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Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Working from Home as a Procrastinator

Being a world renown procrastinator, I've struggled at successfully working from home my entire life. I'd procrastinate homework all through high school. As a university student I took way too long to to complete my online courses (like we're talking a year too long), and now trying to run a small business from our living room. I'm living a procrastinator's dream.
I find if I don't start my day off on the right note immediately, that day is easily lost to useless internet scrolling, Netflix binges, and generally unproductive, mundane activities that I know are a waste of time.
I've spent years being a procrastinator, I still am one, but I've worked to find tools and techniques to help me stay ahead of the problem.
I find productivity is infectious, but so is lack of it. The harder I work, the harder i keep working; the less I accomplish, the less motivation I have to keep driving forward. I want to share all the ways I ensure my work days are productive and successful, but not exhausting!

WAKE UP EARLY

It's harder than it sounds! But it gets easy, I promise! I get out of bed around 7:30 everyday regardless of my schedule. By nature, I'm a chronic late sleeper and I know that it leads to poor productivity for me. Sleeping in = laziness. Getting up early and starting the day right puts me in the right mind set for being a #GIRLBOSS. Which leads me to my next point.

START THE MORNING RIGHT



Find a ritual that works for you and learn to love it. For me, thats going to the gym before I do anything else. Occasionally I'll nix the gym and do 15-20 minutes of yoga if I'm in more of a rush and have a really big day ahead of me. You do you. Try a bunch of things until you find what works. Go for a morning run, jump into a cold shower, sit quietly with a coffee for 10 minutes before jumping into the day. The list is infinite.

GET DRESSED TO SOME SEMBLANCE

By all means be as comfy as you want! but don't work in the PJs you slept in, it's just bad vibes. Whatever you need to wear to put yourself in a productive mindset, wear that.
Imagine you're putting on your power suit in the morning. Like those big boss ladies running the corporate world. Too far? Naah. My "power suit" consists of leggings or shorts and a comfy shirt, and as much as I'd like to just not, a bra. I also brush my hair, my teeth, a little bit of makeup. My goal for the morning is  to be able to pop out of the house or talk to the post man at a moment's notice and not feel like a stow-away. Your Power Suit may be yoga pants, that's totally cool, and very comfy; your Power Suit may be an actual suit, that's totally cool too.

SCHEDULE THE DAY

When I have a whole day to myself, be it a day off from my day-job and CakeSpun or a full-on CakeSpun Day, I plan out my entire day in my planner while I have breakfast. I try and organize it into time slots up to about 4 o'clock or so. I block out appropriate time chunks depending on the task. I don't make any task too long either, maybe 2 hours max. I find I'm more productive in bursts rather than large spans, don't give yourself enough time to fall off task!
I also colour code my day: business stuff is one colour, home type chores/errands, weaving, breaks (breaks are important, schedule yourself breaks), are each their own colour. I like splitting things up in such a way that I not doing all the same kind of thing for hours and hours.

STICK WITH ONE TASK AT A TIME

Multitasking can be a slippery slop to task negligence. You might feel like you're being more efficient, but I promise you're not. Unless you consider multitasking answering emails while the dyer runs, do that, that's cool. Avoid distractions as well, TV's not a task so don't add it to your workday. I like to listen to a music playlist or a podcast while I work sometimes, but I actually find for me silence is most productive.

LEAVE THE HOUSE

Keep cabin fever at bay. Popping out for 5 minutes to grab a latte, even though I could make one at home, is never a bad idea. $4 is a small price to pay to feel like a functioning member of society for the afternoon. This is not the same as that standard "work in a coffee shop" line of advice, because let's face it, we all know that line, and as much as it works, it's not technically working at home. 
Lots of days my only connection with the outside world is a 4 minute walk to the post office, but that's better than nothing! Go for a walk, pop to the bank, run an errand, organize meetings or appointments during the day. An awesome idea is to have an accountability friend! Choose someone who you can grab a coffee with but won't allow you to fall into a three hour gab sesh with them. Do what you gotta do to get out. You'll never regret it.

SET TINY REWARDS

Be a good boss to yourself. Did you just complete the blog post you've been working on for 2 days, that's awesome! Grab 10 minutes of instagram or reading time, or go get the chai latte you promised yourself.  Just like in a traditional workplace setting, if you've successfully completed a project you'd want some recognition, give it to yourself, you deserve it!

HAVE A DEDICATED WORKSPACE


Obviously we all can't have a home office or studio to hide away in, but wouldn't it be nice..... the true dream. Find a place in your home you can specify for strictly working. I have a desk in my living room where I do my computer work and weaving from. Not at the kitchen table, not on the couch, and definitely not in bed. Just that desk. This is effective in two ways: it keeps you on task when you're in that space because there will be no distractions in your workspace, like a pile of dishes for example, or the TV remote. And, on the flip side, it will keep all your business life contained to one spot in your home, as opposed to the kitchen table, the bedside table (the bathtub? the car? Hey, no judgement!) My boyfriend is especially happy about that latter point.

So! That's about everything I do to keep myself on task throughout the day. Honestly it's both easier and harder than it looks. And if you're a procrastinator, these will be things you'll have to practice to get better at. Once you form the right habits,  you'll be amazed at what you can get done in a day! It's kind of amazing to be your own boss.
Let me know if you implement any of these tips into your workdays. Or share what works for you to stay on track an accomplish all the things!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Farewell Love of Sweeties... and Hello to New Endeavours!


So I've been subtly dropping hints these past few months about "big changes" and "grand plans" for Love of Sweeties. Well now they're about to take shape! In January, I mentioned here that I had many goals for this year, including dyeing more fibres naturally and listing hand dyed wools in my Etsy shop alongside my wall hangings. I'm excited to say these things are happening!

Along with all this dyeing I've also been planning, planning, planning. I've said many times that I'd like to turn my little "hobby business" into a steadier income, and all this aligns with that ultimate goal. To start this next big adventure, and this is the most immediate change, Love of Sweeties is now known as CakeSpun Fibreworks! With CakeSpun comes a complete business plan, vision, and some amazing rebranding!

Take a peek at cakespun.com

CakeSpun Fibreworks is committed to staying consciously cozy through delicious natural dyes and fairly sourced fibres.

Not much will change on the day to day. I will still be selling wall hangings on Etsy, now alongside hand dyed wools. In the beginning most of what I will be listing will be OOAK (one of a kind) skeins while I perfect colours and continue experimenting. The goal is to configure a small, consistent line of yarns; all colourways inspired by delicious desserts, using kitchen ingredients to create them. I've already created some beautiful colours from dyestuffs like coffee, turmeric and sprinkles!


This Blog will remain Love of Sweeties, and be a bit removed from the business, but everywhere else: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, will be changing to Cakespun.


And why not just leave everything the same? Why bother changing the name of everything, I mean what a pain right? Love of Sweeties, as some may remember, was created as a food and lifestyle blog. I wasn't even weaving at all when I bought the domain for Love of Sweeties. So when I found weaving and then started selling those wall hangings online I just stuck with the name I had. Love of Sweeties isn't too descriptive of one thing or another so it worked OK, but it also doesn't make that munch sense. 
CakeSpun couldn't be more clear. I will be making and selling dessert-inspired weaves and dessert-inspired yarns under this name. I needed to change the name to really commit to a business plan, and plus I love the name so much!

I can hardly contain how excited I am to put this plan into action. It's something I've been working on for about 6 months! This post may be a tad hap-hazard but just know there's so many awesome things to come!


Friday, February 5, 2016

What I Wish I Knew Before my First Year of Running an Etsy Shop - Part 2

Last week we started chatting about some of the tips I wish I had thought about when I first started my Etsy shop in Jaunary 2015. I've got three more today! This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you must know to run an etsy shop. I still have a lot to learn! Perhaps a year from now I'll be writing my "what I've learned after two years post"! (Actually I'm sure I will be writing that...)
These are the keys I've found to be the most helpful in building my shop, and what I think everyone would find helpful before they build a shop of their own, or at the beginning stages of growing their business.

>> If you missed part one you can check it out here

WRITE DESCRIPTIVE DESCRIPTIONS
Some of the most important things to mention in your item description are the dimensions of your product, what it's made of, how you made it, where it would be used and who would use it. If there's anything that makes it special now is the time to say so! Think of this as the resume of your product!

I think there are more than a few ways to write an impactful product description. I like to say what the piece reminds me of, or the inspiration behind it, or why I chose to do it the way I did. This is very easy in my case because I create one-off woven tapestries. By giving this extra detail, it puts that idea in the shoppers mind, adding an extra layer of interest to the item. It also reminds them that this item is the only one like it, and that it really is handmade.

Descriptions that tell a story, or delve into the process of the piece are also effective. We need to remember when we write these descriptions that people are shopping on Etsy because they want something that is special, something that is handmade, something that they can't get in Target/Gap/whatever corporate store you can think of. So make the uniqueness of your item part of the pitch.
This is an odd and extreme example, but check out this Portlandia Episode "Is the Chicken Local". Yes it's totally exagerated, (and hillarious) but they've nailed it! People want to know everything about what they're buying! And more to this point, people want to feel good about the purchases they make. Recycled, upcycled, organic, fair trade, sustainable, hand made, hand crafted, small batch, local, artisan, vintage, shall I go on? These are all buzz words right now. If your products are any of these things (Please don't lie for the sake of selling!) there's no shame in using them.

Remember:

  • Who is this item for? Hip Babies,  Crafty Mom's, Rugged Boyfriends, Modern Yogis, Working Ladies, Fashion Forward Students.
  • What is this item/What is it made of? Porcelin coffee mug, Cotton Dress, Soy candle.
  • Where is it used/When would it be used? At the Office, In the Kitchen, During the Christmas Season, At a Picnic.
  • Why does the customer need it? Your wardrobe isn't complete without it, It's the perfect addition to a Gallery wall, it's a one-of-a-kind necklace, Celebrity-X loves these t-shirts.
  • How did you make it? By hand in your Home-based studio, With locally harvested wildflowers, with your Heirloom pottery wheel.

Things you may not even realize make your product cool, make it very cool.  As an example, I use driftwood to hang a lot of my pieces. It seems totally normal and unimportant to me; I live on the west coast, I wander down to the beach and pick up driftwood for my pieces, no biggie. However I've had people message me asking where I source my driftwood from, where do I buy it, because they want to buy it! Some people are specifically looking for beachy/boho art for their beach houses or want to bring a piece of the ocean home. That's why I always mention that I use west coast driftwood in my descriptions - because not everyone can say that.


TITLES NEED TO BE DESCRIPTIVE
I know we already talked about product descriptions but if your title is boring or confusing, no one will click on your product to even read that well written description.
Just like Google, etsy looks at the title of your listing for tag words when searching. You get 140 characters so use them all. Buyers only see the first few words anyway. So make the first half interesting and simple. The second half can be more descriptive tag-type words.
1st words are ranked as most relevant and it goes down from there. Use lots of describing words and use what you think people will search for.

Take this listing title for example
Fringed Wall Hanging // White, Pink, Grey and Yellow on Driftwood - weaving, tapestry, wall art, autumn
I could have named this listing "Pink Lady - fringed wall art". Because Pink Lady sounds like a cute name for this piece and it is fringed wall art. But nobody's searching for the name of the wall hanging. They're looking for something to hang on their wall in a certain style or colour scheme. So that's how I'm going to title it.
Pro Tip: Type items in to Etsy's search bar, it will auto populate with the most searched for items as soon as you start typing. Use this to your advantage and name accordingly.

YOU WON'T MAKE SALES IF YOU DONT PROMOTE
Just listing your items and hoping people stumble across them on etsy probably won't get you anywhere. You need to promote your business and your shop. I probably spend just as much time on promotion as I do creating product.
Social media is an awesome way to promote yourself, I'd argue the best and most necessary. It's free, it's relatively easy, and everyone is on it. You're an online business, it makes sense to promote online. I use instagram as my main form of social media promotion. I like instagram because I have a niche there and have found it to be the easiest platform to grow my following on. Instagram is a very visual platform, which is why makers do so well on it. Choose whichever platform you're most comfortable with, perhaps you're an avid facebook user and know you will grow a quick following there as you already have lots of friends who will support you. Maybe you already rock twitter and are going to focus your attention there. It doesn't matter what you use as long as you utilize it well.
Once you actually post to you social media utilizing relevant hashtags and joining communities are some of the easiest ways to get your name out there on the internet.

It's called Social media for a reason. You can't just post your pictures or tweets or updates on social media and expect the love and money to come pouring in. You have to socialize. Make sure you respond to comments on your posts, post comments on other users posts, giving compliments goes a long way. At this point you're actually networking and promoting. You'll find the more you interact, the more fruitful your social media will become.


There is still so much to learn when it comes to working and selling online! I believe learning as you go is pretty much the only way to improve, we'll never be successful right from the get-go. What's your greatest Etsy tip? I'd love to hear!


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