State of the Biz: “How do you decide what to blog about?”

One topic in particular that seems to never bore me is on the business side of blogging and handmade shop ownership. And when I think about it, this topic goes back to the beginning roots of my blog. For this very reason I’m inspired to introduce a new series, State of the Biz: blog & handmade shop. Inside each post a reader question will be featured and answered. I’m really excited about this and how it will allow us to dive even deeper into a multitude of business topics. Yeow!

Every time I reflect on why I truly love blogging I come back to this: I thrive on community and the personal encouragement that swells from it. This is going to be a really fun series to write, no doubt. Do you have a topic suggestion for this series? Perfect. Either leave a comment below or send me an email.

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Q: I think I want to start a blog. Of course I love to read other’s blogs, and I enjoy writing and taking photos. My problem is I’m not sure what my blog should be about. How did you decide when you first started blogging? And does your blog cover the same content as it did originally? –Jamie

A: Ahhh, this is a fantastic question! And one I have two ways of thinking to consider when deciding what exactly to blog about.

The first is to think of your blog as your dream job. If you could blog about any favorite topic(s), what would you pick to write about?

Some questions to ask yourself… What topics encourage you to continue learning? What topics do you already have a lot of knowledge on? What topics are underdeveloped, but you feel should be more developed? What topics are easy for you to share because you are passionate about them? One of the beauties about blogging is you are totally in charge of your blog. No one else is in charge — you’re the boss lady! :) Here are a couple other questions to consider… What don’t you want to blog about (what is off-limit, for any reason)? What topics drain your energy?

The second way of thinking is to grab a piece of paper and work through a simple brainstorming exercise. One you have some paper and a pen, write down all possible/realistic topics that come to mind. Be sure to leave a few spaces between every topic as you list them out on paper. Once you have exhausted all possible topics for your blog, review what you’ve written down. Consider the questions I’ve typed above as you review your topic list. Your goal is to have a list of master topis with subtopics written beneath. The more realistic subtopics you can write down the better, because you know you can cover that topic for many, many posts. You can either rearrange your original list to create subtopics or you can add subtopics under the topics you originally wrote down, whatever makes the most sense.

Something else to consider is creating a series (short or long term) on a specific topic. Creating a series can help you decide on whether a topic should stick around or get booted.

Spend some time defining your blog’s purpose. Is it to teach others, to encourage, to provide updates on a personal project, etc.)? Whatever you decide for your purpose know your blog is firstly for you. Don’t start a blog for anyone but yourself. I consider my blog a lifestyle blog and cover the topics of inspiration, adventures, family and blog/handmade encouragement. Also, when I write my posts I write as though I’m talking to a friend, since that matches my blog’s purpose the best. Maybe it is better for your written voice to have a more professional voice, but be sure to know and maintain your voice at all times when writing. Defining your purpose and knowing your voice will help you maintain momentum as the months and years pass.

If you need additional encouragement on what to blog about, consider asking your family and closest of friends — those that know you the best and you trust their feedback. But keep in mind, they may suggest a topic that you really don’t want to blog about (like baking, for example) — even if you are amazing at it and enjoy it very much. Maybe baking is something best reserved as a personal stress reliever instead of a “dream job blog topic”. If any topic suggested is going to exhaust you, like I mentioned above, kindly accept their suggestion but know you don’t have to consider it once the conversation is over.

Jamie’s last question asks whether my blog content is the same today as it was when I originally started blogging (in 2008), and I’d say “yes”. Although I have developed certain master topics over the years, and others have ebbed and flowed in frequency. There are a few particular life events that have helped shape my post content: starting a handmade business, traveling to Tanzania, Africa, and having a baby (with a second baby on the way!), and it’s been interesting to watch things unfold. I think I was personally most surprised that having a baby would encourage me to slow down with my work, because blogging has always fueled me in great ways. But I think what I’ve learned is to be OK with the seasons of life and how my work fits into all of that. I’ve recently decided to slow down with my work and being an owner of two handmade shops, but ironically it’s fueled me in grander ways with my blog — like better blog posts, consistent and long-standing inspiration, and greater overall personal satisfaction. Sometimes the less you put a limit or expectation on something the more it can (naturally) bless you.

So that’s my response! Kinda a bit to digest, but ultimately know you’re the boss lady (you can make any changes you want), maintain your momentum by writing about topics that inspire you, and think of your blog as your dream job — enjoy it! :)

Have a “State of the Biz” post question for me? Leave a comment below or send me an email!

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How to design a handmade shop: the story behind Caroline-made.

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It took me two years to make this shop happen. Does that sound a little bit crazy to you? I’ll be honest: it sounds a big bit crazy to me. Part of me thinks that two years is way too long, what was I possibly doing all this time while waiting to launch Caroline-made?

Well for one, launching a handmade shop has it’s scary moments. I mean, more often than not I’m putting a big part of who I am as an individual into the products inside my shop. When I started Gussy Sews I was very much into exactly how those products looked. And ruffles? Ruffles everywhere, please.

But what I’ve learned over the years is that it’s the easiest to design an item to sell that I’ll use on a regular basis because it will serve me so much better. So Gussy ruffles made perfect sense. A few things have changed since then: we’ve moved twice (Minneapolis and Los Angeles), we traveled around the world to Africa, and we welcomed our firstborn into our arms.

How to design a handmade shop // Maggie Whitley Designs

With all of these exciting changes it’s only natural that what I look for in a bag or organizational pouch has changed, too. It’s not that I don’t like Gussy ruffles, it’s that the aesthetic/design of Caroline-made serves me better.

Do you own a handmade shop? How can your products serve you to be the best designer and seller of your wares?

[Read more…]

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I’m teaching a video course on business! Join me?

Remember when I said 2014 was my year to be brave? I’ve been stretching myself in crazy huge ways and just yesterday I launched my second handmade shop, Caroline-made. I kinda feel like I just had a baby, it was so much work (months and months of preparation and late nights) but this launch has inspired me to unbelievable depths. Caroline is my middle name and the 16 products inside our Spring 2014 collection are pure gold.

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It’s incredibly exciting to have the courage to say “yes” to opportunities that reach deep into our souls. Wow. And to think I could have ignored my Caroline-made daydreams. I would have missed out on something so great.

Do you ever feel like you’re missing out on something so great because you’re afraid to say yes? Dear friend, it’s time to be brave.

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In just a few days I’ll be co-teaching an online video course on turning your hobby into a business. This is another way I’ve been brave this year. On Tuesday the 25th of February, Cassie and I will chat for an hour and I’m so excited! :) And you get to watch!

You can sign-up for the video course here, and to make this opportunity even sweeter you can save $50 on registration when you use discount code LAUNCHIT at checkout.

Being brave is super hard, and I will not skirt around that. But whenever I think about the things that scare me (challenge, motivate, inspire me) I instantly think about how I’d feel if I didn’t follow through — and that is even scarier!

One day it all clicked for me: instead of watching & wishing (sitting idle) we should be focusing on acting & accomplishing (tackle those goals!). Another reason why I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my iPhone.

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When I started my first handmade business, Gussy Sews, in 2008 I was so brave. Very little distracted me from chasing after my daydreams. I was (and felt) courageous and I had a great support system. I think one big factor to my braveness was how unaware I was… I didn’t fully realize how much energy, late nights working, creativity, and persistence was needed to run a successful handmade business. Of course it gets a little easier the longer you do it — you eventually figure out what works best, but in the beginning I had nothing to compare it to. So the only thing I knew to do was be brave. It was amazing, and I often remind myself of this innocence when I am feeling discouraged.

Now that I’m nearing my sixth year of handmade it takes more energy but it’s still just as rewarding. It’s like any relationship, for it to thrive you must give it attention and love. So how about you? How is your handmade business coming along? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have unanswered questions or are you feeling discouraged? I’d love to share with you what I’ve learned on Tuesday the 25th, simply sign up here.

SOME TOPICS WE’LL DISCUSS IN THE VIDEO COURSE:
– The story of how I went from sewing for fun to turning it into a business
– Creating my very first product
– Finding my first customers
– How I decided on a price point
– Marketing tactics and what I learned along the way
– The process of expanding from one product to a full line
– When I realized it was growing into a full-blown business and how I managed my goals to keep it a business that works with my life
– What other things you are building now, and how you are managing the transition and growth
…and more!

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Don’t hold back from experiencing what you were created to do. Your talents and passions are invaluable! Take the leap towards braveness and let’s chat about business on Tuesday, February 25th. See you there? xo

PS. Remember to use code LAUNCHIT at checkout to save $50!

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5 ways to advertise your handmade shop for free.

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Whether you’re brand new to the handmade community (welcome, welcome!) or you’ve been around for years (hello, gorgeous!), it’s fun to find new ways to help your biz grow — without spending a dime. You know the saying, You have to spend money to make money, right? Consider this my personal twist on that. Each of the five tips below require you to have spent some money initially (ie: ordering business cards or paying your cable internet bill) but quite honestly, these are important tools in your handmade toolbox so you can kinda brush off the saying ;)

My 5 best tips to advertising your handmade shop for free: 

1. Keep a secret stash of business cards in your purse and hand one out to everyone who comments on your product or asks where you work (don’t be shy; you know your business the best!). TIP: a clean, easy-to-read business card is visually appealing and reiterates professionalism.

2. When family or friends ask, How is your business doing? be honest with them. It’s OK to: brag about the amazing things you’re making, share what you’ve learned, or discuss a goal you’re currently working on. It’s true, the more confident you are the quicker (and more easily) they’ll take you seriously. TIP: need help with your elevator speech?

3. Share weekly shop updates through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or your email newsletter list. Give them a call to action, share a photo of something you’re working on inside your studio, or link to your newest product collection. TIP: have you set up a Facebook business page?

4. Email someone who’s indirectly mentored you and ask them if there’s anything from your shop that catches their eye and would they mind sharing a link to your shop? You never know — they could say yes! And networking is so super easy to do. TIP: keep your email short & sweet.

5. Invite some of your fellow blogger friends to a private Facebook page and cross-promote your content with your social media communities. TIP: curate a diverse list of trusted bloggers to avoid over-saturating your communities.

 

My personal favorite is tip #4, some of my best friendships and business contacts have been made from sending a quick “hello” email. How about you? Which tip is your favorite? Or, do you have a tip not listed here? I’d seriously love to know! Advertising is so important, no matter how long you’ve been around ;)

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