Eight Creative Communities for Indie Businesses, Makers and Doers in Manchester!

Hannah Cox of Stag and Raven and betternotstop shares some of her favourite local communities – including EtsyMCR!

Photo Credit: Leona, Lucky Dip Club.

I’ve been a self employed business owner and blogger for years now and I still get overwhelmed when trying to prioritise my workload and decide what’s best for my business. I have been running my shop, Stag and Raven for three years. Since my business partner left in the Summer I have decided to really refocus my plans, and part of that has been seeking out support from other business people.

Running a creative business on your own is hard, which is why deliberately searching out a community that understands us is so important.

The benefit of finding our community is huge. We can feel supported, share ideas, work together and help us find whatever success means to us. We need a nonjudgmental, friendly environment to help us grow and succeed.

I wanted to share with you the best off and online communities that you can join now to find a group of people that understand you! This is a good start for you whether you run Etsy as a hobby, side hustle or are looking to grow it as a full time business.

 

Photo Credit: Etsy Manchester Facebook Group  

Etsy Manchester Meet Ups

I have only just started using Etsy as a platform to sell as I have been with Shopify for the last few years and found it to be a wonderful online platform for Stag and Raven.

However joining Etsy has already had a big positive influence through the community of people I have met at the Manchester Meetups. Our team meet once a month and have events structured around a central topic (last month was how to work with influencers) and then an opportunity to network.

Not only have I been walking away from these meetups with tangible ideas on how to grow my business, but also its been a great place to find people to collaborate with and help me with problems and issues I am facing.

If you haven’t made it to a meet up yet, please try and make it to the next one – I would love to meet you there! If evenings are just too hard, why don’t you make a effort to get involved in discussions online and asking questions to other business owners that way?

You can join the Manchester team here.

 

Photo Credit: In Colourful Company Facebook Group

In Colourful Company

As well as an active Facebook community, the main purpose of this group is to create real life connections.

They believe in living a creative live and highlight this through organising ‘colour walks’ all over the UK with upcoming walks in Manchester, Leeds, Margate, London, Liverpool, Brighton and Glasgow. These involve spending two – three hours exploring the city, taking photos and getting to know each other. All are finished with a shared meal together and an opportunity to make new friendships.

You can join the group here.

 

Photo Credit: Leona, Lucky Dip Club.

The Rollercoaster of Running an Indie Business

Joining this group was a game changer for me. Run by Leona from Lucky Dip Club, this acts like a virtual co-working space for indie biz owners to chat, collaborate and cheerlead. With over 2,000 members, this closed group is a safe space to discuss any business issues you may have, share information and help find a real sense of community.

Not only that, Leona has tons of live video resources on topics as varied as blogging, subscriptions, licensing and wholesale to help you with your own research and business development.

As well as running this group, Leonie also has a subscription based ‘Make It Happen’ group which goes really in depth with support and course work to help you grow your indie biz. Subscriptions for this are now closed, but signing up to the main free group will give you a ton of free resources and support to get you started.

You can join the group here.

 

Photo Credit: Kenny Clayton Photography

betternotstop

I started writing over at betternotstop.com five years ago when I was working in the Music and Events Industry and was trying to seek out other people with my values. I believe we should all enjoy everyday life through our work, friendships, travel, and adventure. We can make our lives better, we can help and support each other, and make the world a nicer place to be.

I also started meetups in Manchester and Liverpool to meet other like minded people through putting on talks, workshops and film nights. I am happy to say I met a lovely group of people I can now call my friends.

After returning to Manchester this year after a year of travel I decided to start my events up again. As well as running a monthly evening meetup, I also run what I call my ‘GSD Coffee Mornings’ every Wednesday. (Yes, it stands for ‘Get S**t Done’!).  These are a way for us all to meet other indie business owners in Manchester and help us all towards holding ourselves accountable for our business goals.

Join my Facebook group here.

 

Photo Credit: Darren Bullock on the OverDrawn Facebook Group Page.

OverDrawn

Head down for a night of live art, pound portraits, illustration showdowns and doodling on the tables! OverDrawn is an interactive art brand. They showcase local artists, drawing live under the lights & allowing the audience to get involved.

It’s always free entry and the art materials are supplied by CASS ART Manchester

Join the Overdrawn Page to see what’s on here

 

Photo Credit: Jack Kirwin on the Art Battle Manchester Facebook Group Page.

Art Battle Manchester

Taking place at venues around the City, Art Battle Manchester is Manchester’s most energetic art event. Each event has ten Artists who take centre stage and produce a piece of Art  within 30 minutes. The audience then decides who is crowned Champion. Not only that, the art is auctioned off at the end of the night and all money raised goes to charity.

A brilliantly inspiring event to go to as a maker or painter. Perhaps you could apply to take part yourself?

Follow Art Battle Manchester here.

 

Meetup

Meetup believes that getting together with people in real life is what makes powerful things happen!

I promote betternotstop through meetup and as an organiser it costs me £20 a month to put on events on this platform. However it is free to join and explore what is on in your city. Many groups run a mixture of paid for and free events, so it depends on the community you join on whether it costs anything to attend an event.

As a guide, most major cities in the UK have meetups for art classes, dancing, hiking, filmmakers, photographers freelancers and business owners. It’s also a great place to seek out building a community yourself. People who join meetup are actively looking to get together with people with similar interests. So if there is nothing on you fancy in your city, maybe you are the person to start it!

Perhaps you want to start workshops or meet other knitters, sewers, bakers or photographers?

Find out what Meetups are on in your city here.

 

Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a similar platform to meetup as it allows event organisers and potential customers the perfect place to meet online. Membership for organisers is much cheaper, as it only charges you per event and takes a percentage of the ticket price.

I choose to advertise on both as it’s a good way to get a mix of people at my events, and it’s also got a better ticket platform (I can offer early bird pricing and donation only tickets on Eventbrite to make my events more accessible)

Like meetup it is free to join and explore what is on in your city. As it is cheaper it tends to be VERY busy and hard to navigate what is going on around you. It has a huge variety of events available. As a guide, when I was researching for this article in Manchester there were thirty different events to attend today, from bicycle repairs, networking, prosecco tasting and free walking tours. Although there is more to explore, I find it a lot harder to navigate when looking for things to do.

Find out what events are on in your city here.

 

Joining a new community and seeking out new friendships can feel hard, I know. What you need to remind yourself is that you can do anything, just not everything!

Any fears or problems that you have running your own business or creating your own art, is totally normal. This is why sharing with other people is a vital part of finding your community. I strongly encourage you to join any or all of the groups in this article that you feel align with your values. Join in the discussions, ask questions and decide which ones are right for you.

Hannah Cox

I run Stag and Raven, a UK Art & Lifestyle brand and betternotstop, a lifestyle site and events focused on building a life you love through meaningful work and adventure. Join my Facebook group here.

 

EtsyMCR visits the British Craft Trade Fair 2018

This April saw the British Craft Trade Fair set up for its three day event in Harrogate. This prestigious show, now in its 44th year, is a specialist event for artists and makers wishing to showcase their handmade products to a select group of retailers and galleries.

This year a number of EtsyMCR team members exhibited, some for the first time, others as established makers.

After having time to recover from the weekend, Charlotte Verity Jewellery Designer; Catherine (aka Swifty) of Swifty Bell DesignsSophie Cunningham Illustrator; and Kat Pearson Designs have taken a few moments to reflect on and share some of their experiences and advice with the rest of the team.

Charlotte Verity Jewellery at BCTF

Charlotte, our most experienced exhibitor, told us, “I’ve done this show for the last 8 years and the last 2 have been particularly quiet. I chose to exhibit at BCTF because it is a high quality show featuring UK made, handmade craft items from lots of different disciplines. The show has a good reputation and it’s a good way to meet new galleries and shops. I chose to do it expecting to get a few exhibitions, maybe some new shops, and hopefully a couple of trade orders.”

 

Swifty, who exhibited for the first time in 2017, had graduated to the Post-Newcomers area. “It’s been really good for me. Probably my most stressful time ever, especially in the run up!” Her reasons for choosing BCTF included first-hand experience of being told by retailers that they didn’t like being approached directly by makers, preferring to choose artists from trade fairs. Taking part in the event also enabled her to talk directly to shops and galleries to find out what they were looking for, and what sort of customers they have.

Both Kat and Sophie were Newcomers this year; both a blessing and a curse if all the advice and comments from experienced exhibitors were to be believed! The Newcomers Area is for first-time trade show exhibitors, who may not necessarily be new businesses, and was made up of a good mix of artists and makers at various stages of their careers.

Kat Pearson Designs’ Stand

Kat and Sophie found their first Trade Fair experience ‘a little disappointing, and an expensive experience’, however Kat added that it was “a huge learning opportunity”.

 

Kat and Sophie opted to try BCTF this year to develop the Wholesale side of their businesses, in a hope to cut down on the number of markets they needed to do. Sophie got off to a good start with an order in the very first hour! All Newcomers are warned not to expect sales at the event, but to chase up leads afterwards. One buyer even commented that, “Newcomers is the first area buyers visit and the last place they buy”. Not exactly reassuring, but made Sophie’s sale even more of a triumph!

 

Emma Darbyshire, team member and owner of Wilton Street Craft Co., went along for a visit and said, “It was worth visiting if you’re thinking of doing the fair, to see if it’s a good fit. Lots of the makers were approached and willing to chat freely about their experience and their learning points.”

Sophie Cunningham Illustrator’s Stand

And finally… Would they do it again? “Overall, the show was too quiet, not enough visitors, “said Charlotte, something many other makers agreed with. “Possibly won’t be back next year,’ said Kat, ‘but never say never. If I’m honest I wasn’t really ready for the step up to professional level but it was a great place to learn what I need to do next, I met some fantastic people and I would certainly consider going back as a visitor next year.”

 

We asked Sophie, Kat, Charlotte and Swifty for their Top Tips for exhibiting at BCTF and other trade fairs:

  • Make sure of your pricing, that it is consistent and that it is clearly marked on your price lists.
  • Have clear, consistent branding on your stand.
  • If possible, have some lower priced items, as these might encourage initial sales with first-time buyers.
  • Don’t expect to make your money back at the event and do chase up any leads as sales often occur after the event.
  • Don’t be put off by buyers ignoring your stand! They know what they want, and with so many stands they can’t afford to get distracted.
  • Be prepared! However long you think it will take to getall your products, pricing, catalogues etc. sorted, double it (“at least!” says Kat).
  • Only take your best work, and remember, Less is More. Don’t overwhelm your stand. Think carefully about what your key items are and make them the focus.
  • Take buyers’ details and make a note of what they’re interested in, so you can personalise any follow-up communication you have with them. And even if they don’t stop, many have their names/shops on their badges. There’s nothing wrong with making a note of them to research them further, with a view to contacting them in the future.
  • Plan your stand; they’re smaller than you think, and invest in ‘S’ hooks to hang work, as nothing sticks well to the walls.
  • Consider applying to put larger work in the Exhibition Area, as this can attract buyers to your stand.

Find out more about British Craft Trade Fair, and how to take part in future shows at www.bctf.co.uk

Thanks to contributors Sophie, Charlotte, Kat, Swifty and Emma for their help writing this article.

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SEO Magic: Tags and Titles

Titles and keywords can seriously affect your listing rank. A good, well thought out tags-and-titles strategy can help your listings leap-frog your competitors and will appear much higher in search results. In this article we give you an overview of what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is, how it can benefit your bottom line and what you can do to improve.

SEO, to some a complete mystery of the internet age but, if understood and implemented well, it can help you to climb up those listings, ensure you get found more easily and regularly and, critically, can put your products firmly in front of customers’ eyes…and we all know that can’t be a bad thing!

So…how about that SEO stuff, huh? Yup, I’m sure at some point we’ve all had a head-scratching moment trying to understand what makes the world of internet searches work. Just me then? Okay. Fine!

SEO explained! Kind of.

What does SEO stand for? Why, Search Engine Optimisation of course. Yes! Ten points to Gryffindor! Google is a search engine. Yahoo is a search engine. And Etsy has its own search capabilities. It’s all about making sure your tags are relevant and both human- and machine-readable. Etsy will take those tags that you apply to your product – yes, make sure you use every last one of them! – and will match those with the searches being performed by those thousands of lovely potential customers who are looking around on etsy.com each and every day. If your tags (and titles) contain words and phrases that most closely match the shoppers’ search terms then, hey presto, your product is more likely to be at the top of those glorious results. What you’ll end up with is that golden opportunity; eyeballs looking at your stuff!

Research is the key to finding great tags. Ask friends, ask family, ask random people on the street. Show them your product and ask them to describe what they see. Use this as your base. Record your findings and implement them.

Gettin’ it now? The upshot is that you’d be mad not to take this stuff seriously. And you’d be mad to ignore it. Yes, it can be slightly technical and not everybody’s cup of tea but if you take your business seriously and you want to make some coin from your shop, I think you should, at the very least, pay attention to the following tips.

The skinny

The Etsy Manchester leaders have all sat down (there was wine on the table!) and we’ve come up with some fabulous SEO tips for your consideration that, if researched properly, can help your items more favourably in Etsy’s (and other search engines) rankings.

  1. Think like a buyer.
    Step outside of the creator mindset for a little while and think about what your customer would be searching for to find your items. What words would they use?
  2. Review your stats.
    Go to Your Shop » Stats, choose a time frame such as Last 30 Days and scroll down to ‘Top keywords’. These are the key terms people are using to find your items, add these to your titles and tags to get more views!
  3. Do your Research.
    Start typing your keyword/s into the Etsy search and Etsy will show you a list of the most searched for terms which use your keyword. Use any that are relevant in your title and tags.
  4. Ask family and friends
    Give a group of family and friends an item of yours to look at and ask them to describe it and tell you what they would search for if they were looking for this item. For a bonus tip, don’t forget that age and gender differences can really affect what terms people search for! The youth of today will often come up with a word you never thought of!
  5. Research the competition.
    Type your key terms into the Etsy search and choose a selection of the top items to look at. Try to spot patterns of words that are used in their titles and scroll down to the bottom of the listing to see what tags are being used to get ideas for your shop.
  6. Remember to use key terms.
    Use “Coral Blue Necklace” instead of just “Necklace”.
  7. Forget duplicates
    Try to use all of the available characters and don’t worry about variations in UK/US spellings. Etsy automatically shows items that use both variances of a spelling e.g. when searching for “jewellery”, items with both “jewellery” and “jewelry” will appear in the search. However, if your item is named something else in US English, be sure to include both keywords to reach a wider audience e.g. “Handkerchief” and “Pocket Square”.
  8. Mirror, Mirror!
    Mirror your title key terms in your tags. Whatever key terms you use in your title should be replicated in your tags. If a key term is too long to fit as a tag, break it down into smaller tags. E.g. “Funny Anniversary Card” can be tagged as “Funny Anniversary”, “Anniversary Card” and “Funny Card”.
  9. Keepin’ it real
    Don’t add tags that are not relevant, you’re only fooling yourself! Don’t try to appear higher in the search for terms that are not relevant to your item. If a customer is searching for something specific and your item doesn’t match what they’re looking for, it’ll stand out, but not in a good way.
  10. Promo
    Don’t forget to tag your shop name and, if you’ve got a spare tag to go, add the #EtsyMCR tag so that we can find you and get yourself onto our regular treasuries.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list but it’s a good, solid start. Go through your listing and slowly make the changes.

Think like your target audience. Always keep asking yourself “Is this tag relevant to my product?” and “What is a customer expecting to see?”

You may have the expectation that your stats will uplift. You may not observe an up-turn in your stats for a few weeks as, well, the internet is chock-full of data and this stuff simply takes time to filter through. Don’t be disheartened if you’re not propelled to a level of rockstar seller. Be patient. And until that happens there’s always more products to be made, more kick-ass product photographs to be taken and product descriptions to be spruced up. An Etsy seller’s work is never done, am I right?!

Links

In need of more help? You can check out the Etsy Seller Handbook, specifically their Getting Found section.