Can you enjoy summer fun and make money too?

When a client who comes to me for guidance, one of the first questions I ask is “what do you want your life to look like?” For some, it’s important to have a routine, know what to expect every day and have a modern office with a city view. Others are night owls who want to sleep late and work alone in their studies while the rest of the world is quiet.

As a life-long entrepreneur, my ideal work style has changed at different life stages. When my son was young, I wanted the freedom to either work from home or take him with me. When my father was ill, I set up my business model so that employees could keep it going while I made frequent flights cross country to be with him. Because I thrive on change, diverse environments are important to me so I’ve designed my businesses to be mobile and adaptable.

When I spend the summer at home on the central coast of California, I work on my laptop in my camper van at the Moonstone Beach, taking frequent breaks to walk my dog Lucy on the boardwalk. The winter I lived in Florida, I planned my days around beach walks at low tide.

Almost daily I receive emails asking how I’m able to “take so much time off to travel”. I used the word “fortunate” but honestly, luck has nothing to do with it. I don’t have a trust fund or a partner who supports me financially. I DO have to make a living so It took a lot of hard work and strategic planning to create this freedom lifestyle.

Whether your choice is to work from home with your children and pets or to live in a different country every year, you can create a livelihood that enables that freedom but it takes planning and prioritizing.

Here’s an example of how I adapt my business to make it work:

This summer, I’ve committed to volunteer 20 hours a week to the state parks so how will I keep my business going for the three months I’m off playing in the woods? I’ve made two big changes to my business model to fit the way I want my summer to look. I’ll have less time for one-to-one consulting so I’m limiting the number of individual clients I accept for the summer. ( I only have time for 3 more so if you want one of those spots, please hit “reply to this email”. )

And, since many of you want to grow your businesses over the summer, I’ve designed a way to help more of you with less time. I’ll be opening up a “Drop-in Line” 8 times a month so that you can call in and ask any questions you want. For an outrageously low flat fee of $87 for all three months, members will have access to me 12 hours a month. PLUS you’ll have the additional benefit of others on the call who might have ideas or resources for you.

For June July and August, I’ll open up my conference line every Tuesday and Saturday from 12 noon to 1:30 PM Pacific. As a member you can just drop in with a question and I’ll help you get unstuck. You’re not committed to be on every call. You can pop in once a week, twice a month or all 24 sessions if you want. There’s no set topic-it’s your time for whatever you need to help you get unstuck.  Register HERE

How to leverage your art so you don’t have to rely completely on one-of-a-kind items.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I like to give you ideas to leverage your art so that you don’t have to rely solely on one-off items. For two-dimensional work, it’s easy. You can make prints of some of your originals. If you create bonze sculpture or carve jewelry forms in wax, you can scale your art by casting. It takes as much time to hand fabricate a piece in sterling as in platinum or gold but if you cast your originals, you can offer price upgrades without additional hours.
Begin thinking in terms of collections. If, for example, you do wire-wrapped dangly beaded bracelets, developing a line of “modular” or add-on pieces or charms so that you can give the customer the option of a lower price point but will encourage repeat sales. (I’ll tell you a secret. Customers actually end up spending more, not less because they seldom purchase just one component. They see how great the pieces you have assembled look and can’t resist adding on). The great news is, they still perceive it as a bargain because they have the option of spending less. This isn’t tricking anyone-it’s just giving them the benefit of more choices.
Can you think of ways that you can offer ad-on components or create collections to sell more art?

Can Making Smaller Paintings or Crafts Pay off for YOU? When Working Smaller is Working Smarter

Have you been hearing about the mini movement in paintings and crafts? Almost every arts publication these days has reference to producing smaller, less expensive pieces and more of them.

When someone asks an artist to create a smaller piece, they always assume smaller means it should cost less. Sometimes this is true from a materials cost alone but frequently, working on  a smaller scale is more challenging and more time consuming. So,

initially, my rection to this mini movement was less than enthusiastic. If you’ve been following me, you know that I suggest artists and craftspeople have a wide range of prices. I also advocate printing, casting, licensing  or in some way, reproducing a portion of your work to add leveraged income. I also recommend keeping part of your line Continue reading

Are you an Art Snob or Craft Connoisseur?

I admit it. I was an Art Snob. I didn’t consider crafts an art form. Yes, glass blowing, metal smithing, maybe even pottery, but I turned my nose up at cropping, stamping and needlework. I saw them as “housewife” or ‘granny-crafts”, color-inside-the-lines for those who had no imagination. And collage, well, that was just something for people who couldn’t draw or paint.  That was, until I saw some of the amazingly creative things artists do with fiber, paper and glue. Now, I’m a convert.

My old attitude came from a misguided background in fine art. Actually,  I was a misfit in a competitive Design , Art and Architecture College at a large university.   It was immediately apparent they’d made a mistake accepting me into the art education program. I’m a creative idea generator but this was pre-computer and to say I’m not a perfectionist is an understatement. Several of our design courses were combined with architecture and industrial design students and, well, let’s just say,  I didn’t fit in.  Another part of the curriculum was classic training in the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It was unacceptable if not laughable to even consider creating anything functional. The only time I felt in my element was the one semester we got an abbreviated sampling of jewelry and textiles.

Decades later as I walked the aisles of the Buyer’s Market of American Craft, a wholesale-to-the-trade show Continue reading

Don’t Miss this Last Minute Craft Marketing Opportunity

Tomorrow’s Mother’s Day and while I’m sure YOU have your mom’s hand made gift all wrapped in an earth-friendly, re-usable treasure, do you know there are many people who take their mom out on Mother’s Day and let them choose their own gift? Some actually send their mom’s money to buy their own. I didn’t realize this until I had a gallery and Mother’s Day, not just the days prior, but actually on Mother’s day, our sales were always up there with the Christmas holidays. Women would come in with or without their families, see something they loved and a pay cash. We always heard, “my daughter (or son) sent me the money to buy myself something.” This surprised me because for me the fun in giving is coming up with the idea.

People feel very generous towards their moms on Mother’s Day (as they should everyday) and as an artist or crafter you’re missing the boat if you don’t make sure that your creations are in their line of vision tomorrow. No, it isn’t too late. The shopping isn’t over yet…

Last minute IDEA! Particularly Continue reading

What Eco Conscious Gifts or Crafts are you giving for Mother’s Day?

I’d love to believe that this year I won’t wait until the eleventh hour to make or purchase a mother’s day gift. It’s not that I don’t think about it ahead of time.  It’s just that tomorrow is always here before I expect it. (that alone is a topic for a future post.) So, for those of you who haven’t yet crafted or purchased a gift for mom, or even if you have but haven’t wrapped or carded, let’s look at some ideas for giving mom a sustainable gift.

If you are efficient and have mom’s gift wrapped and shipped, these ideas work for  Continue reading

When it’s time to take your art back to the drawing board


poetry writer bracelet
poetry writer bracelet

When I told my writer friends about my idea to make custom bracelets for writers and poets to wear their own words, they all loved it. I made up some samples and debuted the custom bracelets at a writers and artist event in April. The response: Everyone said they were beautiful.

But they bombed.
Yesterday, I took them along with my hand-dyed silk scarves to a show at my friends office. (great idea if you haven’t done this.) My scarves and other jewelry sold. The bracelets, not one custom order. I did sell some already engraved. This told me something.

Was I discouraged? Yes, a bit. Mostly, not because I know sometimes a great idea needs a few tweaks before it is a success. So I asked myself a few questions:

Was the product priced correctly?
Were they bracelets displayed well?
Did I have enough variety?
What were people saying as they looked at the bracelets?

Here’s what I learned from evaluating responses:
My prices were right on target.
A few people told me that hadn’t even noticed the bracelets because my scarves were so colorful. Lesson-display the bracelets on a white background away from the scarves.

Variety was good but not necessary. I had samples in two widths and 3 metals: silver, yellow gold and rose gold. The hand-dyed silk wrap-ribbons were across the rainbow. Was the problem too many choices?
I don’t think so.
One comment I heard over and over was, “I love this idea but don’t know what line or phrase to have you engrave on it.” Seriously, even in a group of writers and poets, these wordsmiths couldn’t choose one line from their own writing on the spot.

Conclusion: I was making the customer work too hard. They didn’t want to have to come up with their own words. They wanted to just choose one and go home with it. I think this product will do better online than at shows because that gives the buyer time to decide what phrase or line of poetry to order.
I needed to give more examples- maybe lines of classic poetry or quotes.

Will I go forward with this new product? You bet. I’ll take what I learned from my test market and tweak a couple of things about display and I know it will be a winner.

This reminded of another event, also attracting mostly artists and writers, where my friend showed her handmade journals. What better audience for beautiful journals than a bunch of writers, right? Her journals flopped. What she realized is that most of these writers were very specific about the kind of paper and the size adn weight of their journals. Pretty wasn’t enough. These probably would have been better gift items for a different crowd.
I also noticed that while writers and poets are my ideal market, the bracelet I made for pet lovers was the favorite. Did that tell me I was wrong about the potential “target market”? Not at all. It reminded me that there’s not just one ideal market for a product. I will also expand my line for pet people.
Why do I tell you this? Because you may have brought a new product to market only once and it was a flop. If so, don’t assume it’s not a winner. Instead, ask yourself all the above questions and see if there are a few minor adjustments you can make.

Have you had a similar experience? What changes made your product a winner?

Still 6 Days to Sell your Handmade Crafts for Mother’s Day

If you think you are too late to sell your hand made jewelry and gifts for Mother’s Day, check out the links below for easy-to-implement tips to sell your crafts at the last minute.

How can you get guys to buy your handmade creations for Mother’s Day

IMG_1853  Some of my male friends, relatives and readers may deny this, but let’s face it, most men don’t shop early. My husband used to say things like “it’s more exciting right before (insert holiday) when everyone’s in the spirit” or, “I’m still trying to come up with the perfect gift”. Sorry to stereotype but truth is, many guys don’t know where to begin and need guidance (and a little nudge.)

As an artist or crafter with inventory,  you can take advantage of their procrastination and need for gentle “peer pressure” by holding a “Guys’ Night Out” just before Mother’s Day.

Whether you make wearable, household, or garden art, some men need guidance in getting gifts for their wives, girlfriends and mothers. They also spend way more money when they are in groups because they don’t want to look cheap in front of the other guys. (especially if these guys are hubbies or boyfriends of their wife’s friends. )

So, invite your friends’ partners, your partner’s friends, the guys from your day job-(and if you still have a day job, you really do need these hints) and “help” them choose a gift for the women in their  lives. They’ll particularly love if you know what styles, colors, etc their partner likes. If you  don’t have lots of male buddies, another great venue is any venue where men gather. An upscale barber shop or men’s spa is always a great place and remember they will be glad to have you.

Are you wondering how you will entice the men to come?  Partner with a caterer, winery or brewery to do a tasting.  Craft breweries and vintners love to do tastings and pourings at upscale events to promote their beer or wines. In fact, they’ll often be thrilled if you hold the event at their tasting room. Didn’t your mother always tell you that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?

Well, it’s also a great way to get the wallet out of the pocket, cash into your hands, and your creations out into the world.

For more great ideas like this, check out   “21 Ways to Turn Your Craft into a Cash Cow”  at the right of this page >


Does your Etsy site look like you’re closing up shop? Here’s how to fix it.

sell lhandmade scarves Yesterday a client asked me to check out her Etsy shop and advise her on why she wasn’t making many sales. There were a number of reasons which I’ll talk about in future posts but the very first thing that stood out for me was how few listings she had.
Her product was gorgeous and the photographs weren’t bad. There just weren’t enough of them. She makes adorable purses in some really cute fabrics but because she only has three styles, she showed images of the three styles in two sizes and a handful of different fabrics. She had a total of nine photos.
Imagine you’re out walking through a cute village with a bunch of sweet little shops. You step into one and there are only two racks of handbags in the whole place. If your online shop has only a few listings, it’s like walking into a brick and mortar store that looks like they’re going out of business. You’d quickly move on to the next one, right?
Can you make money selling handmade online if your shop looks like you’re almost out of inventory? No way. Can you be successful on Etsy if you only make a few items? Absolutely. Here’s how:

Let’s use the handbag example. Photograph each purse you make in as many different fabrics as you offer. You may only have two styles. Let’s say you have a polka dot, a gingham, a chevron pattern, a floral and a paisley and you offer a variety of color-ways in each pattern. You might be inclined to just show each of the two styles in each of the five patterns with a drop-down menu for color but that only gives you ten photographs. Instead, make up samples of every single color offered in each design and that will give you at least a couple of pages of images. Make each image a separate listing. (You can still use a dropdown menu with color choices.) This gives you the appearance of a well-stocked shop and shoppers will stay on your site longer and be more likely to purchase your handmade items.

Watch your inbox because in the next article, I’ll address another reason my client’s shop wasn’t making enough sales and what we’re going to do to solve it and get her making money.
If you’re not receiving these tips, fill in your name and email in the box on the right and you won’t miss out. You’ll also get a great resource of the best places to sell handmade crafts online.