"All I do is work, work, work, work, work." When I do markets, people will look at all of my creations and often say, "wow, you must do this full-time?" Sadly no, but I'll get there one day! I have a full-time job, a freelance job, and my crochet business. I'm on the go around the clock, there's always something that needs to get done, and for some reason, I freaking love it. I know I won't always the time to work this much, so I'm taking advantage of the time available now. There's a lot to be said for hard work and it's something I truly value.
The mornings are my favorite time of day. My other half is still sleeping, so I get the quiet house all to myself. The alarm goes off at 4:25 Monday through Friday, and I immediately roll over to my phone in anticipation of seeing a new online sale that was received overnight. Eh, it's 50-50, not always there, but great when it is. When there's not an order to pack up, my first stop (after coffee) is plundering through emails from my freelance job. About 8 years ago, I started writing grants for non-profits. I'm happy to have worked for a lot of great organizations over the years and now I've found myself doing it on a freelance basis. It's wonderful. Though I spend my full-time job in the world of marketing, I love that I still have an opportunity to write and research grants. It's such fulfilling work. Most mornings, until 7:10, you can catch me doing this. I'm usually home by 4:15 from my full-time job and the grant writing and crochet continue from there until I crash at 9:30.
Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of days when I'm caught up on grant projects and get to indulge in yarn in the mornings. Like today, for example! I turn the tube to MSNBC and catch up on all of the craziness in the world while I crochet. I've got a few Hank the Hippos to make for my upcoming market in 3 weeks, need to update my website with product listings, need to make little preemie hats to donate, and stock up on "donuts." I love writing grants, but I probably love mornings like these better. I feel genuine excitement when I wake up knowing I have the next 2.5 hours to crochet and work on the business. Like they say, "When you do something you love, it doesn't feel like work." Ahh yes, it's so true. My mind is constantly on the go. "Okay, checked that off the list, now what's next?" But gosh I love it. It's even more rewarding that I can afford life with all of these gigs. My fiance and I have a chalkboard of savings goals in the kitchen and it's exciting to watch it grow. Hard work pays off, in more way than one.
In January I felt the need to make this post on my Facebook page. About 80% of my business is stuffed animals, I think it's what people want to see the most and I don't blame them; they're unique and adorable! About 6 months ago I got approved to sell on Amazon and it wasn't until November that it picked up. The Christmas season was amazing! My phone *dinged* multiple times a day with orders for mug hugs, can cozies, and coffee cup sleeves; everyday I was going to the post office with a bag of packages. It was a feeling I had only dreamed about before and there it was happening. The ONLY drawback was, stuffed animals got put on hold. It was two months of making orders as they came in because I went through all of my inventory and another month of restocking. For three months there was no Gary the Gator, Henry the Horse, or Sheldon the Sheep. I felt like I was letting down my social media following, assuming they'd rather see horses than mug hugs. It was bittersweet. It's now February, drink clothes are stocked up and I'm ready to get back in the saddle of stuffed animals! If you love something enough, you'll make it work. Always.
"I promise I'm getting back to stuffed animals very very soon! Since Thanksgiving, my sales on Amazon have been an all-consuming mix of mug hugs, can koozies and doughnuts (which is awesome, of course!), but I'm only one person and working 2 other jobs in addition to the business. So needless to say, I've been playing catch up! My goal is to get a full stock of these three items before entering the animal kingdom! "
To Shop on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2jz04sG
Some of the animals I make have deeper meaning than others. Like horses, for example, they fill a sweet spot inside for this very reason....
Though not as bad as it sounds, from ages 5 to 10, my life consisted very much of horse manure. Mom was a horseback rider and only naturally, my older sister, Carla, became one too. I tagged along most days and eventually rode myself, but it was never my specialty. At least three days/week and sometimes the weekends, we would pile in the Oldsmobile and make the 40 minute drive to the barn on Lady’s Island. I sat in the backseat with the cooler of snacks and counted cars to pass the time. It was boring, but I made the best of it. The car tunes were an excellent collection of Herman’s Hermits, Petula Clark and The Supremes; we were truly a golden oldie family. I would sing along in my head to “Crimson and Clover” while playing a handheld version of Wheel of Fortune and eating Dunkaroos; it was a typical Wednesday afternoon.
Upon opening the car door, an overwhelming smell of horse manure, stall shavings and hay bales would knock you off your feet. Ah yes, we had arrived. The series of events rarely changed; get Pistol out of the pasture, walk him to his stall, brush him all over, pick his hooves, soak him in fly spray, saddle him up and head out to the riding ring. Admittingly, I was not much help. Mom and Carla did most of this themselves while I moseyed around the barn, eating sugar cubes and hanging out with Buttercup and Willy, the miniature pony and donkey that served as the stable’s mascots.
Pistol joined the family in 1993. His full name was Pistol Patrick; Mom has a thing for animals and middle names. You could say he was my brother from another mother. This goofy, uncoordinated quarter horse was loveable as can be, but had a crooked trot and tripped on his own two feet at the drop of a hat. It was for this reason I was scared to ride him. If he tripped, he followed it up with a buck. It was our belief that he felt embarrassed for tripping and played it off by bucking his way out of it. We've all been there! Carla was fearless on him though; he respected her more than anyone and they called each other their own.
During her riding lessons, I often wandered off. Climbing to the top of dirt piles, skipping in the pastures alongside horses that were not interested in trotting along, walking through the woods where a small group of us barn kids would gather, or sitting in the car doing homework while listening to Donna Lewis’ I Love You Always Forever. They sound silly and boring I'm sure, but I miss these afternoons at the barn. I miss the smell, the people, the horses, going to shows; it was all I knew for such a long period of time. So what am I getting at here? Nothing besides I love crocheting horses! They are and have always been my favorite animal, and turning them into yarn is probably the coolest thing ever :)
Three months ago I decided to self-publish a children's book about one of my handmade characters. I spent 3 days writing rhymes, the next month teaching myself how to use Adobe Illustrator, the following month editing with family, and the last month making final touches and of course, hippos! Today is the day I get to share this labor of love with you and I could not be more thrilled. It's exciting to see this idea come to fruition, but it is more exciting to know that you can truly do anything you set your mind to!
What better way to enjoy story time than with the star of the book!? This one-of-a-kind bundle will make the perfect gift for a birthday or baby shower. The self-published children's book, "Do You Know Hank the Hippo?" was written, illustrated and printed by me, and the plush hippo was crocheted by me as well. Your child will learn about Hank the Hippo while hugging Hank the Hippo!
Bundle Includes: - "Do You Know Hank the Hippo?" Book (8.5" x 8.5")
- Crocheted Hank the Hippo Plush Toy (7" tall)
- Mini Canvas Tote Bag (8.75" x 2.5" x 8.25")
The utmost quality was infused into the creation of the book and the stuffed hippo, “Hank” which is crocheted with acrylic yarn and stuffed with poly-fil.
Buy Me Here :)
I say becoming because I'm not one yet. My dream job was always to be a writer. I want to buy a cozy cabin in the woods, wake up early to drip coffee, a candle and write to my heart's content. When I discovered this rare and random crochet talent four years ago, I never thought it could lead me to achieving this dream, but one month ago I had an "ah ha" moment. I thought to myself, "If you want to be a writer, then BE a writer! Take action and WRITE!" I look over to my tub of handmade stuffed animals and realized I had this incredible subject matter to write about. When I thought about being a writer, a children's book author never came to mind....until now. I've always envisioned these adorable crochet characters coming to life when I leave the room, so why not illustrate it in a book! They all have different names and personalities, and they all have a story to tell. I'm going to let the world know who they are, where they come from and what they love about life.
I started that day. The first book would be about Hank the Hippo, he was the first animal I ever made (successfully) and thought, wow, I'm onto something here. He not only looked like a hippo, but a very cute one. He was later featured in Times Square on the day Michaels went public (story here!), so I had a special connection with Hank to say the least. I took my dog for a long walk that afternoon and started brainstorming, "Hank the Hippo goes to school, Hank the Hippo is super cool," ok jot that one down. I typed ideas into a notepad on my phone as we trotted along. By the end of the dog walk, I had half the book written. By the end of the next day, the entire book was written. By the start of the third day, I purchased Adobe Illustrator and taught myself how to use it. I was not only going to write this book, but illustrate it too. By Noon that day, Hank the Hippo was a cartoon.
What will make this book unique is that I plan on including a handmade Hank the Hippo WITH the book. The idea is that the child will be holding Hank while they're mom or dad read them the story. "So that Hank on those pages that loves playing tennis is the same Hank that I'M holding!?" I think it could be a really special gift to GIVE and a special gift for a child to receive. I'm one month into this journey and 90% done. I've "hired" my mom and sister to be editors and plan on self-publishing within the next couple of weeks. At 30 years old, my dream of being writer will come to fruition and I'm incredibly excited and thankful for that :)
The first step in learning how to crochet is how to make a slipknot. This is what gets your crochet hook started and secured around the yarn, then you'll be ready to pursue all your crochet desires!
Step 1: Lay the yarn over (we'll call this Y1) your two fingers in your left hand so that the end of the yarn (we'll call the end of yarn Y2) is facing away from you.
Step 2: Bring the yarn tail (Y2) toward you and put it over Y1, making sure it is in front.
Step 3: Pull the yarn tail (Y2) through the loop, like tying your shoe.
Step 4: Pull Y2 through the circle
Step 5: Then tighten to form the loop
Step 6: Put your crochet hook through the loop with the hook facing you
Step 7: Push the knot upward slightly to make sure the yarn is hooked on nice and snug, but not too tight.
And viola! You're ready to go!
Since starting my crochet business almost four years ago, I've learned some valuable lessons; some the hard way! Everything from photos to SEO to bookkeeping, there is so much to learn along the way. It takes time more than anything, but if you're willing to put in the work, you can really be successful in the online market! My hope is that I can help you learn these lessons before you hit a wall. So these are my top 5 must haves to successfully operating an online craft business!
1) PHOTOS: Single-handedly, the most important aspect to selling online. Since you don't have the fortune of someone being able to touch your product, you have to convey its beauty and functionality in pictures. My items are colorful so I went with a white background, it really makes the products pop and the consistency of the white background makes the shop look clean, crisp and organized. The best part is, I bought my background for $1.00 at CVS/Pharmacy. I went to the office supplies section and got a flimsy white poster board, and viola! The poster board sits on a couch in the craft room and between 4:00 and 5:00 I get great natural light from the window. If I can't take a photo during that time, I just take the poster board and products on the front porch, the natural light is great most anytime of the day if you're outside. Keep the placement of your products consistent too so that the only difference your customers see in each listing is the product itself. If your products are all light colored and it'd be difficult to see them against a white background, I'd suggest buying a photo backdrop from NorthernDrops, and Etsy shop that has some amazing backdrops!
2) SEO: When I started the business, I didn't even know what this stood for. Search Engine Optimization is an integral part of operating online. All of those keywords in your tags, titles and product descriptions are key to being seen. The goal is to get your products in page one of search results, as customers rarely look past the first page. I tried two strategies for this. The first strategy is specific to Etsy, give this a try. In the search box on the home page, type in ONE word about your product and see what pops up in the drop down menu. That menu that appears are the most popular search terms from customers and often what they will click on first. For example, when I posted my crocheted monkey, I went to the search bar and typed in "monkey" - a few rows down I saw "stuffed monkey." Perfect! That shows me that people are searching for stuffed monkey and that if I put those two words (in that order) in my title, tag, and description, my monkey will fit into those search results. The second strategy is asking for help! There are SEO experts out there that are more than willing to help. Personally, I like using TheGirlWorks, an Etsy shop run by Lorie Folk. She is super helpful and has a great turnaround time! I got to revise one of my listings and I then applied it to my other similar listings. She knows keywords that I wouldn't have thought of on my own and my page views have increased!
3) NETWORK: Ever feel like everyone else is making sales and you're the ONLY person on Earth that isn't? I've been there too! Then I discovered Flourish, an online group of e-commerce experts. Everyone that joins has been where you are, everyone is looking for more page views and more sales. It's great to be in a group where everyone is working together for a common goal. It's a month-to-month subscription for $14.99/month. I decided to join for 3 months to see what I got out of it and WOW, I got a lot! It's worth every penny. If you're serious about turning your hobby into a business, this is a great place to start. A small tid bit I learned, set all of your pricing to end in .99 so change that $30 to $29.99!
4) SOCIAL MEDIA: I rarely use social media to talk to friends anymore, it's all business! I can't imagine having an online business or any business for that matter without social media. I get so much traffic to my shop just from a few tweets. PS - It's all about the hashtags! The right hashtags will get your product in front of the right people, especially on Twitter, where you can add the link to your shop within the tweets. Here are some goodies that I've learned along the way! Good hashtags for Twitter: #handmadewithlove #epiconetsy #bestofetsy #shopping #musthave #craftshout #crafting #etsy #handmade #homeinthestudio #hands&hustle #etsysocial #etsymntt ... Good hashtags for Instagram: #handmade #entrepreneur #smallbusiness #smallbiz #crafts #craftbuzz #diy #buylocal #shopsmall #etsypreneur #handcrafted... On Sunday evenings, I go to my Hootsuite to set up my posts for the week ahead; you can choose "Auto Schedule" so that it posts at optimal times. Good hashtags for Crochet: #crochet #crocheting #crochetaddict #crochetlove #crochetersofinstagram #instacrochet #amigurumi #yarn #yarnaddict #crocheter
5) BOOKKEEPING: This is not my specialty, but GoDaddy Bookkeeping makes me feel like I know what I'm doing! It allows you to sync with your Etsy shop, Amazon shop, bank accounts, etc. any online accounts really. All you have to do is create the income and expense categories you need. It tracks the Sales Tax Collected that you'll owe your state and it tracks your Estimated IRS Payments. Very helpful tool!
So those are my top 5! I hope you find these useful in your journey to build an online craft business, please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions!
Ever since Throwback Thursday became a thing, I've been anxious to share my humble crochet beginnings. I'll never forget the night I started. I could barely contain my excitement when I arrived home after work in October 2012 with my Crochet Beginners Kit from Michaels. Accompanying the kit, was a $1.99 skein of coral colored cotton yarn that I was ready to make practice scraps with. (PS - Cotton yarn is NOT the best yarn to learn with!)
And so it began, I opened the CD drive on my laptop and put in "Crochet for Beginners" DVD tutorial. I hadn't picked up a crochet hook yet, but I knew this was going to my "thing." God blessed me with an abundance of drive and ambition so I knew I was going to practice, practice, practice until I figured it out. And that I did... I had to pause the DVD several times to figure out how to make the basics: slip knot, chain, and single crochet stitch. My first creation was (because I like practical things) a bookmark. I had to give it it purpose, considering the hours it took to complete.
My next discovery was the double crochet, which was a larger stitch; it's looser, but you can make things faster with double than a single crochet stitch. It was a cold October when I started, so my first thought was a scarf. It's a straight line, I could handle that, right? I sat in my red moon chair on a Sunday afternoon with NFL games in the background and made that darn scarf. It took 5 hours, nonstop. I don't think I'd ever focused on something so intently in my entire life.
It was 2 months before Christmas, and once I realized just how long everything took to make (especially as a beginner), I knew I had to start preparing for Christmas NOW. So I did. My 5:30am alarm turned into a 4:30am alarm and my bed time changed from 9:30pm to 10:30pm. I was going to do everything I could to pay off my Christmas gifts through time, and I needed all of those two months to do so.
The third discovery was how to make a circle. This took the longest to figure out. I desperately wanted to learn how to make koozies to give my sister and her husband for Christmas. On good weather days, I would even take my lunch break from work to crochet in parking lots! I was determined. My koozies have come a very long way from those lunch break practice sessions. This post would take days to go thru if I highlighted all of the "ah ha" moments, so I'll revert to photos.
And don't forget the animals of course, which is 80% of my current inventory! It all started with a strange looking pig, a scary slug, then a teddy bear named Terrance. Each one got better and better. I realized this could be it, this could be the product that stands out from the others. I was going to sell handmade stuffed animals...and one day, someone would like them. When I stand in my booth on Saturday mornings today and watch kids get their first Simply Hooked animal and walk away with bursting smiles, I can't help but think, "Wow, it actually happened." It's so rewarding to know where it started and where it's come in just 3 years.
I'll never forget my first correct circle, first straight line, or day I figured out that you can only use cotton yarn on kitchen items because acrylic yarn melts! Who would've thought? It's fun to look back and see the humble beginnings of items I've now perfected and give me hope for a flourishing business one day. You have to start somewhere! And in case you were wondering how Christmas went that year, you could say my sister and her husband ended up with more yarn in that one day than possibly their entire life.
Ever since I entertained the idea of a crochet business, my friends and family often asked, "What happens when you 'hit it big?' How would you keep up with demand if it's only you?" This usually went in one ear and out the other because A) I never thought it would happen and B) If it did, it would be a great problem to have. I wouldn't say I've "hit it big" by any means, but I recently faced my first inventory crisis and I was stumped.
In January I started selling at weekend markets, which has been a huge success. My inventory started off with 40 animals, I would sell a handful at each market and had two weeks before my next market to make up for any inventory that sold. Not a problem. In April, I tried out a new market and had my best day yet; doubled my sales and had a couple custom orders. My next market wasn't until 3 weeks later so again, I had time to make more animals. Not a problem. Well the market that was 3 weeks later was an even better day; quadrupled my sales! But toward the end of the day, when I had an hour left, I was in a bit of a panic. My table was starting to look empty, I rearranged a few things to fill in space, and then had a few more sales. Great news of course! But it was quickly followed by a gut wrenching feeling..."wait a minute," I thought...I had another market to attend 6 days later, I had to drop off a few animals at a consignment shop a week after that, I had 3 custom orders due that month and then I had this same market in 4 weeks. How on earth am I going to make enough animals!?
Most people that come by my booth often comment, "You made ALL of these? Wow you must have a lot of time!" (Sigh) I don't, I really don't. I work full-time in a non-crochet related field and commute 2 hours round trip to get there each day. All of these animals are made during nights and weekends. It's all about time management. This business is my passion so I make it work the best I can. If the family sits down to watch a movie, I'm crocheting on the couch. If we're cooking dinner together, I'm crocheting at the table after something goes in the oven. Road trips and air travel...you know it (most productive!) Gotta find time where you can! Each animal takes between 2 and 8 hours, depending on its size so I have to be strategic with what I make. During the inventory crisis, for example, I made a lot of small animals for the sake of filling up space.
If I ever have the opportunity to pursue this full-time, I'll have the time to make it work without panic, but until then, this is how it's going to be. There are so many other avenues I want to include in the business like writing and selling patterns, creating a pattern book, build my homespun yarn inventory, learning how to sew clothes for animals as add-on options, making tutorial videos, and contacting a slew of baby stores and yarn shops to inquire about consignment. As much as I want to pursue all of these things, I only have enough time to focus on market inventory.
So back to the dilemma... During those 6 days before my next market, I had to A) Make as many animals as I could and B) Hope that it's a slow day (which I would NEVER hope for on a regular day, but I needed to savor as much inventory as I could). I could've cancelled, but I would've lost the fee I paid for the space and the entrepreneur in me just couldn't pass up an opportunity to sell. What a blessing that day became, I was able to start making two animals in between customers and it was, as I hoped, a slow day. I was at peace that I didn't cancel, it was well worth going. My next focus was animals for the consignment shop. Once I finished those and dropped them off, I completed the custom orders I received during the week, and THEN I was able to focus completely on preparing for next big market. With 3 days to go before the market, I finally feel ready.
My long-term dream is to build enough inventory that I can have a wall shelf of cubbies to organize the different animals; 10 elephants, 10 giraffes, 10 pigs, etc. And be able to pull from the wall before each market, knowing I'll always have inventory back home so I don't face another crisis; it's just going to take a lot of time to build it up. I could use the help, yes, but believe it or not, I have a hard time convincing my 20-something-year-old friends to learn how to crochet! ;) My mother says she's open to learning at our family vacation this summer, so who knows, maybe it'll be a family business one day. Until then, it's a one woman show and I'm loving every minute!