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 ๐Ÿ˜Š
 
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?! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 โ€œMood Boardโ€ or โ€œBrand Boardโ€. You can set the board to private if youโ€™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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™‚ 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 Dรฉcor, 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 donโ€™t fit into those categories, donโ€™t worry โ€“ 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

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).
 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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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 ๐Ÿ™ˆ

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 ๐Ÿ™„

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 ๐Ÿ™Œ

 

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 โœŒ๏ธ

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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How to Use Pinterest for Your Etsy Shop

How to Use Pinterest for Your Etsy Shop

Do you struggle when trying to figure out how to use Pinterest for your Etsy shop? Well, then this blog is just for you! In this blog I’m going to go over important key things when it comes to marketing your Etsy shop with Pinterest including setting up a business account, being an active pinner, gaining followers, and how to benefit from group boards.

You see, there are many online business owners that don’t realize that Pinterest is a dynamic marketing tool.  There’s a lot more to Pinterest other than DIY projects, recipes and home decor.  In fact, Pinterest is more like a search engine than a social network. Actually, it’s more like a combination of both.  I like to think that Pinterest is just like Google, except with pretty pictures and social features.

So, if you haven’t realized by now, if you’re not using Pinterest to scale your Etsy shop then you may be missing out.

Here are 8 tips to use Pinterest for your Etsy shop.

Sign Up for a Pinterest for Business Account

If your business does not already have a Pinterest for Business account then you can sign up for one at www.business.pinterest.com. It’s completely free. With a business account you’ll enjoy benefits such as analytics, rich pins, promotion services, and buyable pins.

If you use Pinterest for personal purposes then I suggest setting up a separate account for your business. Unless you really want your followers to know what recipes and decor you like :).

 

Create Boards Related to What You Sell

Now that you’ve gotten a business account set up through Pinterest, the next thing you want to do is create boards that are related to things that you sell.  This is how you will gain followers. So, for example, say that you sell favors for bridal showers. You can create boards that are related to bridal showers.

Here are some examples of boards in that category:

  • Bridal Shower Favors
  • Bridal Shower Games
  • Bridal Shower Decor
  • Bridal Shower Ideas

Install the Pinterest Browser Extension

Now, before we even move onto actually pinning things to your boards, let’s make your life a bit easier by downloading the browser extension for Pinterest.

The browser extension is an awesome tool that makes it easier to pin things. To download the browser extension go to the Help Center and follow the instructions for downloading to your specific internet browser. Once it’s downloaded and installed then you’re ready to go! Any time you want to pin a photo from a certain page you can do so by hovering over an image and clicking on the red “save” button that will appear.  This comes in handy when you want to pin your products directly from Etsy or your ecommerce website.

 

Pin Other Content

It’s very important that you pin other content besides your own. If you are only pinning your items then you may not attract as many followers as you would when you pin a good variety of content.

With that being said, head on over to Pinterest and start pinning. Let’s say that you want to find things for your “Bridal Shower Games” board. Search for “Bridal Shower Games” in the search bar. Once you find a pin that you would like to add to your board click “save” and save it to your board.

Don’t forget to mix your items in with your other pins on your boards. For every 10 pins that are not your own pin 1 of your items. Make sense?

 

Add Descriptions to Your Pins

When pinning your own content or items from your website or selling platform, always check that you have a description of your pin.  Having a well written description will help your pin get found in search (this is called search engine optimization). So make sure that your description contains lots of keywords that describes what your item is.

 

Pin Frequently

It’s also very important that you stay active on Pinterest. You should pin things very frequently, at least 10 times a day, but no more than 50.  Pinning more frequently will have your pins show up in search more often, it’s as simple as that. The more active you are, the more people and attention you’ll attract.

 

Use Tailwind

Tailwind is an excellent app that autoschedules pins for you. You can sign up for a free trial which lets you schedule and publish up to 100 pins. If you end up liking the app then you can upgrade to the plus plan which is only 10 bucks a month!  If you use my referral link here then you’ll get a $15 credit towards the plus plan.

Using an auto scheduler like Tailwind saves me so much time and energy, and my followers are growing at a fast pace. At the time of writing this blog I have over 1,300 followers on Pinterest! 90% of my blog traffic now comes from Pinterest with the help of Tailwind.

 

Follow, Like and Share

Since Pinterest is kind of like a mixture between a search engine and a social media platform, one good way to attract followers is to follow other pinners, like their pins, and repin their stuff.  Follow boards that are relevant to the things that you sell. You can also grab attention by commenting on pins.

Remember that the more social you are, the more followers you will attract. And, the more followers you attract the bigger chance you’ll have of your products being repinned. Sounds simple, right?

 

Join Group Boards

Last, but certainly not least, one of the best tips that I can offer you is to join group boards. Group boards are boards that have many contributors.  Usually group boards will have thousands of pins, along with hundreds or thousands of followers.

Joining a group board is fairly easy. To find a group board to join go to pingroupie.com and search for group boards that are related to what you sell. For example, I sell baby shower invitations so I will search for Baby Shower boards.

If the group board has openings for new contributors usually the information regarding how to join will be listed in the description above the board.

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.33.57 PM

Once you’re accepted to contribute to the group board you can pin things to the board including your content as well as other content related to the group board.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you get started on Pinterest. Is there anything that you’re struggling with when it comes to using Pinterest for your Etsy shop? Feel free to ask in the comments below ๐Ÿ™‚

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How to Brand Your Handmade Business

How to Brand Your Handmade Business

I’m super excited to be sharing this blog with you all today. I’m going to be covering something that I actually used to do for a living that I still have a deep passion for. I’m talking about how to brand your handmade business.

It’s the beginning of a brand new year and I’m sure that there’s many people out there looking to establish their brand. Fresh new year, fresh new brand.  I totally get it.  So, in this blog I’m going to go over important topics that involve branding such as building a solid foundation, choosing a color scheme, reaching out to a designer, and more!

I’ve even included a FREE 5 page branding workbook that you can download and print out to use.

I’m also writing this blog assuming that you have a business name picked out already. Choosing a business name is a whole different process itself, so I’m going to save that lesson for another time.

Okay, let’s get started!

 

Describe Your Brand in 3-4 Words

First, let’s start off by choosing 3 to 4 words that you would use to describe your business style or what you want your brand to portray. For example, if you sell handmade hairbows and other accessories for girls then you might choose words such as, “girly”, “fun”, and “chic”.

Another example, let’s say you own a woodworking business that uses reclaimed wood to create beautiful signs. Some examples of words to choose would be “rustic”, “earthy”, and “recycled”.

In my workbook I provide a list of over 50 words to choose from and a few blank spaces where you can add your own.

 

Develop a Mood Board

Developing a mood board (or some people like to call it a brand board) for a brand is my favorite part of the branding process. A mood board is basically a collection of images, colors, and fonts that you would like to use to establish a foundation for your actual brand.

You’re free to create a physical board if you’d like, but my favorite way to do a brand board is through Pinterest.  Pinterest is like a big giant playground when it comes to finding things for mood boards. 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 brand and search those words on Pinterest. Choose anything that you would like to use for inspiration for your brand and pin it to your board. Photos, color palettes, fonts, etc.  Try to find as many inspiring things as you can.

Now you can actually create a mood board of your own. I usually create my boards in Adobe Photoshop, but considering that most of you probably don’t have Photoshop let’s use Canva instead.  Canva.com is basically a free graphic maker that requires zero graphic design skills.  I love it SO much. Head on over to Canva.com and sign up for a free account if you don’t have one already.

From there, choose to create a design with custom dimensions. I use 1000px wide and 3000px tall because you can always crop it if needed. Here’s an example of a mood board that I created that you can use for guidance.

How to Brand Your Handmade Business

Like in my board, upload and place 3 or 4 images onto your board that are related to the words that you choose.

 

Establish a Color Palette

If you don’t already have a color palette in mind, Canva has a kickass color palette picker that’s free to use.  In your browser, open up a new tab and go to canva.com/color-palette. Next, upload one of the images that you would like to choose colors from and you’ll see that Canva will pull a color palette for you. Make sure you write down the names of the colors and their color codes in the worksheet that I provided so you can save them for later.

Next, go back to your mood board that you’re creating and add a free circle element to your board. Change the color of the circle to one of your chosen colors by using their appropriate color code. Also put a text label of the color code underneath your circle like my example. Pick out anywhere between 2-6 colors.

You can add other things to your mood board such as typography that you would like to include in your brand. Really, anything that you want! Once you’ve finished with your mood board be sure to save it and download it to a place where you will remember.

 

Find a Logo

Now that you’re finished with your mood board, it’s time to start thinking about a logo.  I’m sure that many other designers will agree with me when I say that your logo is the most important piece of your branding. You want to make sure that your logo represents everything that you want your business to portray.

With that being said, I honestly wouldn’t recommend that you try to create your own logo unless you know what you’re doing. Logos should be created as a scalable vector file in a professional graphic design program such as Adobe Illustrator.

If you’re looking to save a bit of money you can choose to purchase a premade logo. A premade logo is a logo that has already been designed and is listed for sale.  The only drawback to purchasing a premade logo is that the logo comes as is with very few customization options and there are other brands out there that may be using that same logo. Do a search on Etsy for “premade logo” and see what comes up!

But, if you’re serious about your logo and branding creation then you can reach out to a graphic designer and request that they design custom branding for you.  I personally love Holly Casto‘s work. I follow her on YouTube and I know that her work is original and absolutely stunning. 

If you choose to go this route then provide the designer with your mood board along with any other ideas that you may have. Graphic designers like Holly typically offer package suites that include a logo, marketing materials, website, etc.

 

Create Marketing Materials

Once you establish a set logo you may want to look into creating marketing materials. A perfect example of a must have marketing material is a business card. You can either purchase a premade business card design or you could have a graphic designer draft a custom one for you. You can order printed business cards for relatively cheap online through places such as VistaPrint.com or Moo.com.

Other marketing materials for your brand can include things such as:

  • Custom thank you cards
  • Packaging stickers
  • Custom printed boxes
  • Post cards
  • Rack cards
  • Shop cover photo

 

Well, hopefully this blog has inpspired you to create branding that truly represents your business.

Do you have any questions when it comes to branding your handmade business? I’m all ears! Leave me a comment below and let’s chat.

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How to Price Your Handmade Items

How to Price Your Handmade Items

 

Pricing your handmade items the correct way is essential to having a successful small business. No matter what type of business you have, your pricing will make or break you.

Many sellers make the common mistake of setting their prices way too low while others tend to price a little too high. I’m here today to help you find a happy medium with a simple formula.

Be warned, there is a bit of math involved ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve included a free worksheet with this blog post at the bottom that you can use to price your handmade items.

 

Gather the Cost of Materials

The first thing that you want to do when pricing your handmade items is to gather the costs of your materials. Determine the cost of materials used per product. Here is an example:

I sell invitations for baby showers, bridal showers, etc. The materials that I use for invitations are cardstock, toner, and envelopes.

I buy my cardstock in bulk. For 8 reams of paper I pay $125.00 with shipping included.  Each ream of paper has 200 sheets and I can print 2 invitations per sheet.  So, 8 reams of paper x 200 pieces = 1600 sheets.  1600 sheets x 2 invitations per page = 3200 invitations that I can print per 8 reams of paper.

Next, I’ll figure out how much 1 piece of cardstock costs me per invitation.  To do this I’ll divide $125.00 by 3200 invitations which equals $.039.  If I round the price up it’s about 4 cents that I pay for cardstock per invitation.

Next up is my toner for my printer. Luckily I already know that I will pay .08 per color sheet printed. This is my contract rate with my professional printer. If I can print 2 invitations per sheet than I figure that I am paying 4 cents for the toner per invitation.

Lastly I’ll figure the pricing for my envelopes.  I pay $646.95 for 10,000 envelopes.  646.95/10,000= $0.064. If I round the price up it’s about $0.07 that I pay per envelope.

After I figure out all of my material costs I will add them all up, giving me a total of $0.15 per invitation.

Labor Costs

Next let’s establish your labor costs. You have to pay yourself after all, right?  Make sure that you’re paying yourself an hourly wage.

So, say that you want to pay yourself $15.00 an hour. Figure out how long it takes to create your product from start until you ship it.  For example, let’s say that you figure that it takes about 2 1/2 hours per item.  $15.00 x 2.5= $37.50 in labor costs.

My situation is a bit difference because my items are sold more in bulk so that’s why I didn’t use my example.

Overhead Expenses

Now let’s figure out the costs of your overhead. Gather all of the expenses you pay each month such as bills, office supplies, etc.  Here’s another example:

Store rent: $795

Dropbox: $9.99

Tailwind App: $9.99

Hosting for Website: $8.99

Bookkeeping App: $9.99

Graphic Design Program: $31.70

Add the entire total up. Next, determine the amount of sales that you get each month. If you’re not sure or if you’re just starting out, create a ballpark figure and go from there.

Divide the total cost of your expenses by the number of sales that you get each month. 

$865.75/240 sales=$3.60

So, for every listing that I have I’m going to add $3.60 into the price for my expenses.

 

Profit

Finally, even though you are paying yourself a labor wage you’re still going to want to charge a profit for your items. Don’t forget to do this!  Determine a profit margin for each item that you make and sell.

 

The Final Formula

Next, gather the cost of your materials, labor, overhead and profit and add them all together.  The final price would be your wholesale price.  Wholesale pricing is when you sell items in bulk.

To determine your retail price multiply your wholesale price by two!  This is a wonderful calculation method for determining final prices.

If you’re interested in download my free Handmade Pricing Workbook then just click on the link below!

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