The shipping is how much?!

Jar of buttonsWe’ve all been there. You find a great online shop, get sucked into purchasing some wonderful item, go through the checkout process and then it hits. The price of shipping. Seriously. Super high shipping rates have kept me from ordering a number of items. So determining shipping rates for my Etsy shop is a big consideration. I can’t afford to take a hit out of my own pocket to cover shipping, but I don’t want shipping costs to keep customers from making a purchase. It feels like a real balancing act.

I do want to offer international shipping as well, so I need to sort out how I will handle those orders. An important thing to consider is not just the actual cost of service to ship a package, but also the cost of packing materials (envelopes, labels, boxes, tape, etc). One interesting approach is to build all of the shipping costs right into the price per item so that you can offer “free” shipping to customers. I hesitate to do this because international orders could be quite costly compared to shipping within Canada. I might consider offering “free” shipping to all orders shipped in North America, and then determine fixed rates for Europe and elsewhere.

Besides figuring out shipping rates there are also other considerations: Which service provider should I use (Canada Post, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc)? How should packages be sent, ground or airmail? Will delivery confirmation, tracking, and insurance be included or added for an extra fee? Will I be able to offer an express option if necessary? Will I ship to a customer’s Etsy address or Paypal address? Where the heck do I find fairly inexpensive packing materials? The list goes on and so does the brainstorming.

Here are a list of the articles I have been using to figure out all the aspects of shipping for my online shop:

Writing policies instead of lists

Coin pursesWith the Market Collective sale behind me, I have had a few extra moments (when I’m not prepping for Christmas) to start working on my Etsy shop. One of my big goals for the holidays is to get my Etsy shop all set-up with items listed so I can greet the New Year with a fresh approach to my crafty business. Of course, if I’m going to take my online shop seriously, there is a lot more involved than simply slapping up some items for sale.

I’ve continued to do quite a bit of research and now I’m all set for the planning stage. The big hurdles are writing up the shop policies and determining shipping rates. I’m sure one could take a very simplified approach to shop policies at the beginning, but I’d prefer to have some well thought out policies. These policies, after all, determine how you conduct business in your shop. They are guidelines for you to follow, just as much as they are for customers. Most importantly though, your policies represent your customer service. They will be the first taste a buyer gets of how convenient and supportive you are as a seller. Having beautifully crafted items is one thing. Providing a positive shopping experience is another.

This week, I began writing out my policies. While I still have a number of items to clarify and decisions to make on business practices, I made a pretty decent dent. I used the following Etsy references:

Coin pursesThe greatest tip I can suggest for writing out your shop policies, read the policies of top selling Etsy shops, some of your fav Etsy shops, and shops of local sellers. You don’t need to be exactly like everyone else, but it will give you an idea of what other shops offer and don’t offer. Then you can start considering what you envision for your own shop. Reading through the policies of other shops will also likely make you think about things that probably hadn’t crossed your mind yet. For me, it was thinking about shipping insurance and tracking. What to include, and what to offer at an additional fee?

I discovered the greatest variation in policies when it came to the exchange and refund section. Before reading through the policies of others, I loosely framed in my mind what I thought was the most fair and best service. After seeing such a variety of what other sellers offer or refuse to offer, I’m stuck pondering my own policies. I lean towards a much friendlier, if you’re not satisfied, you can exchange or return the item within a certain grace period with shipping costs non-refundable and the sole responsibility of the buyer. There are so many possible mishaps that could occur too, that need to be considered, besides a customer changing their mind. How will you deal with lost or damaged packages? This is where I began thinking about insurance and tracking options. The exchange and refund policies might be the type of thing that gets revised and more detailed as I experience different scenarios with customers.

Any thoughts on how your fav online shops handle refunds and exchanges? Ever had a really horrible experience with trying to return an item to an online shop?

Craft sale craziness

Craft fair tableI survived. Actually I more than survived. This weekend at Market Collective was truly an amazing experience. A very crazy, busy, exhausting, satisfying, successful, fun, experience. I am just feeling so full and incredibly thankful. After years of friends and family telling me that I should be selling my craft creations, I now get it. I SHOULD be selling my crafts. It’s funny, I went into the craft sale thinking that truly, I would be happy if I sold just one of the scarflettes, because the main purpose of the weekend was to learn from the experience. Having a single person out in the world who liked one of my scarflettes enough to pay for it, would make the whole thing worth it. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I sold half of my scarflette stock!!

My brain is still spinning with everything. Above and beyond the selling, I did learn so much and met some wonderful people, including the very lovely Nicole of Noela jewelry. She is actually a close friend of one of my co-workers and we completely lucked out with tables right beside each other. Besides chatting with a couple of the vendors, it was pretty amazing to talk with all the folks that came through the market. I hope that everyone enjoyed their time shopping and listening to some of the live music. It was fascinating to see how many people treated the market not just as a sale, but an event. Folks would spend hours there and I now understand how much of a “happening” Market Collective is.

Craft fair tableOn a business level, one surprising thing for me was that my coin purses actually did not sell very well. I thought that they would definitely sell and I had been a bit sad that I didn’t have more to bring along. As it turned out, I have plenty left. Folks seemed to genuinely like them. They would spend plenty of time picking them up, opening them, flipping through all the colours, but then didn’t buy them. So I’m left wondering what else I can do to encourage folks to take one home with them. This again, is all part of the learning.

In the end, my table display was pretty simple, but I think it was fairly effective. I had some things raised at eye level, which people were drawn to. I rotated which scarflette was displayed on the top of the shelf. If folks took a second to touch the scarflettes while they were passing by, it always made them stop and feel a bunch of them. I soon discovered that wearing one of the scarflettes in person was key. Customers often picked one up to try and figure them out, then glanced at the photos, but as soon as they realized I was wearing one, their face lit up in understanding. They are an odd shaped thing, I kept admitting, but once around your neck, their shape makes sense. I encouraged folks to try them on and I had a mirror hung on the wall, so that they could take a look. All in all, I think the simple table with a few important pieces (like a mirror) worked well for me this time.

Before the weekend was even finished, I was all set to start thinking about the next Market Collective. I would love to do it all again! Thanks for everyone’s support and continued interest in the blog!

Market Collective

December Market Collective posterThis is where I will be, along with a bunch of other very talented folks, this weekend. If you are in the Calgary area, be sure to pop down to Kensington for some wonderful Christmas shopping. Market Collective will take place in the old Ant Hill building (148 10th street NW) this weekend from 10-6pm on Saturday and 11-5pm on Sunday. There is a $3 fee to get in or you can bring a non-perishable food bank donation. I will be sharing the table with Mr. Frank of Two01 Studio, so make sure to check us out. I am super excited to just be surrounded by so many other creative guys and gals for two full days! And although I won’t be attending as a seller the following weekend, Market Collective is also running the weekend of December 18-19th, with a whole new batch of sellers. If you are still needing some Christmas gifts (even for yourself), come out and support local artists and artisans!

Here are a couple of fellow artisans that will be in attendance this weekend, just to get you in the mood:

Zatko Creations

She’s making a list, checking it twice…

Crochet scarflette with tag… tryin’ to figure out just what’s been missed. Oh, the joys of list making. I am feeling deep in the thick of it right now. There are only four more days left until my first craft show and I only actually have two evenings left in which to complete, organize, and pack everything up.

All the scarflettes that were “in progress” are now complete. The scarflettes were super simple to tag and I am really satisfied with how they look. I just used scrap bits of yarn left over from making the scarflettes to attach the business card tags. The contrasting scraps play-up the overall colourfulness of the scarflettes, plus it uses up bits that might otherwise be tossed in the garbage or left outside for the birds.

Stamped paper bagsThe shopping bags are all sitting pretty, waiting to be used. The handmade stamp was fun to carve and I think it suits the brown kraft bags. I considered carving my entire logo and name, but opted to just tackle the glasses, which makes for some pretty funky bags. They feel like they have a good mix of mystery and hipster-ness. I’m sure there are folks who feel that the bags should clearly indicate the shop or company they are from and act as some free advertising. Which I get. Personally, though, I am more likely to re-use and keep re-using a bag that doesn’t act like a blatant advertisement. Afterall, the re-usability of the bags is definitely a concern for me. One day I might still switch to a sticker instead of the stamp, but in the meantime, I have an inexpensive stamp to decorate everything with (it only costs me a small blister or two).

Framed craft sale signsLast night I spent some time typing, printing, cutting and framing (they look so nice in frames) signage for the craft table. Besides having the scarflettes individually tagged and priced, I also wanted to ensure I have some price signs to set out in the display. There is nothing more frustrating as a customer than not being able to tell at a quick glance how much an item costs. Yes, I am one of those people who won’t purchase something if I have to ask how much it is. I know I’m not alone on this either. Sure, there is the random thing that just gets missed being tagged, but if the next two or three identical items I pick up still don’t have a price on them, then I am likely to move along. This goes for signage too. If I can’t clearly figure out which price sign goes with what item, it’s a turn-off. Customers are out to shop, not problem-solve your pricing. So I hope that my signs and pricing will be nice and clear.

Craft sale signsBesides some price signs, I also printed out a few photos of the scarflettes being worn by none other than myself. I really need the help of one of my beautiful friends to model these at some point. Thank goodness for the cropping and blemish removal tools! Anyway, trying not to be too self-conscious, I will hang these photos on the wall by the mirror, so folks can see at a glance what the folded, cozy, fuzzies on the table look like on someone. Plus, I will be wearing one. That wooden box on the right will display the coin purses, which I haven’t individually priced, but I figured placing them in a container all together with a clear price sign should work. Tonight, the list checking continues, as I prep the big table cloth, figure out a container to keep the money, and finish sewing the last four coin purses. Wish me luck with the last bits and pieces!

To you, from me: packaging made pretty

In preparation for my first upcoming craft show and in planning my future Etsy shop, I have been spending time considering packaging and branding. Part of the branding work has been done for me with the logo design that my hubby came up with. The logo has given me more than just an image to use on packaging, labels, and banners. It has determined a colour scheme and aesthetic to use going forward with my business.

Wanting to stay on track with keeping things simple, I had to force myself to make “Must Have” and “Would Like To Have” lists for approaching packaging and branding. I’ve poked around online to find inspiration and guidance and included a list of helpful links below. For now, I have resolved a couple of “Must Have” items, while keeping in mind how I can gradually reach the “Like To Have” items.

First off, I figured the simplest solution to tagging my items for the craft sale, would be to use the business cards (which I already have), as hang tags. I purchased a package of adhesive labels to stick on the back of the business cards so that I could include content and care information. There are super easy and free online templates to use in conjunction with the adhesive labels, so that layout and printing is a no-brainer. Then I figured I could just hole punch the business card and use a scrap piece of yarn to tie onto each scarflette. Viola! Hang tags!

Materials for branding shopping bagsThe second item could be argued as a “Like To Have”, but in all the back and forth conversations I had with myself, I did indeed “Need” to have bags for the craft sale. There is plenty to be said for people using their own re-usable shopping bags, which I try to do as often as I can remember. However, applying my retail expertise to the situation, I want to ensure a pleasant shopping experience which includes being able to offer a customer a bag. If they have their own, then great! If not, then I want to be able to provide one to them. Since I can’t feasibly purchase or make cloth bags for customers to re-use at this time (it’s on the “Like To Have” list), I made a compromise. I ordered sturdy kraft paper bags with twisted handles. I considered getting black bags to go with my branding colour theme, but found them to be more money than I could justify. As it turns out, the brown kraft paper has provided a solution to branding my bags because now I can simply stamp them with my logo (which would not have shown up on the black). I hope to order stickers very soon, which I can then use on the bags and elsewhere, but that won’t happen in time for the craft show. So now, I guess I have a stamp I need to make. Fun!

The third item that I have been trying to resolve, is packaging items sold through my Etsy shop. I’ve been under slightly less pressure with this one, since I haven’t even officially opened my shop. Also, this is probably one area that will grow and evolve as my crafty business grows. All I know for certain, is that I don’t want to just cram items into mailers or boxes and send them on their way. I used to work at a shop that also did international mail orders, and one thing that always sticks in my mind is the desire to have orders be like gifts. So the simplest solution that I have devised for now is to fold black tissue paper around items and use a sticker with the company logo to secure it. Hence, needing to order the stickers sooner rather than later. Looking at all the incredibly creative ideas for packaging, leaves me wanting to offer so much more to customers. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I can’t do it all in one swoop. When I am able, I will get there. Wishing you good luck with all your own branding challenges!

Here are some lovely thoughts on and ideas for packaging:

Counting up…

… and counting down. After spending so many evenings and weekends crafting away, I decided it was probably a good idea to take a quick inventory of completed items. Not only that, but I needed to take a conscious moment to celebrate my progress. Maybe that sounds odd, but it’s definitely one thing that I have taken away from all the “career learning” that I’ve participated in over the past year; the importance of building regular opportunities to celebrate your accomplishments. How can you feel really satisfied with what you’ve done, if you don’t allow yourself a moment to look back and take stock? It seems like the simplest way to build up some positivity and keep yourself from getting bogged down by the “should have” thoughts. Look at what you’ve actually done, how far you’ve come!

With that in mind I take stock, not to brag, but to celebrate and be accountable to myself and those who support me in all I do:

    Stack of scarves

  • Started blog and post regularly on it
  • Obtained an official NUANS corporate name report (required for incorporating in Canada)
  • Registered for my first craft show
  • Created an Etsy account
  • Completed 27 scarflettes, 10 more in progress
  • Completed 10 coin purses, 12 more in progress
  • Started taking photos of everything I do and make
  • Ordered and received shopping bags and tissue paper (more on this to come)
  • Ordered a pile of yarn wholesale
  • Purchased all the supplies to make labels for my scarflettes
  • Found a Canadian company to get stickers printed
  • Researched online, read books, talked to other crafters, checked out community craft sales, and spent a great deal of time visualizing (not just daydreaming)
  • Lastly, but not leastly, I prayed and continue to pray that the direction I am going is the one He would have me go

Thank you for reading this blog! You support my endeavours by doing so! Afterall, I don’t craft purely for my own enjoyment, but with the hope that others will enjoy it too.

Perhaps you have a moment to take stock of what you’ve personally accomplished (in what ever you do) or how far you’ve come in a project. You’re welcome to post about it in the comments or share a link to your own blog. It’s always a treat to hear about the progress and success of others!

What I did with the extra hour

The time changed here on Sunday. We set the clocks back one hour and like most people I technically spent my extra hour sleeping. I needed the extra bit of sleep after quite a full crafty Saturday. Although the morning was spent with the usual bit of house cleaning and laundry, I had a lovely afternoon at a friend’s Stampin’ Up! Christmas card making party. It was just what the doctor order too! We all work together and last week was full of extra stress, so being able to come together and make some pretty cards was a good release.

Fabel, Alfa, and Eskimo yarn ballsFollowing that relaxing afternoon, my hubby and I drove out to Banff in the evening. His mother and grandmother live there and his mother actually owns a yarn store in the town of Banff called Jen By The Fjord. She recently moved into a new location, so for any locals interested in checking out her shop, she is in Harmony Lane on the second floor. It’s a bit hidden, but worth a visit! Our mission, besides spending some time catching up, was to put a yarn order in. I’m definitely ready to move on from working solely with yarns purchased from Michaels and while I’m still learning about different yarn types I thought it best to turn to a professional. When your mother-in-law happens to be that professional, it’s even better! So after some back and forth and much touching of yarns, I decided on a few types to order: Punta Yarns Meritwist, Sandnesgarn Alfa, and Garnstudio Eskimo. I was even able to bring some balls home to play with (I *heart* my mother-in-law) and picked up some Garnstudio Fabel yarn to make socks (have to start the Christmas present making soon).

With the yarn order placed and some carrot cake in my tummy, hubby and I drove home along an eerily quiet highway in the dark, arriving home at midnight. So yes, we were thankful for the extra hour on Sunday to get plenty of sleep and still do all the rest of the errands that have been piling up the last couple of weeks.

How will my booth grow?

Buttons on scarfletteThe first step to prepping for a craft fair (assuming that you have already submitted an application) seems to be pretty obvious; make stuff! I do this on a regular basis anyway, but I picked a couple of items to focus on, stocked up on materials, and ramped up my crafting.

The second step, for me, has been to read, research, brainstorm, and daydream. I’m realizing that there are a bunch of factors to consider when designing a craft booth/table. Of course, you have to decide the most attractive way to display your handmade items so that people are not only drawn to your space, but can also readily see what your items are and how to use them. In my case, I’ve decided to focus on crochet scarflettes, which I am making in a rainbow of colours. Folded up, it’s hard to tell what they are and when they aren’t being worn they seem like an odd shape. First solution to this display challenge, I will make sure to wear one of my scarflettes at the show (duh). Second solution, I will include a couple of pretty framed photos of the scarflettes being worn by others. Third solution… not sure yet. I’m debating about bringing my dress-form along to put a scarflette on display. I know for sure that one element I want to play up is the colourful rainbow, so I will continue to brainstorm the best way to do this.

Okay, so besides keeping in mind the actual items that will need displaying, I’m also trying determine a general “feel” for my crafty business. Not just for craft shows, but for my online shop too. Have I mentioned that I am FINALLY getting an Etsy shop set-up too? Well, now you know. It’s all very much “in progress”, but I will make sure to share more about it here when it is closer to completion. So, right, back to brainstorming crafty business “themes”. I am starting to keep a notebook in my purse that I can whip out whenever I have an idea or see an intriguing store display. I am also trolling the internet for inspiration. Here are a bunch of links that I’ve found helpful in learning about what to keep in mind for craft shows, including craft booth/table ideas:

Preparing for your arts and crafts shows
Prepping for your next art & craft fair
13 Craft Show Display Do’s
Fair game: how to maximize your craft fair profit
Craft fair tips and lessons learned
How to set up a craft booth that customers can’t resist
Craft show suggestions/table setup
Show me your booths
Arts & crafts fairs & shows

Hope that helps any of you who might also be getting ready for a craft show! For now, my own check-list is growing each day. Not too much getting marked “done”, but plenty of brainstorming happening.

Looking at all the lovely booth pictures on Flickr, I find that I need to remind myself of one very important thing, keep it simple. Let me write that again, just for good measure. Keep it simple. As much as I daydream about a beautiful craft table, the last thing I want to do is become too overwhelmed, trying to develop everything (off and online) for my crafty business while working a non-crafty full-time job. Yes, a craft table needs to be appealing and represent your handmade product as best it can, but I think it is also something that I can grow over time. So for my first craft show I want to keep it simple, especially since I will be sharing the space with a friend. The reading, learning, and inspiration continues though, and I am eager to apply all of that in the near future.

One giant leap

Well, I did it. I submitted an application to my first craft show and have been accepted. Fees have been paid. Confirmation has been sent. It looks like this is it! The beginning of a big ‘ol adventure! My friend and I are actually going to share a table since neither of us have done this before. There’s so much to do in preparation. I’ve been reading tons online about selling at craft shows and setting up your booth/table. Every spare hour in the evening is spent making items. Lists are being compiled of what I need to prepare, buy, design, etc. I hope to share my experience through the whole process here, so I guess you’re in for a crafty ride! Thanks in advance for reading and learning alongside with me! Oh, and by the way, the show I am participating in is the Market Collective, December 11-12, in Calgary.