Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Beaded Branch goes International!!!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that The Beaded Branch now ships internationally!!! SOOOOOOO, for those friends and followers who do not live within the borders of the USA, feel free to shop and buy!!!

Hugs around the world,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Promoting Schedules.

Since I have already recieved one request for the Promoting Schedules, I have created a page on my website to download the templates.

I have them in Excel 97, PDF and the current version of Excel.

There are two ways to get to the page. Either go here , scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Click here for download page" link. Or click here: which should take you directly to the download page. Click on the version that will work, save it, and there are instruction for each spreadsheet on that spreadsheet.

I'm glad this is a help. Since people seem to like this, I will continue this topic for the next several weeks, or at least until I list something new on my Etsy store. ;-)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time Management and Promoting The Beaded Branch

When it comes to promoting online, I often here the same complaint over and over again-it takes too much time, I'm never left with any time to create! This can be very true. With all the options out there for free advertising and promoting one's business that it is easy to caught up in the whirl of blogs, forums, chat rooms, and the endless list of other social networks. I jumped on the bandwagon recently and started promoting my business at every free site that I could. It soon overtook all my time. I'd find myself on the Etsy forums, reading and answering questions if I could. I'd be on Plurk chatting with my friends there (Hi Plurkrs!!! You know who you are!) I'd be visiting shops oooh-ing and aaahh-ing over the beautiful, fun, unique products I'd see. The list would go on and on and on.

The next thing I knew, my hubby would be home from work, and he would find me much as he left me in the morning. After a couple of weeks of this (yes, weeks) Tim called to my attention that things were getting a little out of control, and we needed some organization back in our lives. (Basically I think he was tired of sandwiches and mac-n-cheese for dinner!) So, I got myself back under control. I sat down, created a house cleaning schedule and checklist for the week, and a schedule for the sites that I promote on.

I opened my handy-dandy Excel spreadsheet program and got to work.

My first incarnation looked something like this:

Pretty basic, huh? All it consists of is a simple chart, that includes: Piece name, Piece Number (from my Etsy shop), Section (where listed in my Etsy shop), number of hearts each piece has, date listed, date sold, and all the sites I've promoted on.

However, this week I've realized that I belong to several more free advertising places that I had forgotten about. (Big DOH! moment for me!) Once again, I was feeling overwhelmed. Then it hit me, kind of like a giant dope slap upside the head. Until I got everything in the business under control, I did NOT need to post in these forums, etc, every single day. Time just doesn't allow for it in my life right now. So, I changed my Excel spreadsheet around a little. Here's the next incarnation of it.

Here is a list of the places that I promote on currently:

Indiespotting : This is a fun little spot where you can submit one piece a week. It gives some extra exposure to your shop, and takes about 10-15 minutes to do. There are also a lot of great things on there to see, so take some time to look around!

Indiepublic: To quote Indiepublic: "Indiepublic is an independent art and design community. If you're an artist, designer, retailer, blogger, or just someone who gets giddy when they buy indie, we've saved a seat for you!" It's a fun place, and a very warm, welcoming group. I haven't fully utilized everything that they offer, yet. I'm still trying to get all of my scheduling under control.

TalentDatabase: is another site where you can get your products seen, develop followers. This is one of the ones I forgot about, but recently have started to work on more.

MerchantCircle: is a site where you can set up all the information about your shop that you would like, post pictures, blogs, create coupons, and all sorts of interesting stuff. One of the coolest things about this site is that you hook up with other businesses that are local to you. It's another cool way to market your stuff. And if you do custom work, it's a great way to remind local businesses of this fact around the holidays, or when they are giving rewards.

Blog: There are a large number of blogging places on the web. A lot of people seem intimidated by the idea of starting a blog, especially when they hear that they should post to their blog once a day. I know that my schedule doesn't allow for that. So, I post once a week. To keep ideas rolling, I have a notebook that I keep handy so that I can write down ideas as they come to me. Waiting rooms in the doctor's office is a great place to do this. Okay, waiting rooms anywhere. I jot down notes for possible blogs, flesh out when there is time. And whenever you post a new piece or product or line, you automatically have something to write about. Talk about what issues came up, how you overcame them, how much fun it was to make it, what inspired you. Whatever! People like to hear about it.

Facebook: Think MySpace, or any other major social network page. It's a great way to keep touch with your friends and family, plus you can show off what you are working on. I have my basic Facebook page, but they also have business pages where you can advertise you business, post a blog (mine is linked to this blog, but more about that later), business information, sites you sell on, develop fans, the list is pretty much endless.

Plurk and Twitter : These are both basically social networking kinds of places. Plurk is defined as "A really snazzy site that allows you to showcase the events that make up your life in deliciously digestible chunks. Low in fat, 5 calories per serving, yet chock full of goodness." Twitter states: "People are eager to connect with other people and Twitter makes that simple. Twitter asks one question, "What are you doing?" Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web." They are both great sites, Twitter being the more popular. I do utilize it, but not as much as Plurk, which I addicted to. I find it a little less confusing, and easier to keep up with the flow of the conversations. I keep my web browser open to Plurk all day long, and chat on and off with the friends I have met there. (Hi guys and gals!) I've met a group of wonderfully talented, caring, warm, and friendly people there. I'm learning a lot from them, and they are truly generous, fabulous and fantastic. In the future I will be introducing you to some of these totally great people! This is a great site! In their own definition: "ByHand serves as a free social network for those who make handmade and those who buy handmade." Adam and Rebecca are the geniuses behind this fabulous site. I try to post in their forum on a regular basis, and keep adding to my page there. I greatly admire them for what they have accomplished here, and the opportunities that they have given all of us! Their spotlights are fabulous too, and they always seem to be adding new goodies to their site. Just this week they have added a "wish list" feature, so you can show all of your friends what handmade products you want! (Great around birthdays and other gift giving holidays!) Thanks Adam and Rebecca, we love you guys!!!!

Handmadeology forums: This forum is just one, tiny little section to Tim Adam's huge site Handmadeology. What can say about Tim, other than he is another inspiration to all of us in the handmade world. He probably wouldn't admit it, but he is a marketing guru beyond belief, along with being a wonder metal artist. He defines his site as follows: "Handmadeology exists for the purpose of teaching artists how to successfully sell their handmade goods online. Through articles, blogs, video and screen shot tutorials, and Q & A dialogue between Timothy Adam
and followers of his work, the formula for selling handmade goods online can be learned." On Plurk there are rumors going around that he is a caffeine-driven robot, with the amount of work that he does, but it's really obvious that he is just very passionate about helping all in the handmade world, and wants us all to succeed. Thanks Tim, for all that you do!

Etsy forums: Etsy is the venue where I sell, so it makes sense to post in the forums there. They can be a great place to market, and get critiques and suggestions for bettering your store.

Well, if you add up all of these places, you will realize that there around 11 places (and counting) that I advertise. All for free. However, if I spend 1 hour a day on each site, I'm up a creek without a paddle, and will never get anything else done. So, by scheduling my time a little more wisely and only hitting one or two of these sites a day, my time is a little more widely managed. Along with using the Excel spreadsheet, I also utilize my Outlook calendar to help with "reminders". I list everything I need to do under "tasks" that are "recurring" and I'm good to go. I can mark stuff off when it's done' for the week, and I know when I'm finished for the day and go play with my pretties and create more.

I hope you have found this a little helpful. Drop me a private comment or an email if you would like a copy of my spreadsheet. We'll see what we can do to get you a copy of your own!

Until next time, keep crafting and dreaming!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Pitter Patter of Little (Angel) Feet

Angel Feet Charms have quite a history in our business.

Just over two years ago, a friend of mine told me she was pregnant, and started sending me pictures of her ultrasounds. (Okay, I'm weird, I love looking at pregnant women's ultrasounds!)
In one of those pictures, there was the perfect image of the bottom of the little guy's foot. My mind started working (always a scary prospect!), and I dug out the ultrasound pics of my own two boys. There they were, the bottom of the feet. Not as clear, but still all five little toes on each foot. Tiny little heel. Precious arch. (Smoke was pouring out of my ears at this point, I was thinking so hard!)
I grabbed a lump of polymer clay, and from those pictures, started to sculpt a tiny little foot. First, I figured out what would be the perfect size charm for a charm bracelet or pendant. (About 18 mm long) Then the research started to find an age correlation to the size of the charm. Low and behold, 15 weeks into the pregnancy, a baby's foot is about 18 mm long.
I then decided that polymer clay just didn't do it justice. It needed to be metal. Precious metal. Precious metal clay. (Okay, I actually use Art Clay Silver, but it's basically the same thing.) So, I made a mold from the polymer clay version. One mold. That's it. (I sincerely hope that I never lose it, or wears out!!!) And I started making these beautiful, tiny, fine silver feet.

The next step was to name them. Many emails among my friends. A lot of posting to my old website. About a month later, after much wrangling and thinking and talking, it was pretty much unanimous, and Angel Feet Charms were born. And it really only took about 6 months.

Now, I'm starting to offer my Angel Feet Charms and jewelry in my Etsy shop. So far, I have the twelve birthstone charms, and the five different bracelets up. I will be finessing the pictures as I go along, and improving them. But for right now, they are there, looking pretty.

By the end of next week, I'm hoping that I will have gotten the pins and the necklaces up and ready for sale, so keep checking back. I will, of course, be letting you know here, when they are up.

Until then, keep crafting and keep having fun!