Category Archives: Business

Four Dysfunctional Attitudes About Communication


Effective communication is the key to everything. To business, to relationships, to peace.  However people often have some dysfunctional ways of thinking about the subject. Let’s take a look at these and see if any apply.

1. There is no such thing as just one solution! 

Encourage people to always get at least a 2nd (qualified) opinion, whatever the situation is, especially when there are doubts.  There are more equally effective ways up the same mountain than just one.  Seriously, if you reach the summit and find that someone else climbed up a different way, would you shove them off the mountain top for not doing it the “right” way?  Of course not!  You’d probably share a celebratory drink and take in the view together.  Wisdom is found in the midst of a multitude of views.  Holding that kind of outlook has served me far better than most.  It applies to anything in life, health or business.

2. It’s OK for someone else to be the expert.

No human is infinite enough to contain all the knowledge of a single subject, much less of the universe. We should celebrate that wonder and make use of individual expertise by adding the insight and value of others to our lives and teams.  Just because I can doesn’t mean I should or that it’s in my (or anyone else’s) best interest.  Not being an expert in something is not a negative reflection on us.  I’m thankful for the experts in my life.  I can not possibly hold that much information in this one physical and finite body.  I’m an expert in crochet.  I can be that.  Thank God someone else can be an expert in car repair and plumbing for me!  And I’m no less a person for it.

For an expansion on this idea, check out Derek Sivers’ video “Hell Yeah Or No.”

3.  Confrontation is not a dirty word.

Communication is essential to mediation. As someone who tends to communicate fairly well, others often come to me with their frustrations in dealing with someone else.  Many times they hope I will intercede for them.  I listen, but often followup with, “OK, you’ve hashed out your concerns with me, but have you gone to the source? Have you talked to that teacher/volunteer/manager/parent/business/peer that you have a suggestion/concern/issue with? Because they can’t do anything about what they don’t know.” All too often, people avoid confrontation, so nothing is ever addressed. When you feel helpless, the last thing you should do is give up.  Avoiding the person or issue will not often resolve anything.

4.  Emotional Reality and Factual Reality Are Not The Same.

When you’re having trouble seeing things straight, it is also important to keep in mind that although emotional reality is real and it does give us valuable information, that emotional reality and factual reality are not generally the same.  Making decisions based solely on feelings is not a balanced place to operate from.  Many emotions are caused by triggers.  And triggers can be very individual and personal.  What triggers you and what triggers me is not necessarily going to be similar.  Your feelings might be real, but they may have nothing to do with the actual situation at hand.  As hard as it may be, sometimes you have to step outside of that emotional reality with logical mindful intent.

What other dysfunctional attitudes about communication can you think of?
Think about it and share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under Business, Editorial, NaBloPoMo

Three Communication Tips To Help You Get Your Point Across


If I’m not careful, I can be a talker. As a natural at the art of capturing a story, it’s a gift. But it can also be a weakness. Here are three tools I’ve found useful to help me stay trim in my communications and remain effective in the long run.  This includes marketing and sales.

1. Remember that people communicate (and retain) information best in three main ways: audio, visual and kinetic. A balance of the three seems to work best. Honestly, sometimes we need to shut up and let a picture say a 1000 words or let someone get a literal handle on something. But beyond that, the truth is that some people retain and communicate best by hearing their own thoughts expressed in audio. Which means, get them into the discussion and you’ll get the best out of them.

My son is an example of someone who performs best through discussion, not just listening. He has an unusual visual impairment with a kind of blend of parallax and monocular vision (and medical terms I find difficult to describe).  Due to this, his thoughts literally form best through discussion and the hearing of his own voice. Once he’s been a part of the discussion, he’s your man and knows exactly what to do. Without it, he has a harder time putting his thought process in order or “getting it” because he has no mental black-board to “see” things in his mind. When he can verbalize thoughts as they take form, the quality of his work is amazingly better, because his brain is wired that way. It’s been an interesting path of discovery for us at home and I’ve learned to tailor my communication for others as a result.

2. There is a book that I love called: How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, by Milo Frank. I listen to the audio version on a periodic basis to remind me how to trim my words and get to the point.

3. Once words are spoken, you can’t take them back. So if it’s the wrong words, or just too many, the problem is the same. I like to keep in mind an old adage that goes something like this: “Better they wonder why you didn’t open your mouth, than why you did!”

These are some thoughts that have helped me in both my professional and personal communications, as well as marketing.  I hope they help you too.

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Filed under Business, Editorial, My Recommends, NaBloPoMo

How Much Are You Worth?


What is the true cost of handmade items at a show?  I’m not really talking about taking a bead and sticking it on an ear wire. There’s almost no training or skill involved in that.  There’s not much honing of a craft going on there.  Though it does take time to assemble, it’s small and not considered skilled labor.

How much do you make an hour for your expertise?  How much should a hand crafter make per hour?  What is right for a living wage?  It’s easy to forget sometimes the nature of how some jobs work.  In many jobs, you get paid a set wage + benefits.  Some jobs involve a commission, which is generally highly taxed by the government even if it is really what you feed yourself with.  Other jobs, like waiting tables, are often half of minimum wage with the expectation that you will make up the rest in tips.  That was a rude awakening when I landed my first waiting job right out of college.  I was taxed out of my $2.13 an hour each week as if it were twice that, because it’s assumed I would make up the other half of minimum wage on tips.  And I didn’t.  Sigh, those were the days.

So how much should a hand crafter make?  Well, one obvious thing to consider is the cost of table fees to get into the show in the first place.  Just here in Austin, there are shows that range from $40 a table to over $3000.  It’s a chunk of change, and somewhat of a gamble playing the odds whether you will sell something at the venue or not.  Space rental is not cheap.  Neither is security, electricity or many other expenses people might not think of.  If you take credit cards, you have expenses there as well.

You have the cost of materials as overhead.  When it comes to yarn, it’s interesting to me that so many buyers really have no idea how much yarn can cost these days.  To buy enough to create a garment is a pretty substantial chunk.  Are we using “That Old 70’s Yarn?”  Or something nicer like silk or cashmere or even a microfiber?  Either way, it’s way more now than it was when I was a kid.

Then there’s the amount of materials as well.  Just because a hat you find at WalMart cost $5 doesn’t mean it has a comparable amount of fiber in it to something handmade.  Nor does it mean the yarn can be purchased in the US for so little either.  Where many often use one yarn for a design, I often use three myself.  So that’s a jump in cost for me.  Plus there’s the value of other elements, like antique buttons or sterling silver findings.

And then we come to the aspect of time and of skill.  What would you pay an expert to do and what would you pay a beginner?  There should be a difference.  There’s something to be said for a skill that has been honed over time.  Because the quality of labor is much different.  Why should an expert be paid the same as a beginner?  There’s a reason why we pay doctors what we do, they are highly educated, trained and skilled.

But let’s say we have a beginner.  Federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.  Even people receiving training to flip burgers get at least minimum wage.  If an item requires $30 of materials and takes 4 hours to make, you have at minimum a $59 item, before taxes.  Right?  What if you decide not to charge minimum wage?  Even at $5 an hour (a minimum suggestion from Crochet Liberation Front founder, Laurie Wheeler), you still have a $50 price tag.  At minimum.  For beginner grade work.

I like some points Laurie made on this subject in previous years on the Crochet Liberation Front forum, “The best way I know of raising the value of anything, is to value it yourself.” 

Followed up in her article last year “At What Price?” Laurie has this to say:

“FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS FUZZY DO NOT…and I repeat…DO NOT UNDERSELL YOUR WORK!!  …. Materials + Time x Skill = $$…. Time is valuable. Especially in today’s fast paced world, time is PRECIOUS, your time is VALUABLE. If you spend 2hrs on a  hat and you spent $3 on the materials and you only charge $4.00, $3.00 covers the materials and you just made FIFTY CENTS an hour. Really?  You are not a SWEATSHOP…You are WORTH more than that… “

Also, I’ve heard many women make comments that should never be made, like: “Oh but I enjoy doing this so I don’t charge very much.”  WHAT? Seriously? Did I just hear that?  SO you should only get paid for what you don’t derive a sense of satisfaction from?  (I’ve never heard a man say something like this, btw.)  If you’ve ever been guilty of saying something like that, stop and consider the craziness of what you’re suggesting.  Not to mention how it undervalues the work of all hand crafters when you do that, including the ones who rely on selling their wares to put food on the table.  Just because you don’t have to rely on it to feed your kids, doesn’t mean you should undersell your work.

Factors to keep in mind as you consider pricing also include rarity, how labor intensive, precision of the work, and expertise and range of experience. Some items, you’ll have to judge.  You may have to tweak your prices or process a bit here and there.  Just because you are capable of making wash cloths out of cashmere doesn’t mean it’s practical and that everyone will buy one for what it’s worth or at all.  Hmmm… So maybe there’s a cap there somewhere on what kind of materials you expect to use for what items and the price range most of your customers will fall into?

There’s also travel time, packing materials and postage.  If I’m doing custom orders and find myself driving all over town from yarn shop to yarn shop trying to find what will make my customer happy, it becomes an expense that has to be accounted for, because they want a custom item and not something I have ready to go.  And it requires me to take time off from my regular business and work only for them until they get what they want.  That can be a lot of time, especially if they don’t really know what they want or it’s difficult to secure!  Think about the fees you would pay a graphic artist when you don’t have a clear idea of what you want.  Usually you get one or two proofs and that’s it.  Consider that custom handmade should not be much different.

So when you’re pricing, you have a lot to consider for variables.  And once you have that, stick with it and do not let buyers bargain with you.  Not only is it poor form at shows, but when you do it, you give people permission to essentially cut your pay!  Set a fair and reasonable price, based on the variables we’re discussing and decide ahead of the show how you will deal with such requests.  If you want to offer a discount for multiple purchases, that can be nice, but price your individual items accordingly so you are still coming out on top in the end. Do not stoop to the rude folks either.  They are not your market.  Be polite, but do not waste your time on them.  You want to know at the end of the year, after all those last-minute material purchases and all the time invested and you sit down to do those taxes, that it was worth it.  If you never stand up for yourself, who will?

Now that you’ve read all this and taken stock, how much are you worth?  Think about it and add to the discussion in the comments!  😀

Go ahead and click a link below to “share this.”  You know you want to!  : )


If you enjoyed this article, you might also like:

Dear Artists: Your Prices Are Not The Problem – Or Are They?

When Artists Hear “I Can Make That!

Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet


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Filed under Business, crochet, Crochet Community, Crochet Education, Doing the Show Circuit

Online Adventures: Where I’m Learning Today


Thanks to yesterday’s efforts, I’m sitting in a fairly peaceful and debris-free dining room while I type, before buckling down and digging back into the house-remodeling-and-moving tasks at demand.  It’s nice for a break, even though I know this table will necessarily be full of paperwork yet again soon.

So I’m catching up real “quick” on Twitter and blog stats and all that this morning. My blog post from a week ago, “Cro-pocalypse: The Rise of Crochet” has received rave reviews and attention. Awesome! 🙂 It was so much fun to write. I’m glad others are enjoying it too.

I meant to post another blog entry this week, but it took a back burner (as it must) to the house business. Unfortunately, I still wear too many hats. And getting this house ready for sale is a priority. I’ll tell that story later though.

But not today. I’m enjoying the calm right now.

So this morning during my life pause, Laurie from over at the Crochet Liberation Front had me checking out http://Klout.com. It’s an interesting service that taps into your Twitter account and then analyzes what your “clout” and essentially your influence is. I have props for being influential in crochet, technology, and others. I can accept that. But I found it hilarious that I’m supposedly influential about BACON. As in the food.

Adding to my amusement with the whole thing is that I know why I rated influential in bacon at all. 🙂 All because of a simple, humorous yet pointed tweet made by Scott from UnMarketing.

“The only excuse for making your Facebook event invite ALL-CAPS is if there is FREE BACON. Otherwise, stop it.”

I retweeted his post the old fashioned way with “RT.” I wasn’t the only one who found it retweet-able. Others retweeted (RT) my tweet the newer way, via the retweet button. Hence, on Klout – I receive credit for being influential in the bacon realm. Bacon, bacon, bacon. I can’t even eat real bacon. One of my very real major allergies. Hrmph.

Anyway, my fellow crocheter Maven says Klout’s is to Twitter accounts kind of like Technorati is for blogs. Speaking of them, Technorati has an interesting article on the value of Klout.  So since I’m still learning about it too, I refer you there to learn more yourself.

Oh, and speaking of internet related stuff, I ended up signing up for Listia. It’s kind of like eBay, and yet it’s not, because there’s not really any money involved. It’s mostly about bidding on free stuff by use of credits, which you can earn. And when you join they start you out with some free credits to play with.  It’s a little hard to explain, but I think if you go look at it, it’ll make more sense.

So I’m testing that out. I might list some yarn there, who knows. Will let you know what I think about it for sure once I’ve had a good run of figuring it out. Right now, I’ve already made my first n00b mistake and bid on an auction that said “local pick up only” without it stating anywhere in the auction where the seller was actually located, other than “United States.” N00b move for us both.  I just found out they’re in NY. Figures.

Well, that’s my latest news about online tools.  Now, it’s time for me to get my work clothes on and tear into the garage. If we’re to do carpet for the kids room, we need to move bunks somewhere. I miss having a bunch of college friends I could bribe with beer and pizza. Money didn’t matter as long as friends, beer and pizza were involved. Somehow I think those days are gone.

Wish me luck and willpower to plow through amazing feats today. 😉 I wish you answered wishes back!

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Tech Help For Crafters In A Left-Brain World: IP Address Conflict


Tech Ideas For Right-Brainers

Alright, I know I’m not the only one who works with computers, yet doesn’t always understand the problems that can arise.  It’s actually pretty common in the artistic, right-brain type worlds – after all we’re wired for music and art, not necessarily programming.  But we all know by now that we have to market and connect by using computers, even if we aren’t computer experts ourselves.  So I’ll try to share tips and fixes as I experience and come across them, in layman’s terms.

"Things I love that hurt me so. On the fast road to carpal tunnel." Have you met fellow Texan Stephanie Toppin, the crochet personality behind @ObeyCrochet? This awesome drawing is here thanks to her. I'm a total fan! Click the photo above to check out the ObeyCrochet site and subscribe to her humorous and ingenious crochet musings! Hook on sistah! (And tell her you want a T-Shirt!)

Today’s insight comes from personal experience: when a little bubble pops up on your screen and tells you that your computer has an IP address conflict with another computer on your network.  What to do?

This didn’t become an issue for our family until the kids acquired wireless laptops for the ever-increasing demand for their school work.

Suddenly, we had fatal printing failures popping up every where.

Now if you’re like me, when a message like that appears, you’re wondering what the heck is up, you’re worried if someone has hacked into your computer and you have no idea what to do.

I just want my computer to work when I turn it on.  I didn’t know what the heck to do about a technical address.

Well, it took some doing, but I did find a fix and from my research it’s my understanding that unless you are using a wireless network, this probably doesn’t affect you much.  But in our case, where every family member has a computer, and everyone prints wirelessly to the only printer in the house AND they all connect to the internet wirelessly through our router, when that message pops up, someone is going to suddenly be unable to print their documents at all.  Not fun when homework is due the next day.  Not fun when a work deadline is due either. And especially not fun when none of the computers run on the same version of Windows either.

I came across a lot of ideas on fixes, ranging from rebooting to hand typing a new address (which I never did find out where that would be done anyway).  I found no solutions that were straight forward and made sense and worked for us.

Until I came across the simple command based type solution.  That makes sense to me.  It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s logical and it’s simple to understand.  And I come from the era of learning to program Atari computers in Basic and the world of PROFS when I worked at IBM (administrative), so yeah work with me – typing commands DOS style makes sense.

This fix was found in the recesses of Microsoft.com’s discussion areas (go figure).  I have since cleaned my caches and lost the link to it, or I’d share it with you.  Luckily I made myself notes in a Word file for reference, so here it is for your reference:

The fix at least for a PC:

First get an idea which computer(s) on your network probably have the conflict. If everything’s fine until dear daughter turns on her laptop, it’s a clue.

1. On the offending computer, open your start menu.  This is usually a button on the lower far left corner that says start, or displays a Microsoft flag on it.  Click it.

2. Then click on run.

3. Type “CMD” (with no quotes) and press enter.  This will open a black command box.

4.  At the command prompt type:  IPCONFIG/RELEASE.  Press enter.
(This releases the IP address your computer is currently using.  It’s possible this will take a few seconds for your computer to process.)

5. Then at a new prompt type: IPCONFIG/RENEW. Press enter.
(This will assign a new IP address to your computer.  It is possible this will also take your computer some time to process.)

And that’s it!  Done.  Works!  Isn’t it simple?  Doesn’t it make sense?  Once the command is carried out and your black screen shows you the new IP address, close the black command window and you will be back in business.  You don’t even have to restart your computer.

The why’s of how this IP conflict happens? Well, I’m not that technically educated in the matter, but from what I gather, our computers are generally set up to automatically assign each one a unique IP address to use while working on the wireless network.  This way each computer can be told apart as they all connect and print and do their things on the same network.  But occasionally, an IP address is duplicated.  When this happens, it causes computer confusion on the network as it looks like the same computer exists in two places.  And we all know from our sci-fi movies that this eventually leads to breakdown.  I don’t know all the ins and outs, but hey, I got this much and it seems to be a fairly common, yet benign problem.

So there you go, a not-so-easily-found quick little fix, for apparently a fairly common problem.  And no it won’t hurt your computer.  Hope you find this helpful and stay tuned for future tech ideas for the right-brain focused! Please remember to thumb this post up and share if you found it helpful!

So until next time… see you then! 😀

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Filed under Business, Education, Tech Idea Thursday

When There Isn’t Enough “Me” To Go Around…


Sometimes You’ve Got to Say NO

I lead a rather busy life.  Seems I’m one of those people.  The ones who wear a sign that says – “Ask Julia,” or “Follow me.”  And people do, for all kinds of things.  The old saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it,” certainly applies.  The thing is, it catches up to you after awhile.  And if you’re like me, then what I’m analyzing could probably apply for you too.

Being able to say no graciously is a very important skill to me, on a personal as well as professional level. It’s the heart of successful delegation and mediation. And as near and dear to my heart as mediation and communication is, I still struggle to say no to someone really in need.  Since I’m known for organizational skills, charity work and friendly information, I receive a lot of requests.  However, there’s only so much I can personally take on.

I am passionate, but not infinite. And I feel people’s desperation and disappointment deeply.

"Talk to the Hand" Crochet Cabled -Evergreen Gloves- designed by Kim Driggs of Maru Designs. Click the photo above to purchase this pattern on Kim's website.

To help me strengthen my communication skills to be able to gracefully and compassionately say no and yet not leave someone feeling devalued or neglected, I’ve ramped up my studies on a variety of communication skills. This is as much for my benefit as for others, as I also seek solutions to still help, without “helping,” if you get what I mean.

Along the lines of how to say NO, I’ve been listening to the audio book, “The Power of a Positive No: Save the Deal, Save the Relationship and Still Say No,” by William Ury.

Mr. Ury’s method is essentially what I was striving to learn better on my own. He takes you through a variety of scenarios from parenthood and divorce to hostage negotiations and international relations and promotes a framework of a clean and simple Yes-No-Yes framework. Yes to your foundational needs, no to the request, yes to the person (not the action) or another way. It is simple in nature, though there’s more to applying the principles in a variety of ways. The fact that this book presents so many scenarios of applying these principles is really helpful. I do recommend Mr. Ury’s book as an effective communications resource.

What If “No” Isn’t Really The Answer You Seek… What If It’s Cloning?

My business coach is having me lay out all the things that I am involved with, as well as those I could be involved with (including those things that I am contacted for and asked to be a part of and haven’t made a decision on yet).  I am to prioritize and allocate hours a day or week that they require.  And I’m finding it helpful to take that to the extreme of allowing for every single activity, no matter how small – even brushing my teeth.  We take things like that for granted at times, but it requires part of our schedule.  To truly see how much time you are spending and where, you’ve got to get to all the details.  Not too unlike analyzing a financial budget, this is analyzing a time budget.  Time is the one non-renewable commodity we really have. We are all equally allotted the same amount of it each day and once spent, it is gone.  Spending it wisely is truly important.

My findings so far?  Ummm…. Let’s just say I’m living on the wrong planet for all of it to truly work, even if I didn’t have a family.  So I’m in the process of sorting through.

This exercise is helping me to prioritize and say “no” where I need to.  But I’ve found it’s doing something more.  It’s also helping me define what’s important to me, but instead of hanging on to it or letting it completely go, what I’d like to delegate to an enthusiastic colleague instead.  And if needed, in a sense, I’m in the process of training others to replace me, so the gap for a need will be filled (making it less likely I’ll be sucked back in).  This is in part due to requests from others who will say things like, “Do you have a clone? I don’t know anyone else like you,” when I do have to turn them down.

Similarly, I recently met someone moving to my area who is an old hat at social and online marketing since before it’s beginning.  He’s also taking the time to train others to have them then turn around and take on a whole segment of his business needs – so he can then become their client!  That, I think, is brilliant.  Talk about being the solution you seek.

When people turn to and rely on you because you have the vision or expertise they seek (or maybe it’s just the force of will), and yet it’s not physically possible for you to “do it all,” sometimes the answer is no.  However, I think sometimes the answer is to “replicate yourself.”  To teach a man to fish.  After all, we all wish we had clones!  Spear-head the project, lay the foundation for the organization, so you can then turn it over to someone else to run.

I’m seeking to do this in many areas of my life, including areas as simple as what I do for my kids’ school.  The main elements that competent people often lack besides experience are confidence and coaching/training.  I am aware that I can help others find a foundation to then soar ahead on their own.  Advising is not near the amount of time commitment as the actual driving.  And the more of us to go around, the better.

So that’s food for thought for the day.  See where it might apply for you!


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Filed under Business, Editorial

I’d Rather Calm Down a Geyser Than Have to Jump-Start a Mud Hole…


“I’d rather calm down a geyser than have to jump-start a mud hole,” is a quote that I have loved for many years, because I think it puts things into a very appropriate perspective.

I have the opportunity to lecture or speak on a semi-regular basis. For my work, for the service I do, for the kids’ school when we needed to talk to the city counsel, meetings, when I teach… yada. Sometimes it’s planned, sometimes it’s impromptu. And generally whatever the reason, it is for something I am passionate about.

However, I also recognize that my passion can cause me to speed up. This is exhibited not just in my language, but my heart rate and breathing too and internally I feel myself winding up like a guitar string on its last leg. And when you are keyed up, everyone around you picks up on it too and communication is often not as effective.

So my tactic to deal with this before each occasion is to take a few seconds and breathe. And if I can, meditate even for just a moment. Deliberately slowing your breathing also calms your heart rate. It’s a useful technique as a mother to calm a restless baby. But for speaking, I do not abandon the passion – I transform that fire into a slow calm burn, even visualizing it to help my mind, and body, comply. And I pace my words. Allowing for the occasion in the process for punctuation, fueled by that passion, to come through at the appropriate time.

I do this because that passion is the fuel. That passion is what allows me to do what I do best to communicate a message, whatever it is, to others.

Public speaking, and I think likewise leadership, is often like a musical performance. To truly capture interest (and understanding) from beginning to end, there must be a marriage of elements. Being calm and controlled in action and delivery is part of it. And all through that is a chord of passionate fuel that maintains the process and carries it all through. There has to be a source of passion that peeks through part of the time and punctuates your audience’s experience of your communication. Whether your audience is your boss, the planning group at work, the students you teach, or the business owners considering your fundraiser.

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About Doing Craft Shows: Observations, Likes and Advantages…


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Almost my entire background in business is from doing face-to-face sales at shows. In all honesty, I prefer it, as being seen on Etsyand other online markets can be rather difficult to achieve.

Seeing is Believing

I find that with some items, like my crochet designs for instance, that being able to touch what I make, and see in person how I do what I do, makes all the difference in the world. No one can tell from my photos just how soft my garments are. But in person, if I don’t watch it, I’ll have people hanging out in my booth just to “pet” my items. “Err, yes… ma’am…? If you don’t mind, please don’t rub it on your face unless you’re buying….” There is also only so much texture you can bring out in a photo as well.

Demos Add Interest

I’m also a teacher by nature and so I constantly demo my work at every show. I let people watch me work and even show them my tools, how they work, tell them about the custom makers behind my tools, show them the techniques I’m using, ask their opinions even. It’s very experiential, or at least I try to be on a positive scale. People are not just shoppers in my booth. They usually become contacts. When people get to observe you as you work, and you stop focussing on selling to them, and focus more on enjoying yourself, them having a good time and maybe even helping them out (I share my favorite yarn shops and online resources all the time), they are then allowed to relax and simply enjoy themselves. I find that people often buy not just because they like the item, but because they enjoyed the experience and because they are buying a piece of you. And they remember and come back too.

Missed Marketing

It depends somewhat on your product, but I also try not to forget men and children at shows, as they are the most missed sales potential for most shows. It’s true that the majority of shoppers are women, but skipping men and children altogether is a miss! Guess who’s usually tagging along (often bored to death)? If you plan to have at least a couple items geared towards these neglected markets in your booth, you just might make sales you wouldn’t have otherwise caught! And besides, there’s less saturation and competition while most booths neglect this market! For instance, being an artist of fine pottery is great and most of your customers will be adults, but just imagine a couple bits of miniatures for “kids,” even if they are higher priced. You’d be surprised who just might have to snatch it up!

Outdoor Shows

When it comes to equipment for outdoor shows, I highly recommend EzUp. Not only have I found them to be generally much better quality, but they were highly recommended to me by several seasoned artists years ago. I have also seen several lesser grade tents mangled in just a few gusts of wind. It can even be shocking how quickly a poor quality tent can be turned to rubble. This is an area where you really do get what you pay for. I don’t care how lightweight and easy aluminum frames may seem – they just do not hold up very long. And since many outdoor shows are set up near busy roads, between buildings and other structures, wind can really tunnel through such areas in a very focussed manner. May not seem like much on the street, but in a virtual tunnel and a tent full of your wares involved, it can be gustier than people realize and even devastating. Many event planners are not artists themselves and may or may not have ever set up at a show themselves, so these types of details are not always noticed or planned for.

The best affordable EzUp in my opinion is the “Express” model which has a steel frame that uses an entire support system “web” inside the tent canopy. You can see the Express model here. They are much stronger and will – with proper weighting and/or staking – last much longer should windy conditions develop (and they do).

Also, most long-standing outdoor shows will usually require white top or blue top tents. White is generally always safe. Check with shows in your area to be sure.

Even though your tent will come with stakes, good (heavy) weights on all four legs are a must. This, of course is to keep your tent anchored down and from blowing away. Many shows will actually fine artists whose tents disrupt, or cause damage, at a show. Plus you’ll be held responsible for paying for the damage to other artists’ stuff that your tent may have caused. Also, weights are doubly important as a part of your arsenal of tools because some shows do not allow staking.

Know Your Surroundings

I just want to also mention here to watch out for hidden holes, spaces with trees where birds roost and leaky plumbing, etc.. Like I mentioned before – event planners are not often artists themselves. They may put together an event, but may not have actually ever set up at one themselves and they just may not be aware of all the things to look for. I’ve attended a couple events where everything looked like a great spot for a little market, only to find out oops! – that’s the “bird poop” tree or the building next door channels water off the roof right there, etc.. This is especially important when trying out a newly created market event. Usually the long-time shows have figured this stuff out.

Creative Display

Almost anything can be turned into a display tool. Shutters and fireplace screens can display jewelry, small bookcases can add height, plant hangers and hooks can hang from your tent, decorative candelabrum with flat style holders can be used to display clusters of smaller items, etc..

I’ve seen some artists use gridwall to anchor in the center of their tent and display clothing and other items on that (which also provides extra anchoring weight.) I bought a used hat tree for my crochet hat designs and it was a life saver. Because before I had that, sometimes my styrofoam heads, in spite of my efforts, would catch a gust of wind and there’d go flying a head across the place with my crochet along with it.

Leeping_Deer_Tapestry_Crochet

My tapestry crochet piece. It’s about 5 feet square. This design was adapted from the work of Catherine Cartwright-Jones and her machine knitting book called “Enchanted Knitting.” This motif was originally designed for a hat and came from a tattoo design found on an ice princess mummy. An anniversary gift to my mother-in-law.

Don’t forget the power of PVC pipe. You can see the roughly 6 foot frame my husband made for me to display a 5 foot square tapestry crochet piece here.

It’s very sturdy and “modular’ as it can be completely dismantled and stored in an old lawn chair bag.

I have also seen (believe it or not) stained glass hung from pvc pipe frame that was wired to a tent frame. This was done indoors, using a tent frame with the canopy removed. (See, even if you’re not doing an outdoor show, a tent frame can still be very useful.)

Networking to Find Shows and Improve Experience

Get to know other seasoned artists and artisans. Most people are good people and most want to be helpful and help others on their path to success at shows. And in all honesty, it makes for a better show experience all the way around, if everyone is helpful to each other and helps the newbies learn the ropes. Seriously! I can’t tell you how many wonderful and seasoned artists have helped me out over the years, giving me insight that can only come from years of experience, saving me some serious headaches and helping me make good decisions too. It doesn’t matter if they are in your exact field or not. There are many things about shows that are all the same. And these folks can tell you where to get the best equipment, the best prices, and even what’s a good compromise and what’s not and to stand up for yourself as an artist. Likewise, if someone steps out to help you, be sure to appreciate them back!

Depending on your market, check with local cities (most have at least an annual event), schools and art/craft clubs. If there is an Etsy Street Team in your area, I highly recommend joining it. Or find a local art or craft group and join it. Many of the better groups are juried, so do keep that in mind. A juried group means you have to pass the muster before you can join. And you may find shows that are juried as well. This is a way to keep the quality and standards high, as well as maintain the integrity of the market – which in the long run spells success for its participants. Even 6 months or a year with a group like one of these will be invaluable for the information, experience, opportunities, and relationships you will gain. Plus it’s always nice to do a show with folks you know who can watch your back and support your work.

Advantages to Help During a Show

I personally feel if you can get help to run your booth, it’s well worth doing and the bigger the show, perhaps the more helpful additional hands are if you can get them. Two people to run a booth is good to start until you get to know your venues. However, when I did a couple shows with our Etsy Austin Street Team, several of us shared a single booth space to help gain exposure for the team as well as each of us. And it was (surprisingly) a very nice experience in that there were several of us available to help sell everyone’s items, watch the crowds and handle the credit card sales, etc..

Getting help with your booth is especially good if your helper(s) can offset any weaknesses you might have in public presentation. If you’re not so great with how to arrange your set up, maybe your helper has more the eye for how to arrange the booth to be a pleasant space people want to stay in and not feel like they’re about to be trapped. Or, if you’re like me – good at the talking, but less good at handling multiple points of sales at the same time, a helper would be great to help handle extra customers or paperwork stuff while you focus on your presentation. The “expert” and the “support” person makes a great basic team.

Confidence in Numbers

Another good reason to have help is strength in numbers or just support when you’re not sure what to do. I personally still struggle with what to do with bad situations with ugly competitors. Truly I just want everyone to be nice and I don’t personally know how to be mean on purpose when you need to. For instance, at a *juried* show I did last year (which was surprising because usually juried shows also mean better manners all around), I ended up with a competing hat maker’s husband standing in front of my booth, wearing her hats. Before I realized what was really going on, he started annoying people and blocking folks from being able to walk into my booth. It took a friend of mine coming over from her booth to say something to him before I could figure out how to politely get the guy away from my traffic. That was one of those situations where I really could have used my own husband or someone to help me with that one. I’m just not geared to be mean, nor able to be very confrontational in my own booth space.

So, if you have a hard time with stuff like that, having help with you who can run interference for you can be invaluable.

So What’s Holding You Back!

These are just some observations from my own experiences over the years. I hope you find them helpful in your own quest to branch out and sell face-to-face at shows. I’ll write a Part II to go with this at some point, as there’s certainly a lot that can go into being prepared for a show. So let me know if you liked this article and would like to see more.

In the mean time, if you have some ideas you think will help others – feel free to post them in the comments below!

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