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Tips for new crafter Part III

This is the third 'Tips for new crafters' blogs. In Part I we discussed starting up options, initial goals, individuality and developing your brand. In Part II we critically analysed good and bad photographs and discussed how best to show your items. Here in Part III we're going down the rabbit hole to discover all the little attention to details, secret tricks and practical applications to better improve your brand.

Some of the following information may be ridiculously nit-picky but you have to remember I do my crafts for the love of doing them not for financial gain, I do not have to go out to work, nor care for kiddies and I have a husbunny who is really great at non-experienced tasks. All these facts mean I have plenty of time, no distractions, the option to work whenever I want and extra manual labour for when it is busy. Never-the-less as everyone's circumstances vary, with different work ethics and personal goals I am hoping to divulge new ideas and thoughts that are not usually discussed in the echelons of the crafting fraternity.

The Right equipment

'A scissor for every cut!'....I do not have a scissor fetish, but having been crafting for over 35 years I have bought some serious kit over the years. Everyone who crafts knows they have two hobbies:

1. Buying craft materials

2. Making the crafts

Having good quality tools may seem like an unnecessary expense when starting out and most folks are on a tight budget at the start, but there are ways to increase your tool quality. Ask for equipment at gift times or save a very small percentage of your income regularly over a length of time for that special tool. You could check out local online selling platforms where more common equipment may be found and there is the added opportunity to put out a request for an unwanted tool you could rehome.

Above is an example of my nit-pickery which occurred when I reordered the metal pins to put on my gifty robins. I chose to invest in these pins when I had decided not to spend money on advertising. I preferred the investment to go back to the folk who supported me and so made miniature, lavender filled robins (everyone loves a robin!) with the pin on its tail.

Giving gifties is a controversial thing. Some views say that 'no gifty and a cheaper item' is better than a gifty that has no purpose. This is totally true so the secret to a gifty is to make sure it is something really decent that folk will want to keep and use, and if they are keeping it then adding your shop name to it is a good idea.

The pin on the left is one of the original first batch, such high quality and outstanding aesthetics I was over the moon with them. I reordered in January and by April and three batches of badges later, the best they could do was the badge on the right. As you can compare, there is no way I could send these out even as freebies. The company was spectacular and gave me a full refund and I could keep the badges. My work ethic dictated that even though they were free they would damage my reputation and do more damage than good, (because they really were very rough); and so I sent them back. No matter what you are making, never ever send anything that has a slight defect. In an industry where trust in reviews can affect a purchase, you don't want a review describing shoddy craftsmanship.

The right environment and organisation

As with anyone working from home it is so important to have the right conditions to create in. I am most fortunate that I can work like Michelangelo. He had a bed and table in the corner of his studio, whether working with marble or painting. This concept is really creative and whilst I don't have a bed in the corner of my 'wool woom', I do have different areas throughout the house for different tasks. Not everyone can afford that luxury, but organisation on a smaller scale will still increase creativity and productivity. Work in a room you have made relaxing, perhaps with various inspirations related to your craft. Have good lighting, secure storage for your finished items and no distractions, maybe create an ambiance where you're focused and all worries are not invited in.

Being organised is sometimes tedious especially when you need to take stock of your raw materials and stock take your pre-made wares. Avoiding worries and stress is so beneficial as your thinking time needs to be spent creating wonderful things and not worrying about whether you have enough stuff to complete an order. Keep lists. I have one 'To Do' list used when I have several urgent tasks that need prioritising, a 'To Do' list of general ongoing backroom tasks (paper printing, tag making etc) and a shopping list. Whenever I am running low on something it goes on my list ensuring nothing runs out.

The right image for your brand

Above are three photographs which I sent to a customer who had bought a gift which was being sent directly to the recipient and so she was not going to see the parcel arrive. She was over the moon and so grateful to see what it looked like which in turn made me feel all warm and 'glowy'. I realise that I am fortunate to have built my brand up over three years, slowly and carefully, to the point now that my packaging costs just 6p per parcel, excluding the cardboard box. The box expense is within the price of the item, as nothing can be bought without a form of packaging and my postage is always just the price of the stamp.

With a little creativity in keeping with your crafted item it is easy and cheap to create a wonderful experience for your customer.

  • Hand stamped tissue paper to protect the item

  • Plain tissue to line the box

  • Home printed compliment slip, lavender info card and 'Gift Message' card

  • Organza ribbon holding everything securely in place, so it looks just as good as when it is opened

  • Decorative clear tape to indicate where the box opens

  • Hand stamped plain stickers using the same logo stamp as for the tissue paper.

It's easy to overkill on packaging and too much can create a feeling that the item may have been cheaper if the packaging had been simpler. My rule of thumb is that each layer of wrap has to have a purpose and I never have my logo appear twice per layer.

This packaging concept would be completely inappropriate for some created items, whether because the item is too big or maybe not of a rustic/natural theme. The cost of my pretty packing and the gifty robin works out less expensive than paying for advertising but of course the reach is limited compared to clever advertising. Create a spellbinding look for your parcel so that everyone who sees it will be filled with wonder and intrigue. . It's free advertising!

Below are some examples of parcels that were packed for unique purchases. Having some universally pretty paper allows items that are bought as gifts to be wrapped with some extra specialness. I sometimes wrap like this for repeat customers as according to my reviews and the messages of thanks that I get, this sort of detail really does make people happy. I cover this wrap with clear cello so it is 100% waterproof. Of the 1100 parcels I have sent out, I have never had a damaged item or box.

(PS-the photo in the middle shows a basic wrap. I have used the minimal amount of ribbon as I have gone round the shortest side and instead of a bow I have two simple ends with diagonal cuts. Simple, sweet and does the job.)

The right customer service

If you have managed to read this far, lets go deep down that rabbit hole for all the nitty gritty that'll get you five star reviews, repeat orders and a great reputation. One of the few things that I can get stressed about is commissions. Once you've established you have a customer who replies quickly to any questions and the commission is being made, I always send photos to show you are on the job. Sending progress photos on large orders or photos of colour choices with options will give your customer a real sense that something is being made for them. That's a great thing, so simple to make someone happy or excited with a few simple photos. Give more than is expected and the rewards will bound back..

One of my biggest secrets and my greatest success is a continuously informative customer service and it's so easy to do. On receipt of an order I always thank and inform the purchaser as to when the parcel will be posted and that I will send proof of posting. My biggest, most invaluable advice is to photograph the address label on the packed parcel. Then also photo the postal receipt (or the item being placed in a letter box with the address and post box collection tag both visible) making sure the receipt is folded so no other address is captured in the photo. Send your customer these two photos showing the correct address on the box and proof it has been sent. The photo of the address shows it is addressed properly, which alleviates so many problems. In all my time I never had a query about an order (except Christmas peak) because there is no doubt as to where and when the parcel is sent, except for the one time that my post office mis-sorted a whole sack of parcels at Christmas.

Three of my parcels went missing one Christmas, but because we knew the address was correct on the parcel and the receipt showed the parcels ID number, I was able to track each, screenshot the information from the Royal Mail and send it to the customer. I did this every few days for a duration of two weeks until I started getting messages of thanks as the items started to be delivered. Not one complaint, no snotty messages or bother, just 3 fabulous 5 star reviews, despite arriving two weeks late just a few days before Christmas eve. If you give before being asked you'll find folk sending messages back to you with glowing praise, elated thanks and beautiful words of happiness, which may vary in degrees depending on what you are selling of course.

Just on a note regarding the previous

example of missing parcels- when each customer contacted me to say their item hadn't arrived I instantly offered them several options after we had each mutually decided to wait a few more days. Because of my photos there was no issue with whether the address was right or not but I still offered a replacement or full refund and I told all three that we would proceed as they wished. If I'd had to replace the items I would have had to upgrade the post too to '1st class, next day, signed for' as it was a week before Christmas. It would have cost me the £56 value of lost goods and £24 in upgraded postage. This would have been catastrophic of course, but I believe because I had been so honest and clear about the delivery process I earned myself five star reviews instead of three stressed, angry unhappy people.

Everyone is different and does things their own way. I hope that what I have written here will help explain one way to do things. My situation and circumstances allow for time consuming practices which many folk cannot afford. However this over the top approach achieves repeat buys, brilliant reviews and spreads happiness but it is time consuming and believe me, two weeks before Christmas you don't want to be messaging 14 people 2 photographs each, faffing about folding receipts and trawling your photo gallery whilst battling with Etsy crashing because everyone is inputting at the same time (just as the post offices shut usually)!!!. To me though it is worth every moment. Like anything you get out as much as you put in and I really don't think there is a limit on the effort you make. After all, once you have your reviews rolling in and your great customer service is second nature to you it all becomes so much easier that'll you'll be writing up advice for others!

Happy crafting and if you need any advice or ideas I'm happy to help!

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