Starting up, Website

Building a website

Screenshot of my new website

Screenshot of my new website

I am hopefully reaching the home straight on my new website.
It’s taken a while to get here though!

There is a wide variety of choices on offer for a crafter looking for a website to showcase or sell their makes, and you don’t always need to spend a lot of money to get what you want. It can be a bit of a minefield, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve learnt!

Where to build your online presence

So, you want a website, but where do you start? The first question you need to ask yourself is what you want to achieve. Do you want to:

  • Showcase your work
  • Sell your makes
  • Blog
  • All of the above
Facebook is a fantastic place to start, it’s free, you can add photos and talk to your customers.  However not everyone wants to be on Facebook, and you can’t easily sell through your page unless you use a shop through an online marketplace like Etsy.
If you just want a very simple presence with some product photos and an address to promote through your craft fairs and Facebook and Twitter pages, you can use free blog sites like Blogger and WordPress.
Just to make things more complicated, you can use free versions of these sites, or you can install them on a web server and have more control over the design and features that allow you to build a powerful site with shop features. You need to know your stuff though.

Online shops

If you want a shop, you can go for Etsy or Folksy and link from a blog, or you can go for your very own web shop presence.
There are a number of web-based online shop building solutions you can use to make a website.
Weebly is very popular with crafters and artists. It incorporates a blog, a shop that accepts PayPal and various levels of design control. It has free and (low cost) paid versions
Shopify is a powerful online shop building website that allows you to integrate with other online payment engines as well as PayPal. It has various price ranges but is more expensive than Weebly.
Most websites have a free trial period so you can have an experiment and see what works for you. Think about the features you need to make your business work.
Another important point to remember is what the website looks like on a mobile. More and more people are using mobiles to browse, and if your site looks awkward as a mobile site it will put people off.

Content, content, content

Whatever solution you choose, your content is the most important thing to focus on.
The key things to remember about content are:

    • Keep it simple. You have seconds to grab someone’s attention  so best to put your products on your homepage
    • Don’t be wordy, people don’t read the same way online. They scan for info
    • Keep a good colour contrast. Black on white is easy to read. You don’t have to use this but avoid dark text on dark backgrounds or white on a pale background
    • Don’t use images instead of words
    • Test your website on friends and fans. Get them to carry out typical tasks you might expect other visitors to do. How do they get on?
    • To help your website show up in search engines, use the words that people might type in when searching for your products in your product descriptions and text
    • Have links to other websites on your website (even if just Twitter and Facebook) as it will help search engines find your website
    • Have great photos!

There’s probably lots more… Have a look at other websites and see what you think of them. What’s good and what do you find hard?

I’d be really interested to hear your experiences of building a website.  Are there any sites you recommend? Any things to avoid?

I’d also be grateful if anyone could help me out by testing my nearly finished site with their honest advice. If you want to help me, get in touch and I’ll send you a link. I’ll do the same for you if you need it!

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Starting up

A cautionary tale

I’m a bit disappointed today. Making and creating is so positive and the community so supportive, however beware.

I recently succumbed to some phone sales pitch to put an advert in a magazine for my cards and pictures. That was fine, I chose to do it, the advert looked nice and I had a few hits on my website from the area it was published.

I later had a warning note from them about bogus callers calling their customers and claiming they have bought advertising from them.
And so, today, a string of calls from very convincing sales reps telling me “its only £100 to get free adverts for the rest of the year”, “you’ve definitely signed an order” with us, “you must be confused”…and so on.
These people prey on the vulnerable. I called them out and had the phone put down on me.

Please be very very cautious about buying advertising over the phone.

Another lesson learned!

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Craft community, Starting up

What I’ve learnt so far..

When I decided to put my drawings out there and offer them for sale I didn’t know what to expect.
Eight months on, I have learnt a few things, but I suspect I have a few mistakes left to make yet!

Here are some of the things I know now that I didn’t back then…

Network, network, network!

Pastelesta's Etsy shop

My Etsy shop

When I set up on Etsy, I really thought that I would sell everything I listed, perhaps not immediately, but I was happily working out profits based on selling individual items daily.

This did not happen!

If you’re selling online on a shop like Etsy or Folksy or similar, you need to actively network and market your products to get yourself noticed. It’s a big old marketplace.

There are loads of groups on Etsy and on Facebook that you can use to get support and promote yourself and other people, as well as networking hashtags on Twitter.

Try Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more, each is slightly different and will give you slightly different results.

  • Facebook – good for building a ‘persona’ for your business. Show your work in progress, be chatty, promote your products. Build an authentic and receptive audience for your brand. Use pictures where you can to catch people’s eye in ther packed newsfeeds
  • Twitter – good for networking and news. It’s very time-based, so be carful when you post and make use of networking hours such as #handmadehour #uketsyhour and location-based ones like #hampshirehour or #yorkshirehour
  • Pinterest – good for getting creative ideas and advertising your products (remember to put the price in the title)

You don’t have to spend a lot on advertising

Building up a presence isn’t going to be instant and throwing money into advertising won’t give instant results. There is a huge amount of information online about social media and marketing so do your research and learn from other people.

Get out there to craft fairs, it will take a while to find where you best fit in as there are all sorts of different types, but they often attract press and publicity, so it’s a good way of getting your eye-catching products see in the press.

Marketing offline is an area I definitely need to develop, I’m not that confident about the face-to-face so tend to hide online. However, getting out there and meeting and networking in real life makes your brand ‘real’ to your customers and I know I have to do it!

Take the very best photographs that you can of your products

I still don’t have this cracked, mostly down to lack of time (bad time management from me) and a slightly dodgy camera, but the more professional looking your products are, the more likely it is that someone will be to part with their money online and buy them.

Again, there’s lots of information online:

Keep on making

Marketing is incredibly time consuming, but don’t forget to keep doing what you do best…making and creating. Try to build in time to try out new ideas, you never know when you’re going to hit on something that people love.

If you get creative block, here are some great ideas from Naomi at Artbiz Rx

You will learn a lot along the way

Dream picture by @pastelesta

Dream picture by @pastelesta

I have made quite a few mistakes, but I’ve also learnt a huge amount.

  • My drawing has improved
  • I’ve got more confident
  • I feel more fulfilled
  • I’ve seen a whole new working environment that’s possible
  • I’ve got new skills to bring to my day job

In November last year I did my first craft fair and although I got lots of compliments I didn’t sell a single thing. I’ve booked for the same fair this year, so I can compare how much I’ve achieved so far both with the things I sell and the profits I make.

It’s definitely a journey, enjoy the ride!

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Craft community, Starting up

Craft community rocks!

On Friday I was surprised to find myself the ‘victim’ of a sneak attack on Etsy. I had no idea what was going on.

I became suspicious when I started to get a number of my items listed in treasuries within a few hours of each other.
Although I’ve been on etsy for a bit over 6 months and do get likes and favourites, they certainly don’t all come at once, and I had no sales.
The comments on the treasury talked about a sneak attack from members of a group at http://www.handmademovement.blogspot.co.uk/
A quick google revealed that sneak attack is when a curator from the group picks several new shops with few or no sales. They give clues about the shops’ products to other members of the group who make a treasury list based on the products from the shops they think have been chosen.
They can win a prize for guessing the correct shop.
Once the winner is announced the members of the group ‘attack’ the victim shop with favourites and sales.

I was bowled over to receive a complete wave of alerts on etsy, and excitingly, the cha-ching of the cash register on my etsy app announced my first sales. Here are some of the cards that I sold:

Purple Doc Martens card Eat cake and good luck cards Love card

The craft community is the most supportive environment I have ever worked in…I guess everybody knows the feeling of creating items with love and waiting for them to be bought…but it truly makes a difference.

I have now joined the group and am looking forward to returning the favour very soon!

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Craft fairs, Starting up

Dog show

What a beautiful bank holiday Monday for a day at the dog show.
Stall ready, the only problem today was the wind which kept blowing the cards away!

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Saw lots of beautiful dogs of all shapes and sizes, so interesting to watch them all and their different personalities.
Had a few enquiries about portrait, gave out dome flyers and sold some cards so a good day.

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It was all in a good cause today with proceeds to Guide dogs for the blind and Blind Veterans UK, organised by the amazing Joshila fresh from her fundraising marathon running across the desert. Read more about her at http://www.joeythelittletrooper.com/

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You can buy my cards online at http://www.etsy.com/shop/pastelesta

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Starting up

Starting up

It’s pretty exciting starting something from nothing.

I want to get my work/life balance back and that means  drawing and painting. Lots to learn and lots to do!

I’m starting by selling something I know that people love, drawings of pets. I have an Etsy shop, I’m on Wowthankyou, Facebook and Twitter. I’ve found that there is a warm and welcoming craft community in real life as well when I’ve had a go at selling at some local craft fairs.

I feel I’m building my confidence and knowledge, my drawing is improving, I have learnt a few lessons about business but have much much more to find out.

I’m going to add my thoughts and adventures here…who knows what’s next?

K x

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