Below craft business owner, blogger and recently-published author Joanne Dewberry explains how she does it and gives tips on how to make more money just talking and writing about what you love!
You've used your skills as a business blogger and an online craft seller to provide excellent advice in the form of your book, 'Crafting a Successful Small Business', but which came first: business blogging or online selling? And how did one lead to the other?
I had been running Charlie Moo's for nearly 6 years before I started business blogging. The business blog, joannedewberry.co.uk, came about after I won the title of Dorset Business Mum of the Year in 2010. Online magazine and business blogs started to ask me to write articles for them, which was a great way to increase my profile.
However, I soon realised that this side didn't have much bearing on the customers who were buying Charlie Moo's products. They had no interest in my social media or marketing skills. At The London Business Start Up Show I donated money to Breast Cancer and received a domain name for free - I decided to get www.joannedewberry.co.uk as Charlie Moo's had just been renewed. I also had a free wordpress.org hosting package with MumsClub as part of my paid subscription; it seemed like everyone was telling me to set up a separate business blog, so I did!
Joanne takes some well-earned time out with the little moos Olive, Charlie and Megan.
The release of your book must be a great supplement to your online shop and business blog. What other ways could experienced online sellers supplement their income? Talks? Mentorship? Are there any avenues you'd particularly recommend?
Anything along the lines of passive income is an excellent way to supplement your income - so affiliate programmes such as Create's help as you basically earn money promoting things you love. I also use Amazon Affiliates and tweet a link every day to the Kindle copy of 'Crafting a Successful Small Business', which earns me commission, on top of royalties, on these sales. I'd recommed writing an ebook: you just write and format it once and it sells over and over again.
Then there's holding classes and workshops (great for crafters making money from their skills as well as their products, which is something fellow Create user Red Brick Glass does) as well as the aforementioned mentorship and talks.
I sometimes give free talks and workshops in my local community (at the library, networking groups, cafes) as a way to upsell my book and mentoring. This works well for me and is a great way to boost my profile locally.
What inspired you to put pen to paper (or rather, fingertips to keys) and write a book detailing your craft business advice?
I'd had a difficult pregnancy with my third child Olive in 2011, and I knew we'd be spending some time in hospital, so I wrote a series of blog posts around crafting: where to sell; visual merchandising; branding; learning new skills; and with some craft activities thrown in. I set these posts to be automatically updated to my blog every week. Although I wasn't about, my readers still had a lot of useful information to work from.
Upon my return I was surprised to find I had a whole new set of followers, hungry for more information and advice. I saw on twitter that Brightword were taking book submissions, so I sent one in. It was all sort of off the cuff with no real thinking behind it. If I'd have taken the time to think, I don't think I ever would have done it!
I really enjoyed writing the book and talking to and meeting lots of crafters, both locally and nationally. It's exciting to see the wealth of design out there in the UK.
I wrote the majority of the book while up in the night feeding Olive. I seem to do my best thinking then! It's surprising what you can do on no sleep, with three children under four years old at home!
How do you manage having so many strings to your bow? Do you focus on online selling for some time then focus on your business blog? Or do you tend to manage both at the same time?
The majority of my day I'm Mum! Olive is two years old so I'm home most of the day - we have swimming lessons and playdates to fit in. My other two children, Charlie and Megan need running to and from school and clubs, and then there's homework to help with and dinners to prepare!
I have two days child-free and I tend to use one for Charlie Moo's - making products, redesigning the website and writing blogs. I use Charlie Moo's blog as a family blog for product reviews and tales of the children. The second day I use for my business blog and writing for other sites, too.
Writing articles for others is a great way to develop your profile, set yourself up as an expert in your industry and ultimately drive traffic to your website. I spend most evenings from 7-9pm working on the social media side, online networking and the never-ending emails!
I think that 'work/life balance' will mean something different to every person and every family - what works for me won't always work for others. The key is to be confident and calm. You never know when a day of planning will be sucked up by a sick child or an unexpected bespoke order.
Just a few of the party goods available at Joanne's online shop, Charlie Moo's.
Are there any particular challenges you faced when writing and publishing your book? What humps in the road would you warn prospective writers or business bloggers about?
Research, research, research and then expect the unexpected! I did a lot of research about the type of book I wanted to write and then the week or so before mine went live on Amazon the ladies behind Not On The High Street launched their book! Argh! I found the publishing side easier than the actual promotion and sales!
In publishing a book you also open yourself up be criticised in a way I've never experienced before. Amazon reviewers aren't always very nice. I remember the first negative comment I had - I cried, I was so mortified! But you have to shake yourself off and realise that not everybody will like everything you do and that that's okay.
A recent survey of Create users showed that ecommerce traders were very optimistic about business in 2017? Do you feel optimistic about 2017? If so, why?
I'm making some positive changes to my ecommerce site this year which has been left for a while. I'm updating the design, adding new content and products and giving it a much needed SEO overhaul! So, yes, I do feel positive and optimistic.
What are your top tips to help small businesses boost business in 2017?
Network! Network! Network! Whether that be at business events or sales opportunities such as markets and fairs. Go and chat and meet other people - hand out your business cards. Follow these people socially online and keep the relationship developing. These are the people who will recommend you to others.
Network online, too - Twitter is a useful resource for chatting with small businesses. Each county has its own hashtag hour, too. For example, #DorsetHour (my county) runs on a Monday from 7:30pm-8:30pm. It's a great way to chat with small businesses around me. I've even managed to sell products, get my books in a few stores and meet lots of useful contacts to help me grow my business.
You will also find a hashtag for most things on Twitter. #SatChatUK, #smallbusiness and #handmadehour are useful for networking with other crafters - they're great places to pick others' brains. If you have a problem, issue or query you can always bet someone else is in the same boat, been there and done that! Networking is a great tool for business development.
The recent survey showed that 97% of respondents would recommend Create to others. Would you? If so, why?
I recommend Create in my book! I also recommend it verbally. I always suggest giving the 30-day free trial a go! I mean, what do you have to lose? Daddy Moo's site is on Create and my Dad is currently building a Create site, too.
I think the joy of Create is that it suits so many needs. For me, when I first started out, it was so easy to use. Now I'm a bit more IT savvy, I can tailor my website more to my needs.
The customer support you receive from Create is second to none! Tweets are answered within minutes and queries on Facebook are never left unattended. Why, just the other day I responded to a Facebook status and had a lovely message from Create in my inbox shortly after.
Any problems are solved straight away and you're always kept in the loop. I seriously couldn't fault any of the Create team.
Thanks for taking the time to chat to us and passing on your small business advice, Joanne.