Professional Product Photography: Meet Jen

I’m excited today to introduce you to the new photographer on our team, Jen Lacey. Jen delights in wildflowers sprinkling rolling foothills, beautiful light, and the smell of wet earth. Her family is so important to her, and I’m tickled to learn that she and her dad performed “My Little Buttercup” from The Three Amigos at her wedding. She believes that life is good, it’s short, and she’s going to make it sweet. She has a degree in Professional Photography from Brooks Institute of Photography, and has been in business since 2007.

Jen Lacey, Aeolidia photographer

I talked to Jen about her work, asked her why she loves working with Aeolidia clients, and grabbed a fun tip for you to use for your own product photography! Meet Jen:

What unique perspective do you bring to your work?

I’m all about clean lines. I like things to be crisp and neat and visually inviting. My love for tabletop photography started in high school. I enjoyed shooting “things” more so than people (though I like people, too!). This continued through photo classes in junior college. It was at Brook’s Institute of Photography where I learned the technical aspects of photography. In Winter 2009 I did an internship with Richard Pierce in New York City where I got to work on shooting for major cosmetic companies (Clinique, Estee Lauder, Cover Girl, etc.) and worked on the Coach catalog. My eyes light up when I talk about this internship. It was just the coolest thing!

I got to be hands-on with putting the sets together along with the lighting and preliminary shooting.  I even learned tricks for styling different products such as handbags, eye creams, and even shoe laces.  One of my favorite memories happened at mealtime.  Every morning Richard would provide breakfast for his team and at lunch we would all sit down as a family to eat along with the clients, stylists, and any other person that was in the studio that day.  Every day was new and exciting, filled with creative individuals, lots of cool photography equipment, and in the end amazing imagery!  Richard is a master of product photography and I still can’t believe I got to work under him and learn a few tricks of the trade from him.

EricaWeiner_U1A5898

Erica Weiner’s product packaging, designed by Aeolidia, styled and photographed by Jen Lacey

Why do you like working with hand makers?

Because they’re creative, too. Makers generally think outside-the-box and have different ideas. They’re trying to do a new thing. I thoroughly enjoy capturing on camera lovely, unique handmade products.

What is special about photographing handmade items?

The products are unique and reflect the style of the maker. There are intricate details that are fun to capture on camera. I like the challenge of showing off the details of the product through lighting.

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Tickled Teal product styling and photography by Jen Lacey

Why should our clients consider professional photography for their website?

Professional photos are a way to upsell yourself. It’s a way to show that what you are selling is a quality product. Through professional images clients are drawn into a website and much more likely to spend time on the site and make a purchase.

What is your top tip for business owners working on their own photos?

Lighting. Lighting. Lighting. It’s all about the light! If you’re using window light — A first step is to set up near a window and turn off excess lights. The window needs to be your one light source. If you’re using natural light (meaning outdoors) – Go for open shade. Avoid dappled lighting and harsh sun. If you must use artificial light (flash) – Bounce the light off the ceiling or the walls. Don’t point the light directly at your product, you’ll end up with harsh shadows.

Mockingbird_U1A2458

Mockingbird brand collateral, designed by Aeolidia, styled and photographed by Jen Lacey

What is one piece of equipment even amateur photographers shouldn’t be without if they’re photographing products?

A white card to bounce light back into the shot. If all else fails a white pillow case or tshirt will do the trick. I’ve even been in situations where I bounce the light off my sister’s face! Ha! Sounds ridiculous, but it does the trick! The whole goal is to fill in the shadows and create soft lighting.

Posie_U1A5740

Posie’s business card, designed by Aeolidia, styled an dphotographed by Jen Lacey

Using someone’s face to create light in your photos – now that is a tip that I hadn’t heard yet. Thanks so much Jen!

Could your website use some professional photography?

Professional product photography really can take a site that is good and make it great! If you need a helping hand with your product photography, let us know! Jen is standing by with her camera, ready to make some magic happen for your product photos.

6 Important Steps to Plan a Blog for Your Business

We talked recently about whether your business should have a blog. If you have decided that the answer is yes, you want all that sweet, sweet blog traffic, then here is your next step to plan a blog. This post is not a technical guide to set up a blog (that’s coming up!), but instead how to make a smart plan for your blog so you can keep it updated and humming along nicely without too much stress.

Here is how to get started if you’ve decided a blog is an important way to build your business:

Brainstorm post ideas

Brainstorm as many ideas as you can for blog posts and keep track of them somewhere. If you’re stuck on this part, you can check out my huge list of 260 post ideas and brainstorming tips.

I save these ideas in Trello (fun and free project management software), and can easily move them from ideas to posts-in-progress using Trello’s system of lists and cards.

Having a big list will help you keep from feeling “stuck” along the way, and can be a great way to decide how often you want to post and to begin creating an editorial calendar.

Decide how often you’ll post

There are no rules here, and you’ll want to start with a schedule that seems reasonable, even easy. It will be much better to start small and then increase your post frequency than to overdo it at first and find yourself missing days.

Once a week is quite reasonable. If that seems daunting, you could start with a goal of two posts a month and then move to posting more regularly if you see good results and want to increase them. If you’re ready and able to post daily, go to town! But be sure that your posts don’t suffer in quality. It’s much better to have one great post a week than five that seem hurried or incomplete.

I’d recommend choosing certain days of the week that your blog post will be published, so you don’t get off track. Just saying “once a week” may mean that the week will pass you by and you’ll realize you never got to that blog post. “Wednesdays” means you don’t have to wonder if you should be working on a new blog post.

Sketch out an editorial calendar

An editorial calendar is a calendar with an idea for a post mapped out on each day that you want to post. You can use anything from a paper calendar to software designed for this purpose. I use Editorial Calendar for my WordPress blog, and it makes planning ahead easy.

wordpress editorial calendar to  plan blog posts

For an ecommerce blog, you can use Shopify’s “future publishing” feature to plan out your posts. This means you can put those blog posts on your site now and set dates for each to automatically publish.

future-publishing-2

You can plan anything from the first few months to a full year of posts, depending on how organized you’re feeling. Knowing what will be posted on any given day has these advantages:

  1. Being organized will help you be able to complete research, conduct interviews, photograph products, and prepare graphics in advance.
  2. Mapping out a schedule allows you to balance your different post types so that there is a good variety of things on  your blog.
  3. Knowing what you’re posting next means you can promote it to your readers ahead of time.
  4. You’ll know ahead of time if you need to ask someone for an interview, a testimonial, or graphics to share, because you won’t be planning the night before.
  5. If you’re ever stuck writing a blog post at the last minute, at least you’ll have a topic ready!

Planning ahead like this doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. I shuffle things around on my editorial calendar constantly (and it’s simple to do with the plugin – just drag and drop). Having content on the calendar is the important part.

Write content for future posts before launching

It’s best to have yourself scheduled out many posts in advance, so that if something comes up, you don’t find yourself missing a day. If you can find the time before you launch to write a month or two of blog posts, you’ll be so glad you did! Of course, you’ll want to keep up with them, so that every time you sit down to write a blog post, it’s for a future date on your calendar, and not something you’re scrambling to get up that same day.

For instance, maybe you’ve decided you will post twice a week, and you’re aiming to always have a month of posts ready to go at any time. That means you should have eight posts written and scheduled, and then set aside time regularly to add new posts. Then, if your business gets really busy, you decide to go on vacation, or a family emergency strikes, you’re all set and don’t need to scramble to keep caught up.

Don’t let this tip delay you, though. Having the blog out there and generating traffic is more important than being 100% prepared. At some point, you need to launch that thing, so don’t get too caught up in future post hoarding. It will be nice to get some feedback from readers to help guide your planning.

Have a plan for announcing the new blog to as many people as you can

The way I like to think of my blog is as kind of a side door into my website. Of course you’ll want people to be able to get to your blog from your home page, and even feature it there, but most of your marketing effort for the blog should be spent off of your site, trying to get other people to mention it on their sites and on social media.

You don’t want to interest your current customers in your blog so much as you want to use your blog to find brand new customers, and then interest them in your shop.

Blogging can be a lot of work, and you don’t want to be up all night writing posts, gathering graphics, researching and photographing to keep speaking to just a handful of people. Brainstorm some marketing ideas, such as pitching a story about your blog to other blogs in your niche, collaborating with other businesses, guest posting, advertising, hosting a giveaway, rewarding your customers for sharing the news with their friends, etc.

Stay focused

You could just start a blog, and post when you feel like it about whatever is on your mind. That’s not going to work for most people. In fact, that’s the recipe that creates most of those abandoned-looking blogs you see! If there is never a day that your writing work is due, it’s easy to put it off until tomorrow every single day.

If, instead, you create a schedule and stick to it, you will have a much better chance of keeping your readers engaged and getting all of the marketing benefits that a blog can offer. For more tips on creating a schedule and sticking to it, read 3 Steps for Sticking to Your Blogging Schedule.

What else do you wonder about?

If you’re planning to start a blog, or have recently started a blog, what is giving you the most trouble? I’d love to offer some advice in the comments.

Help Your Business Stand Out: Pink Olive Redesign

How do you create a website that will help your business stand out in the crowd? That was the big question we tackled when we redesigned the Pink Olive website. Pink Olive was launched by Grace Kang out of her personal passion to inspire giving and beautiful living. Her mission is to make the gifting process super easy, fun and attainable for little ones to loved ones. Here’s a quick peek at the Pink Olive website before the redesign:

Pink Olive before Aeolidia

Grace told us:

As a retailer, there is a lot of competition on the internet and easy for people to open an e-commerce store with similar vendors. How do we differentiate ourselves from other, equally beautifully designed websites?

My goal is to have a cohesive, professionally designed website that fully represent the Pink Olive experience. The minute they land on our homepage, I want them to feel like they’ve discovered a hidden gem. Our brick and mortar customers often share with us how this is their #happyplace or that their house is starting to “look like Pink Olive” — that is music to my ears :) Life is all about celebrating the little things, and special moments and we want our new visitors to go on a celebratory journey with us. Overall, I would like to simplify our current website and make it more clean and modern, without losing the whimsical sensibility + mobile friendly.

Pink Olive after the website redesign

pink-olive-home

Grace came to us ready with thoughtful information, and a deep understanding of what she wanted in her new website design. Lauren created a design that is not only gorgeous, but deftly tackles some of the challenges Grace had. She told Grace:

I think you’ll really feel a breath of fresh air looking at the full-width design. Much more modern, and leverages the beauty and charm of your actual products with big, beautiful images arranged in an attractive/modern “masonry” (aka pinterest) layout.

The product grid takes the problem of your item photos being various aspect ratios and turns it into a positive. :) The “card” style format ensures that the homepage will always look clean and sharp even if the photos are a mix of your 3 styles: floating on a white field, gray field, and in context/lifestyle shots.

The slider here is kind of special! This is a style that I’ve seen in a few places now; I think it is unbeatable when it comes to displaying a lot of complex content without visual overwhelm. The fact that it is self-directed in addition to giving info about the different slides without have to click makes it more powerful than a regular/typical slideshow.

pink-olive-stores

Grace:

Our new website represents the third iteration of the Pink Olive brand, and it looks like the third time is indeed the charm – this was the most seamless and enjoyable web redesign process I’ve experienced since our first website launch in 2007. Lauren and the whole Aeolidia team were so easy to work with (not to mention talented), and I couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. I am so excited to keep growing Pink Olive into a “big” small business with the help of our revamped online home!

pink-olive-about

Can we help your business stand out?

Talk to us! We love to think big for your business and offer many services that can help: reviewing your existing site design, updating your copywriting or photography, designing a new logo and identity, or creating a brand new custom website design. Our goal is to help your business stand out from the crowd.

Promote Your Products Using Hidden Collections

Part of what I do at Aeolidia (along with coding websites, of course) is site reviews, which involve digging deep into a client’s website from how it looks on the front end to the data underneath and writing up a thorough, researched report on how they’re doing and how they can move forward to their goals. It’s super nerdy strategy stuff, it’s time consuming, and I really love it.

For e-commerce sites, we tend to spend a lot of time looking at the “conversion funnel”, which is marketing/ e-commerce jargon for the steps that lead to sales. That flow starts with getting customers to your site and includes things like getting their eyes on many products.

One tip that I’ve given again and again via these site reviews and via general client education calls that I feel like a lot of store owners miss is that you can create as many collections (categories, in Shopify-speak) as you want, and they don’t all have to be exposed via your store navigation.

Collections in Shopify can be used for much more than your regular shop categories!

This seems super simple when I write it out. However, it’s an opportunity I see a lot of shop owners miss.

Many e-commerce shop owners work with collections (categories) only when they need to add something to their main navigation, for example if they’ve added a new product category to their inventory. That’s it – they stop there, and don’t use collections in any other ways. Perhaps they promote particular products via social media, but the collections stay relatively static.

As mentioned, one piece of that conversion funnel is getting customer eyes on more products. Linking to a single product, even if you’ve got related products on the page, isn’t exposing buyers to that many items. Same with seasonal promotions on social media that link to your shop home page or an existing (non-targeted) collection.

I was talking about this with a client earlier this spring, so I used the example of Easter. Amazon.com does this well at a much larger scale that would be completely insane for a small business, but that still serves as a proof of concept. See their Easter Shop as an example:

Amazon.com Easter Shop

Instead of linking a seasonal promotion to a specific example product or the whole shop home page, create a collection targeted to that promotion. You don’t need to get to literal about it, and you don’t have to add it your site navigation, but you can then link to that collection from your social media posts and/or your blog and expose your customers to all those products rather than just one or two.

For example, maybe you don’t sell anything specifically Easter-ish, but you have a lot of pastel and spring-y colors or designs. Create a collection of those, preferably consisting of items at a variety of price points.

The particular client I was talking to back in March had brought us on for the site review in part because she was feeling frustrated and tired and uninspired, feelings to which I think any small business owner can relate.

I told her to think of these “hidden” collections as another way to engage with her work and her product, a chance to “curate” (since that’s so popular these days) her own stuff and come up with new and interesting and fun combinations.

Use your shop collections to inspire customers and to show them things they might love but otherwise miss.

It’s also an interesting way to see what customers are interested in by looking at which shared promotional collections (or “themes” or however you’re grouping them) get the most shares, the most visits, and the most conversions.

10 Examples of Promotional Themes

In case this is still feeling a little obscure, here are a 10 examples of other themes around which you could build temporary/ promotional collections:

  1. Holidays, both major and obscure
  2. Color or pattern themes
  3. Style themes (e.g. nautical)
  4. Seasonal trends (e.g. spring cleaning, back to school, birthstones)
  5. Shape themes (circular designs or fabrics)
  6. Price ranges
  7. Gift guides by personality or interest (e.g. gifts for the outdoors lover)
  8. Size (e.g. desktop items)
  9. Guides pulled together by professionals (e.g. designer guides, blogger guides, toys for kids picked by a teacher)
  10. Inspired by a particular thing (e.g. inspired by a photo, a place, or even a single object)

Of course the particular themes and collections would very much depend on the individual store and products, but hopefully this is a helpful starting point.

This was originally posted on ZoeRooney.com. If you’d like to use Zoe’s ecommerce brainpower to increase sales on your site, please do get in touch with us.

Selling Digital Products: Project Life Case Study

More and more businesses have begun selling digital products to their customers. Customers love the instant gratification of receiving an order right away (and shop owners love not having to deal with packaging and shipping)! We recently worked with Becky Higgins Project Life® to update their e-commerce store so that the two sides of the business – physical products and digital products – play nicely together. Becky Higgins Project Life® is a solution based system for memory keeping and documenting life. The goal of our project was to erase any confusion for customers as they are shopping. I talked to Jon, the developer for this project, about our solutions.

What was most important to keep in mind when setting up the site?

Jon: For Becky Higgins the most important thing was to decide whether they should have one site or two. We came to the conclusion that since the physical and digital parts of their brand were set up as two individual companies, it was best to set up two different Shopify stores, but integrate them so both could be accessed easily without confusing the customer. Having two stores allowed them to keep the bookkeeping separate between the physical and digital orders, which was a requirement for this project.

 

project-life-physical-digital

 

What do shop owners need to consider when selling downloadable products?

Jon: The most important thing for shop owners to consider when selling downloadable products is how to display those offers to their customers. You can choose to offer the download as a product variant, using one product listing for digital and physical options. You can also set up two separate product listings, one for the physical item and one for the digital item. Either way can work. It’s strictly a preference, but it is crucial for the site’s designer to know this ahead of time.

 

project-life-item

Other Things To Consider When Selling Digital Goods:

Format of the product: Will your product be an ebook, report, video, audio, or a private membership web site? Do some homework on what you’ll need to know to sell that type of product.

Customer support: Put plans in place to make sure your less savvy customers will understand how to download and then use the content. Do they need a player, reader, app, or account to get what they paid for? How will you explain it to them and decrease confused emails and upset customers?

Bandwidth: If your product is especially large or if you have reason to anticipate significant website traffic, you will need to make sure your hosting plan can accommodate this.

Payment processors: How will you accept payment and distribute your product? On Shopify, you would need to use an app such as Digital Downloads or FetchApp. If you sell on another platform, you’ll need to research how to sell, distribute and manage your product.

Seller protection: Many payment processors offer reduced protection (if any) to sellers of digital products.

Laws and regulations: Does the country in which you are located have specific laws in terms of selling digital products, to customers in-country or abroad? For example, customers living in the EU must pay VAT on digital goods at the rate applicable in their own country regardless of where the seller is located – and you must comply with those rules.

Becky Higgins Project Life® Website Design

This project was different than what we usually do, and it turned out to be a beautiful collaboration. Kara on the Becky Higgins team designed the main website, and our task was to come in and work on the shop. So, rather than designing from scratch, Meg on our team began with the look and feel from Kara’s work and worked out all the details that are particular to ecommerce – category navigation, product display and information, and the rest of the shopping experience.

Meg understood the importance of making the shop website not only modern and friendly, but functional as well, making the choice between shopping for physical goods and digital goods an easy one. When she presented the initial design to the Project Life team she said:

I really wanted to inject a lot of personality into the shopping ecosystem while making sure the Project Life brand stays strong. In order to do so, I created load bursts of color along with clean typography and an airy, bright design. The result is something truly unique, easy to digest, and modern. The design blends well with your existing header and footer, making for a seamless experience from the Project Life homepage to the actual shop itself!

 

project-life-physical-shop

The team at Project Life loved the personality in the new design, and it achieved the main goal of the redesign: to make clear to customers whether they were shopping for physical or digital goods. They told us:

Thank you so much for everything you and the Aeolidia team have done for the store. We absolutely love the results and are so excited to hear how much our customers love it! Meg did a beautiful job in not only incorporating the existing branding and fonts, but really added flair to it all. We appreciated her artistic eye with this project!

We recently followed up with the Project Life team to ask how things are going and they told us:

What we have heard from customers is how extremely easy to navigate our new shop is and how beautiful the aesthetic is. Our customers say it makes shopping fun and the seamless transition from the website to the shop is beautiful.

Are You Ready To Jump Into Selling Digital Products?

There are great solutions out there for selling digital goods, and we’d love to help you. What questions do you have about selling digital goods? If you do sell digital, what advice would you offer shop owners who are new to this?

5 Places to Find Blog Post Ideas On Your Own Site

Tips for improving your not-so-great blog, advice for getting unstuck, and 5 places to look on your site for new blog post ideas

Well, I did it! I came up with over 350 blog post ideas for shops last week – more than 70 shops! Add that to the original 260 blog post ideas, and that’s more than 600 blog post ideas. You can read them all here, and print out the big list to add to by subscribing to my newsletter.

I enjoyed meeting some fascinating new business owners and helping out some longtime favorites. I could easily begin my own blog about letterpress stationery now.

A reader told me:

“Wow, thank you so much, Arianne. You have some impressive, super-human creative talent to come up with these ideas so quickly…and for so many people! It took me over a week just to come up with this many ideas on my own.”

Superhuman? No way! I used this system to come up with five blog post ideas for each person. You can easily use this formula on your own site to come up with many more.

System for coming up with your own blog post ideas for shops:

  1. Read your About page and nab anything interesting, quirky, or vague to expand upon as a full blog post.
  2. Skim past blog posts to see if you’ve mentioned anything that could be explained or featured in more detail.
  3. Visit your product pages to think of questions new customers may have and look for special details about the product to expand on.
  4. Visit your Instagram and Facebook posts to see what is popular and bring it back to the blog to add more photos and more to the story.
  5. Check the FAQ page for big questions to answer in more detail in a blog post.

When you’re trying to write about your own business, it’s easy to feel that everything’s interesting (because you are the star of your own story). You can also feel like nothing’s interesting (because you’re so accustomed to the day to day that you forget what is special about it). Asking a non-biz friend to step in and ask you some questions based on your site or what they know about your business can be super helpful. A fresh pair of eyes to point out what is interesting may be just what you need.

Things that stuck out to me:

Custom or client work should be supported with case study posts:

If you do custom work, for pete’s sake, please include case studies on your blog! It is scary for people to trust you with their event, gift, logo, or ideas. Your case study should make your process clear, show why people should be excited to work with you, tempt them with beautiful finished products, and make it easy for them to feel comfortable sending a down payment to you. Include info on how you collaborate, and the final (positive!) feedback from your customer.

Don’t pressure yourself by setting expectations too high: 

Many of you are “micro-blogging” regularly via Facebook or Instagram. “Real” blogging isn’t that different or difficult. You’re making it harder than you need to. The difference between an Instagram post and a blog post is a few more pictures and words. You can do it!

A blog can be anything you want, and I’d much rather see your shop blog stocked with short and sweet posts than sit empty because you’re scared your ideas aren’t mind-blowing enough. You don’t have to blow people’s minds every time, but you do need to show up regularly, be friendly, and provide value.

Give yourself some credit if you’re doing a good job

A lot of folks are doing a great job with blogging – posting consistently and often with interesting topics that are relevant to their business. Those people didn’t need my help but asked anyway, because the endless nature of blogging makes you feel like you’re going to run out of ideas. You won’t run out of ideas – you’re doing fine! Give yourself a pat on the back if you’re doing a good job!

Don’t worry about being repetitive or redundant after a couple hundred posts – only you feel that way, because you’ve written every post. Hardly anyone will have read everything you posted, and as long as you have a new spin on each new article, it’s fine to stick with topics that work well for your audience.

Remember who the blog is for – your customers

I see some people blogging about business – tips for time management, marketing, setting up a show booth. These posts are easy to write, because you’re always in the thick of that stuff and it’s what you know, but before posting a business-y post, think about your audience and your goals.

Are you writing to your peers or your customers? Is there a way to re-frame that business post so it’s more of an interesting peek into what you do than a how-to for a business owner?

Getting tons of follows, likes and comments from your fellow business owners can feel good, but it’s not going to pay the bills unless your fellow business owners are also your customers.

What to do when you want to blog but feel stuck

Some of you feel like blogging is a chore that you have to do. This comment particularly stood out to me:

“Hey, i’ve started blogging once a week for my biz but i feel like i’m being forced to do homework. I have no idea what I’m doing and am pretty sure i’m not making an ’emotional connection’ either. Coming up with engaging topics that bring out the best about my little shop feels unfocused and confusing. I care about supporting artists and the beauty they create. I would appreciate any help or insight, just a nudge in the right direction.”

Remember that you are the boss here! If you feel forced to blog, you’re the only one forcing yourself. First, know that it’s fine not to blog. Second, enjoy that there are no rules about blogging – it’s your website and you can do what you please. If you decide that you do want to blog, try these three things:

1) Are there places where you like sharing about what you do? The commenter quoted above is active on Facebook and seems to be having a fun time there. How can you take what makes the one marketing method fun and apply it to your blog? The two things don’t have to be very different.

2) Remember that there are readers on your blog, just like on Facebook or Instagram. They may be quieter, but they’re there, and they’re interested. You may feel like you’re talking to yourself on your blog, because there isn’t that easy “like” or “heart” feedback.

Don’t write what feels like business book reports meant for Google’s robots. Write to someone real.

Imagine your favorite in-person customer is standing right in front of you and you want to tell her what you’ve been up to, what you’re excited about, what’s going on with your business. Your blog doesn’t have to be any different than a lively conversation with a person who has walked in to your shop.

If you are excited about your business (and you should be!), you can comfortably and confidently tell us about it on your blog and we will be excited too.

3) Don’t make it too challenging at first. Start with an easy schedule (twice a month?), and topics and posts that you can pull together quickly and enjoyably. Once you get into the habit of blogging, you can work on longer or researched posts or start styling photography.

If it feels comfortable and you find you have more to share, you can always increase how often you post. Starting out by trying to blog daily will burn you out if it’s something you’re not excited about or used to.

Announcing the winner of the editorial calendar contest

Well, this was hard to choose! I wanted to pick someone that I could easily come up with a bunch of great ideas for, so I’d be sure I was offering something of real value. I can get a mental block sometimes when I’m on a topic I’m not interested in, but when I find something I’m into, I’m unstoppable.

I also wanted to pick someone who I thought had a real chance for success: a good writing voice, a product people will want to know more about, and a good website ready to sell. It’s not much use to have a plan for blogging if you aren’t going to be able to sell to your readers.

My final factor in choosing was to select someone who clearly needed the help. They didn’t have many posts, hadn’t blogged in a long while, or were new to blogging.

My winner is Lauren Quinn Ward of Felicette! She now has a strong brand, provided by Sarah on our team. She’s built herself a great Shopify store, and she’s been hard at work on her products and packaging. She has one post on her new blog and is ready to take off with a running start.

I will be getting together with Lauren in the next couple of weeks to help her make a plan. We will report back to you with info you can use to improve your own blog. What our plan was, and what results she saw.

Oh, and hey, I’m trying something new (to me): Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Building a Strong Brand: Felicette’s Space Cat

Lauren Quinn Ward has been making stamps by hand since 2008 under the name Doodlebug Design. After turning her hobby into her full-time job in the fall of 2014, she came to us ready to create a smart brand identity that will stand out from the crowd. Lauren told us:

I am looking for a logo and branding that I can fall in love with and be proud to show off. For me the goal is to show customers how I am confident and proud of what I do and in turn make them proud to own one (or more) of my designs. I want people to be excited when they see a package arrive with my logo on it.

Building a strong brand: start with the name

Our first step was to brainstorm a new business name that fit the business’ personality. When Lauren began working with Natalia, she told us:

As weird as this is going to sound I want my business name to be like Sabrina the Teenage Witch (I’m a comic book collector). She is feisty, smart, sweet, trendy, quirky, and of course magical. The name should be more abstract than descriptive.

Two words that I looked at that weren’t available were Kis-Kis and Kisa which were old Norwegian words for kitty. (I have Norwegian ancestry and a love of cats)

Natalia connected to Lauren’s references (having grown up with comic books as well!) and came up with an initial list of 10 possible new business names. A few of those initial ideas were: Wicked Darlings, Two Cats Chariot, House of Freya, and Felicette. Lauren immediately connected to Felicette (which was Natalia’s favorite as well). Through a few more rounds of ideas, it was clearly the smart, quirky new name – perfect for Lauren’s business!

Building a strong brand: a logo that tells a story

Once the final business name was chosen, it was time for Sarah to work her magic. We asked Lauren to share her design preferences for the new logo and identity and she said:

Felicette was the name of the first cat in space, sent by France in in 1963. When Natalia first showed it to me it got me very excited. I love the smart geekiness of a cat in space. It’s simple, it’s about a cat, and it has a fun and interesting story. I love the French aspect (being in New Orleans). Overall I am super excited about this new direction.

I know I want a cat involved in the logo in some way and possibly stars (maybe, I’m not sure). Mostly I don’t want the logo to be too childish. One of my concerns is that the name is overly feminine, and I think that is best addressed in the logo design. I think if the logo was overly ornate and feminine it would be just too much with the name and that’s not the direction I want to go with my designs or customers.

Sarah was inspired by the idea of a cat in space and in her initial round of logo ideas, included the sketch for the final logo you see below. She told Lauren:

I can’t get over the awesomeness that is cats in space and her story is made even BETTER due to the fact that she returned back to earth! So of course, I had to kick things off with a little space exploration kitty. I couldn’t help myself!

felicette-secondary-logo

Lauren immediately fell hard for the space kitty, saying:

You are the most awesome of all the awesome sauces. I wanted to sleep on the designs and answer you tomorrow, but I have been looking at them all day, I have printed them out, my cat has laid on them, I have hung them up and I am sure about how I feel about them. I love the quirky astronaut kitty paired with the stars and the script font with the lower case “F”. That cat in the bubble helmet is the cutest.

Sarah polished up the space kitty and rounded out the brand identity with smart, quirky graphics.

felicette-brand

Extending the brand with printed identity pieces

We have been delighted by the beautiful brand identity collateral Lauren has been sharing on Instagram, and she kindly sent some photos over last minute so we could share them with you as well. They really give you the feel for how exciting having a brand identity you can be proud of is.

Felicette business cards

Felicette business cards

Lauren stamping her custom stamps with her logo

Lauren stamping her custom stamps with her logo

New stamp packaging: hand-stamped bags and hang tag

New stamp packaging: hand-stamped bags and hang tag

Conquering fears of working with a designer

We asked Lauren for feedback about her project with us and she said:

The moment I decided I wanted to rebrand and rename my rubber stamp business was the moment I realized I was in over my head. Over the past seven years I had managed to squeak by with a name I was never truly in love with and a logo I wasn’t proud to show off. But I was happy, my business was growing and there weren’t any real problems. Then realized that I loved what I did and loved making stamps for people, so shouldn’t my brand and business be something I loved too?

I was so worried just before we started; I lay awake at night wondering if I had made a mistake. How could I hand over something as important as my name to a stranger? What if the designer and I didn’t see eye-to-eye at all? What if at the end of all of this I still have a brand that I only feel just ok about? Samantha was great at handling my concerns and assured me that we wouldn’t move onto the next step unless I was happy with the first one.

The naming process with Natalia was fantastic; she was patient and incredibly intuitive. The name I ended up choosing was in the first round, and fell in love with it immediately. But we went through several more rounds of names to make sure it was what I wanted.

When it was time to move on to the branding Sarah and I talked about what kind of styles I liked, colors, what I wanted to convey, and what my concerns were. She said leave it to her, and I did (which was hard for someone who had been doing it alone for so many years). I trusted her and she did not let me down.

I have high expectations, and Sarah managed to exceed every single one of them. We seemed to be on the same page the entire time. Collaborating with her has made my brand stronger than I ever imagined it could be. I have nothing but the highest praise for Sarah’s work, style, vision, creativity, process, and execution. Not only did I get a beautiful logo, a squishy orange space cat, and a brand I love, but also feel like I made a friend.

When I look at my new logo, name and overall brand I get those cartoon stars in my eyes. I now have a brand that I love as much as my stamps. I have no regrets; working with Aeolidia was the best decision I could have made for my business.

Are you ready to create a smart new brand for your business?

Our logo designers are ready to make smart, purposeful decisions while creating a strong new identity for your business. Please contact us and be ready to stand out from the crowd.

260 Blog Post Ideas, Freebies For All, and a Contest!

We’ve been talking about why you should blog and what to do if you don’t want to blog. If you have decided that you will start a blog or a newsletter, or you’d like some more ideas for an existing blog or social media, I’ve come up with a big list for you.

This post will give you 260 blog post ideas (which you could also use for your newsletter or Instagram), introduce you to 9 ecommerce blogs that are absolutely killing it, and give you an action plan for generating more ideas of your own and getting started.

260 blog post ideas for creative product-based businesses.

Get some content ideas!

When I was toying with the idea of starting a blog a few years ago, I (luckily!) happened to be sharing a hotel room at Altitude Summit with a blogger who is never short on ideas, Jessika Hepburn. She thought it was a good idea, and I asked, “well gosh. What will I blog about?” A fountain of ideas burst out of her and I grabbed my pen and notebook, jotted them down, and prepared to begin.

It was an enormous help to have that little kickstart at first. I currently have more ideas of what to blog about than I have time to blog right now. I think of blog post ideas throughout the day as I talk with our clients, and I usually have three or four article ideas humming in my head at any given time, if I could just get some quiet time to sit down and write them out for you.

Ensure that you’re not stuck facing a deadline with no idea what to post about with this list I’ve pulled together. This focuses mostly on creative product-based businesses that are blogging to promote ecommerce sites, but many of the ideas will apply to any kind of blog you’re putting together.

I am dividing this into rough types of posts, with some example posts that would fall under that heading. Grab a few post types that make sense for your business. Start with these ideas and add your own as well.

Get this list as a printable PDF doc by subscribing to my newsletter!

Behind the scenes

What this is: Particularly for handcrafted creative businesses, your customers shop with you because they’re interested in your story. They want to know how you get your ideas, how you make your products, who helps, why you do what you do. In most cases, customers want to feel like you’re a real person who they relate to.

How this helps you: A customer who gets absorbed in your story will be more likely to make a purchase, understand your pricing, and appreciate the service you offer.

Post ideas:

  • All about your business
    • the story of how you got started
    • what your business name means to you
    • why you’re interested in the field you’re in
    • what you did before and how it relates to what you do now
    • what drew you away from what you were doing before
    • how your life changed after you began your business
    • what you find rewarding about your business
    • how you relate to your customers
    • your future plans and dreams
    • stories of people you’ve met and places you’ve been along your biz path
    • stories of bumps in the road and how you overcame them
  • A day in the life post that shows what you do
    • a peek at your daily schedule
    • some information about your family or home
    • introduce the team that works with you
    • do a tour of the printer that makes your cards
    • show how your letterpress machine works
    • photos and info about your office or studio
    • show the sheep that your wool comes from
    • share something you love to do when you’re not working
    • tell a story about a heartwarming customer interaction
    • show the care that goes into packaging your products
    • show piles of orders packaged to go out and speak about your shipping process
  • A look into how you make your products
    • where you get your design inspiration
    • how you plan or prototype a product
    • show the work you do by hand
    • show a video of your handwork in action
    • portfolio-style posts of your design work for clients
    • how you pulled a collection together
    • how your customers’ interests and feedback influence your work
    • changes you’ve made to your style and why
    • show and explain the small details that make your product special
    • share a product idea that didn’t work out and why
    • show how a product has changed over time as you’ve refined your style
    • explain how you source your materials, and what matters to you about the quality
    • show how you test a new product’s readiness for market
    • how do you choose colors, flavors, scents for your products?
    • explain how you customize or personalize products
  • A peek into the back end of the business
    • behind the scenes at a photo shoot
    • how you designed your packaging
    • “meet the makers” if you sell others’ handmade products
    • how you manage work/life balance
    • physical tools or machinery you use to create
    • digital tools you use to manage your business
    • share the story behind the name of a product or collection
    • describe a collaboration you’ve done with another designer
    • stories about growth and how you handled it
    • stories about press and other opportunities to scale

Inspirational

What this is: People often are searching the internet to feel inspired. Not necessarily to make something, but to see something beautiful, get a new idea about how to match things together, have an idea they can apply to their home.

How this helps you: Particularly if you sell clothing, accessories, or homewares, you can use this type of post to help clients picture your product in your life.

Post ideas:

  • Collections of products that go with yours
    • an outfit post featuring your hat
    • products to decorate a nursery with
    • products to style a home with
    • products to use for a party
    • products that make you think of a certain season
    • products that remind you of a favorite place
    • products all in a certain color
    • gift ideas for types of people (moms, sisters, dads)
    • gift ideas for holidays (valentine’s, mother’s day, sibling appreciation day)
  • Posts showing your products “in the wild”
    • your products modeled on a person
    • your product styled in a home
    • your product being used by a minor or major celebrity
    • your customers wearing/using your products
    • your booth setup at a fair or show
    • your product displayed in a brick and mortar shop
    • throw and photograph a party using your product
    • take your product on vacation and let it “photobomb” your scenic shots (works best with dolls/toys)
    • photos from customers unpackaging your product
  • Share tips and ideas for using your product
    • how to decorate a room
    • how to dress up a simple outfit
    • essentials to bring on a plane trip
    • recipes to be served with your ceramics
    • ways to tie a scarf
    • reasons to send a handwritten card
    • a video of how to use your product
    • unusual and creative uses for your product
    • how to set a mood with candles
    • ideas for hanging or framing art
    • games for kids to play with your toys
    • a list of why everyone should own your type of product
    • cleaning or laundering tips
    • customization or personalization tips
    • add-ons that make your product even more enjoyable
    • list ways people can improve their lives with your product
    • share the silliest uses for your product
    • how you use your product yourself
  • How tos or tutorials
    • share how to make one of your products (this can have the side effect of showing how much work it is and inspiring people to buy instead of make!)
    • give people a DIY project to go with one of your products
    • give people a DIY project that uses supplies you sell
    • step by step for layering jewelry
    • show people how to get accurate body measurements
    • teach people the smart way to shop for what you sell
    • printable foot size chart for kids’ shoes
    • how to display your type of product in a room
    • how to save time and/or money by using your product
    • how to enjoy time with family using your product
    • how to set a beautiful table
    • how to throw a fun party
  • Share things you’re inspired by
    • mood boards and color schemes
    • music playlists or favorite podcasts
    • books and blogs you’re reading
    • inspirational quotes
    • photos you’ve taken that inspire your work
    • places you’ve traveled, or would like to go to
    • art that makes your heart sing
    • style board based on a movie
  • Freebies
    • printable inspirational quotes
    • downloadable desktop wallpapers
    • PDF tutorials
    • printable cards
    • printable crafts
    • art prints to download and frame
    • ebook you’ve written that relates to your product
    • catalogs or lookbooks
    • printable bookplates or gift tags
    • graphics to print and cut out of sticker paper
    • coupons or other discounts

Informative

What this is: Let people leave your blog knowing some new information. What do you wish people understood about you, your business, or your products? With a blog, you can tell them.

How this helps you: You can explain your products to people, address their most likely objections about buying your product, and you’ll have a link to point people to when you get a question on the topic.

Post ideas:

  • Promote products directly
    • use a post to provide more in-depth detail than you can on a product sales page
    • show what went into making your new product or product line
    • announce a new collection or product
    • share news about your products being offered by a major retailer
    • notify people if a product will be discontinued so they can purchase it before it’s gone
    • let people know when a popular product is back in stock
    • announce a limited edition product
  • Answer commonly asked questions about your product
    • put together a “getting started” guide
    • explain what you mean when you say it’s organic
    • show how your metalworking differs from others
    • subtly make it apparent why your prices are higher than mass-produced work
    • share info about the charity organizations you support
    • do an “ask the readers” roundup
    • explain the different materials people can choose from
    • show how the different sizes work in the kitchen
    • point out the differences between two similar products
    • explain how to clean or maintain a product
    • show some ways to use your product
    • show how different color combos look for personalized products
  • Promote events and launches
    • build excitement for an upcoming product or collection’s launch
    • offer discounts or giveaways, or let people know about sales
    • let fans know what craft fair, trade show, or other event you’ll be selling at
    • point people to your TV appearances, podcast interviews, and blog features
    • share the details about an upcoming collaboration with another designer
    • announce your collection’s launch at a major retailer
    • announce book signings, workshops, or other places people can meet you
    • publicize in-studio events or parties
    • share your upcoming pop up shops or trunk shows
  • Lifestyle posts on your general subject
    • articles about styling your home, if you sell housewares
    • articles about parenting, if you sell baby products
    • articles about fitness, if you sell an energy drink
    • articles about fashion, if you sell jewelry
    • articles about travel, if you sell handbags
    • articles about organization, if you sell planners
    • articles about relationships, if you sell cards and stationery
    • articles about the earth, if you sell nature photography
    • craft how-tos for kids, if you sell toys
    • sewing tutorials, if you sell fabric
    • arranging a gallery wall, if you sell artwork
    • recipes or parties, if you sell ceramics
    • tips for a green thumb, if you sell pottery
    • eco-friendly cleaning product advice, if you sell soap

Authoritative

What this is: Posts about the things that you’re now an expert at, which may be new to your readers.

How this helps you: Build your authority by showing your expertise in your field. Trust and respect from your customers makes it easier for them to purchase from you, and authority in your field could lead to great business collaborations. You probably know more than you think you do!

Post ideas:

  • Share information about the history of your field
    • how your creative method first began, and how it differs now
    • historical examples of the type of work you do
    • how modern techniques are an improvement on the originals
    • what old methods you use and enjoy
    • the qualities of various materials used in your craft
  • Share some of what you’ve learned along the way
    • struggles you’ve had with your business, and how you overcame them
    • how you grew your business quickly out of necessity
    • or why you grow very slowly, or stay the same size
    • what you learned about people as you built your business
    • what you learned about yourself as you’ve built your business
  • Give advice, either business or craft-related
    • what to do when Oprah calls
    • tips for being on Shark Tank
    • the best way to finish a quilt
    • a time-tested method for glazing a cup
    • how to hire amazing employees
    • how to prepare for an interview or appearance
    • how to dye cloth without letting colors bleed
    • how to purchase the best quality materials
  • Show off press mentions with a story
    • show some extra photos that didn’t make it into the magazine article
    • mention a feature on another blog which includes a giveaway
    • let your customers know how excited you were when you saw a celebrity wearing your earrings
    • share about the weekend you worked 24 hours in a row after being listed in that gift guide
    • let people know your knitting patterns are available in a magazine and how to get it
    • tell the story of the funny backstage experience you had on a TV show
  • Share customer testimonials or reviews with a story
    • share a review that has new ideas for using your product
    • feature a client by printing her testimonial and showing what she made from  your supplies
    • show process photos of you creating a custom product, and the customer’s testimonial
    • share a review that asks a question, and answer it
    • share a testimonial, and feature some info about the customer and how she uses your product
  • Interview yourself or have someone interview you
    • what do you wish people would ask you? Format it as a Q&A on your blog
    • be open to interviews, and ask if you can share them on your blog as well
    • be an authority by interviewing others about insider details of your business
  • Show your honors and accolades
    • share the award you won and how you feel about it
    • show your certifications, and explain what you had to do to become certified
    • share contests that you’re entered in with your customers and see if they’ll vote
  • Give your opinion on a hot topic in your industry
    • share your stance on an issue that people are divided on
    • explain an unpopular opinion of yours, and why you feel that way
    • give a comprehensive explanation of something new in your field
    • denounce a trend or fad that you don’t like, then show what you prefer
    • introduce people to a new method that’s just taking off
    • review supplies for your craft
    • review books about your field
    • review materials used in your art
    • test two methods and report your findings

Collaborative

What this is: Finding ways to work with others on  your blog or theirs, cross-promote, or make a new creative collaboration.

How this helps you: Mentioning people you admire in your industry could lead to a stronger relationship with them. Building connections only helps a business. Creating community among your customers will increase their loyalty to your brand, and increase your “word of mouth” factor.

Post ideas:

  • Round ups of work by people you admire:
    • product roundups
    • blog post roundups
    • Instagram photos you’ve recently liked
    • your favorite artists
    • your favorite gift shops
    • your favorite stationers
    • your favorite handcrafters
  • Interviews
    • interview someone who makes a product that complements yours
    • interview someone in your field that you admire
    • interview other small businesses that you think your customers would like
    • interview a pioneer in your field
    • interview a controversial face in your field
    • ask the questions you’ve always wondered about
    • make yourself available to interview
  • Guest posts to share traffic and be exposed to a new audience
    • offer to post on others’ sites
    • offer to reprint posts on your site
    • ask people if they’d like to write a guest post for you
    • ask two artists or designers to interview each other for your blog and share on theirs
  • Ask a question and start a discussion
    • ask for opinions on new product ideas
    • ask for opinions on color choices for a new line
    • ask readers what they’d like help with
    • ask readers how they use your products
    • ask readers what they wish you’d make
    • ask what shops your customers would like to see your products in
    • let people vote on a product name
  • Feature your customers
    • show photos of customers wearing your products
    • share how customers are using your products
    • interview your customers to see how your products are making their lives easier
    • feature interesting customers to make it clear what your niche is
    • showcase things your customers have made with your products
    • have a hashtag that your customers can use to be featured
    • request customer photos and info as part of a contest

Get this list as a printable PDF doc by subscribing to my newsletter!

Examples of smart ecommerce blogs

The folks below really know what they’re doing, and I would recommend looking around their blogs so you can see what it looks like when it’s done right. Of course, you don’t want to copy any other work, but you wouldn’t try to put together your own magazine having never seen what a good magazine looks like before, would you?

The Tattly blog shows tattoo hacks, interesting ideas like tattooing Easter eggs, collaborations with other businesses, and behind the scenes of where and how they work. Tattly’s blog makes you root for their business, feel like one of the cool kids, and want to buy a boatload of temporary tattoos!

The Rare Device blog keeps you up to date on trunk shows, events, and new products, but also takes you on studio tours, explores interesting art, and supports their community and their makers. Their blog makes you certain that they’re passionate about and dedicated to the artisans they work with, and on the cutting edge in their field.

The Uppercase Magazine blog shows fascinating glimpses behind the scenes of putting a magazine together, features shops that sell their magazine, and shares artwork and information that their readers will be interested in. Their blog interests readers in exactly what they’re selling, enticing people to purchase the physical magazine itself.

The Moorea Seal blog features their designers, new products, interviews, sales, fashion how-tos, and press mentions, all in a stylish magazine-like feel. It’s professional and personable, and positions them as a shop that really knows their stuff.

The Baby Jives blog shows room tours from their customers, gift round ups and giveaways, partners with and promotes other small businesses, and shares free printables. You can tell Jahje loves what she does, and all the photos and roundups are beautiful and eminently shareable.

Emily Ley’s audience of busy moms love her updates about her own pregnancy and children, profiles of readers like them, and simple tips for living a life of “grace not perfection.” Emily shares updates about her new product launches and drives an extraordinary amount of interest in each new project of hers.

The Skinny LaMinx blog is almost like a magazine, showing off Heather’s inspiration, new products, press mentions, home tours, art, and architecture. It’s all perfectly “on brand” and a delightful read that will engage her customers.

The Twigs & Honey blog showcases “real bride” wedding photography with brides wearing their headpieces, new products, events, and collaborations, all tied together with simply stunning, on-brand photography. The photography makes Myra’s business look far from “homemade” and elevates the handmade to an exalted status.

The 1canoe2 blog is a great mix of lifestyle, products, giveaways, and even crafts you can make at the end of the year with their calendar artwork – smart! Also graffiti, barn-painting, process posts, and very specific printable cards (for waiters, dog sitters, etc.). They don’t post often, but when they do, it’s high-quality, on-brand, and a delight.

How to pull this all together

Okay, ideas galore! Now how are you going to get this all organized?

Step 1: what is your objective?

Before being able to plan your blog, you should know what your goals and objectives are. Are you primarily trying to increase traffic to your site? Do you want to create community or spark collaborations? Are you interested in having a platform for sharing what matters most to you? Keep this objective in mind as you plan posts, and ask yourself with each post idea, “how will this help me meet my objectives?”

Step 2: who is your reader?

If you’re committing to writing a blog, you really need to know who you’re writing to, and focus tightly on that person. Once you know what she likes to read, what she’s interested in, and what she’d like help with, you’ll never run out of ideas. Just think to yourself, “how could I help Lucy today? What would make her laugh? What would she think was pretty?” and you’ll have some post ideas ready. Our article about finding your dream customer will help with this.

Step 3: what is your blogging “voice?”

You need one way to talk to your readers that fits your brand like a glove. The first step to capturing your voice is to understand your Unique Selling Proposition. Learn more about USP here. Once you really know your brand, your voice should be fairly easy to capture.

Step 4: pull your ideas together

Start with the above ideas, and then expand on that. Adjust the ideas above that don’t apply to your business until they do. Brainstorm everything you know about your company, what you believe in, what you want to do, where you’ve been, and who is interested. Don’t worry if the ideas are good or not, just get them all out there. Then you can come back when the brainstorm has passed and your “blog garden’s” soil is wet with little post idea sprouts peeping their heads up. Thin out the ideas that don’t fit, and plan to grow the ideas that will work for your blog.

But wait! There’s more!

I am still writing more posts about your blog and how to plan and maintain it. Don’t miss out on any of them – subscribe to my newsletter to be alerted about new posts and get our free resources to build your brand. You can also get this full list as a printable PDF (with room to add your own ideas) by subscribing below:

Win some ideas just for you!

All commenters this week got five blog post ideas custom to them in the comments. A grand prize winner has won a 6 month editorial calendar from me, specific to their business. I will report back on that process in the future, so you can see how it went down.

The contest is over and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 5. Thank you for playing!

The blog ideas are still helpful, and I’d love you to share them with your creative business friends:

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Focusing Your Product Line: Tickled Peach Studio

This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. Today we’re hearing from Tickled Peach Studio.

Tickled Peach Studio

Business: Tickled Peach Studio
Owner: Kathy Sanders
Site: tickledpeachstudio.com

Below is a screenshot of Kathy’s site (before she adjusted it with the adorable new logo Christine created for her).

Tickled Peach Studio website advice

About:

Kathy Sanders of Tickled Peach StudioTickled Peach Studio is a stationery and personalized gift shop specializing in products for kids. I operate the business out of my home in Georgia. I sell party invitations, stationery, mealtime products, puzzles, etc. My top selling product is placemats.

Over the last year I have been working toward creating all original illustrations to feature on my products. It became important to me for my products to display unique artwork instead of using clip art that is widely used. I love fun, cute, simple, and colorful illustrations!

I never in a million years thought I would be running my own business so it is hard for me to put myself out there (my top fear in business). I have found that my creative spirit is something I enjoy expressing.

My Etsy shop has been open since Aug 2011. I started a WooCommerce shop toward the end of 2013, just this week I set up a Shopify shop and switched to it to give it a whirl.

Challenges:

I started my business in July 2011 while still working full time for a local university. I opened my Etsy shop and began selling printable invitations and party packages. As my knowledge grew about stationery and gift design I expanded my line of products. I am at the point in my business where I need to start making the move away from Etsy and to establish my brand off of Etsy.

One big challenge was keeping my WordPress / WooCommerce shop updated. Things were broken from the beginning and to me it just seems like a clunky system. I hated to send someone to my website because it was so broken! I would love to use Aeolidia in the future, so I’ve decided to give Shopify a try first to make sure I want to invest in it and a whole new site. So far I love Shopify!

Objectives:

My big goal is to make the move away from Etsy. I would like to increase my site visitors to my e-commerce shop and I believe the best way to do that is to have a user friendly, mobile ready website. I’ve made a step towards this by switching to Shopify already.

My main next step is to get more publicity, market myself better, and drive more traffic to my website and away from Etsy. I feel I have a great collection of products, I just need to get in front of people more.

In July this year I made the decision to focus my shop mostly on products for children, because it fits better with my personality and passions. I discontinued my bridal shower invitation collection, which was one of my best selling invitation lines. Since then I have seen sales decline and Etsy views drastically decline, so that has been challenging and disheartening. In a way I am starting over, bringing my children’s products to the forefront. So as part of my financial goals I need to bring sales back up with the products that I love to sell and not ones that just make me money.

Promotion:

Currently, I promote via Facebook and Instagram. I use Pinterest too and see traffic come from there. I have advertised on a few blogs and online magazines, but don’t really see good results from these. Since I have switched to Shopify I plan to try doing a monthly newsletter soon.

I am totally lost on how to even begin getting press which is mostly why I keep putting it off. I definitely need help on getting me started in some direction. I did submit product photos to the upcoming Fall 2014 Stationery Trends magazine, but still waiting to hear if I made it in.

Tickled Peach Studio business advice

Tickled Peach Studio business advice

Tickled Peach Studio business advice

Tickled Peach Studio’s Best Next Step

Hello Kathy,

Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! My thoughts follow (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).

Focusing your product line

Firstly, I am glad that you’re pursuing the part you’re interested in (kids’ stuff) and dropping the part you don’t want to do (wedding). It’s much easier to put your heart and soul into your business when you’re excited about it. Naturally your profit will go down for a while if you lose half of your customers by no longer making products for them, and you are right that you’re going to need to work hard for a while to introduce yourself to your new customers.

Moving to Shopify was a good plan, and now your job will be to make that shop profitable. A website can be a lot of work, and if you’re doing all of the work just to pay the provider’s fees, something needs to change.

Your new Aeolidia-designed logo is much more kid-centered, and I think adjusting the site with the more playful feel will help your new customers feel right at home (let me know if you’d like any help with this!).

Create a one-of-a-kind product

Switching to using original artwork and illustrations for your products is huge, and it’s going to be what makes you special and makes you stand out from all the similar shops out there trying to make some quick money from home. You’re now providing something unique and you should make sure your customers know it! Shout it out loud on your home page, and explain it on every item. You are offering customers Tickled Peach artwork that they can’t find elsewhere.

Promoting your website

Having a user-friendly, mobile-friendly website will not increase visitors to your site, but it will decrease the percentage of visitors that leave as soon as they get there. To increase visitors to your site, you need to go out and tell them about it on a regular basis.

Pitching to blogs, magazines, and press is vital, and my best advice if you’re unsure of how to start is to purchase our Pitch Kit. Jena on our team created this for her clients, and the $44 will be the best money you ever spent on publicity once you start getting all the blog mentions and other press. You can learn more about that and purchase it directly here:

Get Press Using the Pitch Kit

We also offer one-on-one marketing consultations, which I’d be glad to talk to you about in more detail.

Newsletter, for sure! Set that up now, start collecting email address, and come up with a plan of what to send out. You don’t want to gather addresses and then allow people to forget about you (that will make them hit the “spam” button, which is the last thing you want!), so come up with some simple ways to keep in touch that you can keep up with, and will also be interesting to your customers. Maybe show examples of customized products from your customers? Have contests or giveaways? Ask customers what kinds of illustrations or products they want to see?

Thanks for the chance to learn more about Tickled Peach. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to incorporate your new branding into all that you do (website, social media, packaging), establish yourself as a kids’ shop, promote your work to blogs and magazines (working the custom artwork angle! Everyone loves a story), and build up sales on your Shopify shop.

We are standing by and ready to help out with whichever aspect of this that we can! Please don’t hesitate to get back in touch at any time.

Are you ready for the next step?

If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work. Contact Aeolidia – we never bite!

I’m Speaking at the Maker Mentors Online Conference

I am speaking at a new conference in May that I think you’ll be interested in. Firstly, you don’t have to go anywhere! You can sit at home all comfy in your jammies and learn from those expert-types that your friends keep jetting off to see in New York or California or Utah or wherever. Secondly, whoa, they’ve got some interesting people on their lineup, and I feel like I’m in great, awe-inspiring company for sure.

The Maker Mentors online conference May 2015

What’s the deal?

The conference is called Maker Mentors, it’s May 14th to the 16th, and it’s the first live online conference for creative business owners. They have speakers, who you will watch via live video and be able to text chat with, and mentors, who you can sign up to talk to one-on-one about your own business and its particular goals and challenges.

There will be over twenty live sessions, and an interactive forum where you can chat with other attendees. If you can’t make one of the time slots, days, or even the entire event, you can still access all of the content, which will be recorded and kept available to you.

Who is this event for?

Do I need to be an artist, an Etsy shop owner, or a small business?

This event is for any creative person who wants to foster a business around their craft. Perhaps you desperately want to turn your hobby into a full-time job. Or, maybe you are established in your creative field but want to take your business to the next level. It doesn’t matter if you are running a six figure business, or dreaming up ideas in your basement. We are going to meet you at any stage and introduce you to the tools and experts you need to get where you want to be.

Our sessions are designed to give you new ideas for growing your business, and the strategies we discuss can be applied to a wide range of creative specialties.

How do you know if this conference is right for you?

Take a look at the schedule and see if there are any topics that could help your business.

Do you want to get media coverage of your work? Have you ever thought about selling a product in a retail setting? Are you struggling to find a sustainable business model for your craft?

These are all things we can show you how to do. And you can take these ideas and apply them to your business in a way that makes sense for your life.

Who is speaking?

Goodness, who isn’t speaking?

Hear from:

  • Andreea Ayers, CEO of Launch Grow Joy
  • Lisa Congdon, Illustrator
  • Tara Gentile, Author of Quiet Power Strategy
  • Sarah Von Bargen, Founder of Yes and Yes
  • Omri Mor, CEO of ZIIBRA
  • Jenna Herbut, Founder of Make It! Show
  • Arianne Foulks, Founder of Aeolidia
  • Kate Miss, Founder of Kate Miss Jewelry
  • Cory Huff, Founder of The Abundant Artist
  • Kerry Burki, Editor of Handmade Success
  • Lisa Jacobs, Founder of Marketing Your Creativity
  • Molly Mahar, Founder of Stratjoy
  • Tara Swiger, Editor of TaraSwiger.com
  • Vicky Ayala, Brand Strategist
  • Wendy Piersall, Founder of Woo! Jr
  • Steve Zika, President of Kid Knits
  • Tracy Matthews, Founder of Flourish & Thrive Academy
  • Tony Cappaert, CEO of Contactually
  • Elizabeth Whitton, Founder of Felted Sky
  • Marlo Miyashiro, Founder of Creative Arts Consulting
  • Shawn Nelson, Founder & Chairman of LoveSac
  • and more to be announced!

Go see the lineup and more detail here.

How do I sign up?

Right now there is both early bird registration with a discount, and you can use my discount code of “AEOLIDIAVIP” to get $50 off of your conference fee. Sign up here.