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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!

The Ruined Silver Pendant…Resurrected!

For those who read my last post on how I ruined a perfectly good sterling silver and moonstone pendant I was working on…a follow-up. I removed the damaged moonstone…polished up and re-textured the sterling silver base…added a new sterling silver spiral to serve as the bail…and a gorgeous flashy-blue labradorite dangle to add some interest. Still needs to be polished, and I will probably re-wrap the labradorite briolette…but here’s what I’ve got so far.

The Aftermath - a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

The Aftermath – a new pendant takes shape from the old one I ruined.

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

 

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Tophatter Tips For Etsy Sellers

I admit it: I am semi-addicted to Tophatter. For those who don’t know what this is – Tophatter is an online auction site in real time. You bid against other potential buyers while interacting with everyone in auction room. Tophatter is found here: tophatter.com

It is growing so quickly, that sellers, for the most part, cannot even list their items in the regular auctions. So, for those “newbies” from etsy – or anyone – here is some info to help you decide if Tophatter is worth it for you.

ON ETSY:

– list an item for $.20

– pay 3.5% of price on each sale

– pay Paypal fee (if you use it)  2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction

ON TOPHATTER:

– pay 10% of sales price, minimum of $1.00 per sale.

– pay Paypal fee (if you use it)  2.9% transaction fee on the total sale amount plus a $0.30 fee per transaction

=============

ON ETSY:

I typically sell a few items a month.

ON TOPHATTER:

I can sell a few items A DAY.

===============

ON ETSY:

I get the price I ask for (and sometimes discount a bit with coupons/sales)

ON TOPHATTER:

It’s a crap shoot. Some items sell for almost full price. Others go for a song – maybe a few dollars.

================

Tips for Etsy sellers on Tophatter: 

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

Icy Aqua Seafoam Coiled Earrings

• When you sign up for a user name, include your etsy url in your name.

That way – people can go directly to your shop to learn more about you and your items.

• There are so many sellers, you can’t get into the auctions beforehand. You have to play the

Standby game. Here’s how it works. Exactly one hour prior to the auction start, enter the auction room.

On the right of your screen, you’ll see UPCOMING  and next to it STANDBY  (note: these WILL NOT be visible until one hour prior to auction start). At the bottom of the page, you’ll see ADD TO STANDBY ITEMS. Click on this. It will then take you through the steps of adding one of your items to standby.

Here’s the deal: your item will not be advanced into the regular auction unless someone clicks on it and agrees to pay the minimum payment.

Which brings us to the next tip:

Keep your minimum payment as low as possible. I know it’s hard to list a $30 item for $1.00. And yes, you could get burned and have to sell it for $1.00. But if you set your minimum too high, no one will advance it. And that means no chance of a sale.

• In crowded categories, like Jewelry, Standby closes quickly. So you MUST try to list your item as close to the one-hour-before-opening as possible.

Before you even think of listing an item, sit in on a few auctions. Before I list an item in standby, I check to see what kind of jewelry isn’t listed that much (i.e. earrings, pendants, bracelets, etc)

• There are some very specific auction categories you may want to list in, depending upon your items.

• There are a few general auction categories that anyone can list in (Daily Bazaar, Early Bird Bazaar, Night Owl Bazaar, Boutique (must have 10 items sold, and have a $20 minimum for this one).

• Tophatter is on PST. So their “earlybird auction” is at 9am EST.

• Chat in the auction room. People are very nice, and it helps to be there when your item is up to answer any questions.

• Some sellers will throw in freebies/extras as the bidding progresses to encourage more bidding.

• You need an invite to participate at Tophatter. I have 97 left – let me know if you need one.

Bottom line? I am selling a lot of items that have been sitting in my workshop for a while. Making some money – though not alway a lot. I have noticed that supplies (destash) of any kind sells really, really well. Put some of my focal beads up and the sold very well.

Not all of your items will do well on Tophatter. For the most part, people are looking for a bargain. Try to put up something that’s different from what is being offered. You have to experiment to see what does/doesn’t sell. But one thing’s for sure – it’s a blast….and a real rush when the bidding gets hot and heavy on one of your items. Instant gratification!

Any questions – let me know.

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Jewelry Trends For Spring: Long Necklaces

What a surprise! My blog post is late again! Let’s see if we can make it worthwhile for you to take the time to read this one. Today, I’m focusing on what seems to be a pretty hot accessories trend for Spring – long necklaces. I remember a few months back watching an episode of Hawaii Five O. (oh Steve McGarret – you’re giving Jack Bauer a real run for his money!) Anyway, the cute girl-who’s-name-I-can’t-remember (when there was only one girl on the 5-o team) was wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt in one scene. And she had on this loonnnnng silver necklace with either one or two small circle beads on it. It looked great!

Crystal Perfection long necklace
Blue Denim Lampwork Long Necklace

Blue Denim Lampwork Long Necklace

Whether you like silver or gold, plain or embellished, long necklaces really rock your look.

I’ve been playing around with some different long necklace designs…and they seem to be selling well. Everyone can wear them – and if they are lightweight enough, you can even wear a few at once.

I’ve been asked “how long is long?” And I found this info on the web:

Neck chains come in a variety of sizes:

  • 16″ Choker length
  • 17-18″ at collarbone
  • 20″ A few inches below collarbone
  • 22″ At or above neckline
  • 24″ or longer extend below the neckline24-26″ hangs at bust line
  • 30” just below the bust line
  • 36” hangs above the navel
  • Pink Parfait Long Crystal Necklace

    Pink Parfait Long Crystal Necklace

While these are pretty standard sizes, there are many custom sizes out there too. I’ve found (being short and squat) that 30″ is too long for some necklaces I wear. I’ve been able to order some 28″ sterling silver chains that fit me much better.

And – just to contradict myself, I should tell you that some of the newer necklaces I’m making would measure 36″ if opened up and laid end to end. Yet they look just fine (even on us shorties.)

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

DIY Necklace/Jewelry Displays – great for jewelry makers

Be My Valentine Necklace by fatdogbeads

Be My Valentine Necklace by fatdogbeads

So here I was, sitting in my studio/office (two work stations – one for “real” work as a copywriter…the other a larger workstation for jewelry making)…thinking it’s time to get organized. This used to be my oldest daughter’s bedroom – and was sponged painted (remember when that was the rage?) robin’s egg blue with white to look like clouds/sky. I painted this room when she was maybe 11 or 12.
She is a lawyer now (and married, and a mother with her own home). So, I guess it’s about time to repaint!
I chose a lovely color called Bleached Linen (or something like that), a soft white. Once I painted wall #1 – I decided I needed to use that space as more than just a place to hang pictures. One thing about me, when I make something new, I like to look at it for a bit. That’s easy enough when it comes to bracelets or earrings. But long necklaces – they are a bit tougher. I was hanging them on an old coatrack. But then the coat rack started getting cluttered with all my craft tote bags and, well, basic crap.
Around this same time, a kitchen/bath remodeling store was going out of business near me. I popped in to see what they had (who can resist a going-out-of-business sale?) and walk away with almost 80 sample drawer pulls. Some of them are Murano glass – and were selling for up to $50 a piece!

Murano Glass Drawer Pulls

I paid a little over a dollar for each one.
I thought I could put them on the wall, and hang the necklaces from them. Trouble was, I couldn’t get the right hardware to screw them into the wall. I tried industrial strength Velcro…and while that worked, I didn’t like the look of the bare drawer pulls on the wall.

Next, I went to some of my fav stores (Marshall’s, Kohls, etc) and bought some small frames from their clearance sections. I popped out the glass and cardboard, velcro’d them to the wall, and velcro’d the drawer pulls inside of them.

Here’s a photo of what this looks like. This wall is still a work-in-progress, but I am happy with the results so far.

I also plan to get a plain board, paint it and attach some drawer pulls to it. I’ll search for an easel stand, and use it to display the necklaces at craft fairs. The longer pulls could be used to display earrings, too.
Any other good ideas for these beautiful drawer pulls?
(Besides as actual drawer pulls, that is……)

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?????

Recipe For Success: Selling Handmade Online & Off

BEGIN WITH SOMETHING YOU REALLY LOVE MAKING….

Someone commented to me the other day, “wow! you sure are doing well selling your jewelry.” And I had to agree with them. While I’ve been selling pretty regularly to family, friends and neighbors, I’ve been slowly cultivating an online group of customers as well. And while getting paid for what you like doing is terrific – the fact that many  customers are repeat buyers means every bit as much to me. (Cue the Sally Field Oscar tape, “You like me. You really, really like me”)

ADD IN SOME RESEARCH TO SEE WHAT EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING…

I checked out tons of online jewelry shops in Etsy and Artfire and the like. And created a niche for myself. It wasn’t that my technique was so outstanding…I learned from others, and others will learn from me. But I always felt I had a somewhat quirky way of combining colors, patterns and shapes that helped to make my bracelets, pendants and earrings stand out.

BLEND IN A HEFTY HELPING OF PATIENCE

Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Pendant

I began making jewelry last July. Opened an Etsy shop. And waited… and waited…and (well, you get the picture.) My first online sale came in September – to someone in Australia. I don’t know what got me more excited – the sale, or the fact that I sold something to someone in Australia. I started reading blogs, forum posts, Etsy seller tips and more to see what more I should be doing to encourage online sales. It was pretty slow going there until I hit October and November, when sales online and offline really started picking up.

THROW IN A HANDFUL OF MONEY

I decided to spend some money on advertising and marketing. I joined Artfire, and later, Zibbet. I took the Pro package at Artfire – giving it a test through the holiday season. I went with the freebie package on Zibbet. I tried FB ads, blog advertising, a few freebie websites, and I took some ads on StumbleUpon and Craftcult. I bought showcases on Etsy, and renewed my items on a fairly regular basis. I started a blog (free) and a FB page just for fat dog beads.

STIR CONSTANTLY...

Honeysuckle Rose Pink One Of A Kind Lampwork Bead Bracelet

Honeysuckle Rose Pink Bracelet by fat dog beads

I realized that even though making and selling jewelry was my hobby, I would need to devote more time to it to get it up and running smoothly. I checked my analytics everyday, as well as other stats. I realized that some things worked WAY better than other things. One thing that really helped (and still does) is having a presence in the Etsy/Artfire community forums and BNR’s. (See one of my earlier posts for explanation of the BNR’s). I began making connections with other Etsy and Artfire sellers – terrific, friendly, helpful people. We are often each other’s customers – a nice turn-of-events.

AND VOILA!

I’ve had over 70 sales on Etsy; 2 on Artfire; and countless numbers offline. But a majority of my offline sales use my Etsy shop to browse for their purchases. They also connect with me via my FB page. I make sure to update that very regularly.

What didn’t work for me: Zibbet, FB ads, Stumble Upon, and blog advertising. Not convinced Artfire is for me. I believe you have to put a lot of effort into sites like Etsy and Artfire – and I don’t have time for both. (need time for the job-that-pays-the-bills). i

What worked for me: Etsy showcases (they got me exposure when I needed it. Though I’ve stopped them because of the price.), Craftcult ads – yes, they can be pricey, but whenever I was on Craftcult, my numbers shot WAY up. It was no coincidence. Being in the Etsy forums/treasuries/BNRs on a daily basis.

And now….a recipe you can really sink your teeth into:

From my daughter Erin. This appetizer recipe is a crowd-pleaser. And couldn’t be simpler. Enjoy!

1 lb hot italian sausage (preferrably patties without casing – otherwise, you have to take the casing off before cooking.)
1 bar of cream cheese (not fat free)
1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies

Brown the sausage, then add the cream cheese and rotel. Stir well. reheat in the microwave or oven. Serve with Fritos scoop chips.