April 30, 2012

April 29, 2012 - It's a Wrap

I wanted to share with you the things I set out to do in the past four months. It's my first list, my spreadsheet. I dropped some things I found unnecessary and added a few things after I thought about what I wanted to accomplish. Below is my original spreadsheet with notes.

I'm really big on spreadsheets. If I could organize my life on them I would. I use Open Office freeware. They are wonderful.

I had hoped to complete both my new Websites by now. My flower jewelry and my product design websites are both 80% finished. I designed many new pieces for my jewelry business including accessories I didn't plan on originally. I'm very pleased with my brochure design and my new business cards and logo. 

I also hoped to make some statement pieces and enter some competitions, but that didn't happen. 

Once my packaging is complete and photographed I'll finish my brochure. I will start sending out the brochure and samples immediately after. 

As for my design business, I really wanted to learn how to use my new CAD program. I did learn how to do some things on it, but I didn't master it. The only other thing I wanted to finish was my website. Not quite finished yet, but very close. Next step is to finish my website and start making contacts. I have been adding some contacts on linked in. As soon as the website is finished, I'll make more. 

I know that some of you have been keeping up with everything I've done, so I want to make sure that you get to see how it all comes together in the end. I'll make a weekly post here for a while so you can see how I've succeeded (or not).

Maybe I'll get more done now that I don't have to post here every day. Maybe not.

April 29, 2012

April 28, 2012 - What I've Done

As I wrap up the Four Month Blog about expanding my business, I wonder if I've over analyzed everything. It will be really interesting to see the outcome of all the work I've been doing. So far, business has improved, and I think if I put as much into my third business as I have with the first two, that would grow too. I've only recently added new merchandise to that shop.

The past four months, I've taken a hard look at my flower jewelry business. I've considered my buyer base, and adjusted my product accordingly. I've considered selling wholesale and to see if it's profitable, I've made a spreadsheet of cost of materials, including packaging, and time to create to calculate entire cost of each item. I've decided to invest in a website to have a more professional presence, and redesign my packaging for retail display. I designed a logo/watermark and re-imaged my graphics and business cards.

I really don't think I've done more than anyone running a business should do.

For the past four months, I've also been preparing to go out and get product design clients. For that, I've been working on a new Design Portfolio Website. It still needs a bit of work, like a contact form, but It will be there soon. For that, I know my clients well and know just what to put on the site, but it helped doing a little research on designing a killer online portfolio. After I designed it first time around, I did a lot of redesigning. You really can't clutter up the site with 50 tabs of all your categories. It should be clean and simple and say I'm good and I want to design for you.

I did not accomplish all I wanted to in the past four months, I didn't meet all of my goals. I will have a wrap of my goals and accomplishments, probably Monday. But I really did accomplish a lot, and I am not only pleased with my work, but the fact that I was able to post here every single day of the four months.

April 28, 2012

April 27, 2012

Another fun filed listing day today, but today, I've almost finished with my packaging design. I hope it ends up being successful. Here's what I've come up with. Two types of packaging, box or hanging display. The boxes are kraft recycled paper brown and will be stamped on top with the same pattern as the cardstock backing in the acetate pillowbox. The boxes will be brown, the cardstock will be gray and it will coordinate with my business cards.

I bought a print background stamp to use on the cardstock. I wanted the pillowbox to kind of feel like a corsage box and the faintly printed cardstock, will look kind of like the print coated tissue that florists use to wrap bouquets with. I hope it all comes together.

I wasn't sure what I should use to tag my flowers in the boxes, a business card is too big, but I've cropped them down and they work perfectly. I love how they turned out. Everything is on it's way and I should have it by next week. I can photograph the packaging and get it all together for the brochure.

I can easily assembly line stamping paper and boxes. I have a nice paper cutter too that can make quick work of cutting the cardstock inserts. And as I've said, I have a binding machine to get the brochures together.

How much more can I accomplish in 3 days?

April 27, 2012

April 26, 2012

This week should have been all about the flowers and finishing my design website, but it was all about the bread and butter shop. Father's day is coming soon and I had to whip up a lot of Chef's Aprons and list them. Then eBay had a surprise - Free fixed listings and they can be for a month long. I had to take advantage.

Yesterday I spent almost the whole day listing Aprons and clutches. I'll be spending most of today and tomorrow, doing the same. If I can list a lot there for a month for free, I can get a lot of traffic. I don't like to sell there, because fees are high, but the more I list the more traffic I get and I used to sell more there. I think that I get a lot more traffic on Artfire though with their great SEO. I've been selling much more on Artfire. It's too bad that eBay doesn't support artists and crafters more. When all their DIY sellers moved to Etsy, it was like they couldn't show you to the door quick enough. We used to do very well on eBay, some sellers still sell there, but for the most part, Etsy is the place to sell now.

I have to admit that eBay does have great services, but you really pay for them. Their shipping service is fantastic, and I can't wait till it's working on PayPal. Their listing feature is very nice and you can even create your own html page, which I've done. But as far as getting any help for anything, it's all electronic unless you join a peer group. They rely on the community to provide the information you should be able to find on their site. If you have a problem it is very hard to get an answer.

I was hoping that I would be able to make a choice between one of three of my businesses. I foolishly thought that it might become clear in a few months. It hasn't. For now have to work all three, until one outweighs the other.

April 25, 2012

A day late posting again, Guess I'll do two in one day.

I've been making more of my flowers this year than I have in a while. I thin that maybe I've made more than I did while I was selling on Etsy, but still not enough to make a living. Next week has to be all about finishing my flower samples and my brochure. I need a photo shoot though and I at least need to fake my packaging with a printed, not stamped cardstock insert. I should have things sent out by the middle of May. I hope it doesn't take too long or I will miss the right time to place the product.

I'm tempted to post my website on linkedin. It's pretty close to finished. I really just have to add contact information and a few more links. I really wish I could add more of my finished designs. I just did some that turned out great, but they won't be available for a few months to a year. I hope to finish this weekend.

This weekend I am going to post a wrap of what my goals were, and what I've accomplished so far, because Monday will be my last daily post here. Things have gotten so busy in my life, keeping up with just this has been difficult. My big worry about being late with promoting my flowers in shops, is that it's Spring and that's when they have a better chance of selling. Spring and summer. They would have been good to have in stores for Mother's day. That's what I was hoping. I never really imagined it would take so long, just to prepare product for market. Maybe I'm over analyzing everything, or over working it all.  I think it's good to be prepared.

Did you think it would take more than four months to prepare product for retail?

April 25, 2012

April 24, 2012

There's about 5 more days to finish everything I need to before I go out and attack the world with my plan. For those few of you who have been reading all along, you might know that I've hit a few road block along the way. Health issues and family issues have hindered progress as well as much more work than I was expecting to have during this four month period. Last year at this time, business was so slow and this year it's booming. I guess that only goes to show that hard work really does pay off.

I am sure that I will not get my new business off the ground when I really wanted to. But I am trying very hard to get caught up. Yesterday I ordered cardstock inserts for my packaging. I've browsed background stamps to see what I can possibly use to pattern them. I really wanted a printed paper for the insert, but at this point anything other than hand printed cardstock would raise the cost of the packaging too much. Even putting a pattern on with my own printer. I can afford the labor cost of cutting the inserts and printing by hand at this point. If business picks up I can always scan the stamp look pattern and print it on the paper or have it printed.

I'm very excited about getting my packaging done. It's one of the last steps to sending my product out into the world. I have a few local places I want to start with and I suppose that I need to send them the very best of my samples. I also need to do a few small things on my website and finish my brochure. Sounds like a lot to finish in five days. That's not all I need to do. I have to finish my design portfolio website too. I really only have to finish a few pages there and add contact information. Not too much work, but way too much to do in five days.

I think that when my four months is done here. I will only post once a week, just to update anyone interested in my progress. That will give me more time to get my work done. Now, back to work!

April 24, 2012

April 23, 2012

I have a confession. I recently had a dissatisfied Flower Jewelry customer. I have been selling these flowers of mine for about 4 years now. I've made them for friends too. I sold quite a few on Etsy before I moved my shop to Artfire. I not only have never had a complaint, I've had nothing but glowing compliments. Most of the people who buy them, absolutely fall in love with them. The wearer usually feels beautiful and gets so many compliments. I always add extra business cards, because I know they will want to tell their friends where they got their flower jewelry.

This buyer shocked me with her request. She wanted to return her flowers for a full refund. I reminded her that my policy is to not accept refunds, because of the personal nature of jewelry. I was very nice though, and offered her a shop credit for her return. It wasn't a lot of money, because she had used every discount she possibly could on the merchandise. She said that she didn't want any of my junk. She said that she could stick a piece of felt on a pin and the bead wasn't even in the center of the flower. I don't actually put my beads in the center of the flowers, because I think they look a little more natural and beautiful that way. But I really didn't think that pointing that out would help with this buyer. She said that she would never buy anything from my shop again. As I had a sneaking suspicion that this buyer was a user, I just thanked her and never heard from her again.

It still haunts me although I really think this person was buying to see how things were put together. I'm sure she would not be able to reproduce my flowers. I do cut them by hand and shape them with an artists eye. They are not assembly line made and would not have the same character or personality if they were. Each one is slightly different.

Yesterday I did so much work. I finished sewing Aprons. I did a photo shoot and listed new Aprons. I made some new flowers, and worked on flower orders. I also updated by website by adding a revised version of my yesterdays post. And I revised a drawing for a client.

You can see my added page at akacinders.com there is a link to it at the bottom of THE ARTIST page. Just click on my new logo.

April 23, 2012

April 22, 2012 - How I Created My Flowers

I had been making jewelry from stones, but realized that there was too much competition in that market. I tried making jewelry out of scrap fabric, because I liked the idea of recycling, but I really wanted something unique, desirable and that meant something to me personally. I'm not exactly sure what came first the flower (horse) or the fabric (cart). I guess I decided that flower jewelry would be wonderful. I really love flowers. That was one of the reasons I was hired to design Tiffany style lighting.

After I thought about flowers, I thought of material. This all really came together fairly quickly. I had a few pieces of eco felt around for experimentation. I really didn't like the texture of it. It was kind of rough and snaggy. The first flower I wanted to create was the Poppy. It was a flower easily recognized by shape alone. I had some glass rondelle shaped beads that would be perfect Poppy centers. I really didn't plan on going any further than just adding Poppy flowers to my line. 

I wanted the Poppy's to have a little shape to them, and remembered that this felt was made of plastic and that plastic can be heated and shaped. As a girl scout leader, we used to cut up certain colorful plastics and melt them in shaped metal containers to make pins and things. We also used heat to spiral curl the lanyard plastic. You coil it around a nail and dip it in boiling water. The plastic then holds it's new shape forever.

I thought that maybe if I held the felt into shape and flamed it with a lighter, it could work. It took a while to get the process exactly right. The flowers have to be flamed inside and out and shaped a certain way. The heat also made the texture of the fabric more compact and less snaggy. I used to singe them more for shading, but found that too much makes them look dirty. After I successfully made the Poppy flower, I challenged my self to the Shasta Daisy and the Bachelor Button, two more of my personal favorites. 

I worked on creating my favorite flowers like the Peony, which is a bit more complicated with several layers, and the Magnolia. But one of my real favorites would be a bit harder to accomplish. The Helleborus has lovely subtle shading and patterning on the flower. Although many flowers do, they can still be recognized by their shape alone.

I had an idea. What if I could paint the fabric with durable acrylic paint. I thought it would be best to wet the fabric flowers and paint them, so it would be more like watercolor. It took a bit of time to get the right amount of wetness, but they turned out beautifully. When they dried, I shaped them with flame and the heat set the paint perfectly.

I have recently found that my flowers can be machine washed and dried without harm. I think that the daisies with the vintage painted wood centers might not make it through the wash, but most of them would.

Since my first flower Poppies I have experimented with handmade and hand painted centers and adding the flowers to crocheted headbands and skinny scarves. Some styles have stayed and others have hit the curb. One thing I can say, is that creating these flowers, from my own process with recycled or renewable materials, gives me no end of joy.

April 22, 2012

April 21, 2012

Another sleepy day. I have some ideas about my brochure. I think I will make it more like a press kit, with one page of wholesale pricing. My discounting is not complicated, it's more like discount per dollar amount, instead of per quantity. Pricing is pretty straight forward too. All single brooches are the same, all double brooches are the same, all single flower necklaces are the same, all single flower tie headbands are the same, etcetera.

I have to work on that very soon. I like to plan in my head before I go about doing. I think I have to do a little more reading. I know what a press kit should have in it. I guess I should make two different books. I guess I can make them very similar, but one without the price sheet. They will be bound so I'll have to make two.

I've been doing a few finishing touches on my websites too. I think the most important thing is to make sure I have the site metatags on, and some good ones. I've been watching stats too. I get visits from pretty strange places. I need to get ranked a bit higher so I get hits from legitimate buyers or bloggers, not porn sites, or Russian websites. I know that the Russians like to see what fashion is popular in the US, but I really don't know what the porn sites are getting from my website.

I also found a rubber stamp, with writing that I can cut apart and rearrange to make a stamp for my packaging. I'm very happy about that.

Tomorrow I sew again, and hopefully I can get some work done on my brochure.

April 21, 2012

April 20, 2012

I'm late with my post again and today I am blown away with the fact that blogger has completely changed format. I hope it's for the best, but I'm not really sure how I'm going to do all the posts I normally do. Things just don't look right here.

Today I did a lot of sewing. I decided, that although I want to either live off my jewelry, or my designs, I still need to make money off my sewing. I may not like sewing much, but it's what sells the most so I'm going to make the most of it, while I'm growing my other businesses.

I made a new apron with some fabric I have a lot of. Sitting on the shelf, might as well get some use out of it. I have 2 versions of retro aprons, one is the Ruffle (my daughter's design) and the other is the Sweetheart (my design).

My pattern is designed to use a 15" piece of 45" fabric, so it's a little more economical and less expensive. So I thought I'd make the less expensive version.

I also made a few Chef's Aprons that I will photograph with different pockets. I don't have enough listed and I need to add some of my better fabrics, like the Beatles and some Biker fabric and maybe more versions of Star Wars. I'd love to add the new Marvel Comic fabric, but that's getting harder and harder to find.

I love to add more Bow ties too. This is a great time of year for men's gifts. Graduations and Father's Day. I don't think I can really give up any of the things I do. I think I just have to be happy, selling it all.

April 20, 2012

April 19, 2012

Today was one of those days. I guess I did too much work the day before, or drank too much run (not really). I was half asleep most of the day and didn't really get much done. I did do a lot of cutting and sewing, but I should have at least worked on my website more.

I did manage to fall asleep twice during the day. I also took a long bath and made some plans for the next few weeks. I know where I want to go with my packaging for my jewelry, so I just need to find the right materials to do it. I really want to do a stamped cardstock insert in the acetate pillowbox.

I would like the inserts to look like a a bundle of flowers or just a random flower print. I think this will be the best way to do them, cost wise. I found some nice recycled paper cardstock that I can use. I was going to make my own stamp, but have not been successful yet. I have tools, maybe a carved woodblock? Not sure about that yet and I need to get cracking.

I also need to do the brochures. I just need to design a few insert pages with images, pricing and contact and I also need to make some samples. I really need to do the packaging first, because I need packaging images on the pages.

Guess that's my next big project. That and the headband photo shoot. I really need pictures on models for people to see how they look. Guess I know what I'll be doing in the next few weeks, baring catastrophe. I have a few things going on in my life that can blow out of proportion at any time. I have a son that needs surgery and a cousin that is very ill. I may need to give some attention to either one at any given time. It will put a delay on my progress, but that's OK. Family is more important than anything. There will always be time for the business later.

April 19, 2012

April 18, 2012

I didn't get much done other than blogging and ironing today. I did do some thinking though, and something that I think I should have mentioned and don't think I did. One of the problems I have had with freelance design drawings, is that people tend to take advantage of you. Or me at least. They will promise a commission, but not pay for drawings. I have done hundreds of drawings and not receive much commission. I think it's a lot like what I mentioned early about shops taking your product on consignment. If they don't invest anything in your work, they have nothing to loose and therefore aren't motivated to push what you have placed.

For both of my business, I have to design some kind of contract. Of course with the jewelry, there will be a much higher discount for cash orders, so that would motivate a retailer to buy, rather than consign. I really don't plan to consign, but if it is a certain shop, I might allow them to "test the waters" first, before they buy.

For my design business, I plan to write a simple contract for each client. I will ask for an upfront dollar amount for the drawings (minimal, for time only) which can be subtracted from commission if and when the designs sell. Different commission base for different end consumer. Higher rate for showroom sales, lower rate for big box retailers. And most importantly, stated in the contract, that if the design is not accepted (or paid for) within x amount of days, it reverts to me.

I have been too casual about the design business. I won't do that in the future. If a client wants my designs, they can pay a little up front for them. I also have too many contacts in the business for a client to steal from me. I have eyes everywhere and would know if my designs are showing up somewhere without my getting paid commission or fees. I prefer to work with honest clients anyway.

I have found a few basic freelance contracts online that I have downloaded and plan to alter to fit my work. There are a lot of resources online to find exactly what you need. My business has improved greatly from my online research. If you are struggling with your business. Take some time to critically evaluate what you are doing. You will not be wasting your time.

April 18, 2012

April 17, 2012

Today I had to spend the whole day working on my Bread and Butter shop. That doesn't mean I sell bread and butter, it means it feeds me. I make sewn Aprons Accessories and Housewares. It's not that I don't think they are wonderful, and that they are not worthy product to focus my attentions on. It's just that the older I get, the harder it is to enjoy sewing. As a matter of fact, I kind of hate it. I'm tired of fighting with ornery machines and searching for dropped pins or getting stabbed with them. I hate having to rethread the darn serger.

Anyhow, I thought I should show a little of what I make on my other shop. I focus so much on my flowers and my designs, and never really mention or show my sewing. Many of the designs there were made by my daughter. She is a whiz at designing patterns. Most of them she keeps in her head too. Although some of her new patterns she actually cuts with a template. She designed my Retro ruffle Aprons and the Vendor Aprons. I designed the Sweetheart Apron, the Chef's Apron, the Tie Shirts and the Bow Ties. I guess I'm OK at designing too.

My best selling designs are made out of Vintage Bedsheets, curtains or other fabric, like the Star Wars Apron that my daughter designed. It's my most popular item, and the picture above was not commissioned by me, it was modeled bu someone who loved it so much. I even had a college student use it on her video cooking show.

My second most popular is the Batman Bow Tie. Those guys really love Batman (and the Beatles). Bow Ties are becoming so popular now. I would make a standard tie, but I haven't designed a good one that uses little fabric yet. So hard to make with the vintage sheets, but I'm sure I would sell a lot of those too.

See, really cute, and something I could easily grow and make a good living with, I just don't really enjoy the sewing, and why shouldn't I do something I really enjoy?

You can stop by and see more of my work at poppysgardengate.artfire.com

April 17, 2012

April 16, 2012

Time is running out. I really have to finish everything soon. It's time. I need my brochures finished and I need my packaging done. NOW!

My design portfolio is coming along wonderfully. I completely redid it. Well just made it less of a jumble. I did a few small artistic touches (changing the banner, ever so slightly) and rearranged the pages. I hat way to many tabs at the top, so I've incorporated a lot of what was in tabs, as links on my portfolio page. It's easier to understand and when viewers get a pop up saying they need a password, they will understand why. I just can't leave my designs open for everyone to look at.

I've put teaser images with links. Some of them are open designs, but I have to let the visitor know what I'm capable of don't I? I still have a lot of work to do on it, but not nearly what I needed when I started. I'm very pleased at how it's coming together.

I suppose I should mention somewhere on the site that it was designed by me, and that I do graphic designs too. I think I know where to do it. My about page needs some serious work. I may add a home page and definitely a contact page. The rest will all be hidden and accessed through links on the other pages. I'm kind of enjoying web designing. Maybe I should take an HTML class. Not right now I think.

Tomorrow I sew. Still my bread and butter, although I have really increased sales for my jewelry and product design.

April 16, 2012

April 15, 2012

A long and exhausting day today. I didn't even get yesterday's post done until after 10 pm today. Lots of full moon kind of events, and it's not even a full moon.

I was watching a new car insurance commercial, and quite honestly, it made no sense, wasn't funny and was really truly bad. I wondered how much the writer was paid for that ad. Or did even use an ad agency, or just ran an ad in Craig's List for a really bad commercial. I remember the Quizno singing road kill.It nauseated me so much that I will never eat there. Not sure what the hell they were thinking there, but I bet they lost a lot of customers. It is not always a good thing to give people a reason to talk about you.

And then I watch Mad Men and remember vintage commercials that were clever, snappy, memorable and worthy of your few minutes of commercial interruption. I believe I remember a time when you actually looked forward to commercials. So few are enjoyable, now I think instead of thought provoking they are irk provoking.

I worked on my design portfolio website today. I didn't get a lot done, but I just about completely redid everything. It's pretty much the same format, but instead of loads of tabs, I'm using a portfolio page, with links to what I had tabbed before. I will also add a contact tab. I kept my jewelry website clean that way and I love the simplicity. Not sure why I didn't do that with my portfolio.

I'll be sure to post the site here again, when It's finished. After my research, I think I know what I'm doing now.

April 15, 2012

April 14, 2012

I am so determined to accomplish as many of my goals as possible. I started this post to make a decision about weather to continue with my handmade floral jewelry, or go back to product design. I've improved my shop and my product line, and I've made a lot of contacts in the lighting industry. Contacts I haven't made in years.

I will say one thing. I planned to only prepare to go out and drum up more business. I planned to get ready to offer my jewelry wholesale and to contact clients for product design. This is what I have accomplished. Without actively going out and finding more work, I have made $800 more this March than last March. Not all profit though, I have reinvested a lot of in back into the business. But it's nice to have it to reinvest.

I can honestly say that reevaluating what I was doing with my business helped so very much. I increased my line of brooches, and have sold so many. If I reach out to the right audience, I can sell the headbands and bangles too, I'm sure.

April 14, 2012

April 13, 2012

Friday the 13th and nothing really bad happened. How about that. As a matter of fact my son in law and his father both went out and got new cars today. Son in law got a used minivan that cost about as much as my first house did. It's really nice for his family. Huge and mega insured for the 6 years of the loan and fully featured. Very nice for the family. Not great mileage, but he doesn't have to go too far with it except vacations. I can't wait till I can afford a car for myself. I could pay cash for one if just one of my designs sells big next year. I need to find more clients soon.

Speaking of finding clients, I finally did a little research on the portfolio website. I found some great links. Build a Killer Online Portfolio in 9 Easy Steps is the best one I found yet. An Online Portfolio is not just for designers either. Artists and craftspeople should have one too. If you want to do juried shows, you should definitely have one.  It's the way of the world these days. I love my Weebly site. They make it so darn easy to build. You don't have to know HTML to make a simple and lovely site.

Mine portfolio still in progress, because now that I read how to build a killer portfolio I have a lot to rebuild.
If you want to take a peek, it's here cmdreifortportfolio.com . You can bookmark and see where I take it. I think it's too tabby. I need to have a portfolio page with links to those design pages I think. Cleaner look.

Not only did I start really focusing on my portfolio (with big focus on resume), but I also made a logo today for my flower shop. I'm really pleased with it. It' is just what I wanted, simple, symbolic,  and using my flowers graphically. I will mostly use it on my images as a watermark, but I may have a few other places for it.

See how cute it looks as a watermark?

I'm very pleased with the design. Guess 6 years of training in Art didn't go entirely to waste. Maybe I should do logo design. Didn't know I had it in me. But I should also say that it is easier with yourself as a client. You know what you want. Sometimes it's hard to get into your clients head to see what they are visualizing. I was working with someone who was trying to make on for me, and I was a bit too demanding I think. But I like how this turned out.

April 13, 2012

April 12, 2012

Things were so different when I was a kid. It wasn't just that I was naive, the whole world was. Those of you who are older know. Those of you who watch Mad Men can see for yourself. No one even imagined that little Sally could suffocate in that plastic bag, or get addicted to those sleeping pills. What was the harm in that? Everyone was innocent back then. I'm recalling how I loved my baby seal skin hooded jacket and my baby alligator purse. I didn't know back then that someone was killing babies. I don't even think my family who bought them really realized it.

OK, so today I just killed a bunch of ants that were trying to get into the cereal and my crock pot. I'm not a Buddhist after all.

Today I did some more photography and listing of my flowers. But as promised, I'll review what I did for my product design business.

I was only supposed to be getting myself ready to present my product to potential clients, but somehow I ended up with paying clients. Not a lot of money, but some, and maybe more sales in the future. This was all from updating my linkedin resume. Not a bad idea to just add something once in a while. When I am done with my website, I will add that too. My portfolio website, that is.

What did I plan to do, that I didn't. I planned to loose weight so I'd look more professional. Nope. I planned to learn my CAD program so I could send clients, CAD drawings. Nope.

I did however learn to use the CAD program enough to make some rough base drawings and alter old drawings so I could work on Photoshop to finish the designs. About the only thing I did accomplish is to work on my website and even that isn't finished. Although it is very close. The way business is going this month, I'll have plenty of time to finish it too.

The big thing I have yet to do is make my resume. I have an old one that I need to polish up, things like explaining what I've been doing for the past 4 years. I need to take a peek at how resumes are written these days. Formats change like lighting and I haven't written one for 4 years. Progress is a fickle companion.

April 12, 2012

April 11, 2012

Almost done with my Four Months. This is what it was all ABOUT. Not sure I'm meeting my goals. I certainly haven't come to any conclusion about WHICH of my businesses to focus on. But maybe I would be too bored if I only focused on one. I do have ADD after all, and the more things I have on my plate, the better I function. Maybe doing too much will keep me younger in the long run. At least my mind will not go stale.

I did learn a lot about my flower jewelry product. As a matter of fact, I'm changing my line about daily right now. I know I shouldn't but while making my flowers, I find that I can make in bulk, certain flowers, better than others. I have also found that some are more desirable than others. I have found that I can tint some of my own acrylic beads beautifully. I only need to buy a base color, so I can easily buy those beads in bulk and color them.

I found that my product line was not what it should be. I added several items. I added brooches, which have been the best selling yet. I have tiny brooches, which can easily be used as boutonnieres too. I could slap myself for not thinking of that one. Actually I was going to work on that before I left my previous selling site. But in the move, I forgot what my focus was. I simplified the line and made it more accessible to everyone.

That's what I learned about my flower jewelry. I still have a few things to do before I can offer them retail though. There is my packaging. I'd love to use vintage un-pasted wallpaper for the cards in the packaging.  I think I'm going to have to go with a stamped gray cardstock though. I need to find a big gray inkpad, and maybe carve my own stamp. Hmmm, I wonder if I can draw with some flexible rubber material, Silicone maybe, on an acrylic sheet. I need a pretty big stamp. I'll have to look into that.

Tomorrow I'm going to do a quick review of what I learned about my product design business so far.

April 11, 2012

April 10, 2012

Congratulations to me! I got my taxes filed! Now on to another phase of life. What a pain, although I admit those tax programs for business are great. And I think that the IRS accepts those programs even more than many tax accountants, which is sad. I know in our state, your tax accountant should be licensed to do taxes. I think it's the same in most states now. Good for your protection.

You should ask your accountant to show you their certification. If they don't have one, YOU could get audited. I'm all about the not getting audited. Not that I cheat or anything. I mean, I actually miss a lot of deductions, because every year I find receipts after I file. Not that it would change my taxes that much, but still, auditing takes a good chunk out of your productive time.

For one thing, all my records are on my computer. I'd either have to print, or maybe I could email a copy, but some are paper receipts, which means I'd have to copy those, which I haven't. Then there's the getting to the IRS and the time it takes to meet with them. The whole thing just bothers me. I'm sure I'd end up ahead, not behind, but I would loose time.

After taxes, I also found this great article on LinkedIn about ideation. Innovation Is About Arguing, Not Brainstorming. Here’s How To Argue Productively. They say stop brainstorming and do constructive arguing. I tried that where I used to work and I got fired. Not really, but if you did argue with the owner of the companies, a lot of times you might get fired. It would be nice to work at a place that accepts constructive criticism, instead of thinking they know EVERYTHING. It would be nice to come to a compromise at least.

I never did like the traditional brainstorming process. I like free association with critique myself. Spout out your ideas, and have others make comments. When I first started this examination of my product, I asked friends and family what they thought. I got some very good ideas. Many I used when they were practical. I have to thank everyone for their input. It's hard to brainstorm, or argue when you are all alone. That's why the handmade community is so valuable.

I'm listing today and hoping I get some new images done. Not hopeful though, because it's dark as night here today. At least I don't live in the great frozen North still, where the sun rarely shines, or Texas, where there's rarely a cloud. Cleveland is just right.

April 10, 2012

April 9, 2012

Went for a walk with the baby today. Second time in a week. Maybe this is what I need to knock off some of the weight I need to. Baby is in a stroller, which may not seem like a lot of exercise, but you haven't seen the hills I have to go up and down on my walk. Arms get a great workout keeping the baby from rolling into the lake, and going back up the hill is pretty strenuous.

I also made a few more flowers. Not new ones, just more for the photo shoot. Multiples too, so I can take pictures on headbands and bracelets together. I really need a photo shoot and so does my daughter, we've just been working so hard lately that we can't even keep up with our work, let alone work on new things. I also need to find some more really awesome fabric for bow ties. They are good sellers and I need something to bring in more traffic. I keep looking at fabric, but nothing really perfect yet.

April 9, 2012

April 8, 2012

Still working on my new Headband. I finally got a chance to make my Wedding headband and replaced a few bangles and headbands that I've sold or given away. I need more photo shoots with them. I'm also making more bangles so I can shoot them in multiples.

I'll have a headband similar to this one, but White. And it will be a little lacy.  I love that these button in the back. The button can be a nice element too. I think I'll do them in the Gardenia, the Camellia and the White Roses. Maybe I'll do white Daisies too. I think the Red Rose on White would be pretty too.

I'm really pleased with the product line now. The only thing I didn't do is make rings. I think they would be sweet, but it's not a priority.

It was Easter today, and we did have dinner, but I got a lot of work done too. My granddaughter wore one of my new baby photo prop headbands with her Easter Dress and we got some really cute pictures that I loaded onto the listing. When you have your own business, you never rest. The pictures were so adorable.

That's all I focused on today. None of the rest of it, although I did realize that I have to finish my taxes and send them off before the end of the week. Not thrilled about that, but oh well. Maybe next year I'll make enough money to actually catch up and start paying my taxes.

April 8, 2012

April 7, 2012

Today I really only spent time listing new Flower Product. It takes so long. I really wish I could just list pictures of all the flowers and have people choose their own, but that rarely happens. Most want items already pulled together. I can list variants on Artfire, but they are linked to the original somehow and I'm still not sure how that works and if it's a good, or bad thing. I should check into that more carefully.

Someone tweeted this awesome blog about what you should have in a press kit. PRESS KIT I need to make one, but don't really have any press yet. So I have to be creative on making it. I suppose I should approach it as a neophyte. Or one who just started to come out of the indie business into the wholesale world. I might add that I was a professional lighting designer and want to move on with that. That would be good press I suppose. Hmmm, I think I have it. I need to work on my press kit soon. I'll tell you what I did, when I have it all together.

I have to finish taxes this week, then I will move on to packaging which needs photography for brochure and then press kit. I also have to finish my design website, which is coming along much faster than I expected it to. The most important new part is my resume. I have to finish that and add my latest work experience.

I really need to add more product here and link them too. Here are a few - bow tie and flowers.

April 7, 2012

April 6, 2012

Amazingly, I got a lot accomplished today. I edited a lot of Flower photos of new product and listed quite a few too. I was able to finish my new Bow Ties and take really nice pictures of them too. I'm very happy that I bought the fabric and pulled these together.

Somehow the Bow Ties seem to relate more to jewelry, than Aprons or accessories to me. I really like making them. I need to find more fabrics that would be very enticing to men.

I also signed up for a social media blitz workshop at handmadeology. It's supposed to be for Etsy shops, but I think the basic info is good for anyone. First day was nothing I didn't know, but I'm sure it will get better. I'll let you know.

I really have to finish my two big things for my jewelry presentations, packaging and brochure. There are a few things I need to do to my flower jewelry website, but mostly that's good to go.

April 6, 2012

April 5, 2012

Today I had the opportunity to work for a good part of the day on a lot of projects. I don't get that often. I have been trying to put together some merchandise to photograph for a while, and I keep having setbacks. Granted, some of those setbacks are sales, so I can't really complain. Other setbacks are design projects that I'm getting paid for, and I can't complain about that either.

I did get a lot of photography of new items done. I have a lot more to do. And with photography, comes editing. I really like photo editing. I could do it for a living if I could find a job, but finding the time now has been difficult. I'm pretty pleased with my merchandise, but most of it really needs modeled photography. I thought I would be ready by this week, but I'm not anyhow. I still haven't crocheted my white lace headband for wedding yet.

I also made some new Bow Ties, well, not actually made, because before I got them finished, I had some interruptions. I bought some rare fabric in fat quarter that cost me $10 with shipping per fat quarter. I rarely if ever pay $10 a yard for fabric. But after cutting the fabric, I found I could get at least 10 ties out of each piece. At $20 a tie that's $120 per each $10 piece. Not all profit, because of other material costs, but still good odds. I suppose I should do a spreadsheet on cost/dollar per hour of my sewn items too.

I also came to the realization today, of what it really was that I disliked the most about my design career. There are so many people involved with your day to day work, that are basically sales people. I really don't like typical "sales people". Not that I don't sell, or have the ability to sell by con, I just don't like it. I'm pretty up front and honest, and in most cases, I don't see the need to tell stories about what you need from a person. I feel like I'm being fed stories by my client, and I really don't feel it's necessary. I think that sometimes, they are so used to playing the game, that they just don't know when to shut it off.

The thing is, I've known my client for a long time, and I really like them. Just wish they would be a little more open with the product, instead of telling me what they think I want to hear. The other issue is that I have great intuition, so I know when they're not being up front. That's my main problem I suppose. I can't be sold a line of goods from a salesman, because I know when it is a line of goods.

I guess if I want to do designs though, I'll just have to deal with it, one way or the other.

April 5, 2012

April 4, 2012

Today I finished some new flowers and shipped the ones I sold. I'm pretty happy that I'm finally selling jewelry, and it seems I sell brooches in lots too. I suppose I should try that on eBay. Lots of pick your own bouquets. Might get some wedding orders there.

Things are still quiet on the design front, so I'm enjoying the peace and getting some personal things done today. I really need to clean up my area. I've been working so much that it looks like a tornado hit inside the room. Too much work and too little time to organize. I didn't really mean to work quite this hard. It's not the designing or the production that is the issue, it's the planning and extra blogging that I won't be doing in the future, that is adding to my work load. I really didn't think that my plans would work so well before I had completed them.

It is really amazing what just taking a step back and looking at what you're doing can do for your business. At the end of the four months, I will give a summary as to all the changes I've made in my business as a result of my examination. Those of you faithful readers, probably know already.

Tomorrow I plan to spend a little time on my sewing. My new product there, has been taking off like mad too. I added bow ties to my line, and they are great sellers and pretty profitable too. I'd love to cut back on everything else and just make bow ties. Not that they are entirely original, but I did make my own pattern, and because I have so much grosgrain ribbon, I used that for the neck portion. They actually look really cute on a bare neck for women, and they are fastened with hook and loop. I'm making Jack Skellington tomorrow, but so far the Beatles fabric and Batman are my best sellers. Genre Bow Ties.

April 4, 2012

April 3, 2012

I can't believe April is slipping away already. I had better finish my taxes get them sent. Once again I owe and will have to be forgiven for now. At least the interest on what I owe the Government, is much less than what I owe on student loans. Wish I had some better luck there. So far 50K in interest and penalties alone on my Student Loans.

Today, I had to make some brooches for an order, so I went crazy and made some more to offer. I made a dark heather Gray daisy with my new yellow centers and I fell in love. I had to make one for myself too. I think I just might wear these things myself now. I really have to start. I'm going to make myself a brooch too.

I've been stocking up on supplies so if I get big orders, I will be ready. I can't even believe how many I have sold in the past few weeks. I can't believe I haven't had brooches before now. I had some, but these are a little nicer. I notice that no one is doing pick your own bouquet. I'd better make more offerings. of singles and doubles.

I am so glad to be working on the jewelry and not designs this week. I'll start looking for more clients soon, but for now I need a break.

April 3, 2012

April 2, 2012

I've been beating myself over the head lately for not accomplishing all my goals by the end of the four months. I didn't loose weight (meh), I didn't finish my brochure or packaging, I didn't learn my CAD program well enough to use it exclusively for my designs and more, but I don't want to bore you too much. But I have to stop that now, because I've already done more than half of what I set out to accomplish.

Yesterday, I sold another set of brooches on my Artfire shop. In the beginning of the four months, I sat down and examined my product line. I thought to myself, what would the average buyer want. I thought I had a unique product, and I did. My asymmetrical three flower necklaces, while beautiful, are not for everyone. I thought that I should add single flower necklaces, bracelets, hairbands and brooches.

Not sure that I could make a decent profit on the new offerings, I made spreadsheets of cost of materials and time involved to make. It turned out that the cost of materials for the headbands and brooches, made them very profitable, and the labor was really not that bad. It's actually the cost of chain  and findings that is the highest, even though assembly is pretty quick.

I also noticed with my Apron shop, that your sales increase on Artfire, after you reach a certain number of sales. It's actually about 80, but recently my sales have doubled there, and I've done some off line selling. My goal is to wholesale, but adding a website and offering more product has done wonders. I've also done a little off site advertising (free) and will continue to find more venues and blogs to make offers to.

What I'm suggesting is, that if you are not doing as well as you expect, take a good hard look at your product. Sit down, have a glass of wine, take a bath, visualize your product and what you could offer. Look at what other sellers are doing. I see so many beautiful elegant earrings on Etsy that have the wrong earwires on them. It just takes a little effort to finds a simple clean elegant earwire to raise your beautiful earrings up a notch or two. You can even make your own, fairly easily, or buy from another crafter.

I was shocked at how my efforts have paid off. I've been on Artfire for almost 2 years and was about to give up and close the shop. Last month I sold twice as much jewelry as I sold Aprons/bowties on my other shop. It's a little bit of work and planning, but after all, we're not just crafters and artists, we're entrepreneurs.

April 2, 2012

April 1, 2012

I promised I wouldn't work on my portfolio website too much, and I did keep my hands off it for most of the day, but I redid most of it tonight. I'm going to give you a sneak peek right here, but remember, it's not nearly finished.

I really don't have any experience viewing web portfolios, so I don't know what's the best way to format it. For now, I don't want to look at others. It will keep mine fresher. I will look up how to make a design portfolio website soon I think. I probably want to at least link my resume to the home page. I haven't finished that page yet either. I'm pretty excited about it. But it still doesn't say all it needs to.

I also contacted Vistaprint about my lousy postcards and they are sending out another set. I hope they are better than the first. I'm concerned about my daughters business cards, because I bought them the same week and she ordered 1500. It's so funny that they are so bad, because my business cards bought at the same time were fine. Well, I hope they are OK, because I really need to get my mini brochures ready.

I've decided to send off a single pin with each brochure. I also REALLY have to get my retail packaging together. And I need to order kraft boxes for my shop.

It was a really slow week fortunately, because of all the design work I had to complete. Wish I would have sold a bit more though. But this year was far better than last.

Today I really have to get new jewelry pieces together. And finish my sewing.

April 1, 2012

March 31, 2012

I feel like a huge weight has been taken off my shoulders. I think I'm caught up with my product designs. For the past two months my client has been feeding me projects one after the other and with only a few days to complete. I'm not even sure there isn't more, but I think there isn't for now. I am sure there will be changes to be made, but those won't be as hard as the original designing, because I've been making changes so the designs for the first retailer, while designing for the second retailer.

I think these presentations are only done annually, but my client is keeping me in the dark right now. There may be other product to design for them at other times of the year though.

I worked on my design portfolio website today, all day, and there is still a LOT to do to it. I was just taking the images I'm posting and putting a copyright banner over the client info and design number. Then posting the images on the pages. I don't like the format as I have it, so I'll be working to redo them all soon. I think I'm going to limit myself to an hour or two a day, and at the end of the day, so I don't spend all my time in front of the computer. After all, I do have to make a few more jewelry pieces if I'm to do a photo shoot this week. Not sure, it's good Friday so not sure the model is really available.

Hopefully today I get some time to work on my jewelry, and take some pictures. I also have some new items to make with fabric I have, and a few orders I have to do. I spent a lot of the day watching the baby for my daughter too. That was also a good time to work on the portfolio website.

I had to take a day of mindless work, to rest and refresh. I hope I'll have energy tomorrow.