Friday, October 30, 2009

Weekly Inspiration

Something for Halloween

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Being Small Doesn't Mean Looking Small

Today we have a guest post with a different perspective. Usually this blog is from the point of view of someone running a small handmade business today we have the point of view of a professional in advertising and marketing. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please send me an email.
David Gash is the Founder of Prova Advertising, a company that is revolutionizing the way that businesses meet their advertisement needs. Prova promotes crowdsourcing with an ingenious approach that allows small to medium sized businesses to launch Ad Design Contests in order to find the best design talent at YOUR price.

Being Small Doesn't Mean Looking Small

Here are a few tips to help your business look more professional even if it's a one-person operation.

1) Don't use your personal email address - Time and time again business owners using their personal email address for their business. This sends out the sign that you either lack money, expertise, or commitment. If any of these are true, never let it show. Take a few dollars and register a domain name and at least sign up for email service. Even if you aren't going to develop a website, a domain name will let you get a professional email address that tells the world you take your business seriously. sells domain names for less than $10. A lesser known service called Google Apps can host your new domain's email for free.

2) Business Cards - It used to be that an independent business owner would have to go to their local printer and buy an enormous box of ugly business cards. The owner knew every time they handed them out that everyone saw they were small. Those days are over so let them go. Have a professional designer spend some time to put together a logo for your business and get that design into a business card. Make sure you include your name, contact information, website address and enough information so that people will remember who it was that gave them a card. Avoid the temptation to give yourself a title like President or CEO. Owner will do fine but Artist will say a lot more if you are creating a product. Let the design of your card emulate the style of your business. Find a printer online that does small quantities of full color printing and order a box. You'll be amazed how quickly you can go through 500 cards. Don't be tempted by large quantities because they are incrementally cheaper. You may decide after the first set that you want to make some changes. After you're sure they fit the bill, then you can order larger quantities. Go for full color and a UV coating on the front which will give you a high quality, expensive feel to the cards. Be sure to leave the back without coating since UV coating will keep you from being able to flip over a card to write some notes.

3) Skip the Clip Art - Clip Art can be easily spotted even if you feel like you dug it up on some remote site. You can spend as little as $200 to get a nice, quality logo for your business. Remember, usually graphic designers will charge less for a package and can get a logo, business card, and other work done for you in one project.

4) Remember the Press Release - The best way to generate free buzz for your business is to do a press release. It isn't magic but it does take some research to put it together. If you do an online search for press releases, you'll find numerous free templates to follow. Put together an announcement you may have about a new product, a new employee, or an upcoming event and send it to local news outlets that may cover community or business news. Make the release compelling and interesting and most of all, short!

5) Social Networking - Consider starting up a social networking site like Twitter or Facebook for your business. These are somewhat time intensive but the relationship that you, your business, or your products can build with existing customers is invaluable. You'll also be quickly exposed to new customers and can begin to build your brand with them. Consider Twitter for more constant updates with shorter information, such as, "I'm sitting at my wheel with a lump of clay, I wonder what will emerge today." Consider Facebook for longer, more detailed information where you can post pictures and get a real dialogue started.

6) Plan - Sit down and think about where you want to be a year from today with your business and write it down. When you are presented with any advertising opportunity, like the yellow pages, or a marketing event, look at your goals and see if that event is in line with getting you where you're headed. If not, skip it.

Big businesses have dedicated staff to pull off their marketing strategies. With a little effort and some elbow grease, your business can have the same marketing advantages. And if marketing really isn't your strength or you don't know the first thing about hiring a designer, consider hiring a company like Prova that will let you run a contest to get your marketing needs professionally met on your budget. Remember, being a small business never has to show on the outside, unless you want it to.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekly Inspiration

I love the monochromatic look with the texture of the wall.

girl 2, originally uploaded by rjrisco.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Business for Kids

Monday I spoke at a local school for a bunch of art students and a lot of business stuff came up about selling online. There are a lot of great creative kids out there who would like to sell the things they make. Personally I think it can be a very valuable learning experience for a kid to start up their own little business. So if you have a creative child who wants to try to sell their work, give them a shot at it but realize it is going to be work for you as well as them.

Legally children under 18 can't enter into legal contracts so as the parent you are ultimately responsible for any online accounts, bank accounts and so forth. This means that you're going to have to do a good bit of work, the younger they are the more work you'll have to help them with. Research with them local rules for businesses, help them with the books, you'll have to accompany them to the bank to set up an account for them (most states don't allow kids under 18 to have a bank account on their own), and teach them how to manage their money.

Most selling venues online require a credit card to set it up (and paypal prefers you have one on file). Since I don't think most kids should have access to a real credit card instead of using your own consider using a prepaid card or setting up a checking account with your child that has a debit card with a credit card logo.

On the subject of money I think you should put rules down at first about how their money must be spent or saved. A portion should be for personal spending, a portion goes back into the business, a portion to savings, and a portion to charity (let them pick whch ones, it'll mean more to them). What the proportions should be will constantly change depending on their age and how much the business is making. For a younger child (say 9-10 years old) an even 1/4 split between them would be simplest to handle but as they get older they may want more money to go into growing the business or going to college savings. Discuss it with them every few months. As your child gets closer to 18 you need to back off and let them make more of the decisions to prepare them for when they'll be on their own.

Etsy Guidelines for Sellers
Forbes article on Raising an Entrepreneur
These Kids Mean Business Documentary (aired on PBS)
Kids and Money Books on Amazon

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Weekly Inspiration

Zarah, originally uploaded by anna lilo.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

I will be posting a Weekly Inspiration later but I came across this story and I think it's really important.

Fans rally to rescue soured sweets maker in Oklahoma City

To summarize: Fat Daddy Sweets was reported to local health inspectors for not following regulations on using a licensed kitchen. She's now rallying Twitter and her fans to help her raise the money to get all the paperwork in order and into a licensed kitchen. I really feel for her and hope everything works out so she can get things back up and running soon.

This isn't a difficult situation for a handmade company to get into, so many of us start in our home selling to friends and family. However once we move out of that realm into starting a real business there are laws and regulations that we must follow. It is your responsibility to research all your local and state rules that govern the products you sell, from license requirements for food to sales taxes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Etsy SEO Cheat Sheet

Okay, since I guess a lot of people are confused by Etsy's SEO guide I've decided to do this quick and dirty cheat sheet. The guide is still a much better resource so I hope this post will make the guide easier to understand. You can download the full guide here: along with a video and other information. If you've had trouble downloading the Guide as a .pdf file try viewing it online in Google Documents.

What you are optimizing
This guide is to show you how to use the text you can edit in your Etsy shop to improve how search engines rank your shop. We're going to start with your main page and then move on to the item listings.

Introduction to Keywords
Think of keywords as important words and phrases that you want people to use to find your shop. To start targeting the keywords you want think of the best words to describe your product. We'll use mine as an example, a few obvious keywords are:
  • cuttlefish
  • squid
  • octopus
  • polymer clay
  • handmade jewelry
Now if I plug some of those into a keyword tool I'll get suggestions for other phrases I might not have thought of like:
  • deep sea octopus
  • giant squid
  • polymer clay beads
Not all the suggestions will be perfect so make a list of these keywords and select only those you think are best for your shop. You want to work these keywords into the text you write. You want to spread your keywords out among your shop, one or two per sentence. Hopefully these keywords (or a combination of them) will be what people will type into Google to find your shop. You won't always rank highly for all of them no matter how good your SEO is.

Shop Title
Your shop title is that bit of bold text right under your shop banner and search engines will consider it the most important piece of text on the page. This text will also show up in the title bar of the browser as "your shop title" by "your username". It has to be short and sweet, only the first 30 characters that you type into your title will be displayed in the title bar and in search engine results.

You want to write a title that says what you sell with some of your keywords. "Welcome to my shop" is not going to be helpful, tell us what you sell.

Shop Announcement
Your shop announcement lets you introduce your shop and what you sell. The most important part of your announcement is the first 160 characters because that section will get used by some search engines as the piece of text they show in search results like this:

That screenshot was made using a new tool Etsy has given us when we edit our shop appearance. If you click the link that says "View a preview of how your shop homepage will appear in Google search results" on the shop appearance editing page it will display how your search results for your page will look. This is a really valuable tool to make sure your title and announcement fit all the important stuff into the character limits.

The beginning of your shop announcement should be describing what you sell using some of your keywords. Leave any announcements of sales, how long you've been creating, etc. for after that introduction paragraph.

Section Titles
Sections are best created to better organize your shop however you can do a little SEO optimizing of the titles by using some of your keywords in them.

Item Titles
This is the most important thing to write about your product. This text is the most prominent, and goes in the page title and the alt tag for the image (another bit of text that search engines view). You have a total limit of 42 characters before the title gets cut off in the top of the browser and for search engines (however the total title will display on the page above your photos).

Again Etsy has a new tool for use to help see how much of our item title and description will get displayed in search results. Right below the text box for your item description when you create or edit an item is a link that says "View a preview of how your item will appear in Google search results" clicking it will display a preview of a google search result like this

It will update live as you edit your item titles if you need to work them shorter to fit the limit. You want to work in as many of your keywords as you can while still making the title make sense and sound like it was written by a person. A list of keywords is a bad idea, google is wise to that sort of thing and it will hurt you.

For items I also consider the colors or other major characteristic of the item as a keyword just for that item and make sure to use it. Descriptive names are going to be better for SEO than a cute name like "The Lulu dress" so it you want to name your products like that you need to put more description after the name like "Lulu, a knee length blue jersey dress".

Item Descriptions
Like with your shop announcement the first 160 characters of your item title are the most important. This is where you should describe your item. Leave any technical specifications like length, size, etc. until after you introduce us to your item. Again you need to use your keywords.

Tags and Materials
These are first and foremost the keywords you want to use to get found using Etsy's internal search so worry more about that than google when writing them. They will help but only a minor factor for google and in any case your Etsy tags likely already contain keywords you would be using for your items anyway.

These are simply links to your shop or items from other sites. Blogs, directories, other shops, etc. Google uses backlinks to help determine how good your shop is and more and better backlinks will help you rise in the search results. Some you can create yourself by writing a blog or submitting to directories but most shoudl come from other people writing about you. Don't be afraid to submit your items to blog writers and ask them to feature you.

I hope you've found this barebones desciption useful and it helps you understand the full guide better. Please let me know in the comments if you have questions and I'll try to answer them.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shop Policies Question List

Every selling venue online has a place for you to input your shop policies in some way. So what sort of thing should you include? This is a little questionaire to give you a starting point in writing your policies. However it is only a list of questions, you'll need to format your answers into your policies yourself.

What is your shop name?
What do you sell?
What is a brief description of what you do?

What forms of payment do you take? Paypal, Google Checkout, Check, Money Order, etc?
What is the timeframe must you be paid in before you cancel a sale?
Do you require payment in full before shipping? (hint: this should probably be yes for your own safety)
Do you live in a state that charges sales tax? If so what is that sales tax rate that you have to charge to orders in your state? (If you aren't sure, look it up you don't want your state's revenue service mad at you)


How quickly do you ship? Next business day? Only certain days of the week?
What shipping service do you use? USPS, Fed Ex, UPS?
What type of shipping do you use, is it priority mail or ground shipping? Does this vary depending on product?
Do you offer international shipping? Which countries?
How do you handle international shipping? (Make sure to state that recipients are responsible for any custom fees or taxes in their country)

Refunds and Returns?

Do you take returns at all?
Are there limitations to returns? Do you accept all returns or only items broken in shipping?
Do you give a refund for returns or replacement only?

Everything Else:
Do you offer gift wrapping? Is it free or for an additional fee?
Are there age limitations for your products? Why?

If you sell edible items:
Does your state require a licenced kitchen? Do you have one?
Do your products contain any common allergens such as peanuts, milk, etc.

If you sell Bath and Body:
Do they contain any common allergens?

Other specialty areas may have their own concerns, so make sure you address them.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Weekly Inspiration

I like the slightly askew angle of this photo.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Video Pick - Etsy SEO Lab

Video from the Etsy Virtual Lab hosted by Rand from SEOMoz on what SEO is and how you can optimize your shop. It's full of good information.

Etsy Guide to SEO Workshop from Etsy on Vimeo.

Other SEO Posts:
Etsy SEO Changes and Guide
Why is SEO Important for my Shop?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Weekly Inspiration

Simplicity has it's merits.

stacking ring set #2, originally uploaded by Mia Sophia.

Submit your photos for consideration as a Weekly Inspiration by adding them to the Flickr Group.

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