Friday, September 23, 2016

A Quick Reality Check

I  almost can't believe it, but I've FINALLY got the new shop, A Closet In Delirium (ACID), up and running! Opening a new shop is like moving into a new house. There is a definite point where you can say you are now living in a new house, but there is some initial unpacking to do, then maybe some new furniture to get, then some remodeling to get rolling, and even when you've got it just the way you want it, there's still plenty of housekeeping and maintenance to handle. I'm still in the unpacking stage with my new shop since I have so many product listings I need to add, but I can do a little of that each day...just juggle it in with all of the daily chores for my other shop.

It's been so many years in the works that it's surreal to think the doors are now open. It's still soaking in -WHEW!!!!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

It's taken me several weeks to get back to the point where I need to reset and think out loud about where I'm at. I'm still a little amazed at how well all of the boutiques are doing, and as long as I'm buried in orders, I haven't been terribly concerned about questioning my direction. July, as expected, seems to be slowing down a bit though, so it's a good time to get a new focus on things.

Social Media
I  still kind of cringe when I hear that term. With seven different sites/applications to tend to, the plan to just let it slide when I get busy has been fine, but if I don't get to work on things on a month when it seems I'll have some "extra" time, I won't ever get to work on it. At that rate I guess I need to develop a schedule to make sure I hit on all of sites I need to update.

And last week I  did a very bad thing. I discovered Polyvore and realized my background in merchandising women's clothing is a huge plus at that site. That always seems like a worthless skill, but I'll see where it goes for me.

New Projects
Finishing the all-in-one ACID site is getting closer and closer. It feels like one of those projects where the closer I get the longer it takes to make any progress...that's my own fault though.

Then I discovered a torturous site called EtsyRank. It evaluates Etsy shops from an SEO perspective in a way that is impossibly time-consuming to do manually. I've spent a great deal of time working on my Etsy SEO since I've found that site, and I have more work to do.

I also need to do a little more thinking on another potential project that came to light last week. While Etsy was mired in a Direct Checkout fiasco, Handmade @ Amazon made a brilliant announcement. They were originally going to start charging a $40 monthly fee to sellers starting in August 2016, and now they've postponed that to December of 2017. Aside from my private shops, nothing compares to Etsy when it comes to selling wares through a third party host. I'm told that Handmade @ Amazon is already pretty equivalent to Etsy for a lot of Etsy sellers, so I'm very tempted to try it out. That would be a huge project though.

Oh my, I almost forgot that I just got materials ready to start a crochet-based shop for patterns and actual items I crochet. For some reason I missed crocheting, and I had to go get a bunch of new yarn. Yeah, sure...I "had" to. :)

Ongoing Projects
As far as my existing stores/shops go, my primary focus has been on getting orders out the door immediately and keeping up with inventory and accounting processes. I haven't had much of a chance to significantly grow any of those stores lately, and I've got plenty of ideas piling up.

I also have a ton of jewelry piling up that I've designed and made for my Novapsis jewelry store, and I simply haven't had a chance to get it all listed. I thought I had plan to get that worked into my routine, and it kind of fell apart. Ugh! It's actually time to start thinking about the holidays for my stores too, so I need to start working on building a completed items inventory since made-to-order isn't practical during that time of year.

Personal Projects
I still have a bunch of blank wall space in my house waiting for me to finish the art I have planned, and that is way back on the priority list. The garden is looking good, so there will be inevitable projects there for canning and freezing. I've also been making a concerted effort to take better care of myself since that can involve some time-consuming processes (like making healthy meals vs. fast and easy meals). The meditation has been going very well and is helping, but I just suck at the diet and exercise end of things. I saw a Facebook meme the other day that said, "I promised myself I'd lose 10 pounds this summer...only 20 pounds to go!".  I know that feeling!!!

OK, so I guess my takeaway here is to come up with a temporary Social Media routine to take advantage of the slower order season and then setting some priorities around the new and ongoing projects since they can't ALL possibly get done anytime soon. I can at least work on the items I decide will have the greatest return.

It's now time for me to find something for lunch that will keep me in the 300 calorie range and yet leave me with enough energy and motivation to exercise later and keep up the pace with my projects.  It's funny how much harder it is to get things done when you're constantly hungry - LOL!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

First Goal Down

I finally had to go through my list of "brilliant" business ideas and strike through the projects that I'm not likely to get to in the next 5+ years. They are saved away in case I actually decide I want to implement them, but it seems that in 5 years from now I'm likely to have some significant changes of plans. For now I really need to focus on more immediate goals and not clutter my mind with a bunch of other distracting ideas.

One new change of outlook has been a result of my businesses doing a little better than expected. A few weeks ago I made it to the home free stage where it's clear that I don't need to worry about having enough revenue to meet my financial goals (and admittedly some of that has to do with a bit of belt-tightening too), so the things I want to do to grow the business have changed somewhat knowing the basic goal of making a living has been met. And honestly I should comment on that a bit, because it's rather strange. I was talking to a friend of mine last week who is immersed in the same white collar 80 hour a week working situation I left about 6 months ago, and there's something to spending so many years successfully in that environment it seems I've been brainwashed to work that way whether I'm working for myself or someone else. She was excited for me to have this opportunity to get away and work for myself, and to the degree she may have wished she could do something similar, I had to admit there was no sense of relief/excitement/euphoria either when I started working for myself or even when I  hit that home free mark. I understood why I wasn't exactly dancing in my studio everyday when I first started working for myself since there was a lot of pressure to make money immediately. It was a bit surprising though to not be able to process the success of reaching that first goal without anything more than a new outlook on the next few goals. One of the things I loathed about working for a large company was the mentality that no one was ever allowed to enjoy their successes since they would be labeled as a high-achiever and expected to do great things year after year. Afterwards they were considered a disappointment in years when they didn't outshine their mediocre colleagues. The consequence was a lack of incentive to do better, so I guess while I'm not doing a great job of enjoying my first success, I definitely have the incentive to do better. Anyway, it was just a little disappointing in that respect.

So at this point the bulk of my goals are narrowed down to growing my current stores with new products, and finally pulling together a consolidated store (the new home page is pictured...I gave it the the old moniker to my "Gawking Not Shopping" blog since it's an oddball conglomeration of products). I've been planning this consolidated store for probably 6 or 7 years now, so I won't believe myself on that one until it's done. This time I've got a plan that allows me to implement it easily, but easily doesn't mean quickly. It's hundreds of hours of work not to mention how the work grows as I add new products to my current stores since that just means I'll have to add those products to my consolidated store as well. I've put together a plan to get it rolled out before I get all of my products listed, and then I can keep adding products as time permits while having the store open and working on SEO-type issues that improve the longer a store is online.

When summer gets here I expect sales to slow down a bit, and the plan is to take advantage of that time to get products ready for the holiday season when I'll be too busy to make all of the made-to-order items I sell. That will definitely be something to look forward to...planting myself in my location of choice and making jewelry every day. I've got to find something to enjoy more out of all of this. I am enjoying all of it on some level though. Not answering to anyone but myself (although I think I might be harder to answer to than any boss I've had before -ha!), and having a continual creative outlet is an immeasurable improvement to my old working environment. I'm definitely not complaining, nor am I considering going back...EVER!!! :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Next Up...

With any luck, I may finally be in a maintenance mode for awhile with my shops. I had one more overhaul to complete, and it's finally rolled out. After the Christmas clearance sale, the plan was to shut down the Ann Louise Studio shop until I could get a new selection of lanyards listed. With 46 new listings, I think I can call that one done. I'm not exactly sure why I went the "lanyard" direction, but I guess I find myself with reading glasses in every room in the house now, so it would be nice to have some glasses with me rather than rummaging around for a pair every 15 minutes. And I've spent enough of my life in a cubicle farm to know that it's nice to have a selection of ID badge lanyards in your desk rather than wearing the ugly things you get from your employer. Whatever the reason, it's been fun designing with that functional requirement in mind...keeps me from getting too carried away with weird ideas. :)

For maintenance mode the plan is to make and list at least one new item each day for one of the three shops I'm trying to keep filling up. Of course the Ann Louise Studio shop is on the list to keep getting a stream of new products, and my Novapsis jewelry shop will also need more items, and I'm finally giving some attention to my Hair Ye! Hair Ye! shop with some new items that are NOT hair ribbons. I keep saying that I can't sell what I don't list, so I need to just keep on listing. I should mention that it certainly doesn't take an entire day to create and list a single item, but I'm happy to report that at least half of my days are spent filling orders right now. When I get to the point where I'm too busy filling order to add new items everyday, I should be exactly where I want to be!

With 3 shops to focus on for new items, at least that will give me lots of options for coming up with designs that I feeling like creating and not so much trying to come up with designs by the dozens in a short period of time. That should result in some really fun listings I hope. Admittedly I'm feeling some pressure to make all of this work out now that I've quit my day job, and this maintenance mode will be a good way to keep me feeling like I'm on the right track.  If only I  could keep up with this social media stuff (I couldn't go for a whole post without whining about that one, now could I?).

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Always a Project

While I haven't been doing well at keeping up with social media, I have been doing well with my latest project. That seems to be a continual trend for me. I get so heads down into a project that I don't even look around and remember to do regular things until it's done. At that rate it's safe to say that my only really regular activity is being too engrossed in a project to pay attention to anything else including social media (until I get so far behind that it becomes a project in itself again -ha!). It is what it is.

My latest completed project what a big one too...I estimated nearly 200 hours and I probably came in a little closer to 150. So anyway, at long last my All About Shoelaces site has conquered Google's Mobilegeddon nightmare, and all of the pages on the site are considered mobile-friendly by Google's standards. That's a pretty big deal because so many folks shop using their smartphones (nearly half of my customers), and Google was intentionally shuffling non-mobile-friendly sites to the end of the search lists. That has been a pretty big "ouch" for a lot of little businesses, and while fortunately I am my own webmaster and didn't have to spend thousands of dollars to make the conversion, I still had to find the time to make it happen. Unfortunately I've got another shoelace site now that needs to be converted too, but I need a break from that for awhile.

Now that I'm looking around again I  can see that my house is a disaster, so I  need to spend a day or two getting things back on track before I  lose myself in the next planned project. At least I'm getting better able to get some things worked into a regular routine around my project mode. For routine "chores" there's of course the need to fill orders every morning, so I do that first before I get back to work. Then I have to eat (and feed my husband!), so I've got that pretty well integrated into things...kind of scary that I should have to mention stopping for meals as a conscientious point of focus, but it definitely takes an effort not to eat a bunch of junk food just to keep working. And then there's the laundry that I've miraculously gotten onto a schedule that doesn't significantly break my project concentration. Keeping the house clean?  I'm still working on that one, so hence the importance of breaking between projects to get things back in shape. Just now thinking about my comment on how filling orders is part of the routine that I need to work around projects is pretty hilarious. The goal of most of these projects is to reach a state where I'm so busy filling orders that I don't need to have a succession of projects going to bring in more business. Yep, it's good to take a break from projects every now and again.