Tackling some questions from this post today :
Would love to hear any thoughts you have on branding...also any suggestions on setting up an etsy shop!
My opinion on branding is Don't Obsess. You can change it. You are launching an Etsy shop, not a global business. You are going to evolve, your products are going to evolve and your interests are going to change. I think the "branding" part is a big hold up for small businesses and it takes away from the actual point : making product and putting it out there.
That said, google searches for "business card ideas" or "logo ideas" might help get the wheels turning. Take a piece of paper and write down WHO YOU ARE and WHAT YOU DO. Be sure that your business cards and shop banner portray this idea. Ask for help from your family and friends to be sure your message is being portrayed.
For starting a shop, I recommend reading though the help section for sellers on Etsy. This page is a good start.
What are your "Big Plans" for "Elise Joy"?
Develop more & stronger products. That is always the plan. After that, I have no idea.
I'm in the process of setting up a shop and I wondered what your thoughts are on if I should have business cards and a "brand" , etc. starting out?
I think you absolutely have to have a business card to mail out with your products. HOWEVER, I think this business card can be a piece of cardstock with your handwritten details. You need a shop name, but you don't need a logo or full brand to begin.
Here are some simple inexpensive ideas from making your own brand pieces that can be changed later on.
I would like to know more about how you went from crafting as a hobby to more than a hobby...the process is something that I think is really interesting. Do you have any advice?
My crafting hobby turned into a business because of my blog. I was making stuff and sharing it and people were reading about it. There were some items that had more interested than others (like mixed paper books and letterpress prints) and so I started making more to sell. Once I knew I could make things that people would buy, I started spending time developing product and was willing to take more risks. Sometimes shop items fly out the door and sometimes they don't. It's a tricky process but I get an unbelievable rush when hit on the right thing.
I think you have to develop a signature item - for me, it would be mixed paper books - and let those be your thing at first. As your interests change, you can expand, but keep that signature in stock.
Do you ever lack motivation? What tricks do you use "in the moment" to keep focus?
Yes. But generally, I have something that has to be done so I push though. This post details my thoughts & tricks on staying focused. For me it is all about to-do lists. It's about understanding why you are unmotivated and eliminating the things that are making you panicked or uninspired.
Do you miss the "social interaction" that came with going to work outside of your home? How do you keep from going crazy, all by yourself all day?
It is going to sound bad, but ... no. I am a homebody. I like my own time and my own space. I love blogs and twitter because I feel like I "know" people online and I connect through them each day. That sounds so lame. But, for me, it's perfect. If I didn't do well on my own, this career choice would have been a bad one.
What are your favorite tools?
My MacBook Pro. I don't know what I was thinking by waiting so long for a computer upgrade. My Rotatrim paper cutter is insanely good. I use Uline for packing materials. I print posters and prints out of house but use my printer for stationery orders. It's an HP PhotoSmart 2575 and the reviews on amazon.com are terrible, but I like it and it works well for me.
Love to hear about your journey and transition from working full time, to part time at paper source to full time self employment.
This post has some information about how I got here. I might try to get another post together about it. :)
Do you ever get negative comments or e-mails? How do you handle them?
Yes, sometimes. If it's a totally uncalled for comment - I delete it and do my best to forget it happened. If it's just unsolicited "advice" I usually respond to the individual. Putting your life on the internet means opening yourself up to a lot of opinions. Sometimes these opinions are helpful and sometimes they make me so frustrated. It helps so much to have Paul talk me down off the ledge so I don't take my anger out on the computer.
If it is something regarding my shop, like someone is unhappy with a product, that's a completely different matter. I will always take customer complaints or feedback very seriously - they are paying for a service. A mean spirited comment from a blog reader is different. My blog is "free" and folks can click away and never come back if they don't like what I am doing or who I am. There is no need to send an email.
I'd love to hear about what classes you took in college that were MOST beneficial to the person you are today!
I was a business marketing major. I took a lot of math classes. And a lot of business classes. I love math. I love marketing. I loved my selling and product development classes. I, oddly, loved my accounting classes. I didn't take any art classes besides black and white photography.
I think I am a business person first, a crafter second. Especially, when I think back on the classes that I enjoyed most.
But I am most grateful for the non-essential classes that I made time for. Like web design. Someday, when I have kids in college, my advice will be - take all the classes you have to for your major and then take all the extra classes that you want to pass/fail. College is rad. I can't believe the opportunities that you have while you are there.
Do you advertise, do you pay to get your stuff on the front page of etsy?
I advertised on a craft blog last month but it was hard to tell how much of the hits from it translated into sales. I advertised one of my workshop's on Ali Edwards' blog a few years ago and noticed a major bump in sales once she featured it in a giveaway. I have not paid to have my stuff on the front of Etsy and that is not something I plan on doing.
how much inventory to you keep on hand at a given time - or do you process orders through a lab once you receive them so you aren't needing to shoulder that kind of investment?
I have inventory on hand at all times. I process through a lab about twice a month and restock items when they get down to just one left. Sometimes I get screwed and don't have the product when it gets ordered, but the turn around time for processing is pretty good.
Hope that answers a few questions! Keep in mind - no story is the same. Something that works for others might not work for you. The key is develop your own style and follow your own time line.