Wednesday, May 4, 2011


My latest obsession is decoupage!  I have been practicing and practicing my technique and loving it!

I have started listing decoupage 10" wall letters in my shops.  I used the same wall letters I have used in the past for hand painted samples and covered them in a bunch of different styles and colors of pretty scrapbook papers I found!  Some even have more than one paper on them and have ribbons for decoration as well!  I have each one made so it will hang by its own little ribbon!  There are also keyhole cut outs on the backs, but I love the ribbons!

Here's a few photos of my favorites!

If anyone is interested in my samples, I'm selling them for $5.00 each, which is half off the price I'm selling custom ones for!  I have photos of all my samples in an album on my Facebook page here:
Since these were my practice letters, they might have some imperfections.  However, I will do my best to cover any mistakes up using things like embellishments, which is included in the $5.00 price.  Actually, with embellishments, I'm asking $12.00 (The extra $2.00 will probably barely cover the cost of the embellishments!  Scrapbooking supplies are expensive!)  So you're getting even better than half price!  Contact me through either of my shops if you're interested!
Decoupaging is letting me branch out in my work!  I'm loving it and plan on making at least a full alphabet of samples!  Decoupage tip:  Use a roller of some kind to roll air bubble out of the paper!  I didn't know to do that the first few times I tried and just used my fingers.  No where near as effective!
Thanks for reading!
Name Signs and Wall Letters:
Baby Gifts:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Zibbet Update

Just a quick update on Zibbet.  So far not much activity.  I'm nearing my limit of 50 items in each shop and still contemplating going premium.

I just learned a few days ago that Zibbet shoppers aren't really in my target market though, so that may be slowing my progress there.  Zibbet users are mostly in the 45-65 range.  Although grandparents could fit in that category, my signs are usually purchased by parents decorating their nursery, and my baby gifts are probably around the same age group.  That one could be a little more spread out for ages.  Women who aren't in their childbearing years anymore still go to baby showers and definitely still love babies!

I'm definitely not leaving Zibbet though!  I LOVE the community there!  See my previous post on Zibbet for other reasons why I'm sticking around!  And with their growth, who knows what could happen?


Name Signs and Wall Letters:

Baby Gifts:

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Makin' Sales!

Well things are picking up a bit over here!  I've gotten several new orders for signs, and I'm super excited to say I got an order for a onesie cupcake in my Sweet Baby Mine shop on Etsy!

Here's one I finished just after the camo sign for Seth!

This was a surprise gift from a husband to wife!  They are expecting a new baby any time now and he got this to hang in their nursery!  Isn't that sweet?!

And here's an animal sign for Oscar!  This one is going to be a baby shower gift!

I've also got 3 sign orders I'm working on right now!  The day after I listed the camo sign in my shop, someone bought one!  I think it'll be another popular design!  That one will be for Chase! 

I also just got an order for a space sign for Luke's bedroom!  He loves robots, stars, planets, and spaceships according to my customer!  I hope he loves his new name sign too! 

The third is one I get to make for my Grandma.  My mom wants to get her one of my curly letter name signs like the Hannah Kate one above, but with mint green ribbon and just the green accents.  No pink!  It's going to be a Mother's Day gift for her to hang on the door to her room at her retirement home!  We just celebrated her 90th birthday back in January!  She was a wonderful artist and crafter when she was younger!  I think I must have gotten my "creativity gene" from her!

Finally, Sweet Baby Mine just got an order for an individually wrapped onesie cupcake!  I've been putting off getting the paper punch sets I need to make pretty gift tags to go on my baby items, but now I think I'd better get out and do that!  Perfect timing too!  I think Hobby Lobby has punches on sale this week!

Thanks for reading!


Name Signs and Wall Letters:

Baby Gifts:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today my little boy turns 1!  I can't believe how fast the past year has gone!  And then at the same time, I feel like I don't even remember what it was like not to have him around.

Happy birthday Bryce!  Mommy loves you!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I decided it might be "fun" to join another handmade selling community to see how it works out compared to Etsy!  I kind of did it on an impulse, but there were a few important reasons why I chose Zibbet to try my luck on.
  1. FREE MEMBERSHIP!  There is a basic free membership that allows up to 50 free listings and no sales fees.  Completely free.  I thought this might be a good way to test the waters before I commit to spending money on another shop.
  2. COMMUNITY!  From things I've heard and read, Zibbet is very supportive of it's sellers and has a great community of people willing to help each other, network, and even just chat a little.  Not that I've had any problems with Etsy yet, but it's nice to think you're going into something other people have enjoyed.
  3. POTENTIAL!  Zibbet is still building up.  I think I read that they have 1/2% of the visitors that Etsy has.  While that may not sound great, I feel like that means there is a lot of potential for growth, and I want to be there while it's happening!
  4. PRODUCT SEARCHES!  Only some of Etsy's shops have their items listed in Google product searches.  I know it's not Etsy's fault, and they're getting to everyone as fast as they can, but it still stinks.  Zibbet works with both Google product search and, which are the two biggest product search engines right now.  Just by being on there, my items can now be found in those searches.
  5. FEATURES!  The site seems to have a few improvements over Etsy.  Like better analytics.  Less bias about front page and features.  Much simpler listing process, even though it includes all the same information.
  6. SATURATION!  On Etsy, my categories are SATURATED!  On Zibbet, 3-5 pages of items when I search my product categories.  On Etsy?  Well over 100 pages.
  7. PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP!  SO many more customization options for premium sellers!  And a flat fee paid monthly or yearly for unlimited listings, still no listing or sale fees.  Advertising potential, increased likelihood of shop views, gift buying guides, and lots more features on the way!
So all in all, I thought I'd try it out.  What will it hurt?  It's not costing me anything.  I uploaded my Etsy listings and did a few quick changes to them and had everything up and running in 2 different shops in just a couple of hours.  And the best part?  If I decide I just want to work with Etsy, I can leave my listings on Zibbet FOR FREE and link them to the listings for the items in my Etsy shops!  That's right, they don't care if you direct shoppers away from the site!  So it would end up another place for my items to be seen!

I'll let you know how it goes!  Tell me what you think!


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Finally Finished The Order!

Sortly after I opened my shop, I started working with someone on a custom sign for little baby Seth.  His parents wanted to decorate his nursery in a light blue and brown rock and roll theme, but family members had other plans!  Someone very generously bought them crib bedding in a camoflage theme!  So we redesigned the name sign to fit this new theme, and I think I like this one even better than what we had originally planned!

Here's how it turned out!  I love the little animals and the trees!  Their camo theme was a woodsie hunting type theme, so I went with tan forest leaves painted over a sponged on camoflage pattern made from several greens and browns.

I also have an idea to adapt this to fit a military theme!  I have a tank cutout I can use, so I'd have that hanging from the middle and hand paint unfinished star cutouts in the camoflage pattern.  Or maybe in the solid colors used to paint the letters!  I was also thinking about painting solid colored stars in tan over the camo on the letters.  Or I could leave them just the solid camo!  It'll be up to whoever wants to order it!

This could even be something I do in pinks or blues to match bedding!  I know exactly what ribbon I'd use!  There's pink and blue camoflage ribbons available at my supply stores!

What does everyone think?  I just love this design!


Friday, April 22, 2011

The Rhyme Guys

As some of you may remember, awhile ago I got orders for signs for two little boys from the same major metropolitan area with names that rhyme!  I love that kind of coincidence!  Too funny!  Well, I promised photos of the finished products, so here they are!

This one was for little Brayden!  This was the first one I did with a request for a different background color.  The customer wanted a sage green background and brown or green ribbon.  I opted for a giraffe print ribbon.  I never heard whether she liked it or not!  No feedback yet.  But I'll assume no news is good news!  It was also my first opportunity to use the turtle shell pattern since I made the original sign for my own little guy!

And this is te one I did for Caiden!  Love it!  I still never found out if these two customers knew each other.  What are the odds, really?  Oh well!

Tell me what you think of these!  I love hearing feedback!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

First Sale Sale!

Well I finally made my first sale in my baby gifts shop!  I'm hoping this is a sign of good things to come!  To celebrate my sale, I'm offering 10% off of everything in my shop until Sunday, April 24th!  Just use coupon code 1STSALE when you check out!

Here's my first sale item!  A custom order for a 2 tier diaper cake with hot pink and light pink polka dotted ribbon!  I love how it turned out!  Let me tell you, that bow on top was a pain to figure out, but I love it now that it's done!  I can't wait to make more fun things like this!


PS - If you want a diaper cake just like this one, order this

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shop Updates

Well, so far this is the 10th day since I opened the second shop and I haven't had a sale yet.  I'm not too discouraged yet though.  I know it takes time to be found, and to be found by the right person.

In the meantime, it makes me feel better to be included in people's treasuries, item favorites, and shop favorites.  I already have 10 people calling my shop a favorite!  That's 1 each day!  My items have also been in 6 treasuries so far!  In comparison, my hand painted signs shop has been open for over 1 1/2 months and has 12 people calling it a favorite and items have been in only 2 treasuries.  The difference there is on Sweet Baby Mine, people are favoriting the whole shop and not specific items as much.  On the other hand, Sara's Handmades gets items favorited all the time.  Some of my items (if you add together all the sizes for the same item) have a ton of people who have chosen them as favorites!

The down side of this is that favorites don't equal sales.  However, people are marking my shops and items for a reason!  And that's a good thing!  It could be that they want to purchase later, really like it, want to show others, etc.  There's nothing bad about people liking the things you make!

Sara's Handmades has been doing a bit better!  I just got 2 sales in 2 days!  Both are for the animal themed name signs.  The funny thing is the boys' names rhyme (Brayden and Caiden) and they are both going to the same area of the country.  Actually, they will both go to the same large city, but different parts of it.  That's a pretty interesting coincidence!  It makes me wonder if it's a coincidence at all!  I may never know.

I'll post pictures once I get those signs done.  Lots of work to do at least to keep me busy!

Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 28, 2011

A Second Shop!

I made a big decision!  I decided to open a second Etsy shop!  I opened it 2 days ago now and I feel like it's going to go well!

The main reason I opened it was because I didn't feel like the products I was selling in my first shop went together well.  So my original shop is now going to be dedicated to my hand painted name signs, while the second shop will have my baby shower gifts!

I'd love it if anyone reading this checked it out!  The new shop is at

I had VERY promising beginnings with this shop!  I hope it continues!  I started by listing 3 items.  They were sets of cupcake onesies in neutral, girl, and boy colors.  3 hours after I had opened the shop, I was already featured in 2 different treasuries!  My other shop has only been in 2 treasuries and it's been open a month and a half!  My shop was also added to someone's favorites in that time!

So that was a much more exciting first night than I expected!  I'm adding an Etsy mini shop on my blog now for that shop along with my hand painted signs shop!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


After reading more in the forums, I decided to list on Craigslist and see how that goes. 

I heard a lot of people saying there stuff had been taken off because they gave a link to their Etsy shop though.  But then others talked about having a Craigslist listing that basically gave shop info and what they sell with links and wasn't for a specific item at all and had been doing it for months without having it taken down. 

I made my listings for 2 specific items.  One for a diaper cake and one for the animal name sign.  The sign was done first and hours ago, but I still can't find it in searches, even when I type in exactly what my title was.  The diaper cake shows up just fine now.  Wonder what's going on there.  Maybe the sign has to be reviewed before being posted?  It was the first thing I've ever listed on there, so maybe.

Ebay is definitely not working out how I had hoped.  I've only had 21 or so views so far.  And I'm pretty sure at least 4 or 5 are me.  That's alright though, because the fees on there are completely crazy!  I also haven't had any traffic come to my shop from there yet according to Google Analytics.

I'll update with how Craigslist is going once I have some more information!  Wish me luck!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Keeping Myself Entertained

Well, I haven't had anything going on as far as sales, so I've been reading up on ways to promote my shop and increase sales.  So far there are a few things I'm trying.

The biggest thing I've heard is to list or relist something every day.  Why?  That keeps at least one item from your shop toward the top of searches, which are unfortnately automatically organized by how new the listing is instead of search term relevancy.  I feel like this is a mistake on Etsy's part.  Yes, it should definitely be an option, but by default it should be relevancy.  For example, I typed "diaper cake" in search yesterday to help me decide where to price my diaper cakes.  The first few pages contained very few diaper cakes.  Maybe 2 or 3.  It pulled up the most recent things listed that used the words diaper or cake as tags.  Not helpful at all.  Typically when I'm searching for something, unless I'm a VERY frequent shopper, I don't care what the newest thing is.  I care about what items are most relevant to the words I put in the search box.  But that's just my opinion.

Anyway, I had a ton of fun a few nights ago making more onesie cupcakes and putting together some diaper cakes!  So much fun, in fact, that I stayed up until 3 working on it!  Probably not a good idea since I knew the baby would be waking me up somewhere between 4:30 and 6:30.  Oh well.  I survived!  I just went to bed early the next couple of nights to make up for it!  Here are some photos of the diaper cakes!

Thanks for reading!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Line of Baby Shower Items?

I have had so much fun with making new things since the last time I wrote!  I decided to start making the cupcake onesie and washcloth sets I have had in the back of my mind for awhile!  Here's some photos of how they turned out!

Aren't they SO cute?!  It makes me want to give nothing but these for baby showers from now on!  Each "cupcake" is a onesie wrapped up with a washcloth surrounding it.  They're even packaged in a cupcake box!  I can't wait to see how they sell!  These sets even have a hidden 5th onesie surprise underneath the cupcakes! 

Some of the other baby shower gift sets I want to do are thing like burp cloths and spoons wrapped to look like suckers and shaped into a bouquet, and diaper cakes, which are absolutely adorable!

As far as my letters and signs, I don't have any new orders yet.  There seem to be several people who want them, but just haven't gotten around to ordering yet.  And then there are a few people who contacted me asking if I could do a specific theme and after I tell them yes, I never hear from them again.  Strange.  Oh well.  What can you do?

I have been working on my 10" letters a little bit.  I have one started with a space theme that is the same idea as my space themed sign.  I plan to have that one done tomorrow to list on Monday during the day.  I've been researching what other people seem to think is the best day to list in Etsy's forums, and quite a few people seem to say Monday.  So we'll try it and see!  The other letter I've started is a ladybug theme.  That one is taking awhile because I'm making it striped, and I have to wait for each one to dry completely soI can tape over it to do the next stripe.  Painter's tape works wonders for making a straight line!  Such a life saver!  That one will probably be a few days, so maybe I'll be able to list it Wednesday.  Then for my other two samples of the 10" letters I am doing a lavender letter with butterflies and flowers in bright spring colors, and a monkey theme with greens and browns.  I'm excited to show them off once they're done!

I also came up with some new ideas.  I was thinking about ways to accomodate longer names, because my sign boards only fit up to 7 letters, and that's pushing it to be honest.  So I found some plaques in the right size to fit the letters perfectly.  I'm going to paint the plaques in my themes and paint the letters a solid color and put them on top, and then hang the whole thing with a ribbon.  One plaque for each letter.  I have several shapes, too!  I'll be using circles, ovals, hearts, rectangles, squares, and anything else I can find.  I will also be able to use the curly font from a couple of my other signs on these plaques, since it will be the background that is decorated!  Finally able to use a girly font!

My final thought for the name signs is to use the same letters and plaques and decoupage them with pretty scrapbook papers to coordinate with various bedroom and nursery themes and colors!  Now I'm just waiting for sales from my suppliers so I can stock up on all the goodies I need!

As always, thanks for reading!


I just love doing all these custom and exciting baby gifts!  So much fun to give, receive, and create a personalized and unique baby gift!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Day

I finished up the design painting on the animal sign for Karter!  I decided I didn't like the elephant footprints on the letter for the elephant, so I looked up "elephant print" on Google image search and found a pattern!  Aparently Nike sells shoes with that pattern...  I thought it was pretty fitting for my design, so I tried it and loved how it turned out!  I hope my buyer likes it!  Of course, I'll offer to change it to the footprints if he wants, but I don't think he even saw a photo of what I do for an elephant letter.  I'm still hoping to get it finished tomorrow night so I can deliver it on Friday.  I'll post a few pictures once it's done!

I know I said I was going to talk about my survey taking experiences on this blog too, but I just don't feel like it fits well with the tone of this blog.  So I've decided to start a second one focusing on surveys and other ways of making money at home, and I'll leave this one with just updates on running my store and the things I learn there.  I'll post a link to it once I get it up and running!

Speaking of learning, last night I read some articles about taking better photos, and I' excited to learn more!  I read about adjusting things like the white balance and exposure value on the camera and did some practice with it.  I just bought a Sony Cyber Shot H55 earlier this year and have been enjoying getting used to it.  It seemed like the photos I took while adjusting these settings didn't make the photos better (acutally, they were worse), but I feel like it will help out a ton once I really figure them out. 

I also started thinking about ways to get things lighted correctly.  Right now I don't have a wall to hang the signs on that gets good enough light, so I've been placing them on a blanket on top of my coffee table and pushing it against the glass slider door to the deck to get some natural light on them.  That seems to be working the best, and I'm guessing it'll be even better once summer comes and the light is stronger.  So many days are dark and overcast now!  I can't wait for spring!

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's New Today

Well, my first news is that I finished the flower themed sample sign!  I love it!  I'm giving it to my (adult) sister, and she's really excited to get it!  Here's a photo!

My other news is that someone requested a quote on a custom item to match their baby's antique fire fighter nursery theme!  They got cute custom made bedding and want a sign to match it.  I hope I get to make it for them!  It sounds like it'll be a cute nursery!

Still waiting on the order from the lady with the rock and roll themed room.  She said it'd be about a week or so before she placed the order officially, so I'm not concerned about it yet.  I can't wait to get started though!

The animal sign I am working on for Karter should be done in a couple of days.  I'll probably be able to deliver it on Friday!  I got 3 of the letters done last night, so now I just need to do the other 3, varnish it, paint the background, and attach the cutouts and hanging ribbon. 

On another note, I found something else I'd like to do as a sample project.  I found 10" letters in a really cute font for a good price, meaning I can hand paint them and still be able to charge a good price for them!  The font is called Ravie, if anyone wants to Google it and see what it looks like!  I'm going to hang each letter by a ribbon.  They actually come with keyhole cutouts in the back so they can be hung by themselves, but I think ribbon is a nice touch.

Finally, a question for anyone willing to answer.  I have suddenly been getting spam e-mails from people who have had horrible sad lives and only need me to donate some money by giving them my credit card number or something equally stupid.  (Never believe these, by the way.  They're taking people's money and running with it.  I got 2 today that were exactly the same except the name of the "person" sending it was different.)  This has never happened to me before, and I'm wondering if it's from Twitter or from here.  I'm guessing Twitter, because it seems like there are a bunch of shady people on there and it would be easy to collect e-mail addresses from people you don't know and spam them.  I'm taking my e-mail off of there and telling people they can message me if they need more info to see if that helps.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Break From Creating

In the last few days I haven't had a specific order to work on, so I've been working on other aspects of the business, like making my shop easier to find with search engines, some hard core price analysis, and other things like that.  I've also worked on a sample of a flower themed name sign which should be finished sometime tomorrow.  I'm excited to see the finished product!

Today I decided to list one item on eBay to see what happens.  I've never used eBay before, so that was an interesting experience for me.  It's been up for several hours now and has only had 2 views, but it's scheduled to be up for 30 days and eBay says listings don't usually show up in item searches for a few hours.

Another potential business building thing I did was sign up for Google Analytics.  It's a free service and it will tell me where my business is coming from.  I only have one day of data so far, but it looks like a promising tool.  It tells me how my visitors got to my shop, so I can see if they're just using search engines, coming from within Etsy, or from other places like my Twitter or Facebook pages, or the new eBay listing I put up!

I think Google Analytics is going to be my new favorite tool!

On another note, I'm going to the craft store tomorrow to pick up the supplies I need for another animal themed sign for Karter!  So I'll be starting on that tomorrow night!  I'm also getting some 10" letters to paint when I have some time so I can list those too!  I'll be selling those as individual letters hung by ribbon, and I'll probably do some of the same designs I've used on the other signs.  Of course I'll be able to do many other things as well, but I feel like that will be a good starting point.  That will be something for me to do with the next lull in paid painting projects!

I hope there's someone out there reading this!  Follow my blog to continue to hear about my journey running my new business!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Feeling Accomplished

Today was a good day.  Or should I say yesterday since it's already past midnight?  I delivered 3 different orders with a total of 4 items, so that was exciting!  It's always nice to deliver something!  Especially many somethings!  It makes my work space seem so much less cluttered.

I did some work on making another sale today as well.  I talked with someone about a rock and roll design in light blue and brown.  Since I don't have a sample of it, I sketched it up and showed her photos of the materials I will use if she likes the design.  She seemed very interested and said she plans to purchase it in about a week.  I hope so!  I'm very excited about that design!  My sketch of it looks really promising!

I also got an inquiry from someone else about the possibility of doing a sign for her.  She asked about different designs though, so we'll see what she has in mind!  I gave several possibilities of themes I've been dreaming about.  I'd love to do one of those themes!  But of course I'd be happy to try anything she seemed interested in!

I have another potential sale from someone my husband works with.  He and his wife are expecting a baby boy in a few months and they have decorated his nursery in a monkey theme.  He was interested in the jungle animals sign, but I had another person who might be interested in a monkey sign,so I described my ideas to my husband to convey the message.  It would be fun to try another new design!

Finally, the woman who purchased the ladybug sign has three other grandchildren and might want something for them in the future.  She mentioned the possibility of getting something with all three of their names on it, so I'll have to start looking into options there!

So that's it as far as potential sales, but I have one other piece of good news!  I have a cousin who works for the local community college and she offered to put up an advertisement for me on their employee e-mail bulletin board!  I gave her a coupon code for their employees to show my support for their staff and hopefully bring in some business!  She says they have over 2000 employees, so hopefully something will come of it!

And that is my lesson today in increasing sales!  Make sure friends and relatives know about your venture and are supportive!  Ask them to spread the word at work and with their friends!  Maybe offer a friends and family discount, or a referral program to encourage word-of-mouth referrals.  So far that has been a great deal of my business, and I'm hoping that is what keeps driving it!

Also, the BIGGEST piece of advice I have?  After working in retail for 7 1/2 years and in customer service another 2 years, I have learned that providing great service is the absolute best way to work!  Who wants to go back to a place where they received horrible service?  Who would refer a friend to a place with terrible service?

More tomorrow!  Maybe I'll actually take a day off since I have no orders I have to work on!  A day off sounds wonderful!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Book I Need!

I just heard this book is coming out on March 22nd!  I've heard good things about it, and I'm pretty sure I'll be buying it soon!  If and when I do, I'll give a review on it!  In the mean time, pick it up yourself and let me know what you think!


A New Style?

Busy busy busy.  Last night I got an interesting request.  A woman is decorating her nursery in a light blue and brown rock and roll theme and wants me to do a sign for her new baby to match that theme!  She sent me a photo of some of the nursery decor, and it is so cute!  I messaged her back with some ideas and options, so hopefully I'll hearback from her tonight and be able to set up a custom listing in my store!  I might be working on something new pretty quick here!

As far as the signs I have been working on, I just need to attach the ribbon with the cut outs to the sign board and that one will be ready to ship out!  I'll make sure to post some photos of it after I take some tomorrow!  I'd take them tonight, but it's already getting darker out!  The photos always look the best when I use natural lighting and not the flash.

The two others I was working on are almost done too!  I finished painting the letters mauve last night and added decorations in pink and mint today, and glued the letters to the signboard.  The ribbons to hang them on are ready to be attached.  I just want to add some detail to the signboards since they are fairly empty with the smaller thin letters instead of my usual size, and then add a coat of laquer to make them shine and last a long time!  I should be able to get that all done tonight and post photos of those tomorrow too! 

So I plan to have all three packed up and ready to ship out tomorrow!  If I don't have the new rock and roll order by then, I'll just have to find something else to work on!  Probably another sample I've been planning for my sister.  Flowers!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Listing Completed!

So far today has been a good day.  I got a ton of work done on the space sign ordered through Etsy last night!  And then today I got all my shipping supplies!  I now have boxes the perfect size to fit my signs!  The only place I could find that carried the right size was Staples, so they are now my favorite office supply store!

I also finished the lady bug sign I had been working on!  I listed it on Etsy immediately, so it would be available as a design option for potential customers.  Here's how it turned out!

I love it!  Unfortunately, anyone with a name longer than 3 letters won't get the same leaves on the sides.  Longer names will take up more space on the sign board, so there won't be enough space for the leaves.  I'll have to add more green to the letters with longer names to make the green more prominent.

While the baby was napping, I also started on another local order for two matching signs.  I didn't have the right mauve color I wanted already mixed, so I had some fun creating the right tone and painted the little curly 3 inch letters I'm using.  I decided to paint the letters mauve since the background will be white and the mauve was the darkest color of the shades I'm using on it.  Then I'll paint light pink and mint green details on them and as a border or edges of the sign board, depending on how the names fit across them.

As soon as those two and the space sign I'm working on are completed, I'll make sure to post more photos!

Thank you to those of you who are taking the time out to read this!


Monday, March 7, 2011

Opening My Etsy Shop

One day while searching the internet in boredom, I discovered a website called Etsy.  There, sellers of handmade crafts found a place to market their creations, and buyers had a place to find unique items online.  I read as much as I could about selling on Etsy and was very encouraged.  My only real complaint to this date is that so few people seem to know about this site!  It is like going to a craft fair or art show, only thousands of times larger.  There is even a feature called Alchemy, where people can describe exactly what they are looking for and sellers can make bids to create the perfect item for that person.  I knew this was the perfect place for me.

For awhile, I did what I usually do when faced with making a big decision.  I went back and forth about it.  I researched what I would sell, costs, prices, and anything else I could think of.  Finally, the baby was napping one afternoon and I went for it.  I'm not entirely sure what made me decide to do it.  I snapped one hasty photo of the name sign I had made for my son nearly a year earlier and posted that as my first listing.  A name sign just like his, but custom made with whatever name my future customer wanted.

After I posted that first listing, I did even more research.  This time on subjects like ways to improve your shop and listings, or ways to drive customers to your shop.  I refined my listing.  I took better photos and posted the maximum allowed per item (5).  I improved my tags so it would show up higher on the list of more searches.  And then I waited.

I started telling family about my step toward running a business immediately.  My mom was especially excited, and proceeded to tell anyone who would listen to her.  My very first sale was to a woman she works with.  She described something she had been looking for to hang in her granddaughters' bedroom.  She wanted  to have several wood cutouts similar to the ones I used in my name sign, but in shades of pinks and mauve.  I made what she asked for, and added some ribbon and bows to make it a little more exciting.  This is what I ended up with. 

Before I gave it to her, I decided it needed something more.  I added a bow that matched the one at the top to each end to hide the plain ends and dress it up a bit.  When I delivered it, she and her granddaughters loved it!  It felt great to have my first satisfied customer!

While I was waiting and creating my first custom item, I started working on samples with other themes to add more products to my shop.  The first was another sign for my son, this time with a space theme.  When I was finished, my husband and I liked it so much, we decided to hang it on our son's door instead of the first one I made.  We moved the animal sign to the wall in his room instead.

Then I got to work on a sign for my sister.  I decided on butterflies and dragonflies for hers.  Only a few hours after I posted that listing to my shop, I got my first order!  It was for the animal themed sign for a little boy named Jesse.  My first Etsy customer seemed so excited!  She decided she wanted a few different animals from what I had shown on my sample, so I made it with a lion and monkey in place of the elephant and turtle.  Here is how it turned out!

I decided to add a zebra print ribbon to hang it from as a special thanks for being my first online customer.  I haven't gotten any feedback yet, but I hope she loved it!

Next I wanted to do a princess themed sign for my friend's little girl, who was about to turn two.  They had recently moved back home from out of state and were staying with her parents, but I knew her bedroom had been decorated with everything princess.  When I asked my friend, though, she said they were planning on a Tinker Bell room once they found a new place of their own.  She told me she would love a princess sign anyway, but I had a spark of inspiration.

I went to my local craft supply store and got some Tinker Bell stickers, Tinker Bell ribbon (I was so excited when I found that ribbon!), and light pink paper.  I decoupaged the paper onto a wood plaque and added the stickers before I put several more coats of decoupage glue on top.  I painted curly wooden letters spelling her name in a lime green like Tink's dress and added those to the sign.  Finally I added a bow made from the Tinker Bell ribbon to hang it by, and it was finished!

I now had four different items listed on my site.  It was time to try to bring in more customers and increase the views on my products!  I created a page on Facebook and asked my friends to join and spread the word.  I also heard that Twitter was a good place to promote, so I signed up there too.  I discovered that although I like Facebook much better, Twitter seemed to drive traffic better and help me increase views.  I posted a link to an item through Twitter, and even though I only had a very small number of followers, the views on that item shot up immediately!

My mom called shortly after that and told me another lady from work wanted a sign for her granddaughter, Ava.  She wanted it to be a ladybug theme.  I loved that idea and got to work as soon as I could.  It isn't quite finished yet, but here are the letters.

Next I got another request from the first lady from my mom's office.  She wanted two signs like the TinkerBell one, but with white backgrounds and pink, mauve, and mint green for the letters.  I haven't started those yet, but I will post pictures when I do!  I think they'll turn out cute!

On Etsy, I had an inquiry about a second sale.  Someone wanted to know what they needed to do to purchase one of my space themed signs!  I replied almost as soon as I got the message, but didn't hear back for several days.  I had begun to give up hope when I finally got the order two days ago.  Now I have started on that sign, and am so excited to see how it turns out!

As of today, I have made two Etsy sales, three to local people (one sale was for two items), and I have a few more potential sales to locals in the works!  Hopefully this is the start of something good!  I can't wait to find out!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Beginning: How Sara's Handmades Was Born

My name is Sara.  After high school, I attended a university near my home town in Michigan and decided to double major in accounting and finance.  Less than a month into my freshman year, I was promoted where I worked as a sales associate selling women's clothing to assistant manager.  I spent my first three years of college working full time and taking four to five classes a semester.  Needless to say, that got old fairly quickly.  Once the classes started getting more in depth it was harder for me to juggle work and school.  I was supporting myself at the time, so I couldn't leave my job or work fewer hours.  I made the decision to take classes part time, two a semester, beginning in the fall of 2005.

That September, my boyfriend proposed after six years of dating.  Besides work and school, I threw myself into planning a wedding.  Paying typical living expenses and school tuition left me with little in the way of cash to pay for my upcoming wedding.  I had heard from several sources that one good way to save money was to make things yourself instead of buying everything.  I made my own bouquets from life-like roses and hydrangeas.  I made my bridesmaids' jewelry.  I made our programs, favors, and even our unity candle.  In the midst of all the planning and crafting, I discovered I had a love of creating things like this.  I started to dream about the possibility of starting a business selling my creations online.  I was too busy with all my wedding prepartions, though, to try gathering enough information.

I was married in September of 2007.  Although I now had a little more time to spend planning and researching, I still never did much about my new dream.  I'd like to think it was because of startup costs (who has money to start a business when they're paying off a wedding and still paying for school?), but as I look back, I honestly think I was more afraid of failing at it.  So I continued to do things the same as before.  Same job, classes, work, homework, work some more.

The following April, I finally decided I needed to get out of retail and work in an industry related to my studies at school.  I was about to start my last year of classes that fall and I knew it would be better to have relevant experience when I had that degree.  I got a job working as a teller for a small, local credit union and absolutely loved it!  I quickly went from being a part-time tell to head teller, and was offered an additional responsibility as the accounting clerk.  I loved going to work every day!  My coworkers, the credit union members, and even the work itself made me love going to work every day.  Even then, my dream of working for myself stayed alive.  At that point, it wasn't much more than a tiny thought in the back of my mind.

In August of 2009 I finally finished my last class and got my diploma after seven years of hard work.  I can't describe what a relief it was to get that chapter of my life over with.  I suddenly had free time again, and I started thinking about what I wanted to do next.  Before I got much further than fleeting thoughts, I found out I was expecting our first child!  We had mot been trying for a baby, but we weren't doing anything to prevent a pregnancy.  We had decided when we were married that we would just let it happen when it was going to happen.  We knew God knew when the time was right and it would happen when it was supposed to.  We found out we had conceived sometime in the week surrounding the day I turned in my very last paper of my college career.  It was perfect.

Now that I had a child on the way, I started to worry about caring for him.  How could I leave my baby to be raised by someone I barely know while I go to work every day?  Could there be any job more rewarding or enjoyable than being a mother and being their for my child?  I didn't think so.  We began to budget our income to see if we could make things work on only one income.  After months of budgeting, we decided we had to try.  I gave my notice at work.  I would stay until our baby was born, and then I would quit to be home with him.

It was during this time that my thoughts about opening a store resurfaced.  There biggest difference now was that I was dreaming of making and selling things relating to children and not weddings.  I made a few things for my son's nursery, including a shelf with ultrasound photos in it and a hand painted animal themed wall hanging with his name.  I began to look into what it would mean to open a store online.  I was discouraged by the options I could find.  Ebay stores.  Amazon stores.  It sounded like it wouldn't be too difficult once I got started, but I just couldn't bring myself to take the plunge.

At the end of April, my son Bryce was born.  My life completely changed for the better that day.  I felt so incredibly lucky to be able to be home with him, and so grateful to my husband for working so hard so I could be there for our baby.

Several months later, I started to feel like I needed to be contributing financially.  Christmas was coming up and how much fun would it be for my husband to get gifts that had been paid for with his paycheck?  I began looking for ways to earn money from home for situations like that, and so we could have some extra spending money to get out of the house now and then.

At my dad's suggestion, I looked into online survey companies.  I spent a few months doing surveys for several different companies online and have managed to make a few hundred dollars doing it.  I have even had the opportunity to do in home tests for a few different products to help companies find out if their product is something their customers would buy.  This is still something I do, and I will occasionally post reviews to this blog of different online survey companies I have had experience with.

I have also looked into transcription services and online test juries.  I have made a little money from a transcription site called Key for Cash, but nothing yet from the juries.  I will also occasionally discuss these experiences in this blog.

My main focus in my blog, however, will be what I did on February 18, 2011.  Finally, after over three years of dreaming, I have opened a shop named "Sara's Handmades" on a site called Etsy, which is a site allowing makers of handmade crafts to sell them online easily.  This blog will chronicle my journey with my new shop, with mentions of other things I am doing to earn money, in the hopes that it will inform and inspire others to work toward their dreams and to earn some extra money as well.