Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Christmas Preperation: Shipping and Order Prep

Christmas Preparation: Shipping and Customer Service

Christmas is looming very near as we swing into October. So far we have completed our business plan, perfected our process and packaging, and lined up our vendors (see previous posts for more details). Christmas can get stressful for everyone and to relieve a little stress in both your life and your customers, it is important to stay on top of your shipping and your customer service.

Step 1: Have an ample supply of shipping materials

For a long time I was going to a local store to get my packaging. I was over paying and sometimes they were even out of stock. Here is my little shipping secret for quality inexpensive mailers with FREE shipping--STOCK UP!


Step 2: Update your shop announcements

During Christmas season it is important for your customers to be aware of your shipping deadlines. Include an estimated time it takes to ship out your items. I always over estimate just in case I make a mistake or have to redo an order.

Most shipping companies post shipping date deadlines in order to receive a package by Christmas. This is IMPERATIVE to post in your shop. This protects your reputation and gives your customers an accurate time frame in which they can expect their package to arrive. Be proactive!

Lastly, make sure to offer a faster shipping option in your shop. Many handmade venues do not allow those type of listing by themselves but you can make a note in your shop announcements that you offer faster shipping and to contact you for details.

Step 3: Customer Service

When you are buried in orders it is easy to let your customer service slide with unanswered emails and misplaced requests. There are some very simple things you can do to stay on top. First, decide on one method of communication with your customers. I recommend email because email allows you to organize and send multiple notices at once without muting your account. If someone contacts you through other means I often ask them to email me or I email myself with the information so that I do not forget the request.

Second, send out emails when an order is shipped. You can easily do this by copying each email address as you fill out packages. Copy all the addresses for that days orders and paste them (make sure to blind copy!) into an email. This allows the customer to easily notify you if there is a problem with their purchase or shipping by simply hitting reply. The faster they notify you the faster you can alleviate the issue.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Featured Artist: Eddyizm

Featured Artist: Eddyizm

I was relaxing one evening in the chat rooms when I first fell in love with the photography of our featured artist eddyizm. I was perusing through different shops when his incredible talent stopped me for over a half hour! So, I do have to warn you--don't click on his shop unless you have time to loose yourself in his digital world!

1. Tell me about yourself

Hi, my name is Eduardo Cervantes, but I also go by eddyizm in this digital world of ours. I am currently falling in love with a girl and have been falling in love with life as of my more recent years. I am 32 and a Capricorn.

2. Tell me about your art and anything that is new and in the "works"!

I just bought my first SLR less than 2 years ago and have been learning and shooting and printing and editing and learning and making lots of mistakes and taking crappy frames and finding wonderful magic since then. Photography has truly become my passion for life, adventure, travel, outdoors as well as the technical aspect and the enjoyment of others reactions. I do what I do because I enjoy it, because it makes my life complete and because I love the chance to share a part of what is inside of me, with someone else.

I just finished wrapping up 2007 and even though September is about to end, I just began posting my 2008 galleries. I have been shooting so much that I have a serious backlog but intend to catch up shortly. Coming up this year are trips to Joshua tree national park, Mt Rainer national park, Olympic national park, Grand Canyon national park, San Diego zoo, sea world, and many many more.

3. What is the best and worst think about owning your own business/working for yourself?

I don't really own my own business, but I sell prints, shoot portraits, weddings and also cover events. The best part is that I love what I do even if I wasn't paid, I would still walk out with my camera and shoot. It’s definitely for the love, not the money.

4. What is the story behind your brand?

My brand? Well, I guess my name has been around since 1999 roughly, back when there was no myspace ;-) my website portfolio houses over 1,400 images in over 100+ galleries. As they say, I let my photos do the talking...

5. How are you gearing up for the holiday season?

I have a lot of prints ready to go, lots of custom sizes and great selection of images, from flowers to animals to scenic deserts to lush rain forests and gritty urban decay along with eerie ghost towns. I would be surprised if you could not find something you liked in my shop.

6. Tell about one time you have been "caught RED handed"

I plead the 5th. Let’s just say it involved the police I WAS YOUNG ! ;-)

7. Secret Sale!

"Eddyizm is offering a Secret Sale to all of our blog readers! Include the following message in the note to the seller box during checkout and you will receive 25% off your total purchase(excluding shipping).

CRH Blog reader! Please discount my purchase 25%!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

Christmas Preparation: Stocking Up!

Christmas Preparations: Stocking Up!

Christmas shopping can be so hectic--crowded malls, no parking spots, long lines, and traffic--all downfalls to the Christmas season. Most of your customers shop online to avoid some of those extra Holiday stresses and since you have already put a plan in place to gift wrap each package (see our last article on packaging) you are on your way to one happy customer!
The essential, nonnegotiable service you can provide to your customers is to have plenty of items in stock and ship them out in enough time to arrive before Christmas. This one phrase is every online Christmas shoppers nightmare--"the gifts are still in the mail!" No one wants to walk into their mother-in-laws Christmas party empty handed with the line "your gifts are in the mail". In order to meet all these demands and keep your own sanity during this holiday season there are some steps that can be taken in preparation.
First, it is essential to keep an adequate supply during the holidays. Remember--you are not the only one filling orders. Your suppliers are fulfilling orders too! This was a hard lesson I had to learn last year. Many of my suppliers had items on back order because they were just as swamped as I was. This sent me into a mad frenzy to find the supplies I needed to complete my orders on time. Well--you can imagine this is a situation that I want to avoid this year!
In order to keep an adequate supply for Christmas, begin ordering a larger amount of supplies now. For example, instead of placing my normal order for 500 tins this month I order 1000. I do this each time I order giving me ample supply for the holiday season.
I also have "backup" vendors. These are the vendors that might be a little more expensive but can provide the supplies I need in an emergency. I have found at least one backup vendor for each of my supply items. This was a lifesaver last year and I would encourage everyone to have a backup list for the holidays.
So, we have well perfected items, gift wrapped, in stock and ready to go for all of your customers--nothing more to worry about right? Okay well at least we have a good start! Until next week--Happy Shopping!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CRH Featured Artist: The Little Stitch

CRH Featured Artist: The Little Stitch
This week's featured artist is one of the first shops I hearted on etsy. In fact, I placed one of her pillows in my very first treasury and it made the front page! Susan's work is fantastic and admired for so long and am excited to spotlight her amazing designs and craft! So take a minute, stop by her shop, and make sure to tell her we sent you:)


1. Tell me about yourself (anything from age and education to what you eat).

Well, my name is Susan and I’m the owner, designer & sewer of my very small company. I'm a born & bred western New Yorker who longs to move back east but is sadly stuck living on the west coast at the moment. I have a great love of music & sewing. They are the 2 things that make me the happiest (with Japanese magazines a close third). I also drink too much Pepsi—it is my favorite food!

2. Tell me about your art and anything that is new and in the "works"!

I love making pillows from some unknown reason it's what I gravitate to making when I'm in my studio. Eventually I'd love to do more art work type pieces, mini quilts, wall art, etc. I've been playing around with that & working with more prints.

3. What is the best and worst think about owning your own business?
The best part is doing what you love everyday & not answering to others. The worst is being disciplined; you have to really have a good work ethic to get things done. I have a tendency to spend a little too much time reading blogs & checking out my favorite groups on Flickr. Flickr is my downfall.

4. What is the story behind your brand?

The real story is too many years in retail doing visuals & not feeling fulfilled working for others. It's more gratifying being on your own. So I decided when I found etsy to try it out and haven't looked back. I owe so much to etsy.

5. How are you gearing up for the holiday season?

For the holiday season I'm trying to make more to fill the shop & have more pillows that mix & match together. A more cohesive thread that brings them together.
6. Tell about one time you have been "caught RED handed"

I'm a professional; I’ve never been caught:) And if I did get caught I'd never admit to it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Christmas Preperation: Wrapping it Up--Bringing in Holiday Traffic

Wrap it up please!
Have you ever heard that packaging is not important? I have heard packaging discussed repeatedly and have been disappointed to hear the conclusion from some that packaging is just not that important. I am here to tell you that is utterly FALSE! It truly is one of the best ways to keep customers coming back and have those customers refer you to friends. This is one of my best "tricks" for bringing in Holiday traffic (and repeat customers)--become know for a well wrapped package!
Why is Packaging Important?
The way you package your work speaks about your brand, professionalism, and the passion you have for your work. A great packaging is like "going the extra mile" and it speaks volumes to your customer. Everyone likes receiving gifts--and if you receive a lovely gift you are more likely to send the same gift to a friend or a loved one.
How Will Packaging Increase my Holiday Traffic?
I decided to use my packaging as a marketing tool this past summer and the results have been fabulous. I have had an increase in repeat customers--especially those customers who are buying gifts for others. Your customer base is vital for the upcoming Holiday season. Maintaining a reputation for quality and beauty will compel repeat customers to return and most likely bring their friends. Referrals are a powerful tool and should be utilized to their fullest potential.
The busiest time of year for purchases is undoubtedly Christmas and what are people shopping for? Gifts! So give the people what they want--give them GIFTS!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

CRH Featured Artist: Cori Dantini

Featured Artist: Cori Dantini

I am so excited to bring this week's featured artist to you! Cori Dantini is my "partner in crime" and the wonderful designer behind the artwork on all of my pendants. There is so much more to Cori than the CRH pendant designs. Her art is spectacular so enjoy!


1. Tell me about yourself (anything from age, education, to what you eat).

mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, 501's, black t-shirt, strong coffee, seltzer water, japanese pen nibs, walnut ink, small flat pebble collector, free flowin', reader, observer, fragment lover... dependable, scatter brained, forgetful, open hearted and LOYAL. did i mention i love cake.

2.Tell me about your art and anything that is new and in the "works"!

My art (and I am not referring to my day job as an illustrator here) is truly an organic experience. I NEVER have a plan... because when I do things end up looking contrived and overly thought out. There are never any surprises when I plan and I think the creative process (for me) is truly all about the experiment. Just the simple notion of moving forward can take you to many, many surprising places.

As for what is new... I was just recently approached to do paintings for the art poster market... and I am actually COMPLETELY excited about this. It seems like such a fantastic venue to explore my painting, which is something that I never thought I would have the time to do.

3. What is the best and the worst part about working for yourself?

For me, the best thing about working for myself is the freedom. Though, what I am finding is that the more I work, the busier I get (which in theory is good)... but the busier I am, the less free I feel. So the best part and the worst part are really the same thing.

What I’d like to find is a great "life" balance, of work (freelance illustration), family, and time for myself
and my creative endeveaors (etsy/gallery work). So the struggle goes on, and so does the search for how to make it all work.

4. What is the story behind your brand?

The story behind my brand... is laziness. I thought to myself Cori Dantini is my name, so I suppose I will call myself coriD (like in kindergarten). But then I thought to myself, jeeze i'm gonna have to press the shift button to get that capital D and I don't want to have to do that all the time. So I quickly typed in corid, and then I was stuck with it! Promptly I started getting teased by my friends--Horrid Corid. UGH!!! I wish I had thought more about it. Sigh.

5. How are you gearing up for the holiday season?

At the moment I am pondering snowflakes, glitter, and building silly people/dolls out of paper mache. I suppose I'd like to do another series of handmade ornaments this year, and I am hoping to have time to do another group of original paintings and prints.
Oh, and maybe a calendar (which might be entirely too ambitious) but i am thinking about this hard...1" buttons maybe, and some pocket mirrors and magnets. It all depend on how much free time I get in the next month to do all the ordering and planning.

6. Tell about one time you have been “caught RED handed”

I had to think hard about this... I really thought that I had never been caught red handed, but then I remembered! When I was 7 my baby sister was born. She and I used to bathe together, and once my mom stepped out of the room (I know I know....... not safe but it was the 70's). Anyway, while she was out I shaved the top of my sisters head and of course good old Nancy walked in and caught me (shaver in hand). Oops.

Secret Sale!

Cori dantini is offering a Secret Sale to all of our blog readers! Include the following message in the note to the seller box during checkout at http://www.corid.etsy.com/ and you will receive a 25 % discount on your entire order:

CRH Blog Reader! Please discount my purchase 25%--thanks CORID!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Christmas Preperation: Having a Plan

Preparing for Christmas: Having a Plan

You might be thinking--"It's not even Halloween yet--I should be thinking Christmas" as I am screaming through the computer--YES!!!!

Last Christmas was my first on etsy and I was taken off guard. I was not expecting the volume of customers that came through my shop and I was not prepared. This year I have promised myself it will be different.

I will be doing a series of articles on preparing for Christmas. My Christmas preparation plan hinges on this idea:
  • There is a time to grow your business and there is a time to maintain it.

Growing your Business:

From January to September most of my energy goes into growing my business. I spend time developing new designs, introducing new products, and researching less expensive vendors. These months are fantastic because I get to focus my time on designing! Researching and testing new advertising tactics, product presentation, and marketing consumes my life for 9 month out of the year and it has been rewarding. I have had some real success in my endeavors and really enjoyed having time to focus on designing. The actual creating is rewarding and just fun! But, there are 3 other months in the year. . .

Maintaining your Business:

We are fast approaching the "other" 3 months in the year--the months where maintaining your business is a survival tactic! From October through December my focus is solely on maintenance. These 3 months are spent ordering supplies, stocking up on my prep work, completing orders, and customer service. This is not a time to design, research, or introduce new products--this is a time to sell the perfected items you spent the last 9 months developing. These three months, if planned well, can financially support your creating endeavors throughout the rest of the year.

Both parts are equally important to a successful business. You can not survive without growth and you cannot grow without maintenance. Each part of your yearly business plan has a specific focus that can truly accomplish your goals.

So, now that we have a plan--we can start to put it into action in the upcoming months. Each week I will be adding to our Christams Preperation series in an attempt to complete my business plan for the yearso that when December 25th rolls around--I am sipping hot cocoa with Santa and all 8 of his little reindeer!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Little Negligence. . .

A Little Negligence. . .

With the purchase of our first home and the BIG move into that home (I don't think you ever realize how much stuff you really crammed into your tiny apartment until you have to move it!) I have been a little negligent to my blog. Good news--we are settled in and ready to get down to business.

Autumn is in full swing which means we are starting to gear up for Christmas! This week I will be posting my first article on Christmas preparations as well as bringing you a new artist to highlight and, of course, a long overdue Secret Sale.

Thanks to all of you who sent warm wishes and congratulations on our home--they were appreciated and cherished. I love being able to share my life experiences with so many of you. Hugs and Kisses to you all!!!