Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

This is supposed to the biggest shopping weekend of the year. How as a small business do you compete with the big retailers or stores with deep discounts? The simple answer is you don't and you shouldn't. What handmade businesses offer is something different from mass produced goods, we provide quality and passion in our products, something they can't compete with. Your challenge is to find and entice the people who know the value of handmade and convince those on the fence.

I'm not saying that sales and free shipping offers won't help you make sales over this weekend. If you have interested shoppers those offers just might push them over the edge into buying. However if someone cares more about a deal than quality your sale isn't going to entice them because you can't compete on price with mass produced goods. I'm not writing this to discourage you but for perspective, there are lots of customers out there interested in handmade products and quality. Of course those customers need to find you but that's a topic for another post (probably many posts).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Photographing Your Work Part I

If you're selling your handmade products online your photos are the best way for your customers to judge your work. So you need the photos to be good. This first of 3 parts on photographing is about how to set up to take good photos, Part II will cover composing the photos against a backgrop and with props, Part III will cover editing.


Digital cameras have come a long way and now even a fairly inexpensive digital camera can take good resolution photos. The only requirements that are a must is a minimum of 4 megapixel resolution, a macro setting, and basic manual white balance settings. I also prefer a time delay setting, just 2 seconds is enough for me to get my hands away from the camera to prevent shaking.
  • Resolution: It's best to take your photos much larger than you need them so you can more easily edit and crop them, then resize down the the dimensions you need.
  • Macro Setting: Macro usually indicated by a flower icon or button and is for taking crisp photos are 3 feet away or less. This is essential to photograph any products smaller than about basketball sized.
  • White balance: This is how your camera processes the lighting when you take a photo, you need to set this to match the current lighting or your colors will be off. For example if you try to take photos in incandescent lighting with sunlight selected for white balance everything will have a very yellow cast, alternatively take photos in sunlight with incandescent light selected and everything will be very blue.


And absolute must is a tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera such as a box or stack or books. When taking closeups with the macro setting on any tiny shaking in your hands will make the photo blurry.


Lighting is the most essential part of taking good photos. Here are some tips:
  • Don't use flash. Ever. Flash will wash out your photos and cause bright spots anywhere that reflects.
  • If possible use natural light. A room with large windows is great as is taking your work outside if the weather is favorable. A few things you should avoid though are bright direct sunlight, early morning and late evening light (it will give your photos a colored cast).
  • If using lamps you need to diffuse the light. The best way to do this is with a light tent for small objects which can be easily built. Large objects you'll want diffusers, these can be made with milk jugs, paper, or fabric. I'll include links to tutorials on light tents and diffusers at the end of this article.
  • The best light bulbs I've found for lamps are daylight compact florescent bulbs, the color is close to natural light.
  • How many lamps you need depends on the brightness of your lamps and the size of your object, small jewelry may only need a single lamp while a large ceramic bowl may need three. Generally though you will not need more than three (see links for info about 3 point lighting)
Obviously this is only a basic overview of what you need for taking good photos but if you're just starting out this is a good place to start. Experimentation with your camera and lighting is the best way to learn what works best for you.

Taking Successful Photos of your Artwork
Tips for Photographing Your Handmade Jewelry
Making a Soft Light for Virtually Nothing
How To: DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio
Making a Soft Light for Virtually Nothing
DIY Light Panel Diffuser
Build a photo studio - Collapsible Light Diffuser Frames

Photographing Your Work Part II

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Plans for this Blog

So a few days in and I think the blog is doing well as far as getting some content up and people starting to read it. I'll be posting new entries fairly frequently here at first before switching to a schedule of posting, probable two or three times a week.

Upcoming posts I'm planning are on using squidoo, creative packaging, holiday planning, advertising with project wonderful, and a series on basic accounting. I would love any suggestions you have on topics I should cover, links to resources or tools I should review, and any other feedback you have.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twittering for Sales

This is a condensed version of the Squidoo lens I wrote Using Twitter to Promote your Handmade Business. Please check out the full lens it's also full of links to lots of useful twitter tools.

Introduction to Twitter is a micro-blogging platform and social network rolled into one. You can post short 140 character messages to your twitter from the website, 3rd party applications or your phone.

Your messages are then viewed by anyone visiting your twitter profile and more importantly people who are 'following' you. A follower subscribes to your twitter posts and can respond to them. In turn you can (and should) also follow other people.

Twitter lets you build relationships between you and the people who follow you. You can let them know more about yourself and your business and get feedback from other people who also sell their handmade goods.

Tweeting Tips

It's very easy to go a little overboard and spam about your products here are some tips for sending good tweets:

General Tweeting

1: Don't just talk about your products when they're done and listed for sale, talk about making them, new ideas you have, etc.

2: Also talk about yourself and your life some, tell a joke now and then, do you have a funny pet story or a great recipe to share. Let people learn more about who you are and what you care about.

3: Tweet your blog. Using a service like Twitterfeed or the wordpress twitter plugin link your blog to your twitter to announce new posts.

4: Interact with the people you follow and who follow you. Answer their questions, ask your own questions, if they told a funny joke let them know, etc.

5: Have fun. If you go into Twitter totally businesslike you've missed the point. It's about communicating not just pumping out advertising for your product.

Talking about your Products and Business

So what type of things about your products should you be posting?

1: Announce when new products are listed. If you've just listed one item post a direct link to it but if you are listing more than 2 or 3 items in a day wait until you're finished for the day then announce with a link to your shop.

2: Announce sales and promotions. If you're having a sale announce it once or twice during the day, not every few minutes or every hour. You don't want to flood your followers.

A Balancing Act

So this is my first real post here on Handmade Business and I wanted to talk a bit about web presence and where you should put your focus. I strongly believe in not putting all your eggs in one basket, especially online where servers can go down, data gets lost, and hard drives fail. At the same time it's very easy to get spread too thin to be doing too much and not really put enough time and effort in as you should. So how do you balance things and what sort of sites should you be participating in. Here are my thoughts:

I think every handmade business should have a main website, a hub for all their other online activities. For me I have a site I've had since Noadi's Art was simply a way to show off my artwork with no plan to sell anything and was named Noadi's Pixels. The benefits of having your own website and domain name are that you aren't reliant on an online venue staying online or keeping their fees low, you're in charge. You also have the option of running your shop directly from your site without the need for online venues like Etsy or Ebay if you no longer want to deal with the extra hassle or you outgrow the venue you are using.

Hosting and domain registration don't cost very much depending on how much storage space and features you want. I would recommend going with well known established hosting and domain registrations companies like GoDaddy and Bluehost, I've heard too many horror stories of smaller web hosts going out of business with little notice to their customers.

Your blog could be part of your main website or hosted separately (which is what I do) but you should really have one. A blog is the best way to keep people up to date on what your working on, upcoming sales, etc. It can be very business-like or more casual. I would recommend being careful about how much personal chatting on your blog you do, if it doesn't fit what your business does save it for a personal blog instead. If you make homemade dog treats your dog (and presumably taste-tester) is great to talk about but not so much if you make non-canine themed jewelry. I should also point out that google and other search engines seem to really like blogs so they pop up frequently in searches.

Online Selling Venues
I have my thoughts on which selling venues are best though I'll save that for a later post. I want to talk about how many you are using. I see many sellers with their products on 5 or 6 or more selling venues and I really think they are spreading themselves too thin. You don't need a presence on every online selling site and you can't effectively promote that many shops. My recommendation is to instead focus on at most 2 selling venues (if you have a shopping cart on your own site that counts as one).

Social Networks, Forums, etc.
I love social media and I have accounts all over the place. However in all honestly there are only a handful I really put time into. It's too much to really participate everywhere, so I have my favorites that I really participate fully in and enjoy and then those that I merely maintain an account on and update it from time to time. How many you can handle depends on you and the amount of time you can spend on them, 4 or 5 seems to be my limit.

I hope this has given you some ideas to think about. I think my next post will be on using Twitter, one of those social networks that I really enjoy.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome to the Handmade Business Blog

I've been writing about running a handmade business for a while now on sites like Squidoo, Associated Content, and Hubpages. This blog is to help pull all that content together, provide some new ideas, and share great articles by other writers I find online. I hope for it to become a great resource for those running a small business creating handmade items, whether you sell on Etsy, eCrater, at craft shows, or anywhere else.
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