The Best Planners for Entrepreneurs, Makers, and Anyone with a Side Hustle

I've had a love hate relationship with planners. With every new year, I decide I need the next new planner and 110% fall for shinny object syndrome. I don't know why I stray from the tried and true diaries that have proven time and again that they are the best systems for me and my clients, but alas, it happens. 

As we approach the New Year, I thought it would be apt of me to remind myself of my favorite planners for handmade businesses, entrepreneurs, makers, and, well anyone trying to take that side-hustle from a daydream to reality. 

The Day Designer

This is the first planner I bought after college... I'm not going to tell you when that was. It was the planner I started my side-hustle with in attempts to keep me on track with everything that I needed to get done on a daily basis between my full-time job, doctor's appointments, and my growing side business. 

What I love about the Day Designer is I had the opportunity to meet the creative force behind the planner, Whitney English, at a conference in New York City. I love it when you can physically put the name to a handmade product - it's what makes me love supporting this industry. 

The Day Designer is PERFECT for creative entrepreneurs and you will love the many covers and design that went into each edition. It will look fabulous on your desk. The downside of such a fantastic planner is that is it rather bulky. If you travel a lot (think commuting daily) this may not be the planner for you do to its heft. The planner's quality covers, binding, and daily pages are all good reasons for its size, it just comes with a price. 


The Desire Map Planner

Lately, I keep getting pulled back to the Desire Map Planner from Danielle Laporte. Unlike the traditional focus of an everyday planner, you'll be focusing on how you want to feel for the day, weeks, months, and years to come. If you are working on your mindset - The Desire Map Planner HAS to be your planner of, well, forever. 

What I love about Danielle, is the way she makes me take a step back and remember the why. I look at my vision board and remember my goals, think about the feelings and high-vibe nature I desire to love in and that is all wrapped up in 365 days of Desire Map Planner Goodness. As I am writing this, I want to go out and purchase another planner because visioning, feelings, and mindful action are my personal focus points for 2018. 

The Passion Planner

I am addicted to Kickstarter which is where I first discovered the Passion Planner. I needed a planner that looked professional, held up well, kept my week directly upfront, and gave me the space I needed to add anything else I needed. The Passion Planner was it.

This is a simple planner compared to the super designed planners I've reviewed, but don't let that stop you from loving it. For tracking weekly goals, the plethora of appointments, and a to-do list make this planner super functional without the bulk of a spiral bound book. For commuters, the Passion Planner is perfect. It fits in my handbag, messenger bags, and so on with ease. 

Once you've picked up your new favorite planner for the year, come on over to the Successful Makers Society and share your thoughts and reviews. 

This is EMBARRASSING ... What Makers Need to Learn From My Mistake

This past Monday I was on a roll. Everything in the day was running smoothly, well as great as it can run with a nearly 16 month old toddler who is just now learning it is faster to walk than crawl. 

I am finally on the mend after a bought of what we have affectionally dubbed “ass cancer”, (if it deals with the big C, you have to make it funny to survive...more on this later). My stitches on my bum were feeling less sore, and after a nearly month break from the gym, I was anxious to get my butt (ha!) back to my happy place.  

Joel and I had planned for me to pick up dinner after my class as a treat. He really wanted kabobs and I NEVER say no to them. Seriously, they are addicting. That white sauce is to die for but I digress. In the middle of my indoor cycling class where I am riding front row (a bit of pressure my first day back in the saddle) Joel let’s me know I need to pick up a few groceries before heading to grab our takeout. Not a problem. I am used to shopping at the grocery store next to my gym looking like one hell of a hot mess. I know I look like death warmed over and smell like it too, so I hurry through the aisles trying to grab what we need. All $29.58 worth. 

A number I will not forget. After I had the clerk scan my discount shopper card on my iphone, I reach into my handbag to discover it is EMPTY. I had driven to the gym, SHOPPED, and don’t have my wallet. In the checkout line while the cashier is waiting for my payment. 

I take a deep breath. I’ve got this. I can figure out how to use ApplePay. I set my phone up months ago knowing this could happen to me. 

The cashier tells me they don’t take ApplePay. 


Long story short.

I left the grocery store WITHOUT MY GROCERIES. I’ve never been so embarrassed. 

I tried to walk out of the store with my head held high, but looking (and smelling)  like a gym rat made it difficult. 

That’s when I realized how the store could have made this all better for me as a customer in this very embarrassing moment.

I had ApplePay setup on my phone. It directly links to my debit card. I could have easily paid and walked out of the store instead of them restocking my “purchases”. 

This is how handmade businesses need to treat their customers at markets. We need to be realize that we all make mistakes and forget things at home.

By having one simple piece of equipment, it is easy to save the sale.

My booth accepts ApplePay, AndroidPay, and several other forms of payments through Shopify’s handy dandy chip & swipe reader. Lesson learned: whichever payments platform you chose, make sure you don’t treat your customers like my (former) grocery store treated me.

Oh, I got it on Etsy! Why Your Handmade Business Needs Its Own Website 

I was at a market the other day and loving on a shopper’s pair of handmade earrings and other jewelry so I asked her where she got them. 

Her response: “I got it on Etsy!” 

So I asked her what shop she got the earrings from because I really wanted them too. 

She responded with, “…It was just Etsy.com” 

Crap. She didn’t get why I was asking more questions and getting annoyed with me. Her responses give me about zero things to go on to find the designer that made those awesome earrings. I knew my chances of finding the ones I wanted was close to zero.

If this didn’t convince you that your handmade business needs its own website for buyers to shop from, take a look at these reasons:

  1. Legitimacy It shows that you are serious about your business. This isn’t just a side hustle or hobby. You’ve invested the time, skills, and energy to build a professional presence for your business. In a day and age when people know how easy it is to put up a site, it degrades your reputation when you don’t have one.  
  2. Power Marketing Forget just the Facebook groups and Instagram accounts. The email list is where it is at. When you have your own site you are able to collect names and email addresses of visitors who willingly give you their information. On my site, I do this in exchange for a small order discount so I am able to continue to grow my list - it works like a charm! 

    Retargeting also only works when you have your own site. Have you noticed the ads that follow you around after you visit a site reminding you of an item that you looked at? That is retargeting. You can only take advantage of that when you have your own site. Why do businesses do these ads? Because they work. 
  3. Cost Savings For a successful business, the cost savings of your own website over Etsy; especially Etsy Pattern, are going to add up quickly. Instead of your daily listing fees to game the algorithm, you will only insure your monthly subscription fee for your website (we highly recommend shopify, but more on that in another post). You’ll also be saving on the transaction fee. Yes, you will occur a credit card processing fee, but Etsy was charging you that too. 
  4. Branding “Oh, I got it on Etsy!” No mention of the actual store name. That’s how the average consumer associates shopping on the crafting platform. From a brand building standpoint, a shop cannot build its brand on a platform that is controlled so tightly. It needs to be able to make design decisions, control the navigation, and even the meta tagging - all design decisions should be made to promote the businesses brand 

There you have it; just a few reasons why your standalone e-commerce site is imperative to businesses owners - especially those of us that make, craft, and design our own products. 

Stay tuned for our next posts when we cover our recommended platforms and how to drive traffic to your own site. Make sure you sign up below for our newsletter to be one of the first to here about new posts.

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Why Stories Matters for Makers

In every Maker’s journey, there comes a time when something funny, inspiring, or unexpected happens. What I didn’t expect as I was sharing about my days selling my handmade beer and wine soap, is how telling my stories impacted my sales in such a soaring manner at markets and in-person events.

The first narrative that I learned to master was one bit for each product. These tales were based on why I created the product, why this piece is important to that special customer it was created for, and even that one time I was out of stock and that one very special customer was so mad at me she stormed off raging. We all have those blessings of shoppers so we might as well use them to our advantage!

Not only do these tales help you come up with something to talk to your customer about, but they validate what your personal perspective by saying someone else feels the same way. They don’t have to be long or in-depth. The point is to make something about your product memorable. You better believe people take notice when I mention customers getting so mad that I didn’t have a popular soap in stock that they cursed me out and stormed off! They then promptly purchased that soap because they become scared it would run out.

There are certain questions Makers need to be prepared to answer with an engaging message. This is the second story I learned to tell. The question I get asked the most is how I got started with my business. For the first few years this made me very uncomfortable. I wasn’t ready to speak about how and why I got started, brain surgery isn’t an easy topic to discuss and it usually shocks people. Eventually, a coach encouraged me to open up about how I discovered my craft and be honest with my customers. When you look at it from a truth perspective, I really was telling them a falsehood when I wasn’t giving my shoppers the whole story. So, I let it go. I owned up to my past and realized that it was what made part of my company so unique. I began sharing how I was stuck at home post-brain surgery and bored. I feared what I was putting on and in my body was doing more harm than good so I decided to control it. Thus, my business was born – but not out of a need or want that shoppers are used to hearing making it very engaging for them.


Marketing Made Easy

A year's worth of blogging prompts to get your handmade business selling 

As my customers learn about me as a business owner who started her business from odd circumstances, connections are made. The shoppers bond with me as a human being and not as someone who is just trying to sell them something else. There is a relationship developing and they remember that. When they see me, they genuinely want to know how I am. Since I’ve started sharing my story, I’ve connected with others who have the same condition who now support my business. It wasn’t easy for me and I must face my fear daily, but by acknowledging it and moving past it I’ve been able to increase my sales just by being me.

These stories are doing something that most people hate in the Maker word: SALES. The bits and pieces we share with our shoppers are doing the selling for us while being genuine. It removes us from the high-pressure selling that we have placed on our shoulders and replaces it with the calm and relaxing sharing of personal experiences that click with our buyers. It makes the sale the opposite of pushy and turns you into a memorable maker that they want to continue to get to know. Customers will keep coming back because they want to know how something turned out, how that new project is going, or to hear about your new pieces of inspiration.

Not everyone has such a unique story about how their business started but they do have history that no one else has. Share your story. Tell people why you are you – within reason of course. Keep things positive and on brand. Allow people to connect with what makes you as a Maker tick. As you master the bit about each product and your story, your confidence as a Maker will rise and your sales will grow right along with it. 

3 Tips for a Successful Craft Show Application

Craft shows, farmers’ markets, and other vending events are the basis of many makers’ income during the good weather season. Perfecting your application is the first step into getting into your well-attended events time and time again. Here are 3 tips to see those acceptance emails rolling in to your inbox.

1.     Photos, Photos, Photos               

There are several types of photos you want to showcase in your application. The first is your product in a marketing-friendly shot. Many times, this can be considered a lifestyle shot or just a styled photo that catches the eye. Make sure this is of one or a collection of your best sellers. These featured products need to have top reviews on your website.

Tip: These are the perfect shots to use on Instagram too!

The second is your product, or grouping of products, on a white background. This is your line sheet photo. It is perfect for the markets that like clean images for their websites and are maintaining a particular look for their event.

Last is a dynamic photo of your booth setup showing an engaging display, clean linens, and a boutique that is shopper friendly. If your setup has changed since the photo was taken, be sure you tell the show so you aren’t dinged when you arrive with a new display.

If photography isn’t your highest skillset, investing in a professional will pay for itself many times over very quickly. From line sheets, to photos for blog posts, Instagram, to your website – professional photos take one of the main stressors out of applying for craft shows and other events. When many artists and markers are judge on just their photos alone, it just makes pure sense to spend here so your putting your best professional foot forward in your application.

2.     Know the Show’s Market

It’s important craft your application questions and chose the photos you use in the application to the event you are applying. It never pays to cut and paste answers from the last application, but it does to personalize your answers. If the market is a bit off-beat, make sure you craft your responses to follow suit.

Start with your templated response for the application questions. Go to the shows website and see if you can find any key words that they use repeatedly. Try to incorporate those words into your answers. Highlight the products you make that you feel their audience will love because it fits those keywords perfectly. You don’t need to talk about your entire line, but you need to show how your products are going to be a hit with their target attendees.

If there is a word limit for the response be sure to use every word and character allowed – but don’t ramble. Be concise and showcase your products in how they will sell at their event. Demonstrate your unique selling points and why your company deserves that spot on the rooster.

3.     Follow the instructions

It never fails that someone who applies will not follow the instructions. That is an easy way for an event manager to weed through the applications. It is imperative that you follow each requirement unless you want to be quickly placed into the reject pile.

If you aren’t sure what a specific requirement means or how to make it happen, ask someone for help. Reach out to the hosts of the show too. They want you to submit the best application possible and are there to help.

When shows, events, and markets are some of the best resources for growing out email lists, gaining new customers, and learning what our shoppers are looking for us to make, it can be heartbreaking when we are not accepted. Remember that it is not about you or your products. There are a limited number of spots and always more applications than spaces. It is just the luck of the draw sometimes. Apply again next time with these tips in mind, putting your best foot forward, and approval letter will be hitting your inbox in no time.