Month: June 2013

Preparing for summer camp is a lot like planning your biz

summercamp

As a kid, I just loved going to camp. My parents sent me away for the summer and as I grew older, I even became a camp counselor. The beginning of summer always reminds me of my time in camp.

A few weeks ago, I was helping my nieces plan for summer camp. We packed trunks, made a list of everything, and had all the goods shipped way in advance. Now that’s what I call good planning. At Flourish & Thrive Academy, we teach our jewelry designers the importance of planning and preparing in advance. The summertime (or camp season) is just the time to do that!

Because….Preparing for summer camp is a lot like planning your biz

Planning is Key: When I was helping my nieces pack for camp, wow, it took some serious planning, organizing and skill to get it all done! Their trunks needed to be packed and shipped a whole month before the girls actually left to go to camp.

I loved the entire process because this is how I like to work with my jewelry clients on their business by planning and organizing so they can be prepared for a month, two months, even 6 months to a year in advance.

By planning out your business – be it launching a new collection or preparing for an event like a trunk show or the upcoming holiday season (where over 50% of yearly sales happen)  – one is able to easily prepare and be ready for whatever is next. PLUS, as a designer you can then focus on other things like creating your product or designing a new product.

Developing and following a plan helps keep you on track and ensures things don’t get lost.

Checklists are a must: The wonderful camp that my nieces attend is known for providing the parents with a detailed camp checklist. They make the tedious task of packing so much easier!

That checklist was very thorough. It had everything each camper needed for their time at camp. More importantly, it was specific to the needs of the camper whether the camper was going for 1 week or for 2 months (like my nieces).

Having a detailed checklist takes the guessing out of a project. It’s that one extra step to ensure everything is getting done (or rather packed in the case of camp). A detailed checklist in your biz can save you time and energy and prevent you from forgetting or missing a step.

A checklist is also a great tool you can provide to your customer. For example if you have a client who is a bride, think about providing her with a checklist of gifts she needs to give – from everyone starting with her soon to be husband, to the flower girl, parents, mother-in-law, hostess gifts, wedding party, etc.

For your wholesale buyer, a checklist of what they should buy and when is something you may want to give to them. This checklist will require some extra work on your part (researching past buys), but the payoff can be great!  You know the song, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

camp

 Systems are necessary: In addition to the checklist, the camp requires all campers have their name in every item of clothing. Parents could write the name of their children with a permanent marker or choose to put tags in the clothing. No matter how they did it, it had to be done. Just the thought of doing laundry for a whole camp full of girls … well, putting their names in their every garment made perfect sense!

The putting of names in every garment makes me think of having systems in business. Systems are necessary and it is important to make sure the systems you come up with work.

It may make sense to you, but remember your are not your team or your client. You need to make sure it makes sense to your team (contractors, employees or interns). If the system is developed for client relations or for your client use, it should make sense to them.

The key to creating successful systems starts by asking for feedback, listening and taking to heart what you hear. Business is always changing and listening to feedback is one of your greatest tools.

Running a camp is like running any business. It takes planning, checklists, systems and listening to customers. So what are you waiting for? Get packing!

 Just to recap:

  • Plan in Advance

  • Have a checklist (or many)

  • Make sure systems are in place

  • Listen to your team and your customers

We want to hear from you! In the comments below tell us:

  1. What are you going to do to plan for the 2013 holiday season?

  2. Are you listening to your team and your customers?

If you are a jewelry designer who is ready to have your best Holiday Season, check out our FREE training series:: Ramp up your holiday jewelry sales.

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs

Camp OMHG, Flying Photo School

It wouldn’t shock any one of you to hear that great product photography equals more online sales. Period. If you run an online business, you simply can’t afford to have poor images of your products. But how do you consistently create stunning images?

Here are some tips to help you move forward:

Tip #1 – Take your camera off Auto Mode

If I could convince everyone who owned a digital camera to do one thing, this would be it. I know that digital cameras, especially advanced ones, can seem completely overwhelming. So it begins to feel like the camera is smarter than you … and I assure you, that simply isn’t true! In auto mode, you have zero control over any settings, which results in zero control over your images.

The images below were taken at almost exactly the same time; the one on the left was taken in Auto mode, where the flash fired, which definitely lessens the professional look of your photos! The image on the right was taken in Program mode, and the flash was avoided. It’s easy to see which image would sell more products!

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs, Flying Photo School

Takeaway tool: A great first step is to put your camera in Program Mode (look for the “P” on the top dial of your camera), where you control just a few of the most important settings, without being overwhelmed to manipulate every setting. 

Tip #2 – Change up your composition

There are so many creative ways to compose and stage your images, but let’s start with one of the most fundamental ideas: instead of centering your subject, place it off to one side. This instantly creates a dynamic energy in the photo, and the shot will draw more attention, and more attention equals more sales!

The shots below both benefit from great lighting, and a simple background. But the image where the product is off to the right draws your eye instantly, and really pulls your attention.

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs, Flying Photo School

Takeaway tool: Next time you’re shooting, consider changing your angle or position to create interest and energy in your still product shots. 

Tip #3 – It’s all about light

You want stunning product photography? Find and shoot in fantastic light. I’ve heard many of my students claim that their house simply doesn’t have any great light … and I always respectfully disagree! Any home with windows has the potential for great light – it’s just a matter of timing your shoots to utilize that light, and positioning your subjects to take advantage of the light.

For instance, the shots below were taken in the same room, with the same set-up … the only thing that changed was the time of day! (For those curious, the photos were taken 9am, 3pm and 7pm respectively.) Isn’t it incredible how varied the light can be in the exact same place? I recommend taking a day to test your light – set-up in the morning, and then photograph every hour or two. It should be clear by the end of the day what time works best to shoot!

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs, Flying Photo School

A big mistake with natural light that I often see photographers make is assuming that just because a shot takes place near a window, the image has utilized beautiful light. Unfortunately, there are lots of “wrong” ways to use this light! In the images below, see how placing the products in front of the windows resulted in lots of shadows.

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs, Flying Photo School

Basic Photography Survival Tips for Creative Entrepreneurs, Flying Photo SchoolInstead, try placing your products in front of the window light. This will allow you to actually benefit from the soft, diffused available light. See how different the shot below looks? All of the fantastic details and beautiful colors are brought out because of the light that now has a chance to fall on the products. 

Takeaway tool: Be mindful of both the time of day you get the best light, and also how to position your products to take advantage of the best possible natural light.

For quick reference on what windows might get the best light in your home:

  • North facing windows have the weakest light intensity. Try to find windows that face a different direction!
  • South facing windows get strong, beautiful light. Position your products in front of these windows, and you should have a great start to your product photography!
  • East facing windows get gorgeous light in the morning, so that’s a wonderful time of day to shoot with these windows.
  • West facing windows get fantastic afternoon and evening sun, so if you can only shoot at the end of your day, look for some of these! 

Remember, photos sell products … and the better your photos, the better your sales! Keep experimenting: with your camera settings, composition and lighting, and you’ll find every product shoot your photography gets stronger (and so will your bank account!).

Do you have any questions about how to improve your product photography & general photo skills? Share your questions + tips + before & after photos in the comments and we’ll all chime in! 

MonicaBHeadshotMeet Monica of Flying Photo School

Monica B is a photographer, entrepreneur and momma to the sweetest little boy that ever lived (not that she’s biased). As the founder and lead instructor of Flying Photo School, she has taught thousands of camera newbies how to properly harness the power of their digital cameras. Her latest dream is to make sure that every mom feels confident capturing life through a lens. She loves eating out, but you can expect it to take her 15 minutes to order, as she is the pickiest eater on the planet. 

WEBSITE || TWITTER || FACEBOOK

 

A Maker’s Most Precious Tool (And How to Care for It)

A Maker’s Most Precious Tool (And How to Care for It), Kylie Bellard, Oh My! Handmade

Whatever it is that you use to do your craft, you take care of it, right? You keep your sewing machine shiny and clean. You make sure to wash the bristles of your paint brushes carefully, so they don’t break and fall out. You keep the caps firmly on your pens so they don’t dry out. You keep your yarn tangle free (most of the time).

There’s another tool you use to create, which you might not be taking care of as well as the others. And this is a tool you need to care for, because you only get one, and when it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

That tool is You. Your body, mind, and soul. Your living, breathing, everyday companion in every single thing you do.

It’s possible, if you’re anything like most of the makers I know, that you don’t always care for this precious implement that way you do the rest of your tools. There are probably many good reasons for that. You’re worried about money, or time, or keeping up with the demand for your products. These concerns, and all the others you have, are entirely legitimate. We all have them, especially when we’re starting out.

However, because you only get one You, it’s especially important to do what you can to overcome the barriers keeping you from that self-care. And so I want to invite you, right now, to spend a few moments considering this:

Are there any areas of your life where the tool called You is getting rusty, feeling disheveled, or otherwise falling into disrepair?

The answer is probably yes.

I’m not saying this to scold you; not in the least. We all have spots in our lives where we could brush up on our self-care (me included; I promise). So with that knowledge, and some compassion, too, let’s take note of the spots in your self-care repertoire that could use some spiffing up.

A Maker’s Most Precious Tool (And How to Care for It), Kylie Bellard, Oh My! Handmade

Health: Are you up to date on your doctor, dentist, and other general health visits? How are you eating and sleeping? Do you have the opportunity to regularly move your body? Do you have any ailments that are going untreated?

Work: Do you have the things you need to support you and keep you sane? Are there certain elements of your business that are driving you mad and need some loving attention? Are you working hours that take too high a toll on you physically?

Play: Do you have time for recreation, contemplation, non-doing, laughter? Do you spend regular time with people you adore? Do you do creative things that feed your soul but don’t earn you money?

A Maker’s Most Precious Tool (And How to Care for It), Kylie Bellard, Oh My! Handmade

I know it can be overwhelming to think about all these things at once. Because of that, I recommend that you choose one item (just one, you overachievers!) to approach first. My own personal preference is to work on the one that’s causing me the most discomfort (physical or otherwise) first. For instance, if I hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks and was getting really worried about my health, I would prioritize getting to the doctor. If I were working so much that I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I’d tackle that puzzle first. 

Do what you can, do it in small doses, and do it in the most forgiving, gentle way you can bear.

None of us will ever care for ourselves perfectly, no matter how hard we try. Just like the equipment that you use in your craft, your body and mind wear with age and use, and that’s to be expected. As long as you remember that the tool called You is the most important thing you own, and try to care for it accordingly, you’re very much on the right track.

Share your experiences with self-care in the comments-how are you taking care of your precious tool?

Kylie200pxKylie Bellard is an uber-compassionate empowerment coach and photographer who teaches people to like themselves and care for themselves. You can read her weekly musings on self-esteem, self-care, and doing nothing at www.effervescence.me.