Blog #6 Embracing Creativity COM0011

Ocean

As I near the end of this course I’ve been looking back at how I’ve changed in the past few months and what I’m taking away from what I’ve learned. The biggest change for me is my focus is a little sharper and I am able to see my being creative as a necessity in my life. For many years I thought of creativity as something that children do or something not for me because I am not what some would call a ‘traditional artist’. I’ve realized that somewhere along the line I gave up thinking I was an artist because I didn’t know how to draw or paint. It sounds silly when I say that but I think that many adults give up on being creative or artistic because it is seen as fruitless or wasteful and that we are better to put our minds toward more practical or money-making endeavours. Activities that we enjoyed as children become bothersome and time consuming when there are more important things to be doing like laundry and cleaning out the garage, and spending endless hours at a job that you loathe.

The topic of embracing your creativity or art can be vague because it is different for everyone. You don’t have to be a traditional artist to be creative. Indulging in a little playfulness or simplicity can get those creative juices flowing. You can be creative in any area of your life.

I spent years envying those who do things that make them happy and wondered what was it about myself that couldn’t get over that hurdle. I am now starting to view many things in my life differently. Perhaps a midlife crisis is looming in there or I am coming out of a lifelong crisis into who I actually am. Am I finally seeing the light? Hope so!

For me, embracing creativity is crucial to finding out who I am and finding my place in the world. I have found that by putting myself out there whether in social media or by simply writing a blog entry I have felt a little more confident about self expression. I’ve used the format of the course to work through my thoughts and ideas for my small business and it has helped me organize the next steps.

There is a plethora of articles and videos with tips to self improve through creativity and finding your passions in life. I found a TED talk which speaks to the fear of doing things that bring us great joy and satisfaction. Enjoy and create!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-dinwiddie/why-you-should-embrace-yo_b_4791119.html

Blog #5 – Light It Up Blue! COM0011

Blog #5 COM001

Light it up Blue!

The Light it Up Blue campaign to raise awareness about Autism was prominent on social media this week! On a personal level I found it so encouraging to see this support as my family has been affected by Autism on different levels in the past 10 years or so.

I’ve seen an outpouring of support and awareness for Autism in the past week. I’ve read inspiring stories from people on the spectrum, detailed articles about the effects of Autism on families and individuals and a slew of posts from organizations and news agencies in support of raising awareness of a condition that effects many. All over the world, people are lighting it up blue to show their support.

Coming to terms with Autism in my family was not easy at first. There is so much information on the internet that is overwhelming, conflicting and just plain incorrect. This campaign has brought so many stories and experiences to the forefront to give an honest and open-minded perspective on a condition that is so complex and varied. Education and increased awareness is what is needed. Social media has reached that challenge with their overwhelming yet positive response to getting the word out there about Autism. In years to come I hope the momentum continues and the awareness keeps spreading.

I wanted to share some of the inspiring posts and images I saw this past week in my community and beyond. Social media can be used to spread positivity and knowledge to people everywhere. Light It Up!

A friend of mine, Chic Tags, using her talents to support!

Chic Tags

I found this article on my Facebook feed that shows photos of children and their families with descriptions of what Autism means to them. Very touching and honest.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/02/photos-that-shatter-autism-stereotypes_n_6969438.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

Another interesting video I came across was a TED talk with Temple Grandin! Hear her describe first-hand how people on the spectrum think and feel!

Finally, a little fun in the heart of T.O. for a good cause!

Blog #4 COM0011 Setting Goals with S.M.A.R.T.

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So, starting a small creative business is a fun and challenging project that is both exciting and overwhelming. Keeping up with all the options out there to make your presence known on the web and more specifically social media is a job in and of itself. Motivation and focus are on my mind a lot these days and how to get and keep them rolling when procrastination decides to come by for a visit. As I research and look for inspiration in books and on-line the one thing that keeps popping up are goals and how to define them. For me, this is where things get sticky and I usually spin my wheels with indecision. So, to help me along and perhaps a few others I decided to look into the SMART tool. Some of you may be familiar with this technique which may be applied to many areas of life.

Basically, SMART helps people like me move beyond the indecision to better define what they want from their business (or other area of life) and how they are going to get to their destination. SMART in acronym form stands for:

S specific

M measurable

A attainable

R relevant

T time-bound

Specific: The more detailed the goal the easier it is to focus and put your plan into motion. What is it that you want to achieve and why is it important? What are the steps involved in achieving your goal?

Measurable: Measure the impact of the goal. Creating targets and milestones will help to make sure you are moving in the right direction.

Attainable: Be realistic and don’t stretch yourself too far. Take into account the size/scope of what you want and make it manageable. Break each goal into smaller steps and work within the time frame you’ve decided upon.

Relevant: Make sure your goal meshes will different aspects of your business, including type of business, clientele and marketing. If the goal is relevant to the needs of your individual business then you are more likely to achieve your goal.

Time-bound: Put a time frame on your goal. If you leave it to chance it isn’t a goal and will never come to fruition. Set a time limit for your goal and work the different steps required into your time frame.

In the next while I hope to start setting some goals for myself and business using SMART.  I’m hoping that having more specific goals will help me move forward and from becoming overwhelmed with all the ideas that are in my head. I came across a very helpful article that details the SMART technique using specific examples. Do you have any tips when it comes to setting goals?

http://sbinformation.about.com/od/startingabusiness/a/smart-goal-examples.htm

Selling on Etsy – Is it worth it? COM0011

A couple of years ago I opened an Etsy shop for my knitting business. At the time I didn’t know a whole lot about selling but I thought I would give it a shot. I read one of Etsy’s start up articles that suggested not to worry too much about details a first. The idea was to get your product up on the site as quickly as possible. I looked at other businesses for inspiration especially with regard to photos and product description. A photographer friend of mine took some photos of my work which turned out great. I had my first ten items posted in an evening. For the next while I checked my Etsy account regularly to see if there was any action on my site. I had a little activity but not much happened. I didn’t expect to be the next big Etsy sensation but I was a little overwhelmed by the amount of competition and how much work it takes to get noticed. I let the site continue for about 6 months and had zero sales. I had recently started a new job and the Etsy site got put on the backburner. I also wasn’t posting on Facebook at this point so my knowledge of on-line marketing was a little low.

Recently, I’ve decided to have another look at Etsy but I’m still not sure if it is the right fit for me. I did some research and found a helpful video from an experienced Etsy seller detailing some of the pros and cons of having a business on Etsy. I enjoy the video format and use them regularly for knitting help and techniques. I find some of my videos invaluable.

The pros are pretty straightforward. Etsy takes the complicated out of starting up a business site. The process is pretty smooth and there are more than enough articles for tips on how to get your business rolling. The Etsy community for the most part is very supportive and quick to answer your questions and concerns. You also have the option to ship International (if you choose). A nice feature is the option to sell digital products. I do have a few patterns of my own that I would love to share and this would be a great way to get them out there (in addition to the knitting site, Ravelry).

Competition is the main con in my opinion. What is it that sets your products apart from others who make or sell similar items? Food for thought. I’m still working on this one!

Another con would be that all of the businesses look the same and there isn’t a lot of room for creativity and customization. Customers may not recognize your shop name only that they bought something on Etsy. Perhaps this is where a personal website comes in handy where you have complete creative control over your brand.

The fees are not a huge concern at first and you do have an option to pay a flat fee as you notice your sales increasing.

The other thing I’m learning is that there are alternatives to Etsy such as Shopify and Folksy. I don’t know much about them but may research for future blogs before I make my decision to open again.

What are your thoughts on Etsy? Do you have any experience as a buyer or seller on the site?

Blog#2 Small Business and Social Media

yarn stash

I own a small artisan/craft business and I think a lot about how social media can be best used for small businesses that have few employees or in my case one employee–me!. Facebook has been my main mode of communicating with customers in the past two years and has been great but now I’m looking to expand and look at new applications that would suit a smaller business. In my research I came across many lists of tips, some helpful and some more suited to big business. The Forbes article below had some interesting points that got me thinking. Most of the tips can be applied to any business but here are a few of the highlights that I think are helpful.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelfertik/2014/08/21/is-social-media-worth-it-for-small-businesses/

Have a realistic expectation for what you want social media to accomplish for your business and a good plan to execute your needs.

Very good advice to have a business plan in general but research the areas of social media that can best serve your business. I’ve stuck with Facebook because it is relatively safe and easy to use but perhaps there are better and more efficient ways of getting my products to potential customers. For me, Pinterest and Instagram are on my list to tackle next.

Explore who your audience is and what social media channels they hang out on.

Key to helping you pinpoint where to best put your money and effort.

Set a pace for social media and make it maintainable for the size of your business.

Putting together posts and photos and trying to figure out the best time to post can be a challenge. It’s only through experimentation that I have had mini breakthroughs and a few surprises along the way. This tip goes hand in hand with knowing your audience and where to find them.

Quality posts over quantity

Do you post ten times a day or once or twice a week? Personally, I like to think that quality posts that are helpful and informative are preferred to a bunch of posts with little to no content. I guess it depends on the type of business again.

Know who your audience is following and follow similarly

A little spy work can come in handy. In my knitting world this is not difficult. There are a plethora of blogs and websites out there that have huge followings and can help you keep your ear to the ground when it comes to what’s new and what people are following, ie. Ravelry

Be confident and put yourself out there and have a professional manner when responding to criticism, comments, questions

Putting yourself out there is a huge step but once you start posting and getting positive responses especially from people you may have never met, your confidence builds and you start to get excited about possibilities. Of course with the positive comes the negative and it’s important to have a plan in place for when criticism and negative comments come your way. Try to stay above the situation and remain professional.

Social media is always changing and what works for one business may not work for another so stay open-minded and go with what feels right at the time. You may start out in one area of social media for example Facebook and over time migrate to new areas like Pinterest or Instagram depending on the style of business and what your clientele is looking for. Be flexible and have fun!

What strategies or tips have you found to be helpful?

First Time Blogger! Blog#1 COMM0011

So, what is blogging really all about? I don’t follow any blogs regularly although I have read some great things in the past few years, both informative and compelling or just funny. When I read that I had to write a blog every two weeks for the course, I had a mild panic attack. What can I possibly write about that people would find interesting. I’m what my accompanying article declares a “self-conscious writer”! Writing does not come naturally to me or perhaps I am just out of practice. I wish I explained things better and was as witty in words as I think I am in my head. I hope this blog will help me express some of my ideas and thoughts and carve out a little space to share and perhaps find some common ground with others. I did have a little brainstorming session with myself (on paper first) and hopefully have succeeded.  I’m not entirely sure at this point what direction my blog will take in future posts but I think it will lean toward small business interests. As a small business owner and an employee of a local boutique my blog will relate more to my current experience and how the two businesses can be shaped through social media.

In the past year I have taken on a new job where I am posting on a Facebook business page daily. Social media is a large part of my job and one that I didn’t know much about going in but I am intrigued by how it can benefit small business. Aside from some of Facebook’s more challenging rules and regulations, my posts have garnered some attention but there is always that question of how to get more people to know you exist. Of course, numbers are not simply enough, you want people who have an interest in your product or service to keep them coming back again and again and to give you that sought after status of “liked” and “following”. What is it that people want and what keeps people coming back to your page again and again? It is a question that my employer and I talk about almost daily and more often than not we end most conversations with an “I don’t know” kind of face. Hence, me taking this course to further my knowledge.

I recently started using Google+ both personally and at work but haven’t given it the same amount of time as Facebook. I’ve also had a Twitter account for a couple of years now but have never posted a Tweet! Same for Instagram. Blame my baby brain the past few years I guess. So, everything is in place, it’s just getting over the initial fear of sharing information but also sounding relevant. It all moves so fast but I would love to get a handle on how the different applications can work together.

What are your thoughts on good blog writing? Do you struggle with words and sharing information that is both interesting and informative?

http://www.getspokal.com/how-to-overcome-your-fears-and-write-the-perfect-first-blog-post/