Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tips and Tricks 1: Categories

In an effort to write more in this blog despite feeling that I have nothing interesting to share, I have decided to write what I am calling Tips and Tricks For Selling Handmade. Now, I'm hardly an expert, and I may be repeating info you've already read, and I certainly can't claim 100% that these tips will work. Your mileage may vary, and all that. All I have to back me up are my sales on Artfire, on Zibbet, and Etsy, and compared to a lot of sellers, they don't go very far. But then, I've seen more than a few shops with no sales at all, so perhaps chance will bring them to this blog.

As to what, specifically, you may find here, these are only tips. Ideas, things that have helped me, things that may help you. Short entries, small words, easy to swallow info that you can probably put to use almost immediately. They will not be technical descriptions, how-to's, or necessarily 'out of the box'. I've found that sometimes, we think so far out of the box, that we forget the essentials that belong in the box.

Tip Number 1: Categories are your friends.

Categories are an essential part of your shop. This is especially true of shops with more than 5 pages of items (unfortunately, basic accounts on Artfire can't have categories, but if you list elsewhere, this will apply). Even when I love the products, I rarely go past page 5. Page 8, if your items really wow and amaze me. Why? One, I'm not very patient. Two, I know what I want to see, and if I don't have a way to find what I want, I leave after a quick browse. And lastly, it's just quicker to look through someone's shop if you use categories. So chances are, I'm leaving your shop for a shop with categories, and I can't be the only one.

Categories also show, at a glance, the type of items you offer. Now, you may think this is obvious if you look at the items, so I'll give you an example. Around Christmastime, I offer Christmas ornaments. Last year, the first page or two was filled with Christmas items. If I didn't have categories, people might have assumed that all I sold were ornaments. I know you're probably thinking something like, That's what banners and avatars are for. Well, not really. They help, but they don't always help to pinpoint exactly what you sell. And besides that, customers don't always pay attention to that kind of thing. And no, I can't explain why. Customers see pictures first. Not banners, and avatars only if they hang out in forums. When customers arrive at your store front, the first two things they look for are pictures (preferably clear ones!) and categories, to see at a glance what you offer. I feel I can say this because I often have coupons and information right on my store front and yes, even my banner, which is always visible, even in the individual item listings. And yet most of the time, customers don't use the coupons. I can only surmise that they didn't see them.

This is especially important if you sell two very separate types of products. For instance, jewelry and perfume. Some will find you while looking for jewelry, and if they see a page of perfume and no categories they will be confused. Some may be intrigued to look, others may leave. I'm sure there are a lot of people who would buy both jewelry and perfume from your shop at the same time. But not if they don't know you sell it! And conversely, you'll get a jewelry customer who never wears perfume, or someone who wears perfume bu never jewelry, and both will no doubt appreciate being able to get straight to the products she wants to see and buy.

Categories are absolutely required if you sell supplies. I am not going through 10 or more pages just to see if you have the blue Czech glass beads I've been looking for. If you're lucky, I'll get to page 2 before giving up. So please, Suppliers, for your sake and ours, remember the categories!












Part Two: Creative Categories
Before I start, I will say that this is at least 75% personal opinion. But I really can't imagine that I'm the only one who thinks so. So this is certainly not set in stone and I can't back it up with research. Feel free to skip :)

I love creativity. Not only are the artisans talented, but they are truly creative. I have seen many amazing hand made products that are completely unique.

That said, I'm not a fan of creativity with categories. I am of the opinion--and note, this is opinion--that customers want quick and easy. As a customer, if I have to actually click on the category to find out what it means, you've gone a bit past the realm of quick. I like to see what you have, at a glance. If you sell perfume, soap, and body scrubs, I want to see that you sell them. I know what I want and I want to be able to find it. Categories tell me that.

This is especially true of shops with a lot of items. For example, I love body scrubs, and they are the first thing I check for in bath and body shops. If I'm looking for a scrub and don't see a category for body scrubs, I assume you don't carry them and leave to find someone who does. Now, a creative category can be unique, but sometimes, they are just annoying. I don't want to have to interpret each category. When I see something like Blue Birds at Dawn, I have no idea what is in that category. Pictures of blue birds at dawn? Unless your items are really, really intriguing, I'm generally not tempted to stay in your shop long enough to figure out what your poetic categories actually represent.






This is absolutely 100% essential if you sell only supplies. I don't want to have to guess whether Blue Birds at Dawn is a category for faux birds or blue paint.



That doesn't mean you have to be boring. My categories are plain, perhaps boring, but they are quick and easy to navigate. That's what many customers LOVE about Artfire--buying is quick and easy because they don't have to register first. But I have seen some categories that are unique and informative. A jewelry shop had categories such as For the Wrist, For the Neck, etc. Obvious yet unique.

Keep in mind, these are my opinions. But I can't be the only one.

Next time: How to use your Inspiration box...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tips and Tricks For Selling Handmade

I originally started the Tips and Tricks on my artfire blog, but I have decided to switch things up. I will post the tips here and the gemstone information on my artfire blog. It just makes more sense to me. Customers are far more likely to look up gemstone info than selling tips. My artfire blog is right there in my shop, so half of the work--getting the customer into my store--is done right there. Whereas, if they find it here, they have to make an extra effort to go to my shop. Yes, I know an extra click is hardly effort, but the most direct route to my shop is the one I want customers to find. Also, while many sellers are also buyers, they usually aren't, so it's not as important to get them to my shop as it is to get customers.

So I am going to shift all the tips (all of them, there's what, 2 or 3?) here and begin to do gemstone and jewelry information to my artfire blog. And every couple weeks or so, I'll post links to the gem info I've posted recently.

I have also listed more items, so what are you waiting for? Check them out! And, as a note, whenever I list an item, it automatically feeds into Twitter. So if you want to know whenever I list a new item, follow me on Twitter. The feed also comes here, so you should see the most recently listed pieces to the left. And lastly, my Twitter automatically posts to Facebook, so if you prefer Facebook to Twitter, 'like me' on Facebook!

I will start moving things tomorrow so as not to bury this post. Thanks as always for your patience! I have so many things going on at one time that I often forget the little things like blog posting. Oops. I will just have to better organize my time! Thanks again.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's New!

I have been adding new items to my shop. As I do this, I want to write either a weekly or biweekly post about these items. To give more details and my personal notes and such. And hopefully, to attract buyers?


This is one of my new ring sets!  Blue Summer Skies Ring and Toe Ring Set. This set has one ring and two toe rings. You receive all three rings for only $10. Okay, maybe this isn't super professional of me, but I have seen rings of this type selling for $5 each! Not only $5 per ring, but $5 for plain rings. Do you see the ring on the far left, the simple band? Those are the ones that were $5. Add a Swarovski crystal (like the ring on the far right) and you could pay up to $15! Personally, I find that excessive, especially in today's economic climate. I do what I can to make my jewelry as affordable as possible, because I understand most of us don't have the money for a lot of luxuries. So I try to create affordable 'little luxuries' that we can afford while we wait out this economic slump.


This is a second ring set. The Fun and Flamboyant Orange Ring Set. This is a set of two matching rings and a matching toe ring. Yes, you get all three pieces and again, it's only $10. Another thing I'd like to point out is that all 3 of these rings have genuine Swarovski crystals. If you didn't notice, the last ring set was also $10, but only includes one Swarovski ring. This set includes three--for the same price. The first ring and the toe ring are almost identical, except for size. Also, the crystal on the ring has an AB finish, meaning it is especially shiny in the light. The second ring has an even bigger Swarovski crystal!




This is the third ring set I currently have for sale (don't worry, I have more I need to list!). The Feeling Hot Hot Hot Ring Set. This one has two rings and a toe ring. These are made in shades of fire: orange, red, and yellow. Each ring features a genuine Swarovski crystal, and like the others, are only $10 and each is adjustable. Let me just throw modesty aside for a moment and just say that I love this set. I love the way the colors combine and run together. These are great for summer, the perfect summer colors!


This is a bracelet made with chrysocolla focal (the gorgeous blue and green swirled oval) flanked by green goldstone. It is on black cotton cord, making for a simple design where the chrysocolla is the star. This piece is only $8, when regularly I would charge $16. The reason is that one of the green goldstone beads has the tiniest flaw: a little dip in the bead (below, the bead to the left). Normally I would have thrown the bead out, but the flaw was so small that I didn't even notice it. You can turn the bead so the flaw doesn't show. And like I said, this is 50% off.






This is a blue goldstone stretch bracelet. Blue goldstone is one of my favorite gems. It's not a true gem, actually, it's man made. Either way, it's gorgeous. Picture a midnight sky strewn with stars, and that is blue goldstone. Since this is a stretch bracelet, it will fit just about everyone.



I think lime and turquoise are a great color combo when it comes to summer! This sparkling bracelet  is made with faceted acrylic beads and Czech fire-polished beads. The acrylic beads (the square beads) look almost identical to glass; you have to touch it to realize it isn't glass. Acrylic beads are very light and comfortable. The Czech beads are a two-tone mix of lime and blue.

Those are the newest items, for the moment. I have some more pieces (there are always new pieces!) to list. Including a Swarovksi bangle bracelet, more ring sets, two bracelets made with a carved bone rose, and another fringed anklet.

Thanks again for reading!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Featured Gemstone: Amazonite

Amazonite is a gemstone I never knew existed until I began making jewelry, thus starting my bead obsession. It is not a very well-known gemstone, not like citrine, peridot, or garnet, but in my opinion, has its own very special appeal.




Of course, the first thing you notice is the color. A striking and gorgeous baby blue. Unless, of course, we switch our focus to Russian Amazonite, which has a touch of green to it.




Physical:

Its name is derived from the Amazon River, although no deposits have been found there.

Amazonite is a rare blue-green variety of microcline (a feldspar mineral). Its brilliant color was once thought to be caused by copper, but now is attributed to the presence of lead or possibly iron. Amazonite is an opaque stone, often found with white, yellow or gray inclusions and a silky luster or silvery sheen. Because of its color, Amazonite is sometimes confused with Jade and Turquoise. While sensitive to pressure, it has a Mohs hardness rating of 6 and is suitable for beads, cabochons and in carved cameos.



History and Lore:

The ancient Egyptians and other Middle Eastern cultures made items from amazonite. It also has been found among artifacts of Pre-Columbian Central and South America. It is called the stone of courage and is said to be named after the Amazon women warriors. Some archaeological evidence suggests that the Amazonians were a matriarchal society during the Bronze Age.

Romantics claim that the beautiful green of the Amazon jungle is reflected in the stone that bears its name. A Brazilian legend tells that the Amazons, the legendary female warriors, gave green stones to the men who visited them. This was believed to be Amazonite, but was probably nephrite (jade).




A Brazilian legend boasts of the Amazon people giving ''green stones'' to the visitors of the region. Europeans were already familiar with green microcline (my-krO-kline) from Russia and assumed the blue-green rock given to them by the Indians of South America was the same stone. As it turns out, Amazonite is not found in the Amazon Basin and the legend was most likely referring to Nephrite (jade). It is believed that Amazonite was first called ''Amazon Stone,'' and was later changed to amazonite.

The gemstone is found mainly in the U.S.A., Russia, Madagascar, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Australia.



Metaphysical:



Amazonite is believed to have many healing characteristics, including improving your skin, marriage, clarity of thought and social interaction. It is said to calm one's emotions and soothe nerves, and to enhance creativity and the ability to express oneself. Perhaps the strongest recommendation of its metaphysical powers is that Amazonite is said to make your married life happier. It improves your sense of self worth. It is called the hope stone because it inspires confidence and hope.


The healing powers of gems remain a controversial issue, but are mentioned for centuries by healers, shamans and medicine men. Whether it’s a fact or a placebo effect doesn’t matter, if it helps. The safest approach is to wear the gemstone in skin contact to the troubled part of the body. Amazonite is said to calm one's emotions and soothe nerves, and to enhance creativity and the ability to express oneself. The deeper the color of the amazonite, the more intense the effect is said to be.




Care:
Amazonite should be cleaned in lukewarm soapy water, never with a steamer or ultrasonic cleaner. Abrasives, acids and other chemicals can damage amazonite, as can scratches and sharp blows.

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