Today we’re serving up advice and tips from creative business owners to aid in your own creative entrepreneurial journey. To get started, we’ve collected a handful of articles on topics from important business practices to creating a brand that reflects your personality. Start your week with fresh ideas and perspectives on how to get your crafty business up and running!
Marketing Tips for Makers
A fabric label is the perfect finishing touch for any handmade item. Caitlin, Spoonflower crew member and owner of online fabric shop Salty Oat, shares how to create a fabric label featuring a logo or sweet sentiment–ideal for handcrafted goods to stock an Etsy shop or a special gift stitched up for a dear friend.
As someone who sews both gifts and products to sell, I’ve learned the importance of labeling my work. Labels are a great way to brand your work with your company’s logo and give it a professional finish when selling items online or in person. Labels can also be a great way to add a sweet message to a handmade gift or personalize it for the recipient.
This week's Market Yourself March advice comes from Heather Dutton, of Hang Tight Studio. Heather shares her fun approach to marketing her creative business through colorful postcards, great goodie bags, and more!
If you're anything like me, the word marketing sends shivers down your spine. We're designers and artists, we'd much rather spend our time designing and being creative, right? Like it or not though, marketing is a vital part of running a successful business whether you're a big company or a small independent designer. It's easy to get lost in the sea of talented designers that are out there. You could be a design rock star, but if you don't market your amazing creations the only people who will know it are your friends and family. As wonderful as it is to have their support and encouragement, odds are it's not going to help grow your business.
It's easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to marketing your creative business. It's an industry all on its own and people major in it when they're in college for goodness sake! Since I clearly chose a different path by going to art school and spreadsheets make me break out in hives, I decided that first and foremost I needed to find a way to make marketing my business fun. If I'm not creatively inspired by what I'm doing and I'm not having fun doing it, then I'm definitely not going to stick with it.
When I opened my Etsy shop years ago I saw it as a perfect opportunity to let my customers know a bit more about me and my other creative endeavors. A new customer might not even know that I design fabric or that I run a creative business outside of my Etsy shop. Free samples and little treats make me absolutely giddy so I decided to create a little self-promotion goodie bag that I include with each of my Etsy orders.
My marketing budget is pretty small but I've found that a little investment goes a long way. One of the first things that I treated myself to was a custom rubber stamp for my design studio. It's an easy (and FUN) way to add your logo to just about anything. Another fun and affordable way to get your name out there is to create small stickers for your business. Moo.com is a great resource, especially since they allow you to have a variety of designs within one order instead of being limited to just one image.
My goodie bag includes a variety of little treats that all get tucked inside a small muslin bag that I've stamped with my logo. It's a little bundle of Hang Tight Studio fun and it changes whenever I have something new that I want to promote.
One of the newest additions to my goodie bag is a small swatch sampler that I created to help spread the word about my Spoonflower shop. Fabric is such a tactile product and I thought this would be a fun way to show people how amazing Spoonflower fabrics really are.
All of the little details add a personal touch when you're connecting with customers and they don't require a massive budget, just a little bit of time. Be creative, keep a notebook to jot down marketing ideas when they pop into your head, create a Pinterest board for inspiration, find a method that works for you and above all else, make sure you're having fun!
- Heather on Spoonflower
- Heather on Facebook
- Heather on Pinterest
- Heather on Instagram
About Heather Dutton
As we approach the end of our March series of posts about marketing your creative business, modern quilter and surface designer Thomas Knauer shares his simple approach to marketing.
Marketing can feel like an exceedingly complicated thing, especially as one gets into the weeds of particular decisions: this card or that, to place an ad or not, etc, etc. It can be mind-boggling, expensive, and often garner little to no reward. That is why I do very little of it, at least in those particular ways. My business cards are simple; I’ve never taken out an ad. I’ve stopped doing giveaways because that traffic doesn’t really endure, and I don’t do a newsletter. When it comes to all of the usual marketing suspects, I don’t do much.
For me, all of those particulars that are the trappings of marketing make up the surface of marketing, not the substance. For me, marketing is all about the plan—the long term perspective—and the plan comes from two simple questions: Who am I? and What do I do?
I don’t look at marketing as a means to reach an audience, but a way to tell the stories that flow from those two questions. The individual things you do—the cards, the ads, the giveaways, and the sales—are simply tools for conveying the core message, and the first thing you need to do is figure out what that story is. That means really making sense of and understanding your business and putting together a vision for what you want that business to be (a really honest one, not the sudden celebrity version).
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the indie maker world doing incredibly awesome things. In an ideal world just being awesome would be enough, and at a certain level it is, but in order to succeed you need to actually build an audience, which is different from just reaching people. You need an audience that will come back again and again, one that will support you creatively and materially.
All of the practical decisions, then, need to support that goal. Blog posts don’t just show the things; they share the nuances, the bigger picture. If a blog post is there for no other reason than to generate hits to support ad revenue or bolster stats you are doing yourself a disservice. Rather than host giveaways I build relationships based on mutual respect that leads to supporting each other through our work and our resources; you have no idea how much working with other makers can do. The goal should always be to market through good content; the mechanisms should support meaningful things, not just the mechanisms themselves.
To put it into blunt terms, lots of eyeballs are meaningless if your conversion rate is terrible; the blunderbuss is a pretty terrible tool. Reach is great, and is important as your business grows, but the key is to not sacrifice quality for quantity, mouse impressions for human impressions.
Yes, the ads, the cards, the newsletters can all help, can all get the message out there, but the most important thing is to seriously invest in knowing just why you should succeed. And then, of course, do the insanely hard work of doing amazing things; without that all of the marketing in the world won’t mean a thing.
About Thomas Knauer
Thomas Knauer holds MFAs from both Ohio University and the Cranbook Academy of Art, and before entering the quilting world he held faculty positions at Drake University and the State University of New York. He currently designs fabric for Andover Fabrics and is expecting his first book with F+W in early 2014. At times he thinks it might be best to flee to Outer Mongolia.
We always welcome encouragement and advice from creative business folks to help you get the word out about your creative endeavor. Today freelance writer, editor and stylist Amy Flurry shares a crash course in DIY PR, along with an excerpt from her book, Recipe for Press.
Ten ways to make your pitch stand out! A Crash Course in DIY PR
The truth is, editors and writers are constantly on the hunt for new people and products to feature and you don’t need a publicist in order to get our attention. You do, however, need to know what it looks like to pitch like a pro. DIY publicity works, but only if you play by these oft-unspoken-by-editors rules (there are more in my book, Recipe for Press)! When you do, it makes all the difference in scoring easy press.
Keep it personal
Always address the editor or blogger by name (and make sure you spell it correctly). A different editor compiles each section of the magazine and often that editor’s byline is written on the page. If you don’t bother to find out who you should approach, then the editor won’t feel obligated to read it. Engage the editor quickly Editors receive hundreds of pitches each week so you’ve got about three to five seconds to catch their eye. Grab their attention with a compelling headline and a clean photograph (embedded directly into the email) and keep your pitch tight, preferably two short paragraphs or less.
Work with the editorial calendar
Editors and writers for national magazines work six to seven months out and regional publications pull their pages together three to four months in advance. So if you’re pitching Country Living today, you’d want to connect your product or idea to an early fall theme like Back-to-School. Include one or two great pictures: The very first thing the editor will look for in your pitch is the picture you send with it. Most editors know if they can use your product the second their eye hits the photo. Send crisp, well-lit images against a white backdrop to help your pitch rise to the top of the submission pile. And know that editors don’t open attachments. You want to embed the low-res (72 dpi) image into the email instead of sending large files that slow or clog an inbox. Give your pitch a header or subject like a handrail for your idea, this gives editors—at a glance—the skinny on the story you have in mind. A little teaser for a bright red umbrella like (Cool Wet Weather Gear …….for under $25) helps the editor see that your product could fit in a number of themed roundups or sections. It also signals to the editor that you have done your part to make a good fit for their publication and that you are ready for press.
Think beyond printed publications
One of the smartest ways to get your product in a magazine is by starting with their website. Create a relationship with an online editor, who is also looking for people and products to feature, and she’s likely to pitch your services or product to print editors when the time is right. Make it new The one word an editor wants to see in every pitch is “new.” Why? New material fuels issue after issue. Magazines want to be the first to feature a new product or service or destination. If what you’re pitching is not new, then it is your job to tie the idea or product into a new trend, a holiday or current event. Respond to editors quickly. Plenty of products with passionate people behind them fail to reach their press potential because they are simply slow to respond to editorial requests. Editors operate on very tight deadlines. If we can’t find you, we may have to move on to the company we know will come through for us every time.
Remember the Golden Rule of Publicity
The editor/PR relationship is about mutual respect, just like any other important and lasting relationship. People on either end who treat an editor or blogger as a tool or as an “outlet” are missing the message and won’t find success in pitching. Get to know the publication before you pitch. When polled, editors say that the number one mistake people make in reaching out is not reading the publication before pitching. Print and online publications are formatted similarly every day/week/month, and getting to know their formula will help you identify a great fit. Does your product look like it could be plugged on to the page you’re pitching? If so, then it’s likely a good fit. Similarly, don’t expect an editor to cover services when their pages are all product-driven. Do your homework first before reaching out.
Get to know the publication before you pitch
When polled, editors say that the number one mistake people make in reaching out is not reading the publication before pitching. Print and online publications are formatted similarly every day/week/month, and getting to know their formula will help you identify a great fit. Does your product look like it could be plugged on to the page you’re pitching? If so, then it’s likely a good fit. Similarly, don’t expect an editor to cover services when their pages are all product-driven. Do your homework first before reaching out.
An excerpt from Amy’s book, Recipe for Press:
About Amy Flurry
Amy Flurry is a contributor to some of the biggest publications on the newsstand and online including InStyle, Conde Nast Traveler, Country Living and Design Sponge. Amy served as a contributing editor to Lucky magazine for six years and is the author of the new DIY publicity book, “Recipe for Press: Pitch your story like the pros and create a buzz!” Her popular DIY PR workshop serves to strengthen relationships between editors and the entrepreneur. In addition to her editorial work, Flurry provides brand consulting for a mix of fashion and lifestyle clients.
This week we continue Market Yourself March, our series of posts on getting the word out about your creative enterprise with tips and practical project ideas from creative business folk. Today, Rae from ARMOMMY visits with some encouraging words on discovering your personal strengths and using them in your creative business endeavors.
Hello, friends! I’m so excited to share some marketing tips with you today! A little
background before we get started; my name is Rae and I own a creative business with my mom (Jane) called ARMOMMY. We’ve been in business now for six years and
have experienced lots of successes and failures.
Two of the greatest turning points in our business came when we 1. defined what our strengths are, and 2. leveraged our strengths in our marketing. So, let’s talk about number 1! We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about what we aren’t good at or should be better at and very little time thinking about what we are good at.
If I asked you, “what are you good at?” what would you say? Do you know? Are you
confident in those strengths? Or do you just know that you are creative? That’s a
good place to start, but it’s still pretty broad and can feel overwhelming.
If you are like I was about a year ago, and have no idea how to answer the above
question, here are a few ideas that might help you:
- Read the book, Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham &
Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. They also have a website and strengths test you can
- Email those closest to you and ask them what your top three strengths are.
This might feel awkward, but will payoff.
- Do some soul searching and ask some specific questions. What do you love
to do the most? What do you get the most positive feedback about? What
have you been successful at?
- Find a place to record what you’ve learned in a way that is simple to read and
easy to see (such as bullet points pinned to a board).
Now it’s time to shake whatcha mama gave you…. Or in other words, use your
natural strengths to move your business forward.
Here are some examples of how you can use your newfound knowledge in your
Your personality is always a strength, so share it with the world by using it in your marketing. Are you sweet and sentimental? Do you make friends quickly? Maybe you are good at encouraging people. Whatever it is, use it in your social networking, status updates, blog posts, business cards, packaging, campaigns, and any other copy you share with your customers and potential customers.
The picture above is an example from my own life. When I received an email inviting me to do an interview and home tour on a well known mommy blog, I immediately went to the site to see what other people had done before me. What I discovered were beautifully decorated homes that had been remodeled and staged and my mind immediately started focusing on how I’m not good at displaying things on my shelves, etc. However, when it came time to take the pictures I resolved to be myself. Which includes messes and playtime, and working around the kids and wearing my workout clothes. I was scared to death about what people would think, but the response was amazing. (You can see and read more about that interview here.) Lesson learned.
Time is precious. Especially if you are growing your own small business. So, use your talents to help you decide WHAT you should spend your time doing. For instance, do you love long projects? Prepare a four-part remodeling series on your blog. Are you good at sharing details and keeping in touch with people? Promote your Instagram feed, Twitter feed, and Facebook page and keep them updated as a way to grow your audience. Are you good at public speaking? Look for opportunities to teach classes or speak at events. Do you love starting conversations and meeting new people? Say yes to farmers' markets and craft fairs!
Last but not least, look for people you can trade services with. If you are really good at writing product descriptions and you have a friend that is a talented photographer, ask if she would like to do a work swap. You write her product copy and she can take pictures of all your products. The best part is that it will result in less work (it usually takes us less time to do what we are good at) and everyone will be happier with the results. So in short– define what you are good at and apply those things to your business and specifically your marketing. Then when you are on a roll, start to build some of the skills you wish you were better at and outsource those tasks you know you will never want to do! Hopefully this information was helpful for you… I would love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
Keeping to our Market Yourself March theme, this week we'll hold a drawing to award one winner a bundle of three business books for creatives. As anyone who has tried to run a business can tell you, one of the key challenges you face is getting your work out there. Artists in particular have a tendency to focus on the process and on the product itself, which is the fun part. Selling yourself and getting known are, for many, the hard parts. The good news is that social media provides individual artists with a whole arsenal of free tools for promoting their work. The bad news, of course, is that the same set of tools is available to thousands and thousands of your fellow artists who are hoping to do the same thing. How do you stand out? How do you get noticed? The business books we're giving away this week can give you a great start in tackling the challenge. Fill out our entry form any time between now and Tuesday, March 19th and we'll announce a winner on Wednesday the 20th. Good luck!
This week we're giving away three great books to help you grow your creative business. They are:
- Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop, and Sustain a Successful Creative Business by Kari Chapin. Applying her trademark "you-can-do-it" coaching style to the nuts and bolts of business planning, Kari Chapin covers all of the issues involved in turning your creative hobby into a successful business–from mapping out a business plan to expanding production and distribution, finding funding, and addressing legal matters. With this definitive guide, you'll discover how to grow your business beyond the dining room table and finally quit your day job.
- Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business by Joy Deangdeelert Cho and Meg Mateo Ilasco. As the hipster classic Craft, Inc. did for crafters, this book will teach all types of creatives illustrators, photographers, graphic designers, animators, and more how to build a successful business doing what they love. Accessible, spunky, and packed with practical advice, Creative, Inc. is an essential for anyone ready to strike out on their own.
- Blogging for Creatives: How designers, artists, crafters and writers can blog to make contacts, win business and build success by Robin Houghton. Of the billions of internet users worldwide, a massive 80% are visiting blogs. The blogosphere has become a huge platform for individuals and businesses alike. Blogging for Creatives is the first approachable, non-techie guide to the blogosphere, complete with hundreds of tips, tricks and motivational stories from artistic bloggers who have started from scratch.
This week we continue our “Market Yourself” series of posts on getting the word out about your creative enterprise with tips and practical project ideas from creative business folk.
As a quilter, I find that a quilt isn’t truly finished until the label is added. Not only is it a great way to remember when and where you were when you made a quilt (especially when you move as much as I have the past few years!), it can act as a calling card for your blog or business.
When you sell or donate your quilts, your label is a great way for you to brand your work in a polished way, as well as help people find and connect with you online and off.
Below is a tutorial for a simple quilt label using a logo and text. While the directions are specific to Photoshop CS5.1 on a Mac, they can easily be adapted to other Photoshop versions, on either Macs or PCs.
To start, open Photoshop and click on File >> New. Enter a file name and dimensions for your label. My preferred size for quilt labels is 4 inches wide by 3 inches tall, but feel free to do whatever size works best for you and your projects. Enter 150 pixels/inch for your resolution and click OK.
This month, we’re turning our thoughts towards creative businesses and how best to run them. Getting the word out about your creative enterprise–whether that’s designing and selling fabrics and wall media on Spoonflower, trying to market yourself to a commercial fabric printer, or selling clothing or other items that you make yourself–can be a daunting prospect. After all, you’ve already invested so much time and energy into the dreaming and making of your vision. Now you have to sell it to someone? How?
To help you reach others with the message of your creativity and talent, we’ve asked some creative types who are already doing it very well to share pointers on marketing yourself. We’ll be bringing you advice and information on how to figure out who your audience is, how to utilise your existing strengths in a creative business, and how to create marketing collateral to show off your skills.
We’ll also be offering a few giveaways of resources to help you start and maintain your creative enterprise and to employ social media in a genuine and effective way in business.
“Marketing Yourself March” begins today with Diane Gilleland, aka Sister Diane of Craftypod, crafter, blogger, and podcaster extraordinaire. Read on for her tips on figuring out your market reach below!
Online marketing can seem like a daunting task, especially to us creative types – we’re often more about the making-things than the tooting-of-the-horn.
If the idea of marketing intimidates you (or even if it’s just something that manages to slide to the bottom of your To-Do list), try downloading this little worksheet. It’s designed to give you an idea of your potential marketing reach, right this minute.
help you get started filling it out, let’s walk through the steps.
These numbers will give you a very vague idea of how many ready-made buyers you might have for your product or service.
If these numbers are low, however, it doesn't necessarily mean you won’t have sales. And if the numbers are high, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll be rolling in money.
Here’s what’s true: the more people you have access to, the more potential you have to develop a positive word of mouth reputation. And that reputation is a very powerful marketing tool, as we’ll see in a moment.
You might have thousands of blog subscribers, but if most of them just glance at your blog from time to time, looking for freebies, then these people may not represent much "marketing muscle." A passive audience may still buy your stuff here and there, but they aren't as likely to help you spread the word.
Even if you have only a dozen blog subscribers, if they always comment on your blog and share links to you, well, these people are golden. They're actively engaged with what you do. Not only are they more likely to buy, they're more likely to recommend your stuff to friends. They have more marketing potential than any huge, passive audience.
Now, it's time to look at the strength of your network. Look at your best blog (and Twitter, and Facebook) buddies. Do any of these people know people who might be able to help you spread the word about your work more widely? Do your friends have blogs? How many people read these blogs? How many Twitter and Facebook friends do they have?
Do you (or your friends) have contacts at any large blogs in your subject niche? How about magazine editors? Do you or your friends know anyone who works for your local newspaper (or its website)?
Don't limit this scan to just your online friends. Everyone you know, whether it's a Twitter follower or your child's teacher, might know people online who can help you market. Make yourself a list of these contacts right now.
Who are the most influential bloggers for your specific subject matter? Who is podcasting about your subject? Who has a video blog?
These are all people who can help introduce you to new customers. I don’t recommend emailing them out of the blue and asking them to feature you! Instead, make a daily, weekly project of connecting with these people through their blogs and social media. Get on their radar as a nice person, not as “just another person asking for publicity
What to do with this information?
By the time you've finished this investigation, you should have a great idea of where your marketing strengths are, and where your network-building needs some focus. And that’s half the battle! Good work so far!
About Our Guest Blogger
Diane Gilleland blogs, podcasts, publishes, teaches, and makes videos about all things crafty over at CraftyPod.com. When she's not doing those things, she's doing whatever her cat tells her to do. And what's wrong with that?