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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Stop to Smell the Roses

I received an email newsletter late last week from Kari Chapin (author of Handmade Marketplace & Grow Your Handmade Business). She talked about coming across a quote that stopped her in her tracks;

wherever you are be there jim elliot

 “Be where you are, not where you think you should be”

It made her take stock, and realise she wasn’t living in the moment. We can all relate to this, I’m sure. We live busy lives… there never seems to be enough time to achieve everything, to stop and smell the roses. Kari said after she read it, she thought to herself;

“I should do that. I should think about that. I should let that sink in later, when I’m finished with this work. After I grade these business plans, answer those Tweets, and do that tiny to-do list since it’s only six items long. Then maybe after dinner and walking the dogs and cleaning the kitchen and answering emails… maybe tomorrow I can think about it on my walk or in the shower. I’ll try to remember.”

The quote resonated with me as it did with Kari, but I was pleasantly surprised that it spoke to me in a different way. I have always lived two (or three) steps ahead. Never thinking about where I am at that particular moment, this has been especially true of the year just been. Half way through last year I started planning my wedding, honeymoon, quitting my 9-5 job and starting self employment. From the point the planning began in early July 2012, except (luckily) on my wedding day in March, I was never in the moment. Always two months in the future, thinking of what I’d have to achieve to get there or wishing I was there already. Because I quit my job just before the wedding, and didn’t start proper self employment till we got back from travelling round Asia for our honeymoon for two months (while we spent most of our savings) most of the trip mentally I was ‘back at home’ working already.

This is not something, sadly, I can’t blame squarely on the busy wedding/honeymoon/change in job time in my life. It’s something I’ve always done, something I thought I would always do. I never thought about it in a negative way, just assumed I had a very organised, forward thinking brain!Stop and smell the roses(1)

Kari’s newsletter made me realise that now that I’m a bit more settled, and in the day to day swing of self employment I am right here, right now and very happy to be here. Making a choice to live my dream has meant that I am right here doing it, every day, mentally and physically. It’s chilled me out in a way I didn’t know was possible (or that I needed).

Of course the nature of what I do, requires a little planning ahead. Ranges to complete and release, deadlines and personal goals means it’s impossible to not look to the future in some way, to plan ahead. But it’s important that you don’t let it consume you. I am so thankful to Kari for making me realise that I no longer live like this! It’s nice being on the other side…

Why not give it a try today… “Be where you are, not where you think you should be


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Brand Juggling

When I create jewellery, generally its stuff I would like to personally wear… it doesn’t usually fit with the fashions of the moment, or the colours of the season. This works both in my favour and to my detriment. I like to think it doesn’t matter as the kind of jewellery I create is fun, quirky, and classic in its own way.

I created the brand Imogen Wilson Jewellery around my crane earrings. They were the first origami jewellery I made, they started to sell, I made more. I created packaging, a logo, a brand around them. They continued to sell so I continued to make them, I added new colours, patterns, eventually expanded the range (slightly) to include origami butterflies. They were doing so well that I wanted to expand further, make different origami to add to the collection, monthly, seasonally, hell even yearly would do. But I never seemed to have the time. Just as I felt comfortable enough with where I was, on top of the work, to expand something would happen. A big order, the Christmas rush, a new client, so I just kept doing what I knew, recreating the same things again and again. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it, as they say.

Colourfull array of Imogen Wilson origami jewellery

Colourful array of Imogen Wilson origami jewellery

So when I quit my job to do this full time I thought it would be exactly the time I needed to expand the range. What I didn’t count on was my mind being so fickle that although I did have loads of new ideas, none of them fitted into my pre designed, pre marketed brand. The brand I had spent a long time working on making cohesive, whole, rounded. None of this new stuff fitted my aesthetic at all, it was so all over the place in fact that some of the new stuff didn’t even fit the other new stuff. What was I to do? Some people I discussed it with said I could have collections within my current brand, but I didn’t want to dilute the work I had put into the look of my brand, my website, my Facebook pagemy Felt shop, my Etsy shop. The Japanese theme, the bright colour, none of that tied in with the new stuff. What do paper cranes, books, and space have to do with each other? Nothing (well OK, there is the paper element in the first two- but you see my point).

So I decided to re-brand. Not once, but twice. Looking back (and forward, as the work is in no way done) it was very clever and also a totally stupid idea. I forgot how much work is involved in starting from scratch… First I read the Etsy rules about multiple shops operated by one person… then did a Google to make sure the names I wanted weren’t taken. Not wanting to leave anything to chance I started an email account for each, a Facebook page for each, an Etsy store for each, and a Felt store for each. As I realised immediately that if I was going to go to the trouble of doing logo and design work for two new companies I better save the shop names NOW not later when they may be taken and it may be too late.

Then I had a lie down. Was I nuts? This was going to be a lot of work. I keep telling myself at least I’m doing it now, while business is relatively quiet… that’s what I tell myself anyway, it helps me sleep at night.

Three brand Juggling act. Am I nuts? Only time will tell...

Three brand Juggling act. Am I nuts? Only time will tell…

New brand #1 is called Ex Libris. It is, as the name may suggest, book themed jewellery. You can check out the Facebook page here. I’m currently focusing on slowly growing a following as only some of my IWJ fans have come over so far, I don’t blame them really… there isn’t much to see yet. I plan on releasing the jewellery in September, to the public and to the shops I stock. I’m going to give myself a couple of months to get used to juggling two brands before introducing the third, called Major Tom in early November (all going to plan). You can check out the Facebook page here (and get in on the ground floor, as there isn’t much to see yet, in fact anything, this is the first time I’ve told anyone about it, you are the privileged few)

All going to plan both will boom, Christmas will be a crazy juggling act and in the New Year my lovely computer wiz husband will make websites for both of them. At the moment we are holding fire on the website as I don’t even know myself if three brands is too many for me to handle. Only time will tell… which I suppose is why this blog is called ‘watch this space’…


Strike a pose and Vogue

Around a month ago I was approached to be in the October issue of Vogue UK.

I’ll let that sink in for a while, as I’m sure it will surprise you as much as it did me…

Of course, as with anything that’s too good to be true, it probably was. I would have been part of one of the advertising sections, but I was assured…

“Our pages are designed to look like a recommendation from the magazine, with a profile or product shot and the text written in the third person to describe each designer and their work”

I was over the moon, giddy with excitement, it was like the dreams I’d had as a 12 year old were coming true. Of course I would have to pay them… that bit was less exciting. For a chance in Vogue, it really wasn’t that much money. For someone starting out, it was heaps. I also had a teeny, terrifying flutter in my stomach that said ‘what if it’s a scam’. I sent the pitch to my nearest and dearest to get their takes. Everyone seemed to think it was legit, I mean how many internet scammers invoice you? (No really, does anyone know?) But in the end, I turned them down. I realised (with a bit of help from a good friend) as flattering as it might be, and as much as I might want them to be, the readers of Vogue aren’t really my target audience. The amount they were asking for just for a small spot in one magazine was some people’s total yearly advertising budget, and considering I didn’t have an advertising budget at all it far surpassed mine. So I decided instead of spending all that on one spot, I’d make more of an effort to advertise to my target audience, for that amount I could get a handful of ads!

Of course where does one start when advertising? Luckily for me I’ve been an extrovert since an early age, I have never been particularly shy. This transcends into all areas of my life, I am quite happy sending emails to strangers pitching, essentially, myself. Bring on rejection, it doesn’t faze me (much) I’d rather give it a shot and maybe fail than not try at all. This is especially true when it comes to emailing; I suppose it’s much easier as I don’t have to do it face to face (In person it’s a whole other kettle of fish…)I have not failed

I have realised that I need to be doing this more, it seems like an easy ‘next step’ to self promotion.  I’m so used to doing it with shops I’d like to be stocked at, that emailing to pitch myself is second nature, yet for some reason I don’t do it. The same rules apply to emailing blog’s as to emailing shops. First step, know your audience, then find the right blog or magazine, the kind that speaks to the demographic of people you are trying to reach. The most important bit is next, do your research. To pitch successfully you need to know their work, if it’s a magazine read some back issues, Blog, take the time to click through and read some articles (or shop, check out who they already stock). Then find out the person’s name who you’re going to be pitching to, do you like receiving an email that begins with ‘To whom it may concern’? No? Didn’t think so and guess what, neither do they. Their name will be somewhere in their website (or magazine), but it might be hidden, dig deep and find it. It can be the difference between getting a response and not.

Of course that is all far easier for me to say than to do. Plus the work was done for me in my first blog spot a couple of weeks ago! I was lucky enough to be approached, and interviewed, by a really awesome NZ women’s blog Le Petite Mania. I was quite chuffed as it’s a blog I enjoy reading, and they approached me, what’s not to love! You can read the interview here.

After seeing the Le Petite Mania interview it sparked something in me, I could do this, so I sent a wee email to Create & Thrive for their monthly Small Success’ blog post. Create & Thrive are the website I am constantly referencing on here, my FAVOURITE blog (which contains “real advice on how to turn your handmade hobby into a full-time business”). They liked what I had sent them and it was ‘published’ online last week, you can read it here.

With so much published online (well two in one month, feels like heaps to me) I have started to think about print advertising. Years ago my work was in the Wellington Woman magazine as part of an ad for Vault, and last year I paid to be part of a Felt ad in Extra Curricular (the first and only time I’ve ever paid for advertising).

Wellington Woman's magazine and Extra Curricular

Wellington Woman’s magazine and Extra Curricular. It’s hardly Vogue, but I have to start somewhere!

The next step will be standing on my own two feet, an ad just for me, by me. I’m compiling a list in my head, I shall take over the world one ad (or blog interview) at a time… perhaps just in time for Christmas. If you have any suggestions of publications you think would be a good fit, please leave them in the comments below!


To Start- Press Any Key

When I saw the topic of Etsy’s success newsletter this week ‘Tips for making time to make’ I nearly didn’t read it. I mean, I quit my job to do this full time. All I have is time, if anything maybe too much time! But I opened it anyway… and I surprised myself.

I read through not thinking much one way or the other until I got to ‘#5 Be Proactive’ which stated;

“A common problem among workers today is a phenomenon that psychologists call “reactionary workflow,” whereby we spend the majority of our working hours and energy reacting to external stimuli like emails, instead of on projects we intentionally set out to do that are important to us. “Rather than being proactive with our energy, we are acting in response to what is incoming,” writes Behance founder Scott Belsky in “Beware Reactionary Workflow” from the website 99U.”

 "To start, press any key. Well where's the any key? I see Esc, Catarl, and PigUp. There doesn't seem to be any any key!"

“To start, press any key. Well where’s the any key? I see Esc, Catarl, and PigUp. There doesn’t seem to be any any key!”

It hit a little too close to home to be honest. As someone who always has a Facebook window and a Gmail window open (along with whatever else I’m doing) if I hear the ‘ping’ I will switch browser windows almost instantly to see what’s happening… in fact the only time these windows aren’t open is when my computer is off, and the only time that happens is if I’m asleep. This isn’t to say I sit on Facebook all day, most of the time I’m doing something else at my computer… but I honestly have no idea how much time I do spend on there as it is so easy to switch over at any time. That realisation scared me a bit. I kept reading… ‘#6 Eliminate Distractions’ said, amongst other things;

“If you find your time or attention being eaten up by online activity, consider removing your computer or digital devices from your workspace. Also, complete other life tasks (for example, cleaning and laundry) that could infringe on your designated creative time beforehand. Streamline and delegate other business tasks that you’re less interested in so you have more time and energy to devote to creating.”

When I was starting out I read so many things, online, about how having an online presence can make or break you. It’s the easiest way of promoting yourself, and it’s free (well free in the monetary sense, no so free in time dollars)- you must have a Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter (sorry, no, possibly never), Blog, Newsletter, Etsy account, Felt account… plus don’t forget there is an official website to update, email to check and reply to (and that’s before actually needing the computer for design work, photo editing, contacting new shops or checking my bank account!), it’s endless. I was new to most of these things, so new I had to open accounts for some of them, I had to come up with things to say, be consistent and cohesive, interesting and try to build an audience. It’s continuous work, I am in no way finished don’t get me wrong… but I was so slow at the start that it would often take me all day to complete the simplest computer tasks (like writing this blog)…

Reading points five and six made me realise not how trapped on the computer I was, but the opposite. How a couple of months ago it would take me all day to complete/ update the above tasks… but now, I had built up a system, I could complete everything I needed to do on the computer before lunch. After some hard work at the start I had formulated an order to listing and posting yet I still sat on the computer all day, needlessly. It was no longer an all day job, but I was still making it one. The day I read that blog I completed all my computer jobs before lunch and made all afternoon. It felt great. The next day I did the same, this was going to be my new daily ritual- I was to be a slave to the computer no more. The day after that (day 3 of freedom) I realised I had nothing to do after lunch. That with a new system comes new challenges. I never thought I would have to actively try to ‘fill my days’ but getting off the computer had freed me up so much I didn’t know what to do with myself!

What fun! Watch out world… I’m coming for you!

It's OK, I've got someone to cover for me!!

It’s OK, I’ve got someone to cover for me!!