Sunday, 16 February 2014

Guest Post from LaLau Land

Wow, life suddenly got extremely and almost unimaginably busy here.  Luckily I had the lovely Laura from LaLau Land happily (I hope) recruited to share a guest post about her Etsy shop.  I love her attitude towards her business and the story that she's written for EmmaMade readers about how it's evolved. Do pop over there and have a look, it has  range of cheerful, quirky handmade items including handmade cat toys!  


Hello EmmaMade Readers!  It's great to be here today, and many thanks to you, and our talented hostess, for having me.

My name is Laura Weiller, and in 2011, I began blogging at LaLau Land, though I'd been a blogger long before that.  I discuss my various crafts, our 5 sweet pets, minimalism, and of course, life {in no specific order}.  This year, I am working to make changes at my blog and within my Etsy shop, which I hope my readers will be a part of.  I've received so much support from my fellow bloggers and crafters, even just recently; it's amazing. 

Also in 2011, I decided to try my hand at building a craft business.  I should mention that math is my mortal enemy; ever mocking me.  So when I saw Etsy's listing fees, and percentage of money they take from each sale, I panicked.  I think I even cried.  My husband and I haven't had the most stellar financial history throughout the bulk of our marriage; and I've had no success seeking work, leaving him the sole provider.  I desperately wanted, and needed this to work in our favor.

As one might imagine, recklessness never bodes well for a shop.  To prove this, I gave rushing it a fair shot.  I quickly photographed my best work, slapped on descriptions I hoped would draw customers; I may have even pulled a price out of a hat.  Real magic trick stuff.  I proudly surveyed my shop, and awaited my millions.  Of course, not much happened. 

Before we continue, it is important to note, while I may be a long-time crafter and blogger, I am far from reaching "old pro" status.  I've not been selling long, and haven't sold much at all.  I struggle and over-analyze the mole-hill questions.  These generally range from wondering about postage fees to freaking out about how much stock I might need -- it's difficult balancing crafting alongside minimalist values.  I've been at this for years now, and some folks think I should have it all together.  It takes time to build, grow, and develop anything, so I don't let all those "shoulds" get me down. 

On a personal level, my shop is coming together out of a desire to show others the simple beauty of handmade.  I'm a romantic, serenaded by the values of a time long ago, before we rushed life and replaced everyone's best work; often with {forgive me} impersonal store-bought smut.  Nothing handmade is "cheap", but a quality crafted item will pay for itself many times over.  I've never had anyone complain about my prices before - but until recently I didn't even know what overhead was or that it was okay to tack an hourly wage onto my products.  According to most craft seller guides and formulas, I should be charging much more than I'm likely to ever ask. Moral of the story?  We all need to earn a living, but it is up to us to draw a line between fair earnings and asking too much.

This year, my shop will feature seasonal items rather than an everything-all-at-once approach.  I am also further opening up to the creative community and sharing certain talents I otherwise wouldn't have thought to use in this capacity.  I've spent so much time worrying that I didn't have a specific-to-me niche.  As my business floundered, I've kept my drawings and love of repetitive paper-projects mostly to myself.  So, the first new item for 2014 will be {almost} completely customizable stationery sets with hand-drawn / handwritten stickers.  I'm inspired by a love of simple things and amazed by how much I have taken for granted over the years. 

When my cat, Twitter lost his favorite fetching mouse and I couldn't replace it right away, I toyed with yarn and a combination of a couple crochet patterns and ended up with a huge toy rat that even Gingy {our puppy} loves.

I've patterned scarves, boot cuffs, and fingerless gloves to suit my tastes.  The icing on the cake is that I'm great at designing documents for office use, so I created my own pricing roster, complete with formulas so math doesn't kick my -- Etsy.

My favorite crafting moments are those when a discovery is made out of imagined necessity.  Last year, I started putting together floor cushions.  When they're done, not only will they work as cushions, but in the right situation, could piece together a full sofa.  My husband later learned about pallet furniture and that wooden pallets are often free or cheap.  This led to my researching building furniture out of pallets.  We are so excited, and hope our inspiration eventually leads to our being able to work together - who knows, maybe one day LaLau Land will be a family business.

My advice to craft sellers new and old alike

1.  Appreciate - As craftspeople, we can be very hard on ourselves.  Take some time to truly appreciate your own work.  Be honest about it.  Pretend for a moment that someone else did it and ask yourself how you feel about it before you demean, belittle, or undervalue it.

2.  Ask - Don't be afraid to speak to the rest of the blogging / shop owner community about any questions or problems you may have.  Be forewarned that (especially if using a forum) you may end up suffering informational-overwhelm.  I recommend giving yourself at least a week to process new ideas and thoughts brought up in a forum.

3. Know You - Be honest with yourself about yourself.  There is no exactly correct, 100% proven way to gain a following and customer base.  Knowing yourself helps to get to know your product, which should make it a bit easier to sell.  I never thought to use my drawings or handwriting, both of which are unique to me, because I was too busy looking for an exclusive niche to validate myself.  It was there the whole time...

4.  Don't Shy or Spook - At the risk of repeating #2, please don't be shy.  I'm shy and occasionally awkward until I get to know someone, or feel we clicked from the start.  It's difficult for me to clearly verbalize my questions.  I love helping people whenever I can, so here's an open invite to email me anytime.

5.  Reality vs. Wishes - Wishes are dreamy things.  I wish I could pull off being a famous singer, and my husband says I have the voice for it.  But the reality is that while I love singing, it just wouldn't be fun for me if it became a full-time job, or if I had to fight for my right to not have fireworks, LEDs, and so on.  The reality is that I get my jollies from making simple things, singing in the moment, dancing when the mood strikes, and making Youtube videos with my besties.  My advice is to relax.  Reality is worth the ah-ha moment upon discovery.

You've been wonderful.  Thank you all for this oppotunity to share today. I like leaving readers with a brief encouragement:  Whatever you're doing, it's beautiful.  Go work it. ~_<3


I am so grateful to Laura for taking the EmmaMade reins for a while.  Do check her out elsewhere on our wonderful interweb.

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