Printable Ecommerce Setup Checklist

Shoshanna and I taught a class at School House Craft this past weekend, based on my article for Design*Sponge, Setting Up Your Online Shop.

When you’re ready to start selling online, you may feel overwhelmed with options. Just figuring out how to get started can be daunting. There are many things to consider, and in this article, I’ll provide an overview of the basics you’ll need to plan for – consider this a checklist of sorts, to make sure you’ll be starting out without missing a step!

For the class, we made an actual ecommerce setup checklist that our students filled out as we discussed each piece.The class was lively, and we loved how supportive and helpful our more informed students were. The hour and a half flew by, and attendees were able to take the checklists home to make sure that they weren’t missing any vital steps in setting up shop. Today, we are sharing it with you, as a companion piece to the original article.

Aeolidia’s ecommerce setup checklist

ecommerce setup checklist

Download the PDF guide and checklist

This download includes the full article, so you’ll understand the checklist, and the checklist itself.

Companion resource list

You can get our resource list here, for recommendations of software to use and more articles that share tips for getting started: Aeolidia’s Best Ecommerce Resource List.

More like this on my newsletter

Go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter while you’re here! I share lots of good information like this for free, straight to your email.

Best Ecommerce Platform: Shopify (and a Giveaway!)

Best ecommerce platform - Shopify

We just might help you set up a new Shopify site for free! This is something that people regularly ask us to do, but it’s just not a service we offer. However, you’re in luck! We are going to do this very thing for a handful of motivated new shop owners. Read on for the giveaway.

A brief personal history of ecommerce

When we first started making ecommerce websites for crafters ten years ago, the software landscape out there was, well, different. The first ecommerce shop I developed used software made by one dude, and the shop owner herself guided me through how to use it. The second ecommerce shop I did, we used osCommerce (which evolved into the separate, and only slightly better, Zen Cart, which we struggled with for ages).

Though we used Zen Cart for many years, it was an exercise in insane frustration for us and for our clients. We had tried a handful of different software programs, and at the time it was the best for what we were doing. Still, we had to fight the software at every turn, and though there were many appealing add-ons, we would add a new one, and it would somehow blow up the old one our client had been using for months, or it would surprisingly make part of the shopping cart break or make other functionality disappear.

When we got stuck, our only recourse was to wail about it in the forums and hope some kindly developer would give us assistance that wasn’t rude or incorrect!

ecommerce frustration!

When it came time to upgrade (and you had to upgrade regularly, so your site wouldn’t get hacked or stop working), we had to compare each and every new file with the old file, move over all customizations and improvements we had made to the upgraded file, upload it all, and test the site again each time as if it was brand new. Arduous for us, and expensive for our clients.

Meanwhile, WordPress was only getting better and better, and their upgrading system was becoming easier and smarter. We often found ourselves wishing ecommerce worked better on WordPress, or that someone would make something similar for online shops.

Enter Shopify! My darlings! What a freaking relief to be able to recommend something to our clients that we actually believe is the best ecommerce platform for small business, not just, “the best of the pile of muck that exists at this time,” but something that works well, is easy to use, and continues to improve.

Why you will love Shopify, the best ecommerce platform

It’s hosted software. Shopify is your web host, and you won’t need to purchase a separate hosting account. You won’t be responsible for upgrading the shop software (or hiring someone to upgrade it for you, or, worse, not upgrading it and ending up with a hacked site). Shopify will automatically roll out upgrades, bug fixes, and security improvements. We don’t get complaints from our clients about sites being down or getting hacked anymore.

They value customer support. With other shop software, you may find that there’s just one guy behind it, or maybe a bunch of developers working independently, with just a support forum, rather than customer service. Shopify has a great team. You will be assigned your own account representative that can help you out with your questions, and they can be reached by phone, and are available around the clock.

They’re invested in helping small businesses. Obviously they make money if you make money, but the lovely symbiosis here is that you get all their awesome marketing tips and help, as well as the great documentation (including videos) and customer support. Seriously, check out their blog – it’s packed with great advice, and I’m constantly sharing their articles.

Shopify is very extensible, as they have a large app store where you can add new features when your store grows. For instance, if you decide you want to integrate a POS or accounting software, you may find just what you need in their app store.

The admin is user-friendly. Our clients have an easy time adding their products and managing orders with the simple and clear back end management tool (which is also available as an iPhone app).

Shopify works seamlessly for brick and mortar shops. Using the Shopify POS system, you can keep your inventory straight between your storefront and your ecommerce shop. You can even go on the road to a craft fair and sell products using your iPad.

Shopify is a content management system. Shopify isn’t just your shop, it’s your whole website, including informational pages, and even a simple blog.

Shopify is pretty global. You can use Shopify from most anywhere, and they work with over 70 payment gateways, and allow multiple languages and currencies.

You can choose a theme. You can choose a theme from their theme store and be up and running with a professional design right away, without any knowledge of how to build a website.

You can hire an expert. If you do need some more in-depth customization, they have an Experts directory that connects you with a reputable company to do some work for you.

They allow full customization. Though you won’t need to do this yourself as a shop owner, Shopify allows us to dig into the HTML, CSS, and Liquid code to develop any design we dream of. We can make a Shopify site look any way we want.

You are going to love it! Go learn more or sign up for a free trial of Shopify now, and see what you think!

Today’s giveaway

Shopify setup and consult

Are you ready for your own shop that’s in your control, is easy to update, and that presents a professional look to your customers? We love Shopify for its ease of use, reliability, flexibility, and scalability. This service is great for:

  • People without a shop
  • People with an Etsy, Storenvy, or Big Cartel shop that has too many limitations
  • People using old, clunky, or difficult shop software who are tired of it. Magento, anyone? WooCommerce, anyone?

Yes, you can set up a Shopify site yourself. You will want our service instead, because we will use our experience gained setting up hundreds of ecommerce sites to:

  • Make your domain name/URL point to your Shopify site correctly
  • Install your chosen design theme and adjust it with your logo, fonts, and colors
  • Show you where to go to set up your email hosting
  • Offer tips for setting up your payment gateway and shipping settings
  • Set up necessary add-ons: Google Analytics and MailChimp connectivity
  • Point you to the tutorials you need to add your content to the site
  • Give you a testing list, so you can feel confident that your site is ready to go
  • Best of all: you’ll have half an hour of our help, advice, and consultation about your shop

Enter the free Shopify setup and consulting giveaway

To qualify:

  • you must run a creative business*
  • you must want a Shopify site
  • you must be prepared to pay Shopify monthly for your site
  • you must have us set up a new development shop for you**

* “Creative” means that you either design or make your products, or that you sell products designed or made by other creative businesses. If you’re one of the businesses we talk about sharing the Aeolidia manifesto with, you’re in!

** We aren’t adjusting existing shops – we will be setting up something brand new for you. It’s okay if you’re already using Shopify for another business and want us to create a new shop in addition to it.

Please fill out our form below to enter the contest (if you don’t see the form, click over to our site from your email or reader and look again). We are going to do as many of these as we reasonably can, so your odds of winning are good! If you don’t win or don’t fit the qualifications, we will send you some useful resource links for finding further help.

All of your information will be kept private and will only be used by the Aeolidia team to set up a Shopify site for you and give some advice.

    Shopify's pricing starts at $14/mo, though most of our clients choose the $29 or $79 plan.

Thank you! I look forward to helping everyone get set up on Shopify for free!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
Read about our new site and get the swag »

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
That’s this post!

The Next Step to Grow My Business (and a Giveaway!)

Your best Next Step to grow your business

How can I grow my business?

The excitement is contagious when I get an email from a business owner who has been waiting to contact us and is now ready to leap in with both feet. Some people come to us very well informed and knowledgeable, with a rock solid plan that we can jump right to work on, but for many business owners, the “next step,” while exciting, is understandably a bit mysterious.

  • Do I need a new logo, or would it confuse my customers to change it?
  • What content do I need on an ecommerce website?
  • How should I style my product photos?
  • What ecommerce platform should I use?
  • Do I need a blog?
  • What is best to feature on the home page?
  • Once the site is live, how do I get people to visit it?
  • How can I grow my business without overwhelming myself?

When we hear from someone new who is ready for a change, we first discuss their business, their challenges, and their goals, and then we dig into their current website, consider the best steps to take, and present them with a project proposal, often with a Plan A and a Plan B.

These are fun to put together, and after working with hundreds of creative businesses, we have a solid idea of what is a best “next step” for small businesses in all different phases. We would like to help you with that next step! Read on below for your chance to win a free, no strings attached next step business consult.

Success stories from our blog

Spring Creek Ranch

It is very fun to read about thriving little businesses that are making it and doing it on their own terms (please remember that it took them all a lot of very hard work to get there)! Here are some of my favorites from our archives, and you can read all of our success stories here:

Today’s giveaway

Do you feel like it’s time for a change for your business? Perhaps you’re wondering where your budget will be best spent? Maybe you have no budget, but just want to know what work you should do next. We will ask you a few questions about your business and goals, and once we understand where you’ve been and where you are, we’ll give you a map for where you should be going.

Next Step Business Consult

This forward trajectory plan comes with no strings attached and no obligation to purchase anything from us or anyone else. After you get your “next step” plan from us, feel free to give us a friendly, “thanks, bye!” and keep on keepin’ on as you have been. :)

Having experienced professionals look at what you have now and share thoughts on where you could go with it can be an inspiring catalyst for change and growth.

We are going to do as many of these as possible, and if we aren’t able to include you, we will send you some resources that will be of use.

Enter the “Next Step” Business Consulting giveaway

To qualify, you need to be a creative business. “Creative” means that you either design or make your products, or that you sell products designed or made by other creative businesses. If you’re one of the businesses we talk about sharing the Aeolidia manifesto with, you’re in!

Please fill out our form below to enter the contest. We are going to do as many of these as we reasonably can, so your odds of winning are good! If you don’t win or don’t fit the qualifications, we will send you some useful resource links for finding further help.

All of your information will be kept private and will only be used by the Aeolidia team to make a plan for you and share some advice.

  • Tell us all about your business. What is unique about it? What do you sell/provide? What is your business' personality or style? Where can customers buy your products?
  • How long have you been running your business? What is not working for you about your current methods or existing website (if any), and what do you feel is holding you back? Please let us know where you can see a need for improvement in your business.
  • What do you see as your potential next steps? What would you like to accomplish, and by when? What is your financial goal, your publicity goal, and/or your internal business goal?
  • How do you currently promote and market your business? Do you have any questions about how to get the word out about what you do, either via social media or by getting press?
  • About how many people visit your website in a month? How many sales do you get a month (from your website vs. other places)?

Thank you! I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
Read about our new site and get the swag »

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
That’s this post!

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Improving Website Conversion (and a Giveaway!)

Simple ways to improve your website

So you put your own website together – congratulations! That’s a lot of hard work. How is it looking? How is it working? Does it all make sense, or does it only make sense to you? How many visitors turn into customers? Do you feel like you’re losing people along the way to checkout?

It can be difficult to get outside of your own head (where everything makes perfect sense about your business and website) and into the head of a customer, to see where you’re losing them.

Improving website design, improving website content, and improving website functionality

Here are some things you can scan your website for right now and correct, to help a few more people make it all the way through checkout:

Offer free shipping

This is the easiest change to make, and should be quite effective. I personally have abandoned many a cart when seeing the shipping rates, because I’ve juuuuust decided it’s worth paying the price I see on the page, and when shipping is added to that, it’s no longer worth it. Your shopper will assign a value to an item while shopping (suggested by you!) and then changing that value at the cart can be a deal-breaker.

You don’t necessarily have to take a loss on shipping, if you can roll an extra fee into your product price to offset the change. Note that this strategy won’t work if you sell something that people are price-checking on multiple sites, but should be fairly simple for handcrafters or artisans to do.

User testing

You can do this the old school way  – grab a friend or neighbor or your grandma and sit her down at a computer with your website. Assign her a task, such as “find and purchase some earrings” and have your tester talk out loud about her thought process as she shops. You can uncover some interesting things doing this. Maybe something that makes perfect sense to you can be confusing to people new to your site.

Is the “add to cart” button nice and big? Can customers find their cart after they add something to it? Are choices during checkout clear?

Pay attention during the cart and checkout steps, as here is where you can see what may be making customers abandon their cart. Go through the full shopping and checkout process on your site yourself. This way, you’ll be able to catch anything that is confusing, surprising, or (gasp!) broken. Don’t rely on your cart software blindly.

You can also do this on a larger scale with sites like UserTesting.

If your audience is pretty engaged with you, you may want to add a survey to your site, or send a survey to your newsletter subscribers (perhaps with a reward for answering). Be sure each question on your survey is written so that the answers will reveal to you what action step you could take to improve your user experience. Avoid filler questions which will waste peoples’ time (and yours!).

Make adjustments to your categories and product info

Make your shop categories boringly obvious. No “cute” category names, please! Do you have a jewelry category? Call it “jewelry,” not “baubles.” Have a section for children? Call it “children” or “kids,” not “minis.” Adding personality to your site is good, but having the personality hide simple information is bad.

Make your product descriptions interesting and informative. People want to know what size things are, what they’re made of, and what colors you offer, sure, but you also need to be sure you’re telling the customer a story that will help her picture owning your product, and make her feel like she needs to have it. If you’re stuck on this, you’ll be amazed by what our copywriter can do with your information – turning dry descriptions into sweet little blurbs that will sell.

Work on  your photos. You need clear, detailed, and beautiful pictures. Don’t skimp on this! Make sure photos make your customer picture the item in her life, make the size of the item understandable, and are the true colors. Unless you’re able to take well-lit, in-focus, and interesting pictures of your own products, hire some help. Dark, small, blurry pictures will be the death of your online business. That’s why we have offer product photography to our clients – and would be happy to do this for you as a standalone project.

Make it easy for customers to shop, find info, and ask questions

Make the shopping cart/checkout link easy to find: People are expecting this in the top right corner, possibly with an icon of a cart. Don’t hide it, move it, name it something else, or give it a confusing icon.

Make your shipping and returns policies easy to find: Particularly for small businesses, your customer may feel anxious ordering from you. Will you really ship the product? On time? What if they don’t like it when they get it? Make sure that your policies are easy to find (usually a link in the footer) and easy to read (cut out the jargon and be straightforward about how things work). Answer questions before they’re asked, with sizing charts, secure checkout padlocks and a space to answer common questions.

Make sure your checkout process isn’t difficult. Is there anything you can do to make checkout easy and understandable? Do you ship internationally? Do you offer a reasonable assortment of payment methods? Is it simple to change quantities or remove things from the cart? Your keyword here should be, “foolproof.”

Social proof: add some customer reviews or testimonials to your site. This is a fantastic way to build trust, and customers have come to expect reviews on ecommerce websites. You can also find ways to show how many fans you have or how devoted they are on your site.

Make sure all your news or dated content is up to date: I have left shops before, because I see the blog stopped updating five months ago, and I wonder if the shop is still in business. Make sure any blog posts, news, social media feeds that are integrated into your site, lists of events and sales, etc. are current, so people don’t see virtual cobwebs and leave.

Add functionality to your site

One of the things that we like about Shopify is that you can add functionality to your site through their app store. Shopping cart abandonment apps may be a good way to get someone who dropped off of your site with products in their cart to come back and finish checkout. Adding cross-sells, up-sells, promotions, or bribes may be a way to get more value out of a single customer.

Make sure everything is up to speed

Don’t let slow web hosting drive your customers away. Is your site loading quickly? If not, time for a new web host (or to have a developer check your site to be sure the problem isn’t in the code or the content).

Today’s giveaway

This giveaway is now over.

Today we have a valuable prize (we charge about $500 for this).

Free website consultation

We will be giving one lucky duck winner free website consulting, with a written evaluation. We review websites as one of our services for clients.

Just because you’re familiar with your website and you know where everything is, that doesn’t mean it’s intuitive or user-friendly for someone new to your business and/or website. It can be hard to step out of your “insider” role to view the site as a potential customer or lead would, but that’s exactly what you’ve got to do (or hire a pro to do) if you want your site to work for you the way it should.
–Zoe Rooney, Aeolidia developer

With this service, we will give you our best recommendation for specific changes you can make to your site to improve usability, traffic flow, and sales. These are thorough, detailed, actionable, and we will begin by getting to know your business and your goals, so we can focus on what you’re trying to achieve as we look through your site.

You can read an example review here: Website Review: Telling a Story and Simplifying

To enter our giveaway, you must have a website that you set up yourself (using a pre-made template is legit, but please don’t enter if you paid a designer to create your site), and be willing to let us share our review of your site on our blog. Please fill out the form below, and we will choose one winner to be notified next week.

Enter the free website consultation giveaway

This giveaway is over, but if you’d like to pay us to review your website, please contact me.

Thank you!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
This giveaway is over.

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
That’s this post!

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

You Are So Ready For This (and design freebies!)

“Manifesto” is perhaps too strong a word, but we thought that it would be fun to make our mission clear. We also wanted a manifesto that would ring true to each of our clients, as our beliefs are aligned with yours. Natalia, Aeolidia’s copywriter, helped put together the wording for these things that we believe, Mariah created a beautiful print design (that each of our new clients gets in gold foil, suitable for framing!), and Sarah created some sweet little treats for Pinterest.

Aeolidia manifesto

 

Aeolidia manifesto

Some of my favorite businesses break all the “rules” of how to run a business, and most of what I do at Aeolidia is trial and error, idea and testing. I have many times found myself feeling uncomfortable when doing things the way I “should” do them, and then bursting ahead with vigor when I ditch the “should” and do it the Aeolidia way instead.

On the flip side, it’s silly to always blaze one’s own trail when there is a perfectly reasonable established path to follow, so of course many of the things that we do are industry-standard or tried and true business methods. One thing that you will hear over and over is that you can’t be all things to all people and that you need to specialize and find your own particular niche to be able to succeed. I agree with this, and luckily, we fell into a niche that we feel a strong affinity for right away, and have been serving my favorite types of businesses for a decade.

The creative small business

Yep! Those are our kindred spirits. I tried at the start to work on other types of projects, but oh my gosh, would I get bored out of my mind. No offense, real estate agents and electricians, but I have a hard time concentrating on your projects. Happily, I had some crafting friends who introduced me to the then rather subversive, but now quite everyday world of handcrafted goods. Did you know that Aeolidia began designing websites for crafters before Etsy launched? Boggles my mind!

 

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn't have it any other way.

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

How we help

For our clients, we design brands, logos, packaging, marketing materials, websites. We create content, write copy, take photos. We strategize, consult, dream big.

For people who are not yet our clients (someday, surely? I’d love to hear from you!), we teach, we advise, we recommend, and we just generally cheer on anyone working hard to make a dream into a business.

The Aeolidia blog

Over the years, our humble blog has become just jampacked with useful articles, tutorials, and business-y thoughts, and it was getting harder and harder to find things the more I jammed in there. With the redesign, we worked hard to make everything clear and readable, as well as sort out categories that would be helpful, so you can find all these goodies.

Here are our most popular blog posts:

Here are my personal most favorite blog posts:

Bits of our manifesto:

Perhaps you have heard of Pinterest? Go pin these lovelies all over Pinterest for me, please! Sarah on our team had free rein to create anything she thought you’d like to see, and I’m thrilled with the results. I hear inspirational quotes are all the rage. :)

Products don't speak to people, the stories behind them do | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Success: (insert your own definition here) | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

A good idea becomes a great idea when you let it out | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Small businesses + big ideas = limitless possibilities | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Opportunity happens when you do less waiting and more creating | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Today’s freebie

We’re throwing a party! The Aeolidia website is all dolled up in fancy duds (read more about our transformation here), and we couldn’t be happier about how things are looking and working around here. We want to thank all of our clients, colleagues, collaborators, friends, and secret admirers with a week of giveaways here on our blog.

Here are some free wallpapers for you! Consider it an appetizer.

aeolidia free wallpaper download

iPhone 640 x 960

iPhone 5 640 x 1136

iPad 1024 x 1024

Desktop 1280 x 800
Desktop 1440 x 900
Desktop 1680 x 1050
Desktop 1920 x 1080
Desktop 1920 x 1200

Printable

Are you interested in seeing any of the single quotes from the manifesto as downloadable wallpapers, too? Let me know which one(s) you like best!

A Week of Giveaways!

To celebrate our new look, and ten years of creating beautiful things for inspiring businesses, we are having a week of giveaways here on the blog. Stick around until tomorrow (and the next day, and the next day)  for a chance to win something excellent from Aeolidia. Subscribe to my newsletter so you won’t miss one of these.

We will be giving away our services for free – we will be reviewing websites, making “next step” plans for businesses, and setting up new Shopify sites, all for free, and as many as we can possibly fit in. I hope we can help you with your creative business.

P.S. I would be over the moon if you’d share our giveaway with your followers (particularly if you suspect your followers have small businesses of their own), by blogging, tweeting, or otherwise chatting about what we’re up to. We will be sharing some “pin-able” content and downloads – I’d love to have your help spreading these all over Pinterest and Instagram!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
Read about our new site and get the swag »

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
That’s this post!

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Aeolidia: an Anniversary Celebration

When I was a teenager, I asked my mom what age had been her favorite age. If she could go back to any age to stay that age forever, what would her pick be? We were always into existential discussions as a family, and I suspect I was hoping that my teen years weren’t (horribly) meant to be the best years of my life.

I was quite pleased that her answer was thirty-six, and not a younger age. It told me that there were a lot of years ahead of me that would be fun and worthwhile, and plenty of time to screw up in between. I’ve remembered that conversation, and think about it often, particularly around birthdays.

This year I’m 36, and I’ve been kind of looking forward to it my whole adult life.

This year, Aeolidia is 10, and I’m proud of what I have built.

This year, I am 36 and Aeolidia is 10 and I have put much expense and care into branding Aeolidia and redesigning the website, as well as polishing up our client communication, presentation, internal teamwork, and overall experience.

I have never in my life felt more confident and comfortable than I do now, at age 36, and a lot of that is due to captaining the Aeolidia ship, earning the trust and respect of my mighty crew, and absorbing knowledge and gaining experience from working with hundreds of creative clients on hundreds of creative projects, all the while honing our process until it’s razor sharp. I am very glad that Aeolidia has been catching up to me and today, with the redesign, is feeling confident and comfortable herself (I know!) as a business.

We have been hard at work behind the scenes for a very long time rebranding Aeolidia. I say, “rebranding,” but to me it feels more like, “branding,” because this is the first time that we have been intentional with our brand, and we finally have a real, professional logo. I am so proud I could burst!

Welcome to the new Aeolidia website! If you visited the site recently, back when it had a pink octopus, you may need to clear your browser cache for aeolidia.com by holding down the shift or control key as you refresh the page (or cmd R on a Mac), to be sure you don’t have any old ghost files lurking around making it look funny.

Aeolidia Website Redesign

What’s happening around here? It’s all new! I built it all with you in mind, considering what you would be looking for, what you wanted help with, and what would help our business make sense to you, and make you see that we would be the perfect match to help you set sail on your journey.

Aeolidia home page redesign

The new home page brings our work front and center, and the menu on the left allows you to explore more and also makes it easy to understand at a quick glance what services we offer. The blog was added to our old site as an afterthought, and wasn’t featured on the home page. Now it has a prominent place with some recent articles and a list of categories, so people can see what topics they can learn more about.

An important part of Aeolidia’s awesomeness is our big friendly team, so we got those faces right there on the home page, and we’re now showing off our street cred in the form of logos of the places where we’ve spoken, taught, written articles for, and been featured on.

I understand that our services are not in the “impulse buy” category, so my main goal for the website is not to have people contact me to have us work on their website. That is my ultimate goal, but when someone new hops onto our site for the first time, I am hoping they will sign up for my newsletter. I share a lot of good stuff in the newsletter, and it’s a great way for someone new to get to know more about us, and for me to know more about them, if they reply to my emails, which I encourage everyone to do. “Subscribe” is now a page on our site that explains what you’ll be getting, and there is a bouncy little newsletter bar at the top of the site, which you can hush up by clicking the X.

Aeolidia portfolio redesign

A biggie was the portfolio! I have put a lot of work into stocking it up, and I will keep adding old and new projects as time allows. Since the new site allows for bigger images, I started from scratch and created all new graphics for old projects. Now all the images are big and beautiful (and retina-ready), and you can see them all on one page without all the crazy click-click-clicking you had to do before. There are many ways to filter the portfolio – by project type, by business type, by what the shop sells, by who on our team worked on it. This way, if you sell jewelry, you can browse all the sites we’ve made for fellow jewelers. If you’re interested in how we treat sites for communities, we have that, too. If you want to browse through our designers to see who best matches your sensibilities, well, you can! We had most of this functionality before, but it was a lot clunkier.

And the dear old blog! When I started the blog, I was faced with a website design that had never considered a blog, and I had to find a way to wedge it in. I ended up changing how the navigation worked and coming up with a sidebar, but I have never been terribly proud of it. When deciding what to do for the new blog, we kept paring and paring the sidebar of clutter until we finally decided to ditch the sidebar completely! This was freeing and different and gave our words and pictures the stage.

I am very happy with it. A website is never done, and I will continue to tinker away at it forever, but gosh, it looks fantastic, and is now telling the story I want creative business owners to hear about us.

Responsive Website Design

Oh, and the new site is responsive, too! Our previous site was terrible on a smartphone. I have more to say about responsive design in a future post, but for today, ooh, aah:

aeolidia-portfolio-design

The Astonishing Team Aeolidia

Thank you, Mariah, who has tirelessly been creating and refining the Aeolidia brand from day one and on into the future. Thank you, Sarah, who worked with me through ideas until we found one that felt like home. Thank you, Shoshanna, who massaged WordPress into doing all the things we had dreamed up, and made editing the site a breeze. Thank you, Natalia, for taking my words and making them shine.

Aeolidians around the world

Thank you, all of the beautiful Team Aeolidia, for your feedback, ideas, and support on this project. Thank you to my team as well for being so creative, diligent, curious, independent, cooperative, persistent, and friendly. You make it easy for me to promise our clients what they’re looking for and more, and easy for me to toot our horn out there on the web. I am so proud of you guys!

A Week of Giveaways!

To celebrate our new look, and ten years of creating beautiful things for inspiring businesses, we are having a week of giveaways here on the blog. Please come back each day this week for a chance to win something excellent from Aeolidia.

We will be giving away our services for free – we will be reviewing websites, making “next step” plans for businesses, and setting up new Shopify sites, all for free, and as many as we can possibly fit in. I hope we can help you with your creative business.

P.S. I would be over the moon if you’d share our giveaway with your followers (particularly if you suspect your followers have small businesses of their own), by blogging, tweeting, or otherwise chatting about what we’re up to. We will be sharing some “pin-able” content and downloads – I’d love to have your help spreading these all over Pinterest and Instagram!

Today’s Giveaway

This giveaway is now over!

We’ve been creating some delightful gifts for our clients, and we’d like to send out a few to you for following along! I just got back from the Nearly Impossible conference, and have some unclaimed Aeolidia “swag” remaining. Please comment on this blog post to share your favorite age, let us know how old your business is, or just report on how you and your business are growing together. I will randomly choose four winners to receive an Aeolidia merman post-it book and a merman lapel pin. I’ll email you to get your address!

The post-it books are super cute, will be quite handy for you note-crazy types, and seem to be refillable. With the lapel pin, you can pretend to be part of a secret society. The funny part of the lapel pin is that without the context of him being a merman, he can be mistaken for a lumberjack king.

Aeolidia giveaway swag

Please join me the rest of the week with your silly party hat on as I give you some valuable help or insight into your next steps as a business. Stick around! If you sign up for our mailing list, below, you’ll get all the giveaway posts in your email, and (as they say), MORE.

I’m feeling happy,

Arianne Foulks

Arianne Foulks
Owner, Aeolidia

P.S. I’m glad to report that 36 doesn’t feel like a peak, and it’s all downhill from here. Rather it feels like a beginning, and I am looking forward to what’s still to come.

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
That’s this post!

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Bamboletta: Made With Crafts(wo)manship and Love

Bamboletta dolls

We were first introduced to Bamboletta when we designed the Bamboletta website for Christina in 2007. We were charmed by her handmade Waldorf dolls, and amazed at how quickly they sold and how frenzied some of her customers seemed! There was always such a rush and crowd on doll “upload days” that for many years, Christina’s business model and huge bandwidth use foiled many cart programs. Now, on Shopify, they have a good thing going, but Christina tells me that Shopify have taken her particular checkout process into company meetings to improve their checkout capabilities.

There was never enough supply to meet her demand, and the answer seemed simple to us at the time – just hire some people who can sew! Well, as you’ll see, Christina has grown her company in such a loving and caring way, and those dolls are still selling like hotcakes and there don’t seem to be enough to go around!

I am inspired by Christina’s business, her team, and her sense of community and caring. I asked her some questions that I’ve been wondering about, and I’m glad for this peek inside of Bamboletta.

Read the article on Oh My! Handmade

Illustration Licensing and Royalties

I’ve been a big fan of illustration since my very first picture book as a baby! When I started Aeolidia a decade ago, I contacted some of my favorite illustrators and asked them if they’d join me in creating adorable sites for our clients – not in any kind of strategic way, but just because I wanted an excuse to work with them. We still create beautiful custom illustrations at Aeolidia. Some cute stuff for kids’ shops, but also as part of our branding packages, to bring life and personality to creative shops, and to illustrate the products themselves.

Some recent favorite Aeolidia illustrations below:
Gilly's Garden illustration

 


 

Illustrations for Sweet Anthem

 


Boco Baby illustration

Selling an illustrated product

Our customers use illustrations to set the tone of their brand on their marketing materials (website, social media, business cards, flyers, advertisements, etc.).  Some of them create unique illustrated products. One place where there is some confusion about illustration pricing is when someone wants to sell a product with an illustration on it. This is more complicated than just commissioning an illustration, and the licensing and associated fee changes as soon as you are making a profit off of your illustrator’s work.

Here is some basic information about illustration licensing and royalties.

We sell the full rights to logos, so your logo, even if illustrated, will be exclusively yours, and you may print it on anything you like, for sale or not for sale.

Want to sell t-shirts with your logo on them, for profit?

No problem! The logo is yours, and you’re welcome to do so. This is part of the reason why logos tend to cost more than custom illustration work – you are paying for all rights to use your logo as you see fit.

Want to sell t-shirts with a custom illustration that was originally created for your website?

Now it gets trickier. It’s the industry standard for illustrators to charge royalties for items that will be sold for profit. If people are buying a shirt or a bag because the illustrator’s artwork is on it, then it is felt that the illustrator is entitled to some of the profits.

Even if you bought the physical art from your illustrator you didn’t necessarily buy the rights to copy and distribute it. Should you go to print without copyright your illustrator will have every right to a considerable share of the profits, not to mention damages and attorney’s fees if it becomes a legal battle.

-Andrew McDonald, Crucial Tips for Hiring an Illustrator

The above link is specific to children’s book author’s, but has some great general info as well.

Most illustrators will be more than happy to license their work to be sold for profit, and this is a wonderful way to sell something unique that no one else has, while also supporting an artist – doesn’t get any better than that!

Here are some illustrated products from our clients (all illustrations and images by the respective business owners):

Sea Urchin Studio's mermaid mug

Sea Urchin Studio’s mermaid mug

Fomato's illustrated greeting cards

Fomato’s illustrated greeting cards

I Heart Gut's illustrated t-shirts

I Heart Gut’s illustrated t-shirts

Finding an illustrator who doesn’t charge royalties

You may be able to find an illustrator who is new enough to the business that he/she won’t charge you royalties (obviously not recommended!), but the tradeoff will be that the person may be less experienced overall, and won’t give you the quality of work that we could. Taking advantage of this type of situation is not fair to the artist, and is detrimental to the industry as a whole, which is why we’re strict about licensing work correctly. P.S. Please never do this.

Purchasing royalty-free illustration artwork

You can purchase “royalty-free” illustration, which is clip art, and you are likely to also find it on other peoples’ projects. It wouldn’t be unique to you, and you couldn’t control who else used it, or how they used it.

Royalty free image licenses cannot be tracked. This means it’s possible someone else can use it, too, and there’s no way to predict who, when or where that might be. It may not make a difference if you are using an image on a personal blog, but it could make a big difference if you are using the image in advertising in your business and a competitor uses the same image.

Robin Noelle, Definition of a Royalty Free Image

Commissioning “work for hire” illustration

Another option is to commission “work for hire” illustrations, where the illustrator works directly for your company, and retains no rights to the illustration work herself. This could easily end up being more expensive than paying royalties, depending on how many illustrated products you end up selling.

The client can publish the work wherever and whenever it wants to, including reselling rights to others. [For illustrators:] Unless you receive permission from your client, you cannot do anything yourself with your work.

– Linda Joy Kattwinkel, What is Work Made For Hire?

Hiring a professional illustrator

What can you do if you have a great illustrated product idea, but no illustration talent or experience of your own? Hire an illustrator! It’s a thrill to see your vision come to life as you collaborate together with your illustrator.

If you feel like illustrations would spruce up your website, stationery, packaging, or products themselves, please get in touch with me.

Our pricing is competitive, we have a wide range of styles, and we can get everything done for you, a service you won’t get from an illustration agency. Logo, website, packaging, photography. You’ll be all set without having to contract out multiple different workers or teams. Oh, and it will be fun, too!

Networking Events & Conferences For Crafters & Designers

I’ve got a lot of business travel coming up this month (which you can get the details of at the bottom of this post), and I wanted to share what I get out of attending conferences and learning events. I’ve attended quite a few conferences for crafters and creatives in the last few years, and they’ve all been good experiences.

Are you wondering why you should leave the comfort and safety of your usual work routine to get to know some new folks? Here’s why that’s a good idea.

P.S. I have a $100 discount coupon for you at the bottom of this post, so keep on reading!

Want to learn, grow, and gather allies?

Here are just a few of the reasons you might want to attend an in-person event:

Learning: Most conferences are focused around learning new skills, such as blogging, pricing, production methods, social media, ecommerce, etc. Even if all you do is sit and take notes, it will have been worth your while. But being together in a room full of your creative colleagues offers so much more!

New ideas & inspiration: Just chatting with other creative people is going to spark so many new ideas for your own business! My pen is always flying through my notebook when I attend an event like this, and I come up with lots of ideas I wouldn’t have hit on sitting by myself in my office.

Support: Your family and friends may not understand what your work is like, what struggles you have, and what you worry about. Getting some support and backup from people who do what you do is a great feeling.

Collaboration: Beyond getting new ideas and support from your peers, this is a rich opportunity to strike up collaborations, whether they be a combined product (I’m in love with the collaboration between Baby Jives Co. and Mount Royal Mint, below), a guest posting relationship, a podcast, an interview, or even a new event or business.

Promotion: Of course you can get your name out there at conferences by handing out business cards, chatting with people, and being introduced to people that your own friends and acquaintances know. If you’ve been having the hard time catching the attention of someone you admire online, walking up in person and shaking hands can take care of that!

Finding out how you can help: People are at a conference because they’d like some help! I get a lot of value out of listening to where people are stuck or confused. I often turn these conversations into blog posts, newsletters, or new service offerings at Aeolidia.

Are you interested in teaching?

If you’ve been hard at your work for a number of years, you may feel like you have a lot to share, and that you’d like to help out people at the beginning of the path you’ve gone down. There are so many great ways to do this, and it’s one of the things I appreciate about the creative community: people who are willing to share what worked for them and help others be successful without feeling competitive.

Here are some ideas for ways you can share your knowledge and experience:

  • Speak or teach at conferences
  • Teach a class on Skillshare
  • Join a networking or business group
  • Start a blog and/or a newsletter focused on business
  • See if your local community center is looking for teachers or mentors

Where you can meet Aeolidia this year:

I’ll be teaching at these events:

Nearly Impossible conference

Nearly Impossible
Saturday, September 20 2014
San Francisco, CA
nearlyimpossible.org
(use code aeolidia100 for $100 off)

“An event for companies that make physical products.” At the Heath Ceramics warehouse (also one in NYC in October that Zoe on our team will attend). We attended this last year and it was incredible. I’ll be a member of the Expert Lab, talking about selling online.


School House Craft

School House Craft
September 27-28 2014
Seattle, WA
schoolhousecraft.com

“Schooling you in the business of craft.” Lots of great information here, particularly for crafters who are somewhat new to business. This event was packed with information last time. This year we’ll be teaching a class on getting started selling online.


Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Oh My! Maker’s Retreat
October 17-22 2014
Cortes Island, BC, CA
ohmyhandmade.com/makersretreat

“Come make: memories, discoveries, friends, art, magic.” Besides the glorious surroundings and the inspiring people, this conference will cut out the fluff and boring stuff, making it all about the talking, collaborating, teaching, and learning. I’ll be teaching, and the last day there will be a market for attendees to shop and sell.


 

Dream Rock retreatDream Rock
February 4-6 2015
Sedona, AZ
craftcultureevents.com

“You have a passion. You have a dream. You are determined to make it a reality.” This one is an intimate retreat with a beautiful red rock backdrop. I’ll be teaching a workshop and plan to sneak in some natural splendor as well.


I would be delighted to see you at any of these events! I think all of them will be valuable experiences, and there is just nothing like hanging out with other creative types to get you fired up about your business.

What events or conferences do you attend and recommend? What questions do you have about it?

Why You Should Splurge on Business Card Printing

It’s so hard to spend money on your business, isn’t it? Especially if things are going well enough or if what you have now is working fine. Or is it working fine? Your customers may not consciously realize it, but they’re certainly judging you by how you present yourself – from your website to your product packaging, to the business card printing choices you make.

We’re wrapping up designing and printing the beautiful branding materials that go with the Aeolidia redesign, and I had a pleasant surprise that I wanted to share with you. I’ve used digital printing for all of my print projects up until now, and I now have a before and after that shows what a big difference an upgrade can make.

Mariah designed our business cards early on, and I needed to have some in hand for a conference, so I quickly had them printed digitally online and was pleased with them. Recently, we replaced these temporary cards with the upgraded ones, and the originals look downright cheap in comparison. I did a quick photo shoot to share with you what a difference printing can make.

Business card printing upgrade

What do we have here? Post-duplexed and thicker card stock, screen printed, gold foil, and die cut corners. “Duplexed” means that they stuck a thick creamy white paper onto a smooth charcoal stock, making a heavy and serious card. For the temporary cards, the charcoal color was printed onto white paper, which isn’t as glamorous. The screen printed waves add a tiny bit of texture, and the gold foil is a sparkly stunner! We switched to turqouise for the cheapies, because we knew gold color or even metallic ink would be a letdown. The die cut corners are a theme throughout our branding, and I’ve found that they have the added bonus of preventing bent corners.

Business card printing upgrade

The “before” card feels so flimsy!

Business card printing upgrade

Here’s a closeup that shows the juicy details.

Business card printing upgrade

You can see the duplexed stock and the weight of the card in this shot.

It feels like the velveteen rabbit to me – don’t the more expensive cards look more “real” than the budget ones?

We went with Mama’s Sauce for this project, and I’ve been very pleased with their work and their customer service. Writing out thank yous is a joy on our beautiful new cards.

I can tell you it’s a bit terrifying, splashing out the cash on this stuff, especially when it’s all at once. It’s particularly hard to pay for the design work and then pay for the print work. It has been tempting to have certain things done more cheaply, but I know that doing things right is going to feel so good (and have a ripple effect with our clients).

Your marketing materials and branding set the tone when clients or customers approach you and work with you, and I want everything we do to communicate that we take our design work (and the businesses we work for) seriously.

Business card printing upgrade

How does your packaging look? How pleased are you with your marketing and advertising materials? Does your website feel right for your business? Is it all “good enough,” but you know it could be better? Can you make the physical manifestation of your brand a budgeting priority?

Making your ideas and plans tangible is what we’re all about – please contact me today so we can talk about how we can improve the impression that your business is making on people.