Archive for the Category »Handmade Business 101 «

Sales Success: Taking good product photographs

I’m a firm believer that the quality of your product photos will have a really big, yes, let’s call it… massive impact on your online sales, and let’s face it, that is what we are striving for. It’s really a no-brainer. Anyone buying online cannot touch, pick up and turn around, or feel the product (you get where I’m going with this) and so the photographs IS largely what sells your products.

A good photo SELLS and makes you stand out… end of story, and we can all live happily ever after.

The guys from ETSY, although not Jamtin ;) probably know what they are talking about… here’s a great video giving some fantastic, practical tips for beginners – no fancy pants camera needed, just your average digital camera, and most of us have these on our phones, so no excuses!

I’d love to hear any further photography hints and tips – please share in the comments below.

Yours in handmade xxx

a.scribe – colourful chalk boards and chalk board paint

A bit about a.scribe

We make colourful chalk boards & chalk board paints; think blackboards, but not black! A growing Cape Town based company, working to make our products available across South Africa.

Our boards come in many shapes & sizes; appealing to young & not-so-young ones who are creative at heart.

The paints create a chalkboard almost anywhere! A fun & functional decor addition to any kitchen, kids room, office, entrance hall or cafe. They are also fabulous for DIY bits & pieces, and being water based they are safe to use in projects with & for kids.

How and when a.scribe started

Tessa came to the Mother City from Zimbabwe, wide eyed and ready to take on the world of UCT in 2003. After university she started working in the office hub at her church, doing all manner of organizing, event planning & people loving. Ashley, previously a mortgage broker and YWAM missionary, arrived in Cape Town from Australia in 2009. He moved to pursue his dream of fighting poverty through business development and empowerment.

They met through mutual friends and had enough in common to keep them in conversation over many car rides during the summer of 2009. A lot of it revolved around changing the world – or at least a corner of the world – both knew they weren’t really cut out for anything too predictable. Aware that they could make a good team, each wondered if they’d someday work together…2 years, countless coffee dates, and some fancy rings later, they became Mr & Mrs!

then came a.scribe

Tessa loves pretty things and knows what people like. Ashley has an eye for opportunity and a drive to make things happen. Throw that together with some avid internet research, add a little bit of magic, and complement it with a dream to help create employment and up-skill local people, and you get a.scribe.

It all started with 2 simple colours and rectangle boards in December 2011 and 1 year later (recently having celebrated their 1st a.scribe anniversary) now produce 15 shapes and 15 colours They also boast an online store and a growing list of stockists around the country. These chalkboards are spreading their wings….

 

3) Where you draw your inspiration from

It’s tough to pin down inspiration! We love taking something known or used & giving it a fresh twist. Chalk boards themselves are nothing new; but a bright blue one in the shape of Africa – now that’s different :) There’s also something appealing about a “kids” product re-worked in a way adults love. Something that reminds us of childhood, but still works if you’re all grown up.

I am an odd combination of quirky creative & avid list-maker ~ anyone who, like me, appreciates aesthetics but also needs to get things done has a place for our chalkboards in their life!

4) Any business advice you have for fellow handmade businesses.

Don’t be afraid to try new things; each of us has our own style & ideas, and it’s great to see people branching out of traditional crafts – or at least interpreting their use in a new way.

Sometimes there can be pressure to sell everything you can make. I have found it helpful to keep some of my hobbies & craft things as my own & not add them to the business. Not every beautiful thing you make needs to be monetized – keep some things for joy!

Running your own handmade business is not for everyone. I often say to friends that in a creative business there is as much business as there is creative (if not more business!) Being able to work with creative crafty things most days is such a privilege, but ask for help or team up with others where you need to – we can’t all be good at every aspect!

5) Where you sell your products, and how people get hold of you

Cape Townians can find us at Quirky Me in the Old Biscuit Mill & at the Kalk Bay Co-op II next to the train station in Kalk Bay.

In Good Company stocks our products in Joburg. We’d love a Durban & P.E. spot too if anyone’s interested?

We also have our own online store ascribe.co.za and are listed with ontheway.co.za & hellopretty.co.za

Contact us on ascribecreative@gmail.com or on Facebook

Moskito Kids – Unique Handmade South African Kids’ Tableware Sets

The moment I saw Moskito Kids’s Facebook page, I knew I had to share both the product and the story behind the business with the Jamtin community, as I’m sure you’ll agree that they are too gorgeous not to share.  I just love being able to bring such lovely, homegrown and local products to your inboxes and computer screens and hope you’ll bring some of these tableware sets into your homes. Enjoy hearing what Lynette and Diana have to share about their business below, and feast your eyes out on their gorgeous kids tableware.

A bit about Lynette:

I grew up as a child with creativity in the family (from designers to authors). I decided to make art my career and have been involved with some form of art ever since. I am a Graphic Designer by trade, sporadically doing paintings/sketches on commission. My other significant attributes would include Mom to a beautiful blue-eyed boy, Wife to an amazing man and avid Tree Hugger.

Recently inspired by a renewed sense to develop my true passion, I cut down on the hours spent in the corporate world and started pursuing the more hands-on nature of the Fine Arts. My love for nature, children and all things artsy inspire my topics and I am fascinated with detail. Being a perfectionist, I believe the greatest masterpieces can be produced by simply attempting to copy the perfection of what God has already created. I hope my work communicates the infinite beauty our creator has given us to enjoy and thereby inspire people to look after our most precious resources, our children and our earth.

A bit about Diana:

I’m a Mother of 3, soon to be 4! I grew up in a large close-knit family and I’m one of five siblings. I loved being amongst the chaos and all the love that we shared. Life was never boring and I think the best gift I can give my children is their siblings. My family takes the centre stage in my life and I believe in making each day count. Children are a precious gift and as parents, we should not take anything for granted. It’s always been a dream of mine to run my own business and when the opportunity came along, I grabbed it with both hands. I studied DTP and Multimedia. My career includes Web Designer, Executive Assistant, Office Manager and Account Manager. I’ve always wanted to marry my creativity with my organisational skills and Moskito Kids allows me to do this.

Moskito Kids:

Moskito Kids’: The name was inspired by the quote “Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.” (Christie Todd Whitman). It is based on the concept of small things making a big impact and aims to encourage children, to believe in themselves and make a difference. It also symbolizes the brand’s outlook, that every small effort towards sustainable living has an impact.

The inspiration behind Moskito Kids’ products started when as a new mom, Lynette was suddenly invited to dozens of children’s parties. Being an artist, a tree-hugger and having to buy gifts for a whole new genre, she would not settle for the normal sock-or-tie-type gifts. Lynette started exploring the childen’s market for unique products that would delight little ones and get the approving nod from parents.

If you ask any mom to open their child’s cupboard, you would most likely encounter an avalanche of plastic or mass-produced items from China. Due to local supplier efforts being depressed by cheaper, faster and mass-produced goods from the Chinese market, one is hard strung to find proudly South African children’s products. We soon realised that this was something we were quite passionate about.

We started developing our first range, a children’s tableware set. When researching our competition (from China) we found that most sets are made of toxin-rich materials like plastic or melamine and typically, they feature the latest animated fad. It has no regard for nature and lacks a unique artistic touch. Some products found in stores are cost effective and aesthetically pleasing but in most cases, the tableware sets are not functional or durable for use by the intended market, children.

We have used our research and experience in the market as Moms to create a bespoke children’s product. By addressing the concerns of both the parents and children, it is visually pleasing and empowering for the child and safe and easy for Mothers. It is a unique product that is made locally from quality, non-toxic material and it’s also functional, durable and eco-friendly.

With sustainability in mind, the product adds to the much-needed initiatives of supporting local suppliers. We have a passion for our country and its people. We believe that creating local and sustainable products will assist in developing our country and uncover the beauty our people have to offer.

Contact Information:

Website: www.moskitokids.co.za
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/moskitokids
Email: lynette@moskitokids.co.za or diana@moskitokids.co.za
Phone: Diana – 082 451 0919

Business advice for fellow handmade businesses:

If you’re passionate about something, follow through with it. It’s not easy but if you believe in it and you work hard, you will start to reap the rewards. Don’t give up! Stay true to yourself and don’t budge on what you feel passionate about. Handmade art is part of our culture and the legacy we leave for our children. We have to cultivate individuality. Leaving the next generation with bland, mass-produced junk will produce mindless followers and not future leaders.

MR and MS Clothing PTY (LTD) – Business Advice from a South African Handmade Business

A big thank you to Catherine from the beautiful Mr and Ms Clothing PTY (Ltd) for her insights and advice into running a handmade business. Be sure to visit Indie Mode where she sells some of her items online once you’ve read more about her and her clothing line below.

How it all began 

Mr and Ms is the result of a life-long aspiration. I was born and raised in Cape Town and began my formal training with a qualification in Fashion Design and Pattern Making. I travelled in Europe gathering inspiration. This combined with over five years of practical production experience,  at some of the fashion industry’s leading design labels has culminated in Mr and Ms, the realisation of a dream.

I officially Began Mr and Ms in May 2011. With a small amount of money that I had saved and was given, pure determination and A LOT of sacrifice (no shopping, socializing well anything actually). I created my 1st collection and showed it to a few boutique owners and they liked what they saw (thank goodness) and that’s how it all began and has slowly grown

Biggest Daily hurdles

There are many challenges behind running your own business; I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

To plan and plan and when you think you have planned enough something unexpectedly comes up and changes everything. It’s really more about how you deal with the unexpected and unplanned things that will make you succeed.

Mr and Ms Non-Negotiable’s 

Making sure that every style that is designed compliments every shape and size (I do sizes from a 31- 42). Attention to details is very important, giving basic items a unique twist. The most important of all is Quality, I hand check all the items myself (yes this take a lot of time but is worth it in the end).

Marketing

There are a few things that I would recommend when it comes to getting your brand out there.

  • Word of mouth ( happy customers are the number one most important marketing tool.)
  • Facebook, Pinterest , Etsy and most importantly a website that it all is linked to that is very user friendly
  • When using Facebook or any of the other Social media tool make sure that you have a weekly plan that you keep to and keep your fans interested with posts , that are relative to your product.
  • Have a book keeper from day one!!!

Suppliers 

I supply really lovely boutiques throughout Western Cape that I am very proud to be associated with, like:  Coco Li, Smitten, Nap Lifestyle to name just a few … also soon to be on an online store called Indie Mode.

My Favourite part of my job

I love taking a simple idea and bringing it to life and my most favourite part is when somebody tries on an item that they like and seeing their expression on their faces as if they are really seeing themselves for the 1st time.

About Mr and Ms 

Mr and Ms is about individual expression.  Mr and Ms is not primarily about chasing current trends, but rather about taking inspiration from beautifully designed clothing from the past and applying that inspiration to today’s context.

Mr and Ms is about quality. An emphasis on quality is maintained throughout the process, from inspiration, through design, production and sales, to delivery. Mr and Ms specialize in well-made and well-fitted apparel with a touch of vintage individuality to complement the classic style and beauty.

Designer’s Background

Mr and Ms is the creation of Catherine Nebe, the result of a life-long aspiration. Catherine Nebe was born and raised in Cape Town and began her formal training with a qualification in Fashion Design and Pattern Making. She travelled in Europe gathering inspiration. This combined with over five years of practical production experience,  at some of the fashion industry’s leading design labels has culminated in Mr and Ms, the realisation of a dream.

“Mr and Ms is my own creation. My focus is on design for the individual. Acute attention to detail at every stage is crucial to me. So I have deliberately held back on growing my brand beyond what I can maintain. I pride myself on the fact that each item is a special creation.”

Contact

MR and MS Clothing PTY (LTD)

Catherine

Contact No: 082 7079 721

Emailinfo@mrandms.co.za

Websitewww.mrandms.co.za

Buy Handmade…

That. Is. All.

Michelle Ainslie – Business Advice from a South African Creative Business

Regular visitors to the Jamtin blog will recognize Michelle’s name from recent guest blogs she has done for us… Her latest blog post for us is contributing to our blogging series “Hearing from successful South African handmade businesses and why we should listen to them.”

Hope you enjoy and find much value in what Michelle has to share…

Michelle Ainslie is a creative entrepreneur coach, in the business of celebrating YOU!  Discover your unique purpose, create a meaningful life, use your ideas to make a difference in the world, and make a living by doing what you love.  Get connected and live your creative dream at www.michelleainslie.com

The makings of a soul biz 

I love my life.  I spend my days creating products, motivating my clients, writing, learning, walking the dogs, and having lunch under my big oak tree.

This is quite a different picture to the life I had just 6 months ago.  I was trapped in a job that I hated and literally had to drag myself to work every day.  I had to take lunch at a specific time in a little dark office kitchen and I only got to see my dogs in the evenings.  I had no time or inspiration to create, write or dream.  So I’d go to bed, depressed.  Only to wake up to the same day, all over again.

In March 2012 I’d had enough.  I was constantly sick, was an emotional wreck and knew that I couldn’t continue the way I was.  I had no money saved, had huge amounts of debt and was recently divorced.  In other words, I was very unprepared for the big leap into entrepreneurship.  But I knew I had no choice.  It was take the risk or forever live a life I hated.

So I quit my job and started my creative business from home in April 2012.

Initially I thought that starting a blog and creating a few online products would keep me afloat.  I soon realised that it took way more than determination and a dream to make a business work.  I had to think outside the box.

I needed to find creative ways of making an income.  I made the commitment to only do work that I loved, so saying yes to every freelance contract or opportunity wasn’t an option.  In retrospect, it would have made my life much easier financially, but I wasn’t about to create another J-O-B.  I wanted to create a lifestyle and source of income that I was passionate about.

I started asking my clients what they needed and wanted, as opposed to what I thought would sell.  I then tailor-made products based on what the market was looking for and what I enjoyed creating.  My sales picked up and I started making a profit.

Within just a few weeks I found that other creative entrepreneurs were seeking my advice.  They wanted to know how they too could break out of the 9-to-5 rut and make money doing what they loved.  That is when the coaching side of my business was born.

 The biggest challenges I’ve had to face are:

  • Making enough income to pay all my bills at the end of the month (I don’t have a rich hubby supporting me on the side)
  • Discipline.  It’s easy to justify giving myself a day off or waking up later in the mornings.  But running a business is hard work and putting in the long hours now will pay off in the long run.
  • Putting systems in place.  My weeks are planned in advance, my studio is organised and my filing is up to date.  This wasn’t always the case :)
  • Knowing when to let go.  Sometimes I have a really great idea that I think will sell like hot cakes.  When nobody bites, I need to accept that it isn’t working and move onto something else.  As an entrepreneur you have to continually be coming up with new ideas and be on the cutting edge of innovation in your field to stay ahead.

Non-negotiables

I’ve learnt that the number one non-negotiable when running a creative business is believing in yourself.  You need to know that you have everything that you need and that you can do it.  The moment I let self-doubt creep in my business would hit a hiccup.

Christopher Robin said it in a nutshell to Pooh:

Promise me you’ll always remember:

You’re braver than you believe,

and stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.”

Marketing

I have found that connecting with others has been the lifeblood of my business.  I love meeting other creative entrepreneurs and sharing ideas, collaborating and inspiring one another.  Through my blog I have worked with the most amazing people and this has been the number one reason for my success.  My subscribers are the reason I am able to do what I do – so my number one piece of advice would be to get an email sign-up form on your website.

I market my products and services through my newsletter and by attending business breakfasts.  I also speak at events, write articles for magazines and guest blog for other websites.

My products are primarily digital and I sell them on my website.  I’ve tried to automate as much of the process as possible. Even my coaching is done via Skype, and I’m busy creating a self-coaching program that can bring in an income even when I’m asleep.

3 things to focus on when you start out:

  1. Know your customer.  Figure out who your ideal customer is (i.e. have a niche market in mind) and tailor-make your products for those specific needs.
  2. Marketing.  Your products can’t sell if nobody knows about you.  You need to get out there and tell the world about what you do.  Have an online and offline presence.
  3. Innovate, innovate, innovate.  The more different and unique you are the more you will stand out.  Don’t create what everybody else is creating.  Make it all YOU.  Give it your unique touch and twist.

And finally, don’t ever give up.  Things won’t always go like you expected and there will be tough times.  Use those moments to grow and improve.  There are also so many beautiful days – the big sales, the heart-booming feedback from customers, your first showcase in a magazine.  Never stop creating and never give up on your dream.  You can do it!

Get in touch

Website: www.michelleainslie.com

Tel: 082 449 2358

Email: michelle@michelleainslie.com

Facebook/michelleainsliebizz

Twitter: /michelleainslie

Pinterest: /michelleainslie

 

Hello Nünü – Business Advice from a South African Handmade Business

I’m thrilled to publish our first post in our blog series “Hearing from successful South African handmade businesses and why we should listen to them.” Jumping right in, a massive thanks to Hello Nünü for her valuable advice and words of wisdom gained from running her own successful handmade business, and trust that there is invaluable advice to be gained by many people starting off on their own creative business adventure!


Hello Nünü’s baby range makes the perfect “welcome to the world” gift with our handmade clothing, blankets and accessories. These exceptional keepsakes are made with the highest attention to detail and from high quality materials.

Owner/Designer Francoise Brand, works very hard to ensure that each item is unique in some way and these bespoke pieces have become so popular that there is now a waiting list.

Hello Nünü is expanding our range to include knitwear for adults and ‘Spring – Summer’ dresses for little girls. The existing range is available throughout the year and this includes knitted and crochet clothing, blankets and other home accessories.

Email address: info.hellonunu@gmail.com
Phone Number: 071 875 25 86
Hello Nünü’s website address: www.hellonunu.com 
Facebook Page: Hello Nunu
Twitter Account: _hello_nunu_

Some background information

I run my own Property Management company in Cape Town, managing luxury holiday apartments and homes for short term lets and I am a single mom. In 2009 my daughter was born, and my mother and I started knitting her little jerseys and blankets. I started getting orders from friends and family members and within a few months I had orders flooding in. That was when I had to make a very important decision; “Do I try and turn my hobby into a profitable business?”  

When I made my decision to give it a go, I reached out to family and friends for their guidance and ideas for a business name, then my logo, website, business cards and labels had to be designed and made, and I had to decide on the packaging and delivery of completed orders. I looked online for ideas, and I made a scrap book with pictures of ideas that I liked.

From there I started a Facebook Page and Hello Nünü was subsequently founded in early 2011.

My biggest hurdles that I face on a daily basis:

  • There are never enough hours in the day: being a single working mother of a two year old is challenging on its own – never mind the fact that I still need to make time in my day for Hello Nünü.  My day starts at 6am with the morning school run, then I do Property Management work until 1pm and then my daughter gets home from school. While she naps I do Hello Nünü marketing/website design/facebook page updates/concept design and then it is the end of the day! My evenings are dedicated to my daughter and then to my knitting, whether I am trying out new designs or completing orders. I have not gone to bed before 1am in over a year.
  • Only having small amounts of money to inject into the business: I have dreams of having an extra R20, 000.00 just lying in my bank account – but alas, I do not. I have had to accept that I can only take small steps forward, and that building this business will take a lot of time and energy to get me to the point when I can afford to be where I want to be.
  • Finding skilled and dedicated employees: In my first year I interviewed fifty seven ladies who all responded to my adverts for ‘skilled knitters with experience in crochet’. During the interviews I asked them to show me how they knit and only twenty four ladies knew how to cast on, and only four ladies knew how to follow a pattern. It was an absolute nightmare! I am happy to say that I have two wonderful ladies who work with me now – but if I want to keep expanding and growing, the hunt will have to continue.

The non-negotiables when it comes to running my own creative business:

  • Quality Control plays a major role in the running of a successful business. I have to check each item that is made, to ensure that the quality and finishing of the order is up to my standards.
  • Organisational Skills: I find that I struggle to keep on top of things if my life is not in order. I have to keep my order forms up to date, I have to keep a record of all payments made and those payments that are due, I have to ensure that enquiries sent via my website/facebook page/email are answered efficiently and that I follow up with clients once they have received their orders. To be able to run two businesses and a home is challenging – but when you equip yourself and keep things organised, you will find that everything runs so much smoother!
  • Allow time for yourself! You cannot expect your creative juices to flow if you are over tired and unfocused. I have to remind myself that life is not all about work and constantly aiming for the future – it is about the here and now, so take the time to breathe in some fresh sea air and feel the sun on your skin! You will be amazed at the difference it makes.

Tools that I use to make my life easier:

Creating and maintaining my Facebook Page has made my life so much easier! I can upload new photos/status updates/competitions and they are immediately posted on my fans’ newsfeeds. I can connect and interact directly with my fans – this is very important when you are building up a business.

When a client places an order, I immediately write it up onto an Order Form and once the client accepts the quote, I fax it straight through to my knitter/crochet lady. On the Order Form I have the clients name (as a reference), the date, the full order (including yarn used/colour of yarn/pattern needed/measurements/any other special requests) and when they need the completed item by. This way, there is no chance of miscommunication or error.

Once their orders are complete, I give the clients the option of either collecting their order or having it couriered to their door. This of course is at their own cost. I use a very reliable company called Southgate Couriers.

Marketing Hello Nünü:

Most of my marketing is done through Facebook Adverts and by word of mouth. I am in the process of designing flyers, that I hope to distribute to children’s’ clothing stores and boutique shops.

Where do we sell our range:

I use my website as a portfolio for my range of products. A large amount of my orders come from enquiries sent from my website and also my Facebook Page.

I have started selling at two Markets: The Treasury Market in Stellenbosch and the My Favourite Things Market (held at various venues around Cape Town).

A good friend of mine, who owns ‘Mr and Ms’ clothing, and I are working together to start a series of Trunk Shows that will take place at various venues around Cape Town. Visit my website for more information.

My goal for these remaining months of the year, is to get Hello Nünü into a shop or two. So watch this space!

Advice on using Social Media:

Facebook: It is so important to keep your information up to date and to post photographs of your products. Whether you take new photographs every so often or whether you re-post existing photos – you need to remind people that you exist. Spend a bit of money and get your products photographed by a professional – use beautiful yet simple props to compliment your product.

Run competitions, ask bloggers to advertise for you and share with your friends to raise your “likes”.

Take advantage of Facebook Adverts. It really is worth it.

Twitter: If you are like me, and not a natural ‘tweeter’ then link your Facebook Page status updates to your twitter account. This lessens the time spent on status updates AND tweeting.

Website: keep your website information up to date by posting photographs regularly, and updating your news page. It is also a good idea to feature other small businesses on your website newsfeed – as this will draw their fans/followers to your website too.

Three things to focus on in the start up phase:

  • Draw up a Business Plan. List what you are hoping to achieve and the steps that will get you there.
  • Do I have enough capital to start up my business and to keep it running until I reach a point when I will start to make a profit?
  • Do research into that particular industry – create good contacts – do some networking. It is one thing to have a hobby and to sell to a few friends and or family members, but if you decide to turn your hobby into a profitable business, you need to be professional and start your business off on the right foot. Do not take short cuts.

Contact Hello Nünü to place your order or visit their Facebook page to view their amazing handmade products. The perfect gift for a special little person in your life!

{Blog series} – Hearing from successful South African handmade businesses and why we should listen to them.

So, for right or for wrong, I’m going to put it out there and would love to hear your feedback on my theory – my theory that many South African creatives are so eager to turn their hobby’s or creative talent into a business, and ultimately make a profit, but who are falling short because they are under the impression that ‘If you love your work, you won’t have to work a day in your life’…  To which I say bollocks, I mean it’s a great quote and all, but realistically it’s really not that simple and I think that too many people fall short because of the romantic idea that passion is all you need for a successful business.

Running your own business, any business, big or a one man show, is hard work. There will (hopefully) always be elements of the work that you enjoy, (ok, I’m not talking about those very brave people in call centres who have to phone and try and sell you your 5th cellphone contract, at 5pm, just as the kids are starting to go crazy), I’m talking about those people who genuinely like, or love their jobs. People who are passionate about what they do.

No matter how much you love what you do, there are always going to be tasks that you don’t enjoy doing. Staying in the context of Jamtin  – let’s use an example of someone who designs their own jewellery. For the majority of those people what really drives them is being able to spend their days in their studios, doing exactly what it is that they do well, what drives them; their passion – to design and create jewellery. I’m speaking generally here of course, but said designer doesn’t want to be bogged down with the admin of sourcing and then costing their material, said designer certainly doesn’t want to be chasing debtors or putting press releases together to promote their work, many rather eat their tools than phone up a shop and ask them to stock their products. It’s obvious when we see it written down like this, but honestly, the number of people who expect their business to prosper without the hard work often amazes me – and by hard work I mean doing the red tasks, the tasks that they don’t want to do, but what has to be done to have a successful business.

Running a successful creative business, in my opinion, is about having the skills to not only create, but to connect, sell, market, promote, be on top administration, be financially responsible and always be looking forward. It’s about thinking outside the box, about growing and expanding. (It’s also perhaps about finding 10 extra hours in your day, I know!)

I do know that there are so many people who get this so very, very right. It’s with this in mind that I’ve decided to do a blogging series to highlight some creative peeps, who, in my mind, are successful and doing something right, be it on a large or small scale!

So – watch this space as we hopefully gain some valuable insights into running a creative business, taking into consideration all aspects of what exactly will make your business a success, and specifically talking to people within the South African context.

Ps – if you know anyone who you think we should talk to and who would share some insights, please drop me a mail!

Photo Editing 101 (Using a really easy online tool)

I’m a massive believer in the fact that a good photo of your product will go some extremely serious lengths in helping to sell an item when using the Internet to market and sell your goods. Just like presentation in a physical shop appeals to a buyer, or how you’ve often seen a plate of food coming past in a restuarant and ordered that exact dish because of how it was presented – it’s exactly the same in the online world.

There are of course many things to take into consideration when taking photos – I’m no expert in this field, but it doesn’t take rocket science to know how important good light is (so we can see the product you are shooting), the actual content of the photo (having it as the main feature is pretty important) and how an uncluttered photo can help. (I can’t stand it when a photo of a product is taken on a busy background, and you end up having to search for the product on sale!)

Drum roll… bring on PicMonkey – your ever so easy, ever so fun and ever so a little addictive photo editing tool, that really should be a no brainer to bookmark and use as one of the tools to promote your handmade products more effectively.

Using PicMonkey, it’s really quite quick and easy to brighten, lighten, add text, crop, add borders, use different filters (ie, make it look like a really old photo for example)  and generally make your photos look great. Best of all, it’s still free!

Other benefits of PicMonkey are the easy ability to watermark your photos of your products, so that no matter where your images of your products end up – you can always reference them back to your website, blog or Jamtin listing by creating a watermark over the products. See a nice and simple tutorial on how to do this here from LeHigh Valley Momma.

PicMonkey’s latest feature is creating collages, just like this one… you have to agree that they do make such a difference in the presentation. Another great feature from PicMonkey is the templates they offer – my favourite is the Facebook timeline image… for those of you with Facebook pages for your businesses, this could be a fun place to start?

There really are so many tutorials on the internet on how to use PicMonkey, like this one for example, but I would suggest that you monkey on over to their site, upload a photo from your computer and start playing with the various filters, adding text, lighting options etc… you can mess anything up, there’s always an undo button and you’ll be amazing at how easy it all is…

One, two, three… GO

Top 10 Tips for your Creative Bizz website

Whether you’re selling products online or offline, you need to have a website which not only lets people know who you are and what you do, but which establishes you as the go-to person in your field.  It’s no longer good enough to have a few static pages.  The more you build relationships through your site, the more people will buy what you have to sell.

Here are the 10 tips to rock your bizz online:

1.  Write a blog – there is no better way to attract a following and it’s a great way to consistently add new and fresh content.  It’s really easy too.  Just download WordPress and install it via your host.  And use a real domain name, not a .blogspot address.  Give yourself credibility.

2.  Have an email subscription sign-up form.  You want to have the email addresses of your greatest fans.  Why?  You can stay in regular contact, provide them with great information and they will also be the people who buy your stuff.

3.  Kick ass with social media – make sure you have ample opportunity for your visitors to hook up with you on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (and any other social media platforms you belong to) on your site.  Also, include the option for them to use these platforms on your blog posts.  In other words, give them pictures to pin, content to like and comments to tweet.

4.  Good design is everything – visitors to your site will decide if they like it or not in under 3 seconds.  Yup.  That quick.  So before they’ve even started reading your content and what you’re about, they’ve decided what they think of you.  And this is all based on your design.  Get a professional, simple WordPress theme that suits your brand.

5.  Steer clear from fancy fonts, too many colours, background music, flashing ads and pop-up videos.  You want the reader’s entire focus on your content – don’t irritate them or force them to click away.

6.  Give away goodies.  Have a freebies page, or give all your subscribers a free gift when they sign up.  People adore free stuff.  And make it good – this will be their first impression of what you have to offer.  If they like it they will pay for your other stuff too.

7.  The most visited page on any website is the About page.  People like to know who you are and what you can do for them.  Be sure to include a photo so that you become a “real person” to them, not just an online company.  Also, even though it’s an About page, it isn’t all about you.  Start off by telling your readers how you can help them, then share some social proof (testimonials, rave reviews) and finally more about you as a person.

8.  Share content that is valuable, provides solutions and has the potential to go viral.  People don’t really want to hear about your shopping trips, what you ate for breakfast and why your dog Molly is the best in the world.  They want content that can help them solve a problem they have or that will improve their lives.  Use catchy headlines, do your research and give our readers stellar content.  This will make them share the info with their friends and come back for more.  Don’t ever be boring.

Give your readers an experience, appeal to their emotions.  If you’re talking about the new necklace you made, share high quality photos and perhaps discuss how you did it or where you found your materials (if your market includes fellow crafters), or how your customer can wear it, what the stones represent and so on.  Make it meaningful and personal.  Don’t make it all about “the sale.”

9.  Only publish content that you have edited and re-edited.  Nothing drives people away faster than typo’s and bad spelling.  Project professionalism.  Check your work. Then check it again.  Only click publish when you know it’s your best work.

10.  Have an online store.  Although people don’t necessarily mind going through a brochure and ordering via email, they really do prefer going through a one-click process and paying immediately online.  You can set this up really easily on your site through EJunkie and PayPal, or you can set up a store on sites like Etsy and Jamtin.  The easier you make the shopping process, the more people will be keen to buy from you.

 

For more tips, you can download a FREE sample module from Michelle’s digital program, How to Create a Killer Website, here:

http://www.michelleainslie.com/freebies/

Michelle Ainslie is the go-to expert for aspiring creative solopreneurs who want to quit their jobs and make money doing what they love.

www.michelleainslie.com