Craftspeople online brick by brick


brick-by-brick

YEAR ONE

A blog is the place to break your craft’s business’ online virginity. Write about your start-up.

 Blogging gives you perspective and  gains you sympathisers

Keep it simple, keep it short, honest, picture led and weekly .

 Do not expect sales. But picture your product regularly, give price and dimensions each time.

Follow other craftspeople and comment on their posts. Thats how you get some of their followers.

Only blog if you find writing easy, if  it’s a struggle skip this step. Poor writers aren’t read

Probably the simplest first time host for your blog is Google’s Blogger.

Later you will link your blog into your website.

brick captioned Twitter

Twitter is a strange creature, 

but it makes immediate connections and acts as a valuable online pointer

 It’s not just about those 140 characters, it ‘s about links & pictures.

Your task is to amuse yourself and other people.

 It’s the casual gathering round the water cooler, it’s an audience.

If you use it just for marketing, people will unfollow.

  Don’t fill it with endless @ messages as that puts off new visitors.

Use @business name

YEAR TWO

brick captioned marketplace

Now you have a clearer idea of  your product and pricing,

 and  a trickle of followers from your blog and Twitter,

so you need somewhere  online to direct people to buy

Look at a handful of sites.

Look at the fees, who is selling well, does it feel appropriate ?

Pick one with fees per sale, not upfront and without a lengthy  buyers’  registration

Don’t fall for the “You have been selected” routine.

Read  forums associated with your target to get a truer picture.

If you opt for a giant like Etsy you will be swamped by competition,

 But it has strong support forums which you will learn a lot from

Buying into a marketplace gains you a shop  NOT a shop front

customers will only come from your efforts to direct them there

brick captioned FACEBOOK PAGE

Now a  Facebook Page  to further expand your online audience.

This is a Facebook Page with your business name.

This is where to chat,  inform and amuse.

You will get regulars who will help spread the word.

Link your Facebook Page new product pieces directly to your online shop

YEAR  THREE

Brick captioned OWN WEBSITE

 You now know your business well .

 You  have built an online audience through your blog,Twitter & Facebook Page

 You have made your mistakes in your market place

 so you are at last equipped to create your own website which will give you

Complete control and no  same site competition

Web designers pull towards their usual way of doing sites, be sure you get what you want.

Search other sites for elements you like, but don’t be too flash. People need calm to stay and choose

You must have  direct shopping on your site using Paypal or similar.

Your SHOP must be at the heart of everything

Part of the design brief needs to be to teach you how to directly run the site.

If you go for an off the peg, easy build,  low cost site then look at Create as its established and UK based

SO HERE IS THE PLAN

SIMPLES!

  Use the comments to ask questions and to make as many wall and brick jokes as you can as in “Hi Dixie I have hit a brick wall with….”

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28 thoughts on “Craftspeople online brick by brick

  1. Mike Jubb says:

    Hi Dixie, thanks for all your tips. I’m Mike, aka Sally Online. I seem to have done things the ‘wrong’ way round. I opened a Folksy shop http://folksy.com/shops/SallyTextiles about nine months agao. I built and launched our website stampandpunch.com just before Christmas… now I’ve opened Twitter and FB accounts, and have signed up for blogger. I’m only supplies at the moment, so I don’t know if I qualify for the Dixie treatment… if not, thanks anyway for letting me eavesdrop. Mike

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Mike your transgender arrangements take a while to fathom but I have got it now.

      The post describes what I thought is a logical way of going about things, it might have made things easier but its not going to destroy your chances if you took a different route.

      However you do have a bit of a identity issue On Folksy you are Sally Jubb textiles but the fat quarters are packaged as The Craft Cotton Company so they are only being sold by Sally Jubb Textiles but are not by Sally.The Sally Jubb designs seem to be sold in larger pieces but not by the metre but you say you might have smaller or larger pieces so ask. You are making it a fight to know whats what, it all needs sorting and thinking over it feels like a clearance outlet.

      This, on your product descriptions is a sales death wish

      “Items should always leave my smoke and pet free home in pristine condition so, if they don’t arrive in that state, it may be because something has happened in transit, and I’ll need to investigate. I always obtain proof of posting.

      The main thing is to have goodwill and good communications.

      Thank you kindly… and Happy Stitching to you! ”

      What that says to the customer is “lets not have a row but I don’t trust you if you say things arrived damaged or didn’t arrive because I have proof of posting and whatever happens its the post’s fault.”

      You need to deal with disputes discreetly you dont try to take a stand before they happen.

      On the subject of smoke free and pet free read this https://handmadelives.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/a-bit-harsh/ scroll down to the ashtray.

      I am going to post this then look at your website as I am in the habit of accidentally deleting stuff so will send in tranches

      • Dixie Nichols says:

        I am back, the website really is craft supplies and you are right I want to work with craftspeople not retailers, The Folksy sort of fitted because some of what you are selling is your own designs sorry

      • Mike Jubb says:

        Dixie, thank you for taking the time. Actually, none of the designs are by us. I did say that I’m supplies only, so I’m sorry that the Folksy shop gives the wrong impression. The trouble is… Folksy automatically puts ‘Designed by…’ so there’s no way round that at the present, though it has been raised with them by other suppliers I believe. Anyway, although given under false pretences, as it were, I’m very grateful for your comments, and I have made a start on addressing them.

        Best wishes, Mike

        PS. I like your turn of phrase… transgender arrangements… nice. I’ll definitiely use that one. :)

  2. Claudia Schmidek says:

    Many thanks Dixie, for so many informative posts, they are really helpful!
    In my case, I had 1st an Etsy shop, and managed to build a website really straightforwardly out of it with an app I have found there. Actually a Facebook page came 2nd, then Twitter and Blog after website. Maybe if I did it otherwise would have been better, but anyway that’s how it was. Now regarding the 70% marketing time, I have found that on Etsy, it’s really putting new pieces on that were bringing more people to see my shop (and which can also be posted on Twitter/Facebook, again, attracting more people in). So I think there is a question there.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Claudia you have a really distinctive style which means you have swiftly built up a following which doesn’t slip away to rivals so for you it is just getting the product out there to be bought.

      That’s where all craftspeople who survive get to eventually but it is rare to be there as swiftly as you. I think your experience is about your unusually good product not about the nature of Etsy. For many people their new pieces just sit on the site and don’t sell until they find that allusive product that starts to work, and only by a huge investment in face to face marketing time can they find their way.

  3. Amanda says:

    Wish I had this advice sooner! I’ve done things all back to front and have found the lack of sales thoroughly disheartening if I’m honest! It’s the juggling it with a full time job and I need to get into a routine of doing a bit of networking a few times a day.

    I’m currently in the process of selling off my inventory as I want to refocus what I do back to just a love of crafts (rather than trying to sell cards) while I build my photography portfolio which is my true love!

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Amanda the advice wouldn’t have saved you, its in the nature of things to go in the wrong direction to begin with.

      Cards are such a difficult area, they don’t really sell well online because there is the nonsense of sending them to one place in order for them to be sent to another and double postage… and packaging problems… and timing, birthdays wait for no man. Then there is the problem of the price ceiling….not to mention massive competition and the fact people dont use them as much as they used to. No cards are a bad choice.

      If you are thinking of photography then read my profile of David Wilson https://handmadelives.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/photographer/

      But if you have a full time job don’t imagine that making a business from your photography will allow you to do it full time. In the first three years you will need to spend 70% of your time marketing and I guess it never gets lower than 30%. Sometimes an absorbing hobby is the way to go and lots cheaper as you will have discovered

  4. Autumn Thyme says:

    Hi Dixie,

    I’ve been reading your absorbing blog for a couple of weeks and love it :)

    I’m soon going to be at the stage of being ready to lay the first brick of my wall.

    I’d like to look at a few blogs of craft businesses who have recently begun blogging about their start up in order to gain inspiration.

    Are there any you can recommend please?

    All the best,

    Autumn Thyme

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Hi Autumn, Dont look for start up blogs, look for well established ones which you like then go back into their archives. Then you are reading blogs which ultimately worked and you will see how they developed which I think is more useful to you.

      I never find reading something similar to what I am wrting helpful, you have to do it your way, you probably think you havent got a voice but it will come through.

      Write when you are irritated or a bit drunk, It always works for me. Write to sort your own head out, never think of it being read. Also pictures, pictures, pictures. When you start send me a link and I will give you some feed back if you like.

  5. Tim says:

    Well written with good advice, and how we did ours – but that’s the “front office” the bits that are visual and readily understood.

    It’s the “back office” that creative people have a problem with especially the dreaded SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or how to get the web to find you.

    http://www.ukcraftblog.com/search?q=seo
    http://www.ukcraftblog.com/2011/09/blogging-tips-and-tutorials-craft-blog.html

    The other is Meta tags – current advice is Meta keywords are not used by the search engines but the Meta description is.

    Current content is the other – don’t forget, minor changes to old posts show up as fresh material.

    These three points can and usually will, take up your hits by a factor of x 3

    Don’t worry about the competition – they make mistakes too, lots of them.

    Just develop yourselves in the way shown above, but do pay attention to detail, it’s an ongoing task not a one off and must be re-visited weekly and monthly to succeed.

    We went prematurely commercial due to circumstances and are still playing catch up on the design.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Tim thank you for joining in, I think that the search engines tend to catch up with content over time and being in varrious places helps. SOE is great if you can face it but its a bit like tax evasion the rules keep changing.

  6. Ron Philbeck says:

    Hi Dixie, Great post. I started my blog in 2005 as a way to promote my lifestyle and my work as an artist/potter. This was before there were hundreds of pottery blogs on the net. I connected with many folks and made friends all around the world. Over the years I noticed that most of my readers were other potters. My blog wasn’t leading to pottery sales. It was an information place, educational, inspirational, and fun. Still by the time I noticed this it was too late I think. Too late in that I wasn’t reaching the general public that I had hoped would read my blog and then buy my work. I mention this as warning to those starting out to pay attention to their content and to have clear goals about what they want from their blogs. I hope you will elaborate on this too.

    I do find Facebook very helpful for reaching the masses. My struggle has been to separate my Personal FB page from my Business FB page. I have realized the two can be interconnected but that the Business Page has more focus on my work and links to exhibitions etc. See my latest blog post for more on this, I’ve gotten lots of good comments too which your readers may benefit from.

    http://www.ronphilbeckpottery.com/blog/2012/7/2/facebook-is-killing-this-blog.html

    I appreciate your pushing folks to eventually move to an online shop on their website. I have not done this and am I bit reluctant to do so given my success on Etsy. I know Etsy has its ups and downs but I have have treated my Shop like a retail brick and mortar store over the past year and half and have seen increased sales. By that I mean I go to work in it everyday and keep a good inventory, I list regularly and advertise it on my blog and FB.

    Thank you so much for having this site. It’s just what I have been looking for. I appreciate your directness and willingness to give.
    ~Ron in NC, USA

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Ron I have seen that too, that you potters have a blog world where you genuinely read each others posts. Don’t question if it helps make sales IT ABSOLUTELY DOES.

      I am a case in point I found Doug Fitch’s videos and became fascinated by his world. Really because it was not addressed to me, I saw how the kiln firings dominated their lives, I could watch the making process and work out how it fitted together and why they did it that way. I don’t want to be a potter but I was captivated. Then one day on one of his videos I saw him making a jug which I simply fell for and emailed him to try and buy it, and although it was far more than I have ever spent on a pot, I bought it. I then found Hannah McAndrew’s blog and have now bought a jug from her as well.

      Another very important thing is blogging makes you and your work known to other potters. If you are generous with technical help they feel ready to help you, so asked what do you think of Ron Philbeck work they say he’s a great guy and makes great pots, so the would be buyer is encouraged

      People are quite hesitant about what to buy, especially if its a high price , so they justify it by hoping it is an investment and will check on the standing of the potter amongst his peers easy to do at a pottery event and that comment can be make or break for the sale.

      My feeling on selling on Etsy or your own site is that if you are selling strongly on Etsy it would be foolhardy to close your shop. But at the same time I would put your best pieces on your own site and not on Etsy. That way when you sell a piece on Etsy you can include a note to say that your more important pieces are only to be found on your site.

      What you can’t tell is how many people go to your shop on Etsy but get side tracked by other offerings and actually end up buying elsewhere. You also don’t know how many people get pissed off with the registering thing. As an established potter you really don’t want to just be on a site over which you have no control and one which does not successfully police the quality of goods offered. At the moment if Etsy slides you slide with it. I don’t think that is a good position.

      I wish Facebook would let you have pages without having a personal site I have two pages one for here and one for nichols buttons and it is a total pain to have a personal site as well as it just collects people who should actually have liked one of the pages. But facebook pages do work and the immediate outreach is very useful. But I think it is much better to post to them in the evenings when most people are on.

  7. Sangeetha says:

    Dear Dixie,
    Great info, once again! Happy to tell you that my blog is already up and I am working on my Facebook page. Glad to know that I am on the right path.
    Regards.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      Sangeetha your blog is utterly charming and so natural, you can hear your voice as you write. I think you have exactly the right tone for your customers. I am going to quote some so that other readers can hear you, Sangeetha makes croqueted pieces

      “What with becoming a blogger, starting a new blog, debating about my style of writing and trying to get good photos, I just realised that I have been remiss as a host. A casual glance at the sidebar showed me that I now had 25 followers! And I had never taken the time to greet them.”

      Its a little quaint and so friendly and so right for for your product, blogs dont have to be sleek but they need a voice and you have found yours. Well done

      • Sangeetha says:

        Dear Dixie,
        Thank you so much for your kind words. Coming from someone as experienced as you, they mean the world to me. I am still stuck regarding the Facebook page as I don’t know which category to opt for and also whether it is a paid or free service. The terms and conditions seem so techno legal. I will approaching a few fellow bloggers who already have their Fb page up, for help.
        Once again thank you for visiting my blog.
        Regards.

      • Dixie Nichols says:

        You dont have to pay for a Facebook page but you have to have a personal page first then you can create a page for your crochet.

        Always turn to help sections to understand how to do things Terms and conditions are just the legal jargon which you really dont need to read

        Try these for help :
        How to set up a page here
        http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=203955942973503

        This is a useful guide once you have set up your page http://ads.ak.facebook.com/ads/FacebookAds/Pages_Product_Guide_022712.pdf

      • Dixie Nichols says:

        Sangeetha you are unstoppable, your Facebook page is great well done for battling through.
        But most important PRICE pieces you show otherwise it cant get you any sales. Also don’t talk about “us” People are after something handmade not made by a business, but by you.
        I like the rose piece and the red and white coasters. Both of those suit the UK market. The UK does not put mats under things for decoration in the way they used to, they still use them to protect the table for a wine glass or teapot but not say under a decorative vase unless it had water in it so it might mark the table. But there is a big vogue for retro afternoon tea so something like your rose mat would work really well under the teapot.

        Crochet is very fashionable here this year. I think you should explore what you could make on the internet search “crochet” under google images. I think you might do really well to invent crocheted edgings and sell them to order by the metre for people to use to embellish their craft pieces or customise their clothes or soft furnishings. But charge lots and lots.

        I am watching you getting better and better Go Girl!

      • Sangeetha says:

        Dear Dixie,
        Thank you for visiting my page and your encouraging words. I will definitely work on the tips you have given me. You are doing a great service to craftspeople with your wonderful advice.
        Regards.

    • Dixie Nichols says:

      I agree useful advice always turns up after you have had to manage without. You and your daughter are making some attractive pieces.

      One change I think you really should make is to hide the “add to the shopping cart” symbol when the product is sold. I suggest you put the SOLD imediately after the price. Then use the html to hide a comment, wrapping it around the shopping cart part of the html. so it doesn’t show anymore

      If you dont know what you need you can find it at the top of the html symbols on this page http://www.w3schools.com/tags/default.asp

      Its quite a learning curve, I entirely understand your satisfaction in having got so far. I don’t often know what I am doing on the technical stuff but when I do I feel so pleased with myself.

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