Friday, January 30, 2009

Some CPSIA Requirements Suspended for One Year

The CPSC has voted to suspend most of the testing requirements for children's products for one year while it works out how the law will be implemented. This doesn't mean the crisis is over, we need to keep up the pressure to have reasonable changes made to protect small business.

More on it from Etsy

Direct link to the CPSIA site with complete info.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Photographing your Work Part III

This will be the shortest installment of this series. I'm going to take about staging your photos.

Most selling venues give you between 5 and 10 image slots so take advantage of them by taking a number of photos of each item. My generaly rule is the first image should grab attention, at least one should show the entire piece clearly, one closeup of important details, and one photo of your packaging.

The photos showing the whole piece, closeups, and packaging are the simplest, arrange your piece so the details you want seen are clearly visible and take the photos. These photos are to show the technical details of your work and give your customers the best idea of what they'll be recieving.

The one that is trickiest is the impact photo. This is the photo where you really want to use a nice prop or model if you have one, try different angles until you find an interesting one, maybe show only a portion of the piece but make sure it's a recognizable portion, you want to entice people to click to see everything not make them confused at what they're seeing. It's hard to give advice about doign this because it's really a creative choice how to stage your photos.

Some useful links:

Part IV will cover editing your photos.

Read the Rest of the Series
Part I - Basics
Part II - Backdrops and Props

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Adwords, Etsy, and Analytics

I recently started running some ads with Google Adwords. Been working nicely from the standpoint of sending visitors to my Etsy shop but I ran into a problem: the integration between Adwords and Google Analytics wasn't working right. Usually Adwords and Analytics integrate well to show you extra information about adwords campaigns bringing visitors to your site but it wasn't doing that for me. I tried tweaking various setting in Analytics and Adwords and finally figured out the problem.

I was using as the link adwords was to use to send people to my shop, once I changed it to the direct link it started registering the stats correctly. I think this is related to how Etsy handles urls for subdomains. I still use as the url that is displayed on my ads but it's not where visitors are directed.

So if you're using Adwords to advertise your Etsy shop you might want to edit the ads so you get more accurate stats in Analytics.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Time Savers

There's so much we have to do to run our businesses that ways to save some time are a big help. Here's a list of some of the ways I make chores go a little quicker:

1: Buy and print postage at home. Postal scales are pretty affordable and save lots of time, I bought the Escali Primo Digital Multifunctional Scale on Amazon for $25 and it will pay for itself quite quickly (also comes in lots of nice colors, I got the navy blue). If you print Priority Mail postage with Paypal you get delivery confirmation for free which is great if you're obsessive about tracking orders like I am.

2: Organize. Shipping is an easy one, have in one area boxes, tape, packing peanuts, labels, business cards, scale, etc. then when you pack orders it takes only a couple minutes. Keep everything you might need for billing, taxes, etc. together, a simple filing system is a big help.

3: Drive less. If you need to do some driving for deliveries or dropping packages off at the post office, combine them into one trip. Saves time and gas money.

4: Online banking and bill paying. Just about every bank now has online banking and bill paying services, take advantage of them.

5: Make a list. Write down what you want to accomplish in a day, if you can keep a schedule do that, I don't follow schedules well so a checklist of things I need to do in a day works to keep me from wasting time on things I don't need to do. I have to complete my list before I work on optional activities.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Helping Others

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and thankfully unlike so many other holidays it hasn't become a day for store sales and shopping. Instead the goal is for it to be a day of service, to help others.

One of Dr. King's goals was economic justice and opportunity for people of all races. We've still got a ways to go here in the United States to reach that goal but we've come a long way in the last half century.

Having a small business is a dream for many people. If you're looking for a small thing you can do today to help others consider joining Kiva and giving micro-loans to people in developing countries who want to start or grow their business.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Share your Promotion Tips

I happen to love Squidoo and Twitter and there's now a Squidoo co-brand that combines the two so head over to "What's your favorite way to promote your shop" and share your favorite tips with Squidoo and Twitter. You'll need a Twitter account to participate.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Link Round Up

In this first every round up of handmade business links I have some useful ideas, tax info, and a call to action about the CSPIA.

First about the CSPIA. Read up on a class action lawsuit over the CSPIA and consider gettig involved if your business will be directly impacted of potentially shut down by CSPIA.

Now for the useful idea. Suzy Q Jewelry has a post on her blog about using a wiki to collaborate with clients on custom orders. There are a number of sites that allow you to set up a wiki and Suzy Q reccomends pbwiki.

Now taxes can be overwhelming and you can get lots of conflicting advice especially when it's the first time you've had to do self-employment taxes. Here's a link to the IRS Small Business and Self-Employment Tax Center.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Google Analytics for your Business

With Etsy and ArtFire joining selling venues like eCrater in offering Google Analytics I figure it's time for an article on this incredibly useful tool. If you need help setting up Analytics and the technical aspects of it here are some useful links:
Tech Update: Etsy Web Analytics Now Available
Google Analytics Help Center
Google Analytics Video Tutorials

Now once you have Analytics set up how is it useful?

The types of stats you can get from Analytics:
  • How many visitors view your shop per day, week, month, or whatever time fram you want.
  • The average number of pages they view and how long they stay in your shop.
  • What are your most and least popular pages.
  • How many people immediately click out of your shop and what pages they do it from.
  • What sites are sending visitors to your shop.
  • How much traffic from search engines are you getting and what are the search terms they are using to get to your shop.
  • Find out what if any links visitors are clicking on to leave your shop.
  • See what countries your visitors are coming from.

Where Analytics really becomes useful is as a tool to analyze and improve your promotion efforts. Here are a few ways you can use it for this purpose:
  • If you are running ads on a site like OwnTheHour or another site find out just how many people are visiting from that site and whether it's worth the money your spending for the ad.
  • Analytics integrates with google adwords to give you added tracking of the performance of any adwords campaigns you are running.
  • Is Twittering working? Check to see how many people are clicking from your tweets to your shop. If not reconsider how your using Twitter, are you maybe tweeting too much about your shop? Too little? Not enough followers? Etc.
  • Is your blog sending visitors? If not maybe the links to your shop aren't prominent enough or they're too far down the page. For that matter set up Analytics for your blog too if you haven't already and use the two reports together to get an even better sense of what is and isn't working.
  • Do you only sell in the US and your getting a lot of Canadian visitors? Maybe time to rethink selling to Canada or retool your promotion to bring in more US visitors.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

My Thoughts on CPSIA

I've stayed away from this topic so far because I didn't have enough information yet to consider myself well informed. However I really think this is potentially disastrous new regulation for anyone selling handmade children's items. Etsy has a few good articles up here and here that do a better job than I could explaining concerns and new updates today that are encouraging. You can voice your concerns on and by all means contact your Representatives and Senators in Congress.

Please don't panic about this and close up shop. There is little chance that handmade sellers are going to face a crackdown when the big companies importing from China are a much bigger concern but the truth is we shouldn't be facing this law at all. Work to change the law, if thousands of small businesses and their customers raise their voices we'll be heard.
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