have chosen to experience but in hindsight they have been some the greatest lessons I have learned to date… making me truly stop and assess my life, my purpose & my future direction. So now I am taking steps to not only overcome this, but assist others in overcoming their own challenge of isolation, recognise their own talents and foster their dreams… the inception of the Creators Nest is high up on my priority list for 2017. To find out more about this venture visit this page here.

What about you and your dreams for 2017 though?

Why not make a list of what would you like to introduce into your life in 2017? And simple steps you could take in order to achieve this.

While you are at it, why not list what you achieved in 2016… things that you had not planned for, but in response to your own challenges you opened doors that you had never considered opening before?

Also, list some of your unexpected challenges. Write down what you learned from these experiences? What they brought to light that you may not have given focus to had these events not occurred?

Enjoy the final days of 2016 with your loved ones and remember to take the time to reflect & plan for the year ahead… but don’t forget to be kind to yourself, recognise your accomplishments, celebrate them, especially those that took place because of challenges you faced that never thought would happen, but they did and you survived and possibly even thrived because of this experience.

I look forward to you joining our Creators Nest community, sharing the journey of  inspiration and encouragement that could transform your dreams into reality… living a life you love is not out of your reach… even if you too have a family in tow.

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The Rural Woman: Wealth Retreat

In all honesty money has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I know it’s necessary to live in our current system, but my focus in life has been more about living well, not to simply create financial wealth. Finding a balance where you earn enough money to support your needs and help you move forward is something I believe to be extremely important, which is why I took the plunge and booked myself into this retreat. Leaving my family behind for a few days was a new experience, but one I felt I had to have in order to give myself the love and care I needed so as to provide them with the abundance of love and care that they need from me. Nurturing abundance, in both a psychological and monetary sense, was the essence of this retreat. Our guide was the holistic finance guru Dianna Jacobsen who focuses on empowering women to realise their dreams and take charge of their wealth. There was less of a focus on numbers and more of a focus on wellbeing, self love, worthiness & building foundations for a life of abundance, based on gratitude and beliefs.

Below is a visual diary of the confronting yet empowering experience I embarked on throughout this adventure. I say confronting, as the digging deep into myself to discover what guided my beliefs about money and self worth (or the lack there of) was confronting, but the realisation of what has been driving my decisions and actions to date was very much empowering! These pics are only those taken on my phone. They don’t show everything the retreat offered, such as the massage, webinar & workshops (hosted by Rebel Black founder of The Rural Woman), breakfasts, lunches, fireside chats, tears shared (during Christine’s session which was meant to encourage us to embrace today in order minimise regrets in the future),  along with stories told about each person’s life journey and the mineral baths (no photos to share of those sorry, you need to experience those for yourself). I completely immersed myself in this retreat and set my phone aside most of the time. Hopefully though there is enough there to inspire you to do what you need to; to nurture yourself and perhaps take the time out of your busy life to reconnect with yourself and regain your inner strength. This retreat certainly did that for me, I arrived feeling raw and broken inside and left feeling I had it within me to repair that brokenness and stride forward. Oh and then there were the friends I collected along the way… an added bonus!


{Night before the retreat} I arrived in Daylesford the night before after a very long and tiring drive with the last 2 hours being along goat tracks by starlight with next to no phone reception, guided only by the voice of the Google maps navigator, in an unfamiliar car graciously loaned to me by dear friends (as our car broke down that morning, just as I was set to leave for the 7 hour drive). I’d booked a room at the delightful Daylesford Hotel for the first night to give myself a chance to drive and capture some images of the inspiring landscape along the way, and ease into the experience rather than simply drive all morning then throw myself wearily into the meet and great & first workshop session on the Monday afternoon.

The morning of the retreat: I awoke to the fantastic view of a lovely country town, much bigger than I expected it to be… arriving in the dark the night before meant I had no idea of what the place looked like. So, I drove around for a while familiarising myself of where I was and where I needed to be that afternoon, then looked for somewhere inspiring to eat and when I saw a sign with simply the word LARDER written on it, I knew I’d found that place. It did not disappoint…


Larder for brunch and brain storming

{The retreat begins} Upon arrival at 65 Main, Christine Lewis the guesthouse owner and host greeted each of us with her vibrant smile and bubbly personality… spoiled us with gifts sourced locally and from small time producers and we were made to feel extremely welcome and at ease. Our first workshop sessions with Dianna & Rebel on our beliefs, our energy and introducing new ideas to our subconscious were extremely thought provoking. Ending day 1 by walking down the street to dine in a beautifully restored old house come restaurant The Grande, which I did not take photos of… but it was magical, warming, the food tantalised our taste buds & our waitstaff Owen & Renai were very attentive… and Renai lit up the room every time she walked in. Conversations & wine flowed at a steady pace and the sharing of stories began, we were all connected by common threads feel at ease, if not at home, there together even after only being in each others presence for a few hours we became friends.

{Dinner on day 2}  After a rather confronting experience of digging deep within ourselves to gain a better understanding of what our story on money is (intense) followed by a full body massage and the message delivered loud and clear by my masseur that I really need to learn to ‘let go’… working on that! We all freshen up and headed out to the two hatted restaurant The Lake House. Every part of that experience was amazing, from the grounds, the buildings, the decor, the wine, the personalised menu, each course served was a work of art and tasted sensational! Connections between participants continued to grow and strengthen.

{The Convent Gallery on Day 3} After another series of workshops (including one by Dianna on managing finances in a positive way & another by Kerry Griffith’s on self love), this time less confronting and more empowering, we headed out to The Convent Gallery on an empowered high… we were given a guided tour of the intriguing buildings, and had the opportunity to hear from Tina Banitska (the owner) directly about her very own journey of turning her dreams into reality. I could have sat and listened to Tina speak all day, her foundation building childhood experiences, passion for life and love of story telling was very much akin to that of my own story… I absorbed as much of her energy as physically possible and wanted to plead that we stay longer even though we were already behind time. However, they did manage to pry me out of there and I am glad they did as what followed was like nothing I have ever experienced… we then spent the next 2 hours soaking in mineral baths at Hepburn Bathhouse. A first for me and like nothing I have ever experienced, such a blissful way of spending the afternoon… the conversations flowed as we let the bubbles from jets massage our bodies again, next we floated in the therapeutic salt pool and ended off with time lost in the semi outdoor hot pool, as the sunset and the temperature dropped, which made us appreciate the comforting warmth of the hot pool even more, time simply slipped away, further connections were made, information exchanged and new friendships formed. What an experience… one to be had again that’s for sure.

{After letting our cares float away} The retreat had come to end, but the fun had not, some of us decided to make the most of our time together and ability to take advantage of our flexibility so we headed out to dinner again. Thanks to Christine we were introduced to a fantastic little locals haunt Cliffy’s where we bumped into the delightful waitress Renai (from our first nights dinner at The Grande) and Tina (owner of the Convent Gallery) whom I truly hoped to cross paths with again… voi la, there she was, it was enough to simply see her again I did not have to engage in an extensive conversation to benefit from her presence… at that point the priority was to converse with my new found & treasured friends, although we had only just met 2 days earlier we had a strong thread connecting us all and it felt like we’d known each other for years.

{A new person} On the last day of my adventure I took my new found inner strength and sparks of a new and improved version of me to come, and set out to take in the beauty that surrounded me, capturing images that spoke of a desired lifestyle using my DSLR camera to really capture the essence of each scene… I will share these images with you in my next post. My love of capturing the beauty of living through a lens was reignited that day, rather than simply using my camera as a tool for taking product shots I am inspired to follow my hearts desire and capture shots that represent a way of living…

As founder of The Rural Woman Rebel Black says: “may you bloom where you are planted.”

That is my wish for you too… along with accepting who you are and living out dreams, your individual gifts are valuable don’t let them be submerged in the name of doing, start being!

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WHY Leather & NOT Polyurethane

This is a rather contentious topic for some… which I’ve experienced first hand, face to face with market goers… I am NOT AT ALL an advocate of animal cruelty, factory farming or caging animals in order to make clothes. Just as much as I am NOT an advocate of the production of fabrics and clothing that destroy our environment and/or communities in countries that we cannot see with our own eyes from the comfort of a shopping mall… the devastation of mass produced clothing is causing them to be easily overlooked when all we focus on is how much it will cost to purchase an item. So, all that said I’d like to share with you why I choose leather over polyurethane…

In an endeavour to utilise as much of a resource as possible, when I first started making guitar cases out of old woollen blankets, I expanded into totes and satchels, which led me to create my RESCUED AND REPURPOSED product range. I chose to work with kangaroo leather for the bag straps and closures, as I came across a tannery that specialised in tanning roo skins and cutting lacing out of them, the remaining pieces (the limbs) were of no use to them so I saw potential in rescuing these too… just like the blankets. In expanding on my leather work skills I have also stemmed into working with hair on hide which is still based on the skill of sewing but just with a different medium.

For years I have been talking to customers about the quality and benefits of old woollen blanket material, it’s insulating and protective as an instrument case, it breaths and water beads on the surface rather than penetrating… along with the fact that these character filled blankets should be treasured rather than discarded. With the introduction of kangaroo leather to my range many conversations have been had about the benefits of roo hide, with it being light weight yet strong, along with numerous conversations about the benefit of using this rescourse, especially with the culling of kangaroos in our country. It’s far better to use the flesh and hide than just let them go to waste… also far better than opting to use a man made product that is not environmentally friendly in place of a natural fibre!

Before making my hair on hide vest I only had a synthetic fur vest which I bought second hand and adored… it’s a rather fun, faux shaggy goat hair… I wore that vest a lot over the past 2-3 years. Vests are great if you just need to break the chill and keep your core warm, but the difference between wearing the synthetic vest lined in a synthetic opposed to a natural fibre unlined vest is phenomenal… the natural fibre breaths and does not make you sweat as easily for starters. Recently I wore my kangaroo hair on hide vest on a day that would be considered too hot for fur, but I wore it almost all day, granted I was wearing a light weight sleeveless top underneath it, but I am certain had I worn my synthetic vest instead I would have had to take it off much sooner.


Nature has things all worked out, it knows how to keep things in balance, it’s what we humans do to it that throws it out of whack. It concerns me that some people are opting to use manmade materials in the name of stopping animals from being harmed and yet overlook the impacts the production of these materials are having on the communities that reside within the area of those factories, as well as the impact this having on our environment.  The tanning of leather using the vegetable tanning process is not as harmful to the environment as the production of plastic based products… plus leather is biodegradable, while polyurethane is not at 500 years to breakdown! Before opting to buy a polyurethane garment in place of a natural fibre like leather, because you  think it’s not fair on the animal ask yourself is this material actually healthy for me to wear… and are the lives of others along with the preservation of our environment not important too?

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PS. Happy Earth Day… let’s work together on preserving this beautiful planet we call home… for us, our children, our global community & animal kingdom alike!

PPS. Kangaroo Fur Adjustable Vest is now available, individually & meticulously handcrafted in a sustainable manner, made to order, here.

PPPS. Kangaroo Leather Satchel with featured lacing design available here.


Keep on improving… and evolving

Keeping things achievable is vital to running a micro business, burning out serves no one, so having systems in place like setting up a ready to shoot area which was the topic of my last post in this Selling on Etsy Series, makes it possible to keep up with the many and varied aspects of running a business.  Equally important is to keep growing and developing as an artisan, not just for own your sake but also for your customer’s.

Keep on improving… and evolving!

Keeping an existing customer happy and engaged is far easier than trying to constantly find new ones. So it is extremely important to continue to improve your products, sometimes it’s just about tweaking things a little. I recently sold a third instrument case to an existing customer who had bought one for almost each of her children and her feedback this last purchase was; “The rivets on the labels work really well now!” (paraphrased) This simple little change of using mini rivets rather than hand stitching labels on not only upped the quality of the finish on my product, it also impressed an existing customer who was already sold on my work.

Riveted labels

By adding new designs to your product range you’ll also find that existing customers who already trust you and the quality of your work will keep coming back for more, not just for them but they’ll make purchases to gift to family and friends and will become your best form of advertising. Beyond just improving existing products though, there is always more to learn… I am always out to refine my skills or learn new ones. In the last couple of years I have attended workshops on leather work, sandal making, silver smithing, business development etc… every time I do a workshop it not only teaches me something new, it triggers ideas for improvement within my product range or ignites an idea for a new product all together. Expanding on my artisanal skill set keeps me thinking and my customers engaged.



Working with full kangaroo skins (has been a part of my evolution process) to create my own offcuts in colours that I find work well with blankets and colours that I find difficult to obtain reliably as an off cut. By increasing my skills in leather work I have also been able to expand my range even further, introducing full skin leather satchels, sometimes you just need a neutral tone bag to compliment your outfit, while other times the comfort of a blanket bag is what you need… using the two side by side gives you the complete by marie-nicole experience. Recently, I started working with hair on hide creating an adjustable vest perfect for a marketeer, artisan or even a musso, where you’re often exposed to the elements, need to maintain a comfortable level of warmth without feeling bulky and restricted in movement. This vest will soon become a part of the WILD HIDE RANGE which was born as a complimentary range to the RESCUED AND REPURPOSED RANGE… the two ranges now sit comfortably side by side in my Etsy store (and on my market stall).12901104_10154076223584133_1981474172251766016_o

As artisans we are not mass producers, we are not manufacturers, we are artists expressing our creativity with a practical application, shoppers who visit Etsy are not after something they can easily obtain in the mainstream, much like shoppers who attend artisan markets, evolving keeps things exciting for you and them alike. So don’t be afraid to expand on your skills and introduce something new.

Selling on Etsy allows you to have both “roots and wings”…in my case, trading from the serenity of our farmlet, even while I sleep, play with my kidlets, furry and feathered friends, or while we venture off to explore our region and beyond. Not being restricted to the opening hours of a bricks and mortar store suits the lifestyle we lead at the moment. Which I am sure is not dissimilar to yours, as the research has shown, most Etsy sellers are female, mothers working within the constraints of a family, or people with careers outside their craft, so juggling varied tasks at once is inevitable. The ability to reach customers across the globe who value your work while fulfilling the needs of those within your care is invaluable. Which is why I encourage anyone with a desire to do something different, something truly unique to them, but are unsure of how to get it out there in front of the buyers without drastically changing their current lifestyle, to start with an Etsy store, grow it organically and enjoy the journey it will take you on!

As I said earlier in this series of posts, selling through Etsy is easy, but it does take effort and should be treated like any other business venture to reap the rewards… of which there are many.

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Ps. Transforming your dreams into reality is possible… you have it within you… and there are many tools easily accessible that can help you achieve that.





Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

Writing listings that help tell your story was the topic of my last post in my Selling on Etsy series. As well as keeping the process of writing those listing simple, equally as important  is keeping the process of photographing your products for your listings.

Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

The photographing of products is such a crucial component in enticing shoppers into your online store, especially since they can’t draw from the atmosphere of your space, the reception they received and how they were made to feel while they were there, as is the case in a bricks and mortar store. Ensuring the feel of your images are consistent and making the process of capturing them simple for yourself to achieve will keep your shop looking and feeling professional while telling an overall story representing the ethos of your business.

Running a micro business often means you cover most, if not all roles, in every step of the process yourself, so it is important to have systems in place that allow you to complete each step efficiently. Especially since most of us Etsy sellers are women with children (as per the finding in the recent report shared on the EtsyAU blog) meaning we are restricted to working around the needs of our families and sometimes with them right under our feet, so the simpler we can make the process the more enjoyable it will be and the outcome will in turn be much more rewarding. Although I love to be able to venture off into farmland or down into the village for a shoot, sometimes the weather at the time of a scheduled shoot does not allow for me to do so, or my window of opportunity may be narrow due to a hectic production schedule or family commitments, prohibiting me from achieving this in the timeframe that I wish to capture and then list my products…  so I like to have a back up!

For me that has meant finding an area in my studio with the most consistent natural light and setting up a display that can easily be tweaked to capture a product in a snapshot as well as rearranged and adapted for a more complicated shooting session.

Here are some examples of how I use my ready to shoot area:

I like to use props that are sourced from nature, or rescued items such as vintage suitcases, wooden bobbins, ladders & doors… as these all fit in with the feel of my studio and the ethos of my business. It also represents how I set up my market & festival stalls, no matter whether people see my products in person on online the style and feel is recognisable… keeping the ‘branding’ consistent.

Allowing these processes to be simple and manageable will also mean allow to have time to try new things, learn new skills and keep on growing as an artisan and business owner, which I will talk more about in my final post in this Selling on Etsy series.

<< == by marie-nicole ==>>



Story telling continues in listing descriptions

In Selling on Etsy: Part 2 I talked about ‘telling your story‘ and how social media allows you to connect all those dots, for online shoppers and even those who may have seen you briefly at an event and then looked you up online. But what about those who find you simply through doing a search within in Etsy itself? This is where you have a chance to share the philosophy behind your work as well as the specifications of the products.

Listing descriptions

When I write a listing I like to give shoppers as much information as possible, not just about the product’s materials and it uses, but also the inspiration behind the design, where the materials are sourced and even details about the photographs, including the props and/or the location I was shooting at. This is all a part of the story and the enjoyment of every step of the process. To keep writing each listing description simple, I set up a template of sorts with separate sub headings breaking up the information into blocks, so if a shopper wishes to get straight to the point about the measurements they can or if they’re someone who loves the little details they too are catered for.

Listing descriptions

Repurposed Blanket Guitar Case shot in the leafy main street of our village in autumn…

My subheadings go something a like this:

~ The inspiration

~ The photos

~ About the [product name]

~ Size

This is especially helpful when you have a large variety of products for sale in your shop, some of which are of similar design just made out of a different materials like my Repurposed Blankets Guitar Case Range, I keep a stock of stand classical sizes available as well as offer a Bespoke Order for larger and different shaped guitars. Each standard classical is still a one of a kind as I don’t often get the same blankets in. So when I have made a few stock items but want to list each one individually (a few days apart), it is simply a matter of copying an existing listing to changing the specific details for the each product.

In much the same way that I do this for my listings, I also have a ‘ready to shoot area’ to simplify the process of photographing products. Which I will talk about in my next post!

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Large companies create story boards, artisan’s live those stories…

In my first post of this Selling on Etsy series, I talked about how I’ve used Markets and Events as a promotional tool, taking the opportunity to trade in person and promote my online store. In the lead up to such events, during them and afterwards, I share the story of my journey which brings me to this post. Selling on Etsy: Part 2

Telling your story…

Social Media has been a fantastic way of building further credibility online, where shoppers can’t talk to you face to face, especially when it comes to demonstrating the authenticity of what my family and I are about, and how that relates directly to what my work is about. Sharing the process of creating my products and the environment they are created in is a part of this story telling.

Part of the reason for me changing direction in my creative career was to be able to include my family in my adventures. So I also share snapshots of our travels, especially when we head off on a weekend adventure together to trade at a market or festival. The flexibility of running an Etsy store means that my shop is still working for me while we’re exploring and I do not have to physically be in one place all the time.

During these events I do place my Etsy store on vacation mode, with most of my products being one of a kind, I don’t want to risk double selling an item.  I also state in my vacation notice exactly where I’ll be trading, during that period, to give online shoppers living nearby the opportunity to visit my stall in person.

Cécile - Millthorpe

The evening before Millthorpe Markets, enjoying a local drop that we picked up during our exploration that day… finishing off some work outside Cécile 1965 Franklin (our home away from home).

Aside from sharing my production process and traveling trader adventures I also like to share images that validate (for want of a better word) my use of recourses especially since this relates directly to the way we live, our waste not want not approach to living means everything is viewed as a valuable resource with potential, so it is not discarded unless it’s truly deemed useless. That may sound like we’re hoarders, but I can assure you we are not… keeping our surroundings both beautiful and comfortable is just as important in my workspace as it is in our home and garden. Sharing snippets of what we as a family engage in to create and sustain the lifestyle we choose to live, based on what we truly believe in, only stands to strengthen what I speak about in my listing descriptions.

Larder Love

Our larder is right in the centre of our home, which represents our lifestyle perfectly… growing, tending, preserving & appreciating every step of the process of living off our little piece of land is central to our existence.

I believe its possible to be both personable and professional in your approach to social media, being yourself takes a lot less effort than pretending to be someone you are not… Etsy shoppers support authenticity. So as a sole trader, artisan, artist, designer or micro business, giving customers a true sense of what you stand for through your story telling is far more beneficial than trying to keep up the appearance of being a large company when you are not! Keep in mind that large companies (if not selling on a cheap price) try to create story boards for their promotions that capture the imagination of their customers… while artisans live those stories! Don’t be afraid to share the story you are living, as it can both inspire others to work on living their own dream as well as providing your buyers the confidence to support your work.

“Large companies create story boards, artisans live those stories!”

My next post in this series will be about listing descriptions, your descriptions are a part of your story telling opportunity! Selling on Etsy: Part 3 will expand on this further.

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Using markets as a promotional tool…

I am often asked if it is easy to set up an Etsy shop?

Usually followed by the statement; “Etsy works for you doesn’t it?!” …and then… “Is it easy to sell through Etsy? ”

The simple answer to all those questions is, YES!

In saying that though, it is not without effort that the result of having an Etsy shop is positive, just like any other business venture there is a lot of thought, time and energy that goes into making it work. The first place I direct people to who wish to open an Etsy shop is the Etsy seller handbook, something that Etsy does so well is support and assist sellers in understanding how to make their shops work! The next place I send them is to the Etsy forums… as there are many other people out there setting up shops or new to Etsy with the same questions and numerous experienced sellers who are more than happy to answer them.

When I first opened my shop I did so as more of an online catalogue that I could direct retail store owners to, to see my range of products. But I also kept in mind the added advantage of it being an e-commerce site without the high costs of setting one up (back then) along with it’s inbuilt search facility allowing you to reach a targeted customer base without having to try and stand out in the greater expanse of the entire internet. Once sales started to flow in from across the globe I started to realise just how powerful this selling portal was and began to take my Etsy shop a lot more seriously. At that point I referred to the Sellers Handbook a lot and read the forum threads just as much. There is a lot of technical support and advice on setting up and maintaining an Etsy shop, but it can never hurt to hear another perspective as we are all unique in our own right with varying experiences to share. So in my next few posts ‘Selling on Etsy Series’ I’d like to share with you some of the little things I have done to grow my business, with my Etsy store being a big part of that, tying my online presence in with my in-person trading, simplifying processes to keep it manageable! Starting out with how I use markets as a promotional tool.


Markets ~ Promotion

It would be easy to be misled into believing that opening up an Etsy store would automatically mean you reach your market and that just being within the Etsy web is enough to sell your work and a lot of it. I choose to treat my Etsy store much like I would a commercial space in a retail hub, although there may be many passers-by, you still need to build your own following and customer base that are willing to travel across the city to loose themselves in your little oasis. So rather than just put an open sign up in the window and hope that your target market will enter your store and shop, I believe you need to actively seek them out and let them know where they can find you and invite them to join you in this amazing little piece of inspiration you have established.

The way I have done this is through attending markets, festivals and events that reach people who value handcrafted, one of a kind, unique products and set up my market stall in a way that makes shoppers feel a little like they’re stepping into a snippet of what my bricks and mortar retail store would feel like, if I had one. Trading in person at such events enables me to talk to shoppers directly and give them even greater insight into what I do and what my work is all about. As well as hear directly from them what captivates them and inspires them to part with their hard earned income and spend it on my products. Market goers are not always out to get a bargain as some people may think, there are shoppers who are truly looking for well crafted unique products and enjoy shopping small, supporting makers and creators. And if you believe in your own work and its value then you should have not have to sell your goods based on bargain prices, but quality and uniqueness instead.

Indoor market stall set up 2

Indoor market stall set up… my little shop set up!

I always make sure I take some work with me to complete on the stall, hand stitching, braiding, anything that is easy to do while chatting to shoppers… and captures their attention as they walk past, intriguing them enough to ask; “What are you doing there?” That way even though they’re not visiting me in my studio space they get the opportunity to see what goes into creating my products… and ask any questions that this interaction may trigger in their minds. It also demonstrates to them that the items on my stall are truly handcrafted, artisan crafted!

Market Stall

Working on my market stall gives shoppers a little insight into what goes into creating my products.

At a market or event, I also keep a stash of business cards on hand to be able to direct interested shoppers to my online store, if they are not ready to make a purchase there and then… especially important for higher priced items and bespoke orders. Shoppers will often ask: “Are you here every week?” if it’s a weekly market that I have a casual stall at OR “Do you sell anywhere else?” Being able to direct them to my Etsy store, with its simple shopping process often means they keep coming back to shop with me even if I am not trading at the market they met me at in the first place. Also, the fact that I make my own business cards is yet another thing that keeps them chatting, in turn developing a personal connection with me (the maker). I did not start making my own business cards for this reason, but soon discovered that the respect it gained me, adding authenticity to what I am about, being a ‘handcrafted’ business, made these cards invaluable. So while I could easily click a few buttons and have a 1000 printed I have chosen to continue making small batches of handcrafted cards just in the same way that I make small batches of handcrafted products.

Business Cards in the Making

Everything is handcrafted… including my business cards.

Treating a market or event as a promotional tool takes the pressure off the ‘need’ to sell on the spot, by making it an adventure and an enjoyable experience for myself, my family and shoppers alike, I find that I leave an event inspired by the interactions I had the people, with both fellow stall holders and shoppers alike… and because I track where all my leads/sales come from I know for a fact that even if sales on the day were lower than usual, the after sales still make attending the event worth while. After trying out (trading at) numerous different markets and events I have learnt the type of markets & events that work for me, and now only do a select few over the course of the year, enough to keep life interesting for us as a family, allowing us to explore and enjoy little getaways while ‘promoting’ my work. But the key there is trial, error, recording and analysing the results, keeping clear records allow you to make considered decisions based on fact. Along with the beneficial also after sales there are the sales that occur in the lead up to the event through the sharing of the journey on social media. Which takes me to my next post ‘Telling your story”.

Don’t hold off on doing what you love to earn your living based on the fact that it’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3. Remember… ‘anything truly worth having is not easily obtained!’

<<= by marie-nicole =>>


Open Studio

ONE DAY ONLY : the studio of by marie-nicole will be open to the public… giving visitors an opportunity to speak to me, the maker, in my creative space, about my artisan crafted work, running a micro business from a rural location, handcrafting wares from a shed in my backyard and shipping them all around the world!

Any excuse to have a little soirée in my workspace is a good excuse… doing what you love needs to be celebrated with those who appreciate the hand crafted and supporting local businesses.  Should you wish to buy Christmas gifts, there will also be a gift wrapping service available on site. All while sipping on some bubbly and enjoying the beautiful atmosphere of this studio atop a hill, on the edge of a village, in rural NSW.

Refer to flyer for more details.

<<== by marie-nicole ==>>




Open Studio Invite - Dec 2015 (2)

The solution is within you…

Recently I read an article which had a line in it that really stuck with me – “The solution is within you.” I wish I could remember exactly where I read it and who wrote the article so I could share it with you… I vaguely remember a friend sharing it on social media but cannot seem to locate it. This quote can be related to so many aspects of life, but today I would like to focus on it in terms of doing what you love to earn a living. Especially since I often hear people say; “I would love to do something like… but I can’t!” Which instantly makes me think… why not?

“Your desire for change must be greater than your desire for things to remain the same.”

~ unknown

If working for yourself is something you would dearly love to do but you have no idea how to go about it, then keep in mind that there will be no advertisement for this position, no job interview process, no set wage, hours or even a job description. You set the rules!

As an artisan earning a living working from a home based studio it is completely up to me to set the expectations and meet them. So how do you do this when there are no guidelines to follow? How I have approached this over the years is to look at my expectations for living over all, from a lifestyle perspective, as well as a monetary one. After spending many hours on the road and away from my family as a portrait photographer it was important for me to be able to earn an income while being available for my family. At the time that I started this current business I had a new baby and a child just starting school so I worked within the constraints of that and set realistic expectations for what could be achieved. Back then what I expected to be able to earn income wise was a lot lower than I expect now. For the mere fact that my situation was different, I focused on building the foundation for my business, using the little free time I had to establish my business without it costing our family more than our budget could allow.

As I grew, my business did too, so with both children in school my expectations changed and I reached a point where I was able to set myself a reasonable annual income amount to achieve. I then broke that amount up into a minimum monthly income figure, allowing for two months off over the Christmas/New Year school holiday period. So looking at this based purely from a financial return perspective it is important to know what you expect to earn each month and what costs you will incur in order to earn it. For me the establishing of an online store with a global reach enabled me to work in and around my family and reach my customers while we slept. But selling in person at markets was equally important as it meant that I could speak to customers face to face, plus having to create a number of items for one event helped establish my production processes. The two combined worked beautifully in meeting my expected annual income.

Recently my husband and I realised one of our biggest dreams; buying our own home, with some land that we can live off, in our quest to live more self sufficiently. Having reached that goal my daily routines have changed a little. So this year I adapted my expectations once again. It is important to be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to the different aspects of life and know your limits. Being aware of what is really important to you as an individual as well as for your family and to be adaptable. When you work for yourself from home, and are trying to live off your land, other activities become a part of your ‘work’. I now dedicate time in the morning to maintaining order in our home and caring for our livestock before even heading into the studio to commence a days work. The fact that I don’t spend a lot of time driving to and from my work place enables me to do this. Add to this, the fact that the costs I incur in order to earn my living are extremely low in comparison to someone who spends a good portion of their income on fuel, train or bus fares, work attire, parking fees, coffee, lunches and after school & holiday care for the children. The more I contribute to our family saving on everyday expenses the less I really ‘need’ to earn, and in turn I get to spend my days doing what I love to earn a living. Aside from this though, working from home enables my family to enjoy this lifestyle too. So, instead of commuting to a job, my morning routine on a regular day looks like this:

~ Preparing school lunches filled with homegrown goodness.

~ Sitting down to a breakfast of homemade pesto or chutney alongside an egg laid by our feathered friends. Yes, we sit down for breakfast as a family, albeit briefly somedays, but we still do our best to sit and eat together before everyone departs.

~ Help my boys get out the door on time, then clean up after the morning madness.

~ Do pilates or yoga.

~ Put my overalls on over my clothes to feed the pigs without having to change again due to them rubbing their sweet muddy noses up against me in the loving way that they do.

~ Check the paddock for duck eggs as the new layers tend to lay them in plain sight of crows & the older layers like to hide theirs so each morning is like a treasure hunt.

~ Feed the chickens scraps and let our young Rooster Lucky into the paddock with the ducks until we get him some hen friends of his own… his father King George is a gentlemen, he is not prepared to share his girls 😉

~ Then give one or both of our beautiful cats a cuddle.

All this takes place before heading in to the studio to respond to email enquiries, fulfil orders, work on new designs, list products online, plan for future growth and share my experience through social media. After a days work the afternoon/evening routine commences…

Weekends these days are now rarely spent travelling to trade, this has now become something I do occasionally… instead they are often spent sharing this new lifestyle with my family, working in the garden to grow our own food, preserving our harvest, planning/building housing for future livestock, designing our future landscape, maintaining our property, restoring furniture for our home etc… that is of course, when we are not entertaining guests, visiting friends or off on an adventure. The irony is this year, even though I have spent a lot less time out on the road travelling to trade at markets than in the previous three years, I have increased my income significantly! At the same time as increasing my duties and responsibilities around our home. Which has always been the plan… to live a lifestyle we believe in, while earning an income from home… made possible for me only at this stage, by planning, adapting and refining things along the way.

Every now and then we find ourselves assessing where we are and where we want to be in another five years time, defining exactly what that looks like. This usually starts to happen around a time that we have reached another stage in getting closer to our bigger picture goal. It is important to recognise this once each stage is achieved, rather than simply looking at the desired destination. I truly believe we will reach that bigger picture goal because of what we have achieved so far. Earning an income while working within the constraints of my family did not just happen to me, just like buying our own home on a little land did not just happen to us. We have dedicated ourselves to making these things happen, because we truly believe in a way of being!

Having a clear vision in your mind of what your goals look like gives you the guidelines you need to make decisions that will enable you to reach those goals and solve the problems you will face along the way. Your vision for a way being will not be the same as mine/ours, so the rules and expectations you set for yourself will be different too. If you really want to earn a living doing what you love, imagine what that looks like and then make it happen. Take it from me, it will be worth it!

“The solution is within you!”

<<== by marie-nicole ==>>


Ps. Upon completing this post, I went across to Marie Forleo TV to catch up on recently missed episodes, timely that this was what I watched: Why You Lost Your Business Passion – And How To Get It Back. It compliments this post perfectly. I highly recommend you watch it if turning your grand ideas into a reality suddenly feels unachievable. As always, Marie shares a great quote during the episode

“You won’t have to push yourself to keep going if you have a big enough vision to pull you ahead.”

– Marie Forleo