By Arianne Foulks

Ethical Guidelines for Blogging

ethical guidelines for bloggers

Blogging seems simple enough! But did you know that you could get in legal trouble for blogging, or at least risk angering someone you admire? Consider some basic blogging ethics and understand the legal issues with blogging. Not only do you want to keep things legal, but you want your readers to trust and respect you. Here are some things to think about.

Copyright and credit

If you’re able to write all the content for your blog, and create all the graphics and take all the photos, you will be in the clear as far as copyright infringement goes. A great side effect of all this diligence is that your blog will shine for the hard work you’re putting into it.

Not everyone has the skill and the time to create every last bit of content from scratch. If you don’t, make sure you’re using images correctly. Your only legitimate ways to gather images for your blog are:

  1. Create the photo or graphic yourself
  2. Use paid or free stock photography with an appropriate license
  3. Get permission from the content creator to re-use their work

Just because someone posted an image on their own site or on social media doesn’t mean it can be posted anywhere. If you will be posting images that you didn’t create, you need to have the right to do that.

When in doubt, if you’re putting any kind of content on your blog that you haven’t created yourself, you should both ask the creator for permission, and credit that person in your blog post.

If you’re re-using written content, it’s usually okay to insert an attributed quote into your text (and even better if you link back to the source). It’s not okay to re-print someone else’s entire article without permission.

If your post is based off of the original idea of someone else’s, share the credit and mention the inspiration in your post.

Truth and opinion

You may not think of yourself as a journalist, but as a blogger, you are responsible for earning your readers’ trust. You need to be clear about what is fact and what is your opinion. When speaking of others, be sure that you’ve verified what you’re writing about them. Libel is a real thing that you can get in legal trouble about.

Be transparent with your readers about what is editorial and what is advertising. Are you sharing affiliate links? Did you receive payment or get free product to blog about a certain topic? Readers need to know if they’re getting your unbiased opinion, or if your writing is affected by a relationship with an advertiser.

Giveaways and contests

Before you go wild promoting your blog or business with giveaways and contests, read up on how to do these legally. Your innocent blog giveaway may be an illegal lottery in some states. If your prize is worth enough, there will be tax concerns you need to think about.

This article gives a brief overview of how to keep your contests legit:

But Everyone Else is Doing It: Why There are So Many Illegal Social Media Contests

Marketing and spam

When promoting your blog, make sure that you do so tastefully, and steer clear of anything spammy. This means not sending unsolicited emails, not posting inappropriately about your business in public forums, and not forcing advertisements on people who aren’t looking for them.

Even in your own spaces (your blog, your social media accounts), remember that people want value from you, not an endless stream of ads.

Privacy and policies

Always respect your readers’ privacy. This means keeping their email address private, and if you collect any data about them, you shouldn’t share this information with others, or use this information inappropriately. Your emails must be opt-in, and you can’t share your email lists with other people or companies.

Make some policies for your blog and be sure to share them with your readers! What is your comments policy, privacy policy, terms and conditions for use of your site? These don’t need to be pages and pages of legalese, but could instead be a few sentences by your comments box, or a promise next to your email opt-in that you won’t share email addresses with other companies.

Did you know that the comments people write on your blog posts are not yours to use? By default, they are copyrighted by the comment poster. If you want to use that wording elsewhere on your site or in your marketing materials, you’ll need permission. You can get this permission in advance by having a comments policy stated on your site.

More help with your blog

This is a brief overview of topics to think about. If you blog, I urge you to spend some time on Google learning more about blogging ethics and legalities.

This post kicks off a series on the Aeolidia website about starting a blog for creative businesses. Upcoming posts will discuss whether you should have a blog, share the steps to take to start a blog, give you a huge list of ideas of what to blog about, and cover common blogging mistakes I see.

Take a moment now to subscribe to my newsletter, so you won’t miss the next posts:

Get more tips on blogging

Since we’re talking ethics here, I had better mention that I will keep your email address completely private, and will not share it with others or use it for anything but to send you my newsletter!

Do you have a blog? Are you thinking of starting a blog? What questions do you have about blogs for business, or blogs on ecommerce sites? Please share in the comments. I’d love to offer some personalized tips.

Aeolidia’s Pretty Massive Creative Business Giveaway

01-header Hello, I’m Arianne, and I am “Captain & Founder” of a web and graphic design studio called Aeolidia. I’ve learned over the past few years to quit calling it a “small design studio,” now that there are 21 of us. Though I did get a little flustered introducing myself to someone over the weekend and saying that I “work for” Aeolidia – like I’m the receptionist or something (note: I do not have a receptionist)! Do you ever have a hard time noticing how far you’ve come? Jess kindly offered to let me share our anniversary celebration with the wonderful Oh My! Handmade readers, and of course I leapt at the chance, because I think just about most of you will delight in our manifesto and are well aligned with our company values. Aeolidia clients are bright burning flames

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is that you? Oh good. Read on!

A week of giveaways

Aeolidia loot giveaway Aeolidia manifesto freebie To celebrate our anniversary and the launch of our new site, we are smack in the middle of a week of giveaways. Don’t worry! You can still download the freebies and enter to win any of our giveaways. I’m going to give people time to check everything out, and then choose winners. If you see an entry form on the blog posts, you’re welcome to enter, because we’re trying something new this time: instead of having a set limit of winners, we are just trying to help as many people as we reasonably can.

Schedule of events

Please nose around our new site and enter to win as many as you’d like!

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
Read about our new site and get the swag »

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
Improve your site and enter to win »

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Please share with your friends!

Our posts have some “pin-able” content and downloads – I’d love to have your help spreading these all over Pinterest and Instagram! We’d like to cast our net wide on our free service giveaway posts, so as many people as possible can enter to win. We will be reviewing websites, making “next step” plans for businesses, and setting up new Shopify sites, all for free, and as many as we can possibly fit in. I hope we can help your friends with their businesses. Please let them know. Thanks so much for following along over the years. I’m feeling happy!

Bamboletta: a Community-Minded Business Made With Crafts(wo)manship and Love

Bamboletta dolls

We at Aeolidia were first introduced to Bamboletta when we designed the Bamboletta website for Christina in 2007. We were charmed by her handmade Waldorf dolls, and amazed at how quickly they sold and how frenzied some of her customers seemed! There was always such a rush and crowd on doll “upload days” that for many years, Christina’s business model and huge bandwidth use foiled many cart programs. Now, on Shopify, they have a good thing going, but Christina tells me that Shopify have taken her particular checkout process into company meetings to improve their checkout capabilities.

There was never enough supply to meet her demand, and the answer seemed simple to us at the time – just hire some people who can sew! Well, as you’ll see, Christina has grown her company in such a loving and caring way, and those dolls are still selling like hotcakes and there don’t seem to be enough to go around!

I am inspired by Christina’s business, her team, and her sense of community and caring. I asked her some questions that I’ve been wondering about, and I’m glad for this peek inside of Bamboletta.

Bamboletta founder, Christina (right), posing with a customer.
Bamboletta founder, Christina (right), posing with a customer.

You started making and selling dolls in your living room in 2003, and now you have a thriving business that operates on your terms. Did you know it was going to be a “real business” at the time you started? When did it first seem real?

I had no idea that what I started would be a ‘real business’ and to this day I really don’t know where the whole thing is going. I’ve followed sort of an ebb and flow of it all – all while trusting my gut. This may seem crazy but it all started feeling super real when I got accounting software and started printing cheques this way on a computer instead of the handwritten ones I wrote out prior.  Then it went to a whole other level when I started using envelopes with those windows in them. Another big step was when we incorporated and Bamboletta became it’s own ‘thing.’

How many people currently work with you? How do you know when it’s time to add a new employee, and how do you find them? Is there a certain size that will feel too big to you?

We currently have 51 people working with us. Some work in the studio but most are stay at home moms working from home. We know when it’s time to add in a new person usually when someone has a baby or moves. Usually it’s friends of friends who we hire on, or someone comes into the studio and we just ‘know.’ I think because we’ve been around for a while at this location we seem to have people we can call on if something comes up. This whole business is very very organic. Occasionally I do have to hire on for something specific and I’ve put out ads online – when I interview the majority of what I go for is a feeling – like I just know when someone is a good fit. If you had asked me a few years ago what was too big I would have said where I currently am is – but as I’ve grown I’ve been able to branch off so that I don’t have to organize and take care of everyone. I’ve done a lot of thinking around what would feel too big and I think that if it ever came to a situation where I wasn’t sewing that would be too big. I don’t ever want to spend all my days in front of a screen running my business that way.

Audrey and Rachel working on dolls
Audrey and Rachel working on dolls
Madelin cutting yarn for packaging
Madelin cutting yarn for packaging
Brandi giving "hairdoing" lessons
Brandi giving “hairdoing” lessons
Photoshoot outside the studio!
Photoshoot outside the studio!

How does a standard day of running Bamboletta go?

We have more of a standard week. Mondays, our home sewers come and pick up and drop off dolls. I work on sewing faces all day. Tuesday/Wednesday I still sew faces and the girls in studio go through each doll and check that the sewing is done well – QC [Quality Control!]. We ship the dolls out at this time too. Thursday we get the dolls ready for our online sale – we dress, cut hair, blush, photograph and make all the listings. We also stuff the dolls then. Friday is stuffing, upload the dolls, get the hair all ready and I do the books. Now, there is a tonne more that goes on but this is the flow in a nutshell.

What do you do in your business that feels “against the rules” and contrary to popular advice?

I get a lot of flak for still doing the faces and sewing. The adage of an owner/CEO should be working ON her business and not IN her business comes up for me again and again. I just can’t imagine not doing it – I love it so much. Since winning ‘Best Community Impact Award’ in our province we’ve been featured in quite a few business magazines where we’ve been given some advice. Outsource, higher profit margins, up my pricing, lower my costs, move production into a factory type setting for efficiency – I’ve heard it again and again. But those things would lend to losing the most valuable piece in a Bamboletta, and that’s love. Customers can feel it, I know they can. You can’t outsource that.  You know, a few years back I went to visit our local ‘Community Futures’ branch looking to secure some kind of line of credit or loan. I was speaking to the adviser about my philosophy – about taking care of people in your community, local and sustainable production, ethical sourcing and that these things were far more important to me than the money. He plugged his ears and went ‘la, la la la – listen – NO one wants to hear you aren’t in it for the money.’ Sigh. Community FUTURES – this is what I’m all about (caring for my community) and that was the response I got.

If you could give the Christina from 2003 any advice about the path ahead, what would you tell her?

This question makes me a bit teary. I’ve spent so much time doubting myself – thinking that I was doing something wrong because I don’t have a MBA or any business training for that matter. That we scrape by some months because I’ve done something ‘wrong.’ I’ve finally figured out I’m not doing anything ‘wrong’ –  that I’m still operating after 12 years, have over 50 employees and have built this business using only a Visa card  – that’s something to be proud of. It’s damn expensive running a business with my ethics and values and that’s just the reality of it.  I’d tell her that she has something far more valuable then a MBA – a vision, unrelenting faith and a deep love for her craft and the joy it brings everyone involved.

Bamboletta dolls

Bamboletta dolls

Bamboletta dolls

Bamboletta dolls

Do you make future goals for your business? What works for you?

I don’t make future goals for my business. I mean, there are things I’d like to do but they aren’t goals necessarily. The market, the economy, everything shifts so quickly now that I like to keep things fluid. Instead I try to go for feelings. I want to delight people, I want a sense of ease in my business, I want joy in my workplace and I want beautiful crafts(wo)manship. Do you know of Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map? It’s amazing and I highly recommend it. Basically it’s about letting go of goals and instead going after how you want to feel. This is how I try to run Bamboletta.

What causes do you support, and why are they important to you?

We accumulate hundreds of ‘booboo’ dolls per year, so dolls that may have been used in training or may have a slight imperfection.  Instead of salvaging them for parts we give these dolls to different organizations like BC Children’s Hospital, various children’s hospices and women’s shelters. I feel very honored to maybe give a child a smile who is suffering in any way. This just feels like the right thing to do, you know? We also donate loads of dolls locally and within our online community for auctions of all sorts. We also have a program called the Blessing Dolls where people can write in and tell us about someone who is having a hard time and isn’t in a position to get a doll. We randomly will choose someone and surprise them with a doll.

Bamboletta studio & shop
Bamboletta studio & shop
Bamboletta studio & shop
Bamboletta studio & shop
Bamboletta at the Granville Island Market
Bamboletta at the Granville Island Market

I know you and your dolls do so much good for kids and adults alike! Tell us a heart warming Bamboletta story.

Oh, this is a hard one. So many stories come to mind. We sent a doll out to a little girl who was going through chemo and had lost all her hair, so we sent it to her bald with a little hat on it. The doll was a constant companion through treatment. Recently the mother contacted us to put on the doll’s hair because her little daughter’s hair has grown back. It’s things like this that make my heart feel like it’s going to burst, I feel such gratitude that I am in position to do these sorts of things.

Why do you think that making matters? What is important about the handmade?

I think making is extremely important in this day an age because we have become so disconnected from each other interacting through screens. Making matters because it gives people a connection that is based in creativity. Creativity, to me, is in the realm of magic. You know, when you are working on something and it’s just flowing you enter into a timeless sort of state – there is something to be said about how that state transfers into what is being made. Making is made with heart and creativity and that touches the end product with something absolutely human, and well, magical.  By keeping all those factors together, the creativity, the human-ness and the magic, I think making can spark a different way of doing things – one that cares, is thoughtful and perhaps a way out of the glut of our current way of being.

Bamboletta dolls

Bamboletta Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Meet Christina at the Maker’s Retreat

Well, don’t we all just feel a bit warmer and fuzzier now? I am looking forward to meeting Christina in person at the Oh My! Maker’s Retreat this October, and I hope you’ll be able to come along too, to learn some more from her about how to run a business that’s true to your values, cares for community, and is chock full of goodness like Bamboletta.

Oh My! Maker's Retreat

Read more about the Oh My! Maker’s Retreat (and nab your spot!) here.