Find one thing you’re good at and FOCUS ON IT!

Well, once again, I am thinking of something that one of my old bosses once told me about his secret to achieving success… “Pick one thing that you are good at and focus on it…master it. Don’t be a jack of all trades and master of none.”

I often feel like I am that cliche’, “Jack of all trades and master of none.” I have SO many crafts that I do and many talents that I enjoy. I’ve got big dreams and lots of goals, but I frequently find myself sidetracked and bored with one thing and move onto another. The problem is that I am spreading myself too thin with all of them and do not reach the level of success that I could reach if I could just focus all of my energy and time on one thing.

A Bracelet I made this October 2010

After about a year and a half, I’ve finally started back to spending time on my crafts. I am making jewelry, which is going well at craft shows, but I do not have the kind of time that I used to have to be able to promote my store online. I was painting glassware when I was in Maryland, which went pretty well. I was selling my wine glasses in three venues and people enjoyed them. I love both the jewelry and the glassware, but I fear that I’m beginning to spread myself too thin again. Is it wise to do both? On top of those crafts, I recently agreed to wood burn a plank of wood for an Amish carpenter to use in a bench. If he likes what he sees, we discussed contracting regular work. Again…I’m not staying focused. On top of all that, I also maintain a full time job and have a 9 month old daughter and husband who also require my time and attention. Jeeze Louise! When I type it all out, I really feel quite dizzy!

I am very goal-oriented and I will do well if I can create a clear picture with a concrete, measurable objective in my mind.  I will write it down and…viola!…it happens.  My problem is that, with my artistic talents, I have trouble being decisive and focused, but I’m getting better.  I used to feel as though, when I made a decision, that it meant the DEATH of all other options.  I was employing “all or nothing” thinking, which was not effective.  I’ve since learned that I can focus on one thing and dabble with others in my free time, which keeps me happy.  But, with my jewelry and glassware, I feel confused.  My business cards even indicate that I do both.  I’m just wondering if I should take the advice of an old friend and focus on just one? 

A lady called last night and said she was interested in carrying my wine glasses in her store. I also recently spoke to a winery that is interested in them so I wonder if my time might be better spent on glassware, rather than jewlery?

NLA Tra La La Hand Painted Wine Glasses

I am going to give this some further thought and perhaps you all, who are reading, can give me some of your thoughts on the matter…to pick one or not to pick just one? Would it be too much to do both? 

Also, please share your experiences!  I love hearing from other people!

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MY GOALS FOR MAY…

Well, after yesterday’s post about the conclusion of April and the evaluation of my April goals, today brings a post about what I plan to accomplish in May.  My focus will be shifting a little because Anthony and I have made some changes in our personal plans – we plan to put our little house on the market this summer, which moves our plan ahead by 8 months!  So, I will be making some time for home improvement projects as well.  Here they are:

1. Blog daily.

2. Make and list new items – at least one new item daily.  Preferably 3 new listings or renewals per day.

3. Do at least two craft shows.

4. Complete outside landscaping projects, finish renovating sun room and laundry room, and begin bathroom renovation.

5. Post in the forums three times a day to promote my Etsy shop.

6. Continue networking to build relationships with other Etsy sellers and potential buyers, which includes visiting other blogs and posting comments regularly (at least twice a week)

7. Send, “thank you” cards to past customers and include some sort of goodie.  Send emails out to past customers with an incentive to buy during the month of May.

8. Obtain 475 hearts on Etsy

9. Profit more from my crafts than I have any other month thus far…even if it is only by one dollar more.

10. Purchase supplies and materials needed, and set up my own metal smithing space at home.

What are your goals?  As we share our goals with one another, we are more likely to achieve them!  It also helps us think of other areas we could improve upon.  🙂  Hopefully, by listing and sharing our goals, we will see increased cash flow, business success and happiness!


 

Bright, NEW MONTHLY GOALS…April Evaluation.

April is coming to an end and it begs that I evaluate my April Goals and contemplate new ones for May.  My April goals were to:

1. Get 350 hearts on Etsy (Check!  Accomplished today!)

2. Reach a total of 30 sales…still have 7 to go…anyone want to buy?  Go to my shop now!  (NO MINIMUM PURCHASE…BUY before April ends and get a FREE PAIR OF EARRINGS!)

3. Drive more traffic to my blog…sporadic.  I tried some new things and although I still have traffic, it is up and down.  Some days I have TONS and other days nothing…I suppose most blogs have that though – up and down.  I’m going to keep at it, but am open to any suggestions to keep traffic flowing.  🙂

4. Get something in a new local boutique – one shop has agreed to carry my wine glasses! (check!)

5. Make new items every day and post new items in my shop regularly.  (I consistently made new items, but was not as consistent with listing as I would have liked.)

6. Post in the forums, blog every day and stay active on Etsy, building relationships and getting to know other crafters. (Well, I almost blogged every day and stayed active on Etsy, though not as much in the evenings as I used to.)  

7. Gain as much exposure as I can. (check!)

Special news…
  I had a really nice thing happen yesterday!  If you follow my blog, you may remember Shannon from greenbelts.  Well, yesterday, Shannon had the honor and privilege of being selected as the featured artist in Etsy’s “Etsy Success Stories!” AND she wore my Lemon Drop earrings in the pictures that they used!!! 

 Yippee!!!  She also included my new “Jonquil Delight” earrings as a favorite of hers below the article!  How sweet is she?  Very!  🙂  So, it goes to show how important it is to develop relationships!  It’s all about networking!


So, for my May goals…I’m giving them thought, with regard that I will need to embrace the challenges that warm weather will brings.  I’d like to hear your goals!  Let’s help one another take off!  =)

 

When Business is Slow…

I’ve been in the Etsy forums and have read some comments and seen some bad attitudes about slowing sales.  The warm weather pulls people away from their computers and out to enjoy the sun.  It’s just a fact of life.  Complaining about it doesn’t help bring anyone business.  So, what can a crafter do to fight the change in the market?  If you’re feeling a slump in sales, whether due to the economy or the warm weather, or perhaps it’s just a slump…here’s a list with a some things I suggest you try, and please feel free to post additional ideas!

1. Sell at Craft Shows
     If people are out and about, where are they going to do their shopping for the items you sell?  Generally, farmer’s markets, boutiques and gift shops – places where they can walk around in the warm air!  Here’s a good link if you’re just getting started with your crafting business and craft shows.

2. Add Products and Services
     Try to add new things that compliment what you already have.  Offer more of what your target customers might be looking for.  What don’t you have, that you COULD offer, that would make people leave your shop and look elsewhere?  Make it and list. 

3. Raise the Customer Service Bar
You may already provide good customer service, but can you do better?  Can you offer a little more?  For example, can you ship items out faster?  Follow up with customers to say, “Thank you” if you aren’t already.  Remember that PEOPLE TALK, and if you provide EXCELLENT products AND superior service, the word-of-mouth that it generates can be invaluable!

4. Keep a POSITIVE attitude! 
     I don’t care how slow things get – always, ALWAYS keep a positive attitude and don’t tell people if you’re stressed and things are going bad because you hope that they’ll take pity.  People want to be on the WINNING team…not the losing one.  You need to assure them, that YOU are the winner!  Things always get better, so keep your chin up if things get slow and, as my mother always says, “just keep plugging away at it.”  🙂

5. Expand
Take your skills everywhere you can!  Can you teach a class?  Can you volunteer to show some skills at a local high school or community group or church?  Even if you’re not getting paid, you’re gaining exposure, which every business needs! 

6. Time for a Tune-Up!
So, business is slow?  See it as an opportunity to focus on the things you normally do not make time for when you’re busy!  Reevaluate your goals, reorganize, update mailing lists, evaluate your advertising – is there anything new you can do?  Are there ways you can cut costs?  

7. Take a break!
We all need a break.  If you’re like me, you’re hard on yourself and don’t make a lot of time for enjoyable activities because you HAVE to focus on growing your business.  However, we all need to take time to “re-charge our batteries.” There are many ways to RELAX!  Take a hot bath, visit Starbucks, make time for a good book, take a walk, listen to the birds, lay out in the sun, go on a vacation, spend time alone or with friends and family.  Do something for YOU!  You work hard, so work just as hard to reward yourself with some well-deserved time off.  You’ll be surprised what it can do for your energy and creativity! 

8. Create and send out surveys.
This is a good time to see what your customers and/or potential customers are thinking.  Ask them what they’d like to see from you.  Maybe offer a freebie or some other incentive for completing and returning the survey.  (For online purposes, I have used Survey Monkey and really like their service.  http://surveymonkey.com)

9. Take Care of Household Duties.
When you work from home, or have a home-based business, sometimes it helps to just take care of chores around the house.  Maybe you want to do some serious deep-cleaning on the kitchen or bathrooms, maybe you want to GO GREEN, or perhaps you want to clean out the shed or overhaul the garage.  Whatever it is, it can clear clutter both physically and mentally, and allow you to come back renewed.

10. If none of those things struck you, perhaps one of these will…
Learn Something, Get a Jump on Taxes, Send gratitude notes to past customers with a freebie or coupon, doodle, brainstorm, create a blog, create a website, write a letter to friends/family you’ve been meaning to keep in touch with, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while.  Don’t sing the blues…be proactive and USE the time that you’re given – it IS a blessing in diguise.  🙂   

 

Seeking Inspiration? Join me on a creative journey! (DAY 1)

Journey

I find that many people are looking for ways to get inspired and are curious about how other people find inspiration.  To this point, I am going to start posting a new series that I will title, “JOIN ME FOR A CREATIVE JOURNEY!  Tasks to help you get inspired!”  I hope you join me and hope you share your experiences as we journey along.  I anticipate it to be quite fun!

Day One:  As we start our creative journey, it is important to begin with a clear mental state.  So, for our first task, I am assigning this…Upon waking up each day, set aside 30 minutes to sit without distractions, with a writing utensil and a piece of paper.  During those 30 minutes, write whatever comes to mind.  Don’t worry about punctuation, or composition.  Don’t worry if it’s disconnected, silly, emotional, senseless, or even if you are drawing blanks and you write, “blah, blah, blah.”  JUST WRITE.  And, write continuously, EVERY thought that comes into your head, as it comes, until those 30 minutes are up.  It will be very important to prioritize this task, as you will find that not doing it will produce a whole different affect.  So, what do I mean?  Well, I’ll help you get your juices flowing.  I’m going to free write and share an example:

 “…so, I’m writing, and I’m not sure what I’m going to accomplish, but I’m writing.  My fingers don’t want to type.  I need to clean up the pencil container on my desk.  I love that dog Anthony gave me…it’s so cute.  He is so thoughtful.  paper.  ugh.  have to find craft shows for the summer.  maybe some local churches – got to look in the local Penny Saver that comes in the mail.  I am looking forward to going home for a visit.  Can’t wait for the retreat either.  Should be fun.  my coffee is getting cold.  I need to pressure wash the porch today and have to get some calls made too.  work stares me in the face.  A woman’s work is never done.  ha ha.  I love taking pictures.  I need a new phone.  My phone is a dinosaur.  At least it functions though….” 

So, you get the point…JUST WRITE.  FREE FLOW WITH IT.  Clear your mind.  Years ago, I started this practice when I began a creative journey for inspiration, and it totally works!  I’ve since gotten out of the practice, but I’m going to start again.  Join me!  Do it daily, and if you are really diligent, do it twice daily – once in the morning and once before bed.  Don’t think of it like a journal, per say, because it’s more like a dumping ground.  Clear your head of all stress, thoughts, anxiety, worry and preoccupation.

  
     

In today’s society, it’s easy to become distracted with all that is going on around us.  It’s not easy to get centered, to clear our minds, or to be available.  When we “dump” all the “clutter,” it opens our minds up for a more productive day and invites creativity.  Try it and see what happens.  I’ll bet you’ll start seeing a difference after the first day.  Go wherever you want to, to do your mental dump.  When I started this practice, I was a teacher and I would write in the morning, while early students would eat breakfast.  On weekends, I liked to go outside and be alone with the chirping birds.  It’s whatever works for you and it can be different every day. 

Please let me know if you plan to join in on this journey, and if you do, let me know when you have started to practice your “mental dumping” and, please share your experiences!  I’m going to be posting new weekly tasks for you all to try, that will hopefully help you to jump start your creative juices!  Looking forward to a great group project and creative journey!  Hope it helps!  Have a wonderful day!  🙂

So, where do YOU get YOUR inspiration from?

I’ve been chatting it up in the etsy forums and found the many people like to know where artists get their inspiration from.  I’m going to share my most recent inspiration with you and I’d like you to share your inspirations on my blog also, by leaving a comment on today’s blog post. 

 When you see my inspiration, you may not get it.  Other people – they will immediately understand.  It’s common for people not to understand the inspiration of others, so I’ll explain.  “THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.”  It’s important to stand out. 

I’m slowly defining my style and how I, Nicole Catroppo, will stand out among the masses.  “What makes me ORIGINAL?  What do I do that makes people talk?”  If you’re an artist and you’re reading this, ask yourself the same questions, then follow the link that will lead you to my inspiration.  Every day I am defining who I am as an artist, but it’s coming along… a constant work in progress. 🙂

Now…MY INSPIRATION (ON APRIL FOOLS DAY, 2008)
It’s called, “Frozen In Grand Central Station”:
Click–> http://www.maniacworld.com/frozen-in-grand-central-station.html <–Click

Introducing Greenbelts…

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I enjoy introducing artists now and again, who really spark my interest, and I’ve found someone who not only makes astonishingly original pieces, but she does it using recycled materials that we all wear out and throw away – belts.

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Her name is Shannon Ritscher.  She is from Seattle, WA.  Shannon is a part-time graphic designer and part-time crafter (Greenbelts), but she is also a full-time, stay at home mom to her 4 year old son – Henry.  (Round of applause for balancing all three and rockin’ it out on Etsy at the same time!)  She’s awesome, is an inspiration, has a ton to choose from on Etsy and I seriously have so many favorites, it makes my head spin!

coolring.jpgcurlyring.jpgblueandwhitering.jpgbostonring.jpg

I don’t know about you, but I think the growth process of artists, when they work from the ground up, is a beautiful thing.  Shannon started listing on Etsy in June of 2007.  When I asked her about her early beginnings, she recalled, making collars and cuffs for friends and family for Christmas presents just 6 months before she opened shop.  She said they liked them so well that she thought she’d try her hand at selling them.  As Shannon thought back, she said, “I worked out of my neighbors basement for one full year before my husband finally built me a little work space (shed) on our back porch just a few months ago. Yea!”  If you’re a crafter, you can likely relate.  I know I started working at the kitchen table, which was followed by a relocation to our home office, with yet another bulge into our guest bedroom.  I don’t think the growth and development ever ends. 

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I asked Shannon what her favorite material or materials are to use.  I’ve already said belts were one, but you’ll see from her work, she also enjoys working with buttons, found objects, and bottle caps and humorously, a favorite of most but not often thought of, Shannon’s other favorite thing to work with is “time.”  🙂 

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Shannon’s personal favorite of the items in her shop is a toss-up, but here was her response…  “The first one is a cuff made from a very cool weathered leather belt, a giant metal washer, and an amazing vintage dark abalone carved button. The contrast between the materials makes my heart flutter. I also have a soft spot for the red, white and black large cut flower cuff and collar setthat I have listed right now. I just about go cross-eyed every night, sitting and cutting out flowers (TONS of flowers!). I think they look adorable though – especially on. I love things that are girly but without all the frill.”  I’m sure there are lots of people out there that share Shannon’s taste!

whitebluecuff.jpgreclaimedring.jpgvegancuff.jpg

When I asked her what she loves about handmade items, Shannon said she loves the unexpected aspect of handmade items.  Wonderfully said, Shannon’s additional comments were, “when you see something fantastic that is made from something else (recycled) and/or something that is uniquely beautiful – Well, there’s nothing better.”  She also added, “I do tend to gravitate toward recycled pieces because I love things that have a story behind them.”  I too love stories and because I’m a talker, love things that generate fun conversation!  Shannon’s items are and do, exactly that, which may be why I love them so much!  Plus, I’m an animal lover with three dogs – what fashionable, dog owner girl wouldn’t love having a matching dog collar and owner cuff set?  They’re sweet!

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redbelt.jpgdogcollarmatchingownerbracelet.jpgdogcollar2.jpgdogcollar.jpg

For all of our Etsy readers out there, I always think it’s good to know how other Etsians are promoting.  I’m a firm believer in working smarter, and not harder, so I’m regularly looking to borrow ideas from other successful people.  Shannon’s success has come primarily from promoting her items through her website, a blog, her Etsy shop, Myspace, and similar web based opportunities.  

Even though we are pretty much saturated by technology these days, I know some people still don’t realize the power and marketing potential of the Internet.  With 386 Etsy items sold and having 100% positive feedback, Shannon is one to prove that it works! 

leathercuffback.jpg

Shannon says that most of her promotional efforts have been put on hold until her son starts school next year and she has a little more time to give it a good effort.  Currently, she has products in 8 stores, from Seattle to the UK.  She has a portfolio on TrunkT, her Greenbelts are featured on www.seekingdesigners.com and various blogs like www.pupstyle.com, itsthedogslife.com, www.treehugger.com, www.ourgreatgreenglobe.com, etc.  She is also gearing up to attend some local art/craft shows this summer.  Jeesh!  For having her promotions on “hold,” I’d say she’s pretty active and thriving!

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Shannon had some kind words for me for featuring her in my blog, but after learning about her, her talents, and drive, I have this to say to her: Shannon –>YOU rock! 

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High Five!

And lastly – one more thing about Shannon — she’s great because her birthday is the same day as Anthony and I’s wedding Anniversary…December 17th.  🙂

It’s All About Setting Goals

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What are your dreams?  What do you want more than anything?  What do you think about that you hope for and desire?  Think about it for a moment and ask yourself if you are doing anything about your dreams.  Do you make an effort to make your dreams a reality or do you chalk it up as having your “head in the clouds?”

R U … mountain.jpg  OR  head-in-the-clouds.jpg ?

I believe that we have dreams for a reason and I believe that reason is destiny.  I think that the universe and God urge us in directions that propel us towards our dreams, and if we let it happen, are willing to trust, and we keep an open mind, I truly believe that we can make our dreams happen. 

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Part of making our dreams a concrete reality is setting goals.  When we set goals, we are making a commitment to invest in making our aspirations REAL.  Goals should be tangible, reasonable and measurable, should offer emotional satisfaction and benefit our overall dream, and should be something we can visualize happening.  When you set goals, you are creating an outline for your future.  It’s exciting to know that, when we set and achieve a new goal, WE are making OUR OWN wishes come true!  Knowing that we have the ability to play part in creating our own destiny is so empowering!     

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Every day, week, month and year, I set goals for myself and I write them down.  I look at them regularly and I let other people know what my goals are.  I revise them if they need to change and I work hard to make them happen. 

My goals for March were to:
1.  Get to my 10th sale on Etsy
2.  Obtain 200 hearts on Etsy
3.  Get at least one local shop/boutique to carry some craft that I make.
4.  Make more money on Etsy than I made last month.

I am happy to report that I have 11 Etsy sales, I am at 180 hearts on Etsy, I have gotten one local shop to carry my items (possibly more before March is over) and as of last night, I have now made more this month than last month, so I am super close to meeting ALL goals set for the month of March.  Yay! (Thank you to Deborah in Pennsylvania for buying two necklaces last night!)

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It is such a good feeling to achieve your goals.  I’d like to hear what your goals are and what you do to achieve them.  Please comment and share!  🙂  Maybe we can help one another!

Day 6 of 30 Days to A Better Shop Series

It’s Day 6 of “30 Days to a Better Shop Series” by my buddie Christina Purdue and it’s going to be split up into two days.  First part of task is to UPDATE ITEM TITLES AND DESCRIPTIONS OF HALF OF MY LISTINGS.

Christina provided some quick tips:

  1. Make your titles descriptive. For example: “Stairs to Nowhere – 8×10 Fine Art Print” or “Sterling Silver Lovebirds Necklace” or “Lovebirds Necklace – Sterling Silver”.
  2. Include specific information about your product in the description – include measurements, colors (items look different on different monitors), and what’s included in the listing.

With that, keep in mind, that if you are editing a portion of your description that is the same for most all items, copy & paste to avoid typing the same words phrases, greetings, e-mail addresses and URLs.

So, let’s look at one of my listings.  I’ll start with my most recent: “Blue Cluster Earrings”
Here they are:  (Click on the image if you want to vist the page)

Blue Cluster Earrings

Here is the current item name: “Blue Cluster Earrings”

Here is the current description:
“A variety of clear and blue frosted, fired and iridescent glass rounds and silver cast metal beads are hand wrapped and cluster together on sterling silver french wires.

Length: About 1 1/8 inches or 2.8 cm

My thoughts…
     Well, I have been reading a lot on listing descriptions in the forums lately and I think this one is pretty basic.  I didn’t write anything personal and it’s all that a buyer would really need to know about the earrings.  I have included the length in inches and centimeters so it is useful for both U.S. buyers and international buyers.  Some of my listings have personal information in them, but yesterday I was in a hurry and didn’t really feel inclined to add anything special to these.  Perhaps I should.  Hmmmmm?  Ok – here’s how I’ve  changed it:

NEW ITEM DESCRIPTION (additions in blue)

For the girl who likes more than a simple post earring or a single dangle – these blue clusters are fun, feminine, very cute, are sure to get compliments and bring you happiness!

A variety of clear and blue frosted, fired and iridescent glass rounds and silver cast metal beads are hand wrapped and cluster together on sterling silver french wires.

Length: About 1 1/8 inches or 2.8 cm

MY THOUGHTS ON REVISIONS:  I like it!  I think it did need something a little extra and the little blurb before the basics is perfect.  :O)  So now, I need to go through the rest…ugh!  Well, that will likely happen later and then more tomorrow, because I have a lot of other things to attend to right now.  At least I got that task started!  I’d be glad to hear what you think of the changes.  :O)  Feel free to post comments.