Below are some resources for starting a business or building a website. These posts are not all-inclusive and are based on my personal experience building my home-based brand. I am in no way an expert on entrepreneurial endeavors, and continue to stumble my way through this journey. Hopefully, these posts will help you avoid the same stumbles.
even makes them a little uncomfortable. Because creative discomfort sometimes paves a beautiful path towards individual expression. And this contest was so full of gloriousness that I'm seriously considering more wire-only challenges in the future. While stones and beads are complimentary and lovely accessories, it's the wire work I fell in love with all those years ago when I made the first tentative steps towards my future, so I'm more than a little biased with my love of wire. And this contest, with these entries, just fueled that love even more!
There are two categories judged in each "Finish It!" Design Challenge. A group favorite, where only participants are allowed to cast a single vote for their favorite entry. And a judged favorite, reached by a consensus of 7 non-participants, including consumers and other wire-artists.
The group favorite will receive my finished version of this pendant, and any 10 Nicole Hanna Jewelry tutorials of their choice. The judged favorite will also receive any 10 Nicole Hanna Jewelry tutorials of their choice (not that any of the entrants need my help!).
And everyone gets bragging rights! Because I know this wasn't an easy challenge. There was an obscene amount of wire involved, and the focus stayed entirely on the design utilizing that wire, without the distraction of beads or stones.
So please.... take a look at the winners below: Penny Sanchez and Daune Price-Hannah, and give them the warmest and most-deserved congrats!
Group Favorite: Penny Sanchez
Judged Favorite: Daune Price-Hannah
And definitely stay tuned for more "Finish It!" Design Challenges. While I have no more planned for this year, I do already have them tentatively scheduled for next year, with some new approaches in consideration! And if, in the next contest, we break 100 entries, I'll be offering a few more goodies for our winners and participants, so definitely stay tuned!
Until then, beautiful souls, stay creative and happy weaving! Any many thanks to the truly amazing and talented folks who entered! By accepting the challenge, you filled these past few weeks for me with inspiration and joy.
numerous to count, and rightfully so. Each piece is deserving of all the recognition it receives. Because.... let's be honest.... I was annoying with this contest, I can admit it. I mean, no stones? No beads? Just plain wire? But every single entrant rose up to the challenge. And I was amazed every day as more and more entries tumbled through my inbox, and I ended up witness to 64 beautiful creations!
And guys, I gotta admit I might just be doing more Finish It! Design Challenges with wire-only requirements. I love a pretty stone, no doubt, but sometimes there's an unfair advantage when the focal becomes the stone and not the design around it. Plus, these wire-only entries all bellowed their own stories. And I'm nothing if not a sucker for a good story.
So let's get to the judging, shall we?
The gallery of entries will be available for viewing… well… indefinitely or, at the very least, until Pinterest falls into the dark abyss of the internet, at which point the images will (hopefully) be moved to another file sharing system. In the meantime, click the link above to view the wonderful creations.
The gallery of entries will be available for VOTING, however, through October 15, 2017. Voting is open only to those who participated in the contest. To vote:
A note to non-participating viewers and commentators…. please reserve the term “VOTED” for participants only, to avoid confusion during the judging process, but do feel free to comment as a show of appreciation for the beautiful work submitted. These entries are worthy of the recognition they receive and then some.
On October 16, votes will be tallied and the “Group Favorite” (most voted by participants) will win my completed version of this project and any ten tutorials of their choice. In the case of a tie, I will place the deciding vote.
Also, a “Judged Favorite”, chosen by a panel of four jewelry artists and three “consumers” (who are not participating in the contest), will also receive any ten tutorials of their choice.
Every contestant should receive the finished version of this tutorial as a thank you for his or her participation. Please expect this tutorial to be delivered during the judging week. If you have not received the tutorial by the time the contest is judged, or have trouble accessing the file, please contact me at email@example.com
Thank you all so much!
To read more about the September 2017 Finish It! Design Challenge, please visit this post.
I love what I do.
It can be stressful, without doubt. I have shaken my fists at the heavens when my computer went in for repairs, my website glitched, deadlines weren't met, or distractions derailed me. But every day I'm thankful for the opportunity to do it, to share my passion and spirit with those who would have it.
But, in the spirit of transparency, especially towards those who wish to have a go at similar dreams, I have my struggles. As do we all, I imagine. My personal shadow... that one challenge as a business owner that comes at me in the dark and places it's hand on my heart, wraps the tendrils of its fingers around my fears and doubts and insecurities is this: time. And the sacrifice of time. Even to time.
Oh, there's a strong word, right? Sacrifice. It evokes images of virgins at the mouths of volcanoes, Aztec altars or even just the loss of simple creature comforts in pursuit of greater things. It suggests you can't have one thing without giving up something else. This is a perception often tied to the hopes and dreams of many small business owners... that we must sacrifice.
"Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." Martin Luther King, Jr.
And it's not an untrue statement. Sacrifice is often required. But it's how we perceive the importance of that sacrifice that matters. And it's how we manage the impact of those sacrifices on our lives.
I am an introvert. I have social anxiety. My home business has often provided me an excuse to indulge in my need or desire to be alone. But this has sometimes been at the expense of experiences with others. While I can pound out five pieces of jewelry in a single feverish night of work, I am also aware, at the end of the day, of experiences and interactions with others I've missed as a result.
So where is the challenge? In finding balance. In understanding that I can't allow business to derail me from spending time on family, friends, myself even. I must challenge myself to step into some discomfort for the betterment of my spiritual evolution, to recognize when it's necessary to set my business aside for social enrichment.
The challenge is in breaking free of my social anxiety, as well, and in recognizing when I'm using my business as a crutch to avoid spending time outside of my solitude. And this, while also not sacrificing my income! We all have bills to pay, need food to sustain us. These are real concerns. Real needs. But when those needs become a catalyst for our anxiety, unnecessary sacrifices are made. Sacrifices bred by fear.
So, why am I telling you this? Because it's important to know we all struggle with our sacrifices, with our perception of the sacrifices we believe we must make, with finding balance between those sacrifices and the consequences of them. It's important to know that, through it all, there are those who support us and that we are never an island unto ourselves.
Let me say that I agree (and I've said this before) that quality is important. Pieces should never catch on clothing, unravel, beads or stones shouldn't pop out of their bezels, tool marks should be filed or sanded, etc... these things speak to the quality of ones work and should be appropriately measured before offering that work to others.
Design and aesthetics of finished work, however, are a different beast all together. And I cannot say, with any certainty, to which the above conversation was directed. And, let's be real honest here.... quality is still more a matter of preference than irrefutable, universal fact. I have purchased handcrafted pieces that have kinks in the wire, the curves are a little wonky, or the weaves are not compressed. Why? Because those pieces tell me a story, which is more important than their perfection, or my perception of perfection.
So let's talk about the implied idea above that there's such a thing as over-production, that producing too many things in some predetermined time frame can somehow be damaging to, not only the quality, but the artistry or creativity.
While we can (and should) consider ourselves designers, artists or creatives, we are also, in many instances, business owners striving to support ourselves with our craft. And here's the thing: we shouldn't judge productivity as haste. As business owners, we have responsibilities to our families, our customers and our audience and, as such, we make certain demands on our time, including a consistent production of work. One of the most important things I've learned as a business owner is this: productivity is the key to any successful venture. Producing 50 pieces a month no more suggests a "rush" in our work than producing 5 pieces a month suggests care in the work.
I know, I know. Talking about money feels icky to many artists. There's this idea that artists should somehow sacrifice their livelihood for their craft... the whole "starving artist" ideology that serves (seriously) no one at all. So, words like "productivity" rub folks the wrong way. I get it.
And you don't have to sacrifice quality or artistry to meet those productivity goals you've set for yourself. You simply have to know how to save time (your most important resource) where you can, how to batch processes and streamline work flow. That someone can complete a piece two hours faster than someone else should never imply the work is somehow less. Of course we should never sacrifice quality, or cut corners to meet deadlines. But neither should we assume quality is lacking due to the speed of production.
So, quality vs quantity? The two are neither mutually exclusive nor inclusive of one another. It's for the artist and their customer to decide.
"It's not a real job." Not only is it a real job, it's the job of many handled by, sometimes, a single individual! We need to know photography, branding, how to navigate social media, web design, search engine optimization, current trends in the market, how to budget, how to balance that budget, how to balance our time, and, most importantly, how to create. While we can (and I highly recommend it) outsource many areas of our work, this in itself is a job!
"It must be nice to be your own boss." Being your own boss certainly has its perks! But it also carries with it a degree of uncertainty and stress. In fact, no matter what job you have and how much you love it, I'm positive in my assertion that we've all experienced stress in our work environments, even if that environment is our home. This is totally normal! Being your own boss means we aren't accountable to anyone but ourselves. But that also requires a certain dedication which differs from that required by more conventional employment. We have to set our hours, stick to those hours, balance our home and business life, stay productive in the face of distractions, especially for those who work from home with children (and spouses!). But finding the balance, as tenuous or delicate as it may be, can be immensely rewarding!
"So you get to set your own hours? Ah, the freedom!" While we do have some ability to maneuver our tasks to accommodate emergencies or meet the expectations of family and friends, these adjustments are often not without consequence to our business or sanity. While conventional employment often provides paid vacations, sick leave and personal development days, these are definitely not in the wheel-house of the self-employed.
"It's too expensive to start a business." Well, this depends. While some business ventures can certainly result in costly investments, a handcrafted business can be successful with limited financial commitment. There are free or low-cost resources for those in the handcrafted market, such as customizable shopfronts through Storenvy, free photo editing software such as Photoscape, and free or heavily-discounted business cards through companies like Vista Print.
"If you build it, they will come." I've seen some iteration of this theory expressed often, usually expressed by artists who are disillusioned or disappointed with their lack of success, and usually as a result of an unfortunate, idealized expectation of success verses the time involved in reaching it. While 85% of small businesses survive their first year, the numbers drop dramatically when comparing survival with profit. And over 50% of small businesses will fail after their fifth year. These are depressing statistics, on their surface. But, recognizing this reality can, indeed, be the catalyst towards success, because it requires preparation and realistic expectations and goals. Knowing how to make a great product will never guarantee sales. So, prepare and be willing to learn about branding, marketing, web design, photography and bookkeeping (especially for those on a budget that does not allow for outsourcing these tasks). In the end, full-time, even part-time profitability is rare within the first year. And, to quote someone who was smarter than me "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." Keep your expectations realistic!
These are only a few of the myths I've encountered, the most prevalent of them, and even myths I'd embraced myself at some point during my journey of entrepreneurship. And none of these are meant to discourage budding business men and women from following their passion! In fact, I think preparation is the foundation of all successful ventures!
What are some myths you've encountered as a self-employed business person?
So when and why are modeled shots useful? While I do believe the primary photo in any jewelry or fashion listing should be a detailed shot of the product itself, modeled shots can show how a product wears. Instead of an inanimate object, the piece becomes part of a scene. When worn on a model, there's an understanding of the mood a seller intends with their work when they create a scene in which it is worn. Ultimately, it tells a story.
I've learned, however, it's not always practical to have every piece of jewelry modeled. It can, in fact, be a financial burden on small business. While I am a photography enthusiast at best, I am lucky to have the gear and experience to take decent photos without hiring a professional photographer. But this came at its own expense via an artistic interest of mine (as any hobby would). I am also lucky to have beautiful nieces who are open to (affordable) compensation for photo shoots. So, I understand this can be a prohibitive expense to many... to myself even! I believe in real compensation for the time any model provides, and would never utilize that time without compensation, relation or not. Therefore, it's not practical (neither in time nor money) to have every piece of jewelry modeled. Bartering, however, is also an excellent method by which new jewelry designers or sellers can pair with new photographers or models to add to a business brand.
So, you don't have the resources to have every piece modeled? Never fear! I'm a firm believer that a single one-hour life-style shoot, shared on your selling platform as a website cover photo, for instance, can complete the picture of your business without the necessity for a modeled shot in every product listing. It's a one-time expense I personally believe to be as important to a brand as a monthly subscription to the provider of a website or selling platform, or to the manufacturer of business cards.
With all this said, as long as you've defined your brand, have a clear understanding of the mood or tone your wish to evoke through your work, and know your market, you can certainly have a successful shop without modeled jewelry.
Pure Black or White Backgrounds CONS (an opinion): While the jewelry certainly speaks for itself, pure white or black backgrounds lack a story. I want a complete picture of, not just the product, but the artist, which is sometimes lost in the sterility of white backgrounds, or (conversely) the darkness of its solid black counterpart. The numbers don't lie, and it's proven to boost sales, but it's important that the choice to use a pure white or black background is in line with your brand and image.
Shades of grey tell a story, set a mood that speaks beyond the product itself, without falling into the trap of associations we might often make with other solid color backgrounds. We might see a red background and think "anger", for instance, but grey (or shades of grey) often provide an opportunity to allow the viewer to build a relationship with the image without a deafening demand to react to the image in a prescribed manner.
The Wrap Up:
In the end, it's ultimately up to the seller to decide what fits his or her branding the best. It's far more important to focus on the consistency and style of the photography than in the color of the background. And to be sure you're telling your story the way you envisioned, through your products and also the way in which you present them to others, and that these things create a cohesive whole.
For more on product photography, check out this blog post, or the videos below!
Amy Ng Pikaland: "Connecting the dots between creativity, illustration and entrepreneurship."
The Creative World of Eni Oken: Where fantasy and discovery meet in a tangle of zen!
Kelly-Ann Maddox: Establishing a connection with spirit, one blog post at a time.
Ted Talks: "TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we're building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world's most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long."
Pandora Whiteboard Sessions: For some inspiration through music, these performers are magical!
Wil Wheaton's Tabletop: Embracing the imagination and the spirit of communal creativity.
Pinterest: Is there any other website as all-encompassing in its obsessive use of inspiration?
Tiny Buddha: Learning to live a life of gratitude and love.
I Need Motivation: Self-improvement and life enrichment.
Zen Habits: Spiritual and self-development.
Productivity501: "is a site dedicated to bringing you regular tips and tricks to help increase your personal productivity."
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