Everyone loves samples!


A few months back, I decided I was going to make myself some fabric covered badge reels. They weren’t going to be sold in my Etsy shop, but they’d be just something I made for myself (for a change). Maybe I’d make some for my coworkers if they wanted them, but it wasn’t going to be something I’d push.

And then Friday’s decided they were going to change our uniforms. Starting in mid-March we have to wear jeans and a black v-neck t-shirt, as opposed to our striped polo shirts and black pants. Makes me sad, because my butt doesn’t look nearly as good in jeans as it does in my current work pants, but whatever. I don’t get to make the rules.

We also can’t wear lanyards for our badges anymore. I’m not sure what the reasoning behind this is, but I guess it’s none of my business. Either way, we are all going to have to keep our badges in our pockets, our aprons, or on a badge reel. Which is where I come in, of course!

Since we heard the news about the changes, a bunch of people have been asking me for these fabric covered badge reels. So I made up a bunch of samples:
Everyone loves samples!

Everyone loves samples!

Obviously they don’t have the badge reel attached yet, but you get the idea. I took them with me to work last night, and the black and white chevron one has already been claimed. And they are really cute, so I think I’ll be working on a bunch for Made by Meg Too after all. Keep an eye out, because they should be up soon.

Anyway, that’s all from me tonight. I’ve gotta get some work done, and then try to figure out what the heck I’m going to wear with my shoes and/or new cowboy boots! 😛

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Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2


Oooook. I have been feeling very anxious about this week’s Top Ten. Overwhelmed. Do you understand the sheer amount of info out there on these topics? Check out Pinterest. Just do a quick search for “social media tips”. I’ve even set up my own Pinterest board just for this stuff. There is a TON of info on how to use social media for your business. And my goal? To whittle it all down to just a few key points, and to keep it simple so that I, and all my readers, can use it. Sounds like a pretty lofty goal, right? Yeah, it does to me too.

So even though I think I might be crazy to continue this, here goes…

Top Ten Social Media Sites for Small Business Part Two

Twitter

Top Ten Social Media Sites for Small Business Part Two - Twitter

A lovely representation of the Twitter logo

It was tough choosing this week’s social media site. I was torn between Tumblr (which I don’t really understand), Pinterest (which I’m getting better at) and Twitter. Don’t ask me how I finally decided; I’m not sure myself. I don’t think I really decided until I started to write the word “Twitter”, actually.

I’m terrible at Twitter. I have an account, obviously, but I go long periods of time without actually tweeting anything. I have a whole bunch of other social media accounts tied to Twitter so things still get tweeted, but most of it’s automated and therefore much less personal. But before we get into why this is a bad thing, let’s get the basics down.

Twitter = France?
Twitter is kind of like a foreign country in the social media world. It even has its own language. Here are a few terms that you will absolutely need to know (and know how to use) to be successful on Twitter:

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2

Since I tend to be a bit wordy, I went with this short and simple image instead.

These terms, of course, are just the beginning. If you’d like to dig a bit deeper into the Twitter-language, go here. Some of them are really silly, but a lot of them are very useful.

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2

Well, they do.

So you want to start a Twitter?
But why? Why is it important to my business to do this whole tweeting thing? Whoa there buddy, hold your horses. First thing’s first. You need to set up the account before we can delve into any deep philosophical questions like that.

First you need a user name. This is how people will find you, and should be easily recognizable. Mine is @madebymegshop, so a Google search for my Etsy shop will come back with my Twitter in the results. People can also easily search for me on Twitter. This is different from the display name. I used my actual name for that.

Then you need a profile image so people know that you’re not a bot (not an actual person, in other words). You can use your business logo here, but I’ve chosen to use a picture of myself. Personally, I like knowing that there is a real, live person behind the business, but that’s just my preference. I’m not alone though. According to PC Magazine, uploading a photo that shows your face can result in as many as ten times more followers. It just adds a more personal touch, in my opinion.

You also need a good description of who you are and what you’re about. Again, this shows potential followers that you’re real.

Finally, you can include the link to your website. If you don’t have a website, link to your blog or your Facebook.

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2How the heck do I use this thing?
Hell if I know. Really. But because I’m relatively masochistic, I’ve been doing my research.

First of all, you need to develop a following. This is obvious, right? I mean, you can talk and talk about interesting, valuable things all day long, but if no one is listening it’s kind of like the tree falling in the forest with no one around. No one cares, because no one is seeing it. If you’re brand new to Twitter, this means you need to start following people. You can follow blogs you read (most have social media buttons on their homepages to make this easy), real-life friends, and people who run other small businesses (even your direct competitors). If you know what your target market is, go ahead and do a hashtag search for a term that relates, and follow users who talk about it. But don’t follow every account that you come across, because there is a limit to how many accounts you can follow. I hit the follow limit fairly quickly, so I use a service called JustUnfollow to weed through the accounts that I follow, and get rid of the ones that I can live without.

Once you’ve followed some people, you are going to want to build those relationships by interacting. You can do this by mentioning them, retweeting them, or DM’ing them. And if someone takes the time to mention or retweet you, make sure you respond. It’s actually pretty easy, and I think I’ve got a good handle on this part. Interacting is what normal people do in real life, right? So this part should come naturally.

Top Ten Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2

I’m not really yelling at you

The Deets
So you have a Twitter account. And you have a following. And you’ve made some good connections. You’re done, right? NO! You aren’t done yet! There are some details that you need to keep in mind here…

*Keep your tweets short and sweet. You are only allowed 140 characters, and you want to leave room for other users to reply or retweet. Also it’s been proven that tweets that are less than 100 characters long have a 17% higher engagement rate. You want that, trust me.
*Know when to tweet. Just like on Facebook, there is an optimal time/day to tweet. On Twitter, your best days to tweet are Saturday and Sunday, with Wednesday and Thursday showing the lowest rate of engagement. You do want to try to tweet several times a day, but know that your most important tweets should probably be focused around the weekend. And on those days, it seems that the best time to tweet is between 5pm and 6pm.
*Use relevant hashtags, sparingly. You want people to be able to find you, but you want to make sure that the right people are finding you. Try to only use one or two hashtags in each post.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for retweets. You will easily and effectively amplify your message if you do this. But make sure that you use the word “retweet”, instead of just “RT”.

And if that isn’t enough, here are a few more quick and easy tips to use.
Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business Part 2

I’m spent. I hope that helps build a greater understanding of how to use Twitter, but really, I’ve just skimmed the surface. There is much, much more info out there that can help you get into it deeper. I’ve found that Pinterest is a great place to go for that info, or at least a good place to start.

So, do you use Twitter? Any helpful tips you’ve found to make Twitter work for your business? Any questions that I didn’t answer? Feel free to comment, and I will certainly help if I can.

Oops, my bad.


I meant to post yesterday. I really did. It wasn’t going to be all that impressive, but it was still going to be something.

Intentions

This is NOT a Lil Wayne quote…

But I ran out of time. I made a pair of fingerless gloves, took pictures of six items for my shop, and drank a lot of coffee. Oh, and I watched figure skating. Then I tried my best to look like a hooker for work, but I failed miserably at that too.
hooker-fail-epic-fail-1295920771

In fact, my boss told me I looked like a “church hooker”. I’m not sure what that means, partially because I don’t go to church, but I guess I’ll have to try harder tonight. It’s been proven, by me and my extensive experience, that servers make way more money when they dress slutty. I think where I went wrong was with the fake eyelashes; I just could not get them to stick. I worked at them for about 20 minutes before I finally gave up.

Anyway… I meant to post yesterday, just as I meant to edit all those pictures, but I got neither of those things done. I feel terribly behind my goals, but I finally got the edits done this morning. Everything is posted, so all the items in this post are up for sale. And without further ado….. Here they are!

Baltic Heather boot cuffs

Baltic Heather boot cuffs


Lady Slipper boot cuffs

Lady Slipper boot cuffs


Beige fingerless gloves

Beige fingerless gloves


Mustard fingerless gloves

Mustard fingerless gloves


Red tweed fingerless gloves

Red tweed fingerless gloves

The other item is a pair of yoga socks that I relisted. I did get to use my new tripod, which works amazingly well. It’s a bit hard to take pics of fingerless gloves on my own, but it’s totally doable.

So there’s my intended post from yesterday. Like I said, not real impressive, but there it is just the same. And with that done, now it’s back to work! Happy Saturday everyone!

Saturdays are made of yarn

Indeed

Tuesday Top Ten – Best Social Media Sites for Small Business (part 1)


I’ve decided to split this week’s Top Ten list into smaller, more manageable pieces. This week, I’ll be discussing Facebook, and how/why you and I should be using it for small business. I had intended on doing the whole list today, but the Facebook part of it got way too long, way too quick, so I’m posting it on its own. Hopefully the next few I’ll be able to post together, because if not I’ll be writing about social media for the next two and a half months which would be terribly tedious. But anyway, here it is…

Top Ten Social Media Sites for Small Business Part One

Facebook
facebook-marketing-for-small-business-san-luis-obispo-marketing-805-456-8636-prevail-pr
Hopefully you all have a personal Facebook account, so you have a bit of basic knowledge about this one. If you don’t, let me know and I’d be happy to walk you through how to get one set up. But even if you have a personal page on Facebook, maybe you don’t know why, or how, you should be using it for your business.

*As you’re reading, please note that all of this assumes that you’ve already started a Facebook page for your business. If you haven’t, start here. There are a lot of resources out there to help you get it set up, including this one which has videos along with text. Once you’ve got it set up, check out this site for more simple but valuable tips on what it should include.*

Why use Facebook as a part of your marketing strategy? Mainly, the sheer size of Facebook means that it will be a valuable tool in marketing your small business. As of last March, according to socialbarrel.com, the site had an estimated 1.5 billion active users. Billion. So basically, it’s huge. And even better, it’s free. Of course you can choose to pay for advertising if you’d like (I don’t), but even if you don’t you can still get your name/brand out there by doing a few simple things:

Make sure you are posting status updates regularly. Most advice will tell you that you should update daily. I don’t. I think a couple times a week might be enough, depending on your business and what you’re posting. You don’t want to post updates just to fill space. But you don’t want to overly self-promote either. Basically, what I do is when I have something meaningful and business related, I post it. Pictures of my works-in-progress, finished items before I list them, updates about shop issues, or even the random cat-stalking-yarn pic… They all make it onto my page.

A small note about this; the “experts” will tell you that pictures and/or links do better in terms of engagement than straight text updates do. I don’t find this to be the case. For example, I posted an update about a sales milestone last week and it got 141 views and 15 likes, while a link to my blog post from yesterday only got 36 views and 1 like. I say, find what works best for you and do it. If it happens to be text as opposed to links, then post more text updates. You can always post links in the comments.

You want people to see your updates, and either “like” them, comment on them or share them. Every time someone “likes”, comments on or shares your page or a post from your page, all of their friends see it in their feed. This not only boosts engagement, but it can also build your fan base.

My biggest issue with Facebook is engagement. A while back, Facebook changed how fans see page updates. Not everyone who “likes” my page will see every post. In fact, while I have over 1,200 fans, only about 100-150 see each status update. Here are couple suggestions that I’ve found, that I will try to use on my page in the near future.

Use hashtags. Facebook added the ability to post clickable hashtags recently. You can even search for which hashtags are used most, and find out which ones are used by your target customers or competitors.

Share quotes. This one I will definitely use. I have a whole book of knitting-related quotes. The idea here is to share quotes that your audience can identify with and will either like or share or both. You can also post a picture along with the quote if that’s what works for you. If you don’t have ready access to brand-related quotes, search using the hashtag #quote on Twitter or Facebook.

Ask questions. This suggestion is so awesome because it’s so open ended. As long as it’s appropriate to your page, it works. But keep it simple.

Connect with competitors, and comment on their content. I don’t use this suggestion currently. Actually, I’ve always been relatively opposed to it. But I may give it a shot, because why not? Obviously, you don’t want to actively advertise on competitors pages, but a relevant comment here or there on something they shared couldn’t hurt. You don’t want to step on any toes, but connecting and even cross-promoting with other small business owners can’t be anything but helpful.

Like vs. Share posts. kb-like-share-walmartThis one is interesting. I’m not sure how I will be using this one, but I’m definitely going to be trying it out. You could also use a different version of this idea by posting a “like vs. comment” update. Basically you are asking your fans to vote for one of two options, by either liking the post or sharing/commenting. It does require pictures, however. You want to create a picture containing the options you are asking your fans to choose from, and also include simple instructions for participation (which you can do using Photoshop or one of the many free photo editing options on the web). Again, every like or comment is shown to friends of fans, so this is a simple but very effective marketing tool.

I have to say, in looking for pictures to use as an example for this, I tried really hard to find one from somewhere other than Walmart. I detest Walmart. But that was the best example available. I feel a bit dirty for using it, but I didn’t have a lot of options. Anyway, back to the business at hand.

The last important thing, or at least most important thing because I’m sure there are many more tips out there, is that you should know when to post updates. In my case I’m marketing an online business but my main audience is still within the United States, or at least that’s where the vast majority of my sales come from. If you are marketing an online business as well, time zones are a factor that should be accounted for.

That being said, the best times to post to your page are generally around 1pm to 4pm. Traffic on Facebook starts to get steady around 9am and drops off around 4pm on the weekdays, but 1pm-4pm is when you are most likely to get the most exposure for your posts. The worst time to post, according to socialbarrel.com, is any day between 8pm and 8am or on the weekends. I’m not really sure how time zones factor into these times, but I would assume that they mean local time. You can post whenever you’d like, obviously, but I would suggest using the “schedule” feature to get each post maximum exposure.

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I hope this little “guide” has helped. If you need more advice, check out the links I’ve included, or even do a Google search of your own. And if you have any strategies that you use with your own page that I haven’t mentioned, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear them! If you are still unsure about setting up your page or building a fan base, feel free to check out my page and/or send me a message.

Actually, it's my Sunday. And I'm not all that happy about it. But whatever.

Actually, it’s my Sunday. And I’m not all that happy about it. But whatever.

Pardon my mess…


Oh. Hi. It’s almost 5pm and the only productive thing I’ve done today is make a damn blog button. It’s to your right, by the way. Go look at it. And when you’re done looking at it, please for the love of all that is holy, do something with it. I’m going to be really depressed if I spent all this time working on something that no one was interested in.

Ok, so that isn’t the only productive thing I’ve done today. I also got really angry at my new light box.

My Light Box

See the carpet in between the sides and the bottom? Yeah, that’s because the damn backdrop doesn’t fit. Argh.

Tripod

But it came with this tripod. So that’s cool.


See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Why???? Why doesn’t the backdrop fit? What the effing shit kind of company does this? Not to mention, the instructions for said light box were in terribly broken English. I should have read the reviews before I put it on my Christmas list, because apparently I’m not the only one with this problem. I guess that’s good; it means I’m not messing up on the assembly (but who knows; I don’t read broken English).

It’s not all bad. I’ll still use it. I’ll just have to slide my matte board underneath it so the bottom is covered. Not sure what I’m going to do about the back, but I’ll figure it out.

Boot Cuffs @MadebyMegAnd I did finish these boot cuffs. I wanted to finish a pair of fun purple colored cuffs too, but I got distracted. Damn blog button!!!

I also wanted to nap. I only get two days off this week because of Valentine’s Day (and I forgot that I have a boyfriend now, so I probably shouldn’t have asked to work), and we’re supposed to get another blizzard on Thursday. And I was up at 5am to watch curling. Yes, you read that correctly. I really need a nap.

But instead of doing either of those things, I’m sitting here and writing this blog entry. Because while a part of me (a large part) thinks I should be sleeping or knitting, another part says fuck it, it’s my day off. And it’s Monday. Regardless of the fact that it’s actually my Saturday, Monday still sucks.
Today Sucks

Tuesday Top Ten – Top Ten Worst Things About Working From Home


Last week I discussed my top ten favorite things about working from home. But as many upsides as their are (and there are actually way more than ten), there are just as many downsides. So today, I’ll continue with last week’s theme and discuss the Top Ten Worst Things About Working From Home.

1. So much to do, so little time.
Sometimes I find myself a bit overwhelmed with everything I’d like to do. It stresses me out. I want to make boot cuffs. I want to make fingerless gloves. I have to find time to make seasonal items. But I also have to package up all the orders, and make sure that my best sellers are available. Just thinking about everything I could be doing right now, instead of writing this blog, is causing me to panic a bit. I’ll be alright, but I could really use just a few extra hours in the day.

frabz-Working-from-Home-What-my-friends-think-I-do-What-my-parents-thi-d0e9e82. What do you do all day???
I know that no one takes my little shop very seriously. No one but me, that is. I can work from 6am until 11pm, and feel very accomplished on my own, but the people around me just see that I’ve spent the entire day watching TV on the couch. I haven’t had a real day off in years. Not that I’d want one; I’d be terribly bored. But it’d be nice if the people around me could see all that happens here on a daily basis, and that it’s not just sitting around watching TV all day. Sure, the TV is on, but while it is I’m knitting, or blogging, or posting on Facebook, or promoting my shop on any number of other sites, or even reading about how to promote my shop. There is a lot of work involved in this venture, but most people just think I’m lazy.

3. Lack of social interaction.
I’m an introvert. I don’t like people. Which is why this situation fits me perfectly. But, even being so introverted, there are times when I crave the presence of people. My boyfriend is great, and my cat is a wonderful listener, but sometimes I need to be around other people. So I wait tables at night. If I didn’t have my “day job”, I think I would lose my mind. I’ve always said to the people I work with that even if I was a millionaire, I’d still wait tables. I need to have an excuse to leave the house at least a couple days a week, and since I hate (with a capital “H”) shopping, I need to work. I could probably quit and be ok financially, because I don’t really need a lot of money to live, but I’d be afraid of losing touch with reality. Facebook isn’t a good substitute for face-to-face contact, at least for me.

4. Distractions.
As much as I love naps (if you have read last week’s Top Ten list, you know how much I love naps), it’s way too easy to just lay down and go to sleep. And sometimes I run out of energy by 11am and could sleep for hours if I let myself. Or I could spend hours looking at Pinterest. Or the Etsy forums. There are so many things that I could do that seem like a huge waste of time. And some days, I allow myself to do those things. But most times, if I spend a lot of time on the computer or napping or whatnot, I feel bad about it and end up beating myself up for not being as productive as possible.

5. No benefits.
Now this one isn’t as much of an issue now, since the Affordable Care Act took effect (which I will discuss at length in another entry). But this job doesn’t come with any benefits at all. I don’t have a 401K (I do, actually, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where it is). There isn’t any life insurance. Etsy doesn’t offer a health plan. Thank god for Obamacare, because otherwise I’d be paying hundreds of dollars a month just for the minimum. Worker’s comp would be great, but that doesn’t exist either. Carpal tunnel is a pain in the ass.

6. What is this “sick time” you speak of?
Or vacation time. If I’m sick, my “boss” (my “boss = me) still expects me to work. If I’m on vacation? Yup, still working. Not that I mind, but still.

7. Lack of a consistent income source.
Now this isn’t an issue with working from home, specifically. It’s an “I own a small business all by myself” issue, really. Obviously there are times when my shop is busy, and times when it’s very very slow. The few months around the holidays are always going to be busy for my original shop, since I sell items that are more suited for cold weather. And the summer is always going to be busy for my second shop. But the in between times? I can go months in between without making more than $100. Thankfully I know how to save my money, and I have my “day job”, but if I didn’t I’d be screwed. Or homeless. Probably both.

8. My ass hurts.
No, not like that. Sickos.

I sit pretty much all day, every day. I’m really good at sitting. Sitting doesn’t burn a whole lot of calories. But since I’ve lost all that weight, I’m not so much worried about the calories anymore. I am, however, worried about how badly my bony butt hurts after a long day of sitting on it. And how stiff the rest of my body gets. This is where my “day job” becomes a benefit because I’m very active there, and I try to go to the gym after my shifts to balance out all the sitting I do during the day. If I didn’t have to leave though, I’m not sure I would ever get enough activity. I’d probably end up weighing 600lbs. It’s a vicious cycle.

9. I have no boss.
Other than myself, of course. It’s great, really it is. But as awesome as being my own boss is, it becomes hard to keep myself on track at times. Again, the distractions are numerous. And finally…

10. I have no schedule.
This one is an upside and a downside. I have a lot of freedom. But when does it become too much freedom? I try to schedule my days as much as I possibly can, because I need the structure. But if I don’t get that pair of yoga socks done by 7pm? Oh well. It’ll get done eventually. I develop kind of a “meh” attitude about things sometimes. Not good.

headerAnyway, I’m not the only one who feels that there are both upsides and downsides to working from home. Apparently The Oatmeal agrees with me. How about you? What do you think are the worst parts of working from home, or being your own boss?

The problem with Etsy’s forums


Months ago I was perma-muted, meaning I can no longer respond to any forum posts nor can I create new ones. It’s kind of a long story, but essentially the problem stemmed from me trying to help someone who was violating some rule or another. Apparently that wasn’t allowed. Either way, I may not be able to write anything there, but I can still lurk and read, and sometimes there’s some good drama. Lately though? Lately, it’s become more and more vanilla, and it’s infuriating.

For example, take the standard “never received my item” thread. Many times a day it seems, someone’s customer is coming to the forums to complain that they bought an item, paid for it, and never got it. Which is a very valid complaint, don’t get me wrong. But inevitably, the first few pages of responses are “oh my gosh I’m so sorry that happened to you”. Never mind that the customer didn’t read the shop’s processing times, or ordered from Taiwan, or simply that the shop is buried under 8 feet of snow and can’t get to the post office. Some customers even acknowledge these things, state that the shop has contacted them about whatever the issue is, and they are still complaining. They still get that response; that “oh dear how awful for you we’re so, so sorry“.

Or on the other side of things, the shop owners that complain about negative feedback. It doesn’t even have to be really negative; just four stars instead of five is enough to set some people off. Guess what response they get? “Oh my gosh how absolutely terrible your shop is just precious”. These shop owners come to a public forum, complain about what idiots their customers are (yes, some even call them idiots), and they get coddled? If someone reminds them that their comments are public and their buyer could very well come to the forum and read what they’ve written? Those posters risk being deleted and they risk being muted. Even perma-muted.

I’m sorry, what? Why is the only thing you can post in response to anyone this sappy, sweet, inauthentic garbage? You know what I would say? I would remind the customer that it is their responsibility to read the description and processing times of a listing, and if they don’t want to do that, they more or less lose the right to complain about the product. I would remind the seller that their customers generally don’t read the description and processing times of a listing, and to have a little compassion before coming to a public forum to name-call. Why is our response to any perceived injustice, no matter how real or imagined, “oh my gosh how awful for you”? Why are we not allowed to point out the essential fact of our existence, that we are all human and sometimes we make mistakes???? Moreover, why do we automatically side with the person who posts such dribble, without knowing what actually happened? Hasn’t anyone heard that there are three sides to every story?

I’m sorry, but I’m not really sorry. I needed to vent. Sometimes, people mess up, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s how we learn to be better. It’s not “disparaging” people to say that they messed up, but Etsy thinks it is. So we end up with a forum that’s essentially useless, because all anyone can post (and retain the ability to post anything at all) is inauthentic crap.
onlyhuman