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Simplify Your Week: Create a Happy Little Content Calendar (free printable)

You know the feeling – waking up, not knowing what to say or do on social media/your blog that day. Putting out less than perfect content on those days and grumbling in groups about how you just are never sure what to post besides product photos or WIP shots.

What if I told you eliminating posting stress was as easy as writing seven things down? It is! And today we’re learning about content calendars and how to use them to your advantage. I actually sat down this morning to create a content calendar for blogging so I can begin to work on posting several days a week again, and that is what inspired this post!

What a content calendar does is create a visual guide of what to post, when. It can be as strict or as flexible as you want. You can schedule specific content for specific days months in advance (especially helpful during holiday sales seasons, craft show seasons, and the like!) or have the same general content calendar that just evolves as seasons change (this is what I do).

To get started creating a happy little content calendar, you need to print out this happy little printable (available in color or black and white). I tried to size it so it can be printed as one large guide to hang in your studio, or in multiples & inserted into planners. I’m just getting into the planner game, so expect a few more fun freebies like this to come your way as I figure out what I need from my planner!

content calendar color.PNG

Once you have your happy little content calendar printed out, it’s time to do the actual nitty gritty work. A good content calendar has a diverse mix of content. If you completed the Dream Client workshop, you have a really good idea of who your social channels should be appealing to & what sort of content they want to see. For an example, my Dream Clients are young, eclectic moms who are eco-concious & passionate about motherhood, that live in the suburbs or city. They like my products because they are sustainably handcrafted, unique and colorful. I carefully reviewed what accounts they may likely follow on social media, and spent a lot of time analyzing the content of my Dream Clients favorite accounts were putting out. I collected screen shots, browsed their websites, and observed how they captioned their posts & interacted with their audience.

Armed with the knowledge from my research, I know my social media feeds need to be:

  • colorful, positive & empowering
  • reflect my brand’s sustainability practices
  • easy to relate to & welcoming for mothers

Using just these bits of knowledge about my Dream Clients & what content appeals to them, I created a list of authentic posts that need to show up in my feed every week (ding! A content calendar!):

  • Photos of me & my children (motherhood is a tribe, so I frequently put myself out there to connect with my audience!)
  • Before & after photos – a lot of my Dream Clients can’t visual what a “textile discard” is so I demonstrate it frequently in posts where I show what the finished products are made from.

Raise your hand if you are, too. 🙌

A post shared by Cody · Creator of Mon-stors! ✌ (@lu_and_ed) on

  • Relatable content – hey mamas, I see you, I hear you, I am one of you. And I’m tired, too.
  • Photos of my products in use – my Dream Clients are selective about what they bring into their lives, so I use photos of my products from my target audience to draw in more of my target audience.
  • Random bursts of color & happy – my Dream Clients love positivity, support & kindness, and so do I! So I make sure to frequently post an uplifting photo & caption.
  • WIPs – my Dream Clients tend to be slow buyers, so hearing about the process & seeing a product from raw materials to half sewn to fully completed really helps showcase the work that goes into each piece & really demonstrates the one of a kind aspect of my products.

I'm not saying you should pick favorites… but if you HAD to pick a favorite… Which would it be?!#bestofstorenvy

A post shared by Cody · Creator of Mon-stors! ✌ (@lu_and_ed) on

  • Finished product photos – because every time someone in your target audience clicks over to your social media accounts, they should be able to see at a glance exactly what it is that you do!

And there you go – a full week worth of content!

Radical honesty: I don’t always post every type of post every day every week – I actually usually don’t post at all on Saturday and Sunday. And you don’t have to either! I use my content calendar as a guideline for what kind of content I should be putting out so that my feed always has a good variety of content, fits what my target audience is looking for and represents who I am & what I do. Having it on paper makes it easier to make sure you don’t stray too far from what your target audience is looking for and keeps your content relevant & visually cohesive.

I’d love to get a peek at your content calendars you come up with after reviewing the Dream Client exercises! Feel free to leave me a comment telling me what you put on your calendar, shoot me a photo of your happy little content calendar all filled out to cody@luanded.com or tag me on Instagram!

 

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Dream Clients – The ULTIMATE Guide to Defining Your Target Audience (& Approaching Them!)

Defining your target audience can seem like a pretty daunting task. I mean, as artists, makers & small business owners, we want EVERYONE to want to buy our stuff. But when we are marketing to everyone, we are wasting time, energy and resources because (hard truth) only a tiny portion of the general populace are actually the demographic who would purchase products from us.  I have revised and condensed my series on identifying your target audience, their interests, personality traits, online habits & how to approach them to help makers & shop owners narrow down their niche so you can use your time spent marketing & your advertising budget into a powerhouse avenue for generating sales!

Commonly, when I mention finding your target audience, people reply with “But I sell necklaces, everyone wears necklaces” or something along those lines. 1. Sorry, but that is not true. 2. Defining your dream clients does not mean that if you currently sell products to people in their twenties AND their seventies that you would no longer be selling to them – it means that you are identifying the social class, personality & interests of the people you want to buy from you, people who are influential about products similar to yours, so that you can maximize your marketing to bring in even more sales beyond the sales you are already generating. There’s a saying that goes: If you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one. However – if you are speaking to just the right people, in just the right way, at just the right time, imagine the possibilities! Increased engagement on social media posts, less money spent advertising because your approach is hitting it just right, every single time, and more sales.

That is what identifying & marketing to your dream client is all about!

For instance, I make toy storage solutions and plush toys. Using the market to everyone concept, I could ask all my friends to like my Facebook page & follow me on Twitter & Instagram, but let’s be real – do I really think that my boyfriend’s 24 year old brother or people that are his age/gender has any interest in my products, would buy them regularly & share them with their friends? Would those single male friends also buy my kid’s toys? What about my single female friends who have no desire to have children? Or what about all those people in the craft forums I’m a part of? Do you really think that other makers are my target audience for handmade toys? Do you really think if I get any of those people to like my Facebook page or follow me on Instagram, it will result in more sales? A few, perhaps. Maybe even a dozen! But not as many as if I was marketing my brightly colored, ecofriendly toy storage solutions specifically to young moms who have eclectic tastes & want sustainable, ecological toy storage solutions & toys for their small children, don’t ya think?

So, as you can see, while you may make sales to a few people who aren’t in your target audience, if you identify and market specifically to the people most likely to buy & share your products, you have a much higher ROI (return on investment). In this post, you will find a series of questions, printable worksheets & topics to research to help you through the process of seeing better results through your marketing efforts. Each step is integral to really begin to understand how your target audience views & consumes products – and how to approach them so that they want to buy YOUR products. So grab a cup of coffee, a note book, dive in & get ready to launch your business into Success mode!

dreamclients

Let’s start at base one – identifying your target audience, AKA, your dream clients. Dream clients are popular web-celeb personalities you would LOVE to see sharing your products, raving about them to their followers. Think of three popular influencers that you want to buy your products.

Got a visual? That is who this series is about reaching. And in those post, we will be focused on identifying them, getting to know them, figuring out when they are online, and learning how to approach them.

When you think about the most popular, influential people you know that you would love to see sharing your products on social media…..

Are they male or female? 

What is their style like?

How old are they?

What is their favorite social media platform?

Do they live in the suburbs, city or country? In a house or apartment? 

What kind of hobbies do they have? 

What sort of job do they have?

What is their average income like? 

Are they blissfully single, or happily married? 

If neither, are they planning a wedding?

Are they parents? 

If yes, are they natural parents?  

Do they have pets? 

gettingtoknow

Remember, this is not about your current clientele but your DREAM clients. The most influential people you can think of that you want to see buying, using, wearing, and sharing your products! 

Expand on as many questions as you can – the more you can identify about your target audience, the easier it will be to learn to market to them! If they are parents, how many kids do you think they have? If they live in the city in an apartment, how do they decorate & use their space? If they are trendy, describe how you imagine their personal style.

You can either print out this worksheet, or fill out the questions in your notebook – whatever works!

dreamclientworksheet1

Download this printable here

How to use this worksheet:

Again, this is not designed to analyze your current customers but to help you identify & define your target audience. These are the most popular & influential people you can think of that you would want to buy & showcase your products on social media.

Parts 1-3 help you identify their style and how your brand & products fits into their life by helping you determine where they live, how your products fit into that space, and why they would like your stuff to begin with. No matter what you make, your dream client has to want to bring it into their home/life, or they won’t. It’s as simple as that. By identifying where & how they live, how they decorate & use their space and how your products fit into life, you have a better chance at staging photos & writing copy that translates into sales. A dream client who has a very bohemian vibe & all natural, sustainably sourced furniture will probably not be attracted to monochrome, ultra modern art in your product photos for your dream catchers or throw pillows. Make sense?

Parts 4-6 help you define your dream client’s interests and spending habits, as well as what sort of marketing tactics they are attracted to. Understanding your dream clients interests and consumption habits help you understand how they respond to marketing from larger industries & how your products fit into their consumption habits. Did your dream clients rush to Starbucks for the limited edition Unicorn Frappe? Or do they take moody shots of their home brewed coffee overlooking the lake they live by? This knowledge helps you analyze your own social media and marketing habits and alter them to appeal to your dream clients better.

Parts 7-9 help you to understand what type of content your dream client likes on social media. This is SO important – knowing what type of content your audience enjoys, actively pursues & shares is the keystone to how your social media campaigns should be administered, from photo styling to product modeling to how you talk about your products – recognizing the type of content your dream clients actually consume and respond to will help you create a killer social media campaign!

Try to think of at least three-four people to put on this worksheet that your target audience follows. It can be celebrities, indie brands, bloggers. Who already has your dream clients flocking to them for products or advice? Now, determine why they would follow those four people. Is it because they are all funny? Inspiring? Spiritual? Are they all kids clothing designers & parenting lifestyle bloggers? Are they all trendy moms? Photographers? What is it about these people your dream client loves? And of course – does your dream client share content from these people? By sharing, I mean do they buy their products and share them modeled in their home/on their bodies? Do they repost their images or recommend people read the blog?
Understanding what sort of content your dream client is looking for & how you can produce similar content that is unique to your brand is essential to making sure you are “on point” with your marketing. Explore the people you think your dream client would follow. Look at this objectively – do not try to find similarities between the people your dream clients follow and you.Look for the differences. Learn from them. Look at how they style their images & present themselves & their brands, if they are businesses. You use this knowledge from this worksheet to create social media feeds, take product photos, write copy & create ads that appeal to your dream clients.

Now we are going to explore how to use this information so that we can assess where online & offline our dream clients are hanging out! I will be sharing my responses along with some ideas of how to use this information to find your dream clients.

Here is the low down on my dream client for luanded.com, using the worksheet abovet:

My dream clients probably live in the suburbs in a house. They would use a Mon-stor in their kid’s room for fun & convenient storage. Their decorating style is eclectic, colorful & fun, most pieces probably upcycled or from IKEA or a thrift store, so they are probably attracted to my products because they are bright, functional and sustainably made with textile discards and upcycled materials! 

My dream client likes kids fashion, coffee, natural parenting & Instagram-ing all the cute stuff their kiddos do, so they probably also breastfeed and cloth diaper &  like blogging,  sharing brands they like on social media, & baby wearing. If they live in a house in the suburbs they probably like to shop at Target & thrift stores. They are probably total Starbucks-aholics or drink lots of coffee at home. 

They probably follow BabyJives, Opposite of Far &  Bamboletta because their photos are so beautifully styled & reminiscent of a beautiful childhood & gentle parenting. They share their content because they are influential in the baby/kid industry & want to communicate their parenting ideals & tastes with their friends & followers.

Let’s explore my dream clients – they are natural parents with eclectic style. So they probably frequent parenting forums, breastfeeding advocacy blogs, cloth diaper supplier websites, local parenting blogs/publications & event guides, natural living and unschooling/homeschooling forums/blog/websites. Acknowledging my dream client’s natural parenting interests helps me know I need focus my social media campaign to focus on the ecofriendly aspect of my products; it also is beneficial for many other reasons, including deciding which blogs & brand reps to partner with, which stores my products would be best represented in & where I should invest my hard earned marketing dollars to the get most bang for my buck. Using the information from the worksheet, here is 5 ways I could reach my dream clients where they are:

 

  • Paid ads on popular sites my dream clients frequent.
  • Guest posting on blogs my dream clients read.
  • Offering products for reviews on natural parenting blogs.
  • Sponsoring giveaways that these sites host on social media.
  • Become an active member of the forums & network with fellow parents.

 

Since I know my dream clients are into Instagram-ing every cute thing their kiddo does, I know where I need to focus the majority of my social media efforts in order to get the best impact, too! I also know that they love beautiful, well lit, clutter free images & gentle marketing tactics based on where they shop & who they follow on social media.

By knowing who your dream client is & what their interests and hobbies are, you are able to organically connect with your target audience in what I like to call their “natural environment”. This means that the exposure to your products is not forced-meaning you are not actively sharing a link to purchase with your dream clients but rather speaking to them about their interests.

Marketing to everyone – “This pencil case is perfect for back to school! *link*”

Interacting authentically in your dream clients “natural environment” –  “Is anyone else finished back to school shopping? Here are the school supplies for my kids!” with a photo of a backpack, YOUR pencil case, folders & other accessories where you share your personal experience, and you can write about how fun it was to make the pencil case and how much your kid loves it.

See the difference in how you approach someone in an organic way vs pushy marketing? Organic, authentic connection with dream clients increases engagement on social media posts, on forum threads & invites conversations. Posting a statement about your product and a link is like hitting a wall.

whendreamclientsareonline

Knowing when your dream clients are online gives you a powerful upperhand on the market – you can cater your social media postings & paid ads to exactly the right time for maximum exposure, meaning that you get better results with less effort – so you can spend less time at a computer & more time making awesome things! Yay!

 

Using the worksheet below, fill in the times for each part of the day to the best of your knowledge about your dream client. Do not pull numbers from your current statistics – you are trying to determine when your dream clients will be online to maximize future exposure of your shop. While your current clients are incredibly valuable, maximizing your marketing to your dream client means increased exposure to people who are the most likely to buy & share your products with others, meaning more sales.

time

Download printable worksheet here

Note: Even if your dream clients don’t have a day job or go to school, try to use this work sheet to pen in what they would be doing through the day & evening – if they are stay at home moms, they are probably getting kids up, fed, dressed, ready for school, cleaning house, doing laundry, running errands and so forth. Use this worksheet however you need to outline the day of your dream client!

First things first, when does your dream client wake up? What is the first thing they do after they wake up? Check Instagram? Read their emails? Brew coffee & take a shower? Get the kids up and ready for school? Getting ready for work? Heading to the gym?

Know when they wake up & their morning routine gives you insight on when to post content that will resonate with their routine – for instance, if your dream client is a mom who wakes up around 7am & rushes around getting the kids ready for school and on the bus, posting a product photo on Instagram at as your first post doesn’t make much sense. However, if you post a picture of your coffee & ask if any other moms out there can relate to the Monday morning blues around 8am, you’re bound to get a much better response to your content. If the first thing they do is roll over and check their emails, maybe a newsletter that goes out first thing in the morning to give them some happy content to wake up to would be a good way to reach them. Make sense?

Another example – say your dream client is a young professional who works in an office in the city and has to be at work by 8am. Odds are they aren’t checking social media right out of bed – they brewing coffee, making breakfast, showering, getting dressed, finishing up last minute projects and getting out the door. If your dream clients are hustling to get work done in the morning, don’t waste that time marketing to empty air.

Knowing when they leave for work, school or are getting the kiddos off to school is super important – if your dream clients have a day job or go to school, and they’ll be in transit & getting started on their day between 8-10am, that means you can better utilize that time to set up a creative morning routine for yourself than plastered to your computer trying to reach people who aren’t there.

*Bonus tip: If your dream client spends a lot of time jogging, at the gym or in transit in the mornings, you could consider setting up playlists on Spotify & sharing them with your audience, or maybe consider a podcast talking about topics that you & your dream clients have in common. (Abby Glassenberg has a wonderful podcast that speaks directly to her dream clients & allows her to connect with them even when they are on the go.)

Lunch time, baby! That sweet spot when most people finally sit down, whip out their phone & start to catch up on all the goodness they missed this morning. It’s your chance to get noticed, so make it good. Lunch time is prime time, and you want to curate content for this period that is valuable – most people have limited time to sit down for lunch, so strategize where they will be spending that time online & make your content as relevant and interesting as you. Keep in mind if your dream clients are professionals on a brief lunch hour, they won’t have time to shop a sale, so plan sales promotions based on when your dream clients have the most free time!

Lunch time doesn’t just mean 12pm – really think about when your dream clients are online, what their day looks like. If they get up at 6am, odds are they eat lunch earlier than noon. If they are a stay at home mom, “lunch” would most likely be naptime, that sweet – & brief – moment of respite when moms can curl up with a snack & check social media. Again, you are operating on limited time at the middle of the day, so make your content king. Make it something that is quick & easy to take in & respond to, even if it’s a like or one word response to a question like  “I can’t decide what fabric to pair with this print for the purse I’m making – what do you think? Option A B or C?”

Knowing when they get off work/school or start picking kids up from school is as important as knowing when they’re busy in the mornings – it’s dead time. Your dream clients are not online right now, so you shouldn’t be either – go make stuff! Your dream clients are busy hustling and shuffling around!

After the afternoon chaos, what are your dream clients up to? Try to think of 3-4 things that probably happens in their life in the afternoons: Gym, grocery store, coffee with friends, homework, soccer, ballet, karate, choir & gymnastics for the kids? Odds are, their afternoon is pretty full right up until dinner time. However, knowing what your dream clients are getting into is vital – you can use this information to curate content that your dream clients will respond well to – do they have a little ballerina? I bet they would love to see pictures of your darling little ballerina, too, if you have one

And then there’s dinner, then there is that sweet, sweet spot where you have a chance to catch them online – that is, if they aren’t lining up kids for showers, doing laundry from the day, packing lunches for the next day, and so on. If your dream client is a mom, odds are they stay busy right up until those kiddos are in bed – and your best chance to reach them is then. Probably between 7-9 pm, when they are unwinding with a glass of wine, their favorite TV show & social media. If your dream client is a college student, are they in evening classes? What time are they most likely to be wrapping up for the day and hanging out online? If your dream client is a young single professional, they are probably online more in the evening, giving you a larger window to get your content to them.

Goodnight, dream clients. When you see your dream clients heading to bed for the night – you should too. Or at least stop posting on social media, because they aren’t there. Market smarter, not harder – use your answers & best judgement from identifying your dream client to know when they are online, and when they aren’t – and when they aren’t online, get off the computer. Use your time better to make awesome things & take care of yourself! As makers, we feel the need to be eternally connected, to see our stats update in real time & overshare on social media, shouting to everyone & hoping someone hears us. No more. Use the information from this series to better utilize your time, to reach people more likely to purchase, and to spend more time doing what you love – making & creating.

Beyond the daily routine, think long term & seasonal schedules for your dream clients. In summer, many people are on vacation, traveling, visiting with family, at the pool, park or zoo – so you can relax your marketing efforts a bit if you find that your dream clients are busy jetsetting to Disneyland and spending their summer by the pool during the day with the kids. During the beginning & finals/end of school term time, college students (and parents) are spending a significant amount less time online, so use this time wisely to build up inventory.

approaching your dream clients

Let’s dive into this last leg of the journey to identifying your target audience with gusto! We know who our dream clients are, what they like,  what website they frequent and when they are online. Let’s strike up a conversation with them!

Before you approach your dream clients, your profile should reflect their interests that we defined throughout this series, because approaching your dream clients is like saying hello & inviting them in for coffee. You have about 10 seconds to get that “like” or “follow” so make sure your profile speaks directly to your dream clients.

If you are approaching people who like fashion, you should have fashion content on your profile. If you can pair your products naturally in these photos without telling people only about your product, that is the best way to approach them & let them know you aren’t in this just for the sales – for instance, a picture of a new top paired with skinny jeans & your latest necklace would most likely interest fashionistas more than a picture of your necklace. Show your dream clients you truly care about topics that interest them & help them relate to you. If you approach them, and make yourself approachable, your dream clients are much more likely to follow you on social media & buy from you.

Yup, it’s that simple – approaching your dream clients has nothing to do with marketing your products.

Crazy concept, right? But hear me out!

Let’s say you are on Instagram & want to connect with your dream clients there. You could post a picture with 37.5 million hashtags (half of which won’t even put you contact with your dream clients, but more on that later) – or, you could review your dream clients interests (let’s say they are into natural parenting) and search relevant hashtags (like the #babywearing hashtag). Ding! Hello, dream clients! You are now staring at tens of thousands of photos by your dream clients – natural parents!

Approaching your dream client is easy – as easy as leaving a comment on social media. Some examples of good ways to approach your dream clients (using the natural parenting tags for our first examples):

“Oh my gosh, your baby is so adorable, and I love that wrap. What brand is it?

“The color of that wrap looks fantastic on you! Did you dye it yourself?”

“Love this image of you & your baby, you’re adorable! What is your favorite way to carry your baby? I’m new to babywearing & wraps intimidate me!”

Notice what all of these have in common? It has nothing to do with you or your products. Nope. Instead, you are a person who appreciates their interests & their lifestyle, not a seller trying to shove your products down their throat. You are complimenting them about something that is important to them. You are building the foundation for conversation & an organic connection, and are exponentially more likely to capture their interest.

Of course there are times you can give a little nod to your business. Let’s say your dream client is into fashion. Search that #ootd (outfit of the day) tag & find outfits that relate to the style of your products. Here is some ways you can approach them:

“I LOVE this outfit! Where did you get the top from? I have a necklace in my shop I would love to pair with that shirt for photos!”

 

 

“That sweater looks incredible on you. I need to start working on my fall line of jewelry, I have some designs in my head to pair with bulky sweaters that I can’t wait to work on! What sort of colors do you think will be hot this autumn?”

“Ah, I love sweater dresses!  My favorite way to dress mine up is with this layered necklace I made or some fancy earrings. What accessories do you usually pair with yours? I’m always looking for new ideas!”

Again, it’s all about your dream clients – you start out with a compliment revolving around their content and when appropriate, your products can naturally be brought into the conversation without trying to sell them. This will usually interest the original poster & they will pop over to your profile & take a peek – so again, this means that your profile, no matter what platform you are on, should reflect your dream clients interests which I can pretty much guarantee isn’t only your products.

Another way to find your dream clients & approach them is by following larger brands similar to yours (for instance, if you make toys for preschoolers you could follow people like Melissa & Doug & join conversations in the comments of their posts – again, not talking about you, but talking with peers. Example, you could reply to someone & let them know that your kiddo also plays with X toy – do they have any others they would recommend? Or maybe “My kiddo takes his “insert relative item name here” everywhere too! I just designed a new tote bag for him & ended up adding some to my shop too – it makes getting around so much easier with all the toys in tow!”

Now that you are armed with a few wonderful methods to approach your dream clients, let’s talk about two ways you should never approach your dream clients:

Do not ever post on another businesses social media trying to drive sales. Casually mentioning your products is okay – saying “You can buy that in my shop” or “I make these, too” or telling people “if you are interested in one message me” is never, ever okay on other people’s social media accounts. It is tacky & will most likely result in you getting reported for spam. Just don’t do it. If you can’t organically bring up your products into the conversation without trying to sell them or mentioning your shop, just don’t bring them up.

Bad example: “I have a toy in my shop that you would love for your nursery.”

Good example: “I am loving this nursery! I literally just made a toy that matches the colors you used – I am obsessed with these colors together right now!”

Bad example: “I have a necklace that matches your dress in my shop, you could check it out!”

Good example: “I love your fashion style! I just finished making a gorgeous necklace & your post just gave me a great idea for how to style my outfit for photos!”

The bad examples do nothing to build a connection and are not likely to do anything but get ignored, while the good examples are more likely to strike a conversation or pique their interest so they visit your social media account

Never directly ask people to visit your profile or shop. Again, if you can’t organically mention your work, then don’t mention it at all. If someone asks you where they can check out your work, then by all means tell them your URL. But if it doesn’t come up, don’t mention it.

 –  –  –

At the end of this post, I cannot stress enough: when approaching your dream clients: Be authentic. Never fake your interests or post comments that aren’t genuine. And remember – have fun getting to know your dream clients! The more you engage with your target audience the more you learn what sort of content resonates with them.

And with that, that’s the end of my series on getting to know and learning to approach your dream clients!

Thank you to everyone who joined in on our dream client series! I hope you had fun identifying & getting to you know your dream clients, and hope this post was informative and helpful! 

In the comments, please feel free to share your thoughts on this process! I would love to know how it has helped you identify your dream clients & approach them! 

 

 

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100+ hashtags for handmade businesses, makers and small shops + tag hacks!

Do you ever wish there was just a perfect, ready to use, list of hashtags to pull from for Instagram? Well, now there is! I’ve been researching, experimenting, and perfecting the perfect mix of hashtags for a handmade business for MONTHS. Literally. I started the draft of this post in December of 2016, and have tweaked it constantly, adding & deleting tags constantly as I found which got the best responses, the most engagement, and of course the ones that didn’t end up throttling my posts, reducing visibility or even penalizing my entire account! (Yes! That can happen!!)

Below, you will find hashtags sorted into groups. There’s a various amount of tags in each group, and several are repeated in different groups. Repeated tags are great for use on basically any post about handmade businesses! Then there are some that are highly targeted for specific types of posts,  from WIP images to finished products to selfies & more! I set it up this way so you can copy & paste directly from this list into your IG posts, then add your own curated tags specific to your medium – for instance, I usually throw in tags like #monstertoys, #toystorage or #instagramkids for my Mon-stor posts. If you make jewelry, you will want to put in specific tags – #handmadejewelry #datenight #wedding #bridetobe #prom and so on! For drawing or painting or art makers, you will want to use specific tags like #prismacolor #penandink #drawing #watercolor and on and on. These little tag packets just help you get started!

WIP photos

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WIP (work in progress shots) are a great way to share your story as a maker. Humans are drawn to the process, and seeing products being made creates a connection between consumers and your product.

#handmade #handcrafted #creativedaily #wip #workinprogress #makersgonnamake #makersmovememnt #mycreativebiz #creativedaily #creativelifehappylife #abmcrafty #handsandheart #handsandhustle #cylcollective #calledtobecreative #artistoninstagram #abmcrafty #madebyhand #whatimade #goalgetter #cantstopwontstop #craftbuzz #handmadelove #craftstagram #makingart #doitfortheprocess #makearteveryday #creativeliving #creativelife #artsandcrafts

Product photos

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Show off your work! These tags are highly curated and many put your product photos in the sights of top handmade publications, feeds & influencers!

#handmade #handcrafted #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #mycreativebiz #handmadebyme #whatimade #creatorslane #handmadeisbetter #craftsposure #creativelifehappylife #helloimhandmade #supporthandmade #makersvillage #thehandmadeparade #makersofinstagram #abmcrafty #craftaholic #communityovercompetition #creativepreneur #creativedaily #handsandheart #handsandhustle #cylcollective #handmadewithlove

Selfies

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People love to know the person behind the process, so every once in a while, throw up a selfie and tell people something personal! Bonus points if you wiggle a handmade product into the pic, or wear jewelry/clothing from another maker and tag them in the photo.

#me #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #communityovercompetition #creativedaily #creativelifehappylife #abmcrafty #abmhappylife #selfie #behindthescenes #handsandheart #handsandhustle #goalgetter #goaldigger #meetthemaker #mycreativebiz #livecolorfully #mycreativebiz #makersofinstagram #ladyboss #girlboss #shescrafty #womanownedbusiness #womanpreneur #mompreneur #craftybitch #craftygirl #girlbossmoment

Sale posts

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Whether you are posting a discount sale, stating products are up for grabs, your new line dropped or that you just restocked, these tags will get your products out there and get people interacting with your posts!

#handmade #handcrafted #makersgonnamake #makersmovement #creativelifehappylife #abmcrafty #handmadeisbetter #makersofinstagram #shopsmall #supportlocal #golocal #buyhandmade #supporthandmade #shopsmallbusiness #womanownedbusiness  #creativedaily #handmadewithlove #ilovehandmade #handmadeshop #handmadeisbest #buzzfeed #huffpost #craftsposure #makersvillage #creatorslane #favehandmade #thehandmadeparade

Now for the fun ones – TAG HACKS! These hacks help you get more connections, engagement, and opportunities while also increasing engagement, but require a little work on your part to actually find the tags best suited for use for your medium/brand/products/audience.

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Publications

Do you know a publication, popular Instagram account, blog or magazine you want to see your stuff – and maybe share it? Find out if they have specific tags for reposts, or a tag for their brand, and USE IT. Search your niche, find the best publishers, follow them, use their tags. For instance, I use #punkymoms #momdotme #momazine #buzzfeedparents #huffpostparents & so on to reach publishers who are considered experts to my target audience.

Local tags

It’s important to post tags that are geographical – this opens you up to a LOT of opportunities, from magazine features, award nominations & invites to craft events, to making local maker friends, growing your local audience and securing sales to people who love to shop local.

Use tags relevant to your city, to your state, and your region. Use the nearest large city to you if your area does not have a lot of tags – I live about 20 minutes West of Asheville, but it’s the nearest large city, so that is the tag I use! For example, I use #madeinasheville #madeinnc or #madeinwnc. I also use popular local tags when I do events, like #828isgreat #asheville #AVL #ashevilleNC #wnc #smokymountains #ashevillefolk #ashevillemoms. Pop on Insta, browse the tags and find ones that seem to be trendy. If there isn’t a #madein*yournearestbigcity* tag – make one! Use it on every post – it will catch on!

Audience Capturing

Like I said above, you will want to fill in your posts with tags specifically curated for your audience. This also requires some homework on your part. As a toy maker, I use tags like #igkids #instagramkids #momlife #motherhood #childhoodunplugged #letthembelittle #creativeplay #sensoryplay #learningthroughplay #igbaby #instababy #nurseryinspo #kidsroom #playroom & so on. So you need to identify you target audience & then search through hashtags relevant to them. As you can see from my tags, if jewelry was your medium, you wouldn’t just post #jewelry – you would use tags like #datenight #girlsnightout #wedding #gettinghitched #bride #momofthebride #anniversary #ootd #wwiw – stuff people who will be wearing jewelry to, tags for fashion posts, events people buy jewelry for. Once you identify you target audience, you can find them on social media, browse the hashtags they use, see which ones are applicable to your products, and start integrating them and A/B testing them on posts!

Daily Themes

#meetthemakermonday #makermonday #wipwednesday #throwbackthursday (great for sharing your progress as a maker!) #friyay #flashbackfriday #followfriday #smallbusinesssaturday

Platform/Group Tags

Don’t forget platform centric tags! I sell on Storenvy, so I use #storenvy #storenvyseller & such. For Etsy sellers, there is a MILLION hashtags! Same for Shopify or other selling platforms. Do some digging, find which tags are popular and apply them applicable posts about your shop! Do the same for any communities you are in that have exclusive hashtags for interaction, exposure & feature opportunities, too!

Whew! Grab some tags and get practicing! I am always evolving, switching it up & changing what tags I use – you should too! Try a bunch of these out, and let me know what your results are! Remember, Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags. I recommend putting them in the second comment so as to not look spammy, plus they get buried as people come in commenting, so they are pretty much hidden from sight after 3 comments. Have fun!

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway Winner’s Announced!

Happy Sunny-day friends! I hope you all have had a great week and a restful weekend so fine. First thing this morning, I dove into drawing names for the huge, awesome, rainbow giveaway – hooray! I was so excited to draw names and see who won!! This giveaway has been my favorite yet and I loved all the prizes so much, so I know all the contestants must be just as excited to see who won what!

Without further ado, here is the prizes & their winners! I have contacted all sponsors, so if you are a winner, be sure to keep an eye on your email inbox for an email from the maker of your prize to collect shipping info! 🙂

Erika Watkins

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Rainbow Mega Monster by Lu & Ed 

Tara Peterson

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Leprechaun Hair Clip or Headband (winner’s choice!) by Elle Bee Accessories

April Proveaux

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Green Baby Shoes by By Mindy

Tiffany

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Child Size Rainbow Clouche Hat by Knits for Love

Kashmir Campbell

Do something AWESOME today mug & 4 pack of cards by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes

Valerie Moore

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Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters

Heather Kallinger

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Custom Family Names Rainbow Heart by Selena Ashley Design

Holly Cothran

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St. Patrick’s Day Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes

Sarah Piccari

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Rainbow Adult Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works

Jessica McIlvenny

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Unicorn Pretend Play Mask by De Boop Shop 

PJ Halliwill

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Majestic AF mug by Rainy Day Geekery

Reina Trumpet

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Green St Patrick’s Day Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush

Elizabeth Bloomquist

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Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

Woohoo! Congratulations to all the winners! Yay! You guys are some lucky duckies and won some amazing prizes!

If you didn’t win this round – no worries!

You can still shop the sponsor’s online stores (all are linked under their pictures!) & I have another big giveaway (AND sale!!!!) coming up for my 7 year Envyversary in April! Can you believe it has been SEVEN years since I launched my online shop? It’s been a crazy, amazing, wildly wonderful ride, and I couldn’t have done it without you guys! So stay tuned for the huge 7 year celebration! Mucho smoocho!

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St. Patrick’s Day Giveaway!

Happy March, mamas and maker friends! I’m so excited to bring you this HUGE collaboration giveaway this month – I hope you are feeling lucky! There’s over a dozen prizes – and over a dozen chances to win! Below, you can view the prize line up, then dive right into earning your entries!

Some of the options are new and can be done daily – like sharing an item to social media to earn FIVE extra entries (a total of of 60 extra entries a day!). To complete this entry, all you have to is select an item from the shop on that entry, copy the product URL or use one of the share buttons on the product, and post it to social media – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, your blog, etc. Then copy the URL of YOUR post into the box on the giveaway widget – easy peasy! You can also now “heart” items from Etsy shops for an additional 8 entries per day, too!

Rules & other info: Giveaway opens at  12am 3/6 & runs until 12am 3/12 (Eastern Standard Times).  Giveaway is open to all eligible US citizens over 18, and international entries are accepted where allowed but postage must be paid by winner. There will be one winner per prize, drawn randomly using the Rafflecopter widget (YAY! Lots of chances to win!). Each item is mailed directly to the winner from the sponsor, who will be contacting winners individually to collect shipping info so please keep an eye on the email you use to enter giveaways powered by Rafflecopter with!

 

Prizes:

  1. Rainbow MEGA Monster by Lu & Ed
  2. Lucky Leprechaun Bow (your choice headband or clip!) by Elle Bee Accessories
  3. Green baby shoes by By Mindy
  4. Rainbow Child size Clouche Hat by Knits for Love
  5. 4 Pack Rainbow Cards & Rainbow Be Awesome Mug by Big Hugs, Little Envelopes
  6. Rainbow Monster Garland by Lisa’s Little Monsters
  7. Personalized Rainbow Family Name’s Heart by Selena Ashley Designs
  8. Rainbow & Leprechaun Hair Clips by Three Little Snowflakes
  9. Adult Size Rainbow Hat by Melli’s Yarn Works
  10. Rainbow Unicorn Mask (winner picks size!) by Deboop Shop
  11. Majestic Unicorn Mug by Rainy Day Geekery
  12. Furry Green Monster by Pink Sprinkles Plush
  13. Rainbow Stacking Toy by Outside Everywhere

 Click here to open the giveaway widget and start earning entries!

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2017: Achieve

It’s been a wild year and probably the worst year yet for my little biz, so I’m excited to wrap it up and head into 2017 with a blank slate & lots of ambitions, new products, and plans for improvement!

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See, my word for 2016 was Grind – I knew it was going to be a rough year: I got divorced and moved halfway across the country in November 2015, so I knew I’d be starting from scratch, struggling financially and trying to reestablish myself, my son & my biz. I had chose Grind because this year was all about breaking off the rough bits, uncovering the ugly and grinding it all smooth so I can polish my life & biz into exactly what I wanted it to be. Throw in an unexpected pregnancy & birth that were both exceptionally difficult, and woof. What a year. Grind was the perfect word for 2016.  

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My word for 2017 is going to be Achieve. Inspired by Lisa Jacobs, I decided to set monthly numerical sales goals – and I plan to shatter through them each month! I am going to Achieve more by focusing my efforts where I see the highest conversions for my business – here on my blog, through my newsletter, and by supporting other makers through community and collaborations. I will be relaunching my swag bag program & I am also going to book (at least) 3 events this year to continue establishing myself locally & spreading the word about my monsters, and also putting products up for sale in a local children’s boutique as well.

Besides the stereotypical “I’m going to get back in shape and do yoga every day and meditate more often” personal goals, I also am going to start attending a weekly mother’s circle, to help network & grow my local community, as well as attending more local events/dinners/shows/festivals. As a mother & maker, I feel like having a strong local community is imperative to growing personally & professionally. It’s so important to build your village!

I chose Achieve for my word for 2017 because I am going to achieve big things for my little monster biz, and in my personal life as well! This year is all about achieving my hopes & dreams. I want to spread roots here in Western North Carolina, to start making connections and friendships, and really make this place my home while growing my monster business to better support my growing family. ♥

Do you pick a word of the year to focus on? If so, what was your word for this year/will your word for next year be?

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On mothering a new baby & running a handmade business

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The last time I blogged, I was 40 weeks pregnant & had been struggling with prodromal labor for weeks. Though the last few weeks were incredibly painful and exhausting because of daily contractions that lasted for hours upon hours at a time, it was a painful, uncomfortable, difficult pregnancy from the get go. Zoey Rose was born October 12th, and it was a traumatic birth experience. Basically, it was all super rough. Pregnancy, birth, and new motherhood.

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I still get really emotional when I think of it, so I won’t go into details of her actual birth, but in my last post I talked about my frustration with the constant contractions & false alarms, and with everyone telling me “You’ll know when you’re really in labor”. I didn’t, actually. I had chorioamnionitis, an infection that spread from my amniotic sac & amniotic fluid to my placenta, uterus & cervix. I started having bad stomach cramps, followed within a few hours by a fever of 103.7 & uncontrollable shaking and vomiting. I thought it was just a stomach virus. My doctor wanted me to come in for fluids, and by the time I got there I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk or talk (except to scream a few choice words). It wasn’t contraction pain, it was constant, excruciating, sob-crying producing pain from the bottom of my ribs to my hips. By then my fever was 104.2 & I found out I was 9cm dilated. Thankfully they were able to get an epidural in to relieve some of my pain, and she was born a few hours later, through a fast, traumatizing birth. She spent an equally traumatic week in NICU.

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Finding out that I had a life threatening infection that could have taken both me & my daughter if I had waited just an hour or two longer to get to the hospital, followed by her NICU stay, shook me to the core. In the weeks immediately following her birth, I suffered from severe depression and what felt, inexplicably, like survivor’s guilt. Because of her NICU stay, our breastfeeding journey was a little rocky starting out, which any breastfeeding mother will tell you is an emotional battle to begin with. Due to the antibiotics she received, she had gastrointestinal distress for the following week and a half after leaving the hospital and cried & vomited almost constantly. After that, she was in a hip brace for weeks and constantly screamed and cried, and vomited, because of that.

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My pregnancy, birth experience and the early weeks of caring for Zoey were not bubbly, beautiful moments of motherhood. I struggled a lot with depression & anxiety as I tried to care for an extremely fussy baby, home school a 5th grader & somehow plan to return to my business, as NOT working at all was not an option because we simply couldn’t afford for me to not work at all for several months, unfortunately.

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I won’t lie – in those early weeks of fresh, angry, projectile vomiting babyhood, when she would scream no matter I did to comfort her, nurse to the point of projectile vomiting then scream some more, then wanted to nurse to comfort herself after screaming and crying, then back to screaming as soon as she finished nursing until she projectile vomited again, rinse and repeat, I would weep and tell my partner I was just going to have to go back to work outside of the home because I just didn’t think I could balance caring for her, schooling Gauge & running my own business. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up my monster making, but at the time could not see any way I could manage it all. I would get her to sleep and before I could take five steps or touch my fabric she would be awake screaming angrily again. I just felt so drained & like I would never be able to feel creative again.

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Then somewhere, around that fourth or fifth week, she finally started to chill out a little. That’s around the time she gave me her first smile and it was like the dark sky split open & kittens puking sunshine and farting rainbows spilled out of the crack. I started to put her in a Beco baby carrier my friend Magda sent me or the ring sling my friend Kimberly had mailed me while I was still pregnant, and was actually able to sew a little here and there. We readjusted our schooling schedule & lesson plans a bit, and my son quickly caught up on missed lessons & surpassed our semester goals.

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Over this last month, things have done a total 180. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations, positive people, and started meditating on positive thoughts every morning again, something I hadn’t been able to do in those early weeks no matter how hard I tried. I was able to get a large batch of monsters made & into the shop in time for Christmas – thanks to baby wearing. I think baby wearing literally save my sanity – she only sleeps when she is being held or very rarely, sometimes in her swing for 10-20 minute spurts. But thanks to wearing her, I was able to start sewing every day again while she napped against me, allowing me to slowly settle back into the mindset being a business owner. In the past two weeks I’ve even been able to outline ideas to make 2017 the best year ever for Lu & Ed – with lots of flexibility and options, because with this little firecracker, who knows what the next year will hold?

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Maybe it’s because I had unrealistic expectations about being able to dive right back into monster maker while I wore my happy, gurgling baby right out of the womb. Maybe it’s because I had rigidly blocked off the week following her birth from visitors at our house, unaware that week would be spent sleepless in the NICU unit. Maybe it’s because my son was such an easy pregnancy, birth and baby a decade ago, maybe that is why I felt so helpless & spent. Maybe it’s just because each pregnancy and birth experience and baby is so wildly different and unique, but these past two months were nothing at all like I anticipated. They were dark, difficult weeks & while the past month has been better and I am feeling more like my old self, and I am finally reclaiming and revitalizing my business from it’s stasis of the past several months, I would be lying if I said I was totally out of the dark emotionally and mentally. But I have learned a lot about what it means to be a small business owner & to mother a new baby at the same time, and these are important lessons for maker mamas because the stigma that new mothers should be basking in a happy glow with a pep in their step is just another one of those things that puts pressure on new moms & keeps them from reaching out when they need help & support. Motherhood and small business ownership isn’t some picture perfect Instagram feed. So here’s what I’ve learned about mothering a new baby and owning a handmade business:

It’s okay if you didn’t plan well enough for your maternity leave and unexpected  expenses, losses or struggles arise because of it. There’s no way to plan for every possible scenario, no matter how hard you try. I had a solid plan set in stone for my maternity leave but my last trimester was spent in so much pain I couldn’t even lean over to cut out monster bits, I couldn’t sit to sew, and I was unable to follow through with that plan because I wasn’t able to make the inventory to make the income needed to actually even take a maternity leave, not to mention our NICU stay drained the savings account between gas, lodging, and having to eat out constantly. And that created a lot of stress for me, but you know, c’est la vie.

It’s okay to avoid (or even remove from your life completely) negative, toxic people. I didn’t/don’t have the capacity to handle drama, negative degrading remarks or toxic people – and I’m pretty sure my mama fans know that nothing like a new baby brings out the judgmental and unintentional meanness of others. The first weeks when family members kept lamenting “She’s SO fussy, how do you stand it?”, “Haven’t you tried to get her to stop crying?”, “Does she always cry? Why don’t you do something about it?”, “Maybe she has a disease, have you asked her doctor why she’s always crying?” or “Why don’t you give her formula instead of breastfeeding if it’s so hard?” alongside remarks about how I had a BABY now, it was time to shelf my business; it was soul crushing. From there, I only made room in my life for people who empowered me, comforted me or gave me positive energy. I was not in a good place mentally to allow anyone else access to me without being reduced to a sobbing mess. And that’s okay.

It’s okay to feel guilty. Trust me, no matter how much grace you give yourself, there’s guilt. Guilt for working, for not working, for wanting to work, for not wanting to work, for not being able to work because your baby is needy, for never wanting to work again because you just want to soak up these peaceful, sweet sleepy moments with your baby, for asking someone else to hold your baby for a little while because you’re overwhelmed, haven’t peed all day & just need to breathe for a few minutes. So much guilt. So much stress.

It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to lose sight of your goals, it’s okay for things to not go how you planned, it’s okay to miss deadlines, it’s okay to be frustrated, it’s okay to feel like giving up, it’s okay to be unsure & insecure. You can make new goals, you can make new plans, you can set new deadlines. No number is worth unnecessary mental stress, especially during this already emotionally jacked up time of new motherhood.

It’s okay if what worked for someone else doesn’t work for you. You have to try absolutely everything to find what works for you. No one has any magic advice to make all the pieces of new motherhood & business ownership to go together seamlessly. (I don’t even know if they can go together seamlessly).

It’s okay to be frustrated and unsure. What worked yesterday may not (probably won’t) work today. What worked for your business last year may not work for it this year, or next year. What worked to keep your baby happy yesterday, may not work today. I learned you have to try new things, try a new schedule, try new content, try new creations, try new ways to make your baby happy, every single day. Some things work. Some things don’t. And that. is. okay.

It is all okay. All of your feelings are valid. All of my feelings are valid. There is no wrong way to feel. There is no right way to feel. Being a mother is an emotional shit storm. Being a mother to a baby who was in the NICU is an emotional hurricane. Being a mother to an extremely fussy baby while trying to run a business, is like an emotional nuclear explosion. It is all okay.

It. is. all. okay. That is what I learned.

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