11.12.07

5 Web Tools That Your DIY Business Cannot Live Without

by Amy Cluck

Crafty hipsters have a whole world of web tools available to help promote their businesses. Here are 5 web tools that no crafty hipster should be without!


1. Flickr

www.Flickr.com


Flickr is an online photo hosting service that allows you to upload and organize photos – then share them with friends. There are a few different photo hosting sites out there – and most of them allow you to sign up for a free account. I chose to mention Flickr because it is the most commonly used photo hosting site – particularly among crafters. In this case, it’s actually a good thing to follow the crowd. Why? Because with Flickr you can make contacts with other crafters and join a variety of different groups that aren’t available on other photo hosting sites. For instance, both CRAFT and Adorn magazines have groups on Flickr, where fans of the magazine can join, share photos, and post comments to a forum. It’s a great way to meet people and a great way to get noticed.


What if you don’t need photo hosting? I happen to have a website where I can upload all the photos that I want – so why would I want to use a photo hosting service? Well, first of all, photo hosting services are great because all you have to do is upload your photos and you have an instant gallery – no programming required. We aren’t all lucky enough to have the web design and html skills that are required to create photo galleries on your own sites. With Flickr, all of your photos are stored in one place. You can organize your photos into sets and tag them with keywords to make them searchable. On top of that, you can create your own custom profile with the URL for your web site. Then when someone happens upon one of your photos, they know where to find more!


2. Blog


There are many popular blogging sites out there – Blogger (www.blogger.com), Typepad (www.typepad.com), and WordPress (www.wordpress.com) are a few of the more popular blogging tools. They all offer free or low-priced blog-hosting as well as a variety of comparable features. Different people have different preferences so you might want to try a few trial versions to see which site you like best. There’s a great article on the USC Annenberg Online Journalism review that will also give you the necessary information to help you decide: http://www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/050714gardner.


Most of the blogging tools out there allow you to choose or customize your own template. You can create a profile that links to your regular website or Etsy shop (see online tool number 3). You can also add a list of links to other people’s blogs.


Why blog? Before I answer the why, I should answer the what. Blog (short for web log), is a list of entries written in chronological order and displayed in reverse chronological order. A blog is like an online version of a diary or journal, which allows users to combine text, images, and links to other web sites in an easy to update format. While some knowledge of HTML is helpful in creating and maintaining a blog, it certainly isn’t necessary.


Why is blogging beneficial? First of all, it allows you an outlet to share your latest projects and news with your friends and family, as well as customers and fans (people who like your style can subscribe to your blog so that they receive emails or RSS feed updates every time you make a new post). Blogs are totally searchable so often times people will come across your blog just by doing a Google search on a topic that interests them. For example, I recently hosted a cupcake themed swap on my blog (www.blogspot.peptogirl.com). I had over 20 people sign up for the swap. Several of the participants said they found my blog just by searching for “cupcake swap.” Now they are avid readers! You can also attract people to your blog by posting tutorials. You can post links to your tutorials on places like Craftster.org and GetCrafty.com to get people to come take a look. If they like what they see, they’ll check out your other links and might even purchase something! Plus you make a lot of great contacts (it’s all about networking). You will find that a whole new world of opportunities will open for you.


3. Etsy

www.etsy.com


Just about every crafter who sells their wares has an Etsy shop now days. Etsy is great because it allows people to sell their handmade products online – without having to pay for someone to design a web site or program an online store. Don’t get me wrong – web sites and online stores are great but we don’t all have the skills to create them ourselves and hiring someone can get expensive.


Opening an Etsy shop is free, though listing an item costs 20 cents per quantity. You also pay a 3.5% sales fee on each item that is sold. Most retail stores charge a 30-50% commission on consignment so Etsy is actually a really good deal – and you can build the extra fees into your price. In addition, there are several ways that people can search for products – including by color, seller, and geographical location.


I am lucky enough that I have the skills to create and program my own web site and online store (I work as a web designer for my day job). Even with my own online shop, I still have an Etsy store. Why? Because the more places that your products are listed, the better the chance that people will find you! Plus you can always add a link to your web shop on your profile so people can visit you there as well. Another advantage Etsy has is a forum so you can get answers to your questions as well as connect with other sellers. You can add items and sellers to your favorites and they can add you. There’s also a rating system like eBay so if you are a good seller, people will know it!


There’s also a new feature that allows you to put a “Mini Etsy” on your blog, MySpace, or web site. The Mini Etsy shows all of your products and links directly to your Etsy shop. All you have to do is copy and paste the code.


4. Social Networking Sites


Social networking sites are great for connecting with other people – especially crafters. As I mentioned before, it’s best to go with the site(s) that “most” people are using in order to maximize your chances of making valuable networking connections. Of course, you could always make a profile on every social networking site that you can find in order to make sure all your bases are covered – but I don’t know many people that have time to update multiple profiles.


Instead, I suggest opting for a MySpace (www.myspace.com). You don’t have to check it every 10 minutes; it’s just good to create a nice online presence. If you have a personal MySpace, you might want to create a separate MySpace for your business and at least try to keep it semi-professional. You don’t want potential customers to get scared off by offensive material or the crazy comments your friends might leave.


You might be thinking “Really? Promote my handmade items on MySpace?!” I believe MySpace is a great tool because (1) there are vast numbers of crafters on MySpace – even major crafting magazines like CRAFT and Adorn have profiles. Not only will you meet lots of other crafters but you can search for people in your area. In fact, that’s how the Sacramento Craft Mafia started. I created a MySpace profile in order to gather crafty “friends” in the Sacramento area. People were so excited about the idea of starting up a Sacramento chapter that it led to us meeting in person and motivated me to put up a real web site. Now we’re officially part of the Craft Mafia (www.craftmafia.com) family.


I’ve noticed that quite a few local businesses have MySpace accounts. Many of them only have MySpaces and don’t even have real websites. In this case, you have the opportunity to contact local businesses for support – perhaps they would be interested in consigning with you or maybe they’d like to host a craft show. You never know until you ask! And many times, people will come to you.


MySpace is also a great way to attract customers. You can change the look of your profile, upload photos of your products, and add links to your website, blog, or Etsy store. Not only will all your “friends” check out you photos and links, but you can send out bulletins and event invites to remind people to check out your new products or attend your events. It’s like having a newsletter feature on your web site – only your bulletin goes to WAY more people.


There is also a new social networking site lov.li (www.lov.li) that specifically targets crafters. This site is great because it’s a cross between MySpace and Etsy. Lov.li separates the crafters from the spammers, bands, people looking for romance, and other people that you may not be interested in connecting with. On Lov.li, you can find or promote events, search for other crafters in your area, make friends, join groups, and even blog – not to mention buy and sell handmade goods. The seller is charged a commission of 3.5% with no listing fees.


5. Forums


Posting on craft-related forums is also a great way to get your stuff noticed. You can post tutorials, photos of completed projects, etc. Forums can also be a great way to get advice and to network with other crafters.


There are many different places out there where you can meet and communicate with other crafters. Many craft related magazines have their own forums with DIY topics. There is Instructables (www.instructables.com), which allows people to post step-by-step instructions on how to make stuff (this is a great place to post tutorials). Craftster (www.craftster.org) and Get Crafty (www.getcrafty.com) are a couple of my favorites.


When you join a forum, be sure to create a profile with your web address so that people can easily find your website(s).


Besides the 5 tools, previously mentioned, you might also be interested in creating podcasts and/ or videocasts. YouTube is becoming increasing popular among crafters – you’ll see what I mean if you try doing a search on YouTube for crafts. Video is a great tool when posting tutorials – and you can even integrate the videos right into your blog. YouTube has the same sort of social networking features that Flickr does. You can create groups to network with like-minded individuals. If you’ve always secretly wanted to host your own radio or talk show then this is the technology for you. Who knows – some big wig at the DIY network might happen upon your videos and next thing you know you have your own show!


Remember, the more places where you can create a presence on the web, the more chances people have to find your stuff! Each of these online tools are also great marketing tools, helping you to market yourself and your products as well as helping you network with other crafters. An added bonus is that none of these tools require special skills or web experience (although those skills often come in handy if you have them).

3 comments:

Jane's Designs said...

Amy, thanks for the great info, I just opened a store on ETSY. Thanks again for all your hard work at the Indie Sacramento show. Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Nick Mudge said...

I posted this on my news website: http://newsconomy.com/

candeelady said...

Thanks for the connect to lovli and I'm going to go back and check out myspace again. It's been awhile. I also have been on youtube but not networking for a long time - I'll revist that one 2

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