I need experts for my monthly Ask an Expert feature.
Email me with suggestions, recommendations or shameless self-promotions.
We've had two great experts so far and I'd love to keep 'em coming.
Putting together packages
Our expert for the month of October is Karen, the blogger behind clothes-pin.blogspot.com. Karen has experience with the sales and marketing side of business and she has graciously agreed to share some of her knowledge with us this month. Here's a little information on Karen's background about what makes her an expert in her field:
I've been an account executive in fashion for about 6 years now, basically my job is to source and open new accounts (stores) and build those relationships. I've worked with luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana to smaller contemporary and premium brands like Evisu and Blue Marlin. It's allowed me to work with brand on all levels of development and basically help to build some from the ground up; which is pretty cool because I got a hang of what's necessary to maintain and start the brand building process.
Karen's focus will be on three areas: finding and compiling potential stores where you can sell your products, putting together packages to send to retailers, and how to approach storeowners and buyers. Later this month Karen will start to offer consulting services on her blog where she will answer specific questions about brand building/stores, etc and help for companies trying to launch into fashion and related trades. Keep an eye out for that and I'll let you know when it launches. Check back next week for information on finding and compiling stores.
This is our last installment of Ask an Expert featuring Arianne or Aeolidia. Join me in sending her a huge thanks for the info she's shared with us. I hope you have enjoyed the tips she has offered regarding setting up your own website. Check back next Monday to meet our October expert.
1) Know what you want. You don't have to know *exactly* what you want, but it's best to go into your project with a good idea of your goals, your plans, and how you want things to look and to work. We have had clients change their mind halfway through the project before, and starting over can get costly, so we try to make sure to ask all the right questions at the start of the project to avoid this. We have also worked with clients who already spent a bundle of money on a bad web designer and now need our help to start over and salvage their sites. If you're not hiring a designer, it's much easier to build a site yourself if you have it all planned out before you dive into the technical details.
2) Get as much information as you can. Whether you're designing the site yourself or hiring someone to help, make sure you've done some research. Doing it yourself? Find out what your options are, visit forums for small businesses, crafters, or website owners, ask your friends how they did it. Hiring someone? Ask around, get recommendations, make sure the designer gives you all the important info along the way, educate yourself about how your shopping cart works or what your payment processing options are, etc.
3) Don't cut corners. This especially goes for people who plan to set up a shop website. Convincing potential customers to visit your site and actually make a purchase is hard. Make sure the site looks professional and works as it should. Make sure the entire shopping experience on your site is smooth and easy. Get it the way you want it as soon as you can, rather than building something haphazard and planning to update it later when sales pick up - "eh, it's good enough" isn't going to help your sales! Make sure you take the time to get your site complete and test it out before going live - rushing to meet a deadline is less important than making sure the final product is something you'll be proud of.
Here's the third installment of "Ask an Expert" with Arianne. If you've got a question for her regarding web design, leave it in the comments and she'll answer it in the final installment.
If you already know a bit about web design or don't mind learning, I think it's great to create your own site. If you end up finding it fun to do, you will learn a lot and gain some extra skills. Most people don't think hammering away at HTML and wondering why your site looks good in IE but terrible in Firefox is that fun, though, so that's why we're here! In fact, we have worked with people who are completely capable of building and working on their own websites, but would rather devote that time to their crafting, so are happy to contract the work out to us.
A good web designer will be able to help you with every step in the process of setting up a website: domain registration, web hosting, SSL certificates, payment processors, choosing cart software, creating a design, coding the site, checking it in all major browsers on multiple platforms, and showing you how to update and maintain it.
There is pretty much no way you're going to do everything right the first time you build a website. This goes for everyone from amateurs to professionals - my first websites were pretty bad! Not only will all the technology and options be new to you, but designers will often have more resources than you do. For instance, at Aeolidia we have multiple computers with different screen sizes, and have loaded all common web browsers on our PCs and our Mac for testing purposes. Web designers have and know how to use Photoshop, Imageready, Illustrator, and any other software useful in making a site. Your web designer will have worked on dozens of sites like yours in the past and will know what works and what doesn't and will know what pitfalls to avoid.
Welcome back for the second installment of Ask an Expert, featuring Arianne of Aeolidia. Arianne has graciously offered to answer reader questions in addition to the questions I asked her, so if you've got a question for her leave it in the comments and she'll answer it in the final installment.
- Professionalism: is the designer's website attractive, organized, spelled correctly, and is it easy for you to navigate and find what you want? When you contact the designer, does she get back to you promptly with the information you need? Is the designer friendly, patient, and clear? Your interaction with the designer before making payment can be a good indicator of how they'll treat you during the span of your project. Before going ahead with a project, make sure you get a cost estimate, a time estimate, and a contract.
- Experience: how long has this person been making websites? What are their skills? Anyone can buy software and an instruction manual, so if you're paying for work, I recommend hiring someone who can do something you can't buy in a box.
- Recommendations: most importantly: get customer feedback! This can be as simple as reading the testimonials on the designer's website, or you can contact their past clients to ask what their opinion was. This is often the best way to tell if you'll have a good experience.
On a related note, many good designers are booked solid with work and may not have time to take on every project. Make sure when you contact a designer that you use the same standards for yourself that you expect from the designer. Be friendly, professional, and clear about what you want. The designer has a choice of clients, so be sure you stand out as someone they'd like to work with.
One of the challenges I often consider when it comes to this blog is how to present new information on the variety of subjects related to crafts businesses. I'd love to write original articles on everything ranging from book reviews to packaging to copyright law, but I simply do not have the time to become an expert in all these subject, let alone write all of the articles. So, I figure the next best thing is to contact some of the experts in various fields that I've met through this blog and ask them to share some of their knowledge with us. This new feature will be called "Ask an Expert" and through it, my goal is to bring you a new expert each month who will share detailed information about their area of expertise via weekly posts.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am to start off this new feature with Arianne of Aeolidia. If you visit the homepages of any number of crafty businesses (including several of the crafters I have interviewed on this site), I guarantee you that some of them will have been designed by Aeolidia. Aeolidia's unique position as a web designer for crafty businesses makes Arianne a perfect expert to launch this new feature. Over the course of the month of September, Arianne will share her knowledge regarding the following issues: how to choose a web designer, the benefits of designing your own page vs. using a professional designer and the top three pieces of advice you should keep in mind when setting up your website. Today I present to you some background information on our expert along with information about how she got her start.
* How did you get started in web design?
I learned HTML for fun my first year of college, building a website for my zine. Playing with Photoshop and digging into HTML was consumingly fun and challenging for me, so I changed my website design very regularly, made websites for friends and always seemed to have one web project or another I was working on. I thought of it as a fun hobby for years, until I was laid off from my job and decided to get professional and work on it as a career.
I still have a lot of fun learning new technologies and coding languages and watching the web evolve.* You've built tons of e-commerce sites for craftypreneurs, what do you like about building sites for crafty business owners?
My favorite thing about building websites for crafters is that they often have web experience, which makes projects go smoothly and easily. Many crafters have their own blog, or use some type of third party shop, while some have even learned a bit about web design and put together sites for themselves. Even the people who come to me saying they don't know much about websites end up surprised at how easy it is to work on their own sites with our guidance.
Since we do mostly shop sites for crafters and other small businesses, our relationships with our clients include a mutual understanding and respect between our small business and their small business.
See some examples of Arianne's handiwork below and her studio space. Check back next week for the next installment of Ask an Expert.