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


A Watched Pot Never Boils- The intricacies of SEO and website statistics

It's all enough to make my head hurt...

It’s all enough to make your head hurt…

When I decided to create two new brands I knew it would be a lot of work. Registering them for their own Facebook, Gmail, Etsy and Felt accounts made my head spin. I didn’t really make it easy on myself though, I did it all in one sitting, for both brands. Then there was all the work I had forgotten about, Imogen Wilson Jewellery has been around for so many years, and I built it up as I went, I didn’t go in with a fully rounded brand. As a result I had forgotten how much was involved with starting out. It’s all well and good to have a product you’re proud of and think people will be interested in buying/ wearing, that’s almost the easy bit. Logo design, brand ethos, packaging, photography, photo editing, domains (Facebook, Etsy, Felt, Gmail, they feel never ending when you jump in), product descriptions and measurements for online listing…and that’s all before showing the public anything (or emailing shops)… it can seem daunting for one brand let alone three. Then when you think you have a handle on it all there are the statistics to think about.

Love them or loathe them, business statistics are everywhere. At the top of your Facebook page, your blog, your Etsy account, and of course the mother of them all Google analytics. I am still in the early stages of understanding how they work, how to read them, what it all means.

Actually, that’s a lie, a total lie. I have absolutely no idea how they work, I understand them as much as a child might. When the graph or the counter goes higher it means more people have visited my site, which is a good thing- WIN. Pretty basic right? Well apparently not. As with SEO (something else I understand about as much as a chimp) it’s an ever changing game. There is so much information on the internet about it all, yet it all seems to be written for someone else, someone that speaks this ‘other’ language I’m not privy to.

These guys get it so much they're taking a break and laughing at my inability too... Bet Asterix and Lucky Luke are in on the joke too...

I bet these guys understand it and are taking a break and laughing at my inability to. Bet they’ve even got Asterix and Lucky Luke in on the joke…

When Imogen Wilson Jewellery was my one and only brand I was obsessed with the statistics behind each website I used. My Etsy stats page was always open in one of my browser tabs, I looked at my Facebook stats daily. As I said above, I didn’t really understand what I was looking at, but that didn’t stop me being distracted by them often and excited when the numbers rose higher. Another tab to distract me from what I was ultimately supposed to be doing. Then I launched Ex Libris, my second brand, in the background all the while still chipping away at brand #3, suddenly I was logging in and out of Etsy, changing Facebook accounts left, right and centre. It was much like what I’ve heard having a second child is like, I suddenly had three times the work to do (not twice as much, like I had expected).

I realised I was so busy I no longer looked at my stats every hour, sometimes I didn’t even have the time to look at them every day. Checking my emails and looking at facebook just to see if ‘anything had changed’ didn’t occur to me, I had become so busy doing actual work that my mind had focused, and time had become more precious. Perhaps once I’ve gotten into the swing of things and all three brands have been launched, once a ‘normal’ daily routine is established then I’ll learn a bit about how to accurately read and use my stats, then at least if I fall back into old habits I’ll understand what I’m looking at.

When I started my blog, the goings on of Create & Thrive blogger Jess often inspired what I would write about. However as my blog has continued I don’t rely on her posts to spark something in my brain, to inspire me, I stand on my own two feet a little more and write about what is happening in my world with no prompting. However, I wrote this blog yesterday, and this morning in my inbox was an email about Jess’ digital sabbatical and a blog about the experience. She realised that it wasn’t necessarily that she was spending so much time online, it was the work (or lack of) that she was doing when she was there. The topic couldn’t have been more perfectly suited to include here if I’d asked her to write it myself;

“By constantly ‘checking in’ on social media, email, and other interactive online spaces (like checking our blog comments or stats, for example) we are caught in a loop of reactive work. We’re looking for something outside of us to give us something to respond to, rather than sitting back, turning inward, and focussing on what WE can create and give out to the world.”

I spoke a little bit about reactionary work flow here, but it’s so hard to make  yourself stop when you are so caught up in it. Luckily for me it’s no longer an issue, for now at least… Watch this space…


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Success List

ok to be happy with a calm life

This week I have decided to continue on from last weeks thought, only with a more positive spin. I talked about losing motivation, due to completing so much… but I didn’t feel happy I had completed so much like you’d expect… I felt overwhelmed, lost, directionless and doubt had started to set in. Then, just when I needed it I got the Create & Thrive newsletter delivered to my inbox. It was just the pick me up I needed. The thing that caught my eye was this post entitled ‘The Success List’ where Jess listed what success means to her. It sounded like she enjoyed the process quite a lot;

“It’s amazing how writing this list opens you up – not only to the possibilities, but also to the awesome things you already have in your life!”

Although I enjoyed reading hers, I wasn’t completely sold on writing my own… it all felt a bit narcissistic and when you think (as Jess points out early in the piece) that when you work for yourself business success and personal success are very closely related. At times it can be hard to see where one starts and the other stops. That said, it is quite a personal exercise. I mean it’s hardly shouting from the rooftops, writing it on my blog is a slightly smaller stage, but it seems just as scary and very public.

At the end of her post Jess goes on to challenge us to write our own. Never one to back down from a challenge I decided to give it shot. I was very surprised with the results!

Success Is…

…being brave enough to make the huge leap and quit my 9-5 job

…not being afraid to put myself out there, to email around, make connections, meet people. To promote not only my work, but at the end of the day myself

…being able to do my hobby, my passion, the thing I do by choice in my spare time everyday as my job

…having completed two ‘self employed tax returns’ myself

…wearing all the hats of the business process myself, from concept to shipping (and everything in between)

…learning something new everyday to make what I do easier and more efficient. If it’s going to work, and grow, I may as well work smarter not harder

…choosing my own hours

…working in my PJs if I feel like it

…having a cooked lunch on a cold day because the kitchen is right there

…going outside to have a coffee in the sun in the middle of the day, if I feel like it

…making things every day

…making things I want to wear which I am lucky enough that people also want to buy

…having more than just my husband reading my blog and my best friend commenting on my Facebook business page

…making connections with people all over the world who do the same kinds of things that I do, brought together by the power of the internet

…getting  up bright and early on a Monday morning and deciding to take a stroll to the beach first thing and start work a bit later (today!)

…doing the work I want to do and doing it when I want to (not working to someone else’s schedule)

…being happy

life happy to be living it

In the future, Success will be…

…supporting my husband and I both financially, so he can follow his dream too

…being able to employ someone to do the bit’s I don’t have time for any more as things have grown bigger…

…to take this dog and pony show on the road! I’d love to buy a wee caravan and travel round NZ working as we go and I love that what I am doing I can do anywhere if we decided to move city or country

…“teaching people that they CAN live life differently and make a living following their passion” This one I copied from Jess. She has been such an inspiration to me and I hope I can pay it forward and do the same for someone else in the future

…buying a house


Oh wait, it looks like we’re already there!

Gosh, what a learning curve writing that was. Firstly I was surprised how long it took me. It took me a good 15/20 minutes staring at my computer to come up with the firs two things… When I was finished I had to go through and take out all the negatives I had included… such as “Being brave enough, or possibly stupid enough to make the huge leap and quit my 9-5 job“. Before I started writing this I was pretty sceptical. It felt a bit egotistical… maybe because I’m publishing it on the internet? When I read it over to edit it at the end I had a bit of an emotional ‘moment’.  This exercise had left me feeling so lucky. I would highly recommend doing one yourself, even if you don’t want to publish it online…


‘7 Simple Ways To…’ shut your browser

There were several factors that lead to my decision to be self employed, to make what i love and try to live off it. The first I read around a year ago, it was a blog post that I stumbled on purely by chance called ‘5 Lessons learnt from a Defunct Jewellery Business’ (written by Brooke McAlary) on Jess Van Den’s website. When i clicked further and further into Jess’ website i became more and more inspired. Jess makes a living from her successful jewellery business Epheriall, but she also teaches and inspires through her website/ blog Create & Thrive “If you want to turn your handmade hobby into a full-time business – to create AND thrive – you’ve found the right place to help you turn your dream into a reality! It’s a long road, and a lot of hard work… but it IS possible.” Jess’ approach is so honest it’s refreshing, she doesn’t paint a storybook picture of doing a tiny amount of work for a huge pay off, or of working from home so you can eat Bonbon’s in front of the TV while the money rolls in. She tells you how she succeeded, how much work it will be and how it won’t be for everyone (or necessarily work for everyone).

Jess van Den, manning her Epheriall stall

Jess van Den, manning her Epheriall stall

After discovering Jess I was inspired, packed with drive and I worked harder than ever. Receiving her weekly newsletters helped too, it was like I had a backer, someone who had been where I was and succeeded but also like a gym buddy, someone who made it easier for me to succeed as they had gotten up at 5am to go to the gym with me (if you’ll excuse the metaphor). I still hadn’t formed the connections that i would quit my job, but maybe if I’m honest it was a niggling idea at the back of my head. Who doesn’t dream of quitting their job and following their passion occasionally, right!? Then six months ago I discovered and devoured Kari Chapin’s book Handmade Marketplace. It was like it was written just for me, the advice was easy to understand, easy to digest and quite a bit of an ego stroke as i had already achieved half the things in the book. I suppose that was it, the moment the seed was officially planted and of course it helped that (mainly due to the Christmas rush) business was already booming. The timing was a bit rubbish as momentum was growing and I was planning on going away for nearly three months (probably not the cleverest move) but i made it all the same, here i am, self employed… week one.

Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin

Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin

Just to be clear I am under no illusions. I am no Jess van Den, no Kari Chapin, i am not writing this blog to inspire or help you grow your craft business (although if it does that is an added bonus). I am a humble maker and I have written it to document my own journey, and when I say to document I mean everything, when I am successful and when I fail. Hopefully we’ll have some laughs along the way and it won’t just be at the expense of my spelling…

My first week was far harder than I was expecting, but not for the reasons i was prepared for. I had no trouble getting up in the morning (my original concern), I was at my computer rearing to go on Monday morning at 9am (ok, ok, 9.30am). On Sunday night I had written myself some guidelines, a schedule if you will, for how Monday would ‘run’.  Not just Monday really, how every day should run, finding a balance is important and I thought I had found it. It went a little like this Morning: Read/ update social media/ internet. Middle of the day: Fill orders. Afternoon: Create new things. I had even written in scheduled food/ drink breaks, I thought it was genius, how could I fail with such a timetable!?

Everything I had read up until this point about growing or creating a successful craft business says you have to have a large internet presence. That you are pretty much dead in the water without one, both Jess and Kari spend a long time talking about it so i decided i better listen! That was my first job, THE INTERNET. No pressure. So i started by joining Pinterest, Pinned things, Pinned more things, Tried to close Pinterest, was unsuccessful. Started Blog. Wrote blog. Changed template about 6 times (and subsequently had to re-size/ re-colour/ add text to 6 different sized banners.) Banged head on table and said “this isn’t for me” several times. Joined Google Analytics’s, watched YouTube video of how to add the code to my website three times, banged hand on head in frustration, forwarded code to Lindsay (husband and website designer extraordinaire) to add for me, Lindsay informs me he installed Google Analytic’s when he designed the website, banged head on table again. Started collecting stock for three shop orders, made piles on the floor, even though I need the money very badly decided they could wait for tomorrow. Stayed in PJ’s all day.

So even though i worked an eight hour day it wasn’t quite the day I was expecting. Surely this will get easier, the balance will come.. however the rest of the week went a little like this…

Spent the morning with 15-25 tabs open in my browser, every management/ biz tip you can imagine. How to be more productive, how to handle fear of failure, how to handle un-productive days (ironic), how to market yourself through: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Blogging, Websites, Newsletters and how to do it successfully, with a market in mind, what works for what, which is better (comparing each against each other). How to take a photo, how to Photoshop a photo, create a cohesive Etsy shop, follow up on an Etsy purchase, make Etsy friendships, connections, craft groups, interactions. Why interactions on all of these sites can make or break your business. How to choose yourself, why fear is good, why fear is bad. Why SEO is important to your business (quick Google search: What is SEO), why you are nothing without SEO, How to use SEO on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Blogging, Websites, Newsletters, Etsy and how to do it successfully, with a market in mind, what works for what…

I read them all.

Most days I missed my scheduled lunch break (who knew I’m such a mean boss!) because i was reading these ‘helpful’ tips. Then towards the end of the week I had a breakthrough moment, an article called ‘Ways to be Insanely Productive’ informed me (paraphrasing of course) that people procrastinate/ don’t achieve things because the things they are trying to achieve in the first place aren’t fun enough and we should just ignore all the boring stuff and only do the fun stuff. BAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It was an enlightening moment, I had been sucked completely into thinking everything I was reading was written by an expert on the subject, that it was important stuff for me to read, to know. That i was learning. Although I’m sure that is true in some cases, reading this gave me a much needed laugh and a jolt back into reality. Oh yes, and the oomph to shut the ridiculous number of tabs i had open. Well, all but one…