Tuesday, 14 November 2017

How to sell on Etsy & what you need to know

how to sell on Etsy UK

November marks my six month journey running my little online shop, so I wanted to recap and share the lessons I’ve learnt on Etsy and what you need to know if you’re planning on selling online.

I know this post won’t appeal to everyone as not everyone wants to sell their creations, but as I’m sure most of my readers are creative, hopefully a few of you will get some knowledge out of the short few months I’ve been selling my art on the internet.

Community is everything

I wouldn’t have got this far, or any sales at all, without having an online community built up already. I’ve been wasting my time on social media for the good part of ten years, and have built up some followers and friends along the way. There are always people on twitter who will be interested in what you’re selling or sharing, so be sure to promote yourself, start conversations and make friendships. Not everyone will be a customer, and you can’t see them this way either. A lot of my online friends are also small business owners – we share posts, comment and like Instagram posts and generally support each other, whether that’s small biz advice or finding the best place for packaging. It’s lovely to have a community that you can rely on, especially as running an online shop can be challenging at times. Make relationships with both your customers and your followers and you’ll find the online shop journey a lot more enjoyable.

Slow and steady

Starting anything from scratch will take time, and you certainly can’t expect grand success over night. It’s really important not to get disheartened if you don’t get a sale every day, or even every week. The thing with online business is that there is so much choice – and it will take potential customers time to find you. It certainly makes you appreciate every single order you receive, and I think even when I do get a few more kerchings each month, I’ll still value each one as much as I did the very first.

Time investment

It takes a lot longer than you think! There are a lot of things to think about and divide your time into, including organising stock, social media promotion and writing listings, let alone the actual designing of each item. I launch new items in my store each month, and often underestimate how much time I need to get everything ready. I certainly need to improve my time management skills in order to schedule and organise everything I want to achieve without that last minute panic. I always underestimate how long it takes to create a listing!

People are willing to share

There is so much knowledge out there and, luckily for us, people are willing to share it. I’ve learnt a lot about the intricate details of running a business thanks to other business owners sharing their experiences, as well as all the behind the scenes things like SEO. I find Facebook groups the best for this sort of thing – they are a goldmine for small business owners. People are extremely friendly and though I’m a silent lurker, a lot of people ask questions and the answers give so much information. It’s also great that you can search groups so if you’re after specifics, like postage, you’ll be able to search the archive and get information for exactly that. My favourite groups for info are UK Freelance Creatives, Etsy UK Sellers Social Group and Etsy UK Sellers Help Group.

SEO is important!

I mentioned it in the last point and boy is it an important one. Having basically been glued to the internet since I was an early teen, I like to think I’m quite knowledgeable on web stuff. I know some HTML, CSS and as I’ve been blogging for seven years, keywords and jargon like that make sense to me. Having said that, I didn’t factor what little knowledge I did have into the shop. I didn’t look at my business from the outside in – only from the inside out. SEO is a huge element of advertising and promotion and there is so much to learn! Tags and titles are really important, and when I first set my shop up, it was something I didn’t utilise. Of course a potential customer isn’t going to search for the print I named – they’ll be searching for generic terms like art print or A4 wall art. It’s really important to think like a customer – what would you search if you wanted the item you’re selling? I have a long way to go in terms of learning about SEO but I have noticed a huge improvement just by changing my listing titles and updating the tags. I definitely recommend reading up on SEO and learning more about the way Etsy buyers search for items.

I don’t want this post to come across as preachy at all – I’m fully aware I am a tiny fish in a big pond and six months is nothing in small business, but I really enjoy it and wanted to share the small nuggets of information I have gleaned in my time so far. It’s gone so quickly and I’m hoping it will grow bigger and bigger. It’s given me a wonderful focus that has helped me drastically, and I can’t wait to see where the next six months take me.

I know a lot of my readers are crafty, creative folk like me. Do you have an online shop, or have ever thought about opening one? What’s holding you back? I’d love to start a conversation in the comments below :)

running an online shop - what you need to know

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Small business recommendations

Small business recommendations

I shared the Just A Card campaign back in September and why we should all shop small and independent this Christmas. Whether it’s a big order or just a small purchase, it makes a big difference to any independent makers and artists. To spread the love and share some of my favourite small biz babes, here are eight small shops that I love and who deserve some extra orders this year.

buy small business christmas

Annie of Annie Dornan Smith

I recently ordered from Annie and it’s safe to say that her packaging and artwork is on point! I love her leafy designs and her particularly pun-tastic cards. The mistletoe pin is perfect as a little Christmas add on, too. If you’re after a larger present, I highly recommend her book ‘House Jungle’. I pre-ordered this from her super successful Kickstarter last year, and it’s a perfect book for any indoor gardeners. Her illustrations are so cute and it looks lovely on the coffee table!

Steph of The Happy Pencil

Steph runs The Happy Pencil and her illustration and lettering skills are absolutely stunning. Her instagram feed is a constant inspiration for me and she often shares little videos of her process on her Instagram stories. Steph’s shop is full of beautiful A3 & A4 art prints as well as enamel pins and cards. I treated myself to the ‘Don’t stress meowt’ pin but it was a toss up between that and the equally hilarious ‘Donut bother me’ pin. Steph also creates custom letter illustrations which would make the perfect unique gift.

christmas gift guide independent

Laura of Laura Talanti

I met Laura at the Blogtacular conference back in June and runs Laura Talanti (formerly Diglot etc). Not only is she a lovely and generous person, but her wonderful pins would make the perfect gift. If I had to choose a top three, I’d go for Anxieties Adventures, cat pawprint and the Introvert Club pin I already have. Her Instagram grid is the perfect gallery to see how her pins look together or with others in your collection, and if you love cats, check out her insta stories too. Laura fosters kittens and I don’t know how she manages to not squeal in every video!

Rachel of onr.

Rachel runs onr. shop and I’ve been following her journey for years, watching her brand go from strength to strength. Rachel’s shop is perfect for stocking fillers, full of paper goods, pins and patches. Her pins are a personal favourite, particularly the Urban Jungle Kitty pin and the Good Vibes pin that I wear on the regular! I also love her latest patch additions, especially the metallic greenhouse and her colourful jungle patch with Momo the cat hiding in your pocket!

shop small justacard

Holly of Holly Exley

Though first and foremost Holly is an artist, her work makes the most beautiful art prints. Holly is a freelance illustrator living in the north of England and her paintings are beautifully detailed. I love her style, and adore the prints I bought from her. She often sells her original paintings so it’s worth keeping an eye out if you’d like the original artwork, as well as following her on twitter for news on more prints, too. I also really enjoy watching her vlogs on Youtube and learning more about veganism.

Fran of Frannerd

I’ve mentioned Fran a lot on Twitter over the years but I find her so, so inspiring! Fran is also a freelance illustrator originally from Chile, and her business has gone from strength to strength. I bought her ‘Brandford Cereal Girls' zine this year along with her adorable stickers. Fran’s style is so recognisable, extremely fun and wonderfully expressive. Her latest product launch has really taken off and I’m so happy for her! The planner she launched in October has clearly had a lot of thought and effort poured into it, including the tear out vouchers and adorable dust bags. Fran makes a lot of excellent Youtube videos that shares the behind the scenes process of running her biz and processes of her drawings. She seems like the nicest person and her art progression is a real inspiration to me.

uk art lifestyle blog

Liz of Liz Mosely

Liz has been a constant support to me both on Twitter and Instagram, and I value her comments a lot because she really knows what she’s doing! Her lettering is absolutely stunning and her shop contains both prints, cards, pins and stationery. I love the muted colour palette she’s used for her illustrated Christmas cards this year and adore her washi tapes, too.

Sian of Sian Shrimp Designs

Another lovely internet friend who gives me constant support, Sian is such a lovely person and I feel like her work really reflects her kindness. Whether you’re after cute cards, custom portraits or even wedding stationery, Sian’s style is fun and colourful. Her new penguin desk calendars are particularly wonderful!

There are so many wonderful independent artists and makers out there that I’d love to share on here, but I’ve limited it to 8! I find seeing and buying other creative’s work really inspiring and it’s great to see how well people are doing. Sometimes being a shop owner can be daunting and scary, so I think sharing and promoting other shops is not only helpful to them, but also inspiring to me. Seeing other people’s successes only propels me to work harder and achieve all that I’d like to. Please do continue sharing people’s tweets, signing up to newsletters, liking on instagram and of course, buying their products.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Shop Small

Shop independent small business

Shop independent
Small businesses need our support

I love being part of an online community, and even more so being part of a huge group of creators, makers and artists. A lot of us creative people usually have a little side hobby – whether that is a blog, a focus on making an Instagram grid the best it can be or even running an online shop. Heck, some makers actually run their business full time! I’m part of quite a few facebook groups that are great for creative advice (I particularly recommend Etsy UK Sellers Social Group and UK Freelance Creatives), and I also suggest taking part in Twitter chats if you’re after some creative inspiration. Blogtacular, Hashtag Authentic and the Cbloggers hashtags are great places to start.

It was during one of these twitter chats that I discovered the Just A Card campaign. If you’ve not heard of this initiative, let me share their mission statement. The idea is to support independent shops, galleries, artists and designers by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even ‘just’ a card are so vital to the prosperity and survival of small businesses. I am fully on board with their values and ideas – anyone that supports small businesses are a huge winner in my book!

The thing is, and I’m pretty sure I speak for most of us, I love what I do. Most of the time, our passion and drive to create is the only thing that keeps us going anyway! It’s not just the kerching sound that drives us forward, because the truth is, I’d do it all anyway, whether I was trying to make money or not. I can’t imagine a day that goes by without putting pen to paper. It may not be a masterpiece, usually it’s just a doodle in my sketchbook or a quick decorated note to a work friend, but it’s still something.

It’s so important to support creative and independent businesses – there is SO much wonderful creativity out there! I don’t want to see us all have the same art on our walls, identical bracelets and matching greetings card decorating our houses! How boring would that be? The fact that there is so much choice is amazing – I don’t see other businesses as competition. I think it’s wonderful that there is so much choice and something that can suit everyone’s tastes. My prints may be a bit twee, but you’ll be sure to find something else on Etsy. Maybe you love quotes and hand drawn paintings, in which case, you’d be my perfect customer!

Behind every small biz will be a hardworking entrepreneur trying to share their passion and add a smile on someone’s face. It’s true what they say; every purchase (no matter how big or small) makes us do a happy dance! It means the absolute world to me when I get the email saying someone has bought something from my Etsy shop. The thought of a print being on display in someone else’s home is incredible to me! The knowledge that my art on a greetings card will be on top of a mantelpiece and sending well wishes to whomever receives it is what I do this for. I just want to create things that make people smile and the more sales I make, the more I think of the happiness that’s being spread around.

With that in mind, Just A Card promotes the purchase of just that. Whether you want to make a bigger purchase and stock up on all your Christmas presents early, or if you’d just like an extra special card to send to a friend, buying ‘just a card’ makes all the difference. And it doesn’t just have to be a card, either (though it works well for print based businesses like mine). It works for buying any smaller item in any shop – either online or in the little independent shop trying to make ends meet next to the bigger brands in the high street. If we all bought one thing, it would make a huge difference and I really encourage everyone to do so. A purchase here or there is a great way to support the creative scene. It puts a smile on your face, and someone else’s. It’s a wonderful feeling! Let's pledge to shop independent this Christmas and support small indie makers. A small purchase can make a big difference and let's face it, the world would be a very boring, samey place without 'em!

I'll be back with a few of my favourite small businesses in a blogpost soon, but if you have a favourite, please share them in the comments below!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A Guide For The Best Things To Do In Bath

a guide to bath
Back at the beginning of July, Graham and I went away to Bath for a few days as part of my birthday celebrations. Though it was a very fleeting visit, being the planner I am, I made sure we had plenty of choice in terms of activities and eateries. My friend Mandie asked me for some recommendations recently as she’s also planning a trip, and it made me realise just how much I had to share.

I put a tweet out before I visited and received a wealth of knowledge from people who know Bath a lot better than I do – so if you’re planning a trip soon, this post has you covered.

the pump room bath restaurant

Where to eat

Let’s start with my favourite part! Being a total foodie, a lot of my trips tend to revolve around food, and Bath was no different. I’d been to Bath very briefly back in MAY for a hen do and had a delicious thai meal, so heading back there with Graham was top of my list. It’s not a one off in Bath, though, as I’ve since found out there are a few restaurants around the South – but Koh Thai Tapas was a big hit for us.

For a special breakfast, we booked The Pump Rooms. Recommended to me by my friend Mo, it’s set in the most gorgeous Georgian room and overlooks the Roman Baths! It felt extremely fancy and we were well looked after. Though we went for breakfast (and I tried maple bacon pancakes for the first time!), they also do lunch or afternoon tea and booking is advised. It felt very luxurious and high-end, within a pristine setting and impressive chandeliers, as well as housing the grand water fountain that supposedly contains curative water. Friends warned me not to drink this though, so do so at your own risk of ill health rather than miraculous medical cures!

Boston Tea Party, down on Kingsmead Square has come highly commended by a few others, and looks like the perfect place for a cuppa and a slice of cake. Though if you’re after something street, Sally Lunn’s buns is infamous for its sweet brioche bun. It’s tucked away up a side street (North Parade) and was extremely busy when we visited, so I’m yet to try one for myself.

My friend Emma recommended a couple of places in Kingsmead Sq including Society Cafe and Swoon Gelato – gelato is my weakness but unfortunately we ran out of time! If you fancy pizza, Dough or The Oven come highly recommended, too.

Places to visit in Bath

2. What to do

Let’s start with the obvious ones, and the places that were recommended to me multiple times. You can’t go to Bath and not see the Abbey – whether you go inside for a tour or not, it’s impossible to miss and a stunning church.

The Roman Baths are an extremely popular tourist attraction and no doubt one you’ve heard of! Steeped in history, the baths are very well preserved and grand, housing various artefacts found on site. The baths are open air and below street level, with impressive columns and a great insight into the Roman era.

As you head north, through the shopping streets - I was surprised at just how much retail space there is – not just the main high street but also a large shopping area to the right of you) you’ll find The Jane Austen Centre on gay Street. It’s a small museum but a must if you’re a fan, and there’s also a Regency tearoom housed here, too.

where to visit in bath

The Royal Crescent is also infamous – a row of terraced houses in a sweeping crescent overlooking the green opposite. It’s very impressive with the columns and curves, and if you’d like to see an authentic representation of how it used to look back in the 18th Century, No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum you should explore.

I think the land opposite the crescent is a great place for a picnic, and I particularly loved the walking back down Royal Avenue to the main town being surrounded by beautiful flowers and woodland. There’s a Georgian Garden here and Adventure Golf, so plenty to explore. Next to Royal Avenue is The Circus – another impressive layout of Georgian architecture. In Latin, the name translates to ring or circle – which is exactly what you’ll find because no matter where you enter, you’ll be greeted with a classical facade right in front of you. Again, there’s a green space in the centre though it gets busy and there are quite a few tour groups that congregate here.

The Royal Crescent Bath

Harriet (who lives in Bath) recommended a few areas that are out of the immediate town centre and perfect for seeing other parts of Bath, but still easily within walking distance. Head to Walcot Street for the independent shops, and walk down Great Pulteney Street to find Sydney Gardens, tucked behind the Holburne Museum. There’s plenty of green space here to spend a chilled afternoon, and having the Canal running through it makes it a picturesque spot.

My final recommendation for activities is another spot that often comes up in conversation if you mention Bath, the famous Thermae Bath Spa. Extremely popular and one of the city’s main attractions, the hot spa water is fed from Bath’s hot springs, with five floors. It’s glass walls inside is a stark contrast to the historic beginnings, and contains a huge amount of activities, including indoor and outdoor pools, spa treatments and steam rooms. When I visited on the hen do, the queue was out of the door and you can’t book spa sessions (only treatments or if you’re in a large group), but we booked the Cross Bath, just over the street. We had our own private pool and it was perfect – totally shut off from the busy streets outside and in our own little world.

uk art lifestyle blog

4. Shops

Like I mentioned above, there is a HUGE amount of shops in Bath so plenty of opportunity for some retail therapy. I loved how a lot of the shops are housed in Bath stone so the exterior doesn’t look like every other high street. For books, head to Mr B’s Book Emporium on John Street – I could have spent a long time here as it was such a charming place packed to the rafters with beautiful books.

I didn’t manage to make it to Minerva Art Supplies, but did visit Rostra Art Gallery on George Street. It had one of my favourite artists showing there, Charlotte Farmer, as well as a good selection of contemporary art. It’s only small but it was lovely perusing the work of local artists and seeing a gallery doing so well.

Emma also recommended Grace & Ted if you like designer goods – but without the designer price tag! It’s an independent store run by a Mother and Daughter - a perfect place to find something special.

mr bs book emporium

5. Where to stay and park

For parking, we had no trouble finding a space in Avon Street. There are also long stay car parks on Manvers St and Charlotte St, which are to the north of the city. We stayed at this lovely Airbnb that was a quick drive from the city centre, self-contained and very comfortable. There is a Travelodge in the heart of the city which we would usually choose, but parking isn’t included and it was cheaper to go with Airbnb. Tony was a great host with excellent communication.

sally lunns bath guide uk blog

I told you I had lots to share! Sadly we were only there for a day and a half but there are plenty of recommendations here for a longer trip! Bath is so charming and I love the historic feel of it – the bath stone gives a warmth to the city and I adored the architecture. It certainly helped that the sun was shining for us but I’ve no doubt it’s just as lovely in the rain. Have you got any cities in the UK that you have a soft spot for?