The Pros and Cons of Being a Momprenuer

The Pros and Cons of Being A Mompreneur
 
I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 years since I decided to quit my job as a graphic designer to go full time with my business on Etsy. I’ll never forget the look on my husbands face when I told him I wasn’t going back to work after maternity leave. Y’all, his face was like 😱….😂. Not even a year later I was making the same money as he was and he’s a PharmD (check out how I make 6 figures a year on Etsy). So needless to say I think I made a good decision after all.
 
But, what is it really like to own a business as a mom? Well to put it simply: it’s extremely chaotic and rewarding at the same time. There are days when I wish I could have a 9-5 job back but then there are days that I take a step back to realize I’ve got the best career ever and I’m the luckiest person in the world. 
 
After two years of “being on my own” I’ve experienced quite a bit. Owning a business is not all fun and games … it’s more like hustle and bustle. Here are the pros and cons of being a momprenuer.
 

Pro: I can stay home with my kids if needed.

When I first left my old job to go full time with my business I was dead set on being a work at home mom… until she turned 2 months old and stopped sleeping so much. I had to find some form of care for her and daycare seemed to be a good fit. Now both of my kids are in daycare full time. But if I need to keep them home if they’re sick it’s no issue. I don’t have to call out and I don’t need to worry about how many sick days I have left to use in the year.
 

Con: I can’t work if my kids are home.

It’s extremely difficult to work when my kids are home with me. My kids are both under 2 years old so my youngest is usually crying because she stood up and can’t figure out how to get down and my almost 2 year old is crying because she dropped her fork on the floor and can’t get to it. My kids are extremely high maintenance and I know that if I even try to work while they are home I will lose track of what I’m doing.
 
I also feel guilty working while they are home because my eyes should be on them at all times since they’re always getting into something. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to them if I’m distracted with work. 
 
 

Pro: I pay myself what I want, when I want.

Financial freedom is a great thing. I’m on my own payroll and guess who decides what my weekly salary is? Me! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not swimming in cash but I pay myself double my previous salary as a graphic designer. If I ever go “broke” before my next payday I can always pull money out of my business bank account until then. 
 

Con: The cash doesn’t always flow

As a business owner you will experience times in the year which business is slow which is usually in the summer time. If business is slow, guess what? I’m screwed that week. And if I want go take a vacation I’m not going to get paid either (because I haven’t hired any employees just yet). That’s right, no paid sick days, holidays or vacations.
 
 

Pro: I can work whenever I want 

The ability to work when I want is definitely one of my favorite things about being a business owner. In the morning I usually drop the kids off at school, go to my workout class, come home and work a few hours, then I run and do errands for an hour or two then come back home to work some more if needed until I have to pick up my kids.
 

Con: I always have to work

Because it’s just me at the moment, there’s always something that I have to do. There’s either a message to respond to, an order I need to package, bookkeeping that needs to be updated, bills and taxes that have to be paid. It can be exhausting. Lori Greiner of Sharktank once said “Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week,” and that’s so incredibly true! I find myself working morning, noon, nights, weekends and holidays. 365 days a year. No sick days or paid vacations for me!
 
 

Pro: I don’t have a boss!

Every time I think of the general manager at my previous job I cringe. She was one of those micromanaging, everyone-is-beneath-me, talk shit behind your back type of general managers. Thankfully I don’t have to deal with that anymore! I am my own boss and I wouldn’t want it any other way. 
 

Con: I am the boss 

Being a boss ain’t all sunshine and rainbows (if you know where that quote is from then we should be friends). Unfortunately I have to do “boss like” things like answering obnoxious messages, overnighting things on Sunday nights, paying IRS taxes, and approving my payroll. I gotta admit handling pushy customers is not on my top favorite things to do list.
 
 

Pro: I love Mondays and I love what I do!

I used to hate Sunday nights. The thought of having to go back to work the following day was dreadful. But one thing that I realized is that Monday’s don’t suck, it’s your job!
 
 Now I actually look forward to Monday mornings. The kids go back to daycare and I can focus 100% on my business. I’m excited to work on new things for my business and build it up.
 

Con: I never turn “off”

My problem is that I never actually turn off. I don’t clock out at the end of every day, get into my car and forget about work related things like most people. Instead, I’m constantly distracted with work, even on weekends. There’s always something that pops into my head randomly. Did I ship her order? Did I log my gas receipt? When are quarterly taxes due? Sometimes I feel like it takes time away from my husband and kids, which can be frustrating.
 
 
Despite all of the responsibility that comes with owning my own business as a mother, at the end of the day I know I wouldn’t trade my life for anything at this point. I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at today.
 
Have you considered opening up your own business online? What are some questions that you have about being a mompreneur? Let me know in the comments below!
 
 
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Free Ways to Promote Your Etsy Shop or Other Online Store

Free Ways to Promote Your Etsy Shop or Other Online Business

 

Hey guys! First, I just want to sincerely apologize for not writing as much as I used to. I’ve been kinda stuck in this rut where I just work work work on my business and leave no time for blogging. I realized I gotta cut that shit out. I’ve decided that from now on my Friday’s are going to be dedicated to my blog. 

As stated in my last blog, I am working on a series of different blogs that will help your business gear up for the holidays. Today I’m going to be writing about free ways to promote your Etsy shop or your other online business. We all love free promotion, am I right?! Well let’s hop to it.

Social Media

Yes, I know, I know. I had to say it first although I’m sure you already know that social media is one of the best (and one of the cheapest!) ways to promote your Etsy shop. And I’m not talking about ads. Forget ads, you don’t need em’!

If you sell crafty type of things or really any type of thing then I would suggest starting out with promoting your shop with Pinterest. Pinterest is hands down my favorite social media platform to use to promote my products. Really, all you have to do to promote your products on Pinterest is to start building a following. There are plenty of ways to build a following on Pinterest but the very best way is to just repin stuff. Pin your own products, repin other things on Pinterest related to your products. Just PIN! Like 20 times a day. 

I really go in depth with about promoting with Pinterest with a blog I posted earlier this year called How to Use Pinterest for Your Etsy Shop so check that out if you want to know more.

Instagram is also amazing for promoting your products. Can we all just pause and take a moment to admire the beautiful photos that ciarajcreations has? Her photos are absolutely stunning. So bright, so colorful! Who wouldn’t want to purchase those handmade dishes after that presentation?

The trick about marketing with Instagram is that when you post photos of your products you should use hashtags relevant to what you’re selling or hashtags that your target market may be searching for. If you’re a handmade seller here are a few hashtags that you can use:

  • #handmade
  • #etsyseller
  • #etsyshop
  • #handmadeshop
  • #etsymade

 

Start a Blog

If you enjoy writing and getting your word out to people then I suggest starting a blog for your products. You can totally start blogging for free RIGHT NOW by using WordPress.com. There are only a few “cons” to having a free website via WordPress.com and the biggest one is that you would not have your own domain name. So if your business name is Party Life you could not have your web address be www.partylife.com. Instead your web address would be www.wordpress.com/partylife.

Once you start a blog you can write all different kinds of blogs promoting your products. For example, I own an invitation business so if I ever had spare time in my life I could blog about things like:

  • Best Birthday Invitations for 4 Year Old Girls
  • 5 Party Games to Have at a Birthday Party
  • 7 Baby Shower Theme Ideas

But I never have extra time to blog for my business, so that’s not going to happen. But if YOU have the extra time then give it a try. 

If you would want to create your own domain then you can set up a blog with WordPress.org (not to be confused with WordPress.com). Warning: having your own domain name does cost money, but very little! Check out How To Start a Blog for Your Etsy Business if you’re interested in that.

 

Network

Blah, networking. When I think of “networking” I think of 20 people crammed into a small room with awkward looks on their faces and a semi alcoholic drink in their hand. At least that’s how networking worked at my old job. I shutter every time I think of that experience. Luckily for you and I, we have our own business and we can network however the F we want!

Believe it or not, networking yourself is a very productive strategy especially in person. When you tell someone in person what it is that you do their mind starts to wonder if and how your products can help them or other people they know. I’ve experienced this so many times. “Oh you create invitations? Can you create invitations for a 40th surprise birthday party?” -or- “My daughter in law is expecting a baby in June, I’ll pass your information on to her because she will need baptism invitations in the future.”

A great way to find an in person networking meet up is to browse local groups on Meetup.com. MeetUp is amazing and if you live in a built up area there should be a lot of different groups to join. Search for small business meet ups or crafty meet ups. Join, promote yourself and your business and most importantly have fun! You would be surprised that networking is not always about promoting yourself, it can also be a great way to connect with others who can share a lot of wisdom and ideas with you. Who knows, you could even meet your next business partner 🙂

When you’re networking your ass off to other business owners in your local area you can ask to place your business cards or advertisement cards in their shops. That way you can provide their customers with something to stare at besides their phones.

You can also do networking online by joining online groups. My favorite way to network online is by joining Facebook groups. There are endless types of groups on Facebook so just do a quick browse to see what would fit you. Facebook groups often have a certain day of the week that you can promote your business within the group so be on the look out for that (usually located in the group rules).

 

Create a Product Video

Videos are such a powerful tool for promoting your business. In fact, 58% of shoppers think companies with product videos can be trusted. Crazy, right? Trust is everything when it comes to getting online sales. So my challenge for you is to create videos of your products. If you can’t really think of a way to show off your item in a video then perhaps create a video showing you creating your products! Post these videos to social media and if you have an Etsy shop you can even post the photo to your About section.

 

Send Out Coupons with Existing Orders

Another crafty way to promote your online business is to send out coupons to existing customers. Create a design for free via Canva.com, print it out, trim it down to size and send off with every order. Your customers may use these coupons for another time or pass them along to friends.

A cheaper alternative to this method would be to order business cards with coupon codes through VistaPrint.com.

 

Be a Guest for a Podcast or a Blog

Podcasts are one of my favorite things to listen to when I’m in a learning type of mood (or sometimes I watch YouTube channels too). Often times the speakers of podcasts will ask certain people to be a guest on their show to talk about things related to the theme of the podcast. This is an excellent way to get your name out there. Look for podcast shows related to your products or your lifestyle and check out their website to see if they’re looking for guest speakers.

The same thing goes for a popular blog. Sometimes bloggers will look for guest writers or they just want to feature a different business every week, month, etc. If you see an opportunity like that then go for it.

 

Host a Giveaway

One last piece of advice that I can give you to promote our Etsy shop for free is to host a giveaway. This technically isn’t “free” because you’re giving away a product but if it costs you little money to make then maybe it’s worth a try? Hosting a giveaway on Instagram can be very effective for getting attention. There are many of ways to host a giveaway on Instagram. If you’re interested check out How to do an Instagram Giveaway for many many ways to host a giveaway.

 

And I think that just about sums up all of the ways to promote your online business for FREE. Or, at least all of the free ways that I can think of. If you have any ideas of free ways to promote your online business feel free to share in the comments below 👇👇

 

Have a great Halloween! 🎃

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Easy DIY Background for Your Online Products

DIY Wood Background for Products

First off, happy fall y’all! Okay, technically it’s not fall just yet. But, it’s back to school time, which means fall. Am I right?! Who am I kidding I’ve still got my 4th of July decorations up.

Anyways! Now that fall is creeping up this is the most perfect time of the year to start getting down to business, perhaps revamping your business? Rebranding? (Psssst .. I have an entire article dedicated to branding your shop here) How about re-thinking the way your products are displayed online? Because you know, the way your products are displayed are a key factor of whether or not a customer will purchase your product.

A few weeks ago I really wanted to put more effort into marketing my products, so I took a photography class and I learned so so much. After learning how to work my DSLR camera I wanted to build a nice backdrop I could use for my products. Okay, so I should probably use the word “assemble” because I can’t build anything for sh*t 😉. I have zero building skills so I knew that I had to find a workaround. You can read more about that below.

Here is the full list of supplies that I gathered for my project:

  • 4 poplar boards .5″ x 3.5″ x 48″
  • Wood glue (I used Gorilla)
  • Walnut stain for wood
  • White acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Staining brush
  • Sand paper or a sanding block
  • Hammer (optional – not required)

About my supplies:

I found my wood in the “hobby wood” section of Home Depot. You could ask a worker where that is or you could look up “Poplar Board” on the Home Depot website and see what’s available at your store. The website will tell you what aisle and bay the wood is located at so you can pretend to know what you’re doing at Home Depot just like I did!

You’ll want to cut your boards in half so they’re 24″ long. If you don’t have the power tools at home there’s usually a person who can cut the boards for you at the store.

Next you’ll want to find a wood stain (I used a dark walnut) and pick up a staining brush as well as a regular paintbrush and don’t forget the wood glue (I used the brand Gorilla brand). One last thing, find some sand paper or a rough sanding block. You’ll have to go to a craft store such as Michaels to find the acrylic paint.

Once you’ve got your supplies in order you will have to plan your project accordingly. Since you’re going to stain wood and it will require drying so make sure you check that the weather will be nice for a few days. You will have to stain outdoors because doing it inside can be dangerous with all of the fumes.

When you have the perfect day to start your project put on some old clothes and lay some old towels on the ground outside to start your project.

Now before you start assembling the entire thing, if you want to achieve a really rustic effect at the end you’re going to have to beat your wood (woah, the sounded really r-rated). But seriously, take out a hammer and put some knicks and dents into the boards. I used both sides of the hammer to beat the boards up. Here’s a quick example.

 

Once you’ve beat your wood it’s time for fun!

First, lay down 6 of the boards all next to each other and leave little spaces in between each of the boards so the cracks are noticeable but don’t have too much space between.

Once they are all lined up perfectly draw lines of glue horizontally across the boards like the photo shown below. 

Next, lay one of your extra boards on top of the glue.

 

Do the same thing to the opposite side of the board that way all of the planks will stay in place once the glue dries! Once you’ve finished let the glue dry for at least an hour.

Once it’s dry it’s time for staining. Wear gloves to protect your hands, old clothes and a mask if you’re not sure you can handle the fumes. Wood stain is powerful. I actually love the smell of it.

Dip your staining brush into the stain and gently remove the excess by scraping the brush along the sides of the can, then lightly brush the stain onto the entire board except for the bottom.

Let the stain dry for an hour or so then add a second coat and let dry outside for 24 hours. 

Pro tip: don’t leave your project in the path of your sprinkler like I did.

When the stain has been completely dried it’s time to start painting. So grab your acrylic white paint and gently brush it on your boards in an up and down motion. When you achieve the color you like you can let it dry for another 24 hours.

When it’s all dry again you can start the fun part, distressing the wood! To do this just take your sand paper or sanding block and sand the paint down until the dark stain starts to show through in some areas.

 

 

And that’s all there is to it! Easy, right?! I love that this project required no cutting or power tools. Tag me in your finished projects on Instagram, my user is @christinaceoblog

 

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Why I Stopped Selling on Handmade At Amazon

Why I Stopped Selling on Handmade At Amazon
 
If you’ve been following my blog recently then you most likely saw the blog that I posted a few weeks ago about How to Sell Your Handmade Products on Amazon. I gave tips on opening up your first H@A (Handmade at Amazon) storefront as well as my opinions on the platform. Well, the other day I decided to delete all of my H@A listings and I am no longer going to list my products with Handmade at Amazon. Sadly, my venture on H@A didn’t last too long.
 
But, don’t get me wrong. selling on Amazon has definitely been a learning experience and i was able to venture into another world that I never knew existed. I’ll get to that part later.
 
But first, why did I quit selling on Handmade at Amazon? Right now Amazon has almost 250 million customers so I must be out of my mind, right? Well, I probably was out of my mind way before I started selling on Handmade at Amazon, but that’s besides the point 😊
 
ANYWAYS, let me hop to it. Here are the 5 reasons why I stopped selling on Handmade at Amazon.
 

Lack of Communication from Buyers

If you’re like me, a seller who crafts custom products for each customer, there’s a bit of communication required between you (the seller) and the buyer. Normally I handle all of my communication with Etsy through their messaging system. I rarely ever run into a situation which a buyer doesn’t respond to my messages.
 
But for some reason, communication on Amazon is a complete DISASTER.
 
See, I sell custom printed invitations. This requires names, dates, times, addresses, etc to be printed on the invitations. In order to avoid mistakes I always send a proof to a customer first before doing any printing. I require that they approve the proof before I print them, and this is where communication between me and the buyer is crucial.
 
For some unknown reason, I rarely ever get a response from my customers on Amazon. It drives me nuts! Does Amazon not notify them that they’ve received a message? I’m not sure. One of my customers said that the message went into their spam box. Big no-no.
 
Whatever reason it is, it sucks. So just as I do on Etsy, if I don’t get a response about the proof then I cancel the order. I don’t want to take the risk of sending out something with the possibility that the customer won’t be satisfied with.
 

My Account is ‘At Risk’ for Being Suspended

So one fine morning I woke up and realized that my account was “at risk” for being suspended. What the …..? As I investigated into the matter I realized that Amazon “grades” your sellers account based on orders shipping on time, your order tracking rate AND your cancellation rate. I had a total of 11 orders that month and 3 of them had to be cancelled due to no communication from the buyer.
 
Dear Amazon, that’s pretty F’d up. I totally get suspending an account when the seller is at fault, but it’s ridiculous to suspend a sellers account when they are not at fault, am I right?!
 

It’s Not Worth The Hassle

I’ll be straight up with you. Selling on H@A is nothing like selling on Etsy. Out of the 2 months that I was selling on H@A I only received 12 orders. I normally receive that many orders or more in 1 day on Etsy.
 
In all honesty I don’t think that buyers on Amazon are searching for Handmade things. Amazon customers are more interested in items that are available for Prime, meaning they will receive their item within 2 days. 
 
So with that being said I didn’t think it was worth the hassle any longer. Why risk getting my account suspended for such little orders?
 
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone won’t have luck with selling on Amazon. Perhaps my customization process is too tedious for some people. It’s always worth the try, but it just didn’t work out for me.
 

Handmade at Amazon Fees Are Ridiculous

I thought it was so great that Amazon doesn’t make you pay a fee to list an item like Etsy does. But then I saw their “referral” fees, which are 15% of the sale. Say WHAT?!?!!! 
 
Then, on top of the 15% referral fee you have to pay a sellers fee, which is $39.99 for a pro-merchant account (over 35 sales a month) or a fee of $.99 per item sale as an individual seller. 
 
So in the end the fees weren’t really worth it for my business either.
 

Focusing More on Fulfillment By Amazon

At least something good came out of my entire experience with H@A. While selling on Handmade at Amazon I looked into selling with Fullfilment by Amazon. 
 
Fulfillment by Amazon is where the gold is at, at least for me anyway. When you see items that are offered with “Prime” that’s done with Fulfillment by Amazon.
 
The way Fulfillment by Amazon works is you send in items to Amazons warehouse, and they are stored in the warehouse until the item is purchased. Amazon then handles the packaging, shipping, and all customer service for you.
 
 Let me tell you, it’s magical. I do all the hard work up front and then Amazon takes care of the rest. I absolutely love it. 
 
So if you create Handmade products that don’t involve customizations, I would highly recommend trying out Fulfillment By Amazon. Let me know if it works out for you!
 
Okay, I’m done with my ranting for today! Hopefully Handmade at Amazon works out better for you if you decide to try it. 
 
 
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10 Ways to Brainstorm Ideas for New Products

10 Ways to Brainstorm Ideas for New Products on Etsy

I don’t know about you guys, but June happens to be my slowest month of the year selling online. I’ll be lucky if I can get 5 orders a day when I typically get 10-15 orders a day on any other month. So with that being said, I panic lol. And when I panic like that the first thing that I think to do is to create new products for my shop.

But, how do I come up with ideas for new products? There are so many different ways that I brainstorm ideas. I actually have a list of idea’s that’s so large it’s quite overwhelming.

Here are the 10 ways that I brainstorm ideas for new products.

 

Improve Existing Products

Before you go off to create more products perhaps you can improve on products that you already have? I do this all-the-time. Over time I’ll realize that a product is not selling as much as it used to, which usually means it needs to be updated. So before I jump into new projects I focus on updating my existing product designs first.

 

Offer Matching Items

My business exploded overnight from just this one simple tip: offer matching items or items that go well with your products. So for example, I was selling just printed invitations for the longest time, and baby shower invitations are among the most popular. After a while I had a lot of customers messaging me asking if I offered matching diaper raffle tickets or thank you cards. So over time I slowly started to add matching items like those to my shop. I know 100% that offering matching items makes a difference.

In fact, when I was searching for a specific quilt for my daughter’s nursery I found two different quilts that were made by two different sellers. The one seller had an option to purchase a super cute matching pillow along with the quilt, and that’s what sold me on that purchase. The other seller lost my potential sale because they didn’t offer the matching pillow.

 

Sell Holiday Themed Items

Another way that my business exploded was by offering holiday themed items. People LOVE seasonal items. If you can sell an item with a seasonal theme then please do! You would be surprised how much pumpkin stuff sells in fall. Fall is surprisingly my biggest season for selling online.

 

Search for Trends

Where on earth did this unicorn trend come from?! I have no freaking idea! But I do know that if you jump on a trend quickly you can make some big $$$. But, how do you find out what the latest trends are? Research, research, research! Use platforms such as Instagram to see what people are posting. Use #hashtags to search for terms related to your products and see what’s going on in the world!

 

Use Stats on Etsy

If you sell products on Etsy then you should definitely check out your stats page! There is a brand new feature which I absolutely LOVE! When you locate your stats page, click on the “customers” tab. There is a super useful tool called “What else your customers have searched for”. Use this information to your advantage!  See what other search terms your customers are searching for and brainstorm new products based off of those keywords.

 

Use the Search Bar on Etsy

Another one of my best magic tricks is to use the search bar on Etsy. Did you ever notice that when you start to type words into the search bar on Etsy there are keywords that start to pop up on a dropdown list? For example, if I start to search for “Baby Shower Invitations” on Etsy the search bar automatically suggests search terms like “baby shower invitations elephant” or “baby shower invitations for a girl”. I can use these search terms to work off of when brainstorming products.

I can even go further by using the search bar for searching for terms alphabetically. What I mean by this is there are only a limited amount of suggested terms that come up when I search for “baby shower invitations”, but if I try to further my search with each alphabetical character, I can find more specific commonly typed suggestions. 

Yeah, that was totally confusing. Let me show you. I’ll start searching for “baby shower invitations a” and additional terms pop up such as “baby shower invitations all star” and “baby shower invitations animals”. Then I can search for “baby shower invitations b” and terms pop up such as “baby shower invitations boy” or “baby shower invitations boy nautical”. I can keep repeating this step for the entire alphabet to gather ideas for my newest design!

How To Brainstorm Ideas for New Products for Etsy

 

See What’s Selling

Another way to brainstorm ideas for new products is to see what’s selling. A lot of people feel sneaky doing this, but it’s actually something that all businesses do. It’s very smart to see what the selling trends are. On Etsy you can view what’s selling by typing what you sell into the search box and then refining the search by showing “most recent”. So for example, if I type in “baby shower invitations” into the search box I can select “Sort By” and click on “Most Recent”.

The most important point that I should note here is that it is SUPER important that you see what type of items are selling, but not to actually copy those items. Copying items or designs can get you in trouble with copyright infringement. Make sure that you are using this information wisely and to create completely different items from your competition.

 

Play a Word Game

This may seem silly, but playing a word game is an excellent way to get the creative juices flowing. My favorite word game to play is called Word Storm. The way the game works is very simple, you write down a word, then write down a bunch of other words that come to mind when you think of that first word. Before you know it you’ll have a long list of random words that you can work off of to brainstorm an idea for your next product or design.

 

Create a Mood Board

I bet you landed on my blog from using Pinterest, am I right?! 🙂 Well, Pinterest happens to be my #1 place for creating a digital “mood board”. A mood board can be a physical board or a digital board (Pinterest) that’s made up of pinned photos, doodles, and ideas for your next project. Pinterest is great for creating a mood board for your next project.

Create a Pinterest board and call it “Mood Board” or “Brand Board”. You can set the board to private if you’d like.

Next, take the keywords that you chose to describe your idea for your project and search those words on Pinterest. Choose anything that you would like to use for inspiration for your project and pin it to your board. Photos, color palettes, fonts, etc. Try to find as many inspiring things as you can.

Soon enough you’ll have a big giant board of ideas to work off of.

 

Ask

Finally, the biggest tip that I can share with you is to ask your customers directly. I don’t mean that you should message each and every one of your customers to see what products they are interested in, but you can post a question to social media or create a poll. If you have an email list you can certainly send out an email with a survey and perhaps offer a coupon for those who complete the survey. 

 

Hopefully this long list of brainstorming tips has helped you brainstorm ideas for new products. What other ways do you use to brainstorm ideas?? Let me know in a comment below 🙂

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How to Sell Your Handmade Products on Amazon

How to Sell Your Handmade Products on Amazon

Hooray! My long hiatus has finally come to an end! For those of you who don’t know, I recently had a baby at the end of February and I’ve been SUPER busy ever since. Even though I’m a work-at-home mom it’s still very hard to juggle my business, blogging and two babies (I also have an 18 month old).

I’ve also been really busy with a couple of other new ventures I’ve been pursuing and selling on Amazon is one of them.  I recently applied to be a seller at Handmade at Amazon and I was accepted 🙂 

Update: I have stopped selling on Amazon Handmade after less than a month! Check out why with my newest blog Why I Stopped Selling on Handmade at Amazon.

I know I post a lot about selling on Etsy, and that’s because Etsy is my main squeeze. And now Amazon is my side snuggle 🙂

Handmade at Amazon is still in its early stages. Currently, you have to apply to be a handmade seller at Amazon. 

 

What is Handmade at Amazon?

Handmade at Amazon is a new section on Amazon.com that offers handcrafted items. You can list, sell, and ship your handcrafted items via Amazon just as you would with Etsy.com.

 

Why did I choose to sell on Amazon instead of strictly selling on Etsy?

Well, for lots of reasons. I’m a firm believer in never putting all of your eggs in one basket. God forbid, what if something were to happen to my Etsy shop? I’ve heard tons of horror stories about shops being suspended. I would be left with nothing. I wouldn’t be able to provide for my family.  That’s seriously my worst nightmare. So, selling on Amazon is kind of like a “fall back”, I guess. 

Selling on Amazon also opens up my business to a different audience, meaning I can reach more people and achieve additional income.

I also wanted a new challenge. I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2014 and I’m pretty used to the operation on Etsy. By selling on Handmade at Amazon I’m opening myself up to a new challenge, which is much needed.

 

What are the requirements for selling your products through Handmade at Amazon?

The first requirement for selling on Handmade at Amazon is that your products have to be made entirely by hand, hand altered, or hand assembled. Massed produced products are not allowed to be sold through Handmade at Amazon and you cannot sell items made by other people.

Next, there are only certain categories of products that are allowed to be sold on Handmade at Amazon, here is an insert from their website..

“Right now, Handmade at Amazon is open to artisans who make Jewelry, Home products (Art, Baby Bedding, Bath, Bedding, Furniture, Home Décor, Kitchen & Dining, Lighting, Patio, Lawn & Garden, Storage & Organization), Beauty & Personal Care, Pet Supply, Party Supplies, Stationery, Accessories, Baby, Sporting Goods, and Toys & Games. If your products don’t fit into those categories, don’t worry – we are working to open up more categories in the upcoming months. Sign up to be the first to know.”

 

Are you allowed to sell your products on Etsy and Handmade at Amazon?

Yes! You are absolutely allowed to sell your handmade products on Etsy as well as Handmade at Amazon.

 

What are the costs of selling on Handmade at Amazon?

So far, it seems to me that the price of selling on Handmade at Amazon is much steeper than the costs of selling on Etsy.  Unlike Etsy, there is no fee to list items but there is a $39.99 monthly fee for the professional selling plan. In addition to the selling fee, you also have to pay a referral fee for each product that you sell, which is 15% of the entire transaction (including shipping fees) or $1.00, which ever is greater. So, if you are selling something for $29.99, your referral fee will be about $4.50. That’s a pretty hefty fee if you ask me, Etsy only charges a 3.5% transaction fee and shipping costs are not included.

 

How to Apply for Handmade at Amazon

Applying to become a seller with Handmade at Amazon is easy, you’ll need to apply on a desktop computer and the application takes approximately 30 minutes. Click here to begin filling out an application. You’ll be asked to provide photos of your products, your workspace and your production process so make sure that you have those ready to go 🙂

Once you complete the application it will take about 1 week for Amazon to review the application and send you an invitation. Once you accept the invitation you can fill out your profile and start listing products for sale!

 

The Pros and Cons of Selling on Handmade at Amazon

Lastly, I want to give my final all around thoughts on selling at Handmade at Amazon so far. I’ll be honest, selling on Handmade at Amazon is nothing like selling on Etsy.  It’s similar, but definitely different. For one, I don’t believe that I get as much traffic from Handmade at Amazon than I do from Etsy.  The reason for this I believe is people go to Etsy specifically to look for something handmade.

Not many people go to Amazon to search for handmade products. Also, when people are searching for products through the search bar the first products that show up in search are the Amazon Prime products, unless they’re searching directly underneath the “Handmade” category. Selling on Amazon Prime is different from selling on Handmade at Amazon. To be honest I’ve only made about 5 sales within the past 3 weeks.

And as I mentioned earlier, the prices are pretty steep compared to selling on Etsy. Not many handmade business owners would want to pay the $39.99 monthly fee, especially if they’re just starting their business.

I also feel that navigating the site is not very user friendly. Link text is small, pages are hard to locate. It’s confusing when you’re a first timer, but I guess that happens when you’re trying new platforms.

One good thing about selling on Handmade at Amazon is that you open yourself up to a new audience, as I stated above. You can use Amazon as an additional income stream like I am 🙂

 

 

If you happen to try Handmade at Amazon let me know about your experience in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

 

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8 Things I Use to Package and Ship Products

8 Things I Use to Package My Products

If there’s one thing that I’m constantly trying to improve about my Etsy shop, it’s got to be my packaging. Seriously, my shop has been open since 2014 and I’m STILL constantly changing up the way that I package my orders. However, I think I’ve finally found a happy medium so I decided to sit down and write about the things that I’m currently using to package my products.

In case you’re wondering what I sell, I sell printed invitations. You’ll see that I don’t have the most fancy packaging, and in my opinion, packaging shouldn’t be over the top anyway. At the end of the day it’s just packaging and most likely it’s going to be thrown away. Keeping packaging costs low keeps your prices low, and I like to save my customers money any way that I can.

If you’re just starting out selling online and you aren’t comfortable buying packaging supplies in bulk just yet, you can certainly find most of these shipping supplies in a department store such as Target or Walmart. But, if you find that your sales are starting to pick up you’ll save a ton of money by ordering these supplies online in bulk. I’ve found that my Amazon Prime membership is worth it’s weight in gold because I order from there so much.

Anyways, let’s hop to it. Here are the products that I’m currently using to ship my packages.

DYMO 4XL Thermal Label Printer

The DYMO 4XL Thermal Label printer is hands down my absolute favorite thing to use to ship my products. Before getting this little nifty machine I used to print labels out on my home printer, cut them down to size and tape them on with packaging tape. And don’t get me wrong, that’s totally fine. But, when you start shipping more than 5 orders a day that process is tedious. This machine changed my life. You simply connect the machine to your computer via USB and you can print labels instantly through Etsy. Just peel off the packer and stick the label to the package! So easy. No cutting, no taping. Best of all there’s no ink required! It uses thermal technology to print labels, it’s like magic.

You can learn all about the reasons why I highly recommend this machine, just check out the 5 reasons why you need a DYMO printer for your online business.

Cello Bags

These 8×10 clear cello bags are perfect for keeping my paper products nice and snug. I feel as if they’re a step up from using ziplock baggies. They also keep the invitations safe from any water damage just in case anything were to happen to my package. I love the fact that they have an easy peel and seal strip.

 

Tissue Paper

After I seal the invitations and envelopes in a clear cello bag, I wrap the whole bag in tissue paper. Luckily I found navy tissue paper to match my branding off of Amazon as well (like I said, the Prime membership is worth it’s weight in gold!!). The tissue paper is a great way to add some padding inside of the box so the invitations don’t bend in the corners while in transit.

 

Review Stickers

Once I wrap my invitations in the tissue paper, I seal the tissue paper together with a sticker. But not just any old sticker, I actually designed these stickers specifically to remind my customers to leave a review. Each sticker says, “We love what we do and we hope you will too. Please come back and leave a review!”. Since I’ve started using this sticker I’ve noticed a significant increase in my reviews. 
 
At first I purchased the 2″ Round Avery stickers from Staples, but I found them to be much more affordable on Amazon.
 

Thank You Cards

I also include a 4×6 thank you card with each of my orders. I make sure that I thank my customer for their support and I include a coupon code on the thank you card. If you’re interested I’ve created a FREE thank you card template that you can download along with the 2″ stickers mentioned above. I designed this card specifically so that it does not use up much ink if you’re printing at home. Simply print these 4×6 thank you cards out on cardstock and cut them out by using the black guidelines that I’ve included on the PDF. You will need to have Adobe Reader (this is free) or Acrobat in order to open and edit the thank you card.

*Also, you will receive the files in .ZIP format because there are 2 different files attached. You will need to unzip the folder in order to open both files. If you’re already signed up on my email list you can access these files via the free resource library!

 

White Shipping Boxes

I place the invitations wrapped in tissue paper into a white 9x6x2 box. The cheapest place that I could find to purchase these was Staples. They come in packs of 25 and I get free shipping (not sure if it’s because my order is over $50 or because I’m a rewards member). I specifically use this size because it fits perfectly into a USPS Flat Rate padded envelope (which I will discuss next).
 
**Update: Sometimes Staples pricing for these boxes jump way too high. I used to be able to purchase a bundle for $26. At the time of this edit they are $44, yuck! I found them much cheaper on Quill.com.

USPS Flat Rate Priority Mail Padded Envelopes

I’m going to let you in on a big secret of mine. I’ve noticed that if my package weighs over 1 pound it’s actually cheaper to ship it via USPS Priority Mail than it is to ship it via ground service. And, I’ve noticed that I can save even MORE money by shipping my packages with USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate padded envelopes. 

How do I do this? I stuff my white boxes into the padded envelopes (I keep my invitations in the white box for extra protection). You can request free padded envelopes from the USPS website, they ship to your location for free too!

 

Kraft Packaging Paper

When I have to use a bigger box than the 9x6x2 I have to use packaging paper to pad the invitations so they’re not flopping around in the larger box while in transit. I found a large roll of kraft packaging paper off of Amazon along with this paper cutter that I can attach it to and use to easily roll out and cut. The roll is over 1,000 feet long so it lasts a long time!

 

What are some things that you use to package your products? I’d love to know! I’m all about discovering new ideas for packaging. Let me know in the comments below!

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How to Network Your Handmade Business

10 Networking Tips for Your Handmade Business

 

Networking. Ugh. I cringe when I hear that word. When I think about “networking” I think about my previous corporate career graphic design job that required us to gather together in our lunch break room every Friday for a “happy hour” (aka a networking event where we are required to ‘fish’ for work from clients). It was awful. I hated “networking”.

But, when you become a business owner sometimes networking is a nessesary evil. There are many benefits of getting yourself out there. You never know who’s path you may cross while networking or what opportunities you’ll be presented with. With that in mind, networking should be a part of your marketing plan.

When you think about it, networking is the least expensive and often times most effective way to promote your handmade business.

And, trust me, there’s more options to networking than showing up to a corporate event with a stack of business cards in hand. You can even network with other business owners online if you’re more comfortable doing so.

Here are 10 networking tips for a handmade business owner.

Network with Facebook Groups

Facebook groups are an amazing way to get yourself and your business out there. Many people are not aware of the many benefits there are in joining a Facebook group.

If you join a group that is related to your niche you will see that there are other inspiring entrepreneurs just like yourself in the group. If you have a question related to your business you can usually ask on a group board and chances are that someone will have an answer for you. I’ve learned so much from Facebook groups.

I’ve even created my own group for creative business owners. Click here to request to join the CreativeCEO Facebook group.

Other groups that I would highly recommend for creative entrepreneurs are:
* The Joyful Entrepreneur
* The Handmade Seller Community
* Handmade Journey

 

Network on Other Social Media

When it comes to networking, don’t just limit yourself to doing it with Facebook groups. You can also network on other social media platforms as well. Comment on Instagram photos or Pinterest pins. You just might find a new business bestie!

 

Do an Online Coffee Meeting

Another popular option for networking in the handmade community is to have an online coffee meeting. I’ve seen many people requesting coffee meetings on Facebook groups. Request to have a coffee meeting so you can chat it up about owning a handmade business, juggling personal life and business, etc. 

 

Participate in Online Forums

Forums are another particular favorite of mine. I’m usually active on the Etsy subreddit on Reddit and I also participate in the forums on Etsy. Make it a habit to check these forums daily. There’s always tons of networking opportunities in online forums.

 

Join a Chamber of Commerce

If you’re looking to get yourself out there in the real world, you can join a local chamber of commerce. Sure, there may not be many handmade business owners that belong to a chamber of commerce, but that’s what will set you apart from the crowd! Search Google for a local chamber of commerce. There’s usually a website available with information available on how to join. Look for a list of events that are hosted by that chamber of commerce and see if it’s worth giving it a shot.

 

Check Out Eventbrite

If you don’t want to take the leap of joining a local chamber of commerce you can always checkout Eventbrite.  Eventbrite is the worlds largest event technology platform. You can search for events that are happening in your area. There are usually plenty of networking events that are available to choose from. Just select “business” from the dropdown menu list to see all of the available events that are business related.

 

Plan Out Ice Breakers in Advanced

Whether you’re networking online or you’re attending a networking event in person, you should try to plan out some “ice breaker” questions in advanced. This is especially important for introverts such as myself. Ask them what motivated them to attend that networking event, or ask if they have any great business tips that they can offer.

 

Be Yourself

If there’s one tip that I could give anyone about networking, it would be to be yourself. I know that networking can seem intimidating. You may even feel the need to dress up in a corporate looking suit. But, just be yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or share personal stories. Be authentic!

 

Don’t Forget a Business Card

If you plan on going to an in person networking event then make sure you don’t forget your business card!  You’d be surprised at how many people actually forget their business card. If you don’t currently have a business card you could create one with VistaPrint.com or Moo.com. Your business card should at the very least have your name, title, business name, business website and a form of contact (either a phone number or an email address).

 

Ditch The Sales Pitch

It’s important to remember that networking is about connecting with other people and building relationships, it’s not just about getting your business out there. Don’t push the sales pitch. If someone happens to ask you what you do simply give a quick description of your business and hand them your card. Done! Keep the rest of the conversation casual. People are more likely to work with you if you’re not constantly trying to sell them something.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you when it comes to networking your handmade business. Is there something that you struggle with when it comes to networking? Let me know in a comment below! I’d love to help 🙂

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5 Reasons Why You Need a DYMO Printer for Your Online Business

*This post may contain affiliate links for products I love. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. For my full disclaimer, click here.*

 

Fun fact: When I first started selling online I used stamps to “pay” for my postage on the packages that I was sending out. Yes, stamps. I would send out packages with 6 to 7 Forever Stamps stuck to them.

Cue the dying laughter 🙈

Mind you that this is was in 2010, a bit before all of the online shipping tools that we have access to.

Thankfully things had changed by the time I joined Etsy in 2014. But, even still, I found that shipping packages was a bit time consuming.

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

*presses “print shipping label” button
*printer makes odd noises while warming up
*label prints out on paper
*cuts label down with scissors
*throws out excess paper
*tapes all 4 sides of the label to the package

… then you realize that you’ve got 5 more packages to ship out 🙄

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Here are 5 reasons why you should invest in a DYMO 4XL printer for your business.

 

The DYMO 4XL Saves You Time

The main reason why I purchased the DYMO 4XL Printer was to save myself time. When I first started selling on Etsy I would print the label on a 8.5×11″ paper, cut it down to size with scissors, then tape all four sides of the label to the package.

So time consuming.

Eventually I upped my game and purchased Avery shipping labels which I could use to print 2 labels on one sheet of paper. This worked for a while, but I still had to wait for my printer to calibrate before it would print the labels. 

With the DYMO 4XL everything is like, instant. Seriously, the label prints instantly. Then I rip the label off the machine, peel the backer off of the label and stick the label to the package.

Done. Onto the next.

 

The DYMO 4XL Saves You Money

Secondly, although it’s a bit of an investment upfront, I promise that if you purchase this printer you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run. When it comes to printing labels from an inkjet printer you have to factor in the pricing of ink. I’ve heard of some people paying over $200 just to replace all of the ink cartridges in their printer.

The DYMO 4XL is a thermal printer, meaning that the label is produced by using a heat technology. That’s right, this means no ink is required for the 4XL. Let me repeat, no. ink. required. Ever.

You’ll also save money on shipping labels with the DYMO 4XL. Currently, the price for 200 Avery shipping labels is around $16.00, or about $.07 per label. If you purchase the DYMO compatible labels through Amazon then the cost of 880 labels is $29.99, or about $.03 per label.

Just a fair warning that using labels that are not considered a DYMO brand can void your warranty if anything were to happen to your printer. I’ve never had an issue with the labels mentioned above.

 

The DYMO 4XL Labels are Waterproof

One of the major drawbacks of printing shipping labels on an inkjet printer is that if any water gets onto the label it could smear or smudge the ink. This could cause the tracking code to become unreadable, or even worse, the delivery address could become unreadable. Rain happens a lot, and if you’re printing your labels on an inkjet printer then this may happen to you.

Thankfully you won’t have to worry about this issue with the DYMO 4XL! Labels printed with the DYMO printer are absolutely waterproof due to the thermal technology used to print them.

 

The DYMO 4XL Produces Less Waste

It’s always a great thing to be environmentally conscious. There is so much less waste when it comes to using the DYMO 4XL. You don’t have to cut away excess paper AND you don’t have to waste so much ink. #winning 🙌

 

The DYMO 4XL is Easy to Set Up and Install

Finally, I have to say that installing and using the DYMO 4XL is quick and painless. The only advice I want to give you is that if you purchase the DYMO 4XL please don’t use the driver that’s given to you in the package (the CD driver). Instead, download the correct driver from the DYMO website directly. For me, the CD was outdated, causing a lot of label sizing issues.

Just follow the prompts to set up and make sure you change your shipping label settings on Etsy to print on a 4×6 label.

So, in closing, I’ve seriously had zero complaints about the DYMO 4XL printer since I’ve purchased it. If you take a look at the reviews on Amazon I’m sure you’ll see all of the positive reviews as well.

If you do decide to purchase the DYMO 4XL let me know what you think in the comments below! Or feel free to comment if you have any questions about the DYMO 4XL, I’d be happy to help if I can!

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My New Facebook Group for Creative CEOs

The Creative CEO Facebook Group

 

Hey everyone! I’m SUPER excited to announce that I’ve created a Facebook group for all of us to join for networking, learning and growing!!

I’ve mentioned Facebook groups in a few of my previous blogs. Just in case you’re not familiar, a Facebook group is a group (duh) that’s dedicated to a certain niche or topic that you can request to be a part of. It’s basically an online community. Facebook groups are like my secret weapon for gaining knowledge about anything blogging or e-commerce related.

 

What can you expect from the Creative CEO?

First, you’ll be able to connect with many other amazing creative CEOs (Chief EVERYTHING Officers) just like you! You’ll be able to build connections, network, and collaborate with other like minded individuals.

I guarantee that you’ll also learn a TON about owning an online business. I’ll be sharing tips and resources regularly, and you’ll be able to get answers to all of your business questions (well, mostly all of them).

The best part? You’ll see that I’m a real person and not some random posting these blogs.  I would LOVE to do some Facebook Live sessions once there’s a good audience 🙂

So, what are you waiting for? Click here to join The Creative CEO Group!

 

Members will have to be approved by myself and I ask that everyone follow the following rules:

1. No Self Promotion
Please do not post your online shop or blog as a promotion. You can only link to it once in your introduction post.

2. Please do not start any follow-for-follow threads
The only promotional/follow threads allowed are the threads posted by Christina. If you have an idea for a daily or weekly thread then reach out to Christina at hello@christinaceo.com

3. Keep Things Positive
This group was created for networking, learning, and growing. Positive vibes only ✌️

4. Complete Your Follow Up
If you participate in any of our promotional/follow threads then you must complete the follow up no later than 3 days after the thread is marked as “closed”. I will personally check each and every thread to ensure all follow up has been completed.

*If you are found to be regularly breaking these rules, you will be removed from the group.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out at hello@christinaceo.com

 

See you there!

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