So ya wanna sell your STUFF? From Aprons to Artist to Social Media Strategiest, no matter what you do, if you love it enough, you might decide you want to make money at it.
Selling items you make is not easy. Making a business out of it is even harder. Often I fight the comments of others asking me or stating to me that what I do is a”Hobby” not a business and on top of it all, I have to make sure I do enough, but not too much business to deal with the IRS (who always wants to dip their hands in my pockets it seems)
I am no expert, though I would say I have a pretty good handle on connecting, networking and marketing and that helps. It always surprises people when they ACTUALLY see how much work I put into my business. I would first say to you, be sure that you really want to do this. As I said before, it is NOT easy. But if you love it, you pull up your boots straps and do what you gotta do!
If you are doing it as a hobby, you might not desire to put in as much effort as I do. That is up to you. I will let you decide. I will say however all the things I am going to tell you have moved me from a mere online existence to getting my brand out there, getting traffic on Social Media, turning that traffic into buyers, and getting my brand known more and more as I go.
1-Products-The one thing I learned early on this year is that I need product. That sounds simple, right? But just having a small selection of product is NOT enough. You need to have product to sell to the customer. One drawing here or there or one apron was not enough. Last year when I was focusing on my art I sold nothing when I had 2 or 3 drawings. Once I had a variety of over 20 for them to choose from, I sold more. People want to see what you have and I think it relates to the fact they are not a one trick pony and don’t want you to be either.
Part of products is staying true to the brand. I have had a hard time with and struggling at times. People want me to make all sorts of things but if it doesn’t stay true to my brand I am only doing myself a disservice. Don’t stray too far. Stay true to the brand. Sometimes I have to eloquently say to people, “thank you for the suggestion, but that does not stay true to my brand right now. I keep that in consideration for in the future for if I change it.”
2- Networking- Just making the items will not work. Sadly they don’t sell themselves. People may joke that an item is so good that it sells itself, but in reality…it does not. YOU have to do the work. I network. I buy myself a stack of Business Cards from 123print.com or moo.com and then I take them out with me. I get all my Trisha Trixie cards from123print because I can hand out more because the cost is lower but I still get some amazing looking quality cards. I do design them myself and use hi resolution pictures so they come out the best. If you don’t know design, getting a pal, college intern from your local community college or design school will keep the cost down. I use Moo.com for all my Modeling cards. They are a higher cost, even using their templates, but I don’t mind because they are a higher quality and I don’t hand them out as much.
Get on local websites like here we have www.catchdesmoines.com, www.desmoinesisnotboring.com, and then there are Chamber of Commerce site in your local areas like Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce and others. Get on their email lists if you can to find out where the events are. Then you MUST go to them. Go mingle, share your passion, talk about what you do, your excitement and passion will come across and people will want you card. If you are an artist, having a selection of cards with small showings of you art is a good idea. If you are a model, pics of yourself, and for me, I have a pic of me in one of my aprons. Show what you do somehow some way.
Get out there, meet others, hand out your cards and in addition a part of Networking is going to events where you listen to a speaker or learn something. Take the time to do these as well. It will further your knowledge and thus further your career if you are able to take away that knowledge and apply it to what you do. Plus as you get further down the line, you could be asked to be a guest speaker and sharing your passion on the other side of the coin.
3- Marketing-I am often teased that I am the QUEEN of Marketing and Networking. I wouldn’t go THAT far, but I will say a funny story. After awhile going to events and marketing myself so much I was at an event and my friend said to another person “This is Trisha Trixie, she is like the Princess Mafia Connection, she is cute and well connected!” I never laughed so hard, but I even used that to my advantage and started a Linked In Group. It hasn’t taken off much, but I don’t want to let it go, because it was cute and such a great idea.
The reality is, that Marketing to me is thought of in the same manner as Networking. To me they go hand in hand. But you CAN take marketing further. People need to see your items, hear about your STUFF and connect with you, somehow, someway. How YOU do that will be up to you. How I do it is through a variety of means.
Facebook Pages are fabulous to me. Make one for yourself. This is different than your profile. A lot of people refuse to connect with a Business Profile, they only desire to connect to a page. I am the same. Get yourself a Business Page, but here is the key…USE IT! write a post at least once a week, engage in your followers, ask them questions, ask them their comments or ideas, start a conversation. Upload pictures of your products. If it is art, watermark is or make sure it is signed so no one steals it, if you have a business name or quote that is yours, trademark it by adding ™ behind it so you can start tagging it and in the event someone TRIES to steal it you have proof. If you are super serious about Trademarking or Copyrighting find out more about it and start applying for them. I have been through 3 Trademark Infringements and 2 Copyright issues on written items, it is not fun and the first few times I lost. But once you properly protect yourself, you will be ready for the next guy that tries to take away your items by calling it their own.
3.0-Marketing Ladders– There is a new thing I found. Now this doesn’t mean it is NEW, I just mean to say I have found it and I feel like I have struck GOLD! Promotional Ladders on Facebook. In the Search bar enter Ladders or Promote. There you go. Choose one and copy and paste your Facebook page into the ladder.
Here is how “I” do it so not to waste time. I set a timer for 5 minutes. Find a ladder I want to connect with for the night. Copy my page in the ladder or one the front page stating “Could use some love on ______ (whatever your page name is) then add the link. Then I like all the items ABOVE me. If I have the time still left I might delve into a few of them deeper if they peak my interests and make sure the GET NOTIFICATIONS is checked and ADD TO INTEREST LIST. When the timer goes off, I am done. Someone recently said to me “I spent over 30 minutes on doing Ladders the other night.” Well, then that was a waste of your time. The output to input from those likes ratio just got diminished by you doing that. What will happen is others will come like you as well. Should you send a message? Well, I don’t. Again to me it wastes time. Do I get message from others saying “Like from so and so page”, yes I do and then I take a special moment to go LIKE their page and make sure the GET NOTIFICATIONS is on. Why? Because I KNOW it takes time so if they took the time to send me a message I desire to return the favor.
4-Beautification- Just making things is only the first step. I know I keep saying that but I want to get it through to you that there are SO many more steps. Get yourself a good camera or Camera Phone to take pictures of your items, or have a photographer friend help you out. Don’t post up grainy, dark or blurry pics of your items and expect them to sell. Would you buy an apron if you couldn’t see it? No, you wouldn’t. But you would be surprised how many people do that. Also if you are an artist get yourself a good scanner. Taking a picture of your art is not the same as a good scan. If you don’t have one, save your pennies and go to Kinkos or Staples to have them scan it for you. Make sure it is above 300 dpi. I have them scan my larger items at 600 dpi. Then I can use that image on any site large or small and make it look my best. I keep a small thumb drive just for my Kinkos and Staples trips. I also add my images on there from my home so when I am doing a show, I can take them to one of those places and get print off done. I use heavy paper of 60 weight or higher.I tried 38 lb and they were too flimsy. Test out a few weights and see what sells for you. If it is black and white and you want them to color it in, a lower weight is fine because you can roll it up and pop a rubber band on it. The heavier weights I also buy Sleeves from Hobby Lobby and slide my prints into the sleeves and sell that way.
Making items look their best is beneficial.
Another fun way is PicMonkey. It is a fun photo editing and collage web software. But don’t go crazy. Remember THE PRODUCT is the most important. IF you add to many flashy items and embellishments and logos, then you can’t see what is being sold. There is a free version but I spend the $5 a month to gain access to the extra fonts and embellishments. I also create Facebook Banners there as well as many other uses. Save your money paying for banners and logo and try them out here first.
5-Other Social Media Suggestions- I think the number #1 way to get your message across is through Hootsuite or a program like it. I started out with ping.fm and once I saw Hootsuite I fell in love. Again, there is a free version, but I pay a little more each money to be able to get my message across to more places. If you have the free version I would suggest, Facebook, Linked In and Twitter to connect to. If you pay for the expanded version, add Linked In Groups, and Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, and Google Pages like I do. In one sweep I can add a message to over 27 places. Bam, one and done. Again, less time, more ROI, Return on Investment in time and money.
Which leads me to the other extras: Join Facebook Groups which connect you to others in your craft or what you want to do. I am in groups for models, vendor shows, art groups and more. I also am in Linked In Groups that do the same. Then I follow people on Twitter who either are in my craft or could connect me to others. Google Pages are new but I have already found value in them.
You are already blown away now aren’t you. See I told you it wasn’t easy. But I have streamlined my processes to make it easy. First you need to invest some time perhaps a whole day once to get connected with these groups and get set up on sites etc. But once you have done the front work, then maintaining is the key.
I pick Mondays to usually do all the big things I need to do. Then whenever I write a blog, I copy it into Hootsuite and tada, it goes across to all those groups and Twitter feeds etc I added before.
I also (most of the time) write my blogs ahead of time. I got out of sync with that and am working on getting myself back into the groove. But I also have learned to forgive myself and not beat myself up if I miss one. If my followers bring it to my attention, I put one together, but everyone leads a life and they understand if I don’t get to a blog one day.
The best advice I received recently was from Susan, from Business in Blue Jeans when she told me to blog about recipes and what aprons to wear with them and to talk about the world around Aprons. Connecting with others and talking about what you love is essential. I also have added my HOW TOs like today. I know I have knowledge to share and I think the business is more than just Aprons. It is about me, Trisha Trixie the persona and the Brand.
Focusing on this has been very successful for me and really drawn people in. I blog, I copy the blog to Hootsuite and Independent Fashion Bloggers, Then I share it on Google and Stumble Upon. My hits have gone from 100 followers in January to over 5,000 now!
6-Online, Tradeshows or Both- Where to sell your items is essential. I do sell online and sadly have jumped around trying to find the right niche. Etsy is great if you have a little of product and can afford to pay because they hit you with fees and costs going in and coming out, for you AND the buyer. I found out about Goodsmiths and at first didn’t think I wanted to sell there because it appeared saturated with Aprons. Once I saw the cost benefit I found it to be worthy for me. Under 25 items was free but again I pay the little bit extra to sell more products. Their tool is easy to use and within two hours of putting an item up it sold! Then I was SOLD, on Goodsmiths!
I also do Tradeshows. I wanted to apply for a lot more but some of the shows require Liability and the costs are too high so I have to step back for now. I am working on those things but found through Craigslist and the other pages I mentioned shows I can sell my items in. Also because I was in a few shows last year, they generally reach back to to interested vendors to see if they want to do it again. So all I have to do is fill out application, send check and I am ready.
For Tradeshows though, you might need to invest in a booth, a Tradeshow Board or set up or find visually appealing ways to show your items. I don’t know that there is a WRONG way but I know the most appealing beings people in. Also I rotate my items around throughout the show. Then if people come back around they might see something they didn’t see before. That is usually when I make sales.
Some sell online, some only do shows some like me do both. There is a cost for shows but if you can sell over and above the booth cost I feel it is worth it.
Is it worth it?
In the end I ask myself it is worth it. Is the thing I am going to do, the time I put in, the show I am going to do etc worth it. IF I feel it would not be a value of my time or effort I don’t do it. ROI, Return on Investment for the time I put into something has to be worth the output. Sometimes, I don’t know that until I do it. I recently did a show that I thought would easily bank $200, yet instead I sold $45. So next year, when that show comes back around I will either do something else or just not do that one. As well, I have spent time on adding my items to Chiq. com and Pose.com to see if that would gain more traffic to my site and sales. When it did not I slowed down or on another site I dumped it all together.
You might have to test a few things out to get your groove and niche together. See what works for you, see what doesn’t. If it doesn’t try something else. Keep going, keep moving forward. Don’t let the hates and saboteurs get in your head. Jealous people tend to be the worst because they see you happy and making money and they aren’t so they want to disrupt your life. Don’t let them. And if you fail, get back up again. Many a businesses I know as well as myself didn’t work the first time. Others will scoff at that too. Let those comments and words roll off your back. All that matters is you, your life, your business and if you want to do it and if you are enjoying it.
7-Training & Learning, aka Extra Curriculum- I found a few sites and books helpful for me. I try to have some downtime on Sundays to read learn and do the things that will help me grow and still learn. Since I am an adult not in college anymore, we need books and perhaps online courses to help keep our ideas and mind fresh. Plus some of these courses have been great connections to other places.
These are ones I did that you might explore and see if they could work for you
Right Brain Business Plan- A creative Way
Goddess Leonie Business Guidebook
From Good to Great, Why Some Companies Take the Leap
You Inc, The Art of Selling Yourself
Working for Good
The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary
…as well I want to link you back to my PERSONAL Knowledge and growth that has helped me. I write about that and have all the links to these and more on my blog, please take the time to read it and investigate these sources further. CLICK HERE
I hope all of these have helped. If there are any questions I could answer, comment, message me etc. I am happy to help in any way I can…
Until next time,
Xoxo Trisha Trixie