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Finding new markets for your handmade products

Finding new markets for your handmade products

You started your handmade business with the encouragement of your friends and family.  You paid for a pretty logo, planned your range, agonised over pricing and spent longer than you care to admit daydreaming about how “doing what you love” was going to be the key to financial security.  The only problem is, most weeks you’re not hearing the merry ring of sales notifications on your mobile, you’re hearing crickets.  

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Top Tips for Dealing with Loneliness when working from home

If it makes you happy
It can’t be that bad
If it makes you happy
Then why the hell are you so sad

–  extract from Sheryl Crow song “If it makes you happy”

Working from home doing what I love has been my big dream for … well close to forever, but at times loneliness has threatened to turn something that makes me so happy on its head.  In case this is something you’ve struggled with too, I thought I’d share the tips that work for me.

Top Tips for dealing with loneliness

1. Make time to see your existing friends.
It can be difficult to prioritise downtime when you work from home, but it’s important to maintain healthy relationships outside of your business. If your existing friends have no interest in your business even better!
Catching up with them will give you a reality check and help you remember that your business is not the be all and end all!
2. Network locally.
Find a local crafting or business group and go along to their meetings. Discussing your business with others in “real life” is very different to only networking online for your business. If you can’t find a group like this consider reaching out to local people you know “online” and starting one with them.
3. Network online.
This is good for you and your business. You can help each other promote your businesses and can serve as “back up plans” for each others businesses if you’re forced to take time off unexpectedly.
4. Have set working hours as much as possible.
Don’t work all the time. It is a temptation to do, “just one more thing” at all hours of the day and night when you work from home, but this can damage your relationships within your immediate family. If you were working for someone else you’d never stand for them keeping you at the office and away from your loved ones all day and all night, so don’t do that to yourself.
5. Take your work out of the house.
Go to a cafe or park to plan or answer emails. Changing your environment can help you feel revived, can spark new ideas and fuel your creativity.
6. Have background noise while working.
Listening to a podcast or playing music can make you feel you’re not alone all the time.
7. Be a good friend.
Remember to check in with others in similar situations.  Being there for someone else and understanding that you’re not alone in feeling this way can help you feel less isolated.
8. Collaborate with others on a side project.
Take part in a showcase or charity auction where you have the opportunity to work with others towards a
“greater good”. It’s a fabulous way to reach out to people you wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to get to know.
9. Skype or phone someone you’ve met online.
Its a totally different experience to communicate directly rather than just via keyboard with someone you’ve met online. It can help you get to know them even better.


 

If you’ve got other tips or thoughts on dealing with loneliness when you work from home I’d love to hear!

*** PARTS OF THIS BLOG POST FIRST APPEARED AS AN ARTICLE IN ONE THIMBLE ISSUE 7 ***

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Do you REALLY need to niche market?

Confession: I’ve been a vocal believer that the way to that handmade nirvana, of endless sales and stress free production is niche marketing.  After all it worked for me with Ainslee Fox Handmade!  But this weekend I changed my mind . . .

Do you really need to niche market?

When I first started sewing to sell, I made it all, I was even asked to make tab curtains at one stage!  Sales were pretty slow and I was trying hard to figure out what people wanted to buy, so every week I made something new.

Then something amazing happened … I made a particular dress and it sold right away.  So I made another, and another, and the same thing kept happening.  Before too long I was just making the one style.  I got really quick and good at it and demand remained high.  It was easy for customers to know what they were going to get from me, and I knew who they were, which made marketing easier.

Since then whenever anyone has asked me what the key to my success was, that’s what I’ve told them. Niche market.  Make one thing and make it better than anyone else.

So when Mr Fox (my husband) first started talking about starting his handmade business I’ve got to admit I was a bit of a bossy boots.  I told him he couldn’t make bowls and pens and memo holders and key holders – he had to choose one and he had to make it unique.  And he had to be the best at it, or there was no point!  … What a dragon!!!

On the weekend we went to a local market and Mr Fox took me to see his mate’s stall.  His mate sells pens, toys, wine holders, bowls, artwork, absolutely everything timber … and he’s doing a roaring trade!  It was like everything I’d believed about selling handmade was wrong and then it hit me – there’s a big difference between selling at markets and selling online.

At a market your audience is anyone who’s going to that market.  They’re not necessarily looking for something specific.  And there’s a lot less competition than there is online.  Online your competition is anyone, anywhere, world wide with an online shop.  Customers don’t browse the web looking for anything, well sometimes they do, but generally they search for something specific.  To stand out in that sea of competition niche marketing certainly makes things easier.

But unlike what I had believed, before the weekend it’s definitely not the only way!

Turns out its down to your own “secret sauce”.  Your business is unique and what works for you mightn’t be the same as what works for anyone else.  And to be honest – that sucks!

I want Mr Fox to succeed, I want you to succeed too.  

The more successful and happy and innovative people there are, the better the world will be!  

I don’t want you to have to struggle and stuff up and think about giving up.  And I know you want there to be a simple answer out there too.  A course or an ebook or an expert who’ll be able to give you the answers.  

But there’s really not one size fits all answer.  

It’s not time to give up though – there’s things that you can do to help you find your secret sauce.

1. Ask questions.  Find mentors.  Mentor others.  Share what works for you and learn from what works for them.
2. Read broadly.  Take courses or hire experts, if you like that sort of thing, but don’t expect them to have the whole answer.
3. Experiment.  Try stuff out.  If it doesn’t work, well at least you know more than you did before you tried!
4. And if someone, like me, tells you that the way to guaranteed success is niche marketing or storytelling or selling on etsy or at markets or glitter business cards or whatever, remember to take it with a grain of salt.

You have the answer to your businesses secret sauce – trust in yourself and don’t give that power away!

 

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Tips for naming your handmade business

You started out with your heart set on the PERFECT name for your fledgling handmade business, but then a quick google search reveals it was the perfect name for someone else’s business first.  Next thing you know you’re hitting roadblocks on every name you like and adding names that make your supportive friends look at you like you’re crazy, to your “names to check” list, in the hope that one of them will be ok!

Oh how I know that pain ….. At one desperate stage my handmade business Ainslee Fox, was going to be called “No Snow” and One Thimble was almost “Mill Road”!  

I’m pretty sure naming your business is a bit like childbirth, you get amnesia as to how much it sucks when its done and your new name is set in stone … or at least ink on your business cards!  But Mr Fox (my husband) is in the midst of coming up with a name for his handmade business, so I’m revisiting the naming dramas by proxy.  Rather than wasting all the stellar naming advice I’m giving him I thought I should write it down in case it could be of help to you!  

Naming your handmade business

Please note I'm not a business expert these are simply my opinions based on my experiences. 
If you've got any other naming tips please let me know and I'll add them to this post!

My naming “rules”

1. Make it short and sweet.
2. Make it easy to spell.
3. Make it easy to pronounce or sound out phonetically.
4. Make sure written it doesn’t look like something rude.  If your name has a few words see how they look mooshed together like an url … are any unintended words revealed?
5. Make sure it’s not already being used by someone else.  This also goes for non-business use too.  If you choose a common phrase you may find that you’ll struggle to come up in search engines as the other more common mentions of the phrase would come up first.
6.  Make sure it doesn’t mean something different in different languages (check google translate).
7. “Made up” words are good.  But still check them – we discovered words we “made up” were actual words when doing this for Mr Fox.
8. Run your name past some people who fit your “ideal customer” profile as well as people of different ages and demographics.  Your name may have pop culture connotations you weren’t aware of.

* Extra Tip from Sharon : Don’t use a name that limits your business too much in the future. For example, my engineering business is called VSA Project Services, not VSA Engineering. I didn’t want to limit it to just engineering, but also construction/project management and contract administration. I am now doing asset management reporting which is totally different again, but the business name still encompasses that. Another example would be including the word Baby in your clothing business name when you may want to branch out into other demographics down the track.


Tips for thinking of names

1. Make a big list of all the names you like.  Try doing this “stream of consciousness” style ie set a timer for 5 minutes and write down everything you think of – don’t edit as you go write everything down whether it’s good or not.
2. Think of your product and your “ideal customer” what sorts of words, sounds would appeal to them.  If you’re aiming to make pretty, girly baby clothes to sell to new Mum’s, then grungy or dark words are probably out!  You want your ideal customer to feel good saying the name of your business when they tell their friends about you!
3. Write down words that have meaning to you (example: nicnames, colours and words you like, places you’ve been, mispronounced words from your childhood, your favourite words).
4. Carry a notebook around for a few days and write down everything you think of.  Even if the words you write down are not good names they might send your thinking off on a tangent that will help you come up with a good name.
5. Chat to friends and family and see what they think about your product and see if any names come up for you while they’re talking.
6. Hire someone to name your handmade business.  There’s lots of experts who can help with this (and a large range of price points).
7. Try the Business Name Generators mentioned in this Blog Post over at Craft Maker Pro HERE.


Places to “check” if your name is in use

1. Google your chosen name and also alternative spelling or spelling errors of your name to check that they aren’t in use.
2. Check social media platforms for the availability of your name and also check alternative spelling or spelling errors of your name to check that you aren’t in use (example: ainslee, ainsley, ainslie).
3. Check availability of the domain name for your chosen business (example: .com, .com.au, .net etc).
4. Check selling platforms for other businesses using your chosen name or close alternatives (example: etsy, made it, ebay etc).
5. Check business name availability from the appropriate government agency (example: in Australia that’s ASIC -> HERE Choose “Check Name Availability” in the drop down box in the top right corner ).
6. Check trademarks – local and international. (example: in Australia that’s IP Australia -> HERE and ATMOSS -> HERE ).  It’s really important to understand that you can register a business name, but if that name breeches someone’s trademark you can still be legally required to stop using that name, even though you have registered that name.  Trademarks “trump” Business Name Registration.  You might be in breech of trademark even if your name is partially different to a trademarked name if that different part is a synonym of the trademarked name.  Trademarks are complicated and expensive.  To be very sure that you aren’t breaching anyone’s trademark you would need to hire a lawyer.

My advice to Mr Fox is to do his best with checking for trademarks.  If he finds out down the track that he’s infringing on a trademark he will need to change his name &/or seek legal advice.


What to do next

1. “Get” the name on all the social media platforms you can think of.  Even if you don’t intend to use all of those platforms up front.
2. Register the domain name for your intended business name.  In Australia you’ll need to have the business registration for that name first in order to register the .com.au of that name – (I imagine that there’d be similar rules in other countries) but you don’t need to have registered your business name to get .com domains.  Consider registering variations of your domain names (eg. onethimble.com and also onethimblemagazine.com etc).  You don’t need to get a website right away but if you have the names “saved” they’ll be there when you want them.  Having variations of your domain keeps your options open.
3. Open a store using your name on the shop platforms you imagine you’ll use.
4. Register your business name.
5. Consider trademarking your name (but many people don’t do this until they are more established).


Oh and in the end remember that names grow on you.  Don’t use not having the perfect name as a form of procrastination.  I distinctly remember having second thoughts about Ainslee Fox and wondering if I should change it a few months in.  After a while when your customers think of your business they’ll think about all the things your business means to them rather than the words set in ink on your business card. 

There’s lots more that will determine the success or failure of your business than the name … “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare from Romeo & Juliet

 

 

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How to Further customise your Pattern Directory

The Free PDF Pattern Directory which Nerissa from Spreadsheet Geek made for us has been a big hit! Thankyou! I’ve really loved seeing you share it with your friends and let us know what you thought about it!  If you missed it you can read the post and download your free copy HERE.

We’ve had some queries as to how to add extra sortable columns to the spreadsheet (eg if you’d like to be able to sort your patterns by fabric type etc.)  so Nerissa has done us up another blog post explaining how to do this.

I had a little play this morning using her instructions and added the fabric type column people had been requesting and pre-loaded this version with all the One Thimble patterns from Issue 1-7.

You can download it here -> Pattern-Directory-PC-PrefilledOT

If you’d like to know how to add extra sortable columns to the spreadsheet read on!

How to Add extra columns to your free PDF Directory Blog post flyer

One Thimble PDF Pattern Directory – How to add in another sort button/macro

To add a new button:

  1. Right click on one of the other orange sort buttons. Select Copy 
  2. Right click where you want the new button. Select Paste (Use Destination Theme)
  3. Edit button text to suit
  4. Right click new button, and select Assign Macro. Select a macro and click Edit.  It doesn’t matter which one you choose at this stage, this is just an easy way to get into the Visual Basic.
  5. Scroll down past all the code showing, to the bottom of the screen. After the last ‘End Sub’, copy and paste the code below, then make your changes to the cell ranges etc. (Instructions on how to customise the code is at the very end)
  6. Save your work – click the disc icon near the top left of the screen. Close this Visual Basic window.
  7. Again, right click on the new button, select Assign Macro, and your new macro should be listed. Select your new macro, and hit OK
  8. Test it out!

Below is the code you need to cut and paste in:

 

Sub SortPatterns_Click()

‘sort patterns by name, then designer

Dim ws As Worksheet

Set ws = Worksheets(“Pattern Directory”)

Range(“B4:B2000“).Select

ws.Sort.SortFields.Clear

ws.Sort.SortFields.Add Key:=Range(“B4:B2000“), SortOn:=xlSortOnValues, Order:=xlAscending, DataOption:=xlSortNormal

ws.Sort.SortFields.Add Key:=Range(“C4:C2000“), SortOn:=xlSortOnValues, Order:=xlAscending, DataOption:=xlSortNormal

With ws.Sort

.SetRange Range(“B3:G2000“)

.Header = xlYes

.MatchCase = False

.Orientation = xlTopToBottom

.SortMethod = xlPinYin

.Apply

End With

Range(“B4“).Select

End Sub

 

 

Here is the “How to” for customising the code

Code to Change Description of function
Sub SortPatterns_Click() This is the macro name.  Change the red text to something the quickly describes your new sort function.  The ‘_Click()’ prompts the macro to run upon clicking the button the macro is linked to
‘sort patterns by name, then designer This is not actually code, but a comment differentiated by the ‘ (apostrophe) before the text.  When coding, it helps commentate the code at a first glance.
B4:B2000 This is the range that your cell range that you want to sort.  If you want to add data to column G and sort, enter “G3:Gxxxx , with ‘xxxx’ representing the final row number you want to sort down to
B4:B2000 In the OT pattern directory, columns are first sorted by column ‘x’ then column ‘y’.  In this code, the macro sorts column B first, then column C.
C4:C2000 This is the second column coded in to be sorted
B3:G2000 This cell range is the complete data which is being sorted – so even though you may be sorting column B, you want all the corresponding data on each row to stay together.  If you add in extra columns, this may read B3:H5000.  If you add extra columns you’ll need to change this code for all the sections so that the rows will stay together if you sort by any of the other macrosNB that the row starts at row 3 here.  This ‘Header = xlYes’ part is telling the macro not to sort the first row because this data is a header/title
B4 This little code is putting your cursor back in cell B4, or the top of the column you just sorted.  I do this so it doesn’t end up somewhere in cell AZ65851

 

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