Building a Business, Creativity, Etsy, side hustles

Side Income for Moms: Why it is Possible to Run an Etsy store with Kids!

I am often asked if it is easy (or even possible) to run an Etsy store with kids and my answer is… absolutely, because YOU are in control of your schedule, and how much you want to do, and how much you want to make. Etsy has been my creative hobby for a while now and I’ve been experimenting extensively with SEO, Marmalead, Pinterest and other methods to create a side income. 

Why is Etsy a really good option for side income?

-You can run your store ENTIRELY on your iPhone, and you can do it in big chunks of time, or little chunks in time.  There’s two approaches you can take to your work on Etsy:

The first approach is what I call the “Start to Finish” and this is great when you have 2-3 hour chunks of time (perhaps the kids are in daycare, or you are working with naptime.) You can see in this example that you flow through your work, from creation of an item, to fulfillment of orders/customer service.

The second approach is what I find most effective with 3 small children and that is the “By Category” approach to work.  What I do is one day a week, I go on a creating binge.  I’ll time naps or have my husband or mother in law cover the kids, all I need is 1-2 hours to make 7-8 pieces.  That is the one thing I do prefer to have little people out of the room for, because it takes incredible patience when your kids are picking up gemstone beads and dropping them all over the floor!!

Then I strategically break up listing items during the week. After tons of research and experimenting, I’ve found that if I list on certain days at certain times, a few new listings will generate some orders, as Etsy’s search bot prefers new listings.  I’ve found lunchtimes during the week, and evenings during the weekend work really well.  As you gain experience on Etsy you’ll be able to look at your traffic to see when it spikes in your store.  

I made the conscious decision to scale my Etsy store down with little kiddos, because of the stage of life I am in with 3 under 5 – so shipping for me is a random trip down to the post office here and there.  However, if you are dealing with multiple orders a week, it is great to set aside a shipping day and your little helps will LOVE going to the post office with you. 

For social media strategy my advice is to make it a total habit.  With a listing you should automatically PIN + POST.   Get into the practice of listing an item, then making a pinterest graphic using the free program http://www.canva.com (they have a free pinterest layout) and pinnning it.  Also, create an Instagram graphic in the same moment.  Again, both can be done with your iphone.  The apps I use most frequently are:

Photoshop for iPhone – Editing images before listing on Etsy 

Typorama – Great for Instagram (can add text)

Canva – Great for Pinterest Graphics 

Hope you enjoyed this quick blog post and if you’d like more Etsy success guides, please let me know in the comments, I have so much experience and information to share in this area! 

Advertisements
Kids Activities, side hustles

How I Wrote and Self-Published a Children’s Book using Kickstarter!

saturdaymarch 23, 20194_00 pm (1)

With small children, my days are filled with requests to read a book.

Especially before naptime or night time!

As a book lover, perusing stores for wonderful children’s stories has been a fun part of parenthood and I hope to instill a love of reading in my children with beautiful stories and rich imagery.

Do you remember in elementary school getting the little scholastic flyer with books you could order, and you’d get so excited waiting for your order of new books? Ahhh, such a good memory (if you liked reading of course!)

There are some amazing childrens’ books, and I’ve taken to buying independently published books like this incredible book by adventurer and photographer Chris Burkard. Check out his Instagram account, by the way!

Book Cover_front
The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth, my Favourite Childrens Book That I Found on Kickstarter!

Truth be told, there’s some shitty ones on my bookshelf as well.  And my kids pull those to read alllllllll of the time, and I catch myself moaning and promising I’ll get rid of them secretly.

As a side note, never be afraid to get rid of the books you don’t like.  The whole point is to actually read to your children and if it’s a book that YOU don’t enjoy, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to read it to them, right? 

Here’s the process of how I self-published a children’s book (step by step overview)

There are so many things we can decide to do with our money.  We all make decisions around where we want to spend it.  What if you took some of your money you were going invest in your child’s education, or toys, or clothes, or whatever, and created a permanent, long-lasting legacy for them, by writing a book just for them?  Honestly, it is such a cool thing to do, regardless of whether you want to sell the book later on.

I personally couldn’t find any beautiful fantasy-inspired children’s books with gorgeous artwork (I grew up loving fantasy stories, mermaids, Pegasus and other magical creatures) so that got me thinking, it would be nice to have one for my children.  I also wanted to impart some really important lessons to my children.

We all raise our children hoping to share the truths we’ve come to discover in our time on earth.  What legacy do I want to pass onto my own children?

-A beautiful, creative and magical imagination they can tap into and escape to.  I want my children to have a vivid inner world. I believe magic exists if you believe in it.

-A sense of stewardship and love for the natural environments they have the privilege of growing up in.  Our next generation are the caretakers of this earth.

A sense of adventure and playfulness.

-A connection with bravery and courage.  I want both of my children, both male and female to know that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways, and that the greatest rewards & growth come with the greatest challenges.

-The knowledge that they have a deep inner well of innovation and creativity.  I believe this is something no computer, no technology could ever replace, and it is our duty to encourage each generation to tap into their brain’s potential (the human brain is not used to its full potential yet, we have far to go.)

The importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of gathering knowledge and wisdom.

Big stuff, right? I decided to put these into the story.

 

The project was daunting and in all honesty, I didn’t know where to begin. But it felt right.  And that’s an important point.  You can have the biggest bucket list in the world but you also need to have an intuitive sense of when the time is right for one of those projects, and the patience to wait if it doesn’t quite feel right. I thought about this for 2 years before I did it, and felt ready in 2016.  I consider this the biggest check mark off of my maternity leave #2 bucket list (I started it on mat leave #2 and finished it just before mat leave #3.)

 

SKETCHING OUT THE STORY LINE & WORLDS OF KINTARA + FIND OUT A WAY TO BRING THE IMAGES TO LIFE

I started with sketching out some visual representations of the images I had in my mind for this story (many are based off of recurring dreams I have had since I was a child.)

I turned to Deviant Art.com, an incredible community of artists, and found a spectacular fantasy artist who took commissioned work and who had a beautiful visual style that matched my vision for the book’s artwork.  Over a number of calls and emails back and forth, we decided on 8 different worlds and renderings for a negotiated price.

BOOK COST RESEARCH

Next, I researched how much it would cost to put the whole thing together and print it, using different size dimensions and options.  I went with a Canadian company to start with, because it felt right to do so for the first edition print which was for my Kickstarter backers, and it was also my first time doing it.  It worked out to a few thousand dollars.  On-demand printing seemed to be in the $30-$40 range through blurb.ca (eventually I’ll find a more affordable printer but in the beginning my priority was to just get it done!)

RAISE SOME FUNDS TO PAY FOR ARTWORK AND A FIRST PRINT RUN

Obviously, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on mat leaves, lol, so I decided to put myself out there and launch a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to pay for the artwork and print about 50 copies for backers.

I set the reward to be a copy of the book. It was my goal to cover the graphic design and printing with my campaign, which I set at $2000.  I really didn’t research Kickstarter a lot, I just figured it out as I went and looked at campaigns for books that I had bought for my kids and studied what they did.  I’m sort of glad I went in there so naive and overly confident.  It’s a lot of work to run a good Kickstarter campaign and once it got going, I threw myself in with daily updates, sharing of the story and development as it went along.

The Gates of Kintara Childrens’ Book Kickstarter campaign was successful.  To be honest, you really have to hustle hard on Kickstarter and social media to raise funds in time (Kickstarter prefers you stay within a 30-60 day window btw.)

Kickstarter also works on an all-or-nothing basis.  You have to meet your stated goal.

I was so grateful for my network of family and friends who were incredibly supportive and generous – they were the primary source of startup funds (95%) , with a few random donors  (5%) from the Kickstarter world!

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 2.31.54 PM

DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARTWORK:

The process was very fun, taking each image, developing the structure, then the colours, and sending each written page to the artist with an outline of the message I wanted to convey.   It is a surprising amount of work.

I spent every lunch time at work, over the course of a year working on the book, but what a cool way to spend lunch hour!

Here’s an example of the forest world.  In this world, the little girl (in her dreams) meets a magic being who encourages her to take her magic talents (caring for the natural world) back to her earthly life.

 

The little girl in this book is actually my daughter (I sent a photo of her to the artist) and each world is the landscape of recurring dreams I’ve had since I was a child.

PUTTING THE BOOK TOGETHER, FORMATTING AND PRINTING:

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 2.36.06 PM

This is where things got technical and if I’m being honest, super frustrating because this is where I hit a wall with technical ability. I simply couldn’t get the hang of how to use the Blurb Book formatting software or In Design software, and the terminology for the book dimensions and setup was like another language entirely to me.    Not to mention at this stage, I was very pregnant and about to go on maternity leave #3 and wanted to be done!

My brother has graphic design knowledge and totally helped me out with the formatting,  I pretty much sent him the artwork and he managed to get it all into the dimensions and pdf format for printing through Blurb.  The thing with blurb is that they offer discount codes of up to 40% so WAIT until one comes out and THEN print.  A 40% off code was conveniently released just in time and the second it came out, I jumped on it.  WITH the code it still cost over $30 per book, so anyone serious about self-publishing and selling printed copies should definitely consider other means, as you simply cannot compete with the children’s book market at those prices.

GETTING A BAR CODE IN CANADA:

In Canada, you have to register (free) for an ISBN Code (ISBN = International Standard Book Number) and all of it is done through the following Government of Canada website for no cost. Simply follow the steps and it is a very quick (less than 2 weeks) process start to finish.  I did this step right before formatting the final book for printing, as you’ll want to put the ISBN on your book cover (I put it on my back cover.)

PRODUCING AN E-BOOK

Once the hardest part is done (formatting for printing) I had to think abut formatting for an E-Book and possibly selling on Amazon.

I approached the project as three parts:

1.) Develop the book (1 year)

2.) Get the first edition printed and Kickstarter pledges fulfilled (2 months)

3.) Share the second edition with the world 🙂

     This third and final step has a lot of pieces to it:

– Edit a second edition (I am picky and want to edit the fonts and story now that i           have read it to my children many times!)

– Find cost-effective printing to make it commercially viable.

-Share it on my Podcast, the Great Parental Leave (read it for the kiddos!)

-List the 2nd edition on Amazon as a paperback and E-Book

I hope this gives you some inspiration!  Of course this is a major bucket list item and isn’t for the faint of heart but truly, you can do anything your heart desires and if you approach it the right way, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to self-publish a children’s book.  I did mine for less than $500 net cost when all was said and done.

I have a beautiful book written for my children now (my daughter loves that it is her in the book!) and a permanent legacy to leave them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a Business, Creativity, Etsy, Life Hacks, side hustles, Technology, The Projects

Is It Possible to Start an Online Business With a Baby? YES! 15 Truths for Online Entrepreneur Success – With a Baby in Your Arms.

IMG_7088

 

I’ve taken online courses, I’ve studied online entrepreneurs, I’ve read books and listened to more than 200 hours of podcasts. Most importantly, I’ve started acting on these lessons and am entering the world of online business in 2016.

The foundation was slowly built over maternity leave, and continues to be developed.  But the revenue is beginning to trickle in.  The potential is there, and now I am going from building mode to testing and refining mode.  I’ve tested a few models and it’s time to sit down and clarify the goals, and intensify my focus.

Most online entrepreneurship classes hammer home the whole niche thing.  As a multi-passionate I really, really struggled with this question.  I did not find my niche.  I just started putting a few ideas and business products out there, to see a.) what I enjoyed and b.) what gained traction.  I actually think this is the best way.  Most entrepreneurs get stuck at the start line because they feel like they have to have this entire formula figured out. What is your niche? What problem are you solving? What are you going to charge to solve it?  And so it goes. 

The sweet spot is developing a product that catches hold with your audience, and catches hold with you.  A and B above.

A few products that I developed started returning a revenue.  But I realized in working on some of them, that I wasn’t passionate enough to invest most of my time and focus in that one area. So I redirected my focus to the few that made me come alive – where I had a deeper well to draw from.  The thing is, you won’t know this answer (and cannot possibly know this) till you try it out.

So jump into online business with the intent to discover one type of product you like, and one type of product you don’t like.  I mean it.  Your goal is to have one success and one failure, at least!  There really is nothing to lose other than the time you put into it.

1.) Building an online business is a lot of small tasks.  They can drive you crazy unless you think about them as steps that get you closer to your goal.  One day is going to be about getting mail chimp set up.  Another day is just sorting out some nice typography for your instagram.  One day is going to be setting up / learning about Facebook ads.  Another day may be organizing receipts in your inbox.  Another day may be buying more storage in iCloud.  Acknowledge and learn to enjoy the satisfaction in completing these tasks, even if they are overwhelming and there’s a steep learning curve.  There’s a lot of them, so get over it.  It’s quite satisfying crossing them off in a journal or on your note taking app.

2.) Remember, anything you do, is one step closer to your goal.  While others are quitting at 3 months in, you are just taking one step at a time and being strategic.  The tortoise wins the race.  Most successful online entrepreneurs will tell you they were working at it a while before things took off.  I’m a big fan of the blunt truth talker Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich – check out the infographic in his post showing his product development over six years!

You’ve got at least 40 years left on this earth. Don’t worry about it. Do it because you love it.  Don’t compare yourself to the entrepreneurs who have 70 hours a week, or even 20 to work on their projects and launches.  You are working very hard on a few precious hours per week.  Things will happen for you, but they will happen on your schedule.

4.) Ignorance is bliss, and it contributes to action.  Find some amazing people who are doing what you what to do.  Study how they do it, their webpage, their brand and learn from them.  But be cautious.  I do think that some over-confidence / ignorance is bliss.  Study others just enough to know how to do things well, but not too much.  As soon as you see how many people are doing what you are doi ng, you will become intimidated and discouraged.  When I started my successful Kickstarter campaign, I found two other campaigns I loved and made notes on their models. I focused only on a few successful ones and did not look at just how many children’s books are on Kickstarter.  I wouldn’t have started had I known how saturated Kickstarter is and how much better everyone else’s campaigns looked.  I’m so glad I ran a basic campaign (with much room to improve) and learnt from it, rather than never doing it because I was blocked by intimidation and the desire to do it perfectly. Block out the external noise and focus on what you need to do.

5.) Have a clear idea of what lifestyle you are working towards.  I use Pinterest to do some vision boarding. I have a board called “My goals // my life in progress” (yes, that’s my board right there!) and it is images of the lifestyle and rewards I want for myself and my family. Even as simple as pictures of someone standing in the window, sipping coffee – or a family photo of parents playing in the snow with the kids. I am constantly adding images to this board and it builds a powerful desire – deep within – to keep plugging away.

6.)  Make sure you enjoy your entrepreneurial journey and the project itself, as much as you’d enjoy the lifestyle that comes with it. Your project should be a “Hell yeah” project.  Actually, anything you do should be a “hell yeah or no” situation, as put forth by the fabulous writer Derek Sivers.  You cannot be an influencer in something you are not passionate about. People see straight through that. That’s why there is so much talk about #authenticity on the internet these days.

7.) You don’t necessarily have to take an online course. Most online entrepreneurs’ courses are simply repackaged and re-branded versions of content they have previously published. It is extra work to commit and dig through old content, but it is doable.  So really, we are talking about time vs. money.  If you want to spend less money, there’s more of a time investment on hunting down the information.  If you want to spend more money, you’ll cut some corners and avoid some mistakes other entrepreneurs made.  Eventually, both routes end up at the same destination.

8.)  That being said, the action of financially investing in a course and being part of a community is powerful.  Connecting with other students is a great framework if you are concerned about follow through and prefer team environments.  I also believe online courses are very helpful for those of us who are not skilled in the technical aspects of online business.  I’ve made wonderful connections in some entrepreneurs’ communities that I gained access through, as part of the course. The Smart Passive Income community, Kimra Luna’s #Freedomhackers and others.

9.)  Attend conferences and work outside of the house. Just get out there.  In the business world, networking, friendships, potential deals and closed deals happen outside of the office.  They don’t happen when you are sitting alone on a laptop in a room.  Get out there.  Attend a conference.  Yes, it’s $500 – $1000 to do, but trust me, that investment will pay itself off in a few years down the road with business that is generated as a result of the relationships you made at that conference, or as a result of the business improvements or renewed motivation you received from that event.  This one I have not done yet, and I have this conference on my bucket list.  I cannot wait to do this!  I’ve also added this one – Lewis Howes’ Summit of Greatness – to my pinterest board.

10.) Start saving receipts with the Wave app and creating a “receipts” category in your Gmail now.  There’s so many random little expenses with starting up online.  Cloud storage, random apps, Skype credits, Domain registration, etc.  It’s easy to forget about all of those expenses.

11.)  Don’t ever put too much weight on your total Instagram likes or comments.  80% of your Instagram activity will be hustlers.  Focus on the 5 or less people who you authentically connect on there.  And get unique with your hashtags.  What hashtags would you look for?  Don’t use the “most popular” hashtags.  It’s like dangling bait in the water – the sharks will come circling in.  I onced used #fitfam and #fitspiration and #postpartumweightloss – The Beach Body coaches that came running…..

12.)  Have your product researched and developed before you launch it.  If you arrive in the online business arena with a developed product, you will give less of a shit when the haters or non-supporters rear their ugly heads.  I had a hater a few weeks ago on Kickstarter.  A really unpleasant message that felt like a kick to the gut, initially.

If my children’s book wasn’t 90% complete, I would have taken his comments to heart.  The completion gave me immunity and the ability to pen back a professional letter addressing his trolling.  He wound up apologizing and pledging to the campaign.

IMG_7087

13.)  Be mindful of phone time. If you want a great check in, have your partner take a photo of you holding the phone up in front of your face.  Look at that picture.  This is what your kids may see.  It’s really hard, I know, especially when you are excited about your work and are desparate to work on it!  I’ve realized that I have to be in a separate room or working during the kids’ sleep hours.  They don’t need or deserve the back of my phone in front of their face.

14.)  You are going to get up early or stay up late to work on your business.  My formula has been:  Nap when the baby and toddler nap at mid day, and then wake up super early a few days a week.  A great day is a 5-5:30 start so that I have 1.5 hours to get stuff done with a nice cup of coffee.  It sounds insane but I love what I do enough that it’s not hard to get up.  Wait.  That’s a great question!  Do you like it enough to get up at 5:30 am (or stay up until 2am) working on it?  It is shocking how much you can get done with 1.5 hours, trust me.

15.)  Filter all social media and read selectively.  Follow inspirational or helpful feeds.  Your time is precious as an entrepreneur.  If you are going to take a precious 30 minutes for an iPhone break, fill it with good things that inspire.  Also, stop reading all of those pages, blog posts, social media posts that talk about motherhood and “being too busy” “losing balance” blabllablablabla. You can get stuck in the travails of early motherhood and circle around in that loop, or you can climb above it.   Those are all legit opinions, and motherhood IS hard –  but will they serve your goals if you decide to take those opinions on and make them your own?  Or spend your time steeping in those messages?

Probably not.  Start hunting out and reading about success stories.