Tuesday, 27 September 2011

September Slump

It's late September and we're all feeling the pinch... everyone's broke from their summer holidays, lots of people have had to shell out for new School things at the start of the term and we're all beginning to panic about Christmas... as a result people are holding tight to their pennies. According to the Guardian this week is the worst of the year for money worries.

It's a difficult time of year for us crafty bods, we're stuck in the position of wanting to make lots of new things for Christmas but being unable to afford new materials, not to mention the choice of buying a big bag of fleece or food for a week... it's a hard one indeed. I've tightened my belt a little and am trying to use the colours and materials I have to make new products rather than going out and buying new things.

It's very hard to stay optimistic but I'm keeping busy... this morning in fact I listed and renewed lots of things over 3 different websites in 7 different shops! Let's do the list... etsy x 4 shops, Folksy x 2, Dawanda x 1 (and I'm thinking of taking Inkmeup over to Dawanda too!)

My head knows that pretty soon the Christmas orders should start coming in and I'll be moaning about having no time to myself but right now my heart is breaking a little having realised that my savings that I thought would last me till the Christmas rush are completely depleted... if you're thinking of going self employed full time and want to have some savings behind you my advice is pick a number... then double it because it will just melt away faster than you can say "broken laptop" or "sewing machine repair".

I'm looking into getting a part time job again... maybe this is just a panic reaction and my boyfriend says he's happy to support me for a bit but I like to pay my way. Also I kinda miss people, those daily interactions that you take for granted... we'll see tho, I've approach my old boss to see what they say. What ever happens I do know the break from work has been good for me... I feel a lot healthier and haven't had half the migraines I used to!

Roll on Christmas... I can't wait for it!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Am I Relevant?

Recently etsy changed it's search to prioritise relevancy rather than recency when you search for a listing. I know this has been met with opposition in the forums... now I'm not interested too much in the debate... etsy have done this, now we have to adapt.

Now here's why I think the changes are a good thing... first off it's better for the shopper, they won't have to trawl thru a million listings to find what they really want. Secondly it means renewing your items doesn't guarantee you will get the top spot which levels the playing field for smaller sellers who can't afford to renew everyday.

Also the changes have made us all take a good look at how we tag our items and write our listings. I have been on etsy about 3 years now, some of my listings have been up for a long time being renewed and relisted when I sell them... it occurred to me that I hadn't read some of my listings for over a year! I saw the retagging process as a way to reconnect with my listings and revisit them all... this has taken me a little over 2 weeks. I was amazed to find how many spelling mistakes I had missed, how many dead links there were in there and how many mistaggings there were!

It's not that I am not careful about spellings etc when I list it's just sometimes we all make mistakes and over time with copying and pasting sections of listings into other listings they had multiplied unnoticed. Especially over the last year when I was working almost fulltime in another job and running my shops at the same time, too much stress makes for sloppy work... it's a fact... now I am full time self employed I can think about these things better and take the time to do it right.

The other thing I found in thinking about my tags and titles there was a shocking absence of certain words and phrases. I had a good think about how people might look for my shop... what do I make? I make needlfelted birds... how many of my listings actually had the phrase "needlefelted bird" in? About half I would say! This should be a no brainer... and yet I missed it... along with wedding cake toppers which weren't tagged, you guessed it, "wedding cake topper"!

What Etsy has done has forced me to take a closer look at my practices and I feel that this is a good thing and my shop will be better for it. I also took a good look at my pictures and I think alot of my photos need retaking as some aren't quite as good as I would like. This is a big job so I won't be doing it till after the wool weekend until I know which stock I still have.

My concern about relevancy is I don't think I am the kind of item people search out... how do you know you want a needlefelted crazy toucan until you see it? You don't... but once you see it don't you realise your life is incomplete without it? So what to do? How can I be relevant? Well, I reckon I shall need to step up my promoting and get some coverage that's what... but next month after I have recovered from Wool Weekend!

I still have my Inkmeup shop to edit... it's a daunting task and I am not looking forward to it but I know it's important and necessary... I'll be logging lots of editing time over the next few weeks! It's all about making my shops better tho so it's all good!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Working the Plan... Update

I thought I would fill you all in on how that plan is progressing this week. The plan was:

100 designs on Inkmeup on Folksy by mid September
50 designs on feltmeup on Folksy by End of September
50 Feltanomicon designs by End of September

Feltmeup is coming along well... I now have 31 items on folksy and while sales are thin on the ground my views are up and I am hoping people will remember me for Christmas. I've started listing wedding cake toppers on Folksy on a made to order basis as an experiment to see how it goes and focus for this month is on new cake topper designs for Autumn and teeny toppers which as super cute! It's making me focus on what my best sellers are and making me think about what I need to be making so that's good!

Inkmeup is at 57 items, the plan is getting slightly scuppered by the fact that people keep buying things... well I'm not complaining! We passed the 100 sales mark on Inkmeup on Folksy which was a lovely feeling, I treated myself to some new supplies so with luck there will be new designs coming soon.

Feltanomicon hasn't had a look in unfortunately so languishes around the 20 items mark.... which I am fine with as I took on my first fair this month and am prepping for it... this also means my Gallery contacting has been put on the back burner too as I need to prep stock and focus on the fair.

My first real fair, since I have done local things but not had much joy, is at the Harrogate Showground 3rd and 4th September.... It's the Wool Weekend, it promises to be quite fun as I am sharing a stall with my felty mother (facebook fans and readers of the Feltmeup blog will already know this!) but I am not expecting amazing things as traditionally I don't sell very well in a craft fair atmosphere.

It's being my first real fair I am not sure what I should be making as I don't know how well the public will respond to my birds and things.... so long as we break even I'll be happy tho, it's more an experiment! I had a good think about what I need to do in preparation and have started making multiples of my best sellers working on the theory that if I don't sell very well I can at least start to stock up my much neglected Dawanda shop with all my faves!

I'm taking lots and lots of business cards and fliers to give out in hope that people will keep them and remember me, in short I am hoping for the best but planning for the worst! I really do think the Wool Weekend could be great if the weather stays nice for us... we're hoping that it will become kind of a Woolfest for Yorkshire and the fact that we are in right at the beginning is great too!

The whole thing has brought up some of my old insecurities but I am pushing them to the back of my mind and trying to be optimistic. Everything seems very big and scary at the moment but I need to move out of my comfort zone if I am going to make this business work so it's scary good!

Friday, 29 July 2011

About that plan...

So... the masterplan.

Last time I talked about targets, since then I have been doing more thinking... a business plan written out neatly on a sheet will not work for me. So instead a lot of my planning is going to end up on this blog. It's no good if I write a beautiful plan and then stick it in a file and never look at it again, my plan needs to be ever evolving and changing as I find my feet... after all it is my plan... it's not like anyone else needs to look at it.

So the targets I set for myself were:
100 designs on Inkmeup on Folksy by mid September
50 designs on feltmeup on Folksy by End of September
50 Feltanomicon designs by End of September

Now I have targets, I need to think about how I will achieve these targets and what that will look like and how long in real terms this will take.

100 designs on Inkmeup Folksy
Currently I am at around 40 or so listings on folksy, now 100 may seem like a jump but I do have 125 items on etsy and in my Inkmeup file cabinet I have multiples of those prints. So this is possibly the most achievable of my tasks as the stock is already there, I simply need to go thru draw by draw, take and Inventory and list the prints.Along with this I am also aiming for at least 1 new Inkmeup design/product a month and as each design generally spawns 3-4 different products this will help towards the target. I have an insane amount of ideas so I am going to put aside some time each week to brainstorm and write them down, so I shall start keeping sketchbooks again. I also Have some new product ideas... but they are in development and super top secret so far!

50 designs on Feltmeup Folksy
This one requires a little more thought for me, first I need to establish what my 50 best selling designs are on Etsy, then I need to make them. The folksy felt total is around 20 at the moment... I know a lot of sellers will list the same item in multiple places and then if they sell it they make it on demand, this approach won't work for me as I prefer to have the item in stock so I can post immediately, it helps keep my work load manageable... and reduces my stress level.
To achieve this I am now making at least 2 of each bird when I make them (except new designs) this should increase my productivity (in theory). I am actively thinking about what I need to make rather than just waking up and thinking "I feel like making owls today" mostly cos I always feel like making owls!

50 designs on Feltanomicon on Etsy
This one is the hardest, I love feltanomicon, it's my playground... there is some mad stuff in my head and a love of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre fuels it quite a lot, I have some great ideas (I think they are great!) and need to start running feltanomicon more like a business and less like a playground... sure I still need somewhere to go wild but I plan on giving a whole day to feltanomicon each week to build up my stock. So really one of my targets is to play more!

In addition to my original plan/targets I have set myself the task of contacting 1 gallery or shop or magazine a week. This means trawling thru my inboxes on folksy, etsy and my email to find all those people who contacted me with trade enquiries in the past... there were a lot an because of my job I said no but now I have the time and the motivation to say yes. I am compiling a wholesale price list too... because you need to have one!

It's still very big and scary but I'm getting there... in the past month I have had a super experience with 2 galleries, which has been extremely encouraging. I'm hoping soon it all becomes less scary!!!

So... here's to planning the plan and working on the plan and achieving the plan!

Friday, 15 July 2011

I Have a Cunning Plan....

...of the utmost simplicity.

I am bad at planning... I struggle to think beyond the end of the week, sometimes even beyond of the end of the day.

Since I quit my job my old boss is under the assumption that I will be back for Christmas, this week I made the decision that I wasn't going back to work. I realised that I can't keep living with one foot in one world and one foot in another... I realised that with working for myself it has to be all or nothing at all. (At least in my case)

So plan 1 is to fully commit to being self employed and stop faffing about!

Plan 2 is to get a plan, yeah I know... I don't plan, so this is gonna be hard for me. I am researching business plans but none of the ones I have found really seem to connect to me and the it occurred to me that there is not going to be a nice little pre planned plan with lots of boxes to fill in for me... sure it would be easier but none of the business plans take in to account the things that are important to me.

So I have to write my own template... this will take some time. I took a nice big sheet of paper and began to plan a plan... it read

1. Get a plan
2. Set some targets
3. work butt off to realise targets!

Sure it's gonna get more complicated then that but I have a start, which is more than I had last week!

So really, these targets, what are they gonna be? They need to be realistic (unlike my wii fit goal to have the body of a super model by August!), the need to be achievable and above all they need to be something I am happy with. By the End of August I am aiming for 100 items in my Inkmeup shop on folksy and 50 in my Feltmeup shop on Folksy.

Folksy's the thing and I want to make it work for me... so far I have been treating the shops there as having a presence on Folksy and not as a real selling tool but I need to make Folksy work for me otherwise all those relistings and the like are just throwing money down the drain, ok so it's only 20p a listing but those 20p's add up! S0 the next couple of months are about growing my Folksy business.

My other goal is with The Feltanomicon... that silly little shop I like to think of as my playground. It needs attention... so it's getting it, I plan to have 100 items in there by September... and especially to get the Christmas feltanomicon designs sorted so I don't miss out.

This is all quite big and scary but it needs to be done... and that plan needs to be put down somewhere in black and white! Time to get to work and write that business plan!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

All the Things We Need to Be...

I was editing about 3 million photos today (68) and my brain started to wander and it occurred to me all the different things that a self employed craftsperson needs to be... the skill sets we all have far out weigh most normal jobs...

We have to be artists and craftsmen (craftspersons?) obviously but so many people just think it ends there. I am my own webdesigner, promoter, advertiser, accountant, social media expert (I'm good at that one), photographer, designer, photo editor... the list goes on and on.

It does feel like most of my friends and family have no idea what I do all day... the amount of artists I have spoken to who say they envy that I do this full time is enormous but I wonder if they realise how little of my time I actually spend making things in relation to doing the rest of it... because without the rest of it I wouldn't have a business.

I knew how hard it would be when I started my full time self employment and took for granted that everyone else would too... this isn't the case... so many people think I sit around watching daytime TV and drinking coffee! I'm not the greatest business woman in the world and am too easily distracted... but my days start around 8am and end around 10pm... sometimes later... and it's generally 7 days a week too so in the average day I tend to do more than a 9-5 job would entail.

There are considerable perks as well tho... my commute to work is about 7 steps to the studio door, when the sun shines I can pop down to the beach for a couple of hours and I'm my own boss... which means I set my terms. I'm a lot less stressed too... this is the best decision I have ever made and if you catch me saying otherwise give me a slap and send me back here!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

It's been a bad day...

I had a bad day yesterday, a truly crappy one... now I don't want anyone to think I am throwing myself a pity party here... that's not what I am about, but this was the first bad day since I quit my job so I felt I should document it.

I woke up in a bad mood which wasn't helped by logging on to a series of increasingly frustrating and annoying emails and one which got downright abusive as the day went on. I tried to bounce back from it but some thing get in your head... and when you work from home you can't escape them sometimes. My solution was to sit down and watch loads of Buffy and stab felt really hard for 4 hours... had it not been raining cats and dogs I would have gone for a walk and got out of my headspace... but I couldn't so I sat there and stewed!

Later that day I found out that work had overpaid me and want their money back... 2 weeks wages... the bosses reaction was less then encouraging, I pointed out that I gavea month notice and she didn't file the paper work til the last week so it was her fault she kinda just shrugged... not her problem I guess.

Around 4pm I had enough... I turned on the wii fit and spent half and hour punching imaginary punch bags... sometime in this the rain stopped so I went out and met my boyfriend from work.

So what have I learned from this experience:

1. Never ever ever reply to emails that upset me... ever... better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it... I take solace in the fact that I may have been wrong but I didn't resort to petty name calling

2. Physical stuff get you out of your head... next time some one upsets me I shall ignore them and punch the hell out of some wii boxer guy... hey he had it coming...

Today will be better tho... I plan to not let anyone drag me down and have a day of listing and crafting and working my ass off.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Oh Poor Neglected Blog

I have a confession to make... I am a bad blogger... I really am! I started with great plans to do a journal entry on this blog every day and totally failed! The reason said blog has been neglected is I hurt my neck... it's repetitive strain type thing which has happened this badly once before and requires copious amounts of codine and heat pack applications to fix it.

The plus side to this injury is I can still felt... the bad side to it is it makes typing on the laptop agony so I have been out of it for a bit. The codine makes me sick and sleepy, and to be honest ever so slightly stoned which isn't entirely unpleasant but I wouldn't recommend it as a hobby! It means I have been a right grumpy bum all week and my long suffering boyfriend has had to put up with me being a cowbag to him. (If he doesn't want to get shouted at he should really stop asking me if I'm ok every five mins!)

It did occur to me that had I been working in my old job I would have had to call in sick which would have resulted in me laying on the sofa for 3 days doing nothing (I get guilt when I work from home when I should be being a bookslave!) because I wasn't working I managed to make loads of legs for tweets and make 6 new designs and several old ones. It's amazing how doing something you love can make a difference to how you feel.

The neck is a lot better now (I can look right again... useful for crossing roads etc) but the codine is playing havoc with my system still and I am sleeping alot. I'm glad I kept going with work too, lots of new things to list and pictures to take (it was photo editing that messed this up in the first place) and I have learned a valuable lesson... photo editing is bad for RSS injuries... so only 20 pics at a time and not the 150 I did the other day... oops!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It's All About Ink!!!

There is an art to juggling the amount of shops I have... since I run 3 different shops side by side and each one has at least one folksy and one etsy shop (with the exception of feltanomicon which is a bit of fun!) plus zibbet and hopefully Dawanda later in the year... it can get hellishly confusing at times.
Last week I decided that I would prioritise a different shop each week... I can do bits for the others but the main thing this week is Inkmeup... I have already started refreshing my old Folksy shop which has resulted in my first sales there since February... which just goes to show you get out what you put in. I made a new design and am making it into notebooks and lavender bags as well as prints and I am planning a joint feltmeup/inkmeup giveaway for later in the week.
This week Ink is in charge... next week it's Felt's turn... and it feels good to have a rough plan to work to. I'm not very good with plans and don't often write things down... my brain doesn't work that way at all! I have also planned in lots of fun stuff as well cos a gal has to have a break! I've also decided to work on not feeling so guilty for taking breaks... I still kinda feel like I should be working all the time!

Friday, 27 May 2011

A Little Inspiration

The Work Hangover

Now I was warned it would happen but I guess I wasn't prepared for the full extent of the post work haze that I am kinda stuck in at the moment. I think maybe I was a bit naive and thought that it would only last a couple of weeks and then I would be out of it and feeling amazing and creative.

I'm making things and working hard but I don't feel like I am achieving things, for one I am spending far too long on the massive time suck that is Facebook! I asked a pal who had recently quit her job how long it lasted for her and she said she felt weird for about 6 months... 6 MONTHS!!!

It's hard to put my finger on what's wrong, the post work hangover seems to be a mix of exhaustion, laziness and a weird feeling that really I'm doing something naughty and should be at work. (Not particularly helped by the "jokes" about how many lie ins I can have and how much game time I seem to be logging) There's also this huge guilty feeling when I do anything that isn't work.

I'm still trying really hard to push thru it, and I'm sure I'll get there, but for the time being I know I need to stop beating myself up and just get on with it. I need to enjoy this freedom, after all it's what I worked so hard for.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Plan? What Plan?

You may have noticed but I don't have a plan (yet)... I keep meaning to write a "proper business plan" but somehow I never get round to it. I don't even make to do lists... at least not on paper, I keep it all in my head.

This weeks plan is to work on The Feltanomicon which has lain mostly empty and neglected for the best part of a year. Feltanomicon is my monster shop... a place where all the things that would probably eat the Tweets if I left them in the regular shop go! I'd like to have 10 things to list before I reopen (I have 3 so not a bad start) and of course I will need a new border and avatar so alot of felting and photographing needs to happen.

I like it at The feltanomicon, it's fun, it's like working without working... next week I need to work on Inkmeup... which has been maintained but only just since Christmas, now that will feel a lot like work as it's a very high maintenance shop. Plus I need to get Inkmeup at Folksy back up and running too... and I am getting sorta mad at all those people who think all I do is lie around in my pyjamas all day watching daytime TV... this girl works hard! (Are you listening Dad?)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Down Time

The laptop went down over the weekend... now I knew I used it alot but the gaping hole that suddenly appeared in my life, when she caught a virus and had to be carted off to the repair shop, was immense.

John loaned me his net book but it was so slow that it wouldn't even let me edit my etsy listings never mind think about putting new ones up. Worse... the netbook would not speak to my printer so I couldn't print off my orders and get them posted. Only later when I got my laptop back did it occur to me that I could in fact write postage labels... how daft am I!

It did make me realise how much time I spend on line, my social life is online, my business... those little facebook games which eat huge chunks of time... so I am resolved to spend less time online... lets see how long that one lasts!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Too Many Ideas

I fall out of bed, make coffee and crawl to the studio (pausing to admire my lovely new pink cushions... A girls gotta have some treats) My morning routine is pretty well established, get up, make coffee, check emails, play around on facebook and say hi to the Etsy peeps over in the UK cake and chat team, wrap parcels, go to post office.

Today I can't get going I have too many ideas swirling around my brain (and no parcels to wrap). What to do? Should I take photos, make birds, make monsters, do some drawing, get the gocco out, visit a friend... the resultant buzz in my brain renders me unable to do anything so I spend 2 hours making treasuries on etsy instead.

Feeling slightly guilty now I decide to clean the house only to find myself sat on my new cushions reading an old magazine... I feel guilty for not working again... and then I remember that I am allowed a day off and didn't I promise myself a little break before I got seriously into this self employed malarky? I smile to myself, make another coffee and snuggle up to those lovely cushions... those ideas can wait a little while!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

What's This all About Then?

If you know me already you may well be wondering "Mel? A third Blog? Really? You know you don't blog on Inkmeup often enough and, well, Feltmeup has been a bit neglected of late!" And I would say to you "Yes, yes I know but..."

If you don't know me then we wouldn't have this conversation and you would be left baffled by my blithering on... but trust me I am getting there.

The purpose of this blog is different from the others, I wanted a place to keep all my random thoughts, musings and the stuff that just doesn't fit in to Ink and Felt... and I don't keep a diary, I start one every year with great plans and abandon it by mid January. So this is kind of an online journal about my experience of being a full time self employed craft worker.

Let me begin at the beginning...

In 2007 I set up as a feltmaker on etsy and registered as self employed, I was miserable, stuck in a dead end job, bored, depressed and tired. The realisation dawned on me that the job I wanted, the job which would make me happy didn't exist so I set out to make it happen and Feltmeup was born. But it's never that simple... I still had to eat, I still had to pay rent so I kept working in part-time jobs and slowly building my business.

Cut to present day... well cut to last month. I had managed to cut down my working hours to 3 days a week, a mere 18 hours as a bookslave, but the headspace they took up was massive. Every night I went to bed I would turn to my boyfriend and say "I don't want to go to work tomorrow" and he would smile and tell me he knew... problem being I was doing what should have been a full time job in part time hours, and frankly it was killing me.

I realised I just wasn't enjoying my days off because I felt I had to work on my business and if I took an actual day off I felt guilty for not working but if I did work I was a wee bit half arsed and uninspired... not a place you wanna be. So one night I turned to John and told him I was handing in my notice tomorrow, he was supportive but I don't think he actually thought I would do it. I had a little cry because for all it's amassive pain in the arse I really did love that job.

The following day I went to work and snuck my resignation letter on to the assistant manager's desk and ran away. A few minutes later she called down "Do you want to come up to the ofice and talk about it?" Me: "do I have to?" Boss: "Not if you don't want to, I was hoping I could talk you out of it" Me: "No, it's ok, I don't want to be talked out of it and I'm a huge wuss so if you try I'll cave" Silence... "Ok, but if you want to talk I'm here" Me: runs off and has a blub in the stock cupboard for 5 mins.

It's probably one of the hardest things I've had to do, kind of on a par with breaking up with a boyfriend you still love but you know you have to because while you still love him really you know it's going no where and if you carry on you'll just end up hurting each other. So I broke up with my job... sorry I mean resigned.

Now don't think that this was a spur of the moment thing. You can't be dumb about this stuff, so don't go quitting you're day job tomorrow without a little forward planning. Quitting had been on my mind for a long time, I'd even tried to quit way back in September and bottled it, I have a back up plan... in fact back in September the back up plan was there in a little savings account which had 3 months worth of rent and bill money hidden away in it... just in case... you know... I quit my job and then don't sell anything for 3 months. Plus I keep detailed accounts (oh yes... my dad would be proud!) so I know how much I make each month and I know it covers my living costs and then some for at least 10 out of every 12 months and to be honest I mostly spent the money from my day job on treats for myself and John... but a gal only needs so many pairs of shoes!

I finished my notice period just under a week ago... so here I am at the start of my self employed adventure with a big old list of things I need to do. Right now I am just enjoying the freedom and not having to say "I don't wanna go to work".

I did plan to take a couple of weeks off just to de-pressurise but in the last 3 days I have been more productive than I have been in ages... I have felt like a weight has lifted and I want to work so I'm riding that feeling for now.

And if you have made it to the end of this very long and waffley post then thankyou... I promise they won't all be this long, I'm aiming for a post a day but we'll see how that one goes. I look forward to scrolling back to this post in a year's time to find out how I felt back here... so I'll just wave to future Mel and get on with some work now!