{Gussy Biz Series – Q&A :: part 3}

“We Learn…

10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach others.”

~ William Glasser

Sappy disclaimer: That quote is for YOU. Ya’ll come here and leave comments, you engage the Gussy community and you inspire and teach me!
I find it so great to put things down on paper because it’s super helpful when I’m wanting to learn. But from my perspective it’s great to see all that I have learned, which is what this series has taught me. And, I like to see all that I want to learn. And all that I should have learned sooner but was too hesitant… Oh. Was I getting off track? Whoops.

The point is that I like to have visual reminders.

I know Part 2 was packed full of words. Hello, Gussy had a lot to say! So maybe you’ll bookmark this series? Maybe you noticed I didn’t share EVERYTHING? I did that for a reason. I hope that you’ll take my posts and see how you can apply them to your life. It’s OK to ask for help if you get stuck, but don’t be too quick to doubt yourself. You can do it :]

If you’re fashionably late, be sure to read {Gussy Biz Series – organizing :: part 1} and {Gussy Biz Series – business tips :: part 2}.


{Your Questions, My Answers}
***

Have you read any [business] books or blogs to help on your career path?

No. I have read a few blog posts, but not any blog that is mainly business oriented.

My husband and I have read and worked through Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover program, which has helped us be a cash paying only family {no debt! no debt!} and this definitely is applied to my business. TMM has also helped us save a lot of money in a pretty short time period.

Here’s one blog post in particular that helped:
A Beautiful Mess, Things I wish I had known…

I have been an Etsy shop owner for a year and never really set up my financials! Help! Where do you start?

In no order of importance:

  • set up a separate checking account from which you pay your bills from. This will help you organize and visually see/calculate/chart what you are spending each month to run your business. If you use the same bank for both accounts you can easily transfer money into your “bill paying” checking account and that’s how you get “paid”. When you do it like this it’s easy to see that you receive a paycheck. But don’t transfer it back…
  • work very, very, very hard at NOT using a credit card. Depending on what you are selling and how expensive materials are, you should be able to avoid this route. Debt is horrible. It gives you anxiety, gives you false hope, and sets you up for failure every time you swipe your card. Why? Because each month you’ll receive a bill. Remember this post: Etsy vs. Big Cartel? We are trying to AVOID debt and unnecessary bills. If you have credit cards, consider the Total Money Makeover program for help on paying them off with cash {not transferring to another account} fast!
  • updated your check register daily with your purchases/deposits. Then, place all receipts in an envelope dated with the month and year. SAVE ALL RECEIPTS! At the end of each month, I like to add up all material and shipping expenses, deposits {aka: PayPal transfers}, tax write-offs/business expenses, and such. It helps me to see how many sales I had in relation to how much I spent on materials. Some months are higher in expenses {because of large quantity orders}. So while this is never 100% accurate, it is a great thing to train yourself in doing Every. Single. Month.
  • Etsy will allow you to review each month’s bill {it’ll break down everything} and PayPal allows you to download your monthly activity to get caught up. If you have a Big Cartel shop, you only need to track through PayPal {because there aren’t other expenses associated with your shop {just the monthly fee, which comes out of your PayPal account automatically each month}. It’s OK if you are not up-to-date on this, but this is very important and should be at the top of your to-do list
  • try and anticipate as accurately as possible all upcoming expenses. I have a notebook where I write all need-to-order materials. When something is low, it gets put on the list. Be careful, though. Some items you purchase take 7-10 days (like business cards), whereas others can arrive in 2-3 days. Be sure to give yourself enough time

How do you set up posts to post at a later date? Can that be done in Blogger?

I showed visual examples of this {using Blogger/Blogspot and WordPress accounts} here. It’s very easy to do and is an amazing feature! I would be sad without it.

What is the biggest help to help you stay on top of your orders, your blog and your personal life?

Ohhh, lists! And my blog calendar. I try and have a few scheduled items on my blog that the Gussy community can count on. One is my Friday Featured Artist posts. I was doing these every week but am now doing them bi-monthly.

I’ve also incorporated an optional mid-month group giveaway post for my sponsors to participate in, which will post the same time each month. I also like to have certain days in which I host giveaways. Aside from these “blog basics”, I try to keep my schedule open.

Having a calendar to track all blog events is mandatory for me. I usually have 2 months ‘”up” at a time — I don’t plan beyond 2 months.

To help me stay on top of my orders I used a little trick that my friend Lindsey taught me: With each order, print 2 copies of the receipt. One goes in a “Ship” folder that I keep nearby. All orders in here need to be mailed {duh, Gus!}. The second copy goes in a monthly folder titled “Sales” so I can easily track or look-up a sale. In addition to keeping all receipts {discussed above}, I also track all receipts of sales. Can I share something silly? I love to watch how Month F grew from Month E. So fun! {See, visual reminders… they are so important to me!}

The only way to stay on top of my personal life is to just schedule coffee dates with friends! Some times I “forget” and then it’s a wonderful surprise :] …And for time with hubbs, some times that means leaving the apartment for the day so I won’t sew. But we love days away like that — touring Minneapolis and having lunch dates. What girl doesn’t love to be dated after {almost} 2 years of marriage?! =P

Would love some advice on how you showcase your pieces – what kind of photography tips do you have for us newbies?

I’ve found the best lighting comes from natural sources. To photograph my wares, I use a little table near two windows in our apartment. I have two white foam boards that I use for my backdrop {one on the table’s surface and one propped against the wall}.

When you are ready to photograph your wares, try shooting at different times during the day. In the morning, this area of our apartment has a lot of harsh, direct light. However by early afternoon, the lighting is perfect.

Some times I read photography how-to posts and they talk about really adding to the backdrop. I personally find this a little distracting. Some times it’s nice to add in an object for proportion purposes, but when there are a lot of items in your photo it can be confusing just exactly what is for sale.

Practice shooting at different angles/perspectives: from above, completely level with your product, zoom in, etc.

At all costs, avoid the built-in flash for an extra source of light. If you’d like a little sumthin’ sumthin’ else, purchase some compact fluorescent light bulbs and play around with some lamps {adjust the height, placement to your product, etc.}. Work to achieve soft, natural light sources with the help of these special bulbs.

When you are done photographing your wares, take a break and come back later. How do the angles look? Does the product look “natural” or is the angle awkward-looking? Ask yourself: Would I buy this product based off these photographs?

Remember to put yourself in the shoes of the buyer…

Where do you think you have gotten the most attention from – other blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, Big Cartel, Google? Actually, if you know the answer for sure, could you even rank those things by how much attention they’ve given you?

There isn’t a solid answer to this question because it varies day-by-day. I notice when I do more personal posts my traffic is up everywhere. When I blog about Gussy products, or this series {for example}, my traffic also increases greatly from “the norm.”

I use Google Analytics and SiteMeter to watch my traffic. I am pretty sure there are other sites you can use, but I don’t know of them nor do I use any others.

Read my post on understanding Analytics here.

One thing is for sure: Etsy wasn’t/isn’t bringing me much traffic, which is why I moved to Big Cartel in the first place.

My personal “thing” is I watch the top 10-15 referrers in Google Analytics.

And here’s something else that is unique: Being a sponsor on someone’s blog isn’t as important as some people make it out to be. If you have a product people love, if people feel they connect with you, they’ll link to you on their own and help you “advertise” that way. Sponsorship and spending money and being everywhere shouldn’t be your top priority. Being true to yourself, like your Mama always told you to be, is #1.

To answer the second part of this Q, here are some solid stats from Google Analytics:

Top referral sites for me ~
#1 – me {my efforts to create buzz}
#2 – Feedburner {people signed up through my RSS feed}
#3 – Twitter
#4 – The Nester
#5 – Big Cartel
#6 – Google searches
#7 – Blogger.com {people using their reader through Blogspot — Please update your links? :] }
#8 – Networkblogs.com {feed through Facebook}
#9 – Smile & Wave
#10 – FreckledNest.com

What does this show me? Only 33% of my top traffic {top 10 referrers} is from sponsorship.

Which gets more attention from viewers/followers: your store or your blog?

My blog, hands down, but this is because all of my buttons link to my blog. And this is intentional.

Which do you advertise more – your store or your blog?

See above.

How much of your Gussy business do you outsource, if anything? Like does anyone help you with blog or website design, financial stuff, marketing stuff, even sewing, or other stuff?

Great question! I definitely “outsource” a few things. Most of these things I could do on my own, but there just isn’t time to do it all on my own. Besides, I’d rather be sewing.

I have an assistant and she comes 2x/week to package orders. Lately she’s been doing a bit more for me, like ironing fabric.

The coding for my blog was done by Darcy @ Graphically Designing. However, my buttons and header are designed by me. I think Darcy did design one button, though. :]

All the work on my Big Cartel shop is done by me, even the HTML coding to add in:

  • purchase gift certificates {button with PayPal}
  • Count Up button
  • link to my blog {button}
  • custom footer content
  • removing the Big Cartel button after the Pages section
  • styling inside my custom Pages

I really love that my shop and blog match so nicely… it’s nice to have my brand stretch across both sites.

All financial ideas and maintenance is done by my hubby and I. Same goes for marketing/advertising. We like to talk during dinner :]

How do you find the people that you work with – the artists and crafters you feature, the other bloggers and people you collaborate with and link up with?

By spending a lot of time online! Remember how I talked about bookmarking blogs and posts {in part 2 of this series}? That is where contacting crafters and bloggers comes in handy. I already have a list of people in mind, so it really saves on the pressure to search for someone new. And often times I’ll email myself links… when I’m not at home to bookmark it, for example.

Etsy Finds emails help me to find new shops, too.

Blog hopping {you start at one blog and you keep clicking their links, buttons, etc. until you find a new blog/shop to mark as a favorite}.

Are Gussy’s sold in any stores (in real life) or on any other websites?

For the official site, please visit www.shopgussy.com. Gussy is only sold online at this time and is exclusive to www.shopgussy.com. But maybe soon… you never know what could happen :]

How far in advance to you plan what you’re going to post on your blog?

Small posts, usually 1-2 days. For series and/or Featured Artist posts, a few weeks.

Did the Gussy blog always look the same as far as design, colors and fonts (I know your layout has changed a little since I first found your site)? Did you create the design yourself?

I’ve always used pink and orange for my styling, but just recently did I establish THE pink and THE orange to use. Yes, I created the designs myself… but through collaboration with other bloggers and my husband, I came up with what you see now. It’s changed slightly over the past months {gosh, that makes me sound like Gussy is just a baby!}

I’ve debated about the whole Esty vs. Big Cartel vs. self hosted store front {like through GoDaddy.com. I try to keep prices fairly low, so with those kinds of stores after they take their cut and Paypal takes theirs, it hardly seems worth it. How do you determine what amount of administrative fee is acceptable? What’s the sweet spot between providing a quality yet affordable item for someone and also being adequately compensated for your time? (That whole “the worker is worthy of his wages” thing…)

Ohhh, have I got the post for you! Please read Etsy vs. Big Cartel for my take on “the big picture” between the two shops. But to answer some specific questions you asked…

I think this is one of those situations where you have to decide yourself what you want to pay. If a site, like Etsy, is bringing you a lot of solid, dependable traffic, the fees may be worth it. Not everyone experiences the same result by going with a site like Etsy. However! If you are new to crafting {in all areas of owning your own biz} I strongly suggest you work with Etsy to grow your community, your knowledge, etc. Etsy exists for a reason and it’s a great tool to have in your bucket.

With pricing your items, make sure you are being reimbursed for all materials and then of course your time. Don’t devalue your time. YOU ARE IMPORTANT!

I don’t know how to go about developing a logo or brand or anything like that. I loved your G stickers and thought that was a good idea. Did you draw up your handwritten font yourself? How did that work out? Where’s a good place to purchase packaging? My items have a very basement feel to them when they arrive unwrapped in a padded envelope from Sam’s Club, you know what I’m saying?

Discovering fun ways to package your product {even your business in general!} can be really exciting but also really challenging. If you are looking to develop your brand I suggest looking at your product/blog/shop. What colors are you seeing repeated? What type of personality are you presenting to people with your blog? Is it playful, educational, simple, colorful, etc.?

If you don’t know these answers, maybe it’s time to decide how you want your brand to be.

Write some thoughts down and see if you can build something off that, like:

When people visit my my blog, I want them to ___________.
I want to talk about _____________.
When people use my product, I want them to feel ____________.

To answer another question you asked, the font for my G…

gussy G

…is handwritten, yes, but it’s a font I downloaded. It’s not MY handwriting, though.

Once you find your theme you can incorporate that into your social media pages, your packaging materials — lots of places.

Here are a couple businesses that can help you develop your brand and/or turn it into stationary:
HollyDays
My Little Buffalo
SilhouetteBlue

If you’re looking for packaging materials, start by Googling it. You’ll be surprised how many options you have — and how affordable/easy it is to order. Try and be creative, using your brand and your ideas to come up with something unique.

There’s the whole family aspect. I suspect this might become a bigger part of your puzzle when you start your family at some point. I have four kids and home-school them. This doesn’t leave a lot of extra time to devote to the craft and I often wonder if I need to back off from attempting to do anything with the sewing for now. I guess that’s not as much of a question as it is a counseling point.

Yes… I don’t have much {ok, any} experience with this. But here are my initial thoughts: Depending on how old your kids are, is there any way you can let them play by themselves for an hour or so while you work?

What if you were going to clean the house, would they need to be with you in each room as you clean or are they OK to play/discover/read on their own? If so, you can use that time to work. Or maybe you work evenings? Once your husband is home from work, he can watch the kids. What about having someone come over to play with/watch the kids for a few hours once a week? Would that be enough time for you to work?

I want to encourage you to find time to sew. Regardless of the fact that it provides an income, it is your hobby, and everyone needs to have hobbies. You can’t work 24/7, never taking time for yourself. I know a lot of moms that wake up early and that is their “me” time. Why does your situation need to be any different? Taking care of yourself will help you to be your best at taking care of others.

You seem to have a lot of great giveaways, do you contact shops/companies or do they contact you?

There is a fair mix of both.

If you have a small business (like an Etsy shop, for instance), is it better to have a separate blog for it (with a similar name) or to just incorporate it into an existing blog (that has a variety of topics covered) that already has an audience?

My opinion and experience is to have one blog. Unless you aren’t proud of your wares, why would you not talk about them on your blog? {And I assume that is NOT the case…} I think it is too confusing for people to need to remember or subscribe to two blogs for one person. Make it easy for them to find you and connect with you by having one blog.

It will take some time and planning, but you can find a balance promoting your personal life and your wares.

But I’m going to assume that you’ll be able to intertwine your wares with your life on one blog. I think it would take a really unique product to make this a real challenge.

What are the top three things you’ve learned from owning your own business (good and bad)?

  • “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” Philippians 4:13
  • Include your husband in all “business decisions” — anything that will affect him {money, time commitments, blog topics, etc.} Zack is certainly not sewing anything, but this business won’t go very far if we aren’t on board 110%. Your husband is your teammate :]
  • Trust your instincts

My question is about starting to sew. I know you are (semi) recently self-taught. I would love to start somewhere, just don’t know where or how.

Almost 18 months ago I was your exact same situation. Here’s how I fixed it:
Go to the library and checkout as many sewing books you can find that interest you. I used a library program called InterLibrary Loan, which allowed me to checkout books from other districts. I loaded our car with about 30 books {no joke} and started looking at them at home. Some I read, others I browsed, some I bought. Yeow!

Since I’m a visual learner, anything I had trouble looking at from a book {2D} I watched in a video {which was more 3D-like}. Me and YouTube were friends forever.

And then I just sat down at our kitchen table and practiced. And I bought ugly fabric that I thought was cute. And then I found cute fabric that was really cute {for realz cute, not just fake cute}. And then I had some ideas. And then…

And here we are :]

Read a lot of blog posts and connecting with a lot of talented women online has helped tremendously. Setting goals and I continuing to set more… Right now I’m trying to never stop learning something new. Some times, if you really have a passion for something, you just have to jump in. Some times the only wrong way to do it is to not do it at all. Don’t waste time wondering, worrying, waiting. Just get started and see how it goes.


I think Gussy has said all that Gussy needed to say.

What are your thoughts?
Was I terribly off?
Were you disappointed I didn’t share a ruffle tutorial?
Or… was this series helpful?
Do you think you have some answers to your questions?

You know what to do — Share your thoughts in the comment section below :]

xo!

Comments

  1. 6

    Katie says

    spot on! i’ve been tossing around the idea (mainly b/c every time i cook or bake for someone, they insist i need to start my own business) for a while now, and these posts have been SO helpful and informative. thanks for all the info and insight!

  2. 7

    says

    This is great,and again, so very timely for me. I LOVE Phil. 4:13 and I’m so glad you included that :-)

    I am a homeschool mom of two and early morning hours before the kids are up is when I get the bulk of my work done. (Though it’s writing, not sewing) At the same time, though, I also realize that all too soon my girls will be out of the house and then I’ll have many more hours to work on all those lovely project ideas I have. So it’s definitely a good idea to set boundaries as far as how many hours a day you want to spend on your craft and stick to it.

    I am totally bookmarking this whole series. I’m so glad I found you, Gussy!

  3. 12

    Jilian says

    You had so much info to share that I found myself taking notes…many notes! Thank you for putting it out there in such a way that was easy to understand and modivating at the same time.

    I definitely agree with the above comment too…I would buy a book on your ‘how to/success’.

  4. 13

    says

    This series has been [incredibly] insightful. I do not make, I do not sew, I have only recently started my blog [3 mo. ago]. I have learned so much is your biz series. Thank you, I appreciate this more than you know!!
    [kelly].

  5. 14

    says

    First time visitor here! You’ll never know how timely this post was for me. I have been in the process of starting up my own shop/blog to sell my wares and have been stuck here… “Some times, if you really have a passion for something, you just have to jump in. Some times the only wrong way to do it is to not do it at all. Don’t waste time wondering, worrying, waiting. Just get started and see how it goes.” I can’t tell you how much I needed to hear that :) Thanks for the helpful info and also for encouraging us “newbies” to get busy!

  6. 15

    says

    Wow! What awesome advice. I popped on over from FN and I’m glad I did. I’ve checked out your store before but not your blog and this was so worth it!

  7. 17

    says

    Wow, this is seriously amazing!!! I just found your series and read all 3 parts today and have learned SO MUCH! Seriously you are awesome!! Ohhh and the white foam board for pictures? Incredible, I sadly never thought of it and am going to get some tomorrow, I have always loved the photos with the white backgrounds!! Totally bookmarking these. Thanks :)

  8. 18

    says

    Great tips and this was actually very helpful to me and for my upcoming Etsy shop. Sewing has always been a hobby and then I got together with a interior designer years back who got me so many sewing jobs but made money off my sewing. I worked crazy hours and eventually my love for sewing faded and became a mundane job where I was sewing to make deadlines instead of loving what I was doing…so for a time I quit. But I couldn’t help my love for being creative and did a little knitting and scrap booking and then I found my love for sewing again and here we are…trying to make a business out of it again except this time around I’ll make the hours and with all this great info hopefully have fun with it too!

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