This week has been all about hash tags for me. I find my instagram account is getting plenty of likes but they aren’t translating to Etsy views, let alone sales. That is because alot of my likers are fellow makers. I am of course very grateful to have any likes at all, and approval from other makers is always welcome. I would however be happy to get a few more likes from people or organisations with an interior design angle as I think this is the market most likely to be interested. So I have ‘done a google’ (Grandmas House reference: anyone else remember that excellent BBC2 comedy). I found a blog by Brabantia which listed 19 of the best interior design hashtags. I have taken screen shots of what other makers of cushions use hashtagwise and I have been seaching google and buying platforms imagining I am after a brighter sofa. What would I type in if I wanted to buy my cushions. It’s quite tough to switch your think around like that,but worth a try.
So far my likes have remained roughly consistent but I have been picking up followers at a rate of knots, about ten in the last two days and Etsy is seeing more views. I know this probably seems little to propel with wizz-bang accounts but it’s progress for me.
I have also started selling on Folksy too. I find it much easier to list items, especially having longer tags, you can be more inventive with your descriptions. However, no sales there either. The higher price point is certainly putting off the kind of buyers I am able to attract at the moment, however I cannot drop the prices by too much and still call myself a business. The solution is to try and attract different buyers, and that requires a bit more work on my part. The Handmade Fair will hopefully push my profile up, along with a few other projects I have in mind.
As ever the battle is to find the time to do all this, do my day job, look after my family and lose some damn weight. It can’t be impossible though, busier people than me have managed it. And if someone can do it, it must be possible, if it’s possible, then I can do it.
Hopefully in few years I’ll look back on the days when getting 11 views on Etsy and no sales felt like a success and smile to myself as I am packing up yet another big order for posting.
I have run out of my favourite wool, the wool which I know how to work and which I know like the back of my hand. Due to the well known slow time over the summer months, the finances are lagging behind too. So I have been looking at my stash with inventive eyes.
I have a wool which is so thin I struggle to put it through the machine. It is a felting wool which I bought when I was just starting machine knitting and I had no idea what I needed to buy.I have two cones in two separate colours. If I run them through the machine together they produce a nice speckled effect. Combine with grey as a contrast colour and the result is really rather lovely.
I knit it up with a grey felting wool. The difference in the two types of yarn show once felted and the patterned panels which would normally make 40×40 cm square cushion covers have come up just over 28×28 cm in width. I was prepared for this. I am eyeing up a foot stool which needs recovering and I think that would be a good use of my tiny panels.
I mentioned in the last blog that I have a mind which is constantly trying to apply logic to this world and failing. I hope with this near constant disappointment by trying to get my life as organised as possible. So I’m a bit surprised that I haven’t done a business plan before. It’s practically on page one of my well thumbed copy of The Handmade Marketplace, my bible and touchstone on my way to becoming a successful small business.
I worked through The Prince’s Trust workbook (which got a mention last time) and do you know what I found? I have been seriously under charging for my cushions.
In my previous calculations I’d rounded up here, down there, not included Etsy fees, zips, etc, and finally plumped on a price for my cushions that I think people wouldn’t mind paying, rather than what they should be prepared to pay for a quality product.
Doing a business plan made me realised that realistically I was making only £3.00 on each cushion, which was quickly swallowed up if the postage went over what I charged, or if the buyer wanted to return the item.
So now I have to be brave and put my prices up. I will sit at my computer screen and wait for the cries of horror from my followers, but they will hopefully not come. It comes at the right time. I am going to close my Etsy shop for a few weeks to give me a chance to build up stock for The Handmade Fair which I’m attending in September, and when I return there will be new prices and a new business head on my shoulders.
Over the last few days I have been forced to take a break from my day job, my knitting machine and the childcare. I have had to sit in a room with nothing to do but read and write. Have you guessed what I’ve been up to yet (the title is of course a big hint)? That’s right, jury service, ( I of course won’t mention the case or what went on the deliberation room).
At first it seemed like the most awkward thing that could have happened. I’ve done it before but not recently enough to be excused, I’m in charge of childcare so I had to find cover and because you have no idea how long it will go on, for it it has to be cover you can cancel or extend as you need to (basically my Mum, my Mum is a star and she genuinely enjoys spending time with a snotty toddler).
If my husband, who hasn’t done it before, had been called he would have been interested, it wouldn’t effected the childcare set up, and it would have improved his commute considerably for a few weeks. Still I can feel my logical, over organising mind searching for order in a situation which is beyond my control. I shall strive for grace to accept the things I cannot change (blimey a bit of my Catholic upbringing floating to the surface there).
So I have decided to spend my time writing a business plan. What? I hear you cry, you should be concentrating on court cases and such like. I assure you I will not be doodling my USP instead of paying attention in court. But there is a lot of sitting around to be done and so I feel must use it constructively if I can. Is this a trait common to most crafters? I suspect it is.
I have downloaded a guide and a work sheet from The Prince’s Trust website. Which I find is a great source of inspiration and advice for small businesses in the UK. The website is aimed at young people but a lot of its advice applies across age groups.I’ll let you know, in the next post, how I get on.
I have also been concentrating on improving my photos with a plan to apply for Not On The High Street before the end of the year. Here are some of the results.
- If you start producing loops at the edge of your knitting, check you haven’t got your weaving brushes on – and also check your yarn is feeding correctly through the tension mast.
- If you drop stitches at the side of your knitting, take the weights off the knitting to prevent it from getting worse. Grab your tools and get those stitches back on the needles anyway you can. To prevent dropping more stitches move your edge weights up more often and hang them a tooth or two over the edge of the material – Also check your yarn is going through the tension mast correctly.
- Changing your main colour yarn is a dangerous moment. This is when you are most likely to deposit your nearly finished garment, weights and all on to your feet, so always check the yarn is in the sinker plate holder correctly twice, and then maybe just once more to be sure.
- When doing a repetitive task always get a system in place so you are less likely to miss a step. I normally sort the yarn, then the carriage, then the needles.
- If you’ve been at it for a while, you’re getting tired and you start to make mistakes, that’s the point at which to go to bed. Never knit tired.
I have compiled this list from my own mistakes and from having done it wrong myself soooo many times.
I have recently splurged out on some lambs wool from JC Rennie, a British Wool producer. It was a bit more than I would usually spend, but my word was it worth it. I produced my first swatch and I haven’t looked back since. I love this wool, in a very deep and real way.
I have set up my old Jones KH585 which has an eight button patterning centre rather than the punch card on the Knitmaster 360. Even through it is older and more basic, it works as smooth as a lounge lizard on an ice rink. It makes me smile.
Combining the JC Rennie Wool and the classic machine makes the experience of knitting a real joy. The wool stands up well to a gentle felt. Because of this, I don’t have to cast on and cast off, I can cut it after it’s been felted and small mistakes are just felted out. The time this saves has made me think I might be able to create a lot of items in the little time that the family work schedule allows and if they are popular than I might be on my way to making my hobby my work.
It has made me think of a piece of advice I’m sure I read somewhere, ‘use the best material you can afford’. This is very true but I would add, practice of the cheap stuff first, with knitting machines, there’s a lot of mistakes to work through first.