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The Power of Polyvore – Why Makers Should be Collaborating with One Another + Other Tips

For today’s tip post, Beth of Wilde Designs is sharing how important collaboration with other makers & brands is, and how simple it is to increase your range & traffic to your shop by using Polyvore!

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We all love pretty things. Shiny things. We like to imagine that whatever we make will be part of a stunning collection of goods in a magazine someday. alongside larger known brands. 

The beauty of the internet is that we don’t have to wait and wonder what these beautiful collections might look like! There are so many ways to do gorgeous product collages, also known as “flatlays”, on the internet on our own, and so many ways to collaborate with other makers, designers & brands to make these collections go viral!

Why create a product collage? Not only do they allow our audience to see what our products might look like as part of a cute outfit or in a trendy room, it also lets us put ourselves alongside other larger known brands & makers that compliment our own products. Want your bohemian necklaces to be associated with Anthropolgie styles? Pair them with products from Anthro, headbands from your favorite hair accessory maker, a succulent planter from your favorite sculptor, and so on. Make sense? 

Why collaborate with other small shops? Small shops need each other. We can work together to get extra social reach, to find new customers, and to build each other’s brands and communities! Most importantly, the more brands you collaborate with, the greater possibility of your products going viral! Product collages are a fantastic way to encourage this! Not only do you build up other small shops, when you select items from big companies, you get extra exposure by tagging them in your posts and helping their audience find you & associate your products with that brand as well.

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My favorite avenue for creating quick, attractive product collages is Polyvore. Setting up an account is free, and you can add your products quickly and easily by installing the Polyvore Clipper button onto your browser. Navigate to the page of the item you want to add, click the button, and input the details.

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While you’re at it, add items from some of your favorite shops. You can even create a team of shops to create & share products from one another in various product collages, saving you a lot of work! For instance, if you sell necklaces, maybe you know someone who makes fantastic handbags or designs shirts that compliment your jewelry. Find a way to involve other sellers, and you both end up benefiting from the collection. When you’re building your product collage, you can search the items you’ve added or search all of Polyvore to find new things that match your brand’s style.

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Once you have selected your shops you want to work with & big brands you want people to associate your goods with, start building your collection and making it lovely. Polyvore lets you add text, borders, and other flourishes to spice things up. Even better? It works fabulously on desktop or mobile. Once you’ve created a flatlay, you can publish the set. You get the option to share it simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, and a lot of other platforms. Instant reach with minimal effort!

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Do yourself – and your brand – a favor and go play. You’ll never look back once you see how easily you can boost the visibility of your productss and collaborate with both the small and big box shops you’ve always wanted to work with!

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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!

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Meet the Maker – Beth of Wilde Designs: geeky greatness & fandom fun!

I am excited to kick off the week showcasing one of my favorite geeky girls & fandom makers, Beth of Wilde Designs! On top of creating a huge variety of goodies for all sorts of fandoms, Beth also have a really cool blog that geeks of all genres will enjoy, from cosplay galleries to fandom facts, her blog is one of my favorites to read!

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First up, tell readers all about yourself! Hobbies, location, interests, any degrees or job history that may help them relate to you if you want.

I’m a graphic designer both by education (I have a BFA from Texas Woman’s University) and by profession since that’s my day job. It also figures heavily into the things I make in my shop since I love to have a healthy dose of shirts and posters and other hand-designed goods along with the handmade. It’s all visual art to me, and it’s all fun in different ways.

I’m also a through and through Texan. I’ve lived her all my life except for a couple of years in Ohio. It’s a strange dichotomy in some ways because I’m pretty liberal, but I still really love my home state. I’m glad that I grew up here and that I’m getting to raise my son Pike (he’s six now!) here as well. We live in Denton, so we’ve got great local businesses and a lot of people interested in moving the community forward. It’s a beautiful thing.

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dragon scale earrings for GoT fans

When did you first begin creating jewelry and art?

I was too young when I started drawing and stringing beads onto whatever I could get my hands on to be entirely sure. I’ve always had a bit of the entrepreneurial bug. When I was around nine, I started calling my “company” Liz (short for my full name, Elizabeth) and selling super random items to my family. By high school I had refined things a little, and I sold stretchy bracelets in our team colors – under the table, of course, since we weren’t allowed to do that in school. I even made jewelry and buttons for Los Bastardos, the Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast my husband was on when we met. Eventually I realized that  not only was making and selling things something I could do but that I had already been doing it. That took some of the terror out of starting Wilde Designs.

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What initiated your interest in fandoms?

Part nature, part nurture. I grew up watching Star Wars and Star Trek, and I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up. When my best friend and I played, we pretended. Basically, I’ve always been an imaginative geek who loves enthusing about her geeky stuff with others. The advent of the internet in our household (we got our first taste of that as I was starting high school) opened up whole new worlds for me.

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You make a wide range of geeky goods – when did you first begin to combine your love of fandoms and your creativity?

I always have in art. If you look at my sketches and projects from high school, Xena pops up quite a few times. Then I started writing fan fiction, and it was officially part of my writing. I realized eventually that I could do the same thing with the jewelry I made. It seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but the idea of sharing my passions in that way didn’t strike me for years. I never really stopped to consider how many other people were just as excited about all my dorky passions as me.

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What is your favorite fandom/video game?

While I love gaming, I’m not a hardcore gamer girl. My sister probably takes the cake for gaming in our family. That said? When I have the time, I love to play World of Warcraft, Sims, and my friends recently talked me into purchasing Dream Daddy. Yes, I know, but it really is adorable. As for fandoms in general, I remain forever loyal to Star Wars and Xena, plus I’m adding new things all the time like Doctor Who (I didn’t start watching until “new” Who, though I’ve since watched a lot of the classics), Marvel (especially the cinematic universe, and especially Avengers and X-Men), and horror of many flavors and types, plus a healthy dose of fantasy and scifi in general.

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What are your thoughts on the new female Doctor?

I’ve put some real thought into it. Part of me is a purist and wonders if it’s being done arbitrarily just to do it. Most of me hopes that it really has been done because they cast for the very best person in the world for the job (which is how I think EVERYTHING should be hired for) and she’s it. I honestly won’t know how I feel about it or her until I see her on screen. I judge the Doctors as I get to know them not by their age or gender, so time will tell. Hearing all the hate that is based not on her ability or performance and only on her gender makes me really, really want her to be amazing.

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There is a huge community around geeky goodness – as a maker, how do you tap into that & build connections? (maybe use this as an opportunity to plug the geek girl pen pals or comic cons?)

Conventions are my absolute favorite way to grow my connections – admittedly, not just as a seller, but as a person. I love cons. I attended my first one for X-Files when I was around 11, and I’ve been going as often as I’m able ever since. Now when I go, I’m often selling, which is a whole new world. Talking to customers in person has been, even for an introvert like me, a really great experience overall. We chat, we geek out over things, and sometimes they buy something. I also get the chance to meet new sellers who are into the same things. Getting advice from other people in the con circuit has been an invaluable help to me not just for convention selling but for my business in general. I have a truly fantastic network of people behind me – and a lot of them are total geeks! Through one of my oldest geeky friends, Halo, I even ended up being on the planning committee for the Women of Wonder Con, which has been challenging and rewarding and a totally new thing for me.

​Do you make all your own cosplay costumes?​

No. I’m a gatherer. I thrive on finding the pieces I need on Amazon or in thrift shops or finding a great deal on a pre-made piece that will work perfectly. I often create the accessories from scratch, however. I have a particular fondness for making things out of foam and duct tape.

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​What/who has been your favorite thing to cosplay as? ​

Black Widow was my first “big” cosplay. I had done Dr. Horrible before, but I didn’t sweat the details quite as much as I did for Black Widow. I went all out for that one, and I even lost weight to feel more comfortable in the costume. Even though I’ve put together some fabulous new cosplays since then, I think she’ll always have the biggest place in my heart both because it was such a big undertaking for me to get the confidence to portray her and because the reception I got was overall so positive.

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Do you have any advice or tips for makers who want to begin selling at cons?

While we all want to hide behind our booths and not look up sometimes, it’s important to connect with people. Say hi, chat with them, and make a connection. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale immediately, it might long-term, and it will definitely make you and the customer happier. The second thing that’s key is making use of the people around you. Talk to other sellers, look at their goods. If you love their display, say so. Ask questions and exchange cards. When you need a quick break to go to the bathroom later in the day and you’ve already been talking comics with the person next to you, it’s a lot easier to ask them to keep an eye on your goods.

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​Your entire family is in on the geeky-love – what is your son’s favorite video games/TV shows?

My son can’t get enough Overwatch and World of Warcraft right now. He’s also a big Minecraft fan. Our whole family watches Steven Universe and Adventure Time together – we even cosplayed as Rose Quartz, Greg Universe, and Stevonnie earlier this year. I’m so glad he’s got the geek bug too so we can all have fun with it together!

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​And a serious question to wrap up this interview – Star Trek or Star Wars?

Both. Star Trek (the original series) came first for me, but in the end I probably have a deeper obsession with Star Wars.

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Isn’t Beth & her geeky gang so fun?! You can visit Beth’s shop here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram & Facebook because she is constantly posting fun geeky games, conversation starters and of course peeks at new products!

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How to set up product collections on the homepage of your custom Storenvy shop

One of the greatest things about Storenvy (besides being free!) is the insane amount of customization you can do to make your website look amazing with no HTML knowledge. And if you do have HTML or CSS knowledge, the possibilities are endless, because Storenvy gives you free range with it’s custom website builder!

Today, I’m doing a quick tutorial about turning on Collections, which turns your home page into a photo gallery, and buyers can just click over to each product category to shop! This is super easy peasy to do if all of your products are already sorted into collections by type of product or theme.

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Example of my shop with Collections feature turned on

First, you will need to create images sized appropriately for the collection images. They will need to be 210×315. This is the most time intensive part of the entire process. You want to make sure the images you select best represent your brand and that product line, fit in with the branding & colors of your website & display the products fully.

Then, you will go to Admin > Products >Collections, and upload each image to the appropriate collection, like so.

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Then, you will go to Admin > Storefront > Theme and scroll down towards the bottom of quick customization options, until you see “Featured Collection”. Select “None”, hit save & ta-da – you’ve done it!

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Pop over to your custom website through Storenvy & check it out. You may find you need to tweak some images for sizing.

 

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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!