Friday Finds Jan. 8, 2016

Today’s finds are focused on helping entrepreneurs use Instagram for marketing.

Confused about hashtags on Instagram?   This post is titled Instagram Hashtags For Bloggers That Will Triple Likes.  Sounds like it might be overselling things, right?  If you read it, you’ll find tags that work for any product or service you can imagine.  The writer suggest what type of photos work for each hashtag.  It’s worth experimenting with, at best you get your brand in front of new people.  At worst, you spent a few minutes reading this and trying it with no results.

I have tried some of the hashtags that I thought would be good for my highly textured and colorful products, and I notice I get some artists and other creative types coming to check out my Instagram page.

Instagram Power by Jason Miles is fascinating.  There is so much here I am going through it really slowly with my Instagram page open while I read.  I suspect I’ll be reading it more than once!

instagrampower

Jason has also written Pinstagram Power, which I read a while back.  That’s definitely worth taking a look at too.

Instagram is all about the photos.  Here are some great tips from people who take glorious shots.  I especially like the tip about selfies!

Here’s a fiber picture for those who love them.

A new handspun yarn coming to the Etsy shop soon.

 

Friday Finds Oct. 23, 2015

Here are some things I marveled about this week.

Top Ten Ted Talks on Creativity.  Sir Ken Robinson is in there twice!  Elizabeth Gilbert is number 10, but should be nearer the top, in my opinion.

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James Altucher says you shouldn’t send your kids to college.  What do you think about this?

Etsy sellers, Did you know there’s a way to back up your Etsy store?  If you have lots of items this might be worth exploring.

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Hope you learn something you need to know from one of my picks.

 

 

If I Knew I Could Not Fail

I recently joined a class on marketing and was required to answer this question –

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After some initial resistance, I dashed off some quick answers, and surprised myself!

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

  1.  Become #1  in revenue of all outside vendors in the consignment shop I sell in at the Indiana State Fair.  I don’t know how I would actually know I was #1, of course I don’t have access to other vendors’ revenue numbers.  Perhaps this isn’t such a  great goal.  Goals are supposed to measurable, right?  Maybe a better goal would be – sell $XXXX at the Fair.  Or double last year’s sales at the Fair.  So, I’d double last year’s revenue at the fair.  My revenue was $1,162.50, which means my goal is $2,325.00  That’s a big, scary goal!
  2. Have a functional website with a sales page.  Lots of learning to get to that point.  Seems a little overwhelming.
  3. Create more patterns for sale.  That will take a big time investment that I didn’t think I had available.  More about that later.
  4. Dye more yarns in slightly larger groups, instead of so many one off yarns.  That’s doable.
  5. Create a well organized dedicated dye studio, instead of having supplies here, the dye area there, fiber storage somewhere else in the house.  I was reading this list to my daughter, and she said, “What do you need?  Water?  Electricity? Shelving? Lights?  Oh you can easily create a dye studio, you should have Daddy move his weights, push that bunch of tools here, move those shelves, rearrange the laundry area, move that table and you’d be all set.  Sometimes it takes a fresh eye!

About time availability – one of the assignments  was to create a morning routine and policies.  Mine include a commitment to a certain number of hours dedicated to work, in little 1-2 hour chunks throughout my day, which is quite a change from my previous method of squeezing it in here and there, allowing my mind to get distracted by whatever I notice, and basically getting little done.  This idea of going “pro” and having an actual work schedule now looks like genius to me, of course.

I now dedicate about 4 hours per week day to work, working around the other things I need or want to do.  I still spend plenty of time outside and get my errands done.  But, I have accomplished more in the last two days that I did in a week before I had an actual schedule.  So I can see that I have a lot more time than I thought I did, and I’m committed to finishing a class on pattern writing I began long ago, and then I’ll start writing up a pattern or two that have been rattling around in my brain for a while.

Another benefit of this dedicated time I’ve noticed is that I’m much more organized, my office space is tidy, and I have time to think and plan.  Quite a remarkable change.  At the end of my last work period, around 5pm, I start to think about the next day and get set up for that.

For example, tomorrow I will spend some time working on setting up my dye area, and by the end of day I’ll feel like I made some real progress.

How would you answer the question?

For the folks who come here looking for pretty pictures of fiber, here’s something for you.

Pegasus Fingering Weight 100% Wool Yarn
Pegasus Fingering Weight 100% Wool Yarn

Until next time.  Happy knitting or whatever makes you happy!

Collaboration vs. Competition (and Clapotis Tips Too)

I’ve noticed something about some patterns lately that I don’t remember seeing on old, vintage patterns.

Once in a while, there will be a statement somewhere on the pattern prohibiting making the item for sale; I’ve heard these referred to as personal use only patterns.  I’ve seen this on both free patterns and patterns I’ve bought.

Now, call me crazy, but it seems to me that if I buy a pattern I should be able to do whatever I want with it (except sell it on directly, of course).  I think the time and materials I put into a knitted item, say a shawl, are quite a contribution, and give me the right to sell it, gift it, keep it, or even destroy it if I wish.

When you buy a cookbook, there isn’t a disclaimer that you can’t make cupcakes from the recipe and sell them.  The very idea is laughable, and I don’t see much difference, they are both intellectual property.

Attempting to place restrictions on the use of your creation speaks volumes about a mindset of lack and scarcity – which is not the way I choose to live.  I believe there is plenty of business for everyone.

I don’t see how it hurts the pattern designer for me to knit and sell from her pattern.  I’ve already paid for it, more people will see her designs, and that could result in more pattern sales to other knitters.

As a matter of fact, I know of at least one pattern designer, Natalie Larson, who recognizes that collaboration is a better way to do business than the old paradigm of competition.

Here’s what she says on her Star Crossed Slouchy Beret pattern page on Ravelry about knitting her patterns for sale.

If you buy the seller pattern, it allows you to sell an unlimited number of finished products. This is lifetime license with no sample knitting required. I ask that credit be given and that you provide a link from your listings to my etsy, HC and Ravelry pattern store. I will provide you with the links and exact wording. Additionally, I will link to your shop information from my stores – perhaps you’ll get some extra business!

She is a forward thinking business person.  Collaborating with other knitters will get her pattern more exposure, more word of mouth and very likely, more sales.  And it doesn’t cost her a thing. The knitter gets free marketing assistance.  Win-Win – I love that!

In news about my own knitting, I’ve received some custom orders lately.  I’m on the second one now, it’s a Clapotis in Malabrigo Rios, colorway Aguas.

Here’s a picture of the first Clapotis I knit.  This yarn is Cascade 220, the colorway is 9923.  It reminded me of a thunderstorm sky, I called it Thunderclap on my Ravlery page.

Clapotis in Cascade 220

And here’s the beginning of the new one in Malabrigo.  I’m thinking it will be spectacular.

Clapotis in Malabrigo Aguas

I find the clapotis pattern to be overly complicated as it’s written on Knitty.  Fortunately, Kim at SoulKnitting has made a wonderful checklist you can find here on her blog.  Makes the whole process very simple, just knit and check off the rows.

If you have any trouble with the checklist and can’t reach Kim feel free to contact me, I’ll email you the spreadsheet.

So, genius pattern design and easy to use instructions from someone else – see what I mean about collaboration?

What do you think about this subject?

A Fun (And Useful!) Tool For Business Growth In 2013

I’ve recently been looking for ways to brainstorm for 2013 goals, and how to keep moving my business forward.   I guess that’s just natural around New Year’s.

Yesterday I mentioned Leonie Dawson in my blog.  She is someone I recently discovered who is an expert in helping entrepenuers (mostly women, I suspect) grow their business(es).

She has a lot of super charged tools available, at a really reasonable cost,  that are fun, easy and very enlightening to use.  She jokingly says they are “spare change cost” – and she’s right.

My current favorite (and I still have a couple of her creations in mind to play with) is the 2013 Create Your Incredible Year Calendar & Workbook .  This has been incredibly easy for me to use.  It’s been very productive, and as a bonus, it has a lot of jazzy artwork in it.  I did a lot of smiling while looking at it.  It was very freeing to just brainstorm in response to her simple questions – and I got amazing answers!

One my favorite parts was the 2012 wrap up section that begins the workbook.  It’s a great idea to formally close out the past year.  She helped me clearly see how far I’ve come (a long, long way!) and summarize what I’ve learned in 2012.  Also, I have more clarity on what I’m ready to stop doing – which is a great bonus.

Then it was onto 2013.  I moved fairly quickly through the workbook, it was so enjoyable that I just kept at it, didn’t really want it to end!

And now I have a lot of goals for 2013.  Goals that I’m excited about.  Stretch goals, but not insane, pie in the sky goals.  Goals with timelines, broken down into doable steps.  Goals that I might miss, but I think there are a huge number of goals I’m going to hit too.

photo credit http://www.justintarte.com/
photo credit http://www.justintarte.com/

It’s going to be a great year!

Her website also has lots of free videos and articles.  You can sign up for a newsletter too.

There’s a personal life version of the 2013 calendar, too.  It’s all life changing (and highly amusing) stuff at her website!  Hope you enjoy exploring it all.

The Square

One of the things Cheryl and I discovered at the craft fair we did in December is going to have a big impact on our future business.

We learned about The Square.

The Square goes to the farmer's market.Photo Credit wollytech.com
The Square goes to the farmer’s market.
Photo Credit wollytech.com

The first time I saw this little darling was when I bought my Ashford Traveller spinning wheel last July.  The Lady Peddler is a crackhouse for fiber addicts yarn and fiber shop housed in a turn of the 20th century (or maybe earlier, I am certainly not an architecture queen) building in the tiny town of Hastings, in western Michigan.

It was a gorgeous place – full of hand dyed fiber, fabulous yarn, spinning wheels, pattern books, everything the well stocked  crackhouse for fiber addicts yarn and fiber shop should be.  There were very high stamped tin ceilings and wide, creaky floor boards (maybe pine?), along with an ancient and well preserved  black and gold cash register.

Apparently that beautiful cash register is just for ambience, because when I pulled out my visa card to pay for my wheel, she picked up her Iphone, and ran my card through the little white square plugged into it.  She nicely asked if I wanted my receipt emailed or printed out.  I chose email so I couldn’t lose it.

On the way back to our rented vacation house my mother and I marvelled about how cool that whole thing was.  Sadly, (but not surprisingly) I completely failed to see any connection to my own business.

Fast forward to craft fair in December, someone asked us if we could take a credit card.  Cheryl and I looked at each other helplessly, and I overheard someone say something about a square.  The lightbulb went off, Cheryl dug out her cell phone, and hey presto – we are in business to take credit cards.  We have next day deposit into our linked bank account, and a reasonable fee of 2.75% per transaction.  That is cheaper than Paypal.

Maybe we are the last small business in North America to start using a credit card reader (but I doubt it).  I have discovered that PayPal has something similar, and Google too.  Many more will be coming soon, I’m sure.

SquareUp.com, the creaters of The Square, will mail you one free, but if you are in a hurry, you can get them everywhere for around $10.  Walmart, Staples and Walgreens all carry them – this is what makes me think we are not the last business to begin using them, but we certainly are not early adopters.

Now, I just need an Iphone like Cheryl has.  That’s another post…

Book Review – Pinterest Power

I randomly picked up a book from the New Books shelf at the library last week. It was a lucky find – I think it’s going to teach me a lot!

Pinterest Power by Jason Miles and Karen Lacey outlines the reasons businesses should be using Pinterest to market their business, build their brand, and increase sales.  Then they give you specific, detailed information on how to do it.

Pinterest Power

Jason Miles and his wife, Cinnamon, own Liberty Jane Clothing, a wildly sucessful business which creates clothes and patterns for clothing for American Girl Dolls.  Cinnamon has gorgeous Pinterest boards and they are clearly experts at using social media to grow their business.  Jason also wears some other hats, including teaching as an adjunct professor at Northwest University’s School of Business Management in Seattle.

Karen Lacey is a writer and a guru on entrepreneurship.  She’s written several books and screenplays.  Her newest book is  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Elance (which I have not yet read, but it’s on my list!).

Pinterest Power is well written and easy to read.  As I read, I find I’m very motivated to apply the information I’m gathering.  I’ve created well thought out pinboards, each with it’s own theme, and done some brainstorming to better understand who my customers are – both things the book recommends.

Maybe none of this is advanced business knowledge, but I am finding it very helpful in creating a coherent plan to fully utilize Pinterest (and other social networks).  My copy of the book is heavily marked up, full of stickies, and I’ve started a little journal for notetaking.

I also am finding this book is helping me to think like a business owner.   That’s a big benefit to reading it.

Jason has written several other books, Price It Like Picasso and Craft Business Power, both of which are on my short list to read in the near future (I bought them both).

Some of my favorite take-aways from this book so far:

1.  Not all social media is for every business.  My business is very visual, so Twitter isn’t a very useful venue for me, and I’ve decided not to spend a terribly large amount of time on it.

2.  How to decide if my Pinterest personality should be personal or corporate, the pitfalls and advantages of each, and how to create the personality I chose.

3.  How to build relationships with other pinners and encourage them to repin my pins, thus increasing my product’s exposure.

I recommend this book to everyone who has a business (for profit or nonprofit) who is looking for free and time efficient ways to grow their sales.

Jason has a blog called Marketing on Pinterest.  Check it out!