Sunday, October 30, 2011
Thank you Jessie J on endless repeat for saving my week. and so i choose to focus on this one Just One Incident in an attempt to reclaim my zen and Go Make Art. Arms full, towels, washcloths, TP, paper towels...Mucinex DM & Sudafed on board, caffeine? check. dog howling downstairs from where I just loaded up my arms like a maid at the Marriott? check. husband snoring loudly in the next room in a pain pill induced coma-like slumber? check. full roll of paper towels slipping from arms and into toilet? check. bulimia cat going through her morning routine? check. now what's That Other Sound? that sound that sounds like an overfull washing machine? diva dog sick? check. my week has been one of cleaning up. I can't go into detail about just how scary & horrific some of these days have been, as I have been sworn to secrecy, but trust me, my zen has been trampled on so many times that i believe Buddha himself would have blown a gasket. so the paper towel Incident was the straw that broke the camel's back. and a loud Really Loud string of cobalt blue words flew from my mouth, projectile like, and hit the back wall of the bathroom, bounced back at me and went for another spin down the stairs toward where poor diva (who tried to warn me) was standing dejected next to the back door next to a pile of sick. i could really have used those paper towels. the lottery win? it was my meditation...what i would do and how fast...sorry Jessie J...it would be about the money money money.
at 8:05 AM
Saturday, October 29, 2011
a few quick random things... I stole this from Christine because it is so wonderful...meet you there virtually 11/11/11. By the way, Christine has a new book due out in minutes, "Desire To Inspire." Sight unseen, I recommend this book. I own & cherish her other book, Ordinary Sparkling Moments, and have reread it so many times, there must be pages in it that are worn out blank. Christine writes from the heart, in an authentic way...this, I assure you, will not be a book thrown together for profit. Am I her #1 dork/fan? yes, I am. You should know someone as unbelievable as she is. On many levels. Randomness #2...lessons from the ER: You can become so focused on a particular outcome, that the real answers, and better path, get missed. now to catch up on a missed-day's work. Have you checked this out yet? I'm proud enough to hand out cigars.
at 4:03 AM
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
ya know, it doesn't take much to make me weepy and sentimental. especially when I'm sick. So while my ability to swing a hammer was impaired today, I caught up on some housekeeping and admin stuff. and guess what? that new website I just launched? It's still there, but thanks to some help from Yoni*, I am now the owner of my very own domain. (Seinfeld fans can zip it right here). I don't know - maybe it's a headscratcher for most people, but it's another leap into the reality of it all. (ha! you thought i was going to say "universe," right?). so i am now found at www.lindaesterleydesigns.com. I wish i could mix some champagne with my Nyquil. And i celebrate my first sales from the site today! i know....i'm a dork. so tomorrow, diva, gramma, and I are off to Cornell Vet Hospital to see about Diva's lumps. She's been pretty particular about her food the past 3 days, so the fasting for 12 hours shouldn't be a problem. send good thoughts. ok - back to Paulo Coelho. sweet dreams, y'all! * I have no idea who Yoni actually is, but he was the very patient account services guy from the website place who talked me through this whole thing.
at 7:56 PM
I'm bowing to the Gods of Mucus today, and calling in sick. The boss is tough, and will likely make me work over the weekend. I'm going to leave it at this, so I don't break into spontaneous sick-induced whining, since we all know I have much to be grateful for, and whining about ANYTHING would be an affront. so it's me & Nyquil & diva curled up on the couch with Paulo Coelho's new book. At least until the Nyquil takes hold, then it's off to the races. I always have the craziest dreams when i take that...and wake myself up laughing and muttering like a nutter. (Bulimia cat sneaks upstairs and sleeps on diva's woobie whenever he/she can - which is now). go here, just to make me happy.
at 10:12 AM
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
i have had such a hard time concentrating and moving forward this past week...make that past few weeks. the last few days, at least i've had the excuse of sinus headaches and sore throat, but it's still been a blah blah blah few weeks, it seems. Much to do but no connections. you know what i mean? i think there may be something burbling to get out, which is usually how this malcontentedness signals...a new piece or series or material trying to shove it's head out of my head. and it's not like i walked around zombified... there was the excitement of having my Talisman necklaces worn by models in Fashion Week last week, and the hustle of setting up my work (at the same time as making 18 necklaces in 2 days) at the Holiday House. (then taking it down after organizer issues closed it). i have just been too tired this past month to really dig in to what i need to get done. bone tired. staring at the tv from the couch all evening tired. even when it's a dumb show like Real Housewives tired. (do those women realize how incredibly self-involved they are? yes i get it - and i don't sneer at them for having money. it's just that i wonder if they realize that a few miles down the road, where the air is not so rare, there are actual people that need some help, and what these women spend on a birthday party for a 2 year old is more than some people make in 5 years slogging through life. rant over). I'm grateful for the studio lighting i have - bright "daylight spectrum" tubes in large fixtures over my worktable. i never know it's dark out! and the color is great - no flourescent-y tones or hot spots. not to worry - i'm not sad or depressed or anxiety-ridden...just tired. maybe this sinus/throat thing is kicking my behind a bit more than i think. but now is the time i should be ramping up for christmas orders and opportunities. but blessed fruit loops, i could just go back to bed for a week. i am lovin me Judy Wise's Hot Wax class! yessir! and i am hoping to go here in July, which means i should get my butt in gear and make some stuff! so go here and help send an artist to camp! I have some new talismans i'll be adding this week (from the fashion week show) that are so cool...one is made out of a silver salt shaker that was used in dinner service on American Airlines First Class section. not sayin how i got it, but it was a joy to find and work with. so, time to pull myself together here and get ready for a meeting. wishing you a fantastic light-filled day with much laughter!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
ya know when you go to someone's house and they want to show you their vacation pictures and you want to chew out your own eyes so you won't have to live through it? here's the blogger equivalent ... sort of ...here, in random order, are some of my favorite things, and other stuff thrown in. i'm too tired to write a pithy post, so i'll bore you with photos. (but this counts as a post). ok. a photo journey through my world (not the scary parts though) Me: yes, Pat, it snows here: (not yet though): my future ex-husband wearing my coat: my current husband with supervision: My Lake: My home: Lavender field: heron in the hood: Monk-ying around: my heart to you: one day I went to Wegmans, and they had just gotten in a ton of gerbera daisies (my favorite), and I was feeling low low low. They were so fresh & bright & happy, and I had a charge card and couldn't decide which color to get. so i got a dozen of each. and boy do you ever need a lot of vases to keep that load of flowers in. i was giving them away like crazy. so i got the flowers, which made me happy, AND i got to give some (a lot) away, which made me happy again AND made someone else happy: (when the bill came, i wasn't so happy): a cape I made for Stevie Nicks: Favorite place on earth: Eldorado: Favorite book: The boy that started it all...my Kita. I started this blog when he passed away, to try to express how much he meant to me. In the years since i started, I've not been successful in doing that. i loved him too much.: yes. Diva. the bane of kitten's existence. she is needy, cuddly, scared of everything from burps to cameras to umbrellas to laundry being folded. her favorite color is pink, specifically her pretty pink collar with jewels on it. (not real jewels). sometimes i put of slotch of pink eye shadow on her head & she feels all princess-like. (yes, i am a freak). if you ever come to my house, and she's rushing at you with her pointy parts first, say the words "pretty pink collar" and she'll stop in her tracks. for real. unfortunately, there have been a few people i forgot to give this info to, and to them, i apologize. Diva is slowing down now, and even though i try not to love her too much, i have not been successful: and speaking of laundry...bulimia cat: are you bored yet? baby: we got married here, and return every July: That's it for now. whew boy aren't you glad for that! okay, so next time i won't attempt to post until i actually have something to say. wishing you all a happy, productive week, with twinkledust surprises around every corner. i believe...do you?
at 6:45 PM
so after all the fanfare & hoo-haw about my new website, and after tweaking it incessantly and compulsively for over a week, i'm finally happy with it...i go out to google, and search "wix linda esterley" and (trumpet fanfare + confetti) Internal Server Error. what?? but i've worked so hard. i am closer to amish than technical, so i had to Teach Myself all this stuff and Redo Almost Every Page 10 times. and that's the best they can do?? oy vey. so i emailed them and got a very courteous & immediate response. automated, but prompt. and i replied to the automated response, thanking it for being so courteous & prompt, but reminded it that IT was, in fact, on a trial run basis with me Before I Upgraded to the Paid version. my exact reasoning for this, i further explained, was for this EXACT reason. what good is a website that no one can access? i await their reply. in other news, i am knee deep in an online encaustic class and chomping at the bit to get waxy. i'm not actually doing the lessons, just looking on. i'm not sure why, but felt intuition that it should be this way, and i usually trust my gut. but it seemed important enough that i listen this time, so i am. maybe God knows what a bad mix Linda + fire is? or cooking of any sort, and this is close enough to cooking. I have some really awesome photos of the leaves changing and of my afternoon spent with a Great Blue Heron. i used husband's camera, which he then took to photograph some eagles, and the camera (which has the card in it) is MIA. probably somewhere in his car. i'll check when the sun comes up and the skunks punch out for the day. Diva dog goes to Cornell thursday to get her lumps checked. i can't say too much about that without getting all weepy. she's an old lady now, and i'm seeing some of the same behaviors that Kita exhibited right near the end. husband scoffs at me when i tell him, but i know what i know. nuff said here. Perfect stepdaughter texted me from college, telling me she's at the Humane Association and wants a dog. i reminded her we still have bulimia cat on loan here, and that she should have a baby instead, as it would be easier. what? yes i meant it. well, not that she should actually have a baby, but that it would be easier. today i have plans to finish a Talisman necklace for a special order, hammer out a sample for a meeting on tuesday, and make some birds. i'll show you when i'm done. but right now, i need to find some socks, or convince diva to lay on my feet. and have breakfast (or is it lunch for me?). geez, isn't this the most thrilling post you've ever read? okay, i'll up the appeal later. after i find my camera.
at 6:13 AM
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Thursday, October 20, 2011
did i just mention having a new website? well, like a terrier with a new bone, I've been tweaking it compulsively for 2 days now. I hope to have more assemblages showing soon, but the files I have are huge, so i have to make them smaller before i can upload them. but it is such a relief to have that done. so much so that i took little diva for a walk through the woods today, and it is blowing like crazy...tree limbs down, and leaves dropping like it's a contest. and the leaves are completely covering the path, so it's hard to see the edge of where we usually walk. right next to the incline that heads directly into the water. the somewhat chilly water. yes. hard to see it. and when you carelessly threw on an old pair of worn out Crocs to walk the diva, because it was after 2:30pm and you just showered and felt guilty, well, then it's even harder to stay on a path that you can't see the edge of, that is next to a very steep incline that ends in a chilly pond. and when your hair get blown in your eyes, and you close your eyes - even just for a second - while you are walking, and sort of toss your hair out of your face (not in a haughty, Beverly Hills way, just in a central New York windy day way) then it's easy to see how & why your foot may step down just the slightest bit to the left, and soon, as your inner ear alerts your brain to the fact that There Is Trouble Afoot, there is pandemonium of the highest order. and it rained last night, and it rained again harder this morning. and wet leaves on muddy ground are certainly the perfect slip 'n slide surface kids dream about finding when they have their playclothes on. not quite as big a thrill for an adult, however, who has just gotten out of a way-to-late-in-the-day shower, with her clean jeans and sweatshirt on, even though she's wearing old Crocs. no. not so much of a thrill. and I must remember to thank Jesus for the hickory tree that saved me from baptism in the pond. yes - that old hickory that i bear the marks of right now. and all the while, as i was headed for a splashdown worthy of NASA, i was watching the incredulous expression on diva's face as she wondered why/if i expected her to follow. she was stupified as to why anyone would do something so incredibly dumb. so she pointedly ignored me, and turned her attention to some buffet item on the forest floor. it is no wonder to me why people become agoraphobic. they do not need intervention. they have once themselves been on such a walk, and realized it just isn't worth the effort sometimes.
at 4:36 PM
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
ok, i finally shamed myself into finishing my website, after preaching about how important it is to have one...i plan to upgrade to my own domain in a few days, but wanted to preview it before spending extra money. check it out and let me know your thoughts...you can be my focus group!
at 4:47 PM
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I got an email asking that I re-emphasize the fact that you must analyze your financials closely...you have to have a good grasp on where you are spending money, and where/if you are making money. it's essential. you may get a huge order for your product, but still be in the red. you also have to know how much each piece/service costs you to provide, so you'll know if you're charging enough. when i get gemstones in, i divide the cost of the stones including shipping, taxes, etc, so i know exactly how much each stone costs me to use. if you own a cleaning business, you need to figure out your costs per mile to travel, costs for cleaning supplies, wear & tear on your equipment...anything that makes it possible for you to do your job. don't forget phone bills and computer/internet, also. the first time i did a show, someone offered me $65 for a very intricate, heavily beaded sterling silver necklace. (it's poor form to try to negotiate at a gallery, by the way). i knew to the penny how much that necklace had cost me in materials, never mind time. so the necklace had been priced appropriately, and i explained that to the gentleman. had i not known, i may have been thrilled to have a sale of any kind, and gone for it. "mind the bodega," as my aunt used to say.
at 2:23 PM
so now you have a product you're excited about, have an accounting system in place, have a business plan completed, your pencils are sharpened and your inventory all ready to go. how do you make the phone ring? there are several schools of thought about marketing and advertising and websites and social media, etc etc. I would say the #1 thing to have is a website with e-commerce. (yes, i know - do as i say, not as i do). that way, if a person sees you at a festival but doesn't purchase, hopefully they've taken your card and can buy online. people wanting to re-order don't have to wait for the next festival, or next gallery show, or home show, etc. it also gives legitimacy to your business. along that line, have a "corporate ID." even if you aren't a corporation. simply put, it's creating a pleasing logo/tagline, etc, that reflects your business aesthetic. it will be on all your media & advertising. (think Golden Arches). it's matching the sheets and pillowcases, if you will. if your biz cards are different from your website, it's confusing...it looks like 2 different businesses. if you aren't good at that sort of thing, call a professional. your image is as important as your quality. cheaply made biz cards done on an inkjet printer using clipart, will reflect poorly on your business. (inkjet smears & disappears when it gets wet, btw). i am using Assante Design because he is a maniac about detail, and has local and national accounts. this is important to me, because i want my ID to relate to my local area, but want a larger appeal. Leonard Assante has that experience, so he can design for me with that in mind. my logo, biz cards, letterhead, etc, will all match. repetition helps the customers remember you. there is a local artist that does art festivals, and has a purple tent. she has had to argue with many event organizers about this (as most want standard white tents) because people look for her purple tent at every festival. even if they forget her name, they remember the tent. this is part of her corporate ID. don't cheap out here...spend what you can reasonably afford...this is your chance to make a good, professional first impression. if you really really cannot afford these services, at least tie everything together - Vistaprint allows you to order products with your chosen design, whether uploaded, or using one of theirs. i've matched my biz cards, banners, t-shirts and hats. as far as social media, i'm personally not certain it's essential to have a facebook page. my personal feeling is no. i closed my facebook account, as it was more of a timesuck than it was an advertising vehicle, and due to the recent facelift it's gotten, there is an overwhelming negative response. any ad message you would post could become lost between the announcements of potty training and YouTube links, etc. I recently got an email from a store that offered a huge secret discount if you Liked them on Facebook. i went to their store and asked for the discount anyway, advising them that i don't use facebook. they were unaware of the promo, and said they never have seen a referral from their facebook page. my gut feeling is that with artwork (in particular) people want to see it in person, touch it, experience it. a website will help sales after the customer becomes familiar with your work. for service-related businesses, a website will do a nice job. it is your 24/7 sales rep! make absolutely, positively certain that there are no typos or misspelled words. make certain that the servers are reliable - ask how many outages they've had in the past 12 months, and how long they lasted...and what they attributed the outages to. busy holiday shopping traffic can bring a server to it's knees...do you want your customers frustrated and going elsewhere? other forms of marketing really depend on your product or service. selling jar openers at a flea market may work great, but don't expect designer fashions to do well. this ties in with your biz plan. I will say that I have never had a followup sale from any item donated to charity for an auction. not once, and no matter how high the bidding got. as i mentioned before, donate if you choose to, but do it because you like the charity and want to help...not because it's free advertising. it just doesn't pay off, and the write-off is not for the retail value of the piece, as i understand it. i have 1 charity that i will donate to every year, and because it's a cause that's very close to my heart. i donate 1 piece, and it's usually a piece i make specifically for them. the best advertising i've had is myself. i go to events that i know my target market is at, and wear a piece of jewelry that i know they will be interested in. in doing this, i get a night out, and am promoting my work. this is where your 30-second elevator speech needs to be polished and perfected. invariably, when you meet someone, one of the first pieces of information exchanged is "what do you do for a living?" or similar. another way to get your name out is to join a professional business organization. In my area, we have a group called Women TIES. (Together Inspiring Entrepreneurial Success). this is a group that is focused on business...hosting retreats with national and local speakers, and short lunchtime speakers and meetings. A wealth of information can be gained from these speakers, and members, and they also do "speed networking." i was put off by this at first - sounded too much like speed dating. then i realized i would have the opportunity to present my business to as many 150 other business people in an hour or so. what could be bad about that? again - the elevator speech is essential - you have 30 seconds to 1 minute to "give your schpeel" and then the person you're paired with does the same. then you move to the next person. have a large stack of biz cards in one hand! it may sound shallow and shark-like, but it is effective. you are there to promote your business, and to see if there may be a business or service that you can use. there are no illusions about these events - they are for networking & marketing. it isn't a kaffeeklatsch or whine session. you dress professionally and present your best self. and it works. i established a connection with 4 people at a recent event. it's now up to me to nurture those connections into sales. i first heard about this organization over 10 years ago (i think it was that long ago) and to this day remember a sugar artist i met, and will always give her name out as a source for anyone needing a cake that's out of the ordinary. (think Cake Boss and Charm City Cakes). even if a woman i met couldn't use my product, she'll remember it and pass my name along. if you're a man, think of the organizations you can join, or are already a member of ...Optimist Club, etc. Remind them of what you do, or let them know what you are starting up, and perhaps offer a bonus for buying your product or for referrals. (13 T-shirts for the price of 12, or free design or shipping, etc). discounts work, but then you may see everyone asking for a discount. who hasn't bragged to someone that they only paid $X for something, not realizing they were getting a deal? then the referral wants the same price. it is important that your core values match that of the group you are joining...if you join a group just for the marketing potential, they'll smell you a mile away and it could do more harm than good. and it just isn't nice. every person you meet is an opportunity to market yourself, which could translate into a sale. people remember kindness. if you hire sales people, or phone people, be absolutely certain that they are reflecting your mission and core values. i recently changed doctors because the phone people and front desk people were just so disinterested in me as a patient (the person that ultimately pays their salary), that calling for an appointment & going to the office did not leave me with a good feeling. the Dr. herself was wonderful, but the total experience was not what i felt i deserved as a patient. the same is true with your product. unless you have a patent on the cure for the common cold, people have a lot of choices, and they will go where they feel appreciated and respected as an individual. yes - even if you're selling mousetraps. to backtrack - also in the realm of corporate image....make your packages nice. not only the gift box, or product packaging, but the box it is shipped in. if you've scrawled the person's name on the side with a ballpoint pen, and slapped some twisted up packing tape on it, that says a lot about how much you care about your product. this summer, i was swamped with orders, and i am also the shipping person in my business of 1. there were many days when i handwrote the address with a Sharpie on the side of the box, because i hate shipping so much, and just wanted to be done with it. i regret that, as it just wasn't as professional as it should have been. print out a nice label, or print out the address on a computer and cover it with packing tape. (the post office will love you too!). regarding mailing - always always get a delivery confirmation or tracking number. always. they cost very little, and can save your reputation and save you an argument at the post office. i attach the receipt from the postage sale to the confirmation receipt, and file that in my Outbound Order file. once the package arrives safely, i can file it in the completed orders. if it doesn't arrive within the specified time, i can go online and see what the heck happened to it, and contact the carrier. also, if the item is valuable ($100 or more) or irreplaceable, always insure it. i have sent one-of-a-kind necklaces to clients that were expensive and irreplaceable. for those, i always take detailed photographs of the piece before wrapping it up. that way, if it gets lost in shipping, i can provide the shipper with the photos, the delivery/tracking number, and hopefully collect insurance. it also provides me with a record to show the client that i did, in fact, ship it on time, and it's the carrier that dropped the ball. i keep the photo, and the receipts in my client's file for future reference in case they call and say, "remember that necklace you made me?" there is a tremendous amount of organization involved in keeping things running smoothly and appropriately. i usually take 1 day as an administrative day to run errands for supplies, go to the dreaded post office or shipper, and get my paperwork under control. if i had an unlimited amount of cash to spend, i'd hire someone to do the shipping. i just don't like it. but i would do the bookwork and filing myself, as it gives me a chance to look at what is selling and where, and also what needs inventory. it's a great way to focus. i use that time to play with spreadsheets too, to see where i need to improve marketing or if it's time to re-contact clients, etc. it's difficult to say what is the most important aspect of starting a business, or what the most important 1st step should be, because everything is linked together...for example: creating a website first requires photographing your product, first creating a corporate ID so the website & photo styling reflect the business in the way you desire. I would say that a business plan (a plan for your business) should be done absolutely first before you purchase your first box of paper clips. (and save the receipt for those paper clips!). If you have anything further you'd like me to discuss, please let me know. i think these past few posts should get your mind going, anyway. Again - I am not a business coach or professional business adviser...these are just my experiences and references to businesses I've used with success. your choices should be made based on your gut and knowledge and experience. Although this is the end of the series, i am happy to answer any further questions - just post here, or contact me by email. (when you post, I get an email of it, which I have to approve before it's published. if you would prefer i not publish your comment or contact info, just say so and i'll read it from my email, but not publish it). One last note: I freely share what i have learned. This is not always the case, and depending on your area, people are downright territorial and closed about sources and knowledge. this doesn't make me a better person, but if you are in a group that "takes" more than it "gives," you may want to spend your time better. I hope I've given credit where credit is due on the information i've presented, if i missed something, please know it was not intentional and please let me know so i can correct that. I wish you each great success with your endeavors...however you define success!
at 6:54 AM
Sunday, October 16, 2011
i have a little extra time while the washer is going, so i'll throw in a bit about arts & crafts festivals. Again, I'm no seasoned veteran of these festivals, but i'll share what i know. first: apply online for an OPAL permit...it's free, and you must have it in order to collect tax on what you sell. it is required by the festivals, and very very often there are representatives from the IRS walking through looking for them to be displayed. when yours arrives, make a color copy to file, and have the other one laminated. this is not a tax ID number...this simply shows that you have the authority to collect tax. and pay tax. quarterly. do not be late, even if you owe nothing. this permit also will allow you to buy certain materials without paying tax on them. if the item will be used in resale, then no tax is collected by the seller. READ the tax website about this, though...don't trust my memory on that part. Regarding festival applications: sept, october-ish is the time to start deciding where you want to apply. many applications are due in the early part of the year, believe it or not. There is usually an application fee, sometimes non-refundable. there is always a fee for your booth space at the festival. fees generally run between $50-$500+ and depends on how many years the fair has been running, how many people generally visit, average sales, and the level of professionalism of the artists that are accepted. this fee should be factored in when pricing your product. most require a jury process to get in. some require that your booth jury in as well. if this is your first year doing festivals, contact them and explain that. be prepared for them to either reject your application, or require a detailed description of your planned setup. the items that jury in are generally the only ones that will be allowed to be shown, and if you run out of necklaces and decide to put some of your collages up instead, the people running the show can ask you to shut down, forfeiting your fees and your time. There are many types of booths you can buy. the most popular is the ProPanel. it's a bit pricey, depending on what you add in, but plan to pay around $1200. absolutely essential is the EZ-Up tent to cover the booth. there is nothing EZ about setting up the tent or the booth. just sayin. it is well worth the investment to get the screen sides with the regular sides that come down. this will allow air flow with the tarps rolled up, and protection from the rain with them down. (and it always rain at least 1 day!). practice setting this up at home a few times before getting to your venue. you often have to squeeze in between 2 other vendors that are already set up. invest in the weight set for the legs. some sporting goods stores have them, too. they are weights that have a cut-out in them that fit around the legs of the tent. the propanels are inside the tent, and attached by velcro strips. be sure to get a tent with a vent flap at the top, but be aware of where it is, in case it leaks. the vent is important in case of wind - if your tent lifts off, it will take your display with it to Oz. and should it decide to knock into a neighboring tent and smash their beautiful display of blown glass, you are technically (and legally) responsible for the damage. you can afford weights more than you can afford the damage. and hard feelings. and possibly being black-listed from festivals. also, have a high desk or table near the back, with a directors chair and stool. people are more likely to come into your booth and look around if you are out of the way. sitting near the front entrance may provide more room inside, but the customer will have to turn away from your work to talk to you, rather than stay engaged. it also makes them feel like they're being watched. when someone enters your booth, greet them warmly, and let them know you're the artist and will be happy to answer any questions. stay off your cell phone during the show. it is rude, and lets potential customers leave. if you do any type of craft that can be worked on during the show, bring a piece to work on. it will give interested prospective customers a chance to see why that small beaded purse costs so much...all that work! plus it gives an opportunity to establish a rapport with a potential customer. if you do custom work, this would be the time to explain that. any person who sets foot inside your tent is a potential customer. treat them like a guest. at a recent art fair, the guy in the tent next to me started selling bottled water from a cooler for $1. he made a ton of cash. it was scorching hot out. i'm not sure how the health department felt about that, or if there are rules/licensing regarding that. but certainly keep a cooler packed with small "pods" of bottled water in the back, behind the desk. i can't see a problem with giving a free bottle to a customer who made a purchase, telling them "you look warm! here - take one of my waters." you are now a hero. always always put your biz card in with the package. I use Vistaprint for my cards. make sure they are easy to read. i made the mistake of putting too much on the front of my card, and when they arrived, i could hardly read my contact info. they were only $3.99 for 250, so i redid them with just my biz name & contact info (usually website and phone) on the front, and splurged $6.99 and had the description of my business on the back. this will free up enough room to make the font bigger. Spend some money on boxes and bags, too. I use ULINE or Clearbag and have found their service and quality spectacular. (i recently bought some mats for prints at Clearbag, and noticed that the top mat was a little fuggly, due to the shrinkwrap. i called to let them know, and advised them that it wasn't an issue for me at all...just wanted to let them know. guess what? a few days later, they sent me a pack of new mats -free- with a personal note from the head of the QA department thanking me). you can attach your biz card to the top of a plain gift box to eliminate buying a decorative box, and also have your name right on top. the boxes at ULINE are so ridiculously cheap that there's no excuse not to have them. and it presents a much more polished appearance. ok, so now you've applied, paid, juried in, paid again, have a booth, a tent, a directors chair, boxes & bags, your cell phone & charger with your Square, a receipt book, and pens. stay organized...get 3 large sterlite tubs for all your supplies. 1 tub should have the miscellaneous hooks and screws and velcro for the tent & booth. i usually also put in a hammer, screwdriver, extra roll of velcro from hardware store, T-pins, straight pins, safety pins, table cover, and a small basic tool kit. in the 2nd tub, put your signage (including your beautiful banner from Vistaprint that matches your biz cards), your table cover could go in here instead of the other bin, all of your cashier items: bags, boxes, Square, change purse/bank bag, pens, shipping style tags, extra price tags, a small Dollar Store clipboard to put your receipt book on, a biz card holder, scotch tape, scissors, stapler, a notebook for people to sign up for your mailing list, another notebook for special orders (or use a different section of the other notebook - but don't forget those orders are there!). anything that you would touch to write up and package a sale should go in bin #2. This is your office in a tub. just a quick note about money: always keep it ON you. it will get ripped off, i promise, unless you do. people have had entire cash boxes grabbed. i wear a small pouch that crosses in front of me AND ZIPS SHUT, so my money is always either in front of my body, or on my hip. every so often, i'll clip a bunch of bills together, so when i reach in to make change, i'm not pulling out a super-sized wad of cash. it feels nicer to a customer to think they have just purchased one of a small number of sales. plus, a wad of cash is not safe to flash around. i usually start with $100 bank, mostly 1's and 5's. figure out how much your items will be with tax, and see if you'll need change change too. The 3rd tub should be for your miscellaneous personal stuff: a cooler or insulated lunch bag (i use one of those large Wegmans insulated zipped bags) with your lunch, snacks, lots of water, a wet washcloth, paper towels, aspirin, travel sized deodorant/mouthwash/hand soap, baby powder, and anything else you can think of to freshen up, should you get the opportunity. Last summer, I had a booth at the Downtown Arts & Crafts festival. the bathroom was a block away, and my booth partner had to cancel the day before the show. It was hotter than the hubs of hell all 3 days. I was lucky to have a friend come relieve me twice a day, and when I got to the bathroom, i took full advantage of the time to wash my face, reapply deodorant, brush my teeth, etc. It improved my whole outlook, and i'm sure the customers appreciated it! I know some of these suggestions may sound silly, but trust me, if you are comfortable, you'll project a happier, more inviting image. you only have 2 or 3 days to make some money, after all. If you accept checks, make a photocopy of the name/address before depositing them. add these people to your mailing list. make friends with the other vendors around you...you may learn about other venues, or venues to avoid. there is a camaraderie that develops between the vendors that's nice. If the organizer comes by your tent, thank them for their hard work in getting everything together for the show. it is one of the most difficult jobs to juggle all the details, and all the egos, involved in putting on a festival. try to plan a day off after a festival. you'll need it. Festivals can be very lucrative, or they can cost you money in the end. there's no way to tell ahead of time. for an artist like me, it gives me an opportunity to be out in the public for a change, as opposed to working in my studio alone. but it is a gigantic heap of planning and work to participate. personally, i would never do a 1-day show. there's just too much involved in setting up and tearing down, to make the middle part worthwhile to me. if you have any further questions about festivals, send me an email, or post a question here, and i'll try to answer as best i can. I hope this was helpful!
at 6:02 PM
I had an email asking why a biz plan is important. for creatives, the words "business plan" is as much a heart-stopper as my mother's Chicken Divine (which is not divine & involves a lot of mayo). If you have the luxury of time (or more forethought than I), try making a biz plan before you quit your day job. the benefits are immeasurable. I avoided a business plan like the plague, thinking "I'm just going to make my art and sell it places, so I don't need a plan...plans are for companies and corporations. you need a plan. Without one, you won't be able to forecast, purchase materials, have art ready for shows, know when & where the shows are, etc. As I mentioned, Right Brain Business Plan is my new religion. (seriously - no affiliation). It is actually fun to do her plan - using art/collage to focus on who my perfect customer is, where he/she shops, what he/she does in their free time, vacations...etc. That one exercise helped me decide who I pictured as my perfect customer, and the rest fell into place - where to market my wares, when the best time of year would be to do that, what price points the market would bear, and on. buy this book. even if - and especially if - you have no idea what you want to do as an artist-as-a-career. If you get bored reading this blog and walk away, the single most important thing i can say is buy this book. again - i have no affiliation. and guess what? as I worked through her book, i realized that i really didn't want to market to the people i thought i did - that the time & money I'd need to invest just weren't worth the payoff, and the people i'd need to hang with were not my cup of tea. so i was able to refocus before i'd blundered.
at 9:41 AM
Banking. I never thought much about banking till i opened for business. the people at my bank were nice, and they always gave out dog treats at the drive-thru window, so i liked it there. but then i started thinking about getting a small loan to buy supplies for an opportunity i wanted to create, and guess what? i had no real income that a bank could point to. i had only been in business a little bit, had no real collateral they could repo, in case of default. so now what? In my area (Syracuse NY) we have a bank known as "the hippie bank." It was started in the 60's, i believe, by a couple of long-haired types that would set up a storefront to make loans to the hippies in this artsy area of town. it's now a bona fide banking co-op, that looks at the whole picture. they make loans to people who are doing social good, and the bank itself is involved with local projects that help their immediate area. they even match funds in your account. so that seemed like a no-brainer. see if there's something similar in your area. your bank should work for you. if they charge a fee for every little thing, they aren't earning your business. if they charge you a fee for not having enough money in the account, run. that is the ultimate disrespect, in my book. spend some time on this one...it's your money. and be certain they have free online banking. it's been a while since i've actually set foot in a bank, preferring the convenience of online. for me, i would rather pay $7 for a box of checks every so often, then get dinged for just thinking about the bank. there are also non-traditional, online-only banks. I would be certain they are FDIC insured, and get references from friends. you are sending your money to a faceless entity, that has no skin in the game - no brick-and-mortar structure they've built & hopefully care about. i know that sounds old fashioned, and certainly we've seen enough of the traditional banks fail, but these are my thoughts. and don't be afraid to change banks if they suddenly change their tune. Along those lines, if you're thinking about accepting credit cards at shows or fairs, etc, i strongly recommend Square. With Square, you get a free card reader for your iPhone or Android phone, there is no monthly fee, or any other fee. you can accept any/every credit or debit card, and can send an email receipt to the purchaser right on the spot. there is only 1 charge, and that's 2.75% of the sale per swipe, or 3.25% if you manually key in the number. period. they send the funds to your bank the next day, then it's up to the bank to process the deposit & put it in your account, so count on 3 business days before you see it. you can have the device figure tax for you (!) and any time you want, it will convert your sales to a spreadsheet. i am absolutely satisfied with this. most standard credit card companies charge fees for everything - $700 or more for a swiper/reader, then you pay a processing fee, then you pay a clearinghouse, then there's a monthly fee (whether you've used it or not), and a contract. and sometimes the "company" is a kid in his bedroom with a computer, routing the information to the clearinghouse and collecting a percentage. for real. try getting ahold of him on Homecoming weekend when you have the sale of a lifetime, and the reader won't read. if i wanted to work for Visa, i would have applied there. 'nuff said about that. You should have an iPhone or Android phone. you will be away a lot, if you have a studio away from the house, or do fairs. this is a good business tool to help you keep on top of emails, websites, and banking, etc. i went in to buy an iPhone, and the clerk asked me what my use was. after a very thoughtful conversation, we analyzed the 2 for my usages, and found the Motorola Droid would be better for me. basically they have all the same functionality, and available apps. if carrying your music around is important to you, then the iPhone is a better choice. i don't care much about that, so the Droid was a better choice. and I could stay with my verizon contract. (although verizon now has an iPhone contract too). I cancelled my home landline, and upgraded to an unlimited voice/text/data account. It costs $250/month for 2 phones (i have my stepson under my account with his Blackberry). I'm not sure what 1 phone would cost. but - i end up paying $80 less than i would for a 1000 minute plan + a home landline. no brainer. and the only people who called the landline were political workers looking for a donation, and the NRA, so it was a double win. your phone is part of your new office. don't cheap out. can you imagine not being able to call back a client because you've used all your free minutes, and the cost of the call would eat your profit on the potential sale? you'd lose further sales from that client because you weren't reliable. websites are a touchy subject with me. you absolutely need one. it is the thing i have put off the longest. there are a few places out there that allow you to set up a free one. my favorite is WIX. it's a drop-and-drag format, using their thousands of templates, or create your own. i recommend upgrading to the level that accepts e-commerce and does not have their ads on it. be sure you set it up so that it reflects you and your product. make it compelling, not just pretty. and make it easy to navigate. have someone try to navigate it before you go live. see where they stumble, and fix it. you need to find a good photographer who can style your product in the manner in which you want it perceived, and take an actual picture made for the web. for many months, my husband has thought he could build a light diffusion box, and do this for me. it remains undone. a good working relationship with a good photographer makes a big difference. after a few shoots, when he/she has a good feel for what you are looking for, it's possible to drop things off & pick them up later, rather than having to stick around for the whole shoot. even if the photographer is your best friend - this is business. have a written, clearly stated contract as to what work is to be done, the timeline, what you will get from it - ie: a CD of images, a thumbnail sheet of images (which is no good on it's own), what format the images will come in (hi-resolution, low-resolution, TIFF, etc), and if they will be archiving your images on their computer/keeping an extra disk there. the contract should have specifics about payment, and when payment is due, and if the images are not acceptable for any reason - is there still payment due for time spent setting up "sitting fee" if you will. This is important in all cases. if it is a friend, it will help keep the friendship, should something go awry. if it is not a friend, then it will detail what your expectations are, and protect you from being harassed for money they didn't earn. My friend Christine has a mantra i repeat whenever i'm headed into a business situation: contract contract contract. It doesn't need to be a huge legal document looking like the OJ trial. it is simply an agreement that includes the expectations of both parties...and be as specific as you can. if you've agreed to barter, write that into the contract. if you agree to pay 50% down, and the rest upon approval of the images, what happens to the 50% down if the images are unusable? never pay upfront. repeat: never pay upfront. ever. never. even your Uncle Morty. anyone who asks you to do that is not a professional, and you may as well send me the money for my birthday. once paid, there is no rush to get the job done, and if the job does get done, and it's a mess, you'll spend the rest of forever trying to get your money back. I use John Dowling as my photographer. he is an amazing photographer, who has many years experience in product photography, as well as landscapes and portrait. it's important to pick a photographer that specializes in product photography. I personally can shoot the daylights out of artsy, moody landscapes, but not my own necklaces. so i hire someone with a kick-ass studio & professional lighting and who knows an ISO from IPO. If you can't afford a professional (and it can be an expense), buy a good camera that's made for that type of photography, and take a course at your local BOCES or adult ed facility. This is something to take care of in the before-you-chuck-the-day-job category, if possible. also in the wish-I-woulda category. so far, we have some good resources: SBDC for small business advice Right Brain Business Plan book Banks Square Credit card swipers Wix websites Photographers I'll take a sideways trip here and talk about something you should think hard about before you decide to start a business: reality. In her book, Right Brain Business Plan, Jennifer Lee has a chapter that has you analyze the competition. this was a dual win for me. It helped me see what a potential competitor looked liked, sold like, and how successful they were, but it also made me think about the reality of my work being sustainable as an income. not to downgrade my work, but to look at it in a retail/wholesale light. is it something that could sell many many "units," (to be cold about it.) is it something that can be freshened up to be a familiar, but different product? Can i physically keep up with demand with the design the way it is? Is there a demand (outside friends & family) in the market i want to target? Do I want to reconsider the product altogether, or are their things i can tweak to make it marketable? You need to be as cold-hearted as possible when you determine these things. it is your future. if you are making teddy bears to sell at craft fairs, what sets yours apart? why would someone buy your teddy bear, as opposed to someone else's? there has to be a compelling reason for people to part with their money today. and it is your job to make your product so compelling that there is no question that they would. especially if there is a glut of your type of product on the market. you may have sold 20 scarves to your co-workers because they admired your handknit one. but if you leave your job, are you also leaving your customer base? would you have to price your scarves so high now, that the average person would go to Target and buy a $5 Mossimo instead? what separates you? and if you have a compelling product, and have done some research, would you be able to produce enough of it on time to meet a demand/deadline? I recently declined a huge opportunity because it would be my full time job just making necklaces for that 1 client. and after running the numbers, it wouldn't pay off. plus i would be at their beck-and-call to suddenly & without warning, make 50 necklaces. i am my only employee, and it's my choice not to hire anyone to help with the actual crafting of my work. (now, someone to help with shipping would be a dream). so be totally realistic. and ask a panel of people (focus group) in the demographic you want to reach. focus groups are easily formed, and should not be family members. they love everything you do. Who is your target buyer? where do they hang out? if you want to sell hand cream to senior citizens, go to a senior day center and ask the director if you can have a group try your cream. have it packaged as it will appear on the shelf. have as many scents available as you plan to sell. have a short, targeted list of questions to ask them afterwards. they may all tend to agree with one another, if giving their answers out loud, but listen to the comments, and side comments, and facial expressions - this is just as telling as answering how much they would pay for it. then give them each a small tester size for helping you. it is important to thank anyone & everyone for any help they give you. it is good mmanners, and it is respectful. follow up with a nice note to the center, and they will remember you and talk about you. and it's just the right thing to do. it's essential that your focus group include your targeted demographic. you may want to throw a few wild cards in from a group that is on the fringes of your target, just to see their reactions...maybe, with a new package and marketing, the same product can appeal to a wider audience. But - can you produce enough? so that is all i have time for this morning....later or tomorrow, i'll talk more about advertising, corporate ID, marketing. Also, backtrack a bit and talk about art festivals vs art shows vs websites etc...how you plan to sell your work. Thank you to those who have checked in, and also to those who have emailed questions. According to my statcounter, there have been over 200 people reading this. (a business tool I mentioned!) so feel free to ask questions.
at 7:36 AM
Saturday, October 15, 2011
A Business Plan. Just the words sent a chill up my spine as visions of spreadsheets and pivot tables and MATH swirled through my brain. and how was i supposed to project next quarter's revenues, when i didn't even know who, what or where i was going to be selling? then i realized it was a Plan For My Business. i have a coffee mug that says "no goals, no glory." then it became less scary, and coincidentally, i found a book called the Right Brain Business Plan, by Jennifer Lee. I highly recommend it whether your business is art or computer tech. it is a plan for your business, done in a way that is un-scary, easy, and actually fun. every morning, i would devote the 1st two hours to it. don't skip over anything. and i now have a plan. a karate instructor i worked for had a saying: Plan the work, then work the plan. simple, yes? yes.when i got to the part about finances and banking and loans, i was stumped. so i called on my friend Joan from the Small Business Development Center. There is an SBDC or something similar in every area. It's free advice, and it's good advice. Use their knowledge. This ties in with the "you can't do it alone" bullet point. Being a sole proprietor will have you wearing many hats until you can afford to hire employees - if you ever plan to. you will be the designer, the craftsperson, the marketing person, the media buyer, the accountant, the inventory clerk, and the sales rep. On top of your usual household duties. you simply cannot do it alone. and you shouldn't - it leads to tunnel vision. having advice from the outside helps you see things in a different way. if you don't have computer skills, learn them from adult ed or from a free computer lab. or barter with someone who knows Excel - have them teach you. you need to have these skills in order to keep control of your own business, and to be able to quickly respond to changing opportunities. bartering is a good way to get things/knowledge/help in exchange for what you need. be sure the terms of the barter are very clear and acceptable to both parties...if your paintings sell for $2500, and someone offers to trade a painting for goods or services worth much less, that isn't acceptable. ask them how much they would charge you for xyz, and if it more than you can afford, ask if they would accept a trade for abc. negotiate the trade. and if you can't come to a reasonable, friendly agreement, then see if you can make payments, or find another source. Accept help & advice, but remember it's your business, and you are ultimately responsible. if it doesn't ring true to you, let it pass. That bit ties in with start up money. it's often very tempting to chuck the 9-5 to start your own business. you imagine how great it will be to be your own boss, captain of the ship, working your own hours. but truth be told, the business works you too. especially if you haven't prepared financially with start up costs and savings enough to tide you through your first year of business AND household expenses. it will take about a year to get everything rolling and a trickle of steady income headed in. start saving. every time you want a cup of Starbucks, ask yourself if that $5 cup of coffee is worth more to you than owning your own business. really. get down to that level. because that's where the frippery starts. that's $100 bucks a month if you buy 1 coffee a day, monday-friday. same with lunch. can i tell you how many $10 tuna sandwiches i've bought at the local sandwich shop when i worked in the cube farm? bento. keep a separate savings account to put x-number of dollars away every payday. find 1 or 2 things you really can do without buying during the week, and put that amount in the account. learn Excel, and Quickbooks or some accounting program. these are invaluable. you can get free 30-day copies online, along with free tutorials. i prefer the older versions of Excel as they are easier to navigate. one spreadsheet can be the psychic of your business...with one click, you can see where most of your money is spent, and where most of your money comes in. focus on both. if you are dancing with joy over how much you made at a craft fair, take a look at the spreadsheet before spending a nickel. you may find that the costs involved for entry fees, booth fees, meals, lodging, gas, tent, and all the incidentals leave little, if any, profit. (this year has been particularly devastating for the art & craft fair vendors.) but that little store downtown may be placing consistent orders from you, or has generated interest from other stores. use these tools to pick apart every aspect of your business. if you have a website (and you must), there are free programs you can run that will tell you how many hits you have per day, which day, which hour, where they are coming from, etc., much like Statcounter does for blogs. if you see that most of your hits are in the evening, have fresh merch up by afternoon. if most of your hits are on a tuesday, then advertise a special deal for the following day that uses a code they got on tuesday. reward return customers. or find out why most of your hits are on a tuesday...is that the day you post to your blog and link to the website? Excel is a powerful business tool. And accounting software is essential, even if you have an accountant. you need to be able to flip open your laptop and see the numbers at any time, in order to be flexible. The Big Calendar...yes, i know, we're all electronic now and have pop-up calendar items and schedules and what-not. but i'm telling you, there's nothing like seeing the month in front of you in writing. it helps to visually plan. and, should you get the Blue Screen Of Death, at least you'll know where you should have been instead of where you were, which is weeping in front of the computer store. I also have Carbonite as a backup in case of failure, or if i get a new computer. one click, and it delivers all your info back onto the screen. even your desktop looks the same. best $59 i ever spent. yes - $59. and it's deductible. That's another thing i forgot to mention - deductions. before you count on deducting your car, house, new computer, or even a ream of copy paper - talk to a good accountant who has experience with small business. i love my personal accountant, but am not comfortable with his small business skills. so i hired someone just for the business. one of the contract points i have with him is that he has to coordinate with the other accountant regarding where some of these write offs will occur. i have a room in my house that's completely and solely dedicated to my business. not an inch of it has any other purpose. but because i have a d/b/a status, my taxes are prepared differently than if i incorporated. seek guidance. the IRS gets real un-funny about things. and stay organized. have folders for everything, paper and electronic. i have a file for receipts in date order for jewelry supplies, another for office supplies, another for gas receipts & mileage, another for postage - including delivery confirmations with the name of the person i sent it to on it. I have files for art opportunities such as shows, competitions, forms to submit, confirmations received, rejection letters...anything to do with an opportunity to show my art. another file holds similar folders for business opportunities. i break my business down into those two categories - art shows, and art selling. you can set yours up any way that makes sense to you and will be easy to put your hands on when you need to. okay, now i have a howling dog, and a grumpy stomach - must be dinnertime. see you back here later on, or tomorrow, depending on how much more work i get done. my plan is to talk about banking, and some specific websites and products that have made my life easier. hope you've been able to pick up a pointer or two that helps you!
at 5:21 PM
ok - here goes...in typical rambling fashion, I'll share what I know, spill my guts, empty my notebooks - you get the point. Again, I want to stress that this is not a how-to, I am not a professional business adviser, and what may work for me may be a disaster for you...I'm just sharing. A lot of the info I've learned from other people, books, workshops, speakers, websites, etc., and I do not get kickbacks, special favors, cupcakes, etc from any of them. If they work, they work. I will credit them where I am able to remember, bearing in mind that menopause can do some tricky things to the memory. Also, (and I stress this because I am a Very Firm believer in giving credit where credit is due. Very Strict), if I got the same info from more than one source, and you are that source, and I forget to give you credit - please email me so I can make this right. Now I've made this sound bigger than it is. And although this is from an art-as-career point of view, parts of this really are pertinent to many entrepreneurial start ups. the short version of me: I have made art all of my life, in some form. I became serious about being an artist 25-30 years ago, but really didn't think being an artist was a "real" job - it's something Women Who Married Well did, because they have the luxury of a husband's income/trust fund/hedge fund/whatever. finally 10 years ago, I decided to sell my house, buy a 2-family house, and let the rental income pay the mortgage. and become a full time artist. as i looked for 2-family houses, I met & married my current husband, and all those art plans got set aside while we settled into being married & i became a stepmother to 2 kids, 3 dogs and a total post-wedding Becky Home-ecky Syndrome victim. Fast forward 10 years - kids in college, only have 1 dog and 1 cat. i had been making art more seriously in the past few years, and had had shows from NY to LA. I sat in my cube at the office thinking, "What are you waiting for??" and the thought of doing another month of spreadsheets was more than i could tolerate. i stood up, walked into the boss' office and said, "I can't do this anymore. I'm leaving." i left 2 weeks later, with $600 in savings, an incredulous husband, and a gritty determination. In retrospect, maybe not the way to do things, but it was 10 years coming, so logic had left me. there was full-on bliss. for a day. then cold sweat. the very first day as a Full Time Artist, my mechanic advised me i needed $2K worth of brakes & miscellany that day if my car was to sport a new inspection sticker where he'd torn off the old one. i plotzed. wept. got busy. so as of 4/1/11 I became a full time artist as my day job . Yes, just a few months. but believe me, i've ramped up quickly, out of necessity. now to the down & dirty of being an artist as a chosen career. First, here is a typical day - and I might add here that my weeks are monday-sunday, and i've had 7 actual full days off since april, and 2 half days, and also that I am lucky to have a 22x22 studio in my home, so there is no commuter time, but it is also always there taunting me: wake up at 3am, make coffee, feed animals, let dog out, clean up after bulimia cat, hit the studio. work on quieter things until husband is up, then switch over to metal pounding and can turn on music. take a nap at 6am-6:15am, work, nap at 9am-9:15, work, lunch (sometimes when blood sugar demands) around noon-ish, walk dog, clean up after cat, back in studio. at 2:00, i usually take a real nap till 3, then work until 6-ish. make dinner, take care of animals, back in studio till 11pm. rinse & repeat. It's how my body works best, as I have bouts with fibromyalgia and CFS. on thursdays, i try to catch up on emails, blogs, check banking, get to post office to mail out orders, clean house, do laundry, and chat with friends on a headset phone while doing all of the above. This is not a whine-fest, just the facts. now, the business of the business... things I wish I knew. *have a business plan *have start-up capital *have an accounting system *have a good calendar with big squares (old school paper calendar hung on the wall. trust me) *it's hard work...the cube farm will frequently look like a paid vacation. have a business plan to make it all so much easier. *you must be as organized as a person with OCD *you must be realistic about your goals, your talent, your shortcomings, your strong points & weak points, your available time to invest in your business, your ability to design/make/market/ship enough "product" in a timely fashion. *plan to grow slow - like a good romance, taking it slow will allow you to test the waters and make moves you are comfortable with. it will allow growth that won't overwhelm you. *have your personal core values solid, and prioritize (and family should be first on that list). *Create a space in your home, or rent a studio/office that is JUST for your business. if it's in your home, it is essential that there is a door that locks. *although, like me, you may work in your studio in baggy sweats or a bathrobe, whenever you leave the house, have a professional image. Always. you really truly never know when you'll run into a client, potential client, old boyfriend. *along those same lines, always be nice. that person you flipped off in traffic because you were late for the sales call? surprise - she may be the buyer. and it just feels so good to be nice. best advice i've gotten from my late father (a remarkable, award-winning salesman): be careful how you treat people on your way up - they're the same ones you'll meet on your way down. *you cannot do this on your own. have a group of trusted friends, business mentors, bankers, accountants, your spouse all ready to rally. Reach out to them when you have a question in their specialty. Be professional with the professionals, though...even if the banker is your buddy, you may need a loan (soon) and if you've spent all your time crying on their shoulder about how bleak things look, there's not a great chance they'll give you a loan. *Learn to say no. learn to be firm. there will be any number of worthy organizations asking for a donation of your art for their auction. these generally do nothing to get your name out, as they allude to. unless it is a charity you strongly affiliate with, learn to say a gracious "so sorry, no." Likewise the number of friends that will expect discounts and freebies and bridesmaids gifts, etc. This is your business. your sole income. do not undervalue yourself and give it away. if they value your work enough, they will purchase it. if not, they just wanted something free. *don't overpromise & underdeliver. make your delivery timeline realistic. it is worse to overpromise a delivery & not make it, than it is to renegotiate a delivery time, or let the opportunity go. it is only an opportunity to get your name removed from a clients go-to list if you can't realistically deliver the goods on time, and as promised. you'll create more problems for them. *always carry a notebook, pen/pencil, 3x5 cards, biz cards, and something from your product line, if possible. i always leave the house with an eyecatching piece of my jewelry on. something to start a conversation. it's easier for me to point to what i make, then to try to explain it. and buyers grocery shop too, so you may cinch a meeting over the rutabagas. it could happen. *the Elevator Speech...make one, learn it, practice it, have it on a 3x5 card on the bathroom mirror. it is a 30-second synopsis of your business, and how it can help a buyer. yes - 30-seconds. make it work, people. Listeners want to be talkers - they want to talk about their favorite topic, themselves. so you have about 30-seconds to get your message across in a friendly, conversational way. after that, according to science, they tune you out. *be flexible and have a Plan B. okay - that's all i have time to do right now - that's a basic outline of what I'll be writing about in more detail. tomorrow (or later, if i get my project done)I'll flesh out the bullet points. i hope i haven't bored you - hope you'll find some timesavers & good resources here in the next few days. Please feel free to email or comment if there is a specific question you want me to address, and I'll do my best!
at 8:23 AM
Friday, October 14, 2011
just so you know - today (friday) is the first semi-day off i've had in a few months, so i'll be unplugging & relaxing with Paulo Coelho's new book in some Primal Elements Rubber Ducky bubbles. (if i can get the cat out of the tub - her new obsession is the reflection on the faucet). I've got some good notes ready for tomorrow, and hope i don't bore you. this is NOT a big deal...but maybe a few "ah ha!" moments, as the O likes to say. so check out the post below, and have a relaxing day/evening. oh and by the way - talk about an old art studio....try 100,000 years old!
at 8:17 AM
Here is something so decadent, that it requires forgiveness from your place of worship...but what a way to sin...it's called Bicerin. I'm sure you already know about it, but just in case I'm not the only one living under a rock, I'll share. The original drink is from Caffe Al Bicerin ...the true recipe has never been given out for many generations, but this is an approximation that's pretty damn good - credit to Marie Doezema, writer for Afar Magazine: This is not the time to think about skim milk alternates, or your cholesterol in general. this is a sweet, dreamy, thick, luxurious soul soother. The process is as much a part of the experience. kick it old school...forget the microwave & Redi-Whip. ingredients: 1 cup whole milk 3 oz. high quality dark chocolate, chopped (don't cheap out here - get the GOOD stuff) 4 shots espresso (right?) 1/2 cup freshly whipped cream, sweetened to taste 2 glass goblets spoons linen napkins (preferably with embroidery) Process: 1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk and the chocolate together until boiling. Whisk vigorously for a couple of minutes until foamy. Remove from heat. 2. Slowly pour the warm chocolate mixture into two clear glasses, preferably small goblets with stems. 3. being careful not to disturb the bottom layer of hot chocolate, trickle 2 shots of espresso into each glass. 4. Top the drinks with whipped cream & serve immediately, with spoons. 5. Prepare for ecstasy. could you just? I feel European just typing that recipe. which reminds me - I have a line on a trip to Paris (oui! Paris) in springtime (end of April)...room for 10 people. The costs are being finalized, but it will be approximately $2500 which includes flight, hotel, breakfast, Metropass, and an incredible tour guide upon arrival. the guide is from my hometown, and very savvy about Paris. she'll tailor the tour around anything we want to do, or just let us be. so far, plans include several flea markets, Giverny (the gardens should be a riot of color), whichever museums chosen. she knows all these cool places, like some former churches that come alive with sax players and music & art at night. so it's more of an explorer trip, than the typical tourist-y trip. but she's as flexible as need be - it's our trip! and i'm only $2400 short! let me know if you're interested.
at 7:52 AM
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Here's an offer for anyone who ever wanted to be a full-time artist: Beginning this weekend, and continuing through the next week, i will be posting about my life (so far) as a full time artist. I invite you to visit back here often, as I am a random poster...it's just how i roll. Be advised, I don't have all the answers...I am not making 6-figures...i am thriving, however, and am loving the journey, mostly. I will be honest and upfront, that's my promise. i will not be promoting or selling an add-on workshop, book, e-course, or any other thing. I will just be sharing the experiences of a middle-aged woman who chucked her 9-5, with little money in the bank (like, $600) and decided it was her time. There are good things, bad things, scary things, Really Good Things, things that went as planned, things that bombed furiously & semi-publicly. why, you may ask yourself, why then are you posting all this? Has your cheese finally slipped off your cracker? why not charge people? here's why: I truly, deeply, authentically believe in giving a hand up to someone coming behind me (or beside me). I have been blessed with a circle of friends who have held me up, urged me on, lit the way, and kicked my ass when it needed kicking. I am so very far away from having all the answers, and my answers may not be your answers. But I offer my journey, such as it is, for you to peek at, and take away the bits that may pertain to you. and that's the whole offer. I am so grateful to the help i've received along the way, and at times wished there was someone to sit on my shoulder to guide me every single baby step of the way. but i'm too much of a control freak, and probably wouldn't have listened anyway. If there is a specific question(s) you have, leave them in the comments and I will address them, or I'll be honest and say "I don't know." hopefully, I'll have some resources for you to check out though. i'll warn you - this is not a "how to," rather, just my personal experiences to date. and although i seem to have a lot of things that could only happen to me, I have to think that you will find some commonalities. so, go on now and think of some questions. feel free to email me also. now it's time for me to hit the hamster wheel that i call My Day, with overscheduled appointments, and a dental thing thrown in for good measure. see you soon!
at 8:29 AM
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Dear Facebook, I'm sorry, but i just don't Like you. i don't even like you. if you'd asked my opinion, i'd tell you directly (to your face) that if everyone unplugged themselves from you for just 1 day, productivity would soar, families would have a come-to-Jesus reunion over a nice pot roast, dogs would get walked, the economy would blast off, and i would look like Claudia Schiffer. well, maybe not that last bit, but for sure the rest. you've cheapened our relationships, and made talk cheap...replacing conversations with a mouse click over a word. you are a bad houseguest that won't leave. at first, you were kind of fun - the whole "connect with old friends" thing. but then, you became a national obsession, weaseling your way into marketing campaigns and advertising and even our american language. shame on you, or shame on us? oy - no shame anywhere...there's already too much of that in the world. but i remember a time when you called someone, or wrote an actual On Paper letter, to tell an actual friend some great news...not whip off a few pithy lines and hit "enter", sending it out into the entire world. it meant something. you were sharing actual news of something with a person that you had actually kept in touch with all these years because you actually liked them. not Liked them. and since when should i care that so-and-so is now friends with so-and-so, and 17 people Like this. or that a person who is friends with one of my friends has a child that just made pee-pee in the big boy potty? i'll be honest - i don't care. if that makes me a bad person, i'll find a way to live with myself. in my world, you can't Friend someone...you have to become their friend. it's a process that is not started & completed by clicking a mouse. you meet them, maybe go shopping or have lunch, maybe a pedicure, you know - girl stuff. if a connection forms, you nurture that bond, sharing your life's events and your hearts. at no point, in my region, do you ask to borrow wheat or brag about crops that no one can ever eat or touch. the Big Question used to be, "do you have email?" Then you had to have a website...or a blog...now it's facebook and twitter and whatever else. all ways to feel like you've connected with people. but it's not the same. and it isn't enough. really it isn't. yes - i'm aware that i'm writing this on a blog. but if i want to talk to you, i'll call. but my point is this: a few months ago, i walked into my livingroom, and there was my husband staring into his laptop, and his daughter staring into hers, and his son slouched on the couch texting. the TV is going. and i thought, "so this is the modern family?" so here's a challenge to y'all: unplug for a weekend. if that's too hard, do it for a day. a full 24 hours. start friday after dinner, and end saturday night or sunday morning. use the time to write letters, plan an activity with your family or your friends, make art, walk the dog, clean out that closet...there are a thousand things to do in Real Life that just can't be done well, or done at all, in the virtual world. and it is virtual ... vir·tu·al/ˈvərCHo͞oəl/ Adjective: 1. Almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition 2. Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so: "virtual images". this is my rant for the day. i write it because i like you, friend. late note: putting my money where my mouth is, i have deactivated my facebook account, so if you want to reach me, you'll have to kick it old school - with an email :)
at 7:38 AM
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
so let's summarize: in the past week, i have walked into a drill bit & injured my toe, given myself food poisoning, rubbed my eye not realizing there was pablano pepper juice on my finger, overbooked myself into 2 concurrent art shows, have an art show to set up thursday, am doing a weekend of workshops at Susie Q's house...was asked to create 18 pieces for a designer for fashion week (found out sunday - pieces due tomorrow), was asked to create 3 huge ten-foot assemblages for a play to be produced in NYC, and 3 more for the LA run. oh - and 3 more for the Chicago venue. hmmm, what else? family crises & chaos abounding. extra extra needy and howling diva dog, with a side order of bulima cat who just had to be pet all of a sudden, and constantly. is tonight the full moon, because i'm sure not going to make it to the end of the month at this rate. thank God my mother prays for me every morning or who knows what else would come my way! and you know - it's all good. the good is so intensely good. so much so that it overshadows the frustrations of the wish-this-would-go-away stuff. (like the cat that just bit my toe). i just wanted to check in quick, lest you forget me. go here and see why i'm smiling.
at 9:59 PM
Sunday, October 09, 2011
never touch your eyes after touching a lightswitch that has pablano pepper on it that your husband forgot to wash off his hands after making salsa. especially if you have 18 necklaces due for an order on tuesday morning. and your retinas are shredding. and your eyes are puffing closed. in case you wondered. no - don't do it.
at 10:38 PM
Saturday, October 08, 2011
i will be Amish for a few days while I attempt to get my website (!) up & running, and get some new designs birthed.....please check back often, as you know how my announcements go. If you had wanted to order a Squam necklace for yourself, your roommate, a secret admirer, a friend who has always wanted to go to Squam, etc etc, I am down to the very last few. after they're gone, i will be happy to make them special order, but there will be a lag time (no extra cost though). (i guess i didn't mean Amish, as in un-electrical...just unplugged from the social scene) (my apologies to any Amish people reading this - no offense intended) oh wait...
at 6:27 AM
Friday, October 07, 2011
it's apple time in my part of the country...crispy, sweet & delicious apples are ready to be picked and eaten, or made into pie, or cider, or just about any other thing you can imagine an apple being used for , and a few that never crossed your mind, i'm sure. and that got me thinking about trees, and the fruit they bear, and how each fruit ripens in it's own season - good thinking on someone's part, so we don't end up with Everything All At Once, and nothing later. ya know, i may have sounded a bit cranky yesterday, but really i wasn't. there are so many opportunities vying for our attention these days - and thank goodness for all the creative blossoming and fruit the Creative Tree is producing. you can open your email or google "creative," and a bushel basket of e-courses and workshops and opportunities will pour out at you. you could spend the whole day watching vimeos and reading email newsletters and working ecourses. but then...where is your own fruit? i've become very selective about what i spend my time on. i may let a few sparkly invitations go, in order to take advantage of more studio time. i have stopped checking facebook like a crack monkey in a lab...stopped opening forwarded jokes in my email...giving email offers 15 seconds to grab me or i hit delete. i am a recovering virtual packrat. i no longer feel the need to save or respond to offers that really don't interest me but are from someone i know. i have my eye on the prize, right now, and sitting in front of the box all day won't get me there. so, no i'm not cranky - actually i feel lighter & happier. it's about organizing my life around my goals. there is nothing like making a checkmark next to a "to do" item to boost your morale and self-satisfaction...more so (to me) than spending time & money to have someone tell me i'm a fantastic person. and don't get me wrong - there are some incredible ecourses and day workshops online...just not my choice right now...i feel the need to speed things up a bit in my creation...the tree is heavy with ripe fruit for me, and i need to get picking! so off i go now, to grab a hammer and some shiny silver, and get to work....is it YOUR special necklace I'm working on? hmmmm......maybe.
at 10:41 AM
Thursday, October 06, 2011
yes...it's true. 2 posts today. amazing what 12 hours sleep will do for a person, eh? and not to worry - i've made Big Headway on the cleanup/organizational project in the studio, and have gathered all my notes and boxes and Things from pretty much all over the house, and they will soon have their own cozy homes in my OFFICE! yes...office. some observations: people do not need one more Thing in their lives. Most are past the mindset that a nice new shiny (fill in the blank) will feed their soul, make them thinner or taller or blonder or richer or whatever hole needs filling in their lives. we are in a time of people wanting to do good things. that may still mean buying a shiny new pair of shoes for some, but buying responsibly. and my take on the economy is this (and i might preface this by saying i have no training in economics and rarely even balance my checkbook)...there are fewer goods moving off the shelves, because there is a realization that More won't help. yes - there is less money to go around the table for many/most. i get that, and i live that. however, i find myself wanting to spend any so-called disposable cash (disposable? i'll empty your trash any day) with a person/company that also is doing some good somewhere, be it down the street, across the world, or even just in their home. i want a 2-fer. i want a nice Bolga Basket, and am willing to spend $35 for the real deal, and know i am helping an actual village of women in Africa. I will do that rather than buy the $10 knockoff that is mass-produced somewhere else in the world that will only profit a big corporation. yes - i get it - those big business employ & pay wages & pay taxes in a larger scope than a small group of African women making baskets all day. and yes, those companies are located down the street from me and employ my neighbors. yes yes yes. all of that is true. however, i really see a trend toward small business buying. and here's the thing: you cannot fake sincerity. it will catch up with you sooner or later. you cannot talk the talk about all things wonderful & bright & sparkly & the Universe having wings and all that, WITHOUT walking the walk. sooner or later, someone will see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. and that authenticy, or rather the lack thereof, will shine out like a beacon and you will be exposed. it isn't wrong or evil to be a small businessperson and make a lot of money and keep it all for yourself. (although most small businesspeople tend to lend a hand in their community quite a bit). what i feel is absolutely wrong is to pretend you are one thing to "lure them in," when really, you are not that person. again: neither is wrong. just toying with people is wrong. Recently, I've had the opportunity to experience 2 different groups of women, each 150 strong, each creative entrepreneurial types. each group met in similar surroundings. each had the same range of ages. one group was in it to get. the other was in it to give and receive. i left one group feeling positive, uplifted, certain of my place in the world and truly supported by 150 pair of hands. i left the other feeling exhausted, and sad that they were so focused on what they could get from you and the bottom line, that they missed the opportunity to connect on any important level...and that level would have translated into sales. i won't do business with anyone i don't have a good vibe about. i won't do business with someone who doesn't share my core values, even if their expression of it is completely different than mine. it's about putting your yoga where your mouth is. i'm not mentioning group names, because my point is not that one is evil and the other is good. they are what they are, and going in, i knew what each was about, and respect each for what they are. to quote Norris Church Mailer, "I bought a ticket to the circus - I should not be surprised to see elephants." (or similar). just don't come from the sad group and stick a toe into the other group pretending it isn't JUST about the cashflow. when it is, it is. and unless you have the vibe in you, you cannot possibly fake it. at least not for long. so my quibble is not with commerce. and it isn't with making money. it is with authenticity. i had a long conversation with Kelleygirl this morning (as conversations with me tend to be) and we discussed this topic. as i turned away from a potentially lucrative opportunity, there was some regret. however, i knew that i would need to become consumed in studio work in order to produce what they needed, when they needed it. and part of doing what i do is so that i don't have to miss the important moments in life - i can take a day at the lake if need be, or if i just want to. i can take a day to reach out to help someone. and i can decide where i want any proceeds from my sales to go. for a long time - like 12 years - i have had a dream. literal & figurative. this dream project has been so intensely real to me, that i can describe every detail of every square inch of every room, and the dishes and silverware and paper and pencils and sheets on the beds and even who is there. this respite house will be born, and i feel it will be soon. i've felt this soonness before, but i wasn't ready to do it properly. a wise queen told me i wouldn't need to push or pull it into being, that it would just happen, and i would guide it. i visualized clay on a potter's wheel. i can tell you from experience, if you stress too much trying to make clay do what YOU want, then your neighbor will be wearing your creation all in their hair. (I got a B in ceramics in college - an arrangement that was worked out if i agreed to just write a paper about ceramics and observe, but Not Touch The Clay). (the other lesson of clay is that patience is a virtue, and also that you should not put your idea out there - in the kiln - unless you've prepared the clay properly.) so yes, it's true that once again, i have had my share AND your share of caffeine today. and i bet you guessed that about 10 minutes ago. but, it is now time to get back to work. keep it real, y'all.
at 1:03 PM