Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bungled Birthday

My son's 9th birthday was Sunday. My husband did the grocery shopping that day, and bought an ice-cream birthday cake. Then we FORGOT TO DO THE "BIRTHDAY THING"! We forgot about the cake, we forgot about singing Happy Birthday. We had dinner, we watched a little TV, we went to bed. All three of us. Forgot.

We finally got around to lighting the candles and cutting the cake last night. My husband and I feel like rotten parents. But honestly, I don't think my son cared--he likes it when the "celebration" continues over many days!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Online Venue #8 -- Entrecard

As I look back over my last few posts, I realize I skipped #8 in my list of online-things-that-take-up-my-time. Not that I'm doing them in any particular order, I just skipped using the #8. Things like that make me crazy, so I'm "backtracking".

I've been with Entrecard for a few months now. It's sort of a virtual business card exchange, where people with blogs who belong to Entrecard visit each other and "drop" their avatar/widget on those blogs. It exposes other people to your blog when they reciprocate the "drop", and it exposes you to various blogs as you surf around and visit the other Entrecard members. You earn credits for each "drop" you make on someone else's blog. You also earn credits when people purchase Entrecard advertising on your blog. These credits add up and you can purchase advertising on other people's blogs. Theoretically, people who visit the blogs where you've advertised will then click on your avatar and find YOUR blog. Builds traffic to your blog. A cool idea, but pretty time-consuming.

The most "drops" you can make in one day is 300. I don't know why that particular number was chosen, but for me it hasn't made a difference because I've never been able to drop more than about 150. And that's on a day when I have pretty much nothing else to do! On a typical "dropping" session, I manage to visit between 50 and 100 blogs, and that takes me better than an hour and a half. I see some advertisements for "300 Drops in Less Than 5 Minutes", but I've never explored that option. I can't imagine how fast your internet connection would need to be to "drop" on 300 blogs in 5 minutes. I can only assume it's a "shortcut" of some kind. And I enjoy actually visiting the blogs I "drop" on. I've found some really interesting blogs this way. I invite you to check out some of my favorites:

I have more, but you can see just from this short list that there is a WIDE variety of reading material out there!

I like being a part of Entrecard, but it sure does contribute to my Spread Too Thin? problem (see post below). Perhaps I should take my laptop home every night and "drop" while I'm sitting around watching TV...?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A New President

Tuesday is my day off, so I was able to be at home yesterday with the TV on so I could watch the Inauguration ceremony (and related commentary). Actually, I had ALL the TVs on (the same channel) so I could go from room to room doing my normal activities and not miss anything.

I have to say, I was quite moved. I'm not so young and/or naive that I believe every word as if it's Gospel, but I really enjoyed President Obama's speech. It suggested to me that he is very aware of all the issues facing him and facing our country, and it seems that he plans to address them as quickly as possible. He put some of the responsibility on us, the people, which I really liked. I'm all for programs to help the truly disadvantaged, but too many people expect government intervention and "handouts" when they could be doing more to help themselves.

I also appreciated his comments addressing the rest of the world, and the reactions from many people in the global community. They appear (at least from the interviews I've seen on TV) to be happy that America has a new Administration, or at least willing to give our new President the benefit of the doubt for the time being. I've been so disgusted at the "bully" tactics of the last 8 years, that one of the main reasons I voted for President Obama is because I believe he has the right attitude and the right temperament to restore the "good name" of the United States. I'm not saying that I'm going to agree with his every little decision, but I'm certainly feeling a sense of optimism and hope!

I've been voting since 1978. And for the last 20 years or so, I haven't missed a vote. I vote in the "off" years, I vote in the primaries...and so does my husband. A 100% voting-attendance record for the Etz household. (And believe me, the local pollsters LOVE that!) I feel that voting is not only my right, it's my responsibility.

One thing that does freak me out a little is that this is the first President in my lifetime that's younger than I am. Hmmm...surely that doesn't mean I'm getting old?


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Online Venue #9 -- Artfire

Artfire is a relatively new site for selling handmade stuff. It's still in Beta, in fact. But so far it seems like the people running it really want to make it a success. The listing form is only one page, and your item appears on the front page for a little while as "newly listed", which is pretty cool. I check yesterday, and the ring I added stayed on the front page for just under half an hour before it was pushed off by more recently listed items. Not bad. Of course, I realize that as more artisans discover and join Artfire, the listings will increase in frequency and the time on the front page may fall to mere minutes (or seconds...?).

I've had my shop on Artfire for about 2 months now. Haven't sold anything yet, but I also haven't paid as much attention to it as I could have. There was a period of nearly a month when I didn't list anything new. It's hard to be found if you're not really "there"! I've vowed to myself to try to list at least one new item there every day. And I'd like to purchase an item or two, to start building my "karma" points (feedback). But to be honest, I haven't taken much time to try to figure out how to buy things. Every online selling site has it's own format for searching and purchasing, some easier than others. I'm sure Artfire wants its members and their items to be found! I understand that they plan a marketing push to make the general public aware of their existence, but it's likely that that won't be happening until they do a full launch of the site.

For now, I'm happy to be in on the ground floor of a venue that appears to be willing to give their merchants what they need to sell successfully. The fact that I am in on the ground floor also gives me the benefit of paying only $7 per month for life. Can't beat that price with a stick! This offer is apparently for the first 5000 artisans who sign up, and there are still (as of today) around 3000 spots still available. Artfire will inevitably grow and change, but this is one venue I plan to be with for a long time. I figure the more places people can "discover" my jewelry, the better it is for me!


Friday, January 16, 2009

From Stressed to Drained...What a Day!

I had jury duty today. I've been dreading it all week. I really tried to get them to excuse me--sent an eloquent letter about how I'm a sole proprietor with no employees and it would be a financial hardship if I had to close down my store to appear... Got a form letter back with a checkmark next to the "denied" box. So I had to go.

But that's not all. My husband left this morning for an 8-day hunting trip. Out in the woods with his redneck buddies, riding the river in his airboat, the coldest week of the year here in Florida. More power to him!

Since I had to be at court this morning before my son had to be at school, it fell to DH to get him there. On time. With all necessary accessories: backpack (including completed homework), lunch box, karate bag with sparring gear, jacket, correct shoes, and (because today was Spirit Day) appropriately "spirited" painted face! I can only assume all went well, since neither the school nor the karate dojo called me with any issues.

I didn't sleep well last night. Kept waking up thinking about how to convince the judge to let me be excused. See, not only would I be missing work, but with my husband gone all week, there was no way I could get my son to school and be at court at the same time! So I woke up cranky and stressed this morning. Missed the face-painting, and barely had time to kiss hubby goodbye in any meaningful way since I won't be seeing him for a week. I also won't be seeing much of my son--he has to stay with Nana for the 3-day weekend since I'll be at work.

You have to understand...I'm most comfortable and happy when I'm in my normal daily routine. I like things to be relatively "the same" every day. Keeps me stress-free and humming along nicely. This morning was just about the most disruption to my routine that one could imagine! My stomach was in knots.

And the worst part? Or maybe it's actually the best part. I sat in the jury assembly room for 2-1/2 hours, answered the questions, took the oath...and waited. And waited some more. (I did take a book to read.) Then the clerk announces that the judge has gone through his docket material and it seems he won't be needing any of us. Dismissed the whole room! Yay!

So I made it to work not-too-late, had a couple of good sales, made a ring or two, finished the book I was reading in court, and now I'm just waiting for 6:00 to roll around so I can go home. I feel almost bored, after all that stress this morning! I have the house to myself tonight(if you don't count the dogs), I can stop for fast food on the way home if I want, and I can put my feet up and be in total control of the TV remote. Sounds good!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Online Venue #7 -- Flickr

I joined the photo-sharing site Flickr, maybe 5 or 6 months ago. At first I was very gung-ho, posting new pictures frequently and signing up for lots of photo groups. And therein lies what became the problem. So many photo groups! So many gorgeous photos! It's very easy to lose track of time while clicking around Flickr. (If you want to see some really cool pictures, you have to check out the Infrared Landscapes group!)

I know a few people--sellers on Etsy--who use Flickr successfully as a marketing tool. I guess they post their pictures and make it very clear that the items are for sale, so people contact them to make purchases. I haven't personally looked at their Flickr photostreams, but I do know that technically it's not allowed to put prices or contact information on the Flickr photos themselves. You can put a link in your Profile, which I have done. But so far I haven't had any sales that can be directly attributed to my Flickr pictures. I do think this is a promising tool, though. This is one place I will continue to explore the marketing possibilities. AND enjoy all the beautiful pictures!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Back to "Normal"

I feel like I was more productive yesterday. I had more time to do stuff. My son started back to school, which means I had to get up early (WAAAAY earlier than I've been getting up for the last couple weeks!) to get him to school. I drop him off at 8:15, and it doesn't make sense for me to bypass my store and go all the way back home for an hour, only to have to turn around and go to work. So I get to my store at 8:30 on school days. I don't officially open until 11:00. That gives me an extra couple of hours to get the majority of my computer work finished before I open the doors to customers. In essence, I "found" two extra hours for my day. A couple more hours wouldn't hurt, but at least I'm on the right track!

Unfortunately, the other side of back-to-normal is that I spent most of the evening yelling at my son to finish his homework. He is SO easily distracted. At one point he was supposed to be reading, and I came in the room and found him staring at his finger. "Look, Mom--it's twitching!" In a way I hate to put a damper on his youthful enthusiasm, but I'd REALLY like for him to figure out 1) that if he gets his homework done in a timely fashion, he can THEN do whatever he wants to before bedtime, and 2) that if he just DOES his homework, then Mom won't spend the entire evening yelling at him to DO his homework!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Online Venue #6 -- Indiepublic

Another site I joined about 7 months ago is Indiepublic. My impression is that it's more a indie-artist networking site, but I haven't spent a lot of time there.

From their front page: "Indiepublic is an independent art and design community. If you're an artist, designer, retailer, blogger, or just someone who gets giddy when they buy indie, we've saved a seat for you!"

I did set up a profile page, with links to my main selling sites. I loaded some pictures (although I haven't put up anything new in a few months). I joined some chat groups and tried interacting, but I didn't find much actually "chatting" going on. In fact, nearly every "so-and-so started a discussion..." that gets sent to my email inbox is a promo. I don't know how many Indiepublic members aren't simply artisans trying to sell something. My main reason for joining was for the interaction between artisans trying to make a living at their craft, and there appears to be little of that actually going on.

I remain a member because of the "incoming" links to my actual selling venues. Maybe somebody will stumble across me. However, I have devoted a grand total of zero hours to it in months. So I guess I can't really count it as one of the time-consuming things I try to squeeze in to each day. Perhaps just popping in at least once a month with some new pictures and comments would be beneficial, and not be too detrimental to my scheduling issue!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Online Venue #5 --SmashingDarling

About 7 or 8 months ago, I joined SmashingDarling, a site dedicated to indie fashion. (As in "you look smashing, dahling...") As a venue for people searching out new indie designers, this place is really cool. And those of you who appreciate know how ga-ga you can be when you find cool new stuff!

For me, though, I'm still up in the air about whether to remain there. The site is slick and eye-catching, which is good. The premise for the site itself is great--the indie movement is growing by leaps and bounds. And they are dedicated to clothing, accessories, and jewelry only, which makes for a little less "competition" in the handmade arena. For a "Darling" (artisan) the set up and listing process is relatively easy, which is also good. But they have a weird payment system. Smashing Darling itself collects the money from the customer, notifies they artisan where to send the item, then sends the artisan a check once a month. I'm sure that works fine in 99% of the sales, but what about the occasional "oops"? I'm not crazy about the idea of sending out an item before I have the money in hand. So far it hasn't been an issue, because I haven't sold anything there. Of course, it's also the venue to which I pay the least attention--until today I hadn't even checked on my boutique in well over a month. I've only got three items listed there, and one of them I put up today!

So, the question becomes should I try to work it into my schedule on a more regular basis, add more stuff, and see what happens? Or in the spirit of this Online Venues series, beginning with the Spread Too Thin? post, should I drop it and free up a bit of time for something else? I guess I'll have to let you know!


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I love New Year's Day. There's something about it that triggers a sense of renewal and excitement about upcoming possibilities that really gets my motor running. I don't make resolutions per se, because those inevitably fall by the wayside and leave me feeling guilty and unproductive. My thoughts, goals and plans are more ethereal on New Year's Day...more like a daydream. But a daydream rooted in actual possibility, so it's a good thing!

I realize that the economy isn't going to turn around overnight, and that gas prices may not remain as affordable as they are today. But those are things I don't have any control over anyway. What I can do is work on my own little life and my own little business, striving to be the best wife I can be, to raise my son to be a good and caring human being, and to provide my customers with the best product and service I possibly can. Noble and achievable goals, yes? My husband is an amazing man, my marriage is solid and loving. My son is bright, energetic, and healthy. My business continues to be a source of inspiration and joy, and although we've had to cut out some of the perks in our lives, the bills get paid.

So I start 2009 with optimism, with renewed intensity, and with eagerness to pursue fresh designs and more productive marketing plans. This is a banner year for my business--2009 marks the 25th anniversary of the birth of Contemporary Concepts. Pretty cool! I am grateful for all the people who have had a hand in the success I've enjoyed all these years--I take none of it for granted.

So let me wish you all a very Happy New Year. 2009 is here--let's tear into it!