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Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year, a New Life....

"It takes a lot of courage to
release the familiar and seemingly
secure, to embrace the new.
But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.

There is more security
in the adventurous and exciting,
for in movement there is life,
and in change there is power."
--Alan Cohen

What an incredible year. A year of challenge and tears; of toil and trauma; of beauty and joy; of true blessings and happiness.

I can honestly say when I look back on this last year, it has been one of the most transformative in my life--and the big changes that have been looming for months aren't even here yet!

I have learned a great deal about myself this past year.

I have learned that I am stronger than I think; more talented that I realized; and more blessed than I ever knew. I have learned who my true friends are, and aren't.

I have learned that I absolutely love what I do, and I am going to try my damnest to build a career and business out of it. I have learned that I am a gift from the universe, and I have so many gifts to give back to her!

On this New Year's Eve, I look to the future with promise and anticipation, even if it's a bit scary to look out past the horizon and not know what's there.

In my mind's eye, I see-- way out in the distance-- a soothing creek migrating its way out of the lush foothills that will comfort me when I am tired and a soft spot to put my feet when I need to stop and take a breath. I see my friends and family waiting for me, like loyal soldiers ready to accompany me on a weary journey. I see my little boy smiling a mile wide, waiting for me to play hide and seek with him amidst the trees in the thick, green forest.

I am ready, future. I am ready for your steady hand.
I am ready.

Monday, December 14, 2009

So you are going to be a Featured Seller? An Inside Look into What I Did!

"Now is the Right Time"
--Lotus Sutra

I'd been a member of Etsy for almost a year when I got the convo in my Inbox from Etsy Admin that started out with, "We think your work is awesome, and we'd love for you to be a Featured Seller!"

I couldn't believe what I had just read, and yet I was not surprised because I had seen it in my head. Since I had joined Etsy, it was a big dream of mine to be a Featured Seller. And everyday I visualized it happening and how I would handle it; what I would do if I were selected. I sent out positive thoughts and worked on my shop; redid my branding, upgraded my collateral and packaging, focused seriously on my product photos and descriptions. And so when the call came as they say, I was ready.

I am sure that many other Etsians visualize this very thing happening to them, too. But when it happened to me, I knew I wanted to take full advantage of it. Fortunately, I had two months to prepare myself for the Nov. 11-13th event, and I used it to create a comprehensive strategy for building a new customer base from the Front Page real estate.

In just 2 days I had nearly 150 sales, and at least 100 more in the weeks that followed, as well as 1200 hearts, numerous features in other blogs and thousands of item hearts as well. I also had several awesome leads on the wholesale side and some inquiries regarding production-scale projects!

As I was preparing, I didn't have much in the forums that was of help. So I am posting these tips for others in the hopes that it might do them some good when they get the call:
* Focus as much as possible on offering Ready to Ship items and emphasize the immediate availability in your product descriptions and headlines. I believe I got more sales because customers knew that they could have it in hand sooner. If this means investing in supplies, then do it. It's your one chance to sell, sell, sell! As a result of this single strategy, I sent out 90% of all my 150 orders within 3 days AFTER the sale. By Monday of the following week, all of my orders were out the door and I was enjoying a nice glass of wine!

* Stock on up packaging, etc. and have it ready to go! I spent the better part of the weeks before my spot sticking OH label stickers on boxes, pre-prepping "Thank You" cards and getting my shipping system organized and figured out. It saved me loads of time I would have spent during the spot doing things that would have been frustrating and time consuming!

* Relist, relist, relist! If you can take the time to sit by the computer and manage sales as they happen, then I would recommend relisting as items are sold vs. listing multiples of the same item. The reason for this is that it keeps the items on your Front Page fresher; Etsy pulls directly from what has been recently posted to populate the images on the home page for the Featured Seller spot, so relisting helps keep the photos and items there fresh, which pulls in sales.

* Having items ready to ship made processing packages much easier. Unless it was a custom item like a ring or a personalized design, I would just pull the inventory (everything in my shop has an item number) and place it on the invoice. When I had 6 or 7 of them ready to go, I took a few minutes to box them, package them and create shipping labels for them.

* Focus on a solid breadth of price points. I created a category of "bling under $30" which got a lot of sales. In a bad economy, people are still looking for treats. I believe it helped tremendously with sales, as well as sales of multiple items.

* Snag the customer, then keep them for life. To keep customers coming back for more, each purchase from my Featured Seller spot received a special "Gift for You" coupon for 20% off their next purchase, either in my Etsy shop or on my Web site, The strategy has worked well; so well that I continued to administer these coupons during the holidays as well, giving them an expiration date at the end of Feb. I hope this strategy will keep customers coming back at a traditionally slow period.

* Expect to Educate. There are a lot of newcomers to Etsy who see your shop on the Front Page and purchase something but really are confused by the buying process. I was prepared for this, and posted a "New to Etsy" link on my announcement section that helped newbies walk through the process. It didn't help everyone, which is why I say expect to help people through the purchasing process!

* Market yourself and your big achievement! Post your news on all of your available outlets; facebook, Twitter, etc. I sent the news to everyone I knew; including my wholesale customers as a way to generate even more buzz around the feature.

* If something bad can happen, it just might....My Featured Seller spot occurred when Etsy was "reorganizing" the way it counted page views. Craftcult was down for hours; and in addition I believe it jacked up Paypal as well for a few hours as well. I had 3 or 4 hours in which I had NO SALES during my Featured Seller slot because Paypal kept timing out. Expect that these things might happen and take folly in knowing that you prepared yourself with as many ready to ship items that could be sold quickly as possible.

* Have a blast. I know I did. It was the ride of my life. I can't wait to see what's next!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The final holiday push.....

If you are like me, you are looking to wrap up your Christmas list and check it all off this week!

And if there's a deal to be had, then all the better!
I am having sales at both of my virtual shops this week, so check it out!

At Original Hardware, get 20% off all necklaces and earrings through this Thursday, Dec. 17th. This Thursday is the cutoff for shipments to get there in time for Christmas! Enter promo code 'gift' at Checkout to receive your gift!

In my Etsy Shop, get 15% off and FREE First Class Mail Shipping through this Thursday! Use the promo code "original" in the messag to seller!

Happy Holidays to all of you. I look forward to a new year of blessings and joy, of challenges and change, of peace and strength. And I wish the same for each of you!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fakers and G R A C E

"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation."
Herman Melville

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season....I have had a busy couple of weeks, and in addition to all of the regular things I have on my checklist this time of year, I am also grappling with an internal struggle of how to handle it when other designers outright copy my work.

Since these designs come from my soul, I find it not only disheartening but a complete violation of who I am. These works are personal to me, and to find someone looking at a picture and trying to replicate my pieces exactly as I make them offends me greatly.

I should also note that ALL of my work and the content that is used to describe them is copyrighted. That means I could get a lawyer and send a nasty letter because what you are doing is not only immoral but illegal!

I can tell who it is because they leave an indellible mark everytime they visit my Etsy shop or my Web site. Their visits to both have increased exponentially the past few months--to the point where they show up as a top 10 visitor on both sites in Google Analytics!

I know that part of the artistic way is to borrow ideas and concepts from others. But where true artists are different is that they take those concepts and make them their own.

I have always found imposters to be a pet peeve. And when they are imposters on my own work, they are even more so! I wish I could call that person out, but perhaps when or if they ever come across this they will know who they are. But I bet--given that they find nothing wrong with taking others' artistic designs and claiming them as their own--that they won't recognize it is them I am writing about anyway.

And if you think I'm just throwing stones, think again. It's one thing to copy a circle or a component, and entirely another when you are copying something that is very specific to what I do. You say there are no original ideas? In your world, there must not be.

I have learned a lot about grace this year--to live with dignity and respect, and to expect it from others. It's not always an easy task, particularly as an artist. I work hard to create original work, from which I try to help feed my family and grow my business.

I am trying to rise about these latest events and not let them bother me. But they have, and this is why I am getting it off my chest here.

So hey, violating artist: if you read this post someday, reconsider your path. Make yours an authentic one. Make yours original. Make yours real.