Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome to NaNoWriMo!


Bet you didn't know that November is National Novel Writing Month, did you? Well, it is.

An eleven-year tradition with 127,000 participants this year, the insane and uplifting contest known as NaNoWriMo is brought to you by the Office Of Letters and Light, a 501(c)3 charity headquartered in Oakland.

The purpose? To get people writing novels. Yes, you too! 50,000 words in 30 days is all it takes. Your novel doesn't have to be witty, or ready to publish, or even good. In fact, the point of NaNoWriMo isn't to write well, it's just to write. So if you decide after ten days and 18,000 words that you don't want your story to be about a young scholar in the Victorian era, you can have him wake up in the 23rd century and go off to his job as an interstellar fighter pilot in the war with the aliens. No, really.

Wrimos are directed to write. Just write. If you run through your plot in four days instead of four weeks, the OLL website has a Random Plot Element generator to give you a new idea. "Write a llama, a tub of Red Vines, and a trip to Tahiti into your next chapter." *snaps to attention* Yes, Ma'am! If you realize in chapter 19 that you need a character you killed off in chapter 4, there's an "adoption center" where you can find a suitable replacement. Or heck, it's NaNoWriMo for heavens' sake, just bring him back from the dead with an unsubtle plot twist!

Come to think of it, NaNoWriMo is a little like a soap opera in that way. It's all about quantity, not quality. No offense to readers who like soap operas. (Personally I find them frustratingly addicting, but since I got rid of my TV they aren't a problem for me now. Unlike Mah-Jongg.)

At any rate, I have been roped into the insanity this year, so I will be posting on my blog and I will try to get on here and update you as well. If you want to join the party, we're having write-ins all over the county this month. I will be hosting two at the Sylvan Way library, on the 15th and 22nd, both Mondays, from 6-8 in the evening. Bring your laptop and your free spirit, people, we're gonna be novelling!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Clothing Swap

Hey ladies! Are you looking at some unwanted items in your closet, wishing for something new? Not willing to shell out big bucks to update your wardrobe right now?

Come to the Clothing Swap/Fundraiser at the Kitsap YWCA on October 17th. We're going to have lots of gals there, trading fashionable clothes and accessories that don't fit their style any more. Dresses, skirts, blouses, pants, suits, coats, shoes, jewelry, purses, all of the above and more.

We'll have snacks and maybe even some music (if I can make that happen). So look through your closet today, invite a couple friends, and join us for a fun afternoon finding your newest look!

Everything that doesn't get adopted will go into the YWCA's professional clothing closet, or for more casual items will go to another charity organization.

Short version:
What - Clothing Swap and Fundraiser
Where - Kitsap YWCA, 905 Pacific Ave. Bremerton
When - Sunday 10/17 from 2-6 pm.
Who - EVERYBODY!!
Why - to benefit the YWCA's Professional Clothing Closet and the ALIVE shelter

Note: Please only bring clothes and accessories that you'd be willing to give or lend to a friend. Make sure everything is mended and clean; not worn or torn.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Update

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to stop in and give you an update on some team info as well as info about a Christmas Bazaar in Port Orchard.

First things first, I sent a team update into Etsy on September 3rd but was told that they are changing the way the team page is structured and now, instead of having to email them everytime I need to add a new team to the list, pretty soon it will work where I can go in and edit the info myself. I'm just not sure when this will be happening for sure because according to their email, they are in the process of still testing this process.

I just wanted to let you know incase you have NOT been added to the list just yet. I'm on top of it, I promise. Even if it doesn't always look like it :) 

Now, I received some info in the mail yesterday about the Christmas Bazaar at the Fraternal Order of Eagles here in Port Orchard. I had a table at this bazaar last year and the experience was great.

The dates are December 3rd and 4th (Friday and Saturday) and the price is $25 for BOTH days. 

If you are interested, contact Michelle Manicci 
phone: 360-876-2800
email: auntieMinWa@wavecable.com


Ok, I think that's everything. 

As always, feel free to contact me at any time with questions!

Whitney

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Learn to make this necklace


I had the good luck to drop my card at my local JoAnn's store right before their jewelry teacher decided to move on. So they gave me a call and after a lengthy interview, hired me to teach jewelry making classes!

The first project we're doing is the "Ribbon and Chain Necklace," and the first class will be this upcoming Tuesday from 1-4 pm. If you're interested, call the store at 360.692.1300 or go in to the store on Silverdale Way for deets or to sign up.

Going forward I'm putting my schedule on my personal blog so you can see what's going on for two or three weeks at a time. (Oh btw, I'm working on getting my site up; the blog came first but I'm still fighting with the rest.) Hope to see you some time!

Friday, August 20, 2010

New local blog

So I just discovered a new local blog for the Kitsap area. It's called the "Kitsap Daily" and you can navigate to http://www.thekitsapdaily.com and see what's going on in the county. Today they informed us that Trader Joe's is going to be moving into the old Circuit City building soon! I've never been to a Trader Joe's before, but I know a lot of people who swear by them so I'm excited.

Also, Sara and Carrie are looking for fave local hot-spots, fun stuff to do, and local people they can feature on their site. So pop on by and support the gals, and if you have something to contribute get in touch with them.

Go Kitsap!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Beauty of Barter

This weekend I was out at the Future Festival in Bremerton. Sadly, the new location was not as good as the old one. (Last year, this was my best festival all year. This year... Not so much.)

I had some great neighbors, including a couple gals next to me who bartered their services for goods with myself and several other vendors. Which brings me to ask the question:

Do you like to barter?

Share your experiences, your preferences, your philosophy. Do you usually barter for basic needs? Or do your trades usually go toward "extras" that you wouldn't necessarily pay cash for?

I like to barter for things like henna that I don't have room for in my budget. I get free word-of-mouth advertising, too. I'd like to do more barter, in particular for food and other important goods.

Barter helps maintain the value of the goods themselves, because it establishes a true value for goods, not one based on artificial paper money standards. It helps local economies because it encourages local trade. And it can open up new markets for goods that would not otherwise sell.

What do you think of bartering?

Friday, July 30, 2010

What Can You Do?

Hey folks, this is going to be quick since I have to go finish cleaning out my old apartment. (Yep, finishing up yet another move...) But I wanted to take a moment and share something important I just found.

We're all aware that there are homeless in Kitsap, for example we all see them on the side of the road holding signs. Some people say we should give them money because they need it and it's a good way to directly address the problem. Others say it's a bad idea because you don't know what the money is going to.

I don't want to dictate anyone's behavior or say what's right or wrong, but I just found a great resource that can help each of us help fight homelessness and poverty in Kitsap County - effectively and directly. It's a list, put out by the Kitsap Continuum of Care, of 56 ways to help the homeless in Kitsap County. I found it at the Bremerton Foodline website:

http://www.bremertonfoodline.org/bfl/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/3-10-56-Ways-boy-final-sm.pdf

The list also cites a number of trusted and respected organizations that are doing a lot to address poverty in Kitsap, so you can use this list as a springboard for other activities too.

Pass it around to your friends and family. Know a teen planning a senior project? A Girl or Boy Scout with a service project? Is your church group or other organization planning some service work? Do you give money or time during the holiday season? This is a great resource for all of these things.

So take a peek, save it to your computer, print a copy, email it to friends, and otherwise spread the word.

And remember it was Margaret Mead who once said, "Never forget that a small group of committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has."

Monday, July 5, 2010

Meet keeleybehling

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. I'd like to introduce you all to Keely. Our newest team member. 


Name: Keeley Behling
Location: Bremerton, WA
Shop Name: Keeley Behling-Creatively having fun

Tell me a little bit about yourself:

I grew up in Kitsap county and love this area. I married my Jr. High sweet heart and we are about to celebrate our third anniversary. We just purchased our first home and are in the process of moving in and making it feel like ours.

Tell me a little bit about your shop:

I started selling on etsy about a month and a half ago. I consider my shop a modge podge of really different things. I love to make so many different items, most of which I haven't even begun to add to my shop. My parents always had three or four different projects going at the same time. Unfortunately I think I have inherited that same gene.

Apart from being a Puget sound etsian, what else do you do?

My parents have always encouraged creativity and it's such a huge passion for me. Some things I enjoy are gardening, interior design and decorating, going to the drive in, watercolor, three demensional design, pottery making with my dad, scrapbooking, paper making, crochet, decorating our new home, making Christmas ornaments, going to the Puyallup Fair and looking at all of the art exhibits, photography, relief counseling for Royal Family Kids Camp, and spending time with my husband and our kid, Cody (our dog).

Recently I have been helping my mom make 11 memory books for exchange students from Basque country (thru Impact Basque an organization founded in Kitsap county). My mom and a few other people take pictures of the teens that are here for a month and then we make memory books for each student to give to them the last day they are here to take home with them. My favorite part is putting the books together because instead of helping with the just one event, I get to see what every student has done with their host family for an entire month. By the time all of the books are done I feel like I know each student well.

Tell me about your creative process:

My creative process is...well...a mess. You can ask my husband. He jokingly calls my process Krap with a K for Keeley. I tend to leave my projects in piles all over the house. For me, my ideas normally start with something very unoriginal. I then over the course of days or weeks mold whatever sparked my creative thoughts and make it my own idea. I also find starting a project and then leaving it for a day or two, then coming back to it helps me to refine my process, thus the piles.

How do you promote your shop?

Currently I promote my shop with friends, facebook, and I try to read forums, refine what I am doing in my shop, create treasuries, and make comments on etsy.

Any advice for someone new to etsy?

Good tags, good pictures, good description and policies. Read what others have found successful to do on etsy and see if it applies to your shop. I found as I refined what I was doing in my shop that my sales have come quicker. Also posting one or two new items everyday seems to help with traffic flow.

Two items in your shop you would like me to showcase on the blog/facebook page:
Warm and fuzzy crocheted throw blanket {found here}
 
Wooden gift tags {found here}

 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meet the lovely DeedsandPetunia!

Hi everyone! I would like to introduce you all to the lovely Deedsand Petunia. 

Sarah Beth Smith
Tacoma, WA
Deeds and Petunia www.deedsandpetunia.etsy.com

Tell me a little bit about yourself:
I adore pretty old things and I love to create. When I recently closed my business providing childbirth education and doula support, I knew I had to follow a creative path in order to feel fulfilled. I have always wanted to own a brick and mortar retail shop selling antiques mixed with lovely handmade and specialty items. I have two small kids and a mortgage, so I figured now was probably not the right time. So my Etsy shop was born. Through Deeds and Petunia, I hope to sort out my signature style, make a little money and gain a customer base so that I might be able to open that brick and mortar store when the time is right.

I live in North Tacoma with my kids, husband and three naughty kitties.

Tell me a little bit about your shop:
My shop, Deeds and Petunia was named for the childhood nicknames of me and my sister. She was Deeds, I was Petunia. I sell vintage trims, notions, lovelies, craft kits, items I've made using vintage materials like skirts, bags, hats, aprons. Sometimes I make collages and assemblages. Much of what I'm attracted to is what reminds me of my childhood.

Apart from being a Puget sound etsian, what else do you do?
When I'm not working, I spend time with my kiddos. I also sing and play music in a band, and love to cook.

Tell me about your creative process:
My creative process starts with finding unique, beautiful and high quality vintage items. I hunt high and low for these items and have trained my eye to find that piece of lace trim hidden in the corner under a pile of blankets at the rummage sale. I love the hunt. Then it's just a matter of handling these items and getting to know their story, introducing them to other items, letting them mingle and see how they hit it off. Together, we make a new story. Something lovely and unique, old into new. Sometimes I put them up for sale to see if another crafter is ready to make a new story with them.

How do you promote your shop?
I promote my shop every way I can (www.deedsandpetunia.etsy.com!) I'm trying Google AdWords, listing with search engines, Facebook, Etsy groups and talking about my business to everyone I know. I'm also organizing the Tacoma Etsy Craft Party on June 18th (from 3-6 PM at Hello, Cupcake!) to try to connect with local businesses, customers, and other Etsy crafters and artisans in a non-competitive environment. I try to list something new every day, keep up my blog and analyze my shop constantly.

Any advice for someone new to etsy?
Read, read, read. Etsy has a wealth of information and resources for new sellers! I'm still learning what to do, but feel like my shop has vastly improved since the start a few months ago. Connect with other sellers. Tell everyone about what you're doing.

Two items in your shop you would like me to showcase on the blog/facebook page:
{vintage sampler kit trims, buttons and scraps found here}

{Giddy up Girls Ruffle Skirt found here}


Anything else you would like to share?
I hope to get to know other artists and crafters in the area and find ways to help each other create a supportive local network. Nice to meet you!


*******************************************************************
As always, if you are interested in being featured, send me your answers :) 

Have a wonderful weekend dears!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dealing with less than awesome customers

I have been debating talking about this for a little while now because I don't want to sound ungrateful or nasty, but...

I like to think of this space as nonjudgmental and also a place to look to others in the area for advice and guidance.

So,

How do you deal with customers that are significantly less than awesome?

I've encountered quite a few and it just breaks my heart.

I would be perfectly fine with them contacting me directly to try and rectify what it is that they are unhappy with but it never seems to happen. It moves directly from ordering, to negative feedback. 

Now, this has only happened to me once a few months back but it really bothered me.


So, what I'm asking of you fine friends is what would you do in a sitaution where there is no message or email if there is a problem, it just moves to negative feedback? What do you do to prevent this happening in the future?



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Custom work on the fly (flap, flap)

Today's market brought my best sales day this season. Yay! I beat Saturday's sales by $5, plus they waived the booth fee due to a lack of traffic. But things are definitely looking up, and I feel remarkably positive about the coming weeks and months.

For one thing, a friend of mine named Steve Hillman made some kickin' earring stands out of black wire CD racks me and my man found while we were out thrifting. Huzzah! No more worries when the breeze picks up! I've spent many a windy afternoon chasing earrings pinned to biz cards as my "Come Fly With Me" winged earrings take themselves too seriously...

Also I made some neckforms out of poster board and spray paint. Crazy, right? I got the plan from Rena Klingenberg's site http://www.home-jewelry-business-success-tips.com/necklace-display.html but instead of covering with cloth or leather I used a textured spray paint. I like the finish, but where you score the folds the paint cracked and you can see yellow. (Next step I'm going to spray them inside and out, keeping them folded. They won't transport as well but they'll look nicer when up. I think.) But the market manager thought I'd bought them, so I guess they stand up to cursory inspection at very least.

But the best moments of the day came from customer interactions. The first was a young man who wanted custom rosaries for himself and his girlfriend. I got an idea of what he was looking for but he didn't have the deposit so we're going to come back next Sunday. In the meanwhile I'll be price-sleuthing to make sure I quote him the right amount!

The second awesome moment was when a gal admired my earrings but said they were too big for her. I asked what her favorite color was, grabbed a star charm and a leverback wire, and 30 seconds later asked, "Is this a good size?" She loved them. (Yay!) She mentioned liking orange and green while I was making her blue ones, and as she left (after exclaiming over the cute packaging I wrapped her purchase in) she said she'll see us next week. Guess that means I need to get some orange and green beads before Sunday!

So yeah... I had a great day at the market. And I can't wait for the sun - and the customers - to come out! Everybody dust off your dancing shoes and do your best sun boogie...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Venue

Tomorrow I'm vending at a market in Suquamish (near Poulsbo) and I wanted to extend an invite to anyone else who wants to join. It's 9-5 and the fee is $15 for a 10x10 space. This week they're adding a food vendor. Last week was the first market of the year; we didn't get much in sales (they reduced the booth fee because of it) but we did get a lot of traffic so I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.

Last week I was one of 2 jewelry vendors; there was a gal with gorgeous ceramic pots and a guy with handcarved walking sticks, among others. Some textile and paper crafts would make for a good blend, IMHO. It's pretty informal so if you want to join us send me a message and I'll hook you up. Also, your product does not all have to be made by you, so if you have some destash items or crafts made by friends/family, this could be the spot for you.

Cheers!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meet Just be happy!

Hi lovelies!

I'd like to present you with the second installment of the featured section. Thank you so so much to sweet Alessandra who is the first person to turn in the survey!

Name: Alessandra
Location: Tacoma
Shop Name: Just Be Happy

Tell me a little bit about yourself: I'm a stay at home wife and mom to a beautiful 14 months old boy. I was born and raised in Brazil, I met my husband 7 years ago, I was in exchange program at the time, once I finished the program, I went back to my home country and my now husband went there to meet my family and to get to know the culture. We have been married for 5 years now.
I keep myself pretty busy, doing little side jobs here and there, but most of my time is taken by my boy.
When I have a spare time, I crochet, cook, bake, read and watch TV or play games with my husband.

Tell me a little bit about your shop: Crochet is my favorite passtime, I really love crocheting, it relaxes me and makes me happy. I love the feel of the fibers and the fact that I can create something from a ball of yarn. My shop is a collection of my favorite works, it's my way of sharing the love I have for crochet with other people.

Apart from being a Puget sound etsian, what else do you do? I am a mom - boy, that's a lot of work!, I do some computer work for my mother-in-law, keep a nice and clean house, etc.

Tell me about your creative process: inspiration for me comes from many different places, nature, colors, or even a need for something.

How do you promote your shop? I have a facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/justbehappycrochet), a blog (www.alessandrahayden.blogspot.com) and locally, I have been leaving postcard flyers at coffee shops, smalll shops, etc.

Any advice for someone new to etsy?
Don't give up! Read the esty sucess newsletters - lots of good ideas, and make sure to have good pictures!

Two items in your shop you would like me to showcase on the blog/facebook page:
Baby Pom-pom Hat 
(found here)

Cream Crochet Button Necklace: 

(found here)


Anything else you would like to share? I'm excited to be a member of this team, I hope to be able to make to the next meeting! 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Meet OnBeyondZebra!



Name: Whitney
Location: Port Orchard although I spend 80% of my time in Bremerton
Shop Name: OnBeyondZebra

Tell me a little bit about yourself: Right now I’m going to school to be a teacher at the WWU Kitsap campus. I’m student teaching in a second grade classroom and that takes up a huge chunk of my time. When I’m not at school, I’m usually at home in my pajamas on the computer or watching Lost.

Tell me a little bit about your shop: OnBeyondZebra is the name of an awesome Dr. Seuss book. I bought a pair of snowcone stud earrings once and when I received them, I realized how easy it would be to make something like this on my own. I also knew that I would have to quit my job soon because it conflicted with my future school schedule. Etsy was the way I had planned to supplement my income while going to school full time. I have all sorts of novelty stud earrings, I’m always interested to see which of my earrings people chose to buy. I’m also working hard on being more subjective when buying supplies! What I may not like, others may love and vice versa.

Apart from being a Puget sound etsian, what else do you do? Aside from going to school, student teaching a few days a week and etsy, I also work part time at the Boys and Girls club in Port Orchard.

Tell me about your creative process: Arts and crafts have always been my outlet of choice. A lot of my inspiration comes from my students, my interests and my overall mood. I try hard to take a few hours each week to sit down and get stuff done but I find that I work best when I’m feeling stressed and making earrings or decorating orders is the way for me to unwind.

How do you promote your shop? Facebook, twitter, blogs and business cards. I also did the little black box for a few months but I just find now that I don’t have the time to sit and make that many samples.

Any advice for someone new to etsy?
Be Patient! Also, be active. The more you update/relist/renew the more sales you get. Oh and lastly! Ask for help. There are so many wonderful, experienced salers out there who are so willing to help.

Two items in your shop you would like me to showcase on the blog/facebook page:

Double Vanilla Cupcake earrings, one of my favorite treats. {Found here}

And French Fry Bobby Pins {found here}
 


Anything else you would like to share?
I’m working hard to get this team up and running. I know we’ll never be a huge team but I love meeting and supporting local artists and I think we can do great things!


Now, remember to send in your answers and the link to your items so you can be featured next :)

And the giver recieves...

Hooray! A local gal named Elea featured me in her fashion blog, "What to Wear from Barn to Evening!"

Read it here at http://barntoevening.blogspot.com

It's a very short mention but there it is. Apparently my "Giving Back" charity section caught her eye and she recognized me in her blog.

Now, I know that lots of people and organizations have different motives for supporting charities. Some want the benefit of good press: "We're not just a good bargain, we're also a good influence on the world." Some have a personal involvement: "My daughter died from this disease and I don't want any other mother to suffer that pain." Others just see that there's a need: "It's awful what's happening in that country; we ought to help them."

Personally, I act because we should help wherever we can. To put it very, very simply, there's lots of people that have more than enough, and there's lots of other people who have way too little. If those of us who have extra of something gave it to those who don't have enough, then they in fact would have enough.

It's my firm belief that if every one of us looks at what is truly "enough" for us, enough to make us truly happy and even comfortable, and then found ways to do good with the excess (be it food, money, time, possessions, or anything else) we would see very little need around us.

And in the end, the knowledge that I can have a positive impact on a problem like premature birth is plenty of compensation for my time and effort on their behalf.

But I have to admit, it feels good to get some press out of it! :-)

In a couple days I'll be listing the new "Giving Back" pretties for May and June, which will benefit the YWCA of Kitsap County. I look forward to reading and/or hearing what you think of them.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Be featured!

It's my plan to feature sellers on the blog/facebook page. This will give us an opportunity to not only learn more about each other but promote some of our items!

Just answer the questions into a message or email (don't forgot the links to the two items you want to showoff!) and send it back to me and I'll post it here and on the blog.

I look forward to getting to know all of you!
Whitney




Name:
Location:
Shop Name:

Tell me a little bit about yourself:

Tell me a little bit about your shop:

Apart from being a Puget sound etsian, what else do you do?

Tell me about your creative process:

How do you promote your shop?

Any advice for someone new to etsy?

Two items in your shop you would like me to showcase on the blog/facebook page:


Anything else you would like to share?

Friday, April 30, 2010

EtsyRAIN Craft Show May 8th

Hey everyone!

I'm Devon from OnceUponAPedestal.etsy.com. I wanted to share this information for the upcoming Etsy Show at the Seattle Center (also posted on the PSET facebook page). I'll have a booth there selling my pedestals. Should be some great art!

Date:
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Time:
11:00am - 5:00pm
Location:
Intiman Theater (Seattle Center)
Street:
201 Mercer Street
City:
Seattle, WA

http://www.etsyrain.com/shows/2010-spring-show

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More Craft Fair Info

Hey everyone!

One of my hopes for this spot is to use it to advertise local craft shows. I got an email today from someone who wanted me to promote the craft show out on fox island. 

FICRA Fox Island Fair
Saturday, August 14, 2010
11am to 4pm
Nichols Community Center, 690 9th Ave., Fox Island
Vendor Application can be found here:http://www.foxisland.net/ficra_fair_vendor_reg.htm

Lise' Ohlson
Rental Coordinator
Fox Island Community & Recreation Association
http://www.foxisland.net/ncc.htm
253-549-2701 (home)
253-381-3311 (cell)
253-549-7701 (FAX)


While I won't be able to do this fair because of work and school, please let me know if any of you decide to because I'd love to come out and show some support.

Happy Sales!
Whitney

Friday, April 16, 2010

Beating the Etsy Slump


One of the things I have noticed when people email me to join the team is that they are looking for hints on how to beat the etsy slump.

Well, if I had the hot tip on how to do it, I would definitely be one of those lucky ducks that are featured on the "Quit your day job" section.

What I can do though, is sure the tips for what works for me when I go days and sometimes even weeks without a single etsy sale.

1. Post/renew/relist. It might just be me, but I really believe that the more I list or renew, the more traffic I get. The reason for this is that the more items you have, the higher chance you will be stumbled upon through etsy search. Also, you have a chance of being on the "recently listed" section at the bottom of the front page. 

2. Use twitter. I really really dislike twitter. I kind of, just don't get it. But I do schedule time at least once a week to just sign on to twitter real quick and post the link to an item or advertise when I'm offering free shipping or a special sale. Twitter is a great way to get the word out (even if you don't quite get it..).

3. Add tags! The more tags the better. If you feel like this is something you aren't good at, please feel free to ask for help. I love labeling things! The more tags you have, the higher the chances that the item will pull up during a search.

4. Take time to take good pictures. The better an item is displayed, the better the chances that someone will fall in love with that item.

That's all folks. Have a great weekend and happy sales!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tax Prep for the Lazy Person - do's and don'ts

Also titled: Lessons from April 2010

I've always been a DIY kind of gal. I'll paint the house, climb under my Jeep to change the oil, and figure out why the washer is making that funny noise. Taxes? Yeah, been doing them myself since I started. However, I've always filed a 1040EZ or 1040A and taken the standard deduction; 2009 is the first year I itemized.

The decision seemed to make sense: I started a business, I gave a whole lot of $$ to medical professionals for various reasons, and frankly I didn't make much to begin with. So I should do pretty well, right? Unfortunately, I caused myself two days of havoc and headache when I bit the bullet Monday and got down to the nitty-gritty.

Here are a few things I learned from doing my taxes this year. Some of them I didn't realize. Some of them knew but didn't apply. Others I could have figured out, if only I'd taken a few minutes to look or got some help. ("Oh, damn my eyes!" she says as she swoons...)

Hopefully if I send this out into the blogosphere, somebody else will read it and learn from my mistakes, rather than make their own!

Don't: collect everything in one big pile
Do: organize and maintain your records all year long
How many times have we heard and read how important it is to keep records? Well you should probably be doing that. And by probably I mean for sure. And I don't mean "Keep everything you'll possibly need sitting next to your computer so you can go through it at some undefined later time." Repeat after me: YOU WILL NEVER TAKE THE TIME. Well, at least not till tax time next year, which as we are exploring here is the wrong time to go through piles of paperwork!

Set aside a firm thirty minutes each and every month to input this data into your chosen electronic storage medium. Outright, Quickbooks, even a spreadsheet you make up yourself will do. And however much you can automate, do that too! It's so much easier to click "Import from PayPal" than it is to put it all in yourself, item by line item. Remember, the easier you make it for yourself, the more time you can spend creating!

Don't: leave things a mess in the name of speed
Do: set up a simple system
Imagine for a moment that it's time to pay your bills for the month. If you're like me, you take all your bills (power, water, cable, cell phone, student loans), to your computer, log in to your financial institution, and send them all checks through the magic we know as Online Bill Pay. You carefully note on the bill how much you paid, from what account, and when, and you throw it on top of an ever-growing pile on your left. What? How much harder is it really to turn instead to your right and file the same piece of paper in your filing cabinet under "Utilities?" Oh, you say your filing cabinet isn't next to your desk? Well perhaps you should move it.

Ergonomics is a two-dollar (and increasingly familiar) word that basically means organizing a work area in ways that make tasks easier and more efficient for the body to accomplish. Consultants get paid huge sums of money to tell companies both large and small, "Hey, if one task requires the use of two objects at the same time, maybe you should put those two objects next to each other." So think about the work you need to do and plan (or reorganize) your home office or your recordkeeping area to be more efficient. Then add Efficiency Expert to the ever-growing list of titles you're accumulating as a small business owner. And if you're paying yourself a wage by now, consider adding a bonus for implementing such a good idea. Hey, you're a reasonable person, you can recognize when you're adding value to the company! Sit down with yourself and have a good talk. I'm sure you'll be fair to you.

Don't: work too hard on the wrong things
Do: keep the right information
I spent a good five or six hours building spreadsheets of last year's handwritten income and expense reports - complete with sales tax collected, mileage driven, and qualifying utilities - only to find out I'd used the wrong information. See, when I built the spreadsheets, I wanted to know what my costs were, so I included all appropriate calculations. For example, I didn't list my rent for July, I listed the percentage of my rent that I got to write off in proportion to the size of my apartment and the size of my office. I didn't add up the number of miles I drove in August, I figured the dollar amount for each trip I took in August and added those amounts, along with toll fees, for each month.

So after several hours of diligent recording and figuring (and deciphering, and fighting Excel to make it do what I wanted), I opened Turbo Tax, secure in the knowledge that I was done with the hard part. Then I promptly had to go back and refigure everything, because TT is designed for people who don't want to do the math themselves.

My advice? Figure out what format your records need to be in before you spend all that time giving yourself carpal tunnel for no reason.

Don't: assume you'll get to it later
Do: build the time into your schedule
This is related to my first point about keeping good records in the first place. We've all heard it before, so here I go repeating it once again: Schedule time throughout the year to get this stuff done! Form healthy habits so that you don't leave yourself in the lurch whe you get busy. Once a month I pay my Etsy bill, and at the same time I enter all my reciepts for supplies, etc. At busier times of the year maybe I have to do reciepts more often so I don't get bogged down by it. But like anything else I know I have to do, it's on the schedule. Hell, at this point I have to put meals on my schedule too or I don't get around to them!

Point is, if it's important, you make time for it. And record keeping is definitely important!

Don't: assume the IRS thinks like you do
Do: organize your records based on the end need
How do you categorize your business expenses? I knew that business cards aren't in the same class of expense as beads or booth fees, but I didn't realize until yesterday that while beads and string fall under "Cost of Goods Sold," so do wrapping supplies. So all year I coded wrapping supplies and table drop cloths under "Point of Purchase" along with hang tags and signs, which actually qualify as Advertising expenses. Hence another reason I had to re-do my reports!

This is a very simple error to avoid. One easy way to get around it is to go to www.irs.gov and download the form used to report all business expenses. You don't have to use it, or even save it, but take you a look-see at what categories they use, and apply those to your own records.

If you specifically want to organize your expenses so that wrapping supplies are separate from beads but together with signs because it really does make way more sense, there are two ways you can approach that. The smart way is to sub-categorize signs, wrapping supplies, and beads so that you can add the sub-categories together as needed for different purposes, without redoing the work over and over again and making yourself go mad in white linen, as they say. The other way isn't so smart... (In my mind I can hear Eric Cartman, "I do what I want!")

Don't: think you know better
Do: listen to your inner promptings
The moral of the story is, when your little inner voice tells you in early 2009, "Gee whiz, I've never done this before. Maybe I should go talk to the SBA and see if I'm keeping the right kind of records," you oughta listen to yourself and go talk to the damned SBA in early 2009. Before your stubborn DIY tendencies run rampant and cause you two days of headache in April of 2011.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

How to succeed at three full-time jobs

In this recession world of cutbacks, RIFs, and layoffs, it seems everyone and their cousin is out of work. Being in corporate retail management, I didn't think I would face that problem, but three months ago my company announced they would be closing my store. So I considered my alternatives and made a plan that (I hope) will keep me in beans and rice at the very least.

The long run is that I will be singing for my supper as part of a local rock/country duo, and supplementing my income with my jewelry sales. The problem is that in the meantime I still have my 50+ hours per week corporate gig which (for the sake of my severance pay) I can't leave quite yet. So I've embarked on a quest to figure out how to do three full-time jobs at the same time... Without losing my sanity or having family and friends forget who I am.

First of all I have found that prioritizing my time is no longer an option. When every hour has literally ten useful applications (not counting time wasters like reading the comics or watching TV) it really brings home the need for doing the most important things first.

I recently read a story (on an Etsy page no less) about a professor who illustrated the importance of prioritizing. He filled a glass jar with rocks and asked his class if it was full. Then he poured pebbles in around the rocks and asked again if it was full. Next he poured in sand, and finally water, at which point the jar truly was full. The moral of the story was that if he'd put the sand and the water in first, the rocks would never have fit.

Taking that to heart, I now prioritize by that scale. Yesterday I bought some new sterling silver clasps; is creating a rock task today or a sand task? I heard a great new song that I'd like to add to the playlist; does it qualify as a pebble or a rock? This is not a new idea, but it's a new way for me to illustrate the truth for myself, and I'm finding it very helpful to rate each activity. I've found that the same task can be water one day and a rock three days later if I don't get around to it; other tasks are always pebbles but have to be done every day.

I find every minute in the day that I can make useful. If I get up early and have an extra ten minutes before I go to work, I'll pop into the studio and play with a necklace I'm restringing. If my man isn't ready for bed yet I'll pull out the guitar and my country songbook and see what I can pick out. If I have a slow afternoon at the "day job" I may take a break to write out an artist bio for a particular website, or sketch out an idea for my booth setup.

Second, I am planning more. I have a calendar on the fridge for the week. I post my "wage slavery" as I so politely call it, all my gigs and shows, and any planned activities like yoga dates with my HSO (highly significant other) or dinner with the fam. (This also helps when I forget to tell Bill about plans, or when he forgets what I have told him!)

One of the first things I did this year was write out a list of craft shows I wanted to get into and when I have to have get application in. This has also been very helpful with budgeting booth fees. One of my former managers used to say, "Proper Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance." I've never been good at applying that, but now that I'm responsible for my own success I'm getting better!

Third, I am relying on others. Nobody is a truly self-made man or woman, but some of us seem to require more help than others. And that's okay! My HSO works from home, and I am accepting the idea that it's okay to let him do the dishes every day. I don't feel as guilty that I haven't done the laundry in a month, since he's willing to grab the contents of one hamper and throw it in the wash with soap. (He does take time to separate and fold everything too... What a sweetheart!) Also, when my band is booked on a Thursday evening and I am supposed to be setting up before my weekly Farmer's Market is over, I have family members and a good friend who have volunteered to booth for me and pack everything up so I can retrieve it later.

My musical partner is still doing a lot of the management tasks associated with running a band; he finds us gigs and makes the schedule. Fortunately,he's better suited to it anyways, since he knows everyone in the area and they know he's earned the glowing reputation he has.

Just make sure that the help you're getting is reasonable; for example, you don't want to have your partner take on all the child-raising duties and get burned out after three months. Take an evening to yourself and send him/her off with friends, to the mall, to the bar, wherever. Even running errands alone can be a break! Be fair, be aware, and be appreciative.

But there's still some things that nobody can do for me and which still fall through the cracks. So my last method of dealing with all of it is to relax more. Not spend more time relaxing, but be more aware that I am relaxing. Since I have so little time free, I enjoy my free time to the fullest. I think how lucky I am to be eating a delicious dinner made by my sister or my mom, I contemplate how nice it is to be lying in bed watching a movie with my man, I revel in the joy of a late morning lie-in. It's kind of Zen I know, and very self-reflective.

Also, if I don't get through the entire priority list for my day, I don't sweat it. Rarely do I find that I miss the rocks, and even most pebbles can safely be put off till tomorrow. On occasion I'll burn the midnight oil to get a project done, but with good planning I usually avoid those anyays.

Right now I feel like I'm being put through a ringer. I have a list of tasks that only I can do, and that are very important to build my business: set up my website, blog regularly, devise some giveaways, come up with ideas for the rebranding this fall, do my taxes (like, NOW), maybe create some more jewelry for heaven's sake?!? I don't know how many I will be able to get done while I'm still working full-time, so (for example) I won't open a Twitter account until I know I can be more active. But I'm making a list... And once I've joined the ranks of the so-called "unemployed" I'll start knocking them off.

In the mean time my top priorities are 1. regularly uploading items to Etsy - with exceptional photos - 2. getting my name out locally and 3. studying what other sellers are doing so I don't make as many rookie mistakes. Oh yeah, and creating more jewelry!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Welcome and Upcoming Events

I finalllllly got around to making a blog for our team! If you are interested in becoming an admin and would like to post info or promote your items here, please contact me and I'll be sure to add you to the list.

I also wanted to promote our etsy fan page. You can find it here. Feel free to invite your friends to become a fan.

Lastly, I was contacted about a craft show that we are invited to participate in. They are both a few hours away from us but I'll post the information just in case someone is interested.

Hello!

I am the Organizer of an Indie Arts & Crafts Show named Craft-In Arts & Crafts Show @ the Historic 99w Drive-In Theatre in Newberg, Oregon (we are Southwest of Portland). I would like to invite your Etsy Street Team Members to join us! I know you are several hours away but we would love to have Crafters from all around the Pacific Northwest. It is also really important for us to have Etsy well represented at this handmade show. Is there anyway I can promote this show with your group?

Here are some details and website that have tons of information on being a vendor:

Event Name: Craft-In Arts & Crafts Show
Place: Newberg's Historic 99w Drive-In Theater
Date: Saturday, July 17, 2010
Time: 10am -4:30pm

Website: http://craftinshow.blogspot.com

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Thank you,

Wendy Doerr, Organizer
Craft-In Arts & Crafts Show @ the Historic 99w Drive-In Theatre

That's all for now! Have a wonderful week :)

Whitney
onbeyondzebra.etsy.com