imogenwilsonjewellery

Walk with me, every step of the way as i try to grow my teeny craft business into something sustainable… watch this space!


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Pin-ter-vention

Infographic for the perfect pinterest profileI discovered Pinterest about a year ago. It was everything I love about the internet in one snappy package, easy to use and image based. My favourite internet pass time is finding and saving visually inspiring images which I plan on ‘using later’ which I appropriately sort and save into folders on my computer and then never see again (or only revisit years later when I do a huge computer clean up). Woe, those images, so beautiful, so wonderful, so awe inspiring, lost to my hard drive forever. So when I saw Pinterest for the first time I decided not to join, it looked the worst kind of addictive, worse than Facebook. I did do a bit of searching, a bit of scrolling, a bit of saving onto my aforementioned hard drive (ironically missing the point of Pinterest all together).

Fast forward to a month ago when I discovered how much of an internet presence  is advisable if you want to make a name for yourself and sell online. So I joined. I spent days on there, making sure I had attractive board covers, descriptions, enough to look at to give a ‘feel’ all the stuff the millions of infographics I found advised.

The longer I spent on there the more time I wanted to spend on there. I had fallen down the rabbit hole, I was addicted. Whenever I realised this I would convince myself it was work, I wasn’t doing this to have fun, it was serious business!

Thank you Pinterest

The multitude of infographics and websites like this that I found tell you, amongst other things:         

            “Try to pin at least once a day so your followers get fresh content in their home feeds. You might also want to pin throughout the day instead of all at once.”

and

             “A great way to get people pinning your stuff is to be an active pinner yourself. Follow other people’s boards and then repin, like, and comment on pins that inspire and relate to your shop.”

This seems to be the advice across the board (no pun intended) for all social media promotions. Keep active to stay in feeds, be active with others so people know who you are. Easy with something like Facebook (maybe because I’m so used to it and the novelty has worn off slightly?) but oh Pinterest how I have become obsessed with you, like I knew I would. I’ve never been so annoyed to be right.

It's far too late- Save yourself!At all points of the day I have a million tabs open in my browser, I have things ‘ready to pin’ (as an active pinner) and website’s I have plans to go through more thoroughly, when my tabs reduce and allow it (HA). ‘Being active and making connections with other pinners’ I have been finding a bit harder, mainly as I already dedicate too much time to Pinterest.. perhaps that will come later, when I am not so ‘pin happy’. In the mean time I have come to terms with it, all of it…

… My name is Imogen Wilson and i am a Pinterest-holic.

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The Sweet Smell of Rejection

I love rejection.

There, i said it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love succeeding too, I’m not crazy… it’s just so cliché… let me explain.

Like most things to do with selling something I’d made myself, when I started out I was literally flying blind. That’s not to say I know much better now, just that through trial and error I have seen what works for me, and now, have heard what works for some others. Sadly I’m pretty stubborn so if I’ve carved out my own way of doing things and I’m finding it works for me I find it hard to change how I do it.

To find new shops to stock, to make new connections, to introduce myself, from day one I have relied on email. Word of mouth, and sometimes a bit of a Google and then I will email with a (hopefully) professional template which I tailor to the particular shop I am contacting. I like to address the email to the shop owner, or buyer, and I go through their website with a fine tooth comb to make sure I find this information if it is available. No-one likes receiving an email ‘To *shop name*’ or ‘To whom it may concern’ sadly sometimes I have to just say ‘hello’ at the start of my correspondence as some people are coy in the ‘about’ section’s of their websites.

It has never been easier to communicate, I don't expect a letter in the post, you can put away your carrier pigeon... just an email will do!

It has never been easier to communicate, I don’t expect a letter in the post, you can put away your carrier pigeon… just an email will do!

When I started out I did this, and hoped it was what everyone else did. I had no-one to ask, hadn’t yet thought to Google the question and had read no books to tell me one way or the other. When the shop was in my home town I would take in stock to show them myself (terrifying) but email was always my go to if possible. Now with a bit of experience under my belt it turns out I am not alone. Kari Chapin in her fantastic book Handmade Marketplace talks about having a ‘media kit’ something I liken to my humble ‘template email’ after reading what to include I was pleasantly surprised how much I had hit the nail on the head. Go me!

However no matter how I write my email, if I give it ‘a voice’ if I keep it strictly professional, if I speak in the first or third person I have trouble getting responses. If I send 20 emails I will hear back from three, sometimes if I’m lucky four people. The waiting kills me. If I haven’t heard back in one or two (or if I’m very busy with something else, sometimes three) months I email back with a polite ‘was worried your spam folder may have eaten my correspondence’ and usually I will get a reply from nearly everyone. Originally when people didn’t reply I figured they weren’t keen to stock me and were just too lazy to reply… but after my ‘spam follow up’ often the responses aren’t all rejection letters, some of these people do send orders.

These days you don’t need to pay for a stamp to send a rejection letter… to write something by hand, to post it, to waste the paper… email is so second nature these days, with smart phones, tablets, laptops and the amount of screen time people spend daily. Still people don’t seems to have the curtsey, the time, the inclination to reply. I want to know, even if it is rejection, just tell me, please. Who knew a girl could be so excited to see a rejection email, every time I get one I am just so chuffed that the person who sent it bothered, that they gave up the thirty seconds and 20 odd characters to let me know.

Nava Lubelski turns tax returns and rejection letters into organic paper sculptures- I'm not asking for something which will create this much waste, or have the potential to be turned into art... just an email...

Nava Lubelski turns tax returns and rejection letters into organic paper sculptures- I’m not asking for something which will create this much waste, or have the potential to be turned into art… just an email…

So the moral of this wee rant, reply to your email’s y’all…

…now I must go and clear out the 15 unanswered emails in my own inbox…


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The Kitchen Conundrum

Time management is hard for everyone, especially if you are self employed and working from home. So many distractions at your fingertips, be them “work” related like Pinterest *ahem*, computers, TV’s or kitchens to tempt us…

We’ve all been there, when we’re at home for too long, we inevitably will end up in the kitchen. You ALL know what I am talking about.

It could be because you’re bored or maybe procrastinating. You get up from what you’re doing and before you know it you are standing in front of the fridge, you aren’t really hungry but it’s there… so you open the door. You stare for a while, close the door. Maybe you open it again, convincing yourself you are hungry, maybe you actually pull something out to eat (even though you aren’t hungry). Maybe you actually ARE hungry and you’re there for a purpose… but when you are home for long periods of time you always end up at the fridge, it just seems to be human nature.

When I became self employed the prospect of working from home (literally from home as that is where my studio is located) worried me far more than working for myself. Of the many fears I had the one I couldn’t shake was the fear of ending up in front of the fridge, every day. I have always loved food, food and I have a good relationship… I like to eat it and it likes me to be eaten by me- win, win.  I mean food! What’s not to love? As long as I can remember I had been as beholden to random trips to the fridge as the next person… so what would it be like being home, just me and the fridge, all the time. Would I need a poking stick by the end of the first month?

"The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand please mash the key pad with your palm now"

“The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand please mash the key pad with your palm now”

Luckily for me all the little bits and pieces whizzing through my head as a newly self employed person makes my mind wander, which (so far) has taken the power my stomach had over my feet away. Instead I find myself standing in the kitchen not knowing why I am there. Our kitchen and lounge are connected and open plan style so I will often go to the lounge to get something I have left there and find myself standing in the kitchen with no idea why I’m there. I’ll notice the bench needs a wipe and before you know it the kitchen is clean, or I’ve started the dishes and lost half an hour. Not once have a stood in front of the fridge though… staring blankly into space… not yet…

What is it about the kitchen that draws us in? We know the contents of the fridge have not changed in the last hour… and yet we go back, again and again…

For now, I am thankful that my full, forgetful brain seems to be giving me a break from eating everything in sight… or maybe it’s that as a newbie to self employed life I don’t have that much money to buy food so I can list the contents of my fridge on one hand, subconsciously, and know without getting up that if I succumbed to the above ‘kitchen conundrum’ I would end up eating mustard off a spoon… not a snack I relish*… yeah, that must be it…

Not what i had in mind when i got married, or started working from home... also luckily not at all what i look like cleaning... or ever...

Not what i had in mind when i got married, or started working from home… also luckily not at all what i look like cleaning… or ever…

*Or relish off a spoon. This is a no condiment off a spoon house. Yuck.


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Making Little Jumps

If you missed last week’s blog– I was made the offer of a lifetime after I contacted what I mistakenly thought was a shop, asking if they would stock my wares. The ‘shop’ ended up actually being a company who represented several brands, a sales agent/ distributor. She was interested in me… She would sell to (over 200) shops, market, deal with buyers, ship and represent me at the gift fair. I would have to make things in this season’s colours, sell them to her at slightly less than normal wholesale, cut ties with my normal shops, and create like crazy

I felt like I’d been blindfolded and turned in circles. It could be huge exposure but it felt like I’d be putting all my eggs in one basket. Which is where i left you… pondering the problem all week, as i had been…

Luckily for me, the crafting community is a tight nit one and I know some incredibly time generous, lovely people. Earlier that week i had been invited to join  four crafter’s (only two of whom i actually knew, vaguely) to meet up for self employed crafty business  meetings to share experiences and give advice- just the kind of thing i needed. The only problem was the meeting wasn’t for a fortnight and I just couldn’t wait that long, so i emailed them with my problem.

Sue jumped to action almost instantly and suggested we meet up to talk it through over coffee the next morning at The Roxy. Beverly and Monica agreed, they would see us there. This alone was enough to overwhelm me, these three women (two of whom I had never met) were willing to give up their morning to help me nut out my difficult situation. Amazing. I went to bed feeling better about the situation already, we’d sort it out in the morning. Then overnight the stress of the week caught up with my immune system and I got sick. I woke up sniffly, throaty and unhappy. It was raining outside and I couldn’t face going out feeling as crap as I did, especially as the cold wet weather would no doubt make me feel worse. Now if you thought these women were amazing before, you just wait… they met up anyway, without me, and talked over my problem for me and emailed with the results of the meeting.

I’ll just give you a minute for the amazingness of these women to sink in… it’s OK, i’ll wait…

The Roxy Cinema- where important decisions and delicious snacks are considered (and consumed)

The Roxy Cinema- where important decisions are considered and delicious snacks are consumed.

They emailed with a large, helpful email- they suggested that instead of looking at what this woman could give me to look at myself, my practices, to ponder things like ‘How am i doing on my own right now?’ and ‘Do I enjoy selling directly to shops?’ (yes). If I get a huge demand of 1,000 orders a week (or more) can i meet it swiftly without comprising on quality? (honestly i don’t think so), and if not, do i have a line i CAN produce quicker to meet this kind of demand… could I offer her that instead? It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, test the waters a bit before jumping in.

There were so many helpful questions to mull over, most (luckily) were instantly answered in my head upon reading them: If I have to pay her a commission, pay lower wholesale prices, register for GST, or hire someone to help meet volume requirements can I absorb that into my price? Can I afford to continue if she doesn’t make any sales for me? What are my turnaround times? Payment terms- what are they!?

Being a stay at home machine doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun as this Pancake-making Machine that W. Heath Robinson envisioned!

Being a stay at home machine doesn’t sound anywhere near as fun as this Pancake-making Machine that W. Heath Robinson envisioned!

One of the things they pointed out, that I had already been mulling over was ‘How many orders can I manage a week?’ I have an impressive amount of origami bagged and ready to make into things, I like to keep my hands busy while watching TV, and it’s nice having something to fall back on if I have a surprise big order or if I go on holiday… but if she wants me to start, from scratch essentially, with new colours, all of that goes out the window. Then there is the clincher ‘How many orders do I WANT to manage in a week?’ it’s all well and good saying I want to be a creator, to be self employed and sit at home all day making, but if I have to make (not create) like a machine… it’s not quite the same!

However they reminded me… My jewellery would be marketed in a professional manner and I’d never have to leave my studio… That the rep can keep me abreast of jewellery design trends and give me updates on what’s selling and what’s not, suggest potential modifications to my jewellery line based on experience in the marketplace. Of course it’s not all roses… “Having an agent doesn’t exactly mean sitting back and just creating, you still need to communicate with her regularly, check how things are going, provide free samples, marketing materials and anything else to help them sell your products. Are you guaranteed presence at gift fair? if yes how much space? Is there a minimum commitment period, is there a review period?”

With all this spinning through my head, a very thorough email but perhaps one that raised more questions than answers, I realised in the first sentence they had hit the nail on the head “it’s awesome and flattering when someone wants to do business with you” I think through all the pros and cons, the talking about it, the feeling of dread in my stomach I kept coming back (subconsciously of course) to being so flattered I couldn’t even consider saying no even though it’s what I had instinctively felt since the beginning! They also reminded me that I am the one who holds the cards in her hand, not the other way round. She wants me, she isn’t going away, and it’s not a decision I have to make now, or even this year.

Sue said it beautifully ‘It’s big and overwhelming and possibly that it is big and overwhelming is an indication that this is a leap too big for now, when you are just making little jumps’