Saturday, 27 February 2010

Open For Business!

Getting ready for the opening of my shop has been quite a long haul. Never one to rush blindly in I wanted to do things properly only to realise that there was much to confuse, delay and worry. It’s not as simple as making a few things and selling them – not in this day and age!

Firstly, I knew that I would have to pay tax (and as I used to have a ‘second job’ I knew that said tax would be quite high!) I looked on the Inland Revenue website and quickly became overwhelmed by the thought of having to register as a company. So I retreated to the forums of my chosen shop site – (I have also registered on as that’s the site that I was originally going to use, and I am thinking of having both shops in the future. I settled with folksy mainly because it is UK based and I don’t have to worry about exchange rates.)

There seems to be a real community atmosphere on Folksy with people being quick to offer help and advice. However, the forums are MASSIVE and are hardly organised at all – it seems there are no moderators, no archiving and many threads that start as one thing and quickly turn into chats between users, which is lovely if you’re just browsing but makes it hard to stay focussed and find information. After over an hour of reading through some interesting but ultimately useless threads, I gave up.

I’ve been following fellow crafty people on for a while now and so I DMd one of them – asking for a bit of guidance. She was very helpful (as crafty people usually always are!) and gave me a few pointers that renewed my confidence to tackle the IR website again. This time it was a little easier for me to navigate and I found out that I don’t need to be a company, I can be ‘partially self employed’ if I’m just selling a few things. Also, I discovered that you can’t register with them until after you’ve started trading and that you must do so within 3 months of this. I also found out about product liability insurance, which I hadn’t even considered but quickly realised that it is essential in this day and age for anyone dealing with ‘the public’ not just at craft fairs but also through online sales.

Also, my IT resources at work are pretty shoddy, so I am limited to using my phone, which obviously doesn’t have massive capabilities for blogging, tweeting and the like. Although I am allowed to use the internet for personal use during breaks, the system is so slow, old fashioned and riddled with issues that I can hardly get anything done before it’s ‘back to work’ time.

Meanwhile, I was busy making a little stockpile of things to sell so that I could open with a full shop. As I work full-time, and have several evening commitments a week, I found all of this quite time-consuming. It’s a constant struggle for other people whose blogs I’ve read and tweets I follow – if you spend all your time making, you don’t sell and if all your time is spent selling, networking and advertising pretty soon you have nothing to sell.

The thing that slowed me down the most was actually the weather. I have a good 8mp ‘personal’ camera but no light box or other things that people use for good pictures. In February it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I return home. Every weekend was overcast. I really struggled with getting any decent pictures of my items that didn’t look washed out or the wrong colour. I bought a polystyrene head on eBay that I used to show my neck warmers off because when I took pictures of them flat on a table, they didn’t look right and I didn’t want to pay a model when I might end up selling nothing. I finally got a reasonably good day and managed to take a few photos of each item. The gloves were the hardest ones to take. I ended up using rolls of paper to show the cut-out design better. I also bought a ‘daylight’ bulb, which is okay for items laid on a table, but still cast too many shadows for items on the ‘head’.

Finally on Sunday I was able to crop the pictures to squares and get some items listed. I then set up a Facebook ‘fan page’ for my shop and sent out invites to the friends I thought would be interested – I don’t “know” everyone on my FB page and some I do know, I know wouldn’t be bothered, you know?!

I have also joined craftjuice and have posted a couple of my items on there, but as it is hard for me to do anything internet related during working hours so I’ve only posted two items so far.

I’m trying to get involved in some ‘Link Love’ sites, which will hopefully bring more traffic to my fan page and shop. I added another photograph album to the facebook page showing other items that I’ve made. This weekend I hope to find time to add item links under the photographs of items for sale in my fan-page album, which will hopefully draw people in.

So, here is my shop - feel free to visit it!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lena's Law

Last night I went to see comedian Tom Wrigglesworth perform his show An Open Return Letter to Richard Branson.

Based on an incident that occurred on a Virgin train where an elderly lady was bullied into paying £115 for an on-board ticket after boarding an earlier train. He then had a whip-round with the other passengers to raise the money for her, an act which led to him being arrested instead of praised!

The show was excellent (and included the best story about Jeremy Kyle I've ever heard!) and I hope that everyone who sees it will sign the Lena's Law petition to change the law so that if you buy a ticket on an off-peak train, you can buy an off-peak ticket. You can sign the petition here if you want to. Virgin Trains have now made this their policy, following the incident but other companies still operate under the rule that if you board a train without a ticket then you are obviously a criminal mastermind deserving to be fleeced for all you're worth.

I totally agree with Tom's sentiment that rail travel should be cheaper than driving. I would rather get a bus or train to work - more time to crochet for a start! - but it is actually impossible for me without being late (and I start at 9am not stupidly early) and it being more expensive than driving. Surely that shouldn't be right?