4

How to take excellent product photos using only 12 square inches of space

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I constantly get emails & messages on social media from fellow online sellers asking for tips, advice on their listings, or shop critiques. One of the main things that many sellers struggle with is photography, and often the response is “I don’t have anywhere to shoot” or “I don’t have a ton of natural light”. So, I wanted to put together a quick tutorial on how to shoot excellent products like the one above in no more than 12 square inches of space!

All I used in this shoot is one piece of paper & two photography lamps. They have adjustment legs, so you just need about 12″ of floor space on either side of your surface to stand the lamps up, so space isn’t an issue. As far as cost goes, my set of lamps are about $80 on Amazon. I did find this set for under $50 at Wal-Mart and this set for $40 on Amazon, and I’m sure with a little more digging, you could find a set for basically any budget.

I cannot stress enough how important of an investment professional lighting is for a maker so you can have consistent, even lighting in every single set of images. There’s “hack” videos out there for turning household lamps into photography lights, and I’ve tried almost every one of them. They do no compare to the real deal, but can tide you over until you can score some of these beauts.

To really demonstrate what a huge difference they make, here is an image of my work space for these images with the overhead light off.

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Same exact space with the photography lamps on. See the enormous difference? Minimal natural light here, so for all those people with a day job doing this as a side hustle, or mamas who don’t get time to get their goods out for shoots until evenings – photography lamps! Order them, stat!

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Zoomed out shot of my work space for these images – please don’t judge my messy studio, I was just wrapping up a day of monster making! As you can see (I brightened this image a lot just so you can see), I have one West facing window, and you can see the shadow my house throws in the evening on the grass. We have an enormous maple tree that completely shades almost our entire house, so my studio gets very dim at about 3pm, and this was taken at almost 5.

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To make sure I didn’t use more than 12″ of space, I used a ruler & washi tape to roughly mark out lines on the table and wall, effectively creating a 12″ cube of shooting space.

For affordable backgrounds, scrapbook paper. This entire file is 8″x12″ paper. As you can see, TONS of possibilities for backgrounds, and this size of paper is usually 15 cents at craft stores.

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I chose a white embossed style paper (averages about 30 cents, I think, at most craft stores in the scrap book department).

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These were my subjects – Random Sh!t jewelry dish by Clay by Laura, a piece of rose quartz from my son’s insanely extensive stone & gem collection, and a necklace from Almond Eye Creations.

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I put the dish & rock on the paper on this beat up dark-ish table, and snapped these  raw images with my Canon Powershot point and shoot (not my DSLR).

I used some free photo editing software on the internet to crop, rotate images to straighten them out, brighten, and slightly increase saturation in the images to really show off the amethyst.

And that is how you create excellent images for small products in just 12 square inches of space! It all comes down to professional lighting, creative use of space & supplies, and good angles.

Sidenotes: If you don’t have white walls or a ton of space, substitute by taping white posterboard ($1 at the Dollar Tree) up when you need to shoot images, and store them upright behind book cases or the couch.

Have other photography questions? Post them in the comments & I will create posts to help with all of your photography needs!

1

3 Ways to Market your Online Shop – Offline

I work directly with a lot of makers, and often they are struggling to get their online shop found. They make Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, start blogs, and even join eleventy million groups for entrepreneurs, buying and selling, and all things crafty – but they still struggle to drive traffic to their online store.

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Some of the most impactful things I have done to grow Lu & Ed online has nothing to do with wi-fi, computers, or social media. Those things were done outside of my home, away from my laptop & face to face with other humans – and I want to share some ways you can leverage offline marketing to grow your online shop, too!

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Vendor Events

Craft shows, exhibitor events, markets, pop up shops, even weekly farmer’s markets – setting up shop for local in-person sales is a HUGE way to grow your brand in an affordable way while generating revenue.

There is typically a cost involved with setting up – the booth fee or vendor fee. Keep in mind, the higher the price, while intimidating, typically means the event is better promoted, in a good venue with lots of traffic, and brings in higher quality wares which means established sellers with wide audiences are most likely the vendors. The better the vendors, the better the event, so a higher cost is typically a really good thing and should not deter you from trying an event.

In order for in-person events to be successful, you need to have a visually appealing display, which can also involve costs to get props to properly display your wares, but these are tax deductible and you will use them for DOZENS of events so the ROI is very high on them! But before you head to IKEA and whip out the check book, keep in mind: Most displays for craft shows can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for very cheap, often less than $10, and can be spiffied right up with a coat of paint that matches your brand colors & given a new life as your display. My entire display cost less than $30! My table cloths are colorful sheets I found for less than $1 each, my tables were gifts from family, the shutters and shelves and racks all cost less than $5 total. So I cannot recommend visiting various thrift shops locally to find pieces to tie into your displays!

Ready to learn more about events? Read my article 20 Tips for Craft Shows to get more info on what you can do to make an event a success, including scouting events, building your display and what to take with you on the day of the event!

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Get Involved in your Community

Join your local small business association, join a local moms group, teach a class at your local library or community center, join a yoga class, go to a weekly event a venue near you hosts. Get out of your house, get offline and go meet real people in your area.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active locally to grow your online business. I’m in no way advocating telling everyone you meet about your business – please, don’t.

I’m advocating creating meaningful connections within your community. Get active. Meet people. Make authentic connections with other humans. Find people you relate to & get to know them – strike up conversations with people at the coffee house, volunteer at the animal shelter, join a class at your local college doing something you love, go to yoga in the park,. Find something you love to do, and connect with other people who love to do that as well.

For instance, I started a moms group here. I am also a member of a local home school group for my son. This has been an invaluable resource for me. Connecting with moms gives me a sense of belonging, helps me decompress when my online shop stuff stress me out – but also, spending time with people who happen to be my target audience has brought me numerous sales & even a wholesale opportunity from play date acquaintances and word of mouth! In any group setting the “what do you do” question comes up – and if you have perfected your elevator pitch, that is when you can create ties within the community that will revibrate points of contact back to you.

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The Spider Web Affect

Think of community involvement like a spiderweb. You are at the center of it, and every connection you make is a string that works to the outer circle. All of the connecting strings are people that they know, that knows someone else, that knows someone else. Every string you create, the bigger your web gets. Every time you pluck a string (initialize discussion about your online shop, products or what you do with a connection) the entire web connected to that string vibrates. It creates a ripple effect, with more and more people learning about your online shop & what you do through word of mouth and referrals.

Word of mouth is still considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and you can tap into that goldmine by becoming active in your local community & making authentic connections with other humans. This is not about telling people about your business. This is about creating a real connection, maybe even making friends, referring people to the connections you make, and strengthening community ties! A rising tide lifts all ships, and all that!

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Teach or Volunteer

One of the best ways to get your business out there is to share it! Here are some examples of how to use your trade skills to grow your online business while generating revenue or donating your time:

Jewelry makers: teach a simple workshop teaching Girl Scouts or home school children to make bracelets. Send the finished works home in bags with a coupon for your shop!

Potters: have a thumb print ornament making work shop. Have your other items out on display and let people know that they are available for purchase, or say maybe if they make a purchase they can make a second ornament for free. Get creative!

Toy makers: host an art hour for children at your local library. Put together goodie bags for the moms with your business info & a coupon, perhaps a small sample.

Artists: offer a wine & painting/creating session for women, and have an art print sale going during the event!

Fiber arts: offer basic skill classes at your local community center, and have finished products available for sale. In everyone’s kits, include promotional materials for your shops.

Clothing: put together a “party” at a local venue where people can shop your goods, try them on, and receive a swag bag with jewelry, gift cards, etc in it from local or other handmade businesses. Make it a fancy, exclusive event like those legging parties (you know the ones!) with food, fun & best of all, YOUR clothing! This would be a great way to collaborate with other local businesses to borrow their venue – maybe a jewelry boutique or a winery would be willing to let you host a party at their establishment and market it to their customer base.

Homework: set goals today!

Don’t put it off! Set some goals today – make a list of things you think you would like to do to grow your business offline. Then research ways to make those a reality, and start making some phone calls, turning in show applications or signing up for local events!

I would love to hear from you in the comments – how do you feel about growing your online business offline? Does it make your uncomfortable, or is it something that you are excited to try? If you already are active offline, share how in the comments, too!

2

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!

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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!

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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? 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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! 

 

 

5

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!

 

0

Made for kids, by a kid – Handmade Monster Scarves by Gauge!

One of my favorite things about homeschooling has been how Gauge has been able to pursue his passions & come up with new ways to learn on his own – like becoming an entrepreneur.

It all started last year, when he was still in school, and he told me about an idea he had for a monster product he wanted to make – kid size monster scarves with mouths for pockets to keep your hands warm while you wait on the bus, or between throwing snowballs. But with being in school, and then homework, we never had time to really suss it out. Over the summer, when we started homeschooling (since I was pregnant, we started in July to get a headstart for the inevitable break when she arrived and those days when we just wouldn’t feel like doing school work with a new baby in the house) he mentioned again his monster idea. A few weeks later, he sketched up a design and showed it to me, and we brainstormed how to convert it into an actual product.

Then the fun stuff started! His first prototype, he sewed the mouths in backwards. His second, he wasn’t happy with how the teeth were sewn into the mouths, and his third, he didn’t like his eye stitching. All part of the learning process. He got upset when he discovered how hard creating a new product from scratch was – but learned how to channel his frustration into action to resolve the issue at hand.

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By his next round of monster scarves, he had worked out pretty much all the kinks and was whizzing through a scarf or two a day!

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This was a great opportunity for many lessons, besides sewing. He learned about pricing for profit, structuring a sustainable business model around his products since they are seasonal, future planning, budgeting, measuring, graphing sales, targeting a demographic of potential customers, creating a marketing campaign, writing product copy, utilizing keywords to maximize SEO (search engine optimization), projecting ROI (return on investment), taxes and so much more. Skills he would most likely never have learned in public school, but that will aid him in a variety of professions. (plus taxes, why don’t they teach taxes in public schools?!)

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The end result? One proud, accomplished, educated, driven, hardworking, enthusiastic, passionate little person who isn’t afraid to follow his dreams, set goals, and is dedicated to working hard every day to make things happen and learn through life.

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Now, thanks to all his hard work, he is launching his first ever product line into the world at age 11 – kid size monster scarves! I listed them in my shop, and you can check out his work here. Thank you so much to everyone who cheered him on through social media as we posted photos of his progress – you have NO idea how happy you made him, how much you encouraged him, and how proud he is thanks to all of your support!

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2

Save with a snap!

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I thought long and hard about what sort of campaign I wanted to run this year to grow Lu & Ed. I knew I wanted it to be organic and authentic. I don’t like icky marketing campaigns where I feel like I am pushing pushing pushing products in everyone’s face. I don’t think anyone else likes those marketing campaigns, either.  I didn’t want to use a program to buy followers or pay to shove ads in everyone’s faces on social media. I didn’t want to pay a blogger to say they liked my products. I wanted something real.

I decided to create a campaign to connect with my customers, find out why Lu & Ed fans love their monsters, and have my products and previous customers speak for my brand & organically spread the word about it – a campaign that is perfectly authentic, raw and real. A campaign ran by real parents, aunts & uncles & grandparents  who have actually adopted a Mon-stor, Wall Monster or stuffie, a sensory blanket or library bag or any other product from me, while rewarding them for lending their voices & giving me their honest reviews.

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In an effort to drive authentic growth for my little monster making biz with this customer-led campaign, I’m asking my monster loving friends (you guys!) to help me out. If you have ever ordered from Lu & Ed, I’m asking you to simply post a photo explaining why you love your monster product to your personal Facebook or Instagram account. To reward everyone who takes the time spread the monster love, I’ll be distributing sweet, sweet 30% (the highest discount I EVER offer) off exclusive coupon codes, good for any single product in my shop, to everyone who creates a qualifying post! (details on qualifying posts below)

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To get your exclusive code, simply:

  1. Snap a well lit photo that shows off your monster product in use (extra virtual hugs from me if your kiddos are feeding their Mon-stors toys or playing with their stuffies in the photos!)
  2. Write a caption explaining why you love your monster(s). Posts must start with “We love our monster(s) from luanded.com because…” (In order to qualify for the discount, posts must have my URL luanded.com and not just my brand name, Lu & Ed. This makes it easier for people who aren’t familiar with my monsters to find them! Yay!)
  3. Once your post is up, screen shot it and email me a copy of the post to cody@luanded.com – easy peasy! I would say tag me, but private Facebook or Instagram accounts prevent me from being able to see tags or posts, so this is the most effective way to verify qualifying posts. You can still tag my page or Instagram account in your photo if you like, but in order to qualify for your exclusive 30% off code you must put the intro sentence “We love our monsters from luanded.com because…” AND email me a screen shot.

That’s it! Snap a photo, caption it with “We love our monsters from luanded.com because…”,  email me, receive exclusive coupon code! Super easy, huh?

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I am so stoked about this campaign and cannot wait to see what you guys come up with! ♥

Got questions, thoughts, ideas on how to make this customer-led campaign even better? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email! 🙂