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Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Getting More Bang for Your Ad $

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

First, I think you do have to spend money on advertising. And, yes, your website is your biggest ad. So if you don’t have a website that should be at the top of your list. And, it needs to be more than your business card.

How much to spend will vary by each individual. I can give you a range that I have seen for marketing for small fiber-arts related businesses, and that’s 3% to 10% of your gross revenue. That’s for marketing, so it includes more than advertising. Marketing is your overall plan for promoting, pricing, and placement of your product, and advertising is part of the promotional strategy. The U.S. Small Business Administration suggests that businesses that generate less than $5 million in revenue allocate between 7 and 8 percent of revenues for marketing. They base these on gross margins in the 10 to 12 percent range. The National Federation of Independent Business suggests that small businesses allocate between 2 and 5 percent of sales specifically for advertising. They don’t consider the whole marketing budget. You could take both guidelines and end up with 5% for advertising and another 2% for other marketing. Of course, the larger your business, the more funds you have to allocate. If you expect to spend 5% for advertising in your business that will gross $100,000 this year, be sure you’ve set aside or have access to $5,000 for ads.

Regardless of the amount you spend, be sure that your advertising includes a “call to action” or CTA. It is a waste of money if you don’t tell people what you want them to do as a result of reading your ad. It could be as simple asking them to go to your website to sign up for your newsletter and get your free irresistible offer. It could be letting them know about a sale you are having. The idea is that they will take action from seeing your ad.

Look for places to advertise where large numbers of your ideal clients, not just interested parties, hang out. For example, companies advertise in The Professional Quilter or at the Creative Arts Business Summit because they know that our members are professionals and have more influence with a larger audience of quilters. They are “connectors” and the advertiser gets more from the expenditure.

When crafting your ad, remember that people tend to read in a “Z,” starting at the top left, across the top, down to the bottom left and then across the bottom. Focus on benefits and put that at the top of your ad. You want your customer to realize that you are the solution to their problem. Once you have them looking at your ad, realizing that you are the answer, they will follow the “Z” to see your name and contact info at the bottom.

Last, track your results. You need to figure out which ads are working for you and which are not. Then make adjustments to your marketing and advertising strategy.

Please share your experiences on advertising spending below.


Do you view your quilt business as a business?

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

In the past month, I’ve had several conversations with quilters and fiber artists about how they view their “businesses.” Several really don’t think of themselves as business people. They are happy to share their work/skills and don’t think about the money beyond meeting their expenses. Is this running a business? Not really; it’s supporting your hobby. And, if that’s what you want, that’s perfect for you. If, however, you really want a business, here are some tips:

1. Start to think about how you view your business and work on your mindset if needed. Do you buy into the starving artist mentality? Why? A business is supposed to make a profit. It’s not a bad thing. Is your business structured to do that? And, are you ready, willing and able to do that?

2. Consider how others view your business. Do people think you are running a successful business? Or do they think you make quilts or art for fun and sell it on the side? You might look at how other business people view you vs. how your family and close friends view you, too. Do you have established routines and discipline or do you invoke the solopreneur’s version of “writers’ block” to run an errand or go shopping? Do you want other people and your family to view you as a business person? And, if they don’t, does this affect how your view yourself?

3. Do you know your numbers? It’s critical that you know how much money is coming in and how much is going out. You need to track these numbers and use the information to make decisions about your business. If you don’t understand your numbers, The Professional Quilter is currently running a terrific series by Sue Tucker, who is the CFO at Studio 180 Design.

4. How do you structure your day? Remember back when you had that corporate job. You had tasks to complete. Your role had a place in the company and its profit structure. Now that you are on your own, the freedom is great. That freedom, however, imposes a requirement for discipline. If you used a planner/calendar at your corporate job, consider adapting the same or similar system now that you run your own business. Committing the appropriate time to your business will make a difference.

Running your business is much harder work than pursuing your hobby. It’s just as much fun. And, in the end, it has the possibility of being much more rewarding.

Please share your thoughts below.

What’s in a Name? Quilter? Artist? Professional?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I’ve been talking with some of my private coaching clients and IAPQ members lately about how they think of themselves professionally. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” do you call yourself a professional quilter, a quilt artist, a quilting professional, an artist who works in fiber, or something else? Do you even call yourself a professional?

This conversation began when I was talking with a potential client and she thought that professional quilter meant someone who quilted on a longarm. Back when The Professional Quilter first began publication in September 1983, the longarm industry wasn’t even a shadow of what it is today. Back in the day, our readers were teachers, shop owners, pattern designers, judges, crafters and contemporary quiltmakers who sold their work. By strict definition, a professional was someone who made money from her work, so everyone was a professional quilter. A concern for many of our readers at that time was taking that leap to really think of themselves as professional. Thank goodness we’ve made progress on that point.

As a result of this conversation, I started thinking about the name of our organization and whether when we call ourselves the International Association of Professional Quilters, newer professionals in our field don’t see themselves with that label. Do they feel excluded because they think professional quilters are people who quilt for money, specifically with a longarm? I also think other “titles” could make a different group of professionals feel excluded.

So, I’m asking you to join in a conversation on our blog. What do you call yourself: Professional quilter? Quilting professional? Artist? Quilt artist? Quiltmaker? Artmaker? Something else? And, do you feel excluded by any of the other names?

Please share your thoughts below.

Are You Qualified to Begin?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Do you have some business or personal dreams that are putting off because you think you need to know more before you move forward? Maybe you think you need another art course, or maybe you need that extra marketing course. Or, your website could be better. Or, your quilting skills need to be better to enter that show. Or, you don’t know as much as or are as skilled as someone else. Or,…

Hey, I’ve been there. I’m someone who thrives on knowledge, and I’m always searching to learn more. And, it’s a good thing, except that it can put an obstacle in my path. It’s easy to look for the next course to build my knowledge or skill level instead of taking action, albeit imperfect action. Here are some tips to move you forward:

1. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect. It never will be. There will always be more to learn. The best time to start has already passed. The next best time is now.

2. Don’t compare yourself with others. There will always be someone who is further along the path than you. And, remember there are others who not as far as you. You are only where you are and have to start from there. Any action you take at your current level moves you to the next level.

3. Commit and take a bold action. You have something to offer that no one else does. Others are waiting to start; don’t follow that path.

This reminded me of a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.

So what are you waiting for? You are definitely qualified to start.

Please share your thoughts below.

Meet Celine Perkins

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

In the Summer 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter, Eileen Doughty profiled Celine Perkins, pattern designer and owner of Perkins Dry Goods. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

How else do you advertise your business?

I advertise regularly in American Quilt Retailer. At Market, I do Schoolhouse workshop sessions and contribute to the FabShop Dinner as a table sponsor. (The Fabric Shop Network is a trade association for independent quilt and fabric retailers; they publish FabShop News. They have a dinner for shop owner members right before Market opens.) I’ve been a sponsor for several years, usually donating prize bags for two tables.

I have also participated as an organizer for two Booth Hop events at the 2010 Minneapolis and Kansas City Markets. Last fall in Houston, I joined in the Aurifil Booth Hop.

What have you experienced as a vendor at International Quilt Market?

I have been to 13 Markets since spring of 2005. I try to go to every one, for several reasons. At Market, you have a unique opportunity to meet your customers, face-to-face. You have fantastic networking and educational opportunities. You see what’s new and trending. You get inspired.

After driving back from Kansas City this year, I’m not convinced that it’s easier to drive than to fly! I fly to the majority of markets with my “booth in a bag.” I get a half-booth space (affordable and manageable for one person). I share hotel and car expenses with two or three other designers that I’ve gotten to know. We make a trip to Sam’s Club and Target for booth accessories when we all arrive. I also request that my booth be placed near these designers so we can help each other during the show.

Once I vended at International Quilt Festival in Chicago just to see what it was like. I found that it takes a lot of single pattern sales to pay for a booth!  That convinced me that the independent quilt shop is my primary customer and that Market is the best place to sell my product, not at a retail venue.

How do you split your time between all the various tasks of running your business?

That’s a really good question. My husband has always been impressed with how many plates I can keep in the air. I think this is kind of funny since I don’t always feel very organized, and sometimes I think being “over organized” is a defense mechanism. I make lists, sometimes too many, but lists nonetheless. And I am constantly thinking about what comes next.

My routine is to be in the office by 6:30 a.m. At about 8:30 a.m. I take a break (errands or the gym), then come back and work from 11:00 or so until 4:00 p.m., when I go to the post office or UPS. I work seven days a week, but go from one thing to the next, in and out of the studio, especially on weekends.

I try to stay connected with others in the quilt world, whether they are designer friends or shop owners. It can be very socially isolating to work for yourself in a one-man shop.

I see “Studio and Family Time” on your website schedule, for June and July. Do you have “rules” for keeping your business and personal lives separate (and sane)?

At dinner time, the computer is turned off, and the sewing machine is off-limits.

To relax, I go to the gym at least three times a week and walk with my husband after dinner every day that the weather allows. I lost a significant amount of weight in 2010-11 and through that process have learned to make my health more of a priority. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you get a little selfish with that kind of thing.

I also started knitting more seriously when a close friend opened a yarn shop. It’s a great excuse to spend time away from work with a good friend!

The “Studio and Family Time” came from a need to clear the calendar of business commitments during summer months. The kids are home from school, and there is usually a family vacation planned. My dad passed away a few years ago, and my mother now summers in Minneapolis. We spend a lot of time together. It’s a priority for me to be able to spend time with the family, and blocking out those months seemed like a good way to make that “public.”

If you would like to read more of Eileen’s article on Celine Perkins, it’s included in our Summer 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Please share your thoughts below.

Book Review: The Pumpkin Plan 

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

The Pumpkin Plan

The Pumpkin Plan
Mike Michalowicz
Penguin Books; $26.95

This week’s book isn’t directly about quilting, it is about building and sustaining your entrepreneurial business. The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field is an entertaining read that you can really learn from.

In the book, author Mike Michalowicz uses the growth of a freakishly large pumpkin – you know the kind you hear about at state fairs in the fall – as a metaphor for how an entrepreneur can successfully manage and grow a business. He addresses entrepreneurial burn-out, how to handle clients that sap your energy, how to staff your entrepreneurial business, and how to recognize when it is time to make a change in your offering. And throughout the chapters, he includes “Work the Plan” sections that will help you to create great success in your business.

Look for the book at your favorite book retailer. Here’s a link to  Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Have you thought about repurposing?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Whether your pace this summer is slower or not, it’s a good time to look at your business and see what you might be able to do with what you already have. It’s called repurposing and you see it all the time in other areas. Disney is a prime example. They often issue re-releases or special editions of their classics. They recreate the excitement, find additional audiences, and make more sales. How can you do this as a quilter or fiber artist? Here are some ideas:

1. If you are a pattern designer, go back to some of your older designs and remake them using different fabrics. Try a really traditional design in contemporary fabrics. Sometimes a fresh look is all that’s needed. Now you can re-issue and promote the pattern as a special or anniversary edition.

2. If you are a teacher, take a look at those classes you’ve been teaching. Do you need brighter samples to post with the descriptions? Could the class titles be jazzed up a bit? Do you have some faster methods you are now using? The new class, with the jazzed-up title is now Completely Revised or Now With Speed Sewing Techniques. This made me think of food manufacturers with the New, Improved signs on their products. If it works for them, it will work for you.

3. If you are a longarm quilter, look at your samples? Are they dated? Try making a set of sample strips using some of those new threads you purchased. You can add them to existing samples, making it all look new again.

4. If you are a shop owner, repurposing is easy and it’s something you are probably doing on a regular basis. When was the last time you redid your displays to give a new look to your shop? Just moving your existing displays can make a difference.

5. If you make and sell a product or notion, what can you do to update it? For example, if you sell hand-dyed fabrics, perhaps you can tweak the formula just a bit, and add a new color in a limited edition. Or take an existing color and rename it.

I’m sure you have lots of ideas about how to repurpose your existing product line. Please share them below.

Take Better Photos!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

In the current issue of The Professional Quilter, Gloria Hansen, our regular technology columnist, deals with the challenge of taking the best photos possible for gallery, print and show submissions. Here are five tips from her article:

1. If you are shopping for a new camera, look for one with the ability to shoot  RAW images. This allows you to alter the image after you’ve taken the picture.

2. Use the correct white balance setting on your camera. This removes unwanted color casts by considering the “color temperature” of the light source.

3. If you use additional lighting, add two lights, one from each side at a 45-degree angle to your work.

4. Use a tripod, center the camera lens on your work and keep it perpendicular to the work.

5. Read the manual and experiment. Remember the only way to get good is to practice.

Please share your experiences taking photos below.

If you want to know more about taking good photos, Gloria’s comprehensive article is available in the Winter 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter. This journal is a benefit of membership in the International Association of Professional Quilters. To learn more and join, click here.

Are You Managing Your Time or Is It Managing You?

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

It seems every year many people make a resolution to manage their time better. How about you? Funny thing is that we all have the same 24 hours in the day. Some of us just do a better job of managing ourselves. Here are five tips to help you do that this year:

1. Know what your time is worth. Your goal as a business owner is to turn your time into money, so I think you should know what your time is worth. Here’s an easy way to figure it out. What do you want to make this year from your creative arts business? For our example and easy math for me, let’s say $50,000. Let’s also say you take two weeks vacation, so that leaves 50 weeks a year that you work. Divide the $50,000 by 50 weeks and you get $1,000 a week. Divide that by five days in the week that you plan to work and that gives you $200 a day. Divide that by 5 hours a day that is productive and you get $40 an hour. Let’s double that to cover overhead. Now we have $80 an hour. You can do this with your own goal number. Next step is to ask yourself if the task at hand is worth $80 an hour. A good exercise is to track your activities and look at them in this fashion. Is driving to the post office worth $80 an hour? Is grocery shopping worth $80 an hour? Is cleaning your house worth $80 an hour? Is packing your own patterns worth $80 an hour? You may decide you need to continue doing these tasks, and that’s OK. You just need to know the value of the task.
2. Track your tasks. For the next three to five days, record your business activities. At the end of the day, go back and note whether the activity was A (administrative/technical), M (managerial) or E (entrepreneurial). Then go back and decide whether these tasks could have been deleted, delegated, systematized or automated. Remember your goal is to replace those activities that aren’t valued at your hourly rate, so that you can work on activities that are worth your hourly rate.
3. Try time blocking. This is the idea of pre-assigning blocks of your time for specific activities, and it is one concept that I suggest early on with my clients. It lets your days be more productive because you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset with all your activities, not just outside appointments. It also lets you control your time because you decide when activities take place. Here are just a few activities to consider time blocking: quilt intake for longarmers to one afternoon and evening a week; creative time to design your next pattern or quilt; time for bookkeeping; business development (marketing time); and time to write that book that you keep putting off.
4. Plan your day the night before and use a list. At the end of each day, review what worked and didn’t with the day and plan what you need to accomplish the next day. By doing this the night before you’ll start the next day fresh and not spend time trying to figure out what to put on your to-do list. I’ve also heard that you’ll spend less time worrying about the next day at night because it’s preplanned. And, I’ve heard that often your mind will work on those activities and you’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have.
5. Learn to say no. This is a biggie, as it’s so easy to say yes to every opportunity. When you are asked to do something, consider whether it will move you closer to your goals. If so, then it might be appropriate to say yes. If not, can you find other compelling reasons to say yes? If not, then don’t hesitate to say no.

Here are some time management quotes I really like:

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”                             H. Jackson Brown
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”                          Michael Altshuler
“Never let yesterday use up today.”
                                 Richard H. Nelson

Please share your thoughts on how you get control of your time below.

What’s Clarity Got to Do With It?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Despite the title of this piece sounding rather Tina Turnerish to me, I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about what I want in a variety of areas. In other words, I’ve been looking for clarity. It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the what ifs and fuzzy thinking. Ever been there?

What do you need clarity on? When I work with some clients, that’s our first step. Clarity is really the foundation of success both in your business and your personal life.

You need to be clear on the direction you are going. What is your end goal? If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?

You need to be clear on who your client is. We can’t be everything to all people, though I do know people who try. In one class I taught, I had a student who wanted to turn every quilter into an appliqué artist. While that was an admirable goal, her time would have been exhausted trying to accomplish this. She would have been more effective targeting beginning quilters to get them started.

You need to be clear on the financial realities of your business. Where does your income come from? What are your expenses? How much do you need to earn to provide support for yourself?

Those are just a few of the many areas that require clarity. I’m sure you can find other areas where you are searching for clarity. It could be something big, like what my coaches call your “Big Why,” or it could be something smaller, like the name of your new pattern.

It’s easy to figure out what you need to be clear on – you hear the muddled voices. How do you find clarity? Here are a few approaches to tune into the right little voice inside so you can listen.

1. Create a vision board. The easy approach is to go through magazines and find things that resonate with you. It could be colors, words, pictures of places you want to visit, quilts you want to make or techniques you want to learn. Glue them onto a piece of poster board and leave it in a place where you’ll see it. I find that just searching for the items to put on my vision board helps me get clearer.

2. Keep a journal. Note your day’s activities, how you felt about what happened, any insights you might have. You might even ask a question and brainstorm on ideas or let the answer just come to you. Go back and read your earlier entries. The more you journal about something, the clearer it becomes.

3. Be grateful. If you are grateful every day, you can start to replace confusion with clarity. I keep a gratitude journal.

4. Spend time alone in nature. You may feel most at peace in a certain type of setting. For me it’s the water. So when I need to gain clarity, I will often sit by the water. Clarity often comes just “being,” and this environment lets me “be.”

5. Let go of the question. Sometimes by no longer putting your attention on something the answer will just come to you.

And, finally remember when I started looking at the letters in the word “success”? For me, the first C is for clarity.

Here’s a quote on clarity from Scottish writer Richard Holloway that I like:

Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.

Please share your thoughts on clarity below.

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