Tuesday 26 July 2016

Social Neworking in the School Holidays

It's that time again!

Our gorgeous kids are off school for the Summer and as wonderful as it is to have them close to us it can make running your business a lot more challenging.

Those peaceful days where you could hear yourself think have gone until September and your stress levels are considerably higher.

So what can you do to make things a bit easier?

Schedule your social networking in advance. (Don't forget to check for messages and comments though).

  • Buffer and Post Planner (which used to have a free option but I'm not sure it still does) cover a variety of platforms, Facebook, Twitter etc.
  • Facebook offers it's own scheduling tool which is useful as you can set up page tags but do keep an eye on it as I've known it to miss posts at times. 
  • Tweetdeck is a useful tool for scheduling tweets and is great if you have multiple accounts. 
  • You can schedule your blog posts on blogger to publish whenever you want. 
I keep a diary of my scheduled posts so that I can keep track of them and this is also handy for going back over and adding in stats so that you can see which were the most successful.

So that takes care of online marketing. Now actually creating our products - playdates, after bedtime, joint crafting exercises. I think that may need a post all to itself. :)

What tips do you have for juggling family/working time?


Friday 15 July 2016

Starting a new Business - WHICH CRAFT?

You may think this is a bit of a daft question but it is rarely that simple.

If you are lucky then you already know which craft you are going to be using for your business. Perhaps you have been knitting since you were a child or have always been good at art. Some of us are a Jack of all trades but master of none! Or perhaps you are multi-talented and can do many different crafts to a high standard.

Now those are the two key words that you need to focus on – high standard. Because the craft that you finally decide on must be something that you are good at. Something that you can consistently turn out top notch results in. Again, you may be gifted and be a multi-crafter, we have many of those in the PCG (Professional Crafters Guild). But it is vital that the items that you create are finished well, use good quality materials and do what they are supposed to. No one wants a reputation for shoddy work and if you do manage to sell something inferior your customers certainly won’t be coming back again.

So I repeat again (as it is that important), choose a craft that you are good at.

Common sense must also be applied to the logistics of the craft. Yes, you may be fabulous at working with glass but have you the money or space for a kiln and workshop? Take your financial situation into consideration and also your accommodation (if working from home). There is no point in choosing a craft that will take up a lot of space if you live in a tiny bungalow or have young children and pets around with equipment that could cause them harm. Common sense - we know you have it! Use it!

Once you have made the decision, you are good to go. Let’s move on…

Time to choose the name of your business, we cover that here

And of course, don't forget to join us at the Professional Crafters Guild.  
We offer, guidance, support and recognition for your craft business. With access to information, support networks, recommended services and opportunities for promotion and participation.


Starting a new Business - PLAN IT OUT!

Yes I know, you want to just jump on in there and open the doors (I’m always the same) but it just isn’t the right thing to do. Take the time to sit down with a pad and paper and work through all of your ideas for your business first. Trust me it will save you time and stress in the long run as being impulsive isn’t the best way to head into something as serious as this.

I am guilty of many impulsive decisions brought on by one of my ‘during the night ideas’. I’ve woken up at 5am with a brilliant idea and had a new Facebook page and Twitter Account live and kicking by 9am only to get rid of it again about three weeks later when I’ve realized that I really don’t have time for something else or it just hasn’t worked. Sleep on it, chew it over, make sure that it is a good idea before you rush headlong into it. I have way too many social networking pages and can only keep up with things at a run the way that I do because I have a lovely lady that helps me out with twitter (Kirsty) and I have a short attention span so jumping about between them keeps me sane. I often envy those that only have the one business to promote and one Facebook page and Twitter account but I wouldn’t change the way I am as I’d miss you all too much. And some would say that I’m a little bit nuts but they love me anyway. A word of warning though, I've been at all of this for ten years now and have burnt out more than once and that isn't funny at all.

So we are currently sat down with a nice coffee (or tea, I don’t judge) paper and pen at the ready.

We know by now which craft we are doing don’t we. So write that down. In fact let’s give you some nice bullet pointed headers shall we. Here goes:
  • Craft Type - We worked this out here so we are good to go on this one.
  • Business Name - You may already know this, if not throw some ideas around. (See here forWhat’s In A Name)
  • Where are you going to sell?
  • Are you going to purely sell online? Go to craft fairs? Hold crafting parties?
    (Various posts coming up on this)
  • The Legal Stuff (I'll update with posts about this soon)
    Have you registered your business with HMRC or a corresponding agency if you are not in the UK?
    Do you need insurance?
    Do you need to find an Accountant? 
  • What is your budget for stock, advertising, hosting subscriptions etc?
    It’s always good to know where you are financially, no one likes unexpected bills to pop up. Most small craft businesses don’t have turnovers large enough to swallow a ninja bill when it appears. Are you going to buy quite a lot of supplies up front or just get what you need when you need it? 
  • If selling online do you have a decent camera?
    Images are everything for online selling as your customer cannot pick up your creation and see how good it is for themselves. The image is often it’s first and only impression. It can make or break a sale. 
  • Do you need to work out child care for when you create?
    Your craft may not be a safe one around young children. If this is the case then making arrangements for a sitter when you craft would be sensible or you could fit your orders in when someone else is home to look after the little ones.

    There are tons of other things that you could jot down, social networking, blogging, advertising etc. The main thing is to get those big ones sorted first. Those are the ones that can cause you trouble further down the line and come back to bite you.
    So, you have your list. Your business is slowly coming to life. Congratulations!

    And of course, don't forget to join us at the Professional Crafters Guild.  
    We offer, guidance, support and recognition for your craft business. With access to information, support networks, recommended services and opportunities for promotion and participation.

Starting a new Business - WHAT'S IN A NAME?

So you know which craft(s) you are going to center your business around  (see here) and you’ve spent some time planning out your strategy (see here). Now comes one of the fun bits – the name!

What should you call your new enterprise?

The list is only limited by your imagination but there are a few guidelines you should follow to best aid your business.
By far the most important factor is that it is something that you love. It would also be great if it says something about you and let’s face it we all love things that have a story behind them so if your business has one it’s good to have it on your site somewhere in the About Me section. 
Now I know lots of wildly successful people with completely random named businesses. So if you have your heart set on being called Purple Hedgehogs then go for it (I’ve seen much weirder!) There is something to be said for novelty value but if in doubt help your customers out by putting some thought into the name.

For instance, it wouldn’t be a good idea to call your business Wanda’s Wigs if you make Jewellery. Try and keep it topical if you can (this also helps when it comes to picking out your website domain name).

In saying this, do make sure that it is interesting. Make it just unusual enough to stick in the mind of your customer. A business simply called Handmade Jewellery, although descriptive is somewhat dull and will not make you stand out from the other million Jewellery businesses available.

Once you have thought of something, do a bit of research. Google the name and make sure that it hasn’t already been taken by someone else as this is troublesome when discovered at a later date. If you choose a name that is registered you could start to receive threatening letters forcing you to change it so it is always best to check this out first before you commit yourself.

So you now have your business name – WAIT! Before you start opening accounts with it and plastering it everywhere, sleep on it. Have a good hard think about it. Do you absolutely love it? Will you be happy to keep using it for many years to come? I have seen many small businesses change their names over the years and it is always stressful for both the business owner and the customer. So make sure that you can live with this name for the life of your business. You can and should change many things as it develops throughout the years but the name should not be one of them.

Those of you reading this that already have an established business and are thinking of making a change, just hold fire. Explore all of the other options first. Does your website just need a revamp? Do you need to add a totally different craft or products? There are many things that you can do that are less drastic than changing your name.

Of course, if you were hasty at the start and chose an unsuitable name then let’s hope you can change it painlessly and be more comfortable with it from now on.

I do have a fair bit of experience in the whole name thing. When I first started my business I wanted to call it The Crystal Lady (as I was initially making purely Swarovski Crystal Jewellery). I thought it would be perfect, but when I ran it by family and friends they weren’t impressed. No one liked it!

So I went back to the drawing board and came up with Radiance Crystals. If I’m honest I never really liked this one which is probably why I don’t use it today. I started Mystic Earth about a year later as a separate business because of the healing side and that one has stuck (mainly because I love it!). You’ll notice that I never gave up on The Crystal Lady though. I decided that if it wasn’t the name of my business then it could be another name for me. Since then I’ve been known online as The Crystal Lady and for someone shy like me it gives me a much needed boost. Once Creative Crafting, The Professional Crafters Guild and CRAFTfest were created I realized that I needed a blanket name for my business to cover all of them so I chose Crystal Lady Designs. This is my registered business name but you rarely get to see it as its own entity as I run the others fairly (but not completely) independent of each other. It does get a bit confusing (my accountant loves me!) especially when I start a conversation on twitter from one account and then without thinking continue it using one or two of the others. I haven’t done that for a while though and luckily a lot of people know me and accept my lunacy.

I asked some of our Professional Crafters Guild members how they came up with their business names. Here are a few of their replies.

Well, mine took a group of friends, and a few bottles of wine. As I sell lots of pretty beads I wanted something to reflect them, so we thought of shiny, bright, sparkly and eventually came up with Glitter. Then we needed something to go with it - that was more tricky. Some of the rejected ideas were GlitterQueen, OldGlitter, Bit 'a Glitter, . Then someone said "oh just wibble your nose and come up with something" Then we all thought of Bewitched, an old TV programme where Samantha the Witch used to wibble her nose to make things happen. Hey presto Glitterwitch was born!

Janet Morgan


My company is called XocolaT and we make handmade Belgian chocolates. XocolaT is the original name for chocolate invented in 300AD and was originally from the Aztec beverage only available to royalty in was served in gold cups.

Mandy Gair


I knew from the start I wanted to have a two word name including my surname REID and was sat one Sunday morning chatting to my husband about it when my favourite garden bird appeared on the bird feeder just outside the window – and it was of course a Siskin hence Siskin & Reid.  A very kind lady needle felted me a tiny Siskin and Selwyn Siskin Esq. my co-partner was born. He is very popular and even has his own photo album on my FB page.
A silly story really but thought I would share it with you.

Tracy Reid


My nickname was Lou, which got corrupted to Loopy as I got older by some friends. That's how I got the first part.  It became Loopy's Place, because I wanted it to be a homely place people wanted to visit. The blog and website has a mixture of all that makes my place mine.

And of course, don't forget to join us at the Professional Crafters Guild.  
We offer, guidance, support and recognition for your craft business. With access to information, support networks, recommended services and opportunities for promotion and participation.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Meet a Member - From the Heart Creations

'I started the business from a hobby/passion for handmade vintage style creations, using more traditional methods, where possible and using British material, where possible too.

Three years on, our handmade range had developed and grown, and so have our creative skills; now one of main skills being traditional Needle Felting to create sculptured figures and animals using natural wool.

Each piece we create with love & each one is unique for every customer.'