Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Web Site, Paypal, and Etsy Anxiety

I have been working on some general business-y things the past week or so.  I kinda had a flurry of sewing inventory, and since that's calmed down a little, I've been working on other stuff.  Most importantly, I've been adding a LOT of stuff to my Etsy shop.

First, I bought a domain name!  Hooray!  I think it makes me look a lot more professional to be able to send people to bobalookids.com than to have the mile-long blogger address.  And, included with buying that domain name, I have my own email addresses, too!  Yes, multiple ones!  Despite being reasonably up to the times on technology, I'm am NOT knowledgeable about what actually goes along with a domain name, so this may be news to only me.  I even gave my husband his own fancy bobalookids.com email because it made me feel like the big boss lady.

As I mentioned before, I somehow stumbled across this great post about setting up a custom domain name through Blogger.  If it's something you're interested in doing, definitely go read that post.  It was so very easy.  You basically pay $10 a year for the name, and everything else is pretty automated.  I did have a little trouble setting up all the Google Apps that come along with it, but once I realized I don't even need to use half the stuff that's available I stopped trying to figure it all out at once.

I also got my business Paypal account all set up.  I had to set up a new one with my sweet new business email address, so I had to go through all that bank account verification stuff that takes a few days.  I have a personal Paypal account that I basically only use to buy stuff on Etsy, but I'm trying really hard to keep my business stuff separate so it just made more sense to open a new one.  This article on Etsy really helped me figure out the difference between the different Paypal accounts and clenched the deal on opening the business one.

Last but not least, can we please discuss the anxiety that results when you open an Etsy shop?  I started listing on Thursday, got featured in about ten Treasuries through the weekend, and got lots of hearts.  But sadly, I am still waiting for that first sale.  I'm sure all you Etsy sellers can commiserate - intellectually, I know it's only been a few days and I am a very small fish in the very big Etsy pond, but emotionally it's TORTURE.  I'm just going to keep on listing items and obsessively checking my email!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Craft Night and My Etsy Shop

Craft Night was Wednesday night and we made cute little headbands inspired by this headband by Ann Taylor plus another beaded one that has disappeared from their website.  They turned out so cute!  I'm debating posting a tutorial next week on both, so if you want to make your own, let me know and I'll work on it.  But watch out - if you make a cute one, Julie will try to steal it. :)

The flower ones are made from either a cut-up t-shirt (like Hillary's sweet IU one below) or some fake silk fabric from JoAnn's like mine above.  They were fun and easy - I think everyone ended up making at least two.  So far, we've just been making accessories at Craft Night, so next month I think we're going to branch out to some home decor. 


I started uploading stuff to the shop!  It takes a while, but I'm getting quicker, and I think it will just get easier.  I'm thinking I can kind of re-use descriptions, just making a few tweaks for each listing, and the picture-taking won't be such a debacle in the future.

Setting up shipping policies was such an ordeal.  I followed the advice from this post for international shipping and just used the USPS site for domestic shipping rates.  I had planned on just using Priority Mail, but I realized it is NOT cost effective for small items.  I can save my customers a lot of money by shipping smaller stuff via First Class Mail, but it does require a trip to the Post Office.  I figure it's not set in stone and if my shipping rates don't work out I can change them.

By the way, does free shipping on additional items make you more likely to purchase more stuff?  I'm throwing around the idea of offering free domestic shipping on additional items but I'm wondering if it's worthwhile.

I'm offering a special deal in the shop to Facebook Fans and blog followers for the Grand Opening next week, so stay tuned.  You can Like bobaloo! on Facebook or follow the blog right there on the left sidebar!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Open Up Shop?

I know it seems like you just heard this whole song and dance about a month ago, but I have a super busy week this week!  Again, a kiddo's birthday party (a space theme - that's the back of the invitation) and craft night fall a few days apart, and again, I have stuff to sew for the Irvington Iris Tea Room.  You'd think I could spread this stuff out, right?

I am throwing around the idea of going ahead and opening up the Etsy store sometime this week.  According to Google Analytics, the blog has had around 850 visitors and 1200 page views over the past month or so.  While this is kinda unbelievable to me (in a good way!), I really feel like I missed some exposure by not opening the shop earlier.  Also, my empty shop has had 180 views and I'm sure only about 100 of those were my mom.  But realistically, is opening the shop a week and a half early even going to matter?

As a side note, if you have a new blog, try and get featured on a big blog.  I have no doubt in my mind that this mad surge in blog visitors is due to one link on One Pretty Thing.  I have GOT to find a way to get on more blogs if this is the result!

My big hurdle to opening the shop is the product pictures.  I think I mentioned this before, but on Etsy you can post up to five pictures with each listing.  I currently have 80-ish items made, which means FOUR HUNDRED pictures.  It makes me throw up a little just to think of that number and I really like photography.  I had yet another photo shoot on my kitchen table on Sunday and I'm still not thrilled with the results.  It was kind of gloomy that day and I think I just didn't have enough natural light.  Here's the most recent setup - it's one of those big cardboard science-fair poster things set up in my bay window.

I think I probably just need to use the darn pictures and stop being so picky.

Oh my gosh, I almost forgot!  I bought a domain name - bobalookids.com is now mine!  Right now it redirects to this blog.  I followed this advice and it worked like a charm.  I'll post more about it soon!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Setting up Etsy Shop Policies

First, word on the street is the Fancy Burp Cloth tutorial will be featured on the One Pretty Thing Daily DIY Roundup tomorrow.  Hi to everyone who's stopping by for the first time, and thanks Rachel!

After getting tons of sewing done last night, I sat down to take care of some more business related items.  I really need to finish setting up my Etsy shop, so I decided to tackle my Shop Policies page (which I've been avoiding).  I searched the Etsy Forums and read this guide to help me with the process.

The Shop Policies page includes accepted payment types, shipping policies, and the shop return policies.  I found the Payment section easy - I know I want to primarily accept PayPal because it's easy, but I don't want to exclude anyone who can't (or won't) use Paypal.  Here's what I ended up with.

The Shipping section is the challenge for me.  I very very rarely ship ANYTHING, so this will be quite a learning experience for me.  I've decided to start out using USPS Priority Mail because it seems to be the most simple - the post office supplies you with free boxes, and the shipping rate is based on size box.  The boxes are delivered to my house and I can ship from home, which frees me from the nightmare of entertaining two squirrelly children while waiting in line at the post office.  As I understand it, this is not the cheapest way to ship, so this may change once I start shipping regularly. Here's my shipping section.

The return section is a little intimidating, but I knew from the start that I wanted a pretty generous return policy.  I just think people are more likely to buy from someone who genuinely wants them to be happy with their purchase.  I figure if I do get some returns, I'll just chalk it up to the costs of doing business.  What do you think, is it too vague?

Last but not least, I put a little note about custom orders and wholesale inquiries. I really would love to drum up some wholesale business, so hopefully this will help.

If you have any advice, I'd love to hear it!  Have a great weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fans and a Photo Shoot

I don't know about you, but the heat here in the Midwest is making me so sloooooow.  I haven't been to the gym in a week (so much for that half-marathon training), I can't seem to do a lick of laundry, and there's no way I'm taking the kids outside.  The heat is supposed to get a little better today so I'm looking forward to eating far too much Fair food tonight with the family and not worrying that the kids are going to melt into little puddles of Cheerios and sunscreen the minute we step out the door.

So my Facebook page is up and running!  There's a button to Like my page on the left sidebar and you should definitely go check it out.  As of this morning I have 23 fans, which excites me to no end - there are even a couple non-friends and family fans!  I'm sure I need to do something to get some more Facebook love.  I'm thinking about offering a discount to Facebook fans once the shop opens, or maybe a special preview of the shop just for those people?  Hmmm...

Kenny persuaded me to shoot a bunch of product pictures yesterday while he wrangled the kids so I have a little Facebook product catalog started.  We have these long, low white storage benches in our pool room/sewing room/office that I used for the pictures.  I just draped a piece of cotton batting on the bench and set up my camera on a tripod in front of it.  I'm not 100% happy with it - it's a huge hassle to squat down in front of the camera (probably more of a pain since I haven't been to the gym in a week) and I feel like it may not be professional enough.

I do love that orange background even though it seems to get pretty muddy when I upload the pictures to Facebook.   I edited the pictures in Photoshop and used the "save for web" option to save them as a smaller jpeg so they wouldn't take too long to load, but I'm afraid it may have compromised picture quality too much.  I'm wondering if maybe Facebook compresses the pictures and that's the problem?  I'll have to wait and see how they look on Etsy.

Etsy allows you five pictures per item and I just have no clue what those five pictures will be for every item.  I think I need to take some "in action" shots, so I'll probably try to get my nieces and nephew to model a few things for me.  I'm also considering buying a child-size mannequin.  They're only about $30 on Ebay and I think one would come in handy for both product pictures and for a display at craft fairs.

Speaking of craft fairs, I'm starting to freak out about the one at the end of September.  I have about 50 items in my inventory and I'm 100% that is not nearly enough.  I need to arrange a sitter for a couple days here and there before then so I can have some uninterrupted work time.  Our gym does a Parent's Day Out a couple times a month where the kids can go and play for a couple hours - I'll definitely be taking advantage of that on Friday.  But for now, I have an important tea party waiting for me in the living room.  Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fancy Burp Cloth Tutorial

As promised, here's a tutorial on making some very quick, very cute burp cloths.  These make great baby shower gifts - I received something similar when I was pregnant with Bridget and we're still using them with Graham.  I make them using both my sewing machine and my serger, but you can do it all on a regular sewing machine. 

1.  You'll need some plain cloth diapers (I bought these from Target), pins, scissors, your sewing machine (and serger if you have one), a tapestry needle (optional, but it helps), and some fancy fabric.  I used some minky fabric from the clearance section on  fabric.com, but I've also made them with flannel and regular cotton and they turn out great.  A yard of 60" wide fabric will usually yield 8 burp cloths and 45" wide fabric will usually yield 6, depending on shrinkage.  Definitely prewash everything - the burp cloths seem to have a ton of starch when they're new and they shrink like mad.

2.  Lay your fabric face down on the table (yes, that's a pool table that I use for my work table and no, my husband does not like the fact that I use it as a work table).  Lay the burp cloths on the fabric, leaving  1 1/2" or so between each one.  Move them around until you get the best fabric usage.  Pin the burp cloths to the fabric and cut them apart, leaving the excess fabric around all the edges of the burp cloths.

3.  Now on to some sewing.  I use my walking foot for these because my machine has some trouble with the minky fabric.  This is what my walking foot looks like.  I think most machines come with them - mine did - but if you don't have one, don't worry.  You'll probably be fine with your regular foot.
4.  With the burp cloth facing up, stitch two seams down the middle, following the seams in the burp cloth.  You can see in this picture how the sewing machine needle is lined up with the existing stitching line on the burp cloth.
5.  On to the serger!  Serge through both layers (the burp cloth and the fabric) on all four sides.  I line up my fabric so the knife cuts off 1/8" or so of the burp cloth so when it's stitched there's a nice, clean edge.  You don't have to worry about being too exact - the burp cloths never turn out square when you wash them, so they're not going to be perfect anyway.

You can use your sewing machine for this part, too.  Trim the fabric edges even with the burp cloth, then set your machine to the zig zag setting.  Set it to a wide zig zag with a short stitch length and stitch along all four edges, backstitching at the beginning and end.

6.  To finish the edges, I like to tie the serger thread tail in a little knot right by the corner of the burp cloth.  Then I thread the tail through the eye of a tapestry needle and feed it back through an inch or two of the stitching, then trim the thread tail close to the fabric.
7.  Add a label if you've got one, and you're done!  Now wasn't that easy?  I usually bundle mine up with ribbon in groups of two or three and everyone loves them!

If you're not up for making your own, I'll have some in my Etsy shop starting September 3rd!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Holy cuteness, batman!

There are few things that are more adorable than baby shoes (except maybe baby feet).  The whole time I was making these little baby shoes I kept stopping and thinking, "These are so stinking cute!" 

I made one pair and then immediately decided I needed to make four more.  They have little crossover straps that close with velcro, so I'm pretty sure they will actually stay on chubby little baby feet.  I tried to squeeze a pair on Graham, but alas, he is 11 months old and no longer has newborn-sized feet.

This week I finally made my blog and Facebook page known to the world, so hi friends and family!  It feels like an important business step to announce to everyone I know that I'm starting a little business.  I waited a little while to start making everything public because I wanted to put forth a good first impression.  I read in Handmade Marketplace to blog for a month before telling anyone, and I'm really happy I followed that advice because I feel much more comfortable with the whole process than I did at first. 

I'm planning on posting a tutorial this week for one of my favorite baby shower gifts - homemade fancy burp cloths.  Don't worry, I'll be stocking them in my shop if you're not up for sewing some yourself (even though I know you can do it)!

And a big THANK YOU to all my new blog readers!  You guys rock!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two steps forward, two steps back

I am diligently keeping to my two-a-day production rule, despite a not-so-great Thursday.  Little Man is having some napping issues since we took his beloved pacifier away, so I got a VERY short 30 minutes of sewing time Thursday.  I did make a pencil case that looked a lot better in my mind than in practice - disappointment #1 for Thursday.  I had another art-related idea - a fabric portfolio-type-thing that holds colored pencils in one side and a sketchbook in the other, then closes up with a snap.  Here's what I ended up with.

Pretty cute, right?  Well, unfortunately all those little individual pockets for the pencils are just a hair too small, so the fabric gets all bunchy and a kid would tear it in no time flat.  Thursday disappointment #2.  Boo.  So technically I made two products, but two non-functioning products.  I can't be too disappointed because Wednesday was a success with these adorable fabric flags.  I was thinking they were called pennants, but it seems the correct term is bunting.  I'm going to see what's in my fabric stash and hopefully make a few in some more boyish colors.  They'd look adorable in a nursery.

Speaking of boys, there is a definite lack of boy-focused handmade stuff out there.  Hopefully as Little Man gets bigger he'll be a bigger inspiration so I can tap into that market.  Right now he just likes to push stereo buttons and try to eat his sister's snacks, neither of which translate into any sort of handmade product.

Today I'm going to have another go at that portfolio and hopefully find some hand stitching to do so I can watch So You Think You Can Dance.  Thank goodness for DVR - I don't know what I would do if I had to pick between SYTYCD and Project Runway!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Like a machine

Early last week I had set a goal to finish 15 inventory items by the 31st, thinking that meant Friday.  Friday night I wasn't quite finished... then realized SATURDAY was the 31st.  So I made my goal and then some - a total of 20.  Holla!
  • 2 cute little roll-up changing pads
  • 5 stuffed bunnies
  • 1 painter's smock
  • 2 flower necklaces
  • 10 dahlia pins

The necklaces and the dahlia pins were for my first batch of product for the Irvington Iris Tea Room.  I don't think I've mentioned it before, but the products Miranda's carrying are kind of a departure from my planned line.  Both the necklaces and the pins are for adults, and I'm planning on bringing her some vintage-fabric aprons to sell as well.  Here's the store display that my awesome hubby built for me:

It's is a piece of stained birch plywood with dowels to hang product on and my logo Mod Podged to the top.  We put it together with materials we already had (except for the piece of dowel rod).  I am trying really hard not to spend very much money until I'm making money, which might actually be a good thing.  It's making me very creative and I'm certainly making use of what I've got on hand.

I'm pretty happy with my level of production last week, so my goal this week is two items a day.  I'm doing well already - four sweet crayon toolbelts are happily resting in my inventory closet - but it is only Tuesday.  This is a slow week at home, so I can keep up as long as I don't just sit around and daydream about State Fair food!
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