My Virtual Sanity

Have you ever felt the need to share your thoughts with virtual strangers just so you can pretend that you have adult conversations during the day? Well, that's what I'm about to do. Be prepaired for my life as a stay at home, obsessive knitter, and my attempts to stay connected with the rest of the world.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Celebrating 500 sales on Etsy

The beginning of June marks my 6th month in business on Etsy, and I have just celebrated my 500th sale on that venue. June also marks my 3rd year in business selling recycled yarn. In all that time, the last 6 months have BY FAR been the most profitable. I have learned a lot about business on Etsy and to mark this milestone in my shop, I thought I would share some advice with my fellow Etsy sellers.

1) Treat your shop as a business.
If you treat your shop as a hobby, you will get a hobby's worth of results. Be dedicated to creating new products, filling out your shop, taking excellent pictures, knowing how to work with the Etsy system, and promoting in as many ways as your are able. Search the internet for business topics, read the forums, learn as much as you can. It is not as simple as creating something and listing it.

2) Know your target market.
Knowing your target market and providing a product that they WANT is the foundation for a successful shop. You can make beautiful things, but let's face it, if you targeting the wrong people, or if your beautiful things do not fulfill a need or want in your market you are not going to sell anything.

Ask yourself a few questions and gear your descriptions, or even your products to speak to your market. BEING a member of your target market helps tremendously with putting yourself in their mindset.
-Why would my market be interested in my products?
-What aspects of my product would be the biggest selling point?
-Where does my target market hang out on the internet? (What is the best place to join in the community and quietly promote)

3) Search your key search on Etsy every day (or multiple times a day).
A large percentage of people are going to find you simply by searching on Etsy. It is important that you show up in this search, that you show up early, and that you show up often.
-Think of all the possible search words that you think of someone might type in to find your item and tag your items accordingly.
-Create new items or renew items frequently so that you remain present in the searches. The more times you show up, the more chances you have of someone falling in love with your products. If you drop down too far, it is time to renew, or list a new item.
-Get to know your competition through this search. Analyze their style, how prolific they are, how frequently they list, their success, etc. Use this information to make your shop stand out next to them.

4) Make the most of your tags.
Use ALL of them. Tag colors, your shop name, key selling points (free shipping, eco friendly, etc.), important materials (sterling silver, cashmere, etc.) and descriptive words (soft, shiny, classy, funky, retro, etc), common misspellings, and alternate phrasing.
-Look at your competition's listings for ideas on other tags that you could be using.

Your buyers find you through these tags, as do treasury makers. Treasuries help bring more exposure to you, thus increasing your views, and hopefully sales.

5) Visually stand out from the crowd.
Make your items stand out from your competition. This is about branding. You want your buyers to see your items in the search and know that it is yours.
-Have a unique style that shows up in your photographs. This may be the style of your products themselves, or simply the way you photograph them.

6) Continually improve your photography
Your photographs will make or break you. Your customers can't hold your items, so the photographs need to be clear, informative, and visually stunning all at once.
-Read the tutorials online, and in the forums to improve your shots.
-Use natural light, or a light box.
-Tweek your shots in photo editing software to make them the best they can be.
-Take LOTS of pictures of each item at many different angles. Choose only the best 5 to keep.
-Search around Etsy for another seller who's product photographs you admire. Emulate their style and adapt it to fit your items and your shop. DO NOT copy their style exactly. You want to stand out. Use their style as inspiration on how to pose items, or how something looks best.
-Use all 5 picture slots that Etsy gives you.
-Select 1 shot that is artsy, alluring, and visually stunning that will draw your customers in. Make them want to click on it to get a better look and to see more of that stunning piece. Make this your first shot.
-Give at least 1 shot of the full item. You may loose a sale if your customer has to piece together all your shots to figure out what the whole thing looks like.
-Show important details such as the clasp, patterning, etc.
-Have a shot showing your item in scale. It is difficult to tell in a picture how big, or small an item is. Dimensions in your description are important, but it is difficult to visualize dimensions. Show a necklace or purse on a model, your stuffed toy in a person's hand, or your artwork on the wall next to a piece of furniture.

7) List more
You can't sell it if it isn't in your shop.
-Creating and listing more means more choice for your customers
-More listings spaced out have your shop show up more frequently in the searches, bringing more people to your shop.
-More variety means more choice for your customers. The more items you ahve, the more likely someone is to fall in love with a piece and take it home.
-Shops that are filled out have a more professional appearance, like you are running a business rather than a hobby.

As you list more, use your shop sections, so that your buyers can easily find everything in your shop.

8) Diversify your product line
Variety is the spice of life. Additional product lines allow you to list in multiple catagories, which allows you to draw people to your shop from multiple searches. If your products are complimentary, it encourages people to find something in your shop they didn't realize they wanted when they typed in the original search. Consistently look at your products and ask yourself:
-Is there a complementary line of products I can also sell?
-Can I make this product in more sizes or colors or patterns?
-Can I offer more products in different price ranges?

9) Make a high quality product
If your customers are delighted with your products they will come back for more and refer more people to your shop. This is free advertising, and the more people they send your way, the fewer you have to find yourself.
-Pay attention to details
-Use materials you are proud of

10) Provide excellent customer service
Each customer that you take care of well and comes back, is one customer you don't have to find.
-Treat your customers as you would like to be treated.
-Check your email and convos at least once a day, if not more often
-Be professional, polite, and kind.
-Ship quickly
-Maintain communication. If something is taking a while, keep them updated. Let your customers know when their items have been shipped.

I hope that this helps you all in your shops and here's hoping for success for each of you!

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Look mom, I'm a book

I have been told that the enormous amount of climbing that my children do is genetic. My mother in law has no idea how she managed to survive raising my husband. When he was 9 months old she left the room for a minute only to return and find him at the top of a very large bookcase. When Alex was small we had a barricade blocking off the side ladder on his bunk bed because we didn't want our 1 yr old on the top bunk just yet...

The twins seem to have continued the proud tradition of little boys who know how to climb things far higher than is really safe. We have completely re-arranged the family room because I spent several exhausting days pulling one or the other of them off of the coffee table, off of the kitchen counter (which they reached from the coffee table) off of the back of the couch, off of Daddy's computer chair, off of Daddy's COMPUTER, and just about any other serface you can imagine. After re-aranging, the designated baby zone is almost completely free of all objects that are dangerous to climb on. They have discovered they can turn boxes upside down, or push their bike up to something to give themselves a nice handy step stool, but for the most part, there are no high places to fall from.

It appears, though, that climbing is a necessary part of the 1 yr old daily workout. Hyrum has claimed this small, empty (because they wouldn't leave anything in it!) bookshelf as his new hang out. I think maybe he thinks he's a book. Or maybe a monkey.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Spring Time Treasures

Spring has officially arrived here in our little slice of the country despite the snow that we had last week. Each tiny reminder of new, flourishing life feels like treasures to me and begs to be cherished and documented.

Tiny little Robin's egg held in tiny little 3 yr old hands.

Pretty weed flowers that we will call "wild flowers" next to my rusty wire garden fence.

Bring on the Butterflies Mother Nature. We're ready.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Minor Emergency

I opted this week to wash all of the laundry in one long marathon session on Friday and just piled it up on the living room couch until I could fold it all on Saturday morning, rather than do a load a day as Flylady suggests. I would have put it in baskets, but I simply don't own enough baskets to do this. I have deluded myself into thinking that if I don't have enough baskets, I will be forced to fold the clean laundry before I can wash more. In reality, it just means that the clean laundry remains in the basket and I don't wash more clothes because I don't have a place to put them. Folding laundry is one of my least favorite chores. I have absolutely no problem actually washing the clothes, but since I was a teenager and began doing my own laundry, the clothes have gone from the dryer to the basket and sat forever. I have tried to break this cycle, but I seem to keep coming back. I can have baskets of clean clothes, but no one can manage to find their socks. Of course, matching up all those socks is another matter.

The folding of the laundry went quite smoothly this week. I managed to get my 2 older children to do the bulk of the work which I think may have been one of the more brilliant ideas I have ever had. I went to get the last load of laundry from the dryer only to discover that it was still damp. "Hmm, I'm sure I started that" I thought. Of course, I've done that before; neglected to start the dryer when I moved laundry over. I twisted the knob to get it going and nothing happened. No sound, no click, nothing. My dryer was doing a wonderful impression of a large harmless metal box.

That's a problem.

There are 7 people in this house, not to mention that I cloth diaper 2 of those people. We do A LOT of laundry. True this was the last load from a weeks worth of clothes, but there were still the diapers to consider...

I checked the plug. Yep, it's plugged in. I am quite the mechanical genius there.

I checked the breaker. It was labeled clearly. I flipped it back and forth. Didn't make a bit of difference.

Well, that was it. That's all I've got.

I mentioned morosely to my Uncle who came over for dinner about the dryer, thinking that I would either have to pay a repair guy to come look at it or go buy a new one.

"Hmm" He said and disappeared out the front door. He came back a few minutes later with a bunch of tools and began industriously unscrewing things on the dryer.

"Wow, look at that! That wire is completely fried through" he showed me.

"Huh" I replied

"Well, we should be able to find out what did that" he replies calmly and keeps unscrewing things.

"So, we need a new plug?" I ask hopefully

"Nah, I can splice that, no need to buy a new one"

"Oh!" I say. My uncle is obviously an electrical genius. I'm glad he's over here so much.

I layed out the remains of the load of laundry and the load of diapers that I desperately needed to wash and settled in for a long haul. I didn't have to wait long. About 24 hours after I discovered the dryer's trechery, my uncle had managed to repair the plug and magically it was working again.

We never did find out what had caused the plug to burn out, but I'm not terribly concearned since the load of diapers is now soft and fluffy from tumbling in the newly repaired dryer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lasagna Garden

It is a glorious 70 degrees outside this week. After last weeks huge rain storm (3 days of rain in Colorado, what's THAT about?!), I can almost watch all the tumble weed plants growing in my backyard. Now, they're not too bad looking, green and leafy with tiny purple flowers, but they certainly don't compare to a normal lawn, or the lush oasis at my Grandparent's house. They get so tall that I could loose children in them, and when you mow them down, they become hard spiky stumps. We also have the devious goat head vines. They LOVE our sandy soil. They are the only thing that I have ever seen actually growing in the soft dunes out in the field. They, too, are quite attractive in order to disguise their horrible nature. They are a creeping vine that covers the sand in a layer of tiny leaves, and pretty little yellow flowers. The true horror doesn't come for a few months when the flowers die back and the green seed pods start to form. Goat Heads (or sand burrs) are the bane of my country existence. Can you picture caltrops? They were a military weapon designed to stop cavalry. They are a small metal object with sharp points on all sides so that no matter how they fall to the ground there is always at least one of those sharp spikes sticking up. They were used to lame horses, and more recently to puncture the tires of cars. The goat heads that cover my yard are exactly like that, except they are about the size of a pea (so they are almost invisible as you walk around the house) and are organic. They stick to the soles of all shoes and to the tires of our cars. They are proportedly impossible to get rid of in the yard.

My plan is to choke them out.

Someday, I will fill my 1/4 acre backyard with other plants, or bricks, or something, so that there isn't any room for them to thrive. Someday...

That day is not today. Today I am building a new garden. In a corner of my yard about the size of my bedroom, I am building a garden. I have no intention of filling the whole thing just yet. I'll work up to that, but this small zone will be full of plants of my choosing. Vegitables, flowers, and fruit vines. Lush and lovely, and totally non-goat head. It is turning out to be MUCH larger and more time consuming than I had originally thought, though. At least I don't have to dig.

For the last several months, I have been collecting materials, 2 trash cans full of old news papers, 6 cans full of old moldy hay from the barn, 4 gigantic bales of peat moss, and a few bags of garden soil. I am bulding a Lasagna garden. The goal is to build up your garden like raised beds (except I don't have any retaining walls) in a kind of strip composting pattern. You cover the ground (weeds, sod and all) with thick pads of wet newspaper. On top of that you lay a thin layer of peat moss. Then you just begin building layers of anything that you would put in a compost pile, chopped leaves, grass clippings, manure, straw, etc. In between each layer of material, you lay another thin layer of peat moss. Top the whole thing off with a layer of mulch (I'm using hay). The newspaper keeps the weeds out, the layers feed the plants, and the mulch at the top helps keep all the moisture in the soil. Sounds fantastic in theory. We'll see how it works out since I can't seem to keep any plants alive for long...

This morning I finished up the newspapers, layed a layer of peat moss and a layer of manure. Next more peat moss, then hay. Looking at how quickly my gigantic piles of materials have diminished, I'm going to need to take another trip to the store for peat moss, and a few dozzen more trips to the feild for more manure...

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Being a twin

Being a twin does not seem to be a whole lot different from being a single baby. Hyrum and Quinn are still VERY active little boys who enjoy climbing on everything they can reach and generally exploring their world. They are hardly ever still and seem to entertain themselves quite well. The one major difference seems to be that you have competition your own size. I think that's what makes them so cute.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hubby is so awesome

Look at that, Hubby put my Shawn the Sheep on my birthday cake. Add that to the fact that he made breakfast and dinner for us all, and let me lay around reading all day and pretty much ignoring the world and I have to say he is so wonderful. I haven't had a birthday this wonderful in a long time :)