Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Visions of Success with Nicole's Visions

Well, I’m waiting for more questionnaires to come back so this week you all are stuck listening to me answer the questions! I may be revamping the questions a bit in hopes of getting more replies too. If you know anyone who should be interviewed, please feel free to share this blog or my email & have them contact me.

Let’s start with a quick intro. Tell us about you.
I’m a wife & mom. I’ve had a love for photography since my first daughter was born, when I was barely 18. Now, I find my interests, tho firmly rooted in photography, becoming much more varied & branching out into other areas, mostly in the eco-friendly direction.

Is this a hobby, or serious business for you? Do you work outside the home as well?
I think I am somewhere in-between. I would like it to be a serious business, but I often feel I am lacking skills & money to make it be that way. I do not currently work outside the home. My work at home is finding ways to spend less & learning to make more things from scratch.

How did you decide to go from hobby, to real business? OR
Is there something keeping you from taking the step?
I kind of answered this one above. I decided I wanted this to be more than a hobby when, at the time, people seemed very interested in my products. Since the economy fell, people seem to be spending less on fun extras. Well, at least the people I ran across in my shows. Is there something keeping me from seriously being more business like? I think the current economy is the biggest block. I keep trying, keep pushing ahead … but sometimes it feels like I take a step forward only to then take 3 steps back. I refuse to give up tho!

Do you have a special dedicated area in your home set aside where you create? How does this affect the rest of the household/family life?
We are currently fortunate enough that I can keep my photography related ‘stuff’ out of the main living areas. Unless I am busy producing something, everything is tucked away in storage containers or on shelves. In the past, yes, my work has sprawled out into living areas & had to be stepped over or gone around. it was crazy, but I have a truly understanding & supportive husband who just helps out & rolls with what I am doing.

When you are busy creating, do you keep track of how much time you spend on each piece? If so, how do you factor this into the cost of your work?
For me, this is tough. I spend time once with an image, on the computer, editing it & making it the way I want. Then I am free to create with that image, many different products. So how do I factor that in? Mostly, I don’t. Most of my work & products are priced according to what others charge & what the market will bear. I do try to take into account wholesale pricing when setting up retail prices. Wholesale is by standard, about 50% off retail. Can I sell my items for that? Just something I like to think about in case someone is interested in wholesale.

Once you have all this beautiful work created, how do you handle keeping track of your inventory?
*laughing* keep track? I have tried many ways over the years on how to keep track. Nothing has been the ‘best’ way yet … this is one of the reasons I am asking this question to others!
For your online venues … Talk a little bit about how you handle photographing your work. How important do you feel quality pictures are to successful selling? What is the biggest mistake you made & what is the most important thing you learned?
For me, obviously selling just a print online is easy, as you just upload a smaller version & poof, you are done. Now, the rest of my products? It’s not so easy. I dislike on camera flash & love natural light. I feel the importance of good quality pictures is priceless. Coupled with our descriptions, images are the only other way that a customer has to judge whether or not to buy what we offer. My biggest mistake is probably trying to take pictures in direct sunlight. So much gets washed out for me this way. I would rather add brightness or fill flash in editing. The most important thing? Focus!!! All images need to be in focus. Blurry is just not an option when selling online.

Where do you sell? Do you have a favorite venue?
I currently sell mostly online, on Zibbet. I am so happy there. I have also sold at farmer’s markets, mall shows, and indoor & outdoor craft shows. Online, Zibbet is my fav venue. Other than that I had a small holiday store at the mall one year that was by far my favorite. I made it co-op style & both my artists & the public loved it. Unfortunately the rates & rules to be at the mall were outrageous so we were not able to stay.

If you sell at places other than online …
Tell us about how you came up with the way you now display your work.
best display set-up we had by far.
Do you sit or stand? Is it better to have a ‘walk up to’ display, or a ‘walk into’ display? Why?
This is an evolving answer I think. It also depends on the venue. I have displayed my work in many ways as I’ve grown. I did find that an open or up front set-up works best for shows & the market. People do not like to have to walk into a space unless it is bigger than the 10x10 standard. They feel trapped & then obligated to buy, so they just stay out & walk by. For one show I had a 10x20 with the larger side being open. That worked well as a walk in.

How do you maintain your finances, for your business? Does it involve having a business or merchant account? Biggest/best tip you have for others?
I started out not having anything separate. Within a year, that changed to trying to keep it all separate. That evolved into not only a business account, but I also upgraded my Costco membership to Executive to get the American Express card. Costco was a frequent stop as I got my prints printed there all the time. Now, I definitely say do your best to keep things separated, not just for taxes if you are a business, but for your own sanity!

How do you handle money & payment processing at real world set-ups? Any tips for others?
Once I had my business account, I was able to get a merchant account to go with that, for very small fees. This gave me a knuckle buster credit card machine & the ability to take cards. It came in handy for sure. We had a big double cross country move last year so I closed all that. If I see things present themselves to more business opportunities I will again go that route. I only ever had one bad check, which the person was profusely sorry for & took care of. When I do take checks I verify the address & info is correct & ask for DL info to jot onto the check along with a phone number.

While we’re talking about money … how do you handle all the dreaded back end paperwork/book keeping stuff? Do you have any tips for others still searching for a best way?
This is another one of those questions that I’m asking because I’d like to know how others handle it. I am simple, for now, and just keep a ledger with hand written entries. If I had more business, I would work to find a better way … maybe. There is something to be said about taking the time to enter in all those things yourself, by hand. It seems to make you pay more attention to details.

Ok, money out of the way let’s talk about promoting/marketing a bit.
Can you share with us what you do to promote your business, & where? Are you a social networking junkie? Does that work? Do you pay for advertising? Any tips for others?
Promoting is so hard for me. I feel overwhelmed often, at the thought of having to do every aspect of my business, myself. At times, I have let myself become a social networking junkie. Now I try to keep that in check, as it can drain you in so many ways if you spread yourself too thin. I do feel places like Facebook, MySpace & the like help in getting the word out about you. There is a fine line tho, of posting, & spamming. Its hard to stay on the right side of that line some days. I’ve not paid of advertising, ever. Will I ever in the future? Perhaps, yes, if my business volume grows enough to justify it. My tip would be to not spread yourself too thin, in whatever advertising/networking avenue you decide to go down.

With so many aspects of running a business, how do you keep yourself motivated to move forward? Do you have a good support system?
Motivation is tough for me. When my husband & I were living together with my daughter & her bf, I had much more motivation. The kids & I bounced off each other & that helped so much. Now I am home alone all day, 5 days a week. While some folks would love this, I don’t like it. I need people. I’m working on getting better at things tho, so hopefully I wont be so lacking in motivation for long. I do have a great support system in my hubby & my daughter & her bf. My friends support me too. And I know I have people I can talk to if I ever need a boost.

What do you feel is your least favorite thing about running a business? How do you overcome/deal with this?
Least favorite? I think advertising/promotion. I’m an artist… I have a hard time getting away from creating & going into promotion. I could sell you something someone else made, all day long... but to boast my own work? LOL …. It’s more of a challenge for me. Overcoming this is a matter of baby steps I think. I deal y … just dealing I guess. I take great joy in promoting others & figure eventually it will fall back to me. Maybe?

And finally, to end on a good positive note … share with us what you most attribute your business success to…
I have this here… to see how others answer this type of question. I think for me, my business success is mostly due to having a unique product. When I came out with my notecards, no one else had anything like them. They still don’t. The rest of my work, is all original so that helps too.

So there you have it. Hope I didn’t bore you all too much! Thanks for reading. I hope to have more new interviews soon. In the mean time I will be working on a few other blog ideas… gotta keep you all coming back here right?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Flash Promoting for Zibbet

So there is a kinda new thing going on with the some of the gung-ho sellers on Zibbet. The idea is to help each other out by cross promoting each others shops. A true, you help me, I'll help you kind of thing. I love the idea! Helping to promote the shops, & even blogs, of other small handcrafted business owners... it can be nothing but a win-win situation!

For this go-round, there are 8 wonderful & creative artisans plus me, who are helping each other out with this FUN idea!!! So go visit them all....

A super cool collection of Stitched and Crocheted creations for everyone on your gift list!

Crazy cool Wood Burnings. (this is my very own daughter!)
Breath Of the Dragon

Fun Key fobs & original Key Straps, embroidered baby gift sets & so much more! (I’ve interviewed her too)
Pop Embroidery

Jewelry is a personal choice for everyone so be sure to check out both of these ladies & their different styles...

Strawberry Fields Art

Sky Jewelry

Creative selection of goodies for babies, the new mom & just around the house.
On Mommy's Apron

Fun hair bows & barrettes for little girls & big girls too!
Lori's Styling Hair Stuff

Gorgeous photography from a new to Zibbet seller

My shop is getting fuller all the time too ... some great gift ideas for anyone on your list!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Visions of Success blog series recap

Hello my faithful readers...

I have enjoyed bringing you the Visions of Success series for the past 2 months. Wow, we've already been thru 8 wonderful handcrafted businesses.

As I was getting ready to put together the new few interviews,