The Happier Path

I spent a lot of the past few days travelling across Europe so that I could teach a photography workshop at Scheepjes HQ. As is often the case when I travel, I feel a huge urge to write and this weekend was no exception. Sat on a train, bound for the airport, I stared thoughtfully out the window at frost covered fields, blanketed by mist. My mind was sifting through memories that I'd formed with an impressive group of female designers. As always I was enormously struck by the power we hold when we invest in one another. 

Hand lettering quote about women who support one another via  Simple Devine Creation

Hand lettering quote about women who support one another via Simple Devine Creation

I consider myself very lucky to have worked my way into a position that I can collaborate with multiple brands and business owners who believe firmly in the power of women and work with them to remove any barriers to their success. Over the past five years I've interviewed 100's of female creators and spoken in front of many rooms full of women determined to shape their own story. Each time, the women who truly impress me the most are those who lead the way.... and bring others with them. These are the women I seek out first when I'm looking for new opportunities or find myself in the position to offer opportunities to others too. If I've noticed you raising up others, I figure you're the kind of person I want to bring good things to. 

There is a lot of people offering business advice out there. They tell me what I'm doing wrong online. They tell me the social media I should be using. They tell me the methods I should be using to reach astronomical levels of followers. For the most part I ignore them and choose story and relationships over strategy every time. For me, when I remove the personal, I remove so much of myself that it's not my business anymore. What's more, I don't feel like I have any real people around me anymore. 

The incredible thing that has happened from this decision is that I have a healthy stream of work. Sure, there's been times I've feared whether or not I will make rent some months. I am, after all, a single parent and need to earn the equivalent of two parents whilst still making sure my daughter feels she has enough love and attention from me. However, I have now reached a point where I can work with some of the best women in the business because I value what they do. It's not always easy to carve out and establish your place in an online world but it is possible. What's more, we can make our businesses work without trampling over one another to grab an opportunity. 

Just a few of the Scheepjes crew this weekend. Image courtesy of  Dedri

Just a few of the Scheepjes crew this weekend. Image courtesy of Dedri

When we host our businesses online we can often fall into a trap of comparing ourselves unfavourably to others. We can experience a fear of missing out or being left behind. Dare I say it, we may even feel resentful and jealous of others seemingly effortlessly won success. Stopping for a moment though and reflecting on the valuable alliances we have formed and the way we have shaped our lives through the hands we held and doors we opened on the way? That's a pretty powerful thing. I will often decline an invitation to work for free in return for exposure. Yes I believe my skills should be valued but mostly I fear for the next woman behind me trying to earn from her online life too. 

So after a weekend of observing the loving nurture women can bestow on one another and how it has boosted their potential earnings, I am minded once again to take stock, be thankful for my girl gang and say, if you're reading this and trying to workout how to make it all work running your own business? You've got this and we're right behind you. Hold hands. It's the happier path  xx

'Online Marketing for Your Craft Business': A Review

I received some pretty exciting post this week and I wanted to share the book that has eaten all my free time this week as I've hungrily gobbled my way through it. If you are thinking about a career change into the crafting industry, already dabble but want to make the full time jump or already run your own business but have been unsure how best to connect with your audience, then this is most certainly the book for you. 

Hilary Pullen's 'Online Marketing for You Craft Business' is an essential manual for all craft businesses with clear steps laid out of how to get your handmade products discovered, shared and sold on the internet. Hilary knows her stuff- she's been creating communities, managing social media and creating blog content for some time and is well respected in the industry. If you're a craft blogger in the UK, you might know her from her personal website, CraftBlogUK, a directory and one stop shop that brings together the Craft Blogging Community within the UK. 

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

Picture courtesy of Hilary Pullen (c)

It's fair to say I was excited when my preorder of the book finally arrived as I've read several articles Hilary has written about her work and have always felt highly inspired by the possibilities that a strategic approach to online marketing can bring.  The benefits are huge and not just in terms of bigger sales either. A great online strategy will provide you with loyal fans, product feedback, better rankings in search engine results pages, a better awareness of your work and most importantly perhaps, a greater interest in your brand of products. Hilary skilfully outlines this is a way that is supportive and encouraging and the actions you will need to take are neatly laid out in a way that's not overwhelming but achievable. 

I wouldn't need to be massively experienced in the ways of marketing to access this book. Hilary's writing style is friendly and accessible without being too distracting from what I need to know.  Each page is beautifully presented too with plenty of white space and pleasing layout that draws my eye to reinforce key ideas while making things bite size and easy to digest. I love the graphic design and illustrations throughout that stop this being dry and unwieldy. 

Hilary knows a lot of people in the business and she peppers her book with useful tips on how to make online marketing work best for you as well as inspiring quotes from the likes of Tilly and The Buttons, Patricia Van Der Akker (of The Design Trust) and Timothy Adam (of Handmadeology). This isn't just showing off her formidable network of contacts, Hilary is showing you just what it takes to make it work. Making it work has been very much on my mind lately as you'll know if you took part in our #makeitwork Twitter hangout

The book is laid out in a really logical way, building from why you'd use these strategies, to the nuts and bolts of how each element works, through to how to have a cross channel approach. The part I really liked most though was that you can easily navigate to one particular section and start there. The book works as an entire learning journey but also allows you to cherry pick a topic that particularly resonates at that moment for you. Anything she cross references to previous sections is easy to find so it doesn't just become a load of marketing jargon that feels cold and unfathomable. 

I feel that for £14.99, you're getting a lot of useful information that you can come back to and review time and time again when you feel like you're missing something, or are ready to take it up a level. If you're really thinking about getting your hands on a copy, Hilary is currently offering 20% discount on signed copies

I was so impressed with what I was reading that I reached out to Hilary and she will be joining me for a special podcast episode that will go live on the 18th October 2014. Tune in to hear from one of the leading experts on how best to market your online craft business and get an insight into what some of your favourite craft brands are doing behind the scenes to inspire you. 

I bought my copy of 'Online Marketing For Your Craft Business' from Amazon

 

Update: Wow what a response! I need to add a few details for those asking:

1. Yes, there will be a digital version. I will update when I know the release date.

2. US version is likely to be released on 21st November 2014- save the date!

Love Our Indies: Indie Untangled

One of the big drives for me in starting the 'Love Our Indies' feature has been that indies work hard to make their businesses a success and that often the level of commitment that this can take is not always fully appreciated at first glance. Success can look very different to different people; it can be monetary, recognition, a healthy work/ life balance or collaborating on projects that make you feel good. In my day to day work I am constantly amazed by the way indies have to be so multifaceted in order to be successful. Social media, good photography, branding, reflecting on how things are going and interacting are all the many moving parts that help build the story around their quality product. 

This isn't easy and websites such as Indie Untangled offer indies the opportunity to be visible and the marketplace feature feels like a space waiting to inspire me as a crafter. It's packed full of interesting vendors, with their stories told on the blog and developed further still on Ravelry and Facebook. It's very appealing and exactly the kind of thing that makes you really understand the value in what an Indie is doing so I asked Lisa, the creator of Indie Untangled to share a post about why she was driven to create Indie Untangled. 

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My first apartment in New York City was down the block from The Market NYC, otherwise known as the Young Designer's Market, a collection of crafty entrepreneurs selling handmade clothing, jewellery and other accessories out of a church gymnasium. This was in 2003, so pre-Etsy, before handmade goods became trendy and ubiquitous. Pretty much all of my earrings and necklaces came from the YDM. I loved that everything I bought there was unique and always got compliments, and that I could forge a small connection with the person who made what I was buying — I even ended up documenting the process of an artisan who made decoupage jewellery out of coins and paper for a photography class.

Fast forward four years later to when I started knitting. My first garter stitch and ribbed scarves were made with Lamb’s Pride Worsted and Cascade 220, but it didn't take me long to fall down the rabbit hole of Madelinetosh, and then to discover the incredible world of indie dyers. I was drawn to the depth of color that these fiber artists created, the fact that no two grays ever looked the same. I loved how a dyer could be inspired by a landscape, or even a movie, and dye yarn that I could actually turn into something to wear. 

Indie dyers are not too difficult to find, but it does take some extra work to get noticed these days. While Etsy is certainly a great resource for building up a crafty business, and comes with somewhat of a built-in customer base, it’s not so easy for dyers to stand out (that’s not even considering their recent relaxing of the rules governing what’s considered handmade, which is a whole other issue). When I’m signed in, I get a list of the new products for sale from my favorite shops, or I see the items that my friends have clicked the little heart for, but I don’t necessarily know the stories behind these products — or whether there are going to be any skeins of that non-repeatable colorway left tomorrow. Ravelry also provides a way to find out about and connect with indies, but keeping track of all the Update News threads can be overwhelming. 

Part of what makes the indie fiber community so exciting is learning about a new series of colourways, or finding out what  inspired a self-striping skein of sock yarn. Sometimes you can make that connection at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, or at an event like the upcoming Unwind Brighton, but unfortunately most knitters can’t afford to travel to every fiber-related event (sigh).

I don’t really have the budget, or the storage space, to stash with abandon like some people I know, but I also hesitate much less in purchasing a single skein or investing in a sweater quantity, and paying for shipping from the UK, when I know a little bit more about the dyer or spinner and her story. That’s really what I'm trying to build with the Indie Untangled marketplace and blog: a way to get to know the person who creates art in a dye pot, and to more easily find out when she’s created something you just have to get your hands on.

Sometimes yarn is just yarn, but when I'm struggling to get the fit of a cardigan just right, or frogging several rows of the shawl I'm knitting for my friend’s wedding, I like that I can look down and know that someone put just as much thought and work into the material that will be transformed into a garment I can be proud of.

 

A big thank you to Lisa for talking through the value in getting to know our indies, something I feel really passionate about too. If you liked this insight into Indie Untangled, pop back soon as there's more to come and it includes a giveaway!