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.

 

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“.

27-Blog-Topics-Marketing-Creativity

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!

GarrisonKeillorHoldingGlasses250_0

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.

MEANT-TO-BE(pp_w450_h450)

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.

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?

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!