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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Zur Designs Is Having Giveaway!!!

Beginning October 1st and running through October 7th, Zur will be running a giveaway! All those who sign up to follow my blog between these dates will be entered into a sweepstakes to win these lovely Emerald Isle earrings! They make a great gift to start your holiday shopping or a great treat just for you!!

These earrings are made with bali headpins, potato pearls, swarovski crystals, natural green stones, bali spacers, and sterling silver fish hooks. They are elegant enough for dressing up but you'll want to wear them every day!

So here's how it works:

  • Just click the "Follow" button on the right hand side of my blog
  • Your name will be automatically entered into the drawing for "Emerald Isle Earrings"
  • I will announce the winner on this blog on October 8th!!
Oh, and if you'd like me to follow your blog...leave a comment at the end of this post!

Thanks everyone in advance and GOOD LUCK!!

So Don't Take MY Word For It--Here's Some Great Resources


So why listen to me...get the information from these handmade indie business experts instead! Here are some great resources...an eclectic mix of websites, blogs, individual posts, and other forms of advice all providing useful information about promoting your online shop. These are in no particular order...just some useful links to give you an arsenal of tools to help you along the way.

Timothy Adam Designs--this blog, his Handmadeology site, and his various groups and forum posts across the Internet provide a wealth of information about driving traffic to your site, furthering your understanding of how to use social networking to enhance your business, the fundamentals of selling on Etsy and Artfire, and much, much, more. He is in the process of launching a new site, Handmade-Review.com is a site where handmade sellers and buyers can go to read reviews by the handmade community about handmade selling venues. Timothy also sponsors an "Etsy Top 10" promotion to help Etsy shop owners gain exposure in the marketplace. I can't say enough about the wealth of information you can find simply by following this man around the Internet!

IndieCEO--I first ran into GalleriaLinda on Twitter, followed her to the iCraft.ca forums and ultimately landed on her IndieCEO site. There is information about marketing, advertising, blogging, and preparing your business for the holiday season...plus much, much more! Again, just follow her around the Internet and learn as much as you can from her...IndieCEO was where I linked up with Timothy Adams!

Web Sites Work--this site is hosted by Rita Juhlin who runs the Home Based Jewelers Directory and Blogspot. Again, there is a wealth of information on this site including such topics as driving traffic to your site, getting the most out of your advertising, and there are a lot of great tools to incorporate into your website and blog. There are some great inspirational passages on this blog as well...we all need encouragement along the way as we work hard to achieve our dreams. Spend some time with Rita on her site...you will be very glad you did.

And here's a list compiled from a great deal of list posts along the way about driving traffic to your site:

  • Use Twitter
  • Use Facebook
  • Join MyBlogLog
  • Use StumbleUpon
  • Use Digg
  • Try Out Some of the Other Social Networks
  • Make list posts
  • Improve and update the look of your site
  • Post entries rich in content
  • Use a ping service
  • Leave comments on blogs in your niche
  • Write articles and press releases
  • Participate in forums in your niche and put your URL in your forum signature
  • Link to other bloggers in your niche
  • Include your blog URL in your email signature
  • Use pictures in your posts
  • Post videos, especially video tutorials
  • SEO your blog
Don't forget to click on the button in the right-hand corner of my blog to get some tips and advice from Erika Jurney at Try Handmade!

For you jewelry artists out there:

Jewelry Business Blog and Home Jewelry Business Success Tips both by Rena Klingenberg and both are goldmines for information about a successful jewelry business whatever business model you choose to follow (i.e. online, craft fairs, etc.). She has an e-newsletter that is just great and some really great books for your resource library. Rena was my first resource when I was getting started and I still pour through her information on a regular basis.

MarketingJewelry.com--Dr. David Weiman, a psychologist who provides insights into the jewelry customer. Sign up for his free newsletter and take advantage of some of his webinars, books, and courses to learn the ins and outs of selling jewelry and making the proper relationships with your customers.

Well, that should keep you busy for awhile! Have fun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Listings in Directories to Help Promote Your Online Shop


Targeted handmade directories as well as general directories are another great way to promote your business. As I stated before, many of the social networking groups and some selling venues have directories where you can list your business, website, and online store.

Some directories offer just a listing with salient business information and others allow you to post photos of your work; it just depends on how the site is set up.

Specifically for jewelry artists, I am listed in the Home Based Jewelers Directory and also listed on their blog. I am also listed on Find It Handmade--a directory for all things handmade. I have listings at Luna Craft who offers free craft business, craft website, and craft blog listings.

As far as general directories, I am listed in the blog and Twitter directories of Loaded Web, which is a directory of businesses, blogs, and Twitter users as well as Twellow, the Twitter Yellow Pages.

I must confess I haven't committed to the task of sitting down and doing a search of possible directories...I simply sign up to those directories that I run across through researching or something catches my eye on Twitter or a blog. I do have a list of sites compiled that I gathered while browsing that I want to check out and use a litmus test of sorts...checking the last update, trying out a few links to see if the directory is up-to-date and worth listing my business there.

I know in the online marketing world, there is some debate as to whether directory listings are effective but I can only speak for my own results...and I must say that when I check Google Analytics, I receive referrals to my Etsy site and to my blog from the very targeted directories I am involved in.

So the choice is yours...next snowy day when you are stuck inside, this project might look good to you and ultimately help your business grow!



Monday, September 28, 2009

Promotion Through Artisan Communities and Networks

There are so many social communities that are specifically geared to handmade artists. For me, my medium is jewelry art so I have become a part of Jewelry Geeks, Beaders Showcase, The Jewelry Artist Network, and The Jewelry Makers Network. I also just became a member of The Handmade Artist Hangout which is tied into Handmade Crafts, the virtual craft show site and all it's affiliated sites.

Like any social networking site, you are given your own page to upload photos, make comments, invite friends, many of them have blog capabilities and there is usually a directory to list your online business.

One of the best ways to find the network for your specific craft is to search ning, the site where you can create your own social network...if you haven't checked this site out, it's really awesome! You can run a search of all social networks in your genre and check out all the social network sites or you can create your own!

There are so many benefits to becoming a part of these networks. They are great places to find new friends, receive support and feedback from fellow artisans, participate in targeted groups on a wide variety of subjects, take advantage of a wealth of information in the forums as well as participate in those forums, view instructional video tutorials on a wide range of topics, and they are a great way to showcase your work.

Most of these networks have a marketplaces where you can sell your designs and gain exposure to a very captive audience who loves all handmade! Many of these sites have direct links to Twitter, Facebook and other broad based social networks to enhance the number of people viewing your work.

Best of all, it's great being part of a community that shares your ideas and visions of the social benefits of buying and selling handmade.

Here are a few social networking sites to check out, in addition to the ones I listed above. Again, this is by no means a complete list, just a start to your journey into these wonderful social communities:

  • Indiepublic--an independent art and design community. If you're an artist, designer, retailer, blogger, or just someone who gets giddy when they buy indie, they've saved a seat for you!
  • MixxMade--an online community for indie artisans with a directory and marketplace to sell your designs. They have an extensive following on Twitter to increase artisan's exposure.
  • The Cafe Handmade Lounge--A social network to connect those who love to buy handmade with those that love to create handmade.Tied into Cafe Handmade Virtual Craft Show.
  • Try Handmade--indie shopping blog featuring jewelry, crafts, photography, clothing, gifts and more, all made by hand. Their mission is to to get people to move away from shopping at big box stores, and back to the more intimate and personal world of handmade.

Take a look around! I bet you'll find social networking sites tailored just for you!


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Virtual Craft Shows to Promote Your Business


Virtual craft shows combine the fun and excitement of live crafts shows with the convenience of being available 24/7 all year round. you don't have to lug your items from show to show and there's no fighting the elements either!

Typically, the way these online craft shows work is that they allow handmade artisans to rent a virtual booth for minimal money. When a buyer clicks on an item within that booth, often times they are directed right to the artisan's selling site to make the sale. Not only do they get the lowest price possible, but it gives added exposure to the artisan's online shop!

One of the key advantages of these virtual craft show sites is that they typically use many effective online marketing techniques to drive traffic to their site on behalf of the artisans. These include:
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Networking
  • Blogging
  • Article marketing
  • Link Building
  • Pay per Click Campaigns
  • Project Wonderful
  • Online Classifieds
These are all things many of us do for ourselves and it takes a great deal of time and effort. Renting a booth at a virtual crafts show enables us as artisans to concentrate our efforts in other areas...including creating new designs!

Here a couple of the virtual craft shows available to get you started!
  • Handmade Crafts--Rhonda Jai, founder of Handmade Crafts, is dedicated to the handmade artisan community. She developed this site to help artisans reach a broader audience as well as to create an awareness of the industry as a whole. Handmade Crafts Virtual Craft show utilizes all of the online marketing techniques described above AND they are also beginning to use Podcasts available on their Handmade Buzz blog as well! It's well worth checking out as a means to promote your online store.

  • Cafe Handmade--founded by a husband a wife team, Len and Kerri Testa, who love all things handmade and wanted to create a place to foster the handmade industry. They created their online craft show with a look and feel of traditional crafts shows. Hence the features on their website such as interviews with artists, the Cafe Homemade Lounge, Blockhead radio, and the aisles of the virtual craft show itself...all give the look and feel of attending a live show. They have about 10,000 visitors a month to their site and market your shop utilizing all internet marketing tools available to them. You owe it to yourself to check them out!
Often virtual craft show sites offer special discounts (for Twitter Followers for example) and run periodic specials on booth rentals. They are committed to the idea of handmade crafts, the sites foster a feeling of community for both buyers and sellers, and they are a wonderful way to enhance exposure to your work!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Resources for Promoting Your Shop Through Online Selling Venue

So you've chosen an online venue, you've uploaded your photos, wrote catchy descriptions for each of your pieces, found some sort of pricing structure that works for you...now what? As soon as that warm and fuzzy feeling of looking at your storefront wears off; you are going to be ready to sell!

One of the first things I would suggest is that you take advantage of the community aspect of your chosen selling site. They are goldmines and have tons of information on how to promote your online store! The best thing to do is familiarize yourself with the forums and other resources and chat with your fellow artisans! Chances are they are either in the same place you are or have gone the same process and are more than willing to help. Some sellers--in the spirit of paying it forward--are willing to feature you on their blog giving you great exposure and a chance to promote your work!

There is information on the forums about setting up a Facebook Fan Page, a must have in the marketing tool belt, as well as selling tips from shop owners that helped generate traffic to their shops and ultimately culminated into sales. So spend some time absorbing all the information within your selling community and share some information of your own. It is collaboration at its finest!

In the end you need to process all advice and make your own choices but insight from others who have already been there is always helpful.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Business of Being an Indie Handmade Artisan

Introduction

One of my most favorite things about being part of the independent handmade artisan community is the collaborative nature of all involved. I have received advice from so many people within this vast community who love, support, and honor the handmade movement within the country and the world.

When it came to learning how to market my business and attempt to gain an online presence, there was a vast amount of resources available to me! They are proving to be invaluable as I come up on my second year selling my handcrafted jewelry online. Since this is an industry that is all about paying it forward...I thought I'd talk about some online marketing tips I've learned along the way and point you in the direction of some really fabulous resources. If you have this information already...you may know someone who needs it!

Just wanted to take the time to note that before I began establishing an online presence, I spent a good deal of time honing my craft, developing my style, and trying, through various methods such as open houses and small craft shows, to get a clear picture in my mind who my customer really was.

My sister Pat bought me this neat marketing book, "Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry" by Viki Lareau and one of the exercises she gave in this awesome book was a checklist or series of questions to ask yourself to help you create a customer profile:
  • How old is he/she?
  • Is he/she conservative or free-spirited?
  • How much money does he/she spend on him/herself?
  • What's his/her style--traditional, punk, earthy, elegant?
  • Is he/she a stay-at-home person or does he/she work outside the home?
  • How often and how much does he/she dress up?
  • What does he/she do for fun?
  • Does he/she belong to clubs or organizations?
  • Where does he/she like to shop?
  • Where does he/she go on vacation?
And so on....

Having a clear picture of your customer will help tremendously with all your marketing efforts!

Selling Venues

From what I've seen, most online indie handmade sellers have some combination of a website, blog, and at least one online selling site (i.e. Etsy, Artfire, etc.). I know in my case, since resources were rather scarce during this first year, I set up this blog, and I was set up a shop on Etsy. Now for me personally, as I sit down to write my strategic objectives for the upcoming year (I'm an MBA so I can't help it!), a complete shop and blog overhaul is in my plan but that is my personal choice and is in keeping with the direction I ultimately want to go. Many artists have great success using the selling communities available to them and then perhaps having a blog to tie it all in.

Information and resources available regarding developing a website should really be its own post; so for now I will give you a list of resources for online selling venues gathered from many different articles, blogs, and online communities. The list is by no means complete nor is it in any special order of importance but it may point you in the direction of getting your pieces listed and seen. So here goes:

  • Etsy--more than just a place to shop; There are forums and learning labs. There are chat rooms and news articles. I learn something new about this site every time I log on! There is no upfront cost to set up your selling site but each item listed costs 20 cents for four months. If you make a sale, Etsy charges a 3.5% sales fee. It's very easy to set up your shop and there are guides and tutorials for every step of the way. One of my favorite features is the Etsy mini that you can post to your website, blog or social networking page. I also like they way Etsy guides you through the setup of Google Analytics so that you can track who has visited your Etsy shop by location, referral source, and customizable settings.
  • Artfire--another great selling site! There is a free basic account where you can sell 12 items at a time. There are no selling fees nor commissions for the free account. However, for $12 per month, you get some really exciting features such as the Kiosk that launches to your Facebook page as well as many other robust features. The free account is a great way to begin and then as you begin to gain selling success you can move to a paid studio space. That's where you will be able to take advantage of full community interaction as well as a wealth of features that comes with a full-featured Verified account.
  • ShopHandmade--this online selling site for handmade items and supplies combines it's love for handcrafted items and its love for the environment to provide a site where artisans can sell their items and recycle their unused supplies. There is also the option when setting up an item to be sold that part of the proceeds can be donated to environmental causes! There are no intial setup fees to open a shop and each item listed costs the seller 25 cents. Additionally, they have sponsors who will pay for all or part of the listing fees so that sellers can minimize the cost and risk of opening up a shop. The feature I like the most about this site is that setting items for sale is very easy and you can also be included in ShopHandmade's sales and they do the promotion for you.
  • Bonanzle--this site is marketing itself as an alternative to buying and selling on eBay. There's a little bit of everything here to buy and sell but there's a good deal of handmade items represented. There are no fees to list items in your Bonanzle booth and there are monthly virtual garage sales called "Bonanzas" where you can hold a super sale and Bonanzle will drive traffic to your booth. Selling fees are calculated using a formula and is based on what they call Final Offer Value (FOV) which includes shipping. To give you an idea if you sell an item with an FOV of less than $50 your fee would be $1. One of my favorite features is they give you the ability to tie you shop feed into Google Product Search for massive exposure!
  • UsTrendy--Unlike traditional web companies or existing social networks UsTrendy physically produces products submitted online as well as hosts physical events. Unlike traditional fashion companies - fashion designers submit the designs and then the people's voice determines each season's collection. Designers create a profile of their work. People rate the designs and the highest rated designs are chosen for production. There are no fees to upload your work and you are given a site that contains a portfolio, a blog, a calendar, and an UsTrendy store. If you rate the designs you receive Trendy Points which ultimately can result in prizes. It's a great opportunity to showcase your work in a very different environment.
  • 1000 Markets--their mission is to support small artisan businesses. I originally heard of them through Try Handmade who has a special shop on 1000 Markets. Setup of the shop is free and when an item is sold, 1000 Markets takes 5.5% of the sale plus 50 cents. There is a beautiful look to this marketplace--very sleek and uncluttered--in my humble opinion!
  • iCraft--based out of Toronto, Canada, this selling site connects artists, designers and craftspeople to those who appreciate their work. All creators of unique, one-of-a-kind items, can take advantage of the powerful marketing services offered. They do not charge a commission on sales. There is a one-time registration fee of $25.00 The first five items listed are free and then there are three different packages available: Starter, Professional, and Elite; all with different pricing structures. Their forums are awesome! I have gotten a great deal of information from them!
  • Zibbet-- a global marketplace, connecting buyers and sellers of Handmade Goods, Fine Art, Vintage Items and Crafting Supplies. There are two types of accounts: Basic which you can list up to 25 item for free and Premium which is $7 per month (limited number of accounts available at this price) and has additional features such as the ability to add Custom Widgets to Shop (Blog, Twitter, Etsy mini). It's free to list on Zibbet and there are no commissions for either level of account.
  • Fuzzb--there are numerous types of shops you can open here. The basic shop is sort of to give it a test drive; you can sell up to ten items for free. Then there are progressively more robust types of shops at $5, $7, $10 per month. The higher priced Gateway shops allow you to import all your selling sites such as Etsy, ArtFire, and Ebay, import their widgets, Rapid Carts and more to your Fuzzb Gateway and cross promote and sell right from you FuzzB Studio. There is also a community space to connect with other artisans.
  • Rubylane--there is a one time $75 Setup Fee per shop which is refunded if your shop is not approved. The first 150 items are 30 cents per item; 151--1000 is 20 cents per item. Over 1000 is 1 cent per item. There is a $20 per month advertising fee for each shop. Advertising dollars go towards making the following ongoing marketing vehicles possible, which are designed to promote Ruby Lane and its individual shops, whether exclusive or not. These advertising funds pay for all or part of these, making the price reasonable for shops who choose to purchase them: (1)Regular full page ads in Maine Antique Digest and Antique Week, (2) Regular participatory ads in Maine Antique Digest, AntiqueWeek and American Style (3) Major magazine full or third page ads in Martha Stewart Living, InStyle Home, Country Living Collector, Country Living Magazine, Country Living Holiday, (4) The purchase of Google Adwords based on owners' suggestions from searches, (5) Ruby Lane promotional items such as customized flyers and mailing labels, postcards, window stickers, magnets, pens and more, (6) The Ruby Lane Co-op Reimbursement Program where we reimburse 40% of individual shop ads, (7) Ruby Lane Business Cards customized with your individual name and contact information, (8) Retaining a professional public relations firm on an ongoing basis to increase exposure of Ruby Lane and its shops in media.
As I said above, this list is by no means complete. Here are some links for additional sites to explore: eBay, ecrater, Bigcartel, ImageKind, Shopify, eBid, HyenaCart, Twolia, Yessy, Dawanda, SupermarketHQ, Elsewares, SilkFair, Folksy, MadeItMyself, Trunkt, Erayo, Lollishops, SmashingDarling, Lov.Li, Mintd, WinkElf, Artsefest, Coriandr, Misi, ArtistryArts.com

Just remember to keep in mind when choosing online venue(s) to market you work that it is important to have a clear picture of your own personal style as well as a clear picture of who your customer is. Then thoroughly explore each of these sites; asking yourself the question, "does this site market to my customer?". Then you can make a solid decision whether or not the site is right for you. Have fun!

My next posts will be a series of ways to promote your online shop...stay tuned!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My New Facebook Fan Page


So I now have a Fan Page on Facebook and OMG Fans!! Check it out at: http://tinyurl.com/lfuztu. I also have a widget on this blog that takes you there as well!


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Zur Designs Was Featured in Beaders Showcase!


The Beaders Showcase is a place where jewelry artists can showcase their work and be a part of an artisan community to learn and share all aspects of beading design.

Each week they showcase six different artists and choose one of their designs. This week they featured Leather and Lace, a coil bracelet that I am particularly fond of!

I am learning so much since joining this wonderful community; surrounded by talented and supportive artists!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Zur Designs Is The Featured Shop on VA Beach Quilter's Blog!


On Labor Day, September 7th, the Etsy Shop of Zur Designs will be featured on VA Beach Quilter's Blog! I am offering a special promotion to readers of this blog so be sure to check it out! Happy Labor Day!

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    About Me

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    I am an MBA Jewelry Artisan and owner of Zur Designs.  I create handcrafted jewelry using only the highest quality materials such as sterling silver,semi-precious gemstones, swarovski crystals, and pearls.

    My designs are inspired by life, love, and the beauty that surrounds me from the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts to the wonderful beaches in Rhode Island...both I consider my home.