Friday, October 29, 2010

NEW! Customize Your Own Journal!

There's a new option in my shop to request a custom journal!

I enjoy making personalized journals for my customers.  Most of the orders I have filled thus far are from friends and family, but I have enjoyed tailoring each journal to fit each individual's needs.  And though the listing is specifically for a hardcover casebound journal, I also make softcover casebound, softcover coptic stitch, and you-tell-me-what-you-want-and-I'll-see-what-I-can-do.  The more creative the request, the more I enjoy my assignment.  I love a challenge!

Since I opened the shop in June, my sales have primarily been customized items.

My mother was my first request (Thanks, Mom!), asking for two journals (for her and her friend) with a photo collage of their trip to Alaska on the front cover.  She emailed me a series of photographs from the trip, and I chose the best six for each cover, printed the collages on bookcloth, and bound the two journals.  These two were my first attempts at printing on bookcloth, so there were a few mishaps with the printer and more than a few choice words muttered when the finally-printed-perfectly cover slipped in glue and had to be redone.  

It was worth the heartache to see my mother's expression when she opened the package.

My second assignment was a Miss Piggy Fan Journal for a friend of mine.  She is a muppet enthusiast and educator, diving into her own business venture with Sock Drawer Puppets.  How many variations on pink can one journal accommodate?  A pink spine, pink endpages, pink bookmark, and a photo collage of Miss Piggy's evolution may have sparked the pink striped journals that I made a week later.

Then there was the trade, of course, which is pictured at the top, and now I have an order to fill for a friend and his business partners.

It's a great feeling to know that my journals are part of a new business venture or a trip around the world.  One went with a college freshman to her first year at school.  One is full of sketches from a musician.  Tell me your story, and I'll make you a journal.

Visit the listing here in the shop, or convo me for more information.

I begin construction of all custom items the day payment goes through. Please allow 3-5 work days for construction time. Shipment time varies based on location, but most orders should arrive within 2 weeks of purchase.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

BESTeam Feature: You Are My Sunshine

I have been a little lax in my blogging this week, but not for lack of material.

I joined the BESTeam (Boosting Etsy Sales Team) this week, so each week I will be featuring a different member of the team on my blog.  I have spent the last few days looking at shops, hearting shops, liking shops on facebook, following people on twitter...  I am proud to be a member of this talented group!

Nina, owner of You Are My Sunshine, based out of Florida, has over 300 items to choose, and all are simply beautiful.  Most of the items in her handmade shop can be worn, and many are made from recycled items.  

Above: Opera Glass Recycled Vintage Poker Chip Pendant, $10.00.  Visit it in the shop.

The pieces that first caught my eye were her series of pendants made from recycled WWII-era poker chips and dictionary pages.  Naturally, as a word fiend, I was drawn to the text and illustration.  Her inventive combination of a game piece and a printed page create a polished, creative pendant, perfect for a Scrabble party or a night on the town.

Right: Fabric Floral Brooch Pin Orchard Blue with Feathers No.1, $14.00.  Visit it in the shop.

Another prominent item in the shop is one of Nina's many hand-crafted fabric flowers.  These lovely brooches are made from recycled fabrics, each one unique.  The one seen here to the right is constructed from a reclaimed prom gown.  The end result is pure elegance.  For brides, have your borrowed and blue in one complete package!

Above: Splendid Lady in Blue Locket Necklace, $15.00.  Visit it in the shop.  
Below: Vintage F. Deckel Munchen Compur Camera, $60.00.  Visit it in the vintage shop.

For the vintage enthusiasts, Nina has a selection of vintage items in You Are My Sunshine, including the stunning cameo pictured above.  For more from her collection of vintage treasures, check out her vintage shop: My Sunshine Vintage.  There you will find cameras, kitchenware, and other nifty trinkets.

Keep up the great work, Nina!

For more, find Nina on facebook, twitter, flickr, or follow her blog.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

CHARITY ALERT: Give something back!

My shop goal is to make items that inspire creativity, but there are other ways to encourage creative expression. This year I am writing my fourth novel for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and for the first time, I'm asking people to sponsor me in my writing marathon.

Those of you who know me know I don't run, so this may be your only opportunity to sponsor me in a marathon.

The money goes toward expanding the Young Writers Program.

Find out more about NaNoWriMo at their website. You can follow my writing progress on my author page.

Or be a superstar and sponsor my writing this November! Every little bit helps!

Do you have any charities you support as a business?

Friday, October 22, 2010

My First Trade!

Trading with other Etsy sellers is not only fun, it is a great way to get ideas for your own shop and to build relationships with your peers.

This week Blue Eyed Night Owl and I made a swap.  What a great experience!  She made me a custom bookmark/headband in exchange for a custom journal.  The journal became more exciting to work on the more I got to know her.  It felt like I was making a special gift for a close friend.  Plus, her journal is the first of my items to be shipped internationally!

The owl bookmark she made me is so cute!  I'm sure my books and I will wear it often.  The handwritten note that arrived with it was a nice personal touch, and she included a bonus brooch since I was her 50th customer.  Visit her shop--I'm sure you'll see something you'll like.

And if you've never done a trade, I highly recommend it!

The picture is crummy, but I hope you can see my excellent new headband/bookmark!  Thanks, Laura!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Opening an Etsy Shop Is Like Party Planning:

I may be alone in this, but I'm the type of person who will plan an extravagant, exciting themed party, complete with decorations, costumes, food, games, prizes, etc. and then forget to send the invitations. Party day arrives, and I have been slaving all day in the kitchen. The entire apartment is transformed.

Three people show up, usually the three who helped put up the decorations.

Why? Because I either neglected to send the beautifully crafted invitations, or I sent them out yesterday.

Marketing a shop is like party planning in this way. Your shop could be flawless, but if you forget to send the invitations, no one will see it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Drafting a Business Plan:

Crafting has been an enjoyable hobby for me, but now that I am listing my items on Etsy, the disappointment at the lack of sales has been getting me down.  Therefore, my October Resolution this year is to take myself more seriously as a business woman.  And as a serious business woman, I have come to the conclusion that I need to write a business plan.

I, like many other crafters, spend hours carefully constructing my journals.  I fold each page by hand.  I ponder each color combination.  I glue my fingers together before throwing out a cover and starting over because the end pages have a stain.  Each item I create is as much an emotional investment as a time investment or a financial investment.  Like many crafters before me, I jumped into the sellers' ring eager and unprepared, expecting the world to appreciate the dedication I have to my art.

What did I learn?  Business is hard.

Consider taking a moment before the holidays to crunch the numbers and make a game plan.  For example, I would love to use handmade recycled paper for the innards of every book I produce.  Realistically, I cannot afford enough paper to make one journal, and pricing to cover costs would be outlandish.  But now that I'm looking, I am finding inexpensive, high-quality recycled paper.

Set business hours.  No personal errands, no internet surfing, and no slacking.  I drew a picture of an imaginary boss and wrote an employee guidebook to motivate myself.  If I can scare myself into thinking I could be fired for ignoring company policies, I am more likely to be productive.  My method may be extreme, but at the very least, set aside a regular time for your business.

Time is a valuable resource.  What if I am lucky enough to have a hundred custom orders to fill?  If I have the book blocks pre-sewn now, the covers will be a snap later on.  That way I can spend the time focusing on a unique design for each order, rather than using all my time folding thousands of sheets of paper.

Make a mail plan.  I have a day job.  Often, the hours of my day job coincide with the postal system's hours of operation.  Consequently, I have set aside time each week in my schedule to make a mail run.  What's the use in taking orders if you can't ship them out in a timely manner?

Marketing little by little.  I neglect marketing.  But if I can get one new person to look at my shop each day, I'll have over 50 potential new buyers by the end of December.  That's something, right?

We aspire to master our crafts.  Why should we not also aspire to master our businesses?