The Challenge Goes On….

On the 2nd day of the challenge – I made a hammered sterling silver bangle bracelet to go with the hammered sterling silver rings I made the other day.This first one is large-sized. Probably an 8 3/4’s to a 9. Too big for me…but I will most likely put it up for sale soon.

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I’m Taking Up The Challenge. How About You?

Soooo….it’s been quite a while since the Bad Blogger Chronicles posted. (And thus the reason for the name) Three reasons for this:

(1) Been busy with real work (the kind that pays the bills)
(2) Been busy keeping up with jewelry orders (always a good thing) because now my fat dog beads jewelry is being sold in a neat little shop in Ambler, PA…right across from the wonderfully restored Ambler movie theater and
(3) been busy with kids, grandkids, dogs, friends and more (all good things, too).
But it’s way past time for a post. And my very talented friend – who calls herself and her etsy store Beadsoul just posted a challenge for all jewelry makers and crafters. And here it is: make one new item every day to help get your shop filled up with new goodies for the holidays. (Yes – I know it’s summer. But if you want to sell during the pre-holiday season, you need to gear up for it NOW).
So here is my first “newbie”….which I will list later on today in my etsy shop. (Part of the challenge is not just to make something, but to also add it to your shop.)  It is a hammered sterling silver stack ring.
I am going to custom make these to size, I think. Though I am convinced that not many people actually know what their ring size is. Do you?
Mine actually varies quite a bit depending upon (a) time of day (b) time of year and (c) what I just ate.

So – anyway – I’m opening up this creative challenge to all you. Anyone want to join me?

I love business cards…and so should you.

Some of the different business cards I use for fat dog beads

Some of the different business cards I use for fat dog beads

Like a lot of you out there, I wear more than one hat these days. First, I am a freelance copywriter – with my own itty bitty ad agency. And second, I make and sell my own jewelry. In both cases, I’ve found business cards to be an invaluable marketing tool.
You can do so much with them. And I probably have only just tapped the surface of possibilities. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are two sides to every card – you need to use both of them (in most cases).
Here’s some examples of what I do with my business cards:

For bh creative (copywriting/ad agency)
I spent a little bit more money and printed them with Moo.com. Why? Because they are much higher quality than your standard cards (i.e. free or cheap ones). You can order them with rounded corners and either a matte or glossy finish. But the key to the Moo cards, is that you can have up to 50 different images on 100 cards (for a cost of about $20 plus shipping).

What I did with my Moo cards: I took 7 or 8 client testimonials – and put a different one, reversed out of a different color, on the front of the card (with my mandatory contact info on the back).  I could just have easily put different samples of my work on the front. And voila – you have a mini-portable portfolio.

Some of the moo.com cards I use for bh creative

Some of the moo.com cards I use for bh creative

When I am networking, I make a spray of my cards – each a different bold color with a testimonial on the back- and invite people to pick their favorite color.

You could also imprint different cards with your business philosophy…parts of your resume (if you’re looking for a job), or more. Consider these business cards your 30-second elevator speech.

For fat dog beads (jewelry company)

I have a lot of different (mostly very, very low cost) business cards for fat dog beads. First, I do have a set of moo cards – each with a different beautiful photo of different pieces of my jewelry. These really catch the eye at craft shows. I also have a collection of “mini Moo” cards which measure about 1″ x 2 7/8″ – but can also be customized with different photos on each card. These cards I may toss in with a package I am sending…or used at craft shows as well.

But it’s the no or low cost cards that I really go to town with.

One, is a “thank you” card with a code on it for Free Shipping for their next fat dog beads order. (These go to my etsy.com customers). Another is printed in a way that I can fold it in half, punch two holes in it and hang earrings from it on one of my displays.

Yet another is very brightly colored and has room for me to also punch holes in it and use it hold a pair of earrings I am mailing out.

I have a “free” card (which has a small line or two advertising the company I got it from) which I offer a 20% discount code on. These I typically hand out when I somewhere where someone admires the jewelry I’m wearing. Of course, all these cards have my contact info and links to my website, online selling venues (etsy and art fire) and my facebook page.

I’m sure there are some more great ideas out there for using business cards.  Feel free to post here!

Bling, Rings & Other Things – Bad Blogger Chronicles Are Back!

So – how was your summer? I:

(1) went on a few trips – nothing big, but loads of fun.

(2) went to Beadfest in August and have been trying lots of new things (jewelry-wise) since then

Dance More Mixed Metal Message Bangle Bracelet

Dance More – a mixed metal message bangle bracelet

(3) need to start spending more time on my real job (freelance copywriter with a little bitty ad agency) so I can pay for all the fun I had this summer

(4) set up a “studio B” in my almost-cleaned-out garage so my torch, LOS solution and pickle, and rolling mill have a home. (And boy is it easier to just run out there and do something quickly than to have to clear a space and set everything up!

(5) I rejoined Artfire for a few months. They have a special 3-month deal going. Want to see if I can sell anything from there. Etsy keeps changing things (and not that I’m opposed to change) it just seems to be a constant struggle – and so time-consuming – to try to get noticed there.

(6) Cutting back substantially on Tophatter. They have significantly raised their fees – and now charge even more fees. Honestly, I was maybe breaking even before – selling most of my stuff at a huge discount. But with the fees – I am definitely losing money. So as much as I enjoyed the instant gratification, I just can’t afford to “play” there anymore.

(7) Realize that I am too late for some of the bigger, better december holiday craft fairs in my area. Have to start looking into them by Sept 1st at the latest.

So here’s what I have been working on lately….and also what seems to be my biggest sellers.

wire wrapped Swarovski rose gold earrings

Stunning Swarovski Rosaline Gold Earrings

More Rings….

Amazonite and copper ring

Amazonite and copper ring I made for daughter Emily

 

Aside

FYI…these posts are called The Bad Blogger Chronicles because I am a very undisciplined writer. You never know when one my blogs will appear (because I sure don’t.) You never know what I’m going to be writing about either (I am just as surprised as you to see what comes out of my mind and onto this blog.)

Today’s Focus: Marketing your brand online

This info is for all the crafters out there. You’re on etsy, or art fire, or zibbet or bonanza or maybe you just have your own website and sell your handcrafted goodies there. Regardless, there are things you can do (and should do) to get people into your shops, to get shoppers to buy, buy, buy and to turn first time customers into repeat buyers.

Why listen to me? Two reasons: (1) I make and sell jewelry online at etsy  and (2) my “real” job is in advertising/marketing. I currently run my own little agency (bh creative – website: bobbihelms.com) and am a freelance copywriter. I was creative director of a Philadelphia ad agency for about 28 years.

Things to consider to get noticed.

Never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself/your shop.

In the past few weeks/months, there have been multiple offers from Google, Facebook and American Express among others for free advertising.

Have you taken advantage of them? I have – and have seen my visitor count increase dramatically. Have I gotten direct sales from these free ads?

No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t. Any chance you have for free advertising – take it!

There are countless lists of FREE or LOW COST sites where you can list your items for sale. This list appeared recently on

Handmadeology.com:

http://www.craftjuice.com
http://craftgawker.com
http://www.craftstylish.com/share
http://www.craftytips.com
http://www.designstolove.com
http://www.plaincraft.com
http://tryhandmade.com/promote-handmade
http://coolmompicks.com/yourpicks.php
http://thehandmadedirectory.com/directory
http://etsylush.com

If you advertise somewhere/anywhere (free or paid), make sure you keep track of the results with google analytics, or a similar program.

You need to know if something’s working or not. Look, I’m the first to admit – I am NOT a numbers person. But even I check my google analytics, site stats and craftcult.com to see what’s doing.

Do something with all that positive feedback you get.

I take the best blurbs (without using any names) and put them on the back of my business cards. I’ve even made mini-cards with the testimonials on one side, and my shop name/web address/phone number etc on the other side. These small cards get slipped inside jewelry bags with purchases of smaller items.

mini business cards using testimonials

mini business cards using testimonials

Don’t want to spend  a lot of money on business cards? If you are on etsy – you need to visit moo.com   They are offering etsy shop owners a FREE set of beautifully printed, high-quality business cards. The only catch? The print a small line on the bottom of one side promoting their own site. Even though I have my own cards, I took advantage of this offer to print up a set of “thank you” cards offering free shipping to return buyers.

free business cards from moo.com  

free business cards from moo.com

If you have a website, these positive testimonials should also have a prominent place there, as well.

When you can, spend a little money to upgrade your packaging

I use brown boxes for my bracelet and necklaces, which I order in bulk. I take advantage of discount offers at companies such as Vistaprint  to order custom made return address labels, small round logo stickers and small customized address labels. Just be aware that some such companies tend to charge you more for shipping, than for the products themselves. So buyer beware!

I use a round logo sticker on my boxes, and tie each box with ribbon I buy on sale at craft stores such as Michael’s.

The result? My little logo doggy is everywhere. People start to recognize it. And another reason I takes such care with my packaging is that I like  my customers to know that they are special. I want them to feel as if they are getting a gift when they order a package from me.

fat dog beads packaging

fat dog beads packaging

(Oh – and by the way, for the most part I include a free unexpected gift with every purchase.)

Many of you may be thinking about the cost for all of this. I try to recoup some of the cost in my shipping fees. In the US, I may charge $3.00 for shipping. Actually mailing cost is probably around $2.00.  And, for some smaller purchases – such as earrings – I usually skip the box, and mail them inside a colorful jewelry pouch in a smaller mailing envelope.

I always try to keep Tiffany’s in the back of my mind. Doesn’t matter what you buy or how much you spend – you still walk away with that signature blue box or bag. Every customer is someone to value.

Try out new things – but don’t spread yourself too thin.

I’ve tried out a fair number of online marketplaces for my jewelry. After a lot of mostly “misses” – I settled on etsy and art fire. For over a year, I “paid to play” on both sites. I tried chatting in the forums, making treasuries/collections, and more. And while I know some of you  have the time and patience to handle more than one site, I couldn’t. I dropped art fire and stayed with etsy.

For me, it’s working. I’m not a power seller. But I sell enough to encourage me to keep at it. But I also put in a lot of time there.

I play in the BNRs/BNS’s…I chat with, and have made many, online friends. I buy a lot of my supplies from other etsy sellers.

And I’ve also sold many things to those same sellers.

As far as new things, right  now I am trying/or have tried:

• Pinterest

• Tophatter

• Twitter

• Facebook

I’ll let you know how it all turns out.  And – please – let me know if you have any good marketing ideas.

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Little Ways Crafters Can Build Their Brand Online

Bad Blogger Chronicles: A Little Late, But Hey! It’s Here…

So much for my resolution to blog more. Just not happening. Instead, I resolve to blog BETTER. (meaning: write something worth reading. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?) So here goes. Let’s start with what I learned this week.

There’s a little something for everyone here.

For those trying to lose weight:

(1) Eating breakfast for lunch or dinner is a great weight loss tool. (I’m not talking syrupy waffles here, people. But omelets or cereal and fruit)  FYI – here’s a great oatmeal recipe you make in a slow cooker overnight.

(makes 9 servings)

Cranberry Maple Slow Cook Oatmeal

2 – 2 1/2 cups steel cut oats (you cannot use regular oats for this)

3 cups water, about 1 cup lo fat milk

3/4 cup of dried cranberries (can chop them if you want)

ground cinnamon or cinnamon and sugar (about 1 1/2 tbl or to taste)

1/2 cup maple syrup (I used the lite kind)

Throw everything into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. You can garnish it when it’s done with slivered almonds. This is actually a recipe from Weight Watchers. Each serving has a points plus value of 6 if that means anything to you.

For those who make things/sell things:

(2) Facebook is having a giveway for facebook ads. Details here:

https://www.facebook.com/smallbusinessboost

If you have a shop on etsy or artfire (and a facebook page) you could get either $50 or $150 worth of free advertising. And they’re going to give away 10 prizes of $10,000 in free advertising too. (Chances of winning that one…ummmm…probably not so good.)

For those with pets:

(3) No matter how many dog toys you buy for a puppy,

maggie mae

My pup, Maggie Mae

they would still either eat your couch, chew on your tupperware or shred your toilet paper.

For those who play words-with-friends:
(4) Chances are, you can’t win if you don’t get the “J”, “Q”, “X” or “Z” – at least one or two of them. And if you have all vowels, don’t be a martyr. Swap some letters.
For those who make jewelry:
(5) Try to develop a signature style. If your stuff looks like everyone else’s – why should anyone buy anything from you?

Heart of Gold Lampwork Wire Wrapped Necklace by fatdogbeads

Shooting Stars Sterling Silver Wire Wrap Bracelet by Fatdogbeads

For those who sell on etsy:
(6) If you don’t have sales, try to get new visitors to your shop. If you don’t have new visitors, you need to put yourself out there. Go to the main page. Click on Treasury. In the search bar at the top, type in BNS or BNR. These are fun places to meet other etsy sellers, introduce them to your shop, learn something about theirs, and quite possibly make a sale or two. Plus, almost everyone participating in these BNS/BNRs posts a discount coupon, so you can pick stuff up for less.
Anyway, that’s it for now. More later. (at some point….)

New Year New Attitude: The Bad Blogger Chronicles

Let’s face it. (Okay, let ME face it.) I am not a good blogger. I even have more excuses not to blog than to exercise. (Oh – like you don’t have a few of them yourself!)…so I decided to turn over a new leaf for the new year and call it like I see it. I am the poster child for bad bloggers.

basset hound puppy with bandaged paw

Good Reason For Not Blogging...

This is especially true when you consider that I am a freelance copywriter…I WRITE FOR A LIVING! But I guess it’s like the restaurant chef who eats junk food at home. You know what you SHOULD do. You know you CAN do it. You just don’t.

Being a more consistent blogger is on my To Do list this year. Here are some others, that any  one who works with crafts/jewelry  should take note of. (My etsy buddies – I’m talking to YOU!)

After the holidays, the sloooooow selling season begins. Here’s what I plan to do with all the time I won’t be selling my jewelry on etsy or artfire.

I bought a loose-leaf binder. 

Cataloguing My Supply Purchases

Sample Page From My New Bin

Why? Because I am determined to keep better track of what i spend on supplies to more accurately price my jewelry. At any given time, I may have 2,000 – 3,000 beads. And while I have a good idea of which ones I spent the most on, I don’t know them all. This year, I started documenting my beads.On a blank piece of paper,  I photograph the beads, the receipt and the business card of the shop I bought them from. (Which also helps when I want to order more of a certain kind of bead.)

• I am working on increasing my supply of FREE GIFTS that go along with purchases to repeat buyers or those who spend a certain amount.

I have one large plastic container of what I call “cheap beads.” Now, they are not all inexpensive beads. But for one reason or another, I don’t like to use them much. I know I could separate them out and sell them as “detash” on etsy (great actually for BNR or BNS’s)…but also use them to make simple pendants…or cell phone charms…or the like. They make pretty decent giveaway gifts.

I am determined to print out all the email/blog/internet tips, articles, tutorials etc that I have been amassing on my laptop.

If I print it out, chances are it will get read (one of these days….) I have also stopped ordering new books/magazine until I’ve had a chance to read the many (many!) I have sitting on a shelve in my office. One thing I have started doing is having sticky post-it tabs with me when I do read a magazine/book. That way I can bookmark anything I want to try/read again.

I bought a blank notebook.  

New Geometric Earrings - Work In Progress

Work In Progress - New Geometric Earrings

I started sketching some jewelry ideas. I will also attach any cool things that may inspire my jewelry designs – color combinations, other jewelry, architectural details, etc. I’ve even started marking measurements down of new geometric earrings I’m playing around with. It’s one thing to make something once. They key is to be able to make it again.

Anyway….that’s it for the BBC (Bad Blogger Chronicles) this time. Who knows when my next blog will appear?????

It’s commmmmmiiiiing! Bead Fest Philly arrives next week

Hard to believe it’s been 4 months since the last Bead Fest (though technically that was called Bead Fest Wire and was a bit smaller.) And yes, I signed up for more classes and and going to be “oohing” and “ahhing” my way into spending another small fortune on the 300+ trade booths that will be there.

seaglass blues pendant by fatdogbeads

Sea Glass Blues Pendant by fat dog beads

Interestingly, while the show usually takes place over a weekend (Fri-Sun), this year’s event includes extra workshops on Wednesday and Thursday as well.)

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY LAST FEW BEAD FESTS:

• Classes are good. Learning new things is good. 3 or 4 hour classes – very good. All day 8+ hour classes – not so good. (at least for me….definite attention span deficit here.)

• Don’t be so quick to buy all the tools and extras they sell in the class. Take a deep breath and WALK AWAY FROM THE SALES TABLE. If you recall last Bead Fest, I took a class in Soldering. Loved it. Bought a whole friggin’ mess of soldering stuff that I have yet to take out the of bag. Lugged that darn heavy firebrick all over the sales floor with me. And though it sounds way cool to say , “Yeah, I have my own mini torch for soldering,” it would be way cooler to say, “I know how to use it.”

• Take notes. You really WON’T remember all the little tips the instructor gives out.

• It’s okay to take the same type of class again with a different instructor. (Back to the Soldering stuff again. Figured taking another basic-type class would maybe motivate me to actually take the stuff I bought out of the bag and use it.

• Know your prices. You know how people tell you that not everything you’ll find at an outlet mall is a good deal? They’re right. And that goes for bead shows as well. I am easily amused by shiny objects. I need to pause before I purchase.

• Bead fest this year is having a package check (for a small fee, they say.) I am all about that! But having someone hold your packages does not give you free rein to buy even more stuff. (That’s a note to ME.)

Classes I’m Taking:

• sculpting with Art Glass – not really sure what this is, but looked interesting and is being taught by Paula Radke a renown artisan. I do know there’s something about learning how to fire pieces in a microwave kiln, so that looked new and different

• Omega Bail Wire Wrapped Pendant – always looking for new ways to wrap a stone. This is a 3-hour class. (Yay!)

• Bezel Boot Camp – this is the all day class, but I’m really looking forward to it. Another basic-soldering class (which I desperately need) and learning more about flux and pickle (more to come on them later…. though I do think that would be a great rock band name….)

Anyway, rounding up the required items to bring to class over the next few days. Checking debit card balance. Resisting the urge to buy more beads before the show starts….and I’m OFF!

Watch for Beadfest Philly Part II coming soon!

grape ice and lavender wire wrapped bracelet

Grape Ice and Lavender Wire Wrapped Sterling Silver Bracelet

What’s In The Mail Today?

I love email. I love it on my laptop, my iPad and my iPhone. I check for – read – and reply to – email for at least 15 hours a day. Or more. But for all of its convenience and speed, it’ll never match snail mail when it comes to deliveries.

Who doesn’t like getting something in the mail? (Okay, except for bills and/or political and/or garbage mail.) It used to be that the mail that was delivered to my house was pretty ordinary – aforementioned bills/political/garbage – plus the occasional invitation or magazine or thank you note. (Note to everyone: email thank you notes DO NOT replace real, honest-to-goodness handwritten thank you notes.)

But ever since I started making jewelry – almost every mail delivery is worthy of a “woo-hoo!” Anyone who does anything with crafts on a fairly regular basis buys a lot of stuff. Stuff they need. Stuff they might need. Stuff that is on sale and too good to pass up. Other people’s stuff that you may be able to use. Someday. Maybe.

I tend to buy a lot of jewelry stuff from people who sell on Etsy and Artfire and even on ebay. Stuff from all other the world. Which is another fun thing – looking at the packages to see where they came from. (And, because I buy a lot of stuff, I tend to forget where and from whom I’ve bought that stuff.)

California lampwork beads received in the mail today

Pink beads from CA ...in the mail today

In today’s mail…a bead shipment from one of my favorite lampwork artisans in California. This was a big shipment – a double batch of beads. (I was in a PINK mood…and she had just posted a lot of pink beads.) Plus, being the wonderful seller that she is, my California bead maker included a freebie surprise bead. How much fun is that!

I also received a set of cool orange-y topaz beads from another favorite bead maker.

And I received two typewriter key pendants from an etsy seller. (These definitely fall  into the category “Maybe I’ll use them in the future” or “Not quite sure what to do with them now…but definitely some possibilities there.” Bought these on a BNR. See my previous post entitled Assorted Little Secrets I Learned As An Etsy Seller.

Orange beads

Orangey Topaz Beads from NY

Now, I must admit that I also love getting “real” mail more ever since I started work as a freelance writer, and owner of my own little ad agency. Because sometimes real mail means real money – as in checks from clients.

So you can see why my heart beats a little faster and my pulse races a bit when my three dogs start their woofing frenzy as the mailman puts stuff in my mailbox. It’s the highlight of their day…..and mine.

Typewriter Key Pendants

Typewriter Key Pendants...what to do with these?

Oh – and the last photo? That’s the book I ordered, and received in the mail, several days ago. Opened it. Unwrapped it. Haven’t even opened it up yet. Guess not all mail is as exciting as others.

Walk Off The Weight Book - also in the mail

This Book Came In The Mail....days ago....

Match Your Socks To Your Pants, Not Your Shoes

Words of wisdom from unlikely sources, Vol.II.

Went clothes shopping with my husband the other day – which was a cause for celebration in unto itself. In all the years we’ve been married, I’d say I shopped solo for about 99.9% of the clothes he wears. But he needed a new sport jacket, so I convinced him to shop with me.

Purple Lampwork OOAK Pendant with Sterling Silver Star

(Shopping in Mark’s language means you go into one store, try on maybe 3 jackets and buy one.) But for some reason, he actually allowed the salesman to bring over “accompaniments” that would go well with the jacket. He ended up buying pants, shirts, ties, a belt and even some socks. I was very proud of him.

But, as a card-carrying digressor, I must get back to the point of the story. While I was waiting for Mark to get his jacket marked up by the tailor (note to self: why don’t they have tailors in women’s stores?????), I was admiring the socks the salesman had brought over. But I was puzzled by the color choice. According to him, you are supposed to match the sock color to the color of your pants. Because the ankle/foot is part of the leg.

Now, I don’t claim to be a fashionista, but I always thought most men matched their sock color to their shoe color. Simply put, my fashion world was rocked.

I paused to consider what other misconceptions I’ve been carrying around with me, and how could I use this news to improve the jewelry I make? (Everything eventually comes back to the jewelry.)

And here’s what I decided: just because something has been done a certain way, doesn’t make it the only way to do it…or even the best way to do it.

Zebra Striped Lampwork Bead Sterling Silver Bracelet

Black & White Zebra Striped Bracelet With Stunning Blue Crystal Beads

Take wire wraps. Most experts think that a cabochon should be wrapped in precisely measured, cut and wrapped wire bundles. Certain wires are pulled at certain points to “lock in” the cab. It’s a very time-consuming, everything-needs-to-be-done-just-so type of process. And, certainly, while this can look very nice, it’s also very formal and fussy looking for my tastes. So I am experimenting with my own types of wire wraps. (hint: use the cheapest wire possible when you are experimenting. A lot ends of going in the trash.)

Bottom line? Don’t be afraid to change things up a bit. Break out of your comfort zone. Not everything you do will be a winner…but you just may end up with something really unique and very cool.

As for me, I may not wear any socks with my shoes.