5 Perks of Being a Business Owner

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Running my own business has been one of the greatest challenges of my life. Hands down. But, it also comes with some perks, and those perks are what keep me from accepting the full-time positions I’m offered. Want to know what it’s like to run a business of your own? Stick around this week – I’m giving you the perks, challenges, highlights and low-lights of being a business owner.

Lets start this week with 5 Perks of Being a Business Owner!

Perk #1) No Sick Time!

I’ve had bronchitis and a sinus infection for going on three weeks now. THREE WEEKS. I haven’t had to take a single day off of work. I have no co-workers to spray me down with Lysol and no boss to send me home for fear of spreading Ebola throughout the office. Instead, I can prop my computer in my lap and work from the comfort of my couch, hot toddy in hand (that’s hot tea with whisky and lemon, for the record, and it’s amazing). I’m still working, making money, meeting customer demands and requests, and I’m doing so while getting plenty of rest. I can take a day to myself, if I need it, but I’m not forced to do so. I can work, or I can rest, and even when I work, I can do so in my comfortable clothes, without make-up, feeling and looking a hot mess.

I took a few afternoon naps last week, because my body said I needed it. Ever tried to nap at the office without hiding in a closet? Probably not.

Sidenote: I finally went to the doctor last Friday for a steroid shot and antibiotics. I may or may not be a stubborn, all-natural medicine type. #Guilty

Perk #2) You know that annoying co-worker or company with whom you hate to work? I don’t have those. 

While I definitely get the occasional difficult customer, I don’t have to work with anyone with whom I don’t want to work. I even get to pick my co-workers. I currently write for four publications, and I picked all four of them. I used to write for five – I dropped one because working with them was more stress than I felt I needed. When I collaborate with other businesses or business owners, I collaborate with people with whom I enjoy working. I have the opportunity to reach out and work with people who inspire me, challenge me, bring positive/happy vibes into my life, or whatever fits my fancy. I don’t always get what I want, but I never have to get what I don’t want, either.

Perk #3) I’m mobile. And, almost always available. 

When my daughter’s school calls and says my daughter is sick, or a friend calls needing an emergency intervention, I can shift around my schedule, without running it by anyone, and go do those things. That’s actually why I started my own business – my daughter is special needs and has her own army of doctors, who all come with appointments. Speech therapy twice a week? I’m game.  Allergy shots at noon? I can be there. Impromptu family vacation to the beach? Give me 24 hours to move around my schedule, and I can do that, too – or, I can just bring it with me. I didn’t have to take off of work for DragonCon – I just got a ticket, put it on my calendar, and scheduled my work accordingly. My office, most of the time, is my porch – I work to the sound of crickets and rain quite often. No permission, no dirty looks from coworkers, no worrying about getting into trouble.

Perk #4) I play by my own rules. 

I’ve had a few people tell me that my options would be limited and no one would take me seriously with teal hair or visible tattoos. Let me tell ya – my work has, in no way, shape, or form, been limited. While I’m sure companies have passed me up after running across my photo on LinkedIn, I’m still working. A lot. With teal hair and very visible tattoos. I am actually currently working with colored hair, visible tattoos, whilst wearing my Claudia Donovan/Warehouse 13 cosplay for DragonCon this weekend  - last minute costume adjustments during the work day? Sure, why not. I am perfectly capable of maintaining a professional appearance at important meetings and speaking events but, because people see me (online) as the real me, they often request the real me in person, too. I often work barefoot, or in moccasins. Sometimes I wear make-up, sometimes I do not. Sometimes I rock a faux hawk. Sometimes I just throw my unbrushed hair into a bun. The point isn’t that I can be a rebel and do crazy things without fear of being written up or sent home, but that I can just ‘be’…and not have to worry. I’m not meeting anyone’s standards or HR’s dress code – I am the same Shai 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s liberating.

Perk #5) My favorite: My paychecks aren’t limited. 

There are absolutely times when I look at my schedule and think ‘That’s looking like a slow week…’ or when I need to pick up a couple more clients. Things can be slow. But, on the flip side, my finances are never capped out. I don’t have a maximum I can make on a paycheck. I’m not limited by a salary. The majority of Americans can look at the calendar right now and calculate how much money they will make between now and Christmas, and set a  budget for holiday spending. I can do that, too. The difference is that I can go ‘You know what? I’m going to make more than that’ and start planning. I can add events, products, sales, collaborations, articles – whatever I want. I don’t have to hunt down a second job. I can set income goals and work to reach those goals rather than reach work requirements in order to ‘earn’ a set paycheck. Is it often more work? Yes. But, how many bosses would let you pick up extra hours/clients if you suddenly decided you wanted to fly across the country next month, or buy a new living room set? And, even if they did, how many would let you design something new and fun to create a need for those extra hours? I’m not loaded, by any means, but I can easily sit down and make a list of things I want/need, and plan out my business to make those things happen.

 

So there’s my Top 5 Favorite Perks of being a Business Owner. It’s not all fun and games, but being a business owner definitely lets me have more fun!

 

Branding in Product Photography – Who Needs a Banner?

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You may have signed into Etsy, recently, and cried the same cry the rest of us have, at some point, over the last few week: ‘Where is my shop banner??!!’. For some, the banner is simply quintessential mark of being an Etsy shop. Others feel it’s an important part of their shop branding. Whether Etsy decides to stick with the trial ‘banner-free’ layout or not, the testing alone is stirring up trouble for a lot of Etsy sellers.

And that’s not Etsy’s fault.

While we all love having a big, personalized sign on our shop just like a brick-and-mortar store, you have to ask yourself this: If a brick and mortar store’s sign fell, or a light broke and it had to be taken down for repair, would their entire shop lose branding? Nope. If Kohl’s, Target, Victoria Secret, or Old Navy didn’t have a sign on the front, I can almost guarantee you would still know the store on sight.

As Etsy sellers, we don’t want to be Old Navy. That’s why we make handmade items. However, we can take many of the principles of branding and marketing and apply them to our work as well. And, we should, if we expect to be successful.

When Etsy takes away the shop banner, what are we left with? Photos. And our product photos are exactly where the majority of our branding should be in an online shopping platform. They should stand out in such a way that people not only want to click on them, but so your products are recognized right in the search function, or even on Pinterest, before the customer ever makes it into your (potentially banner-less) shop.

Lets take a look at some Etsy sellers who are getting branding right – even on a budget!

Twisted Tree Occassions

Jessica at Twisted Tree Occasions has stuck with the popular white background a lot of sellers use on Etsy. Many feel this is necessary in order to land on a front-page treasury, but you can absolutely have a successful Etsy shop without the treasuries and front-page listing. This background works well, however, for Jessica’s products. She helps her photos stand out from others in the ‘search’ pages by adding brightly colored string to each of her photos which, in turn, brings a cohesive look to her shop as a whole. (Sidenote: Jessica also has great branding in her original shop, Twisted Tree Supplies, where you can find adorable labels, tags, packaging, and findings!)

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Lisa from ElainaDesignStudios is one of thousands of jewelry sellers on Etsy. It’s easy for your photos and shop to get lost in the Etsy jewelry world. Lisa uses vintage books and the same patterned backdrop in her photos, but not in all of them. In some photos, you can’t see the backdrop. In others, she doesn’t use books. However, you can spot her photos in a search and, once you click on her shop, the photos all work together well while providing different elements of interest.

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KJ, from Lit & Co., is one of my favorite sellers who has moved away from the standard white backgrounds. Not only do the photos stand out in a search because they are bold and different, but KJ uses the product packaging right in the branding of her store. This is an excellent, smart move for many reasons: 1) It’s hard for someone to claim your products as theirs and steal your photos. 2) Branding, branding, branding! 3) You’re saving time and money and 4) Customers on Etsy LOVE cute packaging, so you’re showing them a selling point of your products while bringing together the branding and look of your shop.

 

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Kass, from The Seed Supply, also uses super cute packaging and logos in her product photography. The packaging in these photos pull triple duty – 1) They bring together the aesthetic of the shop as a whole. 2) They bring the shop name and sometimes logo into the shop itself – useful if the photos are posted elsewhere OR if Etsy banners disappear completely and 3) They show customers how cute and useful the seed packaging is – no more drawers full of little envelopes! The branding for The Seed Supply is the same across the board – Kass uses the same fonts, photo filters, and lighting in her Pinterest photos, Facebook photos, and on the store website!

So there you have it – branding, without an Etsy banner! 

Like this article? Check out my articles on Product Photography and Listing Tips!

The Art of Trapeze – Interview with Molly McCord!

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 Molly McCord

1. Tell us a little about yourself 

This is always the hardest question to answer, LOL! I’m a traveler, writer, coffee-lover, passionate reader, and a huge animal lover; on my Facebook wall, I have to restrain myself from always sharing darling animal videos. In addition to spending my days writing and working with global clients, my passion is supporting other authors and entrepreneurs in marketing their business and sharing their gifts with the world. My professional background includes over 15 years of marketing and communications expertise, so it is exciting to help other people with their messages. Millions of people around the globe are looking for assistance in following their life purpose, so I aspire to contribute to their success. Without getting distracted by animal videos!

2. Tell us about your blog 

People are looking for more support and understanding right now about their life path, so I started my blog in 2011 to offer inspiration and insights for spiritual seekers. ConsciousCoolChic.com has been wildly popular, along with the weekly radio show, and I am grateful to contribute to anyone’s understanding of their gifts and talents. The content includes spiritual topics, consciousness insights, affirmations, and astrology, plus inspiring eBooks and free marketing courses are being served up now – who knows what will come next! It’s a passion of mine to uplift others and return them to their innate awesomeness.

3. How did you get into the study of consciousness? 

I’ve always been a very curious person, and although this can lead to overthinking the trivial parts of life, it can also lead to deeper understandings of ourselves. Consciousness is about mindfulness and awareness, and I’m specifically interested in the spiritual components of connecting our lives to the bigger picture: How can I make the most out of this experience? What am I learning in this relationship? How can I grow and evolve in the best possible ways? I love metaphysical topics, and other like-minded people who strongly resonate with knowing themselves as spiritual beings will enjoy exploring consciousness, too. Like most things, I started studying consciousness as an eager student and found I could guide and teach others in the same pursuits. When it is a passion, it doesn’t feel like work!

4. Tell us about your latest book!

I’ve been told I should write a book about my life adventures, but I only started to get excited about the idea when I connected the themes with spiritual understandings and how everything happens for a reason. The Art of Trapeze has many common life themes that we can all experience, such as following your heart, falling in love, trusting yourself, and moving forward into a bigger dream for yourself.  But I wanted to take it deeper by exploring how we are limitless beings on a grand soul adventure! I didn’t want to hold back or play it safe with a cliché ending or a typical conclusion. This book is truly a fearless depiction of a full life experience; the lifecycle of a dream and the importance of every stage.

 

The Art of Trapeze is the first in a series that explores a soul journey, and the purpose is to show how exploring our consciousness brings us to new levels of personal power and deeper self-love. It has been amazing to see how many people are wanting these insights right now, and how my little book can assist them with understanding their own soul adventure. The full spiritual message will be clear when the third book is released later in 2014 – we’re not done yet!

 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! I greatly appreciate connecting with you and your blog readers!

 

Photography Tips to Sell Your Products!

Photography Tips For Products

The product photography  in my Etsy shop is probably my most complimented ‘feature’ throughout my entire shop and blog.

‘I LOVE your photos – I always know when I see one of your listings!’

‘How do you take such pretty photos of something so simple?!’

I am not, by any means, a photographer. A lot of my product photos are taken with my cell phone camera, though some are taken with my the basic settings on my 10 year old DSLR. You can take awesome product photos, as well, with just about any camera!

1. Natural lighting, all the way! 

Unless you’re using a light box (and I’ll have a tutorial on creating one of those, soon!), take all of your photos in natural lighting. Turn off any surrounding lights, and move your products next to a window. Or, even better, get outside and photograph. The key to outdoor photography is to find some shade. No flash, no direct sunlight, and no indoor lighting! If it’s a sunny day, find a shady spot where your product is well lit. If it’s an overcast day, just head outside! All of my photos, believe it or not, are taken on an extremely messy covered balcony.

Product Photography Tips Example

2) Sharp, Focused Photos!

Lighting and focus are really the two biggest keys to great product photography. Personally, I use manual focus on my camera….because my auto-focus is broken. If you’re using your cell phone, like I often do, make sure you tap and focus the camera app before you actually take the photo. The better lit the area, the greater the chances of the photo being in focus. If you have a macro setting on your camera (normally indicated by a little flower), use it! Another key to sharp photos is to triple shoot – either use the triple shoot setting on your camera or just hold the shutter button down longer. When you press the button to take a picture, the camera moves a tiny bit. However, if you hold the button down and triple shoot, the second and third pictures often come out sharper than the first. Try it!

3) Get creative with backgrounds

One of the reasons my photos stand out as much as they do is because I use a similar, creative background in all of my photos. Honestly, they’re just sheets. Most of them are vintage sheets, but the teal fabric you see all the time is a hand-me-down sheet from a teenage relative. You don’t want to use identical backgrounds if your products are similar, because the customers will see a sea of sameness in your shop, but cohesiveness is important.

Here are some great backdrop ideas:

- burlap

- Wood – cutting boards are great for this! I got mine for $10 at Ikea andt is HUGE

- A picture frame with lace stapled in it and vintage hooks around it for earrings and jewelry

- Coordinating fabrics

- A window pane

- A backdrop against a wall <– great for those with big items or clothing.

- Vintage sheets, curtains, blankets, or clothing from the local thrift store!

Andie at Pursuing Andie, uses the same background for all of her vintage clothing photos, and the same background with a wooden shelf for all of her accessories – I LOVE browsing her shop, and can spot her search listings in a heartbeat.

4) Capture the Details and Action!

Don’t just take a shot of the product, get the details AND the product in action. Selling necklaces, hats, or clothes? Put them on an actual person, or fake model. Make sure to photograph the cute buttons on that vintage top, the swirls in the charm you made, or the stitching in the wall hanging you embroidered. Selling home decor? Set it up like a customer would, and shoot it!

Kass from Homespun Aesthetic is great at capturing the details of her tiny jewelry, and photographs them on the same wooden background!

5) Consistent lighting, filters, and editing

Some days, it’s just gross out and I shoot in my open balcony door (with sheets in a laundry basket. True story.). When I do this, my photos are a little darker than when I shoot outside if I don’t change the settings on the camera. Don’t be afraid to lighten these up a bit in Lightroom, or a free program like Fotor or PicMonkey! Just make sure your items actually look like your items after your edits. While you’re at it, don’t go filter crazy – people like clean photos of the products they’re buying rather than the artsy photos we see nowadays on IG. I add the same two filters to my IG product photos, but not in the shop photos. If some of my photos aren’t as sharp as others, I’ll increase the sharpness a tad in a program as well. However, do NOT mess with the saturation and brightness – you don’t want to mislead your customers into thinking your products are brighter or more colorful than they really are and customer complaints abound when photos are misleading.

I also use the exact same editing filters every time – I have a matte and a vintage matte version of every photo, as well as a clean edit. This helps me cross promote and use photos that work better on each social media platform.

6) Create a permanent photo set up, or a portable one!

Depending upon what you sell, you can create a permanent or portable photography set up. Mine is a very portable basket full of sheets. I can take it out to the balcony and set it up in the same spot, with the same lighting, every time. You can move furniture next to a window and clear it off to use the surface when you need to take product photos. You can have an outdoor table and a portable bag or box of wooden stands, jewelry boxes, or plants to use as props. Having a set up helps keeps things consistent as well as makes the photography process go more quickly. I never have to second guess what I’m going to do for product photos, because I have an easily accessible system.

Other Tips:

- Don’t go crazy with distracting props. A simple background that helps the product stand out is best.

- Don’t go too color crazy, either! Again, the focus should be on the product itself.

- Play around with complimentary colors! Remember, complimentary colors are opposites on the color wheel. So, green and red, blue and orange, purple and yellow, etc. – try accenting with the color opposite and see if that helps your photos ‘pop’!

- Don’t cover your photos in writing. ONLY my ‘Any two for $25′ type listings have text on them, because the mobile Etsy app already puts text over the photos and too much can be distracting. Even worse, the texts can overlap and make it all unreadable.

- Try shooting from different angles – shoot from directly in front of your product, from the sides, as well as above.

What photo tips do you have to share? Which tip are you going to try to implement first? 

Sunday Shares: Simplicity, Jealousy, and Plug-Ins!

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The goal of The Vagabond Studio is to inspire and educate, but I’m the first person to admit that I don’t have all of the knowledge and resources in the world. Even the things I do know, other people have said better. I’m just Shai – I share what I know and, on Sundays, I share awesome articles, tips, and tools from others. 

Tools

Free WordPress PopUp ‘PopUpAlly’ Plug-In! via Nathalie Lussier

Yoast – Free WordPress SEO Plug-In (My SEO Plug-In of choice!)

 

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