A little late with this post – but still in the game

I’ve joined my friend Lisa (Beadsoul) in her challenge to make one new thing each day in July. And while I’ve been busy (with real work – the kind that pays the bills), I have been working on some new jewelry pieces here and there. (Some has already gone into the shop in Ambler, PA that sells my stuff). So I’m playing a little catch-up here. A few samples of what I’ve done lately….

First up – (and they haven’t seen these yet – so shhhhhhh!) I made hand-stamped name necklaces for my two nieces with the names of my great-niece and great-nephew on them.

Copper Name Necklace

Copper Name Necklace

Dazzling lime green quartz earrings

Dazzling lime green quartz earrings

Then I found these incredible almost-neon bright lime green quartz crystals, and wrapped them in silver plated wire that I studded with teeny tiny dichroic seed beads and finished with handmade sterling silver ear wires.

Adjustable Sterling Silver hammered bangle bracelet

Adjustable Sterling Silver hammered bangle bracelet

This sweet little sterling silver bangle bracelet is somewhat adjustable – you can squeeze it to make it tighter on your wrist.

And finally, another pair of dangle earrings. What makes these a little different from the rest is that I “decorated” the handmade silver ear wires with tiny beads. You like?

Blue Lampwork Earrings With "decorated" Sterling Silver ear wires.

Blue Lampwork Earrings With “decorated” Sterling Silver ear wires.

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

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ON ETSY:

I typically sell a few items a month.

ON TOPHATTER:

I can sell a few items A DAY.

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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: 4 Frenetic Days Spent at BeadFest Philly Spring

I overindulged again at Beadfest Philly. Too  many classes. Too much money spent on impulse buys. Too  much information for my little brain to process. And yet, there’s a smile on my face…my worktable is overflowing with lovely new shiny beads and stones. Have to clean out my tool drawer to make room for newcomers. And I am already starting to think about what classes I want to take in August.

THE GOOD:

• Really, really liked all four instructors. All very talented crafts(wo)men. All wonderfully patient and freely sharing jewelry making tips and favorite places to get great tools, supplies at great prices. Had only taken a previous class from one instructor – so the others were new. Would certainly recommend them and/or take another class from them in the future.

• Vendor area was smaller than in August – and it was easier to re-trace my steps to find the same vendor again if I wanted more of something, or had questions. (note to self: when you buy any sort of gemstone, bead, etc. make sure you write down WHAT it is. Had to go back to two booths the day after I bought some stuff because I couldn’t remember what kind of stone it was. No way I’d remember months from now when I go to pick it up and actually make something with it.)

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

Gorgeous - but pricey - Quartz Briolettes

• Saw more chairs on the floor this year. And there was a package check (which I didn’t need to use, since my stuff was in a classroom most days). Both good ideas. Lots of older folks walking around. Chairs were helpful.

• Beadfest organizers actually provided some snacks/water to some of the classrooms. Very nice touch And very welcome.

• The people – whether in class, or on the floor, everyone I met was friendly and helpful.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:

• Once again (actually – happened twice) – I was in such a hurry to clean up my work areas and leave at the end of class, I left things there. First time, I actually threw out the two pairs of earrings I had made. Luckily, I had the instructor’s cell number. Was able to get her to pull the trash so it wouldn’t be emptied, and I planned on going through it the next day. Lucky for me, one of her very kind assistants went through and found my earrings (YAY!).

Second time – we were making a bracelet with about 7 pieces plus jump rings. Placed all the pieces in the liver of sulfur solution. Pulled them out and started cleaning them. Tossed them in a plastic bag to finish at home, and realized later (much later) that I left two pieces there.

In both cases however, I was able to recreate what I learned in class. So even if earrings hadn’t been found…it would be okay. (Bracelet pieces – they’re gone.) So let’s chalk this experience up to lack of concentration and focus on my part. (When will I ever learn???)

• Four classes in four days is too much. Two of the classes were all day – from 8 am to 4:30 pm. I was glassy-eyed by the end. It was information overload.

• One class was a disappointment only because I already knew at least 3/4’s of what was being taught.  (Note to self: read the course description better next time). I take these courses to learn new techniques, play with new tools, learn better ways to do things.

• I am too easily distracted by shiny things. Need to get better control over my impulse buying.

WHAT I BOUGHT:

• Biggest indulgence: a Freitz hammer. It is sooooooooo sexy (yeah. if you have one, you know what I mean.) This is NOT the hammer that will be used to bang in a loose board on my IKEA bureau. I may end up looking at this hammer more than using it.

• Most expensive purchase: I bought a sterling silver handmade bracelet from my instructor – Kim St. Jean.  It is just friggin’ gorgeous!

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

Kim St. Jean Bracelet Watch

• Most questionable purchase: (after the Freitz hammer) – very high quality blue, sea foam and pink quartz briolettes. The crystal ones I found sparkle almost as much for a lot less.

• What I didn’t buy and I wish I did: gorgeous handmade, hand-dyed silk ribbons. I didn’t buy because of the cost. Could buy a sterling silver chain for what the ribbons cost. Hard to justify the cost if I planned on selling the finished project.

WHAT SURPRISED ME THE MOST:

• Lots of men walking around at the show. Most with a female companion (not all looked happy to be there). And one man in one of my classes. Not saying men can’t make jewelry. Just surprised to see them in class. (My husband says that is discriminatory.)

• Too many of the same vendors – and was really surprised by the number who didn’t have websites.

WHAT I DID THAT I VOWED I WOULDN’T:
• Buy more Swarovski crystals. I have sooooooo many. But oh! how they shimmer and shine at that Mega-Gems (Mega-Jewels?) booth.

Swarovski Crystals

Swarovski Crystals

• Start looking at the August list of classes. Can’t believe I’m about to sign up to do all over again.

Gallery

Bad Blogger Chronicles: Late Again….Here’s Why

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Bad, bad Blogger Bobbi! Seems I have time for work/play with pups/cooking fabulous Valentine’s Day dinner for hubby (recipe below) /buying bridal shower gift two days before actual shower and making some new jewelry. And that, dear readers, is why … Continue reading

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.

Interesting Things I Learned This Week

I’ve become quite the little joiner lately. Joining this special group…or that forum…or signing up to receive “free daily tips” or “helpful hints.” Do not confuse “daily tips” with “helpful hints”. Two totally separate and unequal categories of self-help. “Daily tips” usually contains things I don’t need to know/care about/would ever use concerning activities I might engage in (though mostly likely never will). Things like knitting and crocheting, bead weaving, gardening, etc. “Helpful hints” on  the other hand, promise to make me a more perfect, well, me. I will lose weight/gain energy/love exercising (yeah, right!)/cook healthier/look gorgeous with just THESE THREE PRODUCTS/have hair like (insert celebrity name here).

Amalfi Coast Sea Glass Wire Wrapped Pendant

Wire wrapped pendant made with sea glass from Amalfi Coast, Italy

Admittedly, I am hooked on these itty bitty snippets of usable information. Maybe it’s because I have an itty bitty attention span? But it’s like email crack to me. I admit to being especially drawn to anything with numbers in the title. “Ten Foods You Should Never Eat”…  “Three New Uses For Cotton Balls”… you know what I mean. Anyway, for all the stuff that I just scan and delete, there occasionally comes along a veritable GEM of a tip/hint that needs to be printed out and shared.

So, starting this week, I will include a tip/hint to pass along and share with one and all. This week’s tip comes from Beading Daily. It’s an e-newsletter from the Interweave people who publish a lot of how-two jewelry, knitting, metalwork, etc books. Gotta love this one if you own any sterling silver jewelry.

EASY WAY TO REMOVE TARNISH FROM STERLING SILVER
1. Choose a plastic or glass (never metal) pan that is deep enough so that when filled with water your tarnished jewelry will be covered.
2. Put a piece of aluminum foil in the bottom of the pan.
3. Pour near-boiling water into the pan.
4. Add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to the water.
5. Place the tarnished jewelry onto the piece of aluminum.
6. If necessary, add more baking soda to the dish until you see the tarnish coming off your piece. You should get a slight bubbling effect with an odd odor.

Interesting website of the week: You need to be invited to join. (But If they let me in, no problems for anyone else getting in!)

http://seaglasslovers.ning.com/

This site is all about Sea Glass – what it is, color classifications, shapes, locations – where to find it, etc.

I’m digging sea glass right now. Looking forward to searching for some this summer at the beach.

FYI – have a favorite tip/hint you can share? Always looking for some more!

Great Way To Sell Your Stuff: Hold An Open House

Held my first Jewelry Open House last night at my daughter’s house. It was fun, relatively easy, very laid back, and terrifically successful. The most stressful part was pre-open house…when I feverishly worked to replenish my stock due to an influx of sales the week before.

Spearmint Green Wire Wrapped Bracelet

Here’s a rough timeline of how I got ready:

• Arranged for daughter to host the party at her house – 6 weeks in advance

• Sent out evites to family, friends, neighbors, customers in the area; posted invite on FB – 3-4 weeks in advance  (My daughters also sent the evite to some of their friends and neighbors)

• Start thinking about HOW to display bracelets, earrings, pendants. Order/purchase any display items 2-3 weeks

• Plan food, drink, etc. Make a list! Ask a few close friends to make some things  – 1- 2 weeks

• Clean and tag all jewelry for the sale – week of sale (NOTE #1: this was a very, very long  process removing tarnish from all my sterling silver items. My fingers were black each night from the polishing cloths. And tagging the items can also be a painful thing if you have a lot of items to sell. )

(NOTE #2: Even though I thought I had tagged everything, I had NO tags on about 6 or 7 items. I had to hop online quickly to look up prices.)

jewelry open house display

Daughters Emily & Erin and some of displayed jewelry

Do Something Special. I’m not big on playing games at parties. I’d rather just share a glass of wine or two with friends and chat a bit. But what I did to, is allow each buyer to pull a folded up piece of paper from a bag before they paid. On each paper was written a different discount. Some were for $3, $4 or $5  off. (my prices run from about $15-$35 for ss earrings…$22-$48 for pendants…$40 to $70+ for ss bracelets) Some discounts were for 5%, 10% or even 20% off. And I even had one or two that were “Buy one item – get the second 1/2 off”. It didn’t matter what they got, everyone was pleasantly surprised to get some kind of discount they weren’t counting on.

• Day of Sale – go to BJ’s and liquor store to get wine, small bottles of water, snacks and something sweet. (Note #3: skip cut up cheese. In warm weather, not an attractive hors d’oeuvre. Should have had chocolate. Dips did well. Everyone loved mini-soft pretzel tray that Emily brought.)

• An hour before sale – arrive at Open House and set up all displays. Make sure everything is within reach and approachable. Items I placed on top of boxes and directly on table were picked up and tried on. Not so much the bracelets I had on a wooden display. People were less likely to move things around – as if they didn’t want to mess things up.

• During sale – be available for questions. But mix and mingle too. I was going for a very laid back, soft sell approach. And it worked. I also took cash (many paid in cash!), checks and credit cards (thank you SQUARE!). I had some cute gift bags I had bought in Target…and boxed all gifts. Make people feel like they are getting something special – because they are!

The results: fewer people showed up than expected. (But I guess that IS to be expected). But just about EVERYONE bought something, some bought 2 or 3 items. All in all, I sold 18 bracelets, pendants and pairs of earrings.

I thought it was a great success. And I recommend it to anyone who sells handmade. Remember – when you’re throwing an OPEN HOUSE, people are coming to buy your things. My profits far outweighed any expenses for the night. If you sell on etsy or artfire, I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.

Keep it simple. Make it fun. Have a blast.

Information Overload…when to say no.

A few things you need to know before we start: ( #1)I have the attention span of a flea. (#2) I am easily amused – but as stated in #1, I constantly need NEWER! BRIGHTER! FUNNIER! MORE AMAZING things to keep me amused. (#3) I am very curious (keep #1 in mind here). (#4) When I do something, I want it done right…or even better than right.

Aegean Sea Blue and Aquamarine Lampwork Pendant with WOW charm $34.

Which leads me to the art and science of making and selling handmade goods. In my case, it’s jewelry. I totally get the “practice makes perfect” thing. I spend countless hours doing and redoing and redoing again to make the piece of jewelry I’m working on different, and better, than the rest. No problem there.

But the marketing/selling aspect of the business? Hmmm. Not doing so well there. Don’t get me wrong – my jewelry sells. And I’m thrilled with the number of repeat customers I get. But in order to really ramp up my marketing efforts, I need to understand and use social media in ways that are totally new to me. There is so much I need to learn. So, I’m doing what a lot of sellers on Etsy and Artfire are doing. I’m clicking and printing and  saving and subscribing to every thing I possibly can that has to do with internet marketing, SEO and the like.

Trouble is, I am spending so much time gathering the info, that I have no time to actually READ and FOLLOW the advice in all those emails, web pages, guides and blogs. Does anyone else have this problem?

Lately, I’ve decided to open and “scan” the material to see if it’s save-worthy. (For example – I now do this with the daily emails from Handmade Spark.). If it’s worth keeping, I will print it out to save for later. If not, it goes out with the trash.

Watercolors - Blue and Teal Lampwork Bead Wire Wrapped Sterling SIlver Bracelet $72

So, that’s it. I’m done. No more.  I am going to stop some of the things I’ve subscribed to that come too often. (Every day? Do I really need to be reading stuff from you every day?) I am NOT going to download anything new until I’ve read/scanned/trashed all the stuff I’ve already downloaded. I am going into voluntary info withdrawal.

Should I approach you and ask for some SEO tips…or some new networking websites…just walk away. We’ll all be better for it.

Beadfest Philly/Day 3 – Going Out In A Blaze Of Glory

Days 1 and 2 were workshop days. Learned lots of new stuff. Met lots of new people. Very cool. But Day 3 was the day I was looking forward to all week.

Day 3=shopping day!

I browsed. I bought. I went broke (pretty much!)

A Metallic Center Makes These Venetian Glass Beads Really Shine!

Beadfest Wire/Philly boasted about 180 vendor booths. Every direction you turned, every corner you rounded, were the most amazing treasures. Beads – thousands upon thousands of beads in every size, shape and color. Strands of them laid side by side on tables, hung on hooks, crammed into containers. This must be how it felt like to walk the bazaars in ancient times.

For the most part, I skipped those booths. Because as wonderful as it is to be able to touch and feel those strands of beads, they are the kinds of beads you could find almost anywhere. (Though, I did purchase some terrific pewter beads and Czech crystal teardrop beads at these booths)

Super Shiny Czech Glass Beads

My eyes (and my heart) were focused on the smaller booths, where the artists who actually made the beads could be found. How wonderful to be able to pick up a bead and discuss the unusual shape or color with the person who created it!

As always, I was easily fascinated/amused/sold by beads in rich, deep colors. The blues, greens, pinks and purples were extraordinary.  I drooled over the Venetian glass beads. The honeysuckle pink color was gorgeous! These beads (yes – from Venice) have metallic centers that give them a shimmer and shine that is just awesome!  I oohed and ahhed over the unusual colors in the cane glass beads.

Funky Shaped/Sized Beads

I absolutely flipped for the dichroic glass beads (my most expensive purchase). No photo can do these beads justice. The colors are electric – almost neon. I can’t wait to work with them. Right now, all these gorgeous, gorgeous beads are scattered on my desktop. I should break them down and put them away. But I can’t stop looking at them! (Is that wrong?) Even though it’s only been a few days, I miss Beadfest already. What a trip!

Incredible Dichroic Glass Beads

The good news? The next Beadfest/Philly is in August – just a few months away. The bad news? It’s an even bigger to-do with an estimated 280 vendors. Oh boy. Talk about a budget-buster.

Mixed Feelings About Hosting A Jewelry Open House

(Note: this is not a mistake. This is actually my second blog post this week. I’m sure I must not be feeling well. Or something.)

I decided to have/host a jewelry party on May 6th. And admit to having some very conflicted feelings. (I play good cop/bad cop with myself all the time. Who better to argue with you than you?) On the one hand, I hate/loathe/despise making my friends feel like that “have” to purchase something from me.

I was never very good at the Tupperware/Pampered Chef thing. I always felt guilty getting a hostess gift or a bigger discount than everyone else. I could never sell Avon or Amway or any of those other things. I would probably end up buying the things and giving them away to friends and family.

On the other hand, I think my friends like what I make, and I price my jewelry affordably (IMHO). And anyone who comes to the open house will get an extra discount (or two).

On the Evites I sent out, I made sure the words “low-key, no pressure to buy anything” were big and bold. And there will be wine – lots of wine – and hors d’oeuvres…to make it more of a party. I’ve invited friends, family, and FB friends who live in the area.

But still…..hate to feel like I’m forcing people to buy something. Anyone who’s hosted one of these before – would love to hear what you think. I’m sure I will be in this love/hate state of mind until the party.

For anyone in the Philly area – come have a glass of wine with me and let me know “Hey – it’s ok. Glad to stop by, look around, and say hi.”

And if you end up buying anything – that would be just great.

Jewelry Open House

in Plymouth Meeting, PA

Friday, May 6th fro 7 – 10 pm

If you are interested in attending, email me at

bobbihelms@yahoo.com and I’ll send you directions.

Not So Mellow Yellow Bracelet by fatdogbeads