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Handmade Holiday Gift Guide

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The holidays are fast approaching. Most creators (myself included) are probably swamped with last minute holiday prep and filling in orders from early bird shoppers.

But in addition to our businesses for the holidays, we also have a ton of things to prepare in our family and personal lives as well. Decorating, cooking, organizing gatherings, and of course…holiday shopping!

A couple weeks ago I did a gift guide series of handmade gift ideas on my Instagram profile. I got such a good reaction to it that I decided to post it here on the blog, complete with direct links to the items in the guide.

If you have the time, give these items and the artists behind them a look. One way to support the handmade community is by supporting each other. So if you see an item on the list that would make a great gift, don’t hesitate to put it on your shopping list.

By the way…some of these items are one of a kind or limited edition, so if you see something that you like, check it out ASAP. You never know when it might sell out!

Enjoy!

Gifts $25 and under

On a budget? Perhaps you’re shopping for a secret Santa gift or you’re participating in a gift exchange with a price limit. Here are 8 lovely artist-made items that cost $25 or less.

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1. seastonefrogEngraved Stone Pendant

2. maiseydesignHi Fi Headphones Pillow Blue

3. alittleleafyTough Cookie Mug

4. azandairaleeGold Handstamped Lace Pattern Ring Dish

5. lambsoapworksSpiced Apple Cider Soap Bars

6. _inthedaylightHappiness Canvas Wine bags

7. ntdstudioPurple Silhouette Book Earrings

8. woodfirecandleApothecary Wood Wick Soy Candle

Shopping for the holidays? Here are 8 handmade gift ideas that are $25 and under Click To Tweet

Stocking Stuffers

A great gift doesn’t have to be big and showy. Items small enough to fit in stocking can sometimes make the best gift. Here are 8 items that will make wonderful stocking stuffers.

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1. houseofblingsWhite Daisy and Purple Flowers Bumper Case

2. jlynndesigneryBe Brave Motivational Notepad

3. happydappybitsMy Little Book of Happy Things

4. clayandclaspChristmas Earrings

5. thewordfairNoel, Joy, Peace Christmas Ornaments

6. mossloveEnamel Pins

7. lazypencilcoWorld Is Too Big Notebook

8. enchantedapothecaryLuna Soap

Here are 8 great handmade stocking stuffer gift ideas Click To Tweet

Gifts for Creative Hustlers

Got a fellow creative business person on your list? Help them maintain their creative hustle with one of these 8 useful/inspirational items.

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1. borntobedesignsBorn to be a maker T-shirt

2. jrykerscreativeYou Got This Print

3. alexrad1974Frida Kahlo Planner
Sorry! This item was recently sold out, but you can check out more of this artist’s items on their Etsy store.

4. schimmelwoodworksCustom Pen

5. smallglow“It’s Mailing Day!” Tote

6. iamlisajacobs2017 Your Best Year Yet Planner

7. wkndpressLetterset Scratch Pads

8. yellowbessCustom Stamp

Need a gift for an artist or creative businessperson? Here are 8 gift ideas for creative hustlers Click To Tweet

Gifts for Her

Need a gift for your Mom? Sister? BFF? These 8 items will make a great gift for the favorite lady in your life.

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1. shopwrennKira Necklace Pixie Dust Druzy

2. madeonmainvtTravel Makeup Brush Holder

3. hellopidgepidgeHandwoven Vegan Purple & Buttercup Scarf

4. capecodclutchesTurquoise Anchor Cork Bottom Tote

5. effiespaperPeace, Love & Happiness Water Bottle

6. avaloveshopnycFairytale Trees Charcoal Long Sleeve

7. yuzusoapLavender Sage Bath Bomb Cubes

8. ntdstudioNarrow Links Ojos Bracelet

Shop handmade this year! Here are 8 lovely handmade gift ideas for her Click To Tweet

Gifts for Him

Stumped for a unique gift for the favorite guy in your life? Check out these 8 guy friendly gift items.

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1. thehairyfaceEspresso Beard Oil

2. mancraftedshop375ml Patrón soap dispenser

3. cyberrelicsCircuit Board Keychain

4. sloanestationeryBucket List Desk diary

5. embeemugsYoda Best Customized Mug

6. ironwolfmetalworkingCollege Emblem Metal Art

7. awlxmaulThe “Dirty Rake” wallet

8. loopnthreadsChunky Nautical Hat

Stumped for a unique gift for the favorite guy in your life? Here are 8 guy friendly handmade gift ideas Click To Tweet

Gifts for Kids

What would the holidays be without kids? Here are 8 artist-made items to appeal to the little folks in your life.

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1. animalcrackersbysueStuffed Elephant

2. afternoonowldesignsWolf Hoodie

3. hellojojodesignFelt Button Mum Headband

4. posh.pandaChampagne Bow Boots

5. sealedwithastitchnolaCustomized Backpack

6. pip_and_beanPersonalized Cape

7. myredhandgangBuster Bear Clock

8. imagodeikidsLittle Boy, Big Blessing, T-shirt
Sorry! This item is currently sold out, but you can check out more of this artist’s items on their online store.

Check out these 8 adorable artist-made holiday gifts for kids Click To Tweet

Gifts $50 and Under

Need to find something really special, but not too pricy? Check out these 8 wonderful gifts that are $50 or less.

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1. woodforgeshopPersonalized Cutting Board

2. vintagecandy25Personalized Silverplated Cake Slicer

3. sheabeckerSlouchy Gray and Pink Hand Knit Hat

4. lylagracedesignMonogram Heavyweight Tote bag

5. convivialproductionAcacia Planter

6. heike_elisabethOriginal Abstract Ink painting

7. sendaspagramSpa Box

8. love.and.cherishLabradorite Ring

Shopping for the holidays? Here are 8 handmade gift ideas that are $50 and under Click To Tweet

If you liked this guide, support the artists in it by sharing it on social media and passing it along to family and friends!

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How to Run Your Creative Business While Working Full-Time

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It’s the ultimate dream doesn’t it? Spending your days in your studio or in your home office running your own creative business. The longest commute of the day is from your bedroom to your studio. Not having to request vacation or sick days from your boss because, the boss is you! It’s just you, your work and your customers.

But if you’re like a good many creative business owners, that scenario is a daydream…at least for now. Your creative venture don’t quite pay all the bills yet. So as of now you have a full or part time job in addition to your creative side gig (or gigs). How do you effectively juggle all of that and still have a life as well?

Juggling a creative business with a full-time job (and a family and that thing called life) isn’t easy, but it can be done. Here are some tips on how you can maintain the balance.

Managing your time

The biggest factor in juggling your job and your business is time. Or rather the lack of it. If you’re struggling to successfully managing your time between your job and your business, here are a few ideas to consider:

Carve out time for your business– We all have have small pockets of time throughout the day that you can take advantage of to get some work done. Even if you feel like your days are packed, there are always some pockets of free time you can use to work on your business.

The first step in carving out your time is to keep a time diary for a week or two so you can track when you go to sleep, when you get up, how long it takes you to commute to work, how long it takes you to prepare a meal, how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, what you do during your downtime, and so forth. By the end of the week you should have a fairly accurate picture of what your days are like and how you actually spend your time.

Look over your time diary and see where your free time is. Can you find pockets of 30 minutes to an hour you can use to get some work done? Are you able to make extra time for yourself by giving up a few hours of television or waking up a half hour early or going to bed a half hour or so later? Can you allocate a few hours per week on the weekend for your creative business? Could you spend a couple of lunch breaks per week to tackle a few tasks?

Don’t underestimate the amount of work you can get done in a half hour. I often find that the amount of time it takes me to do something magically expands to fit the time I have available. The advantage of time limits is that it often forces you to focus and work efficiently.

Juggling a creative business with a full-time job isn't easy, but it can be done Click To Tweet

Make use of systems– When your time is limited, efficiency is key. There’s probably a lot of tasks that you do over and over again on a regular basis like shipping orders, sending invoices, posting social media updates, or following up on sales calls. If you don’t have a systemized workflow to handle these routine tasks you’re probably wasting a good bit of time.

The benefit of setting up and using a system for your tasks is that you follow the same steps each and every time you do it. You won’t have to waste time trying to figure out what to do next. You’re less likely to skip a crucial step in the process which may cause mistakes that you have to go back and fix. And you can easily train an assistant or employee on the process if you have a solid one already in place.

A system doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a checklist or a set of tasks in a to-do list that you go through and check off while you’re working on a routine task.

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Setting up systems and workflows for common tasks to can help save time in the long run.

And remember that systems aren’t just a good idea for your business. You can use systems to save time in your personal life as well. For example, I created a system for preparing my clothes for the entire week on Sunday mornings. I check my calendar to see if there are any meetings where I need to dress up a bit, and check the weather to see if it’s going to be hot, cold, or raining. And I also check the clothes I want to wear to make sure there aren’t any missing buttons, wrinkled, stains that made it though the wash, or any surprise ripped seams or tears. The clothes are then arranged by day towards the front of the closet.

So instead spending five to ten minutes every morning trying to decide what to wear, all I have to do is grab my pre-selected outfit for the day and get dressed. This small savings in time every morning allows me to spend it on accomplishing business tasks before work.

Systems can be an awesome time-saver. Give them a try!

Get and stay organized– Another side benefit of creating systems is that they can also encourage you to organize your workspaces…which also saves more time. The less time you spend looking for more packing tape or trying to find that file on your computer is more time spend spent on more important things.

Take some time to organize your physical workspace. Set it up so you can quickly find materials that you use frequently and stow away things that you don’t need on a regular basis. Organize your digital files so that you’re not sifting through dozens of vaguely labeled folders or trying to sift through multiple versions of the same file to find what you need to work.

This doesn’t mean that you have to have to have one of those absolutely clean workspace with nothing but a pencil on the desk. Rather, set up your space so that you know where everything is and that you can lay your hand on the things you need when you need them instead of having to search for them.

Take advantage of mobile apps and services– There are a wealth of free and paid apps out there these days that can help you save time and manage your side gig while on the go. Everything from productivity apps like Todoist, IFTTT, Trello, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Evernote to apps that help your run your business like Sell on Etsy, Mailchimp, or Buffer.

With your mobile device and the right apps, you have the equivalent of a traveling office in your pocket. You can easily take advantage of spare minutes like waiting in line or at the doctor’s office, during commutes on public transportation, or for a few minutes between meetings to keep track of your projects, tasks, and schedule as well as manage your social media, update your Etsy store, send email newsletters, and update your blog.

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Day to day tasks and longer term projects can be successfully managed using productivity apps such as Todoist.

Have a plan– If you’re first starting out or even if you’ve been working at your business for a while, you may find yourself flailing around, doing one task, then switching over to another task, and eventually you find that you’re doing a bunch of work, but you’re not really going anywhere.

This drifting around from one unrelated task to another is usually a sign that you don’t have a clear plan for your business; a tangible goal to reach and a roadmap to get there. Without a goal or a timeline to work towards, it’s easy to simply fill what time you have with aimless tasks that gets you nowhere.

What do you want to accomplish with your creative business in the next year or so? Do you want to write your first novel? Build your first collection? Get into your top three galleries? Take some to to really think about where you want your business to go in the next 12 months. Express that accomplishment in the form of a tangible, measurable goal, such as; “In 12 months, I want to launch a collection of 12 new designs“.

Once you’ve decided on a goal, all of your tasks should be focused on that goal. This tight focus keeps you from wasting time on useless tasks. If a task isn’t closely related to your main goal, it shouldn’t be on your list.

Annual_Plan_CoverOne tool that can help you break your main goal down into an actionable task list is an annual plan. An annual plan steps you through on planning your main goals in various areas of your life for the next year, and then creating a plan help you reach your goal. You can download a copy of the Annual Planning Guide from the Creative Business Toolbox.

Get help where you can– Getting more done doesn’t mean that you have to do it all yourself. If you need help managing your Etsy store or building a website or managing a lot of your office related tasks, consider hiring an assistant for a few hours a week.

A virtual assistant can answer emails, update your website, or do marketing research, or send newsletters while you’re at your full time job or even while you’re asleep. You can opt to hire a local assistant to come in during the evenings or the weekend to help you with fill orders, filling, or organizing your workspace. This can free your precious time up to do higher level tasks like strategizing, creating your work, or finding new customers.

You may even find that your spouse or children are actually eager to help you with certain business related tasks as well. I recently completed a full inventory of my jewelry and supplies with the help of a teenaged cousin who also helps with household chores from time to time. Inventory is a task that I always find to be an exasperating, yet necessary evil. She found it infinitely fascinating to learn the ins and outs of keeping inventory and why it’s important. And of course, the main attraction for her was seeing all the jewelry. It was a win-win for both of us.

Don’t forget that the less time you spend on normal household tasks like cleaning, cooking, and running errands, the more time you can allocate for your creative gig. If you have a significant other or children, work with them to redistribute some of your household related chores so that you have more time to spend on your business.

If you don’t have anyone to redistribute chores to, consider hiring a cleaning service once or twice a month to clean while you work on your business. For other household projects line small repairs, errands, and yard work, you can use a service like Task Rabbit can help you find people in your area that will offload those chores on a one time or ongoing basis.

Task Rabbit

Services like Task Rabbit can help you manage household and personal tasks so you can have more time for your business.

Managing your energy and focus

Making time to work on your creative business is only part of the battle. You also need to be productive with the time you set aside. Being able to divide your energy and focus between your job and your creative business is just as important. Here are some tips to help you manage your energy.

Work with your natural energy flow– Everyone has natural energy peaks and lows. If you work a regular 8 hour day at your full-time job, you may often find yourself too tired and mentally drained to work on your side gig before bed, especially if you’re not a night owl. If you’re not a morning person, the thought of waking up early to work seems ludicrous when there’s always more sleep to be had.

When you’re carving out time to work on your side gig, remember to work as much with your natural energy flow as possible. If you’re a morning person, take advantage of that energy by rising an hour or two earlier before work. If you’re a night owl, use your extra burst of energy in the evening to get your tasks done. Match the tasks you’re doing to match when you have the greatest amount of focus. I focus best in the mornings, so I choose those times to do tasks that require more brainpower for me, like planning and writing. I save tasks that require less focus like listing Etsy store items, editing photos, inventory, or filling orders for the evenings.

And take note of your limits as well. If you’re a morning person but you’re still sleepy at 5am, adjust your routine so that you either go to bed earlier to get enough sleep to be alert at 5am or simply get up a bit later, say at 6am instead.

You’ll also have days where you seem to be super focused and days where your mind seems to be a bit “fuzzy”. In many cases it’s better to adjust your tasks and schedule to accommodate the days that you seem to be off instead of trying to power through them.

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Use your calendar to map out your day-to-day work schedule and tasks.

Don’t forget that it’s just as important to manage your energy at your 9 to 5 job. The energy you spend at your full-time job will effect how much you’ll have left for your creative business. If you find that you’re frequently coming home from work exhausted and fried, that could be a sign that you need try to take better control of your work day.

If you’re able, try to build in more breaks throughout your day at your full-time job where you take a few minutes to get away from your task and regain your focus. One study showed that people tend to work better if they work in 1 hour increments followed by a 15 minute break. If you can, try this technique in your own 9 to 5 job and see if it makes a difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

Set the mental stage for work– Squeezing a couple of extra minutes into your schedule here and there can help you knock out small tasks. But a lot of your more impactful, meaningful work is going to require your full energy and attention. How you go about starting your work and setting up your work area can help you set the proper stage.

For tasks and projects require your full concentration, set the stage in so that your mind is totally focused on your work. In a recent Creative Live article, writer Suchi Rudra described how she juggled writing fiction pieces on the side while working as a staff writer for a business journal. She would come home from work, shower, change into comfortable clothes, light a stick of incense she brought back from a recent trip to India, turn on some mood music and spend the next few hours writing. Using this method she managed to write her first novella in less than a year.

Think about what kind of work ritual you can implement that will help you focus on your side gig. For example, I do most of my blog post writing in the mornings a couple of hours before work. I get out of bed, put on my most comfy robe, perform a brief morning ritual to wake me up, make myself a cup of tea, go to my office/studio, turn on my favorite focus app Focus@Will and concentrate on writing for an hour and a half. This sets me up not only to have a productive morning for my business, but it also puts me in a good mood for my full-time job.

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If you have difficulty concentrating, a productivity app like Focus@Will can help you focus while your work.

What kind of ritual will work for you? Make it into an experience. Where will you work? When? How for how long? What will you be wearing? What kind of sensory cues will you use to put you in the mood for work? Things like music, sounds, smells or drinks like tea and coffee can be a signal to your brain that it’s time to start working. These cues will make it easier for your brain to settle down and focus on work, which will make your work periods more productive.

Explore workspaces away from home– As strange as it sounds, sometimes you’ll get much more of your work done when you’re away from your home workspace. This is especially true if there’s a pile of laundry in the corner waiting to be washed, or a stack of dishes in the sink, or if your family like to come into your office to see if you can do “just this one thing”, or if your friends have a habit of dropping in for surprise visits.

If you find that frequent interruptions at home are constantly effecting your ability to focus on your business, see if you can find a spot away from your home workspace to work, like the library, the local Starbucks, or a shared workspace. Even if your home space works quite well most of the time, sometimes an occasional change of scenery can keep you focused on days where your brain seems a bit fogged in or you don’t quite seem to be in the mood to work at home.

Take care of your health– What is the most valuable asset in your creative business? You are. You won’t have the energy to successfully handle your full-time job and your side gig if you’re sleep deprived, sick, stressed out, or all three at the same time.

When I was running my freelance business a few years ago, I spent more time trying to get more projects done and get more clients and less time getting enough rest, exercising, eating right, and just spending downtime with family and friends.

I refused to slow down even when I occasionally felt dizzy, or when I found it harder to walk up and down the stairs to my office, or even when I got so exhausted I couldn’t stay awake past 9:30 pm. Finally, I was forced to slow down when I ended up in the emergency room with severe anemia. And when my health crashed, so did my business.

It took that hard lesson to teach me that spending time to exercise or prepare a good meal or just hanging out with family is just as important as getting that new client or finishing that project. Remember that the energy and creativity you need for managing everything you do comes from how well you treat yourself. Make it a top priority.

Managing your attitude

Juggling your job and your business doesn’t just require good time and energy management. A big part of the juggling act is your attitude about it, because when that sucks…everything sucks.

Shake off the “part-time” artist stigma– If you have the notion that you won’t be a “real artist” until you’re making a living from your work, get the idea right out of your head. Ever heard of Elizabeth Gilbert, Marie Forleo, or James Franco? They worked a variety of day jobs while building up their respective crafts and businesses. So you. So do I. So do a whole lot of other unknown artists all over the world.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book about creativity, Big Magic, she quickly dispels the notion that that in order to live a creative life one has to give everything up and move to Paris to paint the rest of their lives. She stresses that, “living a creative life is simply having the courage to follow your interests and going where creativity may lead you”. She even cautions against depending on your art to support your life too soon (or at all) because the stress of doing so may end up killing your creativity.

If you’re telling yourself that you’re not a “real” artist or creative because you’re not doing it full time, stop it.

Have the right attitude– There will be days where you absolutely hate your job. These are usually the days where you’re itching to get a business project done and you can’t because your spending 8 hours of your day on the job. Or they’re the days where you’re having a crappy day at work. Or perhaps you just have a terrible job.

Those are the days you want to simply walk out the door. If quitting is completely out of the question, you may simply try to disappear. You’ll want to hide away from co-workers, start taking too many breaks, or try to do as little as possible while keeping your eyes on the clock, waiting for the end of the day.

Don’t do it. Just don’t. If you’re not reasonably sure that you can meet your financial needs after you quit, you’re dooming your creative business to failure. Desperation over finances usually leads to crappy business killing decisions, and as Elizabeth Gilbert pointed out in Big Magic, it can kill your creativity as well.

On the other hand, a having a bad attitude at work all day can be pretty energy draining and you risk having that bad attitude spill over into your creative business. If you absolutely can’t stand where you’re working, try to find a better job first. Unless you absolutely thrive on stress, quitting may put your side gig at risk.

If you’re going to stay at your full-time job, commit yourself to doing the work and doing it well. See if you can find ways to introduce your creative skills in your job to make it more enjoyable (The Todoist blog has a nice article about this). Instead of seeing your job as a burden, see it as an opportunity to get your business where it needs to be before you add the extra stress of making it profitable enough to go full time. You won’t be as tempted to make decisions based purely on the fact that you need to bring in money and you’ll have more leeway to experiment and take a few risks.

You can also use your full-time job as a training ground to master the skills it takes to run your business. Many of the same skills you’re likely using on the job; time management, customer service, and presentation skills are going to be some of the same skills you’ll need to be successful in your business. Use your time at your full time gig to sharpen those skills and apply them to your business.

Learning to successfully juggle your full-time job and your creative business will make you a ninja at managing your time and making your business run efficiently. Remember that your time constraints aren’t going to magically disappear on the day you finally quit and go full time with your gig. Your work will simply to expand to fill the rest of the day. So use this time to get the foundations of your business; systems, goals, and good work habits in place before you quit.

Other people's 'overnight successes' always seems more glamorous than building your own Click To Tweet

Become an intern at your job– One of the valuable things about internships is that it gives you a peek into how certain industries run and allows you to pick up a variety of skills. Depending on where you work, you may have the opportunity to learn specific skills that may benefit your business. In my job, I work within the marketing department, which gives me the opportunity to ask the social media team questions about Facebook advertising, or I can pick the brain of the public relations guy to see who the local media contacts are in our area, or I can gather a few more Photoshop tricks from the folks in the graphic design department.

What can you learn from your current job? If you pretended to be an intern at your current job, what can you learn that may benefit your business one day? What can you learn about customer service from your job? What can you learn about managing employees and teams? What can you learn about managing projects? What can you learn about local markets and trends? What can you learn about presenting your ideas? Or about setting up procedures and systems to manage everyday tasks?

You don’t have to work in a creative field to learn something that would apply to your business. Even if you feel that what you do is the most useless, soul killing position in the world, you can at least learn how not to run your business and see what doesn’t work. Keep your eyes open and take advantage of any lessons you can find at your job.

Be patient and stay motivated– Let’s face it. Working a full-time job or a couple of part time jobs while running your gig can be exciting. But sometimes it will be utterly exhausting and the exact opposite of exciting. When it seems like you’re doing so much work and not getting much out of it, it can be an absolute motivation killer. What do you when you feel like you’re not making any headway?

Recently my husband and I had dinner with a group of friends, one of which was someone we really hadn’t seen much of in a couple years. During dinner he talked about how well his business was doing. He’s getting lots of new clients…more than he could handle in some cases. He’s also getting lots of referrals and he’s projected to hit his yearly sales goal five months ahead of schedule.

Listening to my friend talk about his recent success, I reflected that it’s easy to forget that he had actually started his business over 13 years ago, building it slowly in the mornings before going to his full-time job and working on it before bed in the evenings. There were a few years where he always had an additional side gig or another part time job as well to keep things afloat. The past couple years, the ones where he “disappeared”, he had gone back to school to get a business degree….while working on his business…while working a full-time job.

Finally after 13 years of hard work, holding down multiple jobs, going to school, and slowly building his business one customer at a time, he was an “overnight” success.

Bottom line, it’s going to be a lot of hard work. Other people’s “overnight successes” always seems more glamorous than building your own. There’s going to be trade offs. There’s going to be setbacks. There’s going to be times that you wonder if you should just give up your creative business altogether.

Be patient. Focus on what you’ve accomplished so far. Focus on your routine instead of your results. Put your current results in the proper perspective.

Conclusion

Managing the demands of a day job and creative business can be a bit daunting. With the right strategies, the right tools and the right attitude, your day job can be the catalyst to help you take your creative venture full time.

Your turn! What strategies do you use to balance your full-time job and your creative business? What difficulties have you come across managing the two and how did you manage to overcome it? Share your thoughts by entering a comment below.

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Building Websites with Etsy’s Pattern

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Etsy can be a great venue for beginner and veteran creatives alike to sell their work online for a lot of good reasons. Setting up a shop is fast and easy, listing and selling fees are reasonable, and for lovers of handmade items it’s the go-to website for artist made work.

As great as Etsy is, it also has its drawbacks. For one thing, all Etsy stores pretty much look alike. It can be difficult to completely express your brand on Etsy, even if you have a strong one. And having a strong brand is a necessity on Etsy, because it’s a pretty crowded venue. It’s very easy for a creative business to be lost among the thousands of other artists on Etsy.

Last year, Etsy made a big step towards tackling those drawbacks with the introduction its website building service, newest service, Pattern.

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If you’re an artist or creative that loves the ease of running your online store through Etsy, but also longs for more design flexibility and ability to stand out more, Pattern might be a game-changer for you.

What is Pattern?

Pattern is Etsy’s website building service that enables you to create a standalone website that’s powered and managed by your existing Etsy store. Using current listings and store information, you can set up a Pattern website with a customized theme, colors, and branding within minutes. And all without any extra technical expertise.

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Customizing Pattern

Pattern has ten distinct themes that you can apply to your standalone website. You can preview what each theme will look like on a full sized computer screen or on a mobile device using listings from your existing Etsy store.

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Once you choose a theme, you can customize it in the “Style” section. In the Style section you can choose fonts for your headlines and body copy, set the background color for your website, and select a color for buttons and various accents within your theme.

The branding section has options for displaying your brand elements on your Pattern website. You can choose to display your store icon, your store name and your icon, or simply display your store name.

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Next you can select how you want your Pattern shopping cart is displayed. It can slide out from the side of the screen, appear as a dropdown display from the top of the screen, or be displayed in the middle of the screen as an overlay.

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There are also two styles to choose from for your store listings. The first style is a photo gallery that visitors can scroll through photos of your listings one by one. In the second style, your listings are displayed as a vertically stacked column that visitors can view by scrolling down the page.

In the Content section, you can customize your website name, your About Page headline, and the text on your Story Page.

Unlike your normal Etsy store, there aren’t any links to other stores on your Pattern website other than a small link to Etsy on the very bottom of the page.

Custom Domain Names In Pattern

All Pattern websites come with a default website address:

yourstorename.patternbyetsy.com

You can further brand your Pattern website by using your own domain name instead of the default Pattern address.

Don’t have a domain name already? You can purchase one directly through the Pattern website for $13 per year. You can create your own domain name and see if it’s available or can use one of the suggested available domain names. If you purchase a domain name through Pattern, it’s yours to keep even if you stop using Pattern in the future. You can also use that domain name to create a custom email address for your Pattern website.

If you already have your own domain name you can connect it to your Pattern site, though it will take a bit of fiddling with your domain name settings. Pattern has a guide to help walk you through the changes. If you’re nervous about doing this by yourself, you can have your domain registrar support team help you out.

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Marketing Your Pattern Website

In the Marketing section, you’ll find a couple of tools to help you market your Pattern website. If you have a custom domain name, here’s where you can set up a custom email address.

You also have the option of setting up an announcement banner for your website. Similar to the Store Announcement feature on your Etsy store, you can use the banner to feature sales, offer promotions or to simply welcome people to your website.

When it comes to the typical Etsy store, one of my biggest pet peeves is the lack of email list building support. Since building an email list of interested buyers is an important part of building a customer base, this is a really big deal. That issue has been solved with Pattern’s integration with Mailchimp. All you need to start building and email list on your Pattern website is an account with Mailchimp (which is free up to your first 2,000 subscribers). Once you have that, you’ll be stepped through that process of connecting your Mailchimp account to your website. Don’t have a Mailchimp account? You can sign up for a free account here.

(Full disclosure, I am a happy user and affiliate of Mailchimp!)

You can also verify your Pattern website with Pinterest so that you’re able to track pins and other Pinterest statistics from your Pattern website. You can learn more about the ins and outs of verifying your website with Pinterest here.

Blogging With Pattern

If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toe into the world of blogging, you can do so with Pattern’s fully integrated blog.

Once activated you can write and publish blog posts on your website. Visitors can leave comments on your blog posts, which are powered by Disqus.

Statistics on views for individual blog posts and overall traffic to your blog is included in Pattern’s website statistics feature.

Pattern Works Alongside Your Etsy Store

Once you’re all set up, Pattern will run in conjunction with your Etsy store. So in actuality you’ll have two websites that work side by side. Whenever you add a new listing to your Etsy store it will automatically appear on your Pattern website as well. There are no additional fees for your Pattern listings and all of your store data automatically syncs between your Pattern website and Etsy store. Etsy features like Guest Checkout will also work with your Pattern website.

You will still use your Etsy store to manage orders and shipping. Plus your Pattern website will have it’s own set of statistics to help you track traffic to your Pattern website.

Pattern Pros

Excited about Pattern yet? There are good reasons you should be:

1. Greater customization– If you’ve been itching to customize your Etsy store, Pattern will be just the ticket for you. With the option of ten themes, customized fonts and colors, and a customized shopping cart, you can make your Pattern website look pretty much the way you want it.

2. Ease of use– Setting up your Pattern website will be just as easy as it was to set up your Etsy store. No technical expertise required.

3. Email list building– If you’ve frustrated with not being able to contact your buyers after a sale or not being able to contact potential buyers at all, Pattern’s integration with Mailchimp will be just the answer for you.

4. No branding competition from Etsy– There’s a lot of competition on Etsy, both from other artists and from Etsy itself. With Pattern, the focus is all on you. Combined with a custom domain, it looks just like a regular website.

5. All of your store data is located in one place– Because Pattern is powered by your Etsy store, you have one single place to manage your listings, your orders, and your shipping.

6. Multiple locations without all the work– If you’ve been thinking about building a separate website in addition to your Etsy store, then Pattern may be a no brainer for you. You’ll have the benefit of another website presence without all the work of duplicating your listings or maintaining two websites.

Pattern Cons

A great as Pattern is, there are a few caveats to consider:

1. Customization options still somewhat limited– While Pattern gives you a wider range of design options, it’s still quite limited compared to using a service like Squarespace, WordPress, or Shopify. You’re also not able to customize which listings appear on your Pattern website. If a listing is on your Etsy store it will also appear on your Pattern website. If you’re hoping to put some listings on Etsy and some just on your Pattern store, it doesn’t look like there’s any support for that as of yet.

2. Additional cost– A Pattern website will add an additional $15 per month to your Etsy bill along with your normal listing and transaction fees. While the cost is fairly reasonable when compared to the technical aspects of hosting your own website or using a service like Shopify, you do need to budget the additional costs before you consider signing up.

3. No integration for an existing blog– Pattern’s blogging feature is great for artists who haven’t yet started a blog and wants to see what the fuss is about. It’s not so great if you already have an existing blog. At this time, there doesn’t seem to be a way to import your existing blog to your Pattern website, nor is there an easy way to link directly to it in your Pattern store navigation. The store announcement banner does allow one link, so that seems to be the easiest workaround at this time.

Conclusion

If Etsy is already a good fit for you but you want greater control over how your store looks, then adding a Pattern website may be a good choice for your creative business. You can test drive Pattern before you commit by signing up for the free 30-day trial here.

So what do you think? Have you tried Pattern yet? Do you have a site built with Pattern? If so, how has it been working for you? Share your thoughts and your Pattern website by adding a comment below.

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How to Create an Effective Homepage for Your Creative Business

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For many of your visitors, your homepage is the first impression they’ll get of your creative business when they visit your website. Even in cases when a potential customer lands on another page first, the next page they visit is usually the homepage. Why? Because years and years of internet behavior teaches us to assume that the homepage will tell us more about what the website is all about.

So how effective is your homepage? What kind of impression will your visitors get when they land on yours? Will they get intrigued by what they see and move deeper into your website? Or will they go “meh” and move on?

For a homepage to be effective, it has a lot of heavy lifting to do. It has to:

  1. Give your visitors just want they’re looking for
  2. Direct visitors where you need them to go
  3. Tell your visitors about the most important thing on your website
  4. Communicate who you are

That’s a lot of stuff for one page to accomplish. Which is why it can be notoriously hard to create an effective one. If you’re thinking that you need to give your homepage a facelift, or you’re in the middle of creating a brand new one, here’s a guide on how to create a homepage that grabs your visitors and makes them want to know more.

What are your visitors looking for?

One of the main things that your homepage has to do is give your visitors what they need. So what do your visitors need? To determine that question first you need to know who your visitors are.

Are they likely to be returning visitors and want information on your latest works? Are they mostly new visitors that want to learn more about you? Who makes up your current website audience? People that find your work through a gallery? Gallery owners? Wholesale customers? Online shoppers?

One way to determine who’s visiting your website and what they’re doing while they’re there at is to review your website stats. Google Analytics is a free service that can give you a good idea what kind of traffic your website is getting on specific pages and what kind of traffic you’re getting to your website overall. It can also tell you where your visitors are coming from, what percentage are new visitors vs returning visitors, what pages they’re looking at, and how long they’re staying on your website. Study the stats that you’re getting on your homepage to get an idea of who your visitors are and what they’re looking for.

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Google Analytics can give you a fairly detailed picture to what’s happening on your website

If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website or blog, here’s a great video that shows you how to do it. Once you install Google Analytics on your website, and start getting stats you can read this guide on what those numbers and graphs mean.

After you have this basic research done, it’s time to start mapping out your homepage. Start by making a list of who your likely visitors are. Using the the information you’ve gathered from your website statistics include information about what each visitor is looking for when the land on your website. Prioritize each activity from most to least popular so you know what interests you visitors the most.

Where do you want your visitors to go?

While an effective homepage gives visitors want they want, it also has to direct them where you need them to go.

Perhaps the main thing your visitors want to see is your latest work. And of course you want them to see your latest work as well. But you also want them to sign up for your mailing list so you can email them whenever there’s new work available. Some of your visitors might not think to join your list or even know that you have one. So one of the things you want your homepage to do is point them in that direction and tell them why signing up for your list is a good thing for them.

Go back to that list that you’ve started on your most likely visitors and list some of the main things you want your visitors to do when they land on your homepage. Like you did with the visitor’s list, prioritize each action in order of most to least importance for you and your creative business.

What’s the most important thing?

An effective homepage has a visual structure. You should be able to tell what the most important thing on the website is by looking at the homepage.

How do you create a visual structure on a homepage? The most important things on the page are located at the top. These elements are also has more “visual weight”; they’re bigger, more colorful and bold, and are the most eye-catching portion of the page. Things that are less important has less visual weight, they’re smaller, less eye-catching, and located in the middle or towards the bottom of the page. This structure can also work for other pages, but it’s critically important for your homepage.

A common mistake is not having a central focus on your homepage by making everything the same size and equally attention grabbing. The rationale behind this is usually, “Well, everything on the homepage is important. We don’t want visitors to overlook anything”.

Unfortunately, that’s not how people scan webpages. People naturally start towards the upper left hand corner of the page and then scan the page left to right in a “Z” pattern towards the bottom of the page. Things towards the bottom of the page will tend to get less attention. Things that stand out in terms of color and size also directs the eye on where to focus. If you make everything roughly the same in terms of visual weight, the human eye tends to blend all the elements together.

When your planning your homepage, prioritize the importance of each element on the page. Look at the list you’ve started. Take note of where the interest of your visitors and your interests overlap in terms of priority. These are the elements that you need to give more visual weight to when planning the structure of your homepage.

A touch of personality

Who are you? What is your work all about? What is your creative business all about? A new visitor should be able to determine the answers to most of these questions and enticed to learn more by looking at your homepage.

For artists and creatives, your story and the story of your work is why your current and potential customers visit your website. So it’s super important to convey this on your homepage. The most obvious way is visually, through the design, the colors, the fonts, and the imagery you display there. You can also communicate your story and business personality through the various types of elements you put on the page. Through the words and tone of voice you use in your homepage copy.

Make sure that your personality shine through on your homepage. Not exactly sure how to describe your business personality? Try this: pick three words that best describes what you do and who you are as a creative. Keep those words in mind when you’re planning your homepage.

Say for example, the words you choose were; playful, practical, and sustainable (try to avoid using overused words like “unique”). Whenever you’re deciding which elements to put on your homepage, what colors to use, and which images to display, and how to write your homepage copy; check your decision against your three personality words. Ask yourself if these elements or combination of elements will communicate those three words to your visitors. Doing this will help keep your personality front and center.

Common homepage elements

Now that we’re familiar with what a homepage must accomplish and all of the heavy lifting it must do, it’s time to go through some of the most common elements you typically find on a homepage. This list is by no means exhaustive. It also doesn’t mean that you have to have every single item on your homepage…although there are some elements that I would argue are a “must-have”.

1. An opt-in form– I’m assuming that you have a mailing list for your creative business, because that in itself is a “must-have”. One essential homepage element you need on your homepage is a form to opt into your mailing list. And I mean a form and not simply a link to your mailing list page. Building a list should be one of your main objectives for your website. Adding a form to your homepage makes it easy for you visitors to join your list without making them jump to multiple pages to do so.

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An example of a homepage form from BadAss Quilters Society

2. A primary call to action– Another homepage “must-have” is a primary call to action…the very first thing you want to direct your visitors to take. And there should only be one primary call to action. One action that gets most of the emphasis and focus. You might be saying, “Why only one? There’s so much on my website that’s important!” Remember that visitors can only focus on one thing at a time and you want them to focus on the most important thing. Too many “important” choices often results in confusion and not taking action at all.

So how do you decide one that one primary call to action is? By consulting that list you started earlier. Look at where your visitor’s interests and yours overlap. Ideally your primary call to action should be:

a) something that your visitors came to your website for
b) something that you want your visitors to do
c) something that will achieve the main goal for your website

Something that meets all of those objectives is likely to be your primary call to action. In most cases there will be only one thing that will meet all three. In the rare case where you have more than one, prioritize and choose one.

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Is there any doubt as to what you’re supposed to do on John Unger’s website?

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have any other call to actions on your homepage, this means that they don’t get the same focus and visual weight as the primary one.

3. Hero image– This may be optional for a lot of websites, but not for any creative who’s work is visually based. Your work is the attraction and visitors want to see it. And there’s nothing that catches the eye more than a big, lovely image of your best work.

When choosing your hero image, use one that represents your best or most popular work and represents who you are as an artist and a creative business. If you don’t have a photo like that, make one. Remember that your hero image will be one of the things that will either encourage your visitors to stick around to find out more, or make them go “meh” and move on.

What about multiple hero images? Couldn’t you have a collage of images instead of just one? Or a slider that rotates your best images? You can do either of these of course, but you may find that an image collage doesn’t have the same visual impact as using one main image. Sliders can work, but make sure that you put your most eye-catching image at the very front. Most people don’t tend to hang around on the homepage just watch your slider. Make sure that very first image counts.

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A beautiful hero image of Katie Gonzalez’s handmade books

4. Featured items or promotions– If you sell your work directly from your website, another homepage element you may consider adding are featured items or your most current promotions in your online store. You can display promotions or featured items as one big hero image, in a rotating slider, or in a photo collage or photo grid.

5. Get started– What if what you offer on your website is a bit complicated? What if you offer custom or personalized items? Or you work on commission and you need to explain the commission process? One useful homepage element might be a “Get Started” or “Start Here” section, a place for people new to your process or your work are directed to so they can learn more.

6. Your story– If you have a creative business, then you should have an “About” page that tells your visitors your story and how your work or your creative business can benefit them. (If you don’t have an About page, you really need to read this) If your story is particularly compelling or you have a specific mission you would like to share with your visitors, a section on your homepage dedicated to your story would make a lot of sense for your homepage. You can choose to condense your story to a paragraph that states your story or mission or you can add a teaser that links to your About page.

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Katie Gonzalez includes an excerpt of her story on the homepage

7. Social proof– Do you get a lot of compliments, comments, and great reviews from your customers? They’re a great form of “social proof” for other visitors to your website. Using a social proof element like reviews, comments, testimonials, number of sales, or number of mailing list subscribers on your homepage is a powerful way to encourage your visitors to stick around and see what all the fuss is about. It’s also a good way to reassure potential new customers that it’s safe to work with you.

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Amaranthus Paper & Flora makes use of their testimonials on their homepage

8. Latest news or blog posts– If you have a blog or if you and your work frequently appear in the news or on other blogs, then a latest news or blog post section would make a nice element for your homepage. You can also opt to curate your blog posts according to popularity or theme and display links to these handpicked posts on your homepage.

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Chris Barreto includes links to his most recent blog posts on his homepage

9. Video intro– Most of the elements on your homepage revolve around text and images. But have you considered using video? Video can be a powerful way to encourage your visitors to further engage with your website. Using just a smartphone, you could easily shoot a nice 20 to 30 second tour of your studio, an overview of your work, a demonstration of your process, or explanation of your story or mission.

Laying out your homepage

Once you’ve determined what your visitors want and prioritized the actions you want them to take, it’s time to choose the right elements to include on your homepage. Remember that you don’t have to choose them all. You can even choose only one or two elements for your homepage. Choose which element will get the main focus and will be at the top of the page which elements are secondary and where their location will be on the page.

Get a blank piece of paper and draw simple blocks lay out the elements on your homepage. Look at the homepage of websites you find compelling to help guide your ideas. If you have a web designer helping you with your website you can show them your list of priorities and tell them about websites you like to help guide their design process. Tweak your ideas until you find a layout that best represents your website.

A homepage is a work in progress

Have you ever noticed how the homepage on Amazon and Etsy are always changing? That’s because they’re always monitoring the behavior of their visitors and they tweak their homepage to make it more effective. A lot of online businesses big, medium, and small test new designs, layouts, colors, and elements to see what works and what doesn’t.

While I’m not suggesting that you redesign your homepage every few months, it is a good idea to keep things fresh. Keep a weather eye on Google Analytics to catch changes in traffic, changes in your audience, and to monitor where your traffic is coming from. Use the information you get from Google Analytics to make small improvements to your homepage on a regular basis. Be sure to monitor what happens after you make a change to see if your changes are working or not.

Conclusion

For a lot of people, your homepage is the welcome mat not only to your website, but to your creative business in general. An effective homepage has to accomplish a lot of things and it must do them well. When done right, your homepage can encourage new visitors to go deeper into your website. Spend some time to make your homepage a better welcome mat for your visitors.

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