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 ==>>

xx

 

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.

<<= by marie-nicole =>>

xx

 

 

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 =>>

xx

Rejuvenation Required

The wanderlust spirit inside of me is stirring… The yearning for another road tripping adventure has been building… It is time to rejuvenate, each member of our little family is feeling it. So in a couple of weeks we will be hitching our vintage van Cécile onto the back of Maxx and hitting the open road, leaving our little piece of paradise, furry, feathered and bristly friends in the care of trusted hands. We really need to reconnect with ourselves and each other, step away from our day to day commitments… and just be!

wanderlust adventures await

But before we go there is much to be done around here. My workbench is covered in rescued and repurposed goodness in the process of being transformed into statement pieces just waiting to be enjoyed by many valued customers. Many new items are also in production some of which will be listed online in the next few days, the rest will make into the store shortly after our return. Temporary Store Closure Dates: Tuesday June 30 – Sunday July 12, 2015 (Australian time) You will be able to share some of our adventure with us through my Instagram and Facebook feeds. Wishing you too some time to rejuvenate… be it in the form of a wanderlust adventure or a little daily ritual, time that you set aside for yourself. This post Meet Yourself Halfway by Sadie Rose via the Bohemian Collective Blog is a beautiful example of doing just that. Live ~ Love ~ Laugh <<= by marie-nicole=>> xx

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 ==>>

xx

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