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!

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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.

 

My Five Favorite Blogs and Why I Read Them

We all have our favorite sources of inspiration and learning. Right now I’m intensely interested in personal development, marketing and fiber arts.

Five of my favorite blogs (today and in no particulary order) are:
Marketing Creativity by Lisa Jacobs. Lisa is a marketing genius. She says so many things that resonate so deeply with me. I learn so much from every post she shares! For example, this post is a direct result of her post titled “27 Blog Topics You Can’t Wait To Write About“.

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Mr. Money Mustache writes about living the good life frugally. I took real control of our finances last year after paying little attention for 25+ years (hanging my head in shame), and MMM, as his readers fondly call him, was instrumental in me getting my act together. I have saved a lot of money and paid thousands of extra dollars toward my mortgage principal this year and will finish my mortgage years early, all thanks to this blog. His slogan is Early Retirement Through Badassity. All the swearing is an extra plus!

Technically this isn’t a blog but a website, but I love it anyway. A Prairie Home Companion is my favorite thing on the radio. I usually can’t listen to it live, but can catch up here. I always laugh out loud at some point during this show. Garrison Keillor is a god. Smart men are so sexy!

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Handmadeology features many articles about Etsy and other training for small business, like this one on why Etsy sellers should explore selling on Tophatter. Tophatter is a live auction site that is billed the world’s most entertaining market place. I’m thinking about giving it a whirl.

Declare Dominion is a blog for women who want to be Epic Fucking Badasses. Anna’s motto is If You Want To Have A Beautiful Life You Have To Be Fierce About It.

Fierce is a badly overused word right now. If I hear Tyra Banks say “fierce” one more time, I might have to leave the room when the kids watch America’s Next Top Model.  Anna uses “fierce” properly. The dictionary says “fierce” means showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity. And that is the way she writes her beautiful stuff.

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Her post on “Make Your Own Meant To Be” is a good example of her writing and outlook. She encourages women to create the life they want. Another blog with plenty of swearing which I consider a plus.

There are lots of great blogs out there, and if you ask me next week, I can guarantee that my top five will be somewhat different. I’d love to hear from my readers about other great blogs that you consider to be required reading.

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.

 

 

The Book That Changed The Way I Think About Fear

I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic last month, and it has changed the way I think about many things.

Before I start talking about this book, a word about her earlier books, just so you know I am fairly objective.  I read Eat, Pray, Love – or more properly, I should say I tried to read it.  I just could not connect with it.  So, I’m not a huge fan of all her work.

big magic

One of the most intriguing things she talks about is that fear we all feel from time to time when we try something new, or meet someone new, or think in a new way.  She points out that fear actually does serve a very important evolutionary purpose.  Our ancestors who paid good attention to their fears survived to reproduce.  Life was chancy and danger was everywhere – people who were cautious lived longer lives than careless risk takers.  The ones who put every unknown berry in their mouths lived a shorter life.    Since evolution weeded out risk takers, we’ve inherited that fear mindset.

Life is much safer now in general, when was the last time you met a tiger in your back yard, after all?  But fear doesn’t understand that.  And when you try something new or undertake a project with an uncertain outcome it can easily take over the show.

Ms. Gilbert explains all this in much more detail and more elegantly than I can, but additionally, she gives a great tool for overcoming fear.

She says we cannot and should not eliminate fear entirely, it’s purpose is still important at times.  It keeps you safe when something really is about to go south.  But undertaking a new art project is not terribly dangerous.  So, she gives you one way to put fear in the back seat where it belongs.

She advises talking to fear as if it were a person, and telling it that it’s not going to get to drive on this road trip.

Now, that may sound silly, but I’ve been doing this and it’s made a big difference in the amount of anxiety I feel at various times, especially when beginning a creative project in an area in which I don’t consider myself very expert.

Acknowledging the fear and putting it in the back seat helps me feel safe enough to move forward with things that seemed overwhelming in the past.  I don’t worry so much about what people will think about my work or even about me.  Fear seems to cooperate and sit quietly watching the scenery.

I liked this book so much I copied a section into my journal and read over it several times a week.

I recommend every artist and creator (and that’s all of us, isn’t it?) read this book.

If you are reading my blog hoping for juicy pictures of fiber, this picture of a new handspun yarn is for you.

Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn
Hanspun Silk And Wool Yarn

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!

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…