3 Reasons to Consider Establishing an Off Site Mailing Address

3 reasons to consider a po box | the merriweather council blog

I’ve had a PO box for the past 3 years and I strongly suggest you consider getting one as well.

When you rent a box – at either the USPS or a UPS Store – you are given a generic address such as “PO Box 123 New York, Ny, ZipCode” or “12 DerpDeDerp Street, Suite 3, Box4, Somewhere, IN ZipCode” (depending of course on location.) This is a great feature for small business folks who do loads of sending and/ or reieving. I’ve used both USPS and UPS boxes, and I will continue to have one of either for as long as I am in business.

Here are 3 reasons why.

1. It looks more professional

I might be in the minority here – or just plain vain – but it looks a little bit more professional to me to see an address with “suite” or “floor” in it rather than one that is clearly a home address or an apartment. So I’ve switched all of my addresses over to my UPS box now which has an address that is a touch more cryptic + professional looking than my home address.

This is sort of the same idea as not using your personal, younger-self, email address for business purposes. Think: iLuvBSB@aol.com … not as favorable as something like Name@Domain.com or Greeting@Domain.com … you get the idea.

2. Privacy + security

Did you know that your address shows up on the bottom of your email newsletters? I haven’t seen a single one that doesn’t have this. And I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s wicked creepy to have your home address being sent out to hundreds or thousands of people. It’s basically the same thing with your packages. Every time you ship an order, you’ve got a return address on there. Wouldn’t it be best if that address was not one you currently LIVE at? Yeah. Yeah it would be.

3. No more missed packages

When I lived in Boston, before I got my first PO box, I would constantly miss packages and have to go to the post office to pick them up. This was especially infuriating when it was a big supply order or other time sensitive mailing. (In our building, we only had a small letter box and most packages would not be left unlocked by the postal workers – which makes sense, it’s just annoying.) You’ll have to do this anyway if you have a box, but it will be a routine and not a hassle at that point. Mainly though, the reason I hated going to the post office to pick packages up was because the post office assigned to my address was actually in a really bad location for me – and sort of a far walk from my apartment. Also, everyone who worked there was evil. When I got my PO box, I got it at the post office that was closer to my apartment and had happier people working in it. This made it so that I could get all my mail at once, from nicer folks. Now that my box is actually at UPS, they will sign for packages from any sender including Fed Ex. I don’t usually get things sent to me Fed Ex, but that’s a nice feature.

I figure you won’t go get a PO box based on this, but another (4th) reason to consider it: it’s very affordable. Depending on where you live and which route you go with renting a box, of course the price will reflect those things. I’ve never had one cost more than $12 a month. For personal security, that is a small price to pay.

 

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How to Organize, Access and Back Up Product Photos

backup

As a crafty maker, you probably have 14 zillion product photos. (I do.) You also probably have a lot of other documents, lists, forms, invoices, contracts… plenty of things that can easily get out of hand.

Let’s discuss.

There are plenty of ways to organize your files … it’s also pretty easy to just … like, not organize them at all. But that’s not very time effective. Also, that’s a mess and you’ll kick yourself later for not organizing.

The thing I’m going to focus on in this post is how to organize and manage product photos, I’ll circle back on sorting other documents another day – but many of the same tactics can be applied to these other elements.

Organize

Mainly, my products are one of a kind. This adds a whole new level to product photography because EVERY piece has to be photographed. It’s not like there are 15 designs that get made over and over, it’s every piece is a new deign. Every piece has 5-10 photos saved – -more than that before they are edited.

This is a system I devised pretty early on and it still works well today.

For every item I photograph, I pull one image out, name it “000.jpg”, then I create a folder, “000”. I put the rest of the photos for that item in the folder. Now I have 000.jpg, and folder (filled) “000” – I take both of those and put them into a main folder “inventory”.  After a period of time, maybe a year, I go in and separate the inventory folder into product type, and close it up for the year. Then I start over.

The secret/ key thing here is that I have a marker image for each product and it’s corresponding folder.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 7.37.04 PM

So at a glance, I can see each piece, and easily find the rest of the images for that product.

Early on, I went one step further – color marking the pieces that had sold, or been sent on consignment. As time went on, that got to be too much to handle, but it was helpful at the time.

Does this spark anything for you? Any thoughts on how you can use this or similar method in your own work? If I was SUPER patient, I could name each piece and folder with words rather than numbers so I could easily search for stylistic words, but this works best for me because I can clearly see the one image as I browse through, and because it naturally gets added to over time, things are generally chronological which is helpful.

Universal Access

It’s super important for me to be able to access my favorite images from any of my devices or locations. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve needed to send someone an image last minute. Over the past five years, I’ve lived in multiple places and always ended up traveling a lot to visit my parents. I have my desktop, where I primarily store everything, and my laptop, which of course, I travel with. Also, I have my phone, always! But my laptop doesn’t need to be slogged down with all these files, so I save them online in Trello or Dropbox. I have to be honest, I prefer Trello because I can see the image in the app without opening the file, unlike on dropbox. (Maybe not a huge issue if you name ALL your files, but I kinda don’t HA!) I save future instagram images, headshots, and images I use over and over in Trello for easy access that is well organized.

Beyond being able to access things is great, of course, and it is a little layer of security for those select things that are saved off the computer. It’s ULTRA IMPORTANT to have things backed up. I have five years of business date, photos, files, etc on my computer.

Back Up

We all know that backing up any and all files is necessary. You never want to be left without any files or documents in the case of a hard drive melt down or some other ill that might befall your device. Scary.

I use Carbonite which is great because I don’t have to do anything. Like a lot of cloud services, you set it and forget it. It’s magic, basically. I use iCloud for some storage and sharing between my devices but I run out of space easily or it goes months without updating. (Because it will only sync when the phone is plugged in, connected to wifi, and asleep. UMMM…. when do all of these things happen? NEVER. I don’t keep my phone attached to wifi at home, I don’t know why. I just don’t. )

So, I suggest Carbonite. I’ve had it for 3 years and I’ve never had any issues with it. As long as your computer is on, it’s working. Sometimes when I go away for a week or more and my computer is off, I get a message that says it hasn’t been backed up recently, but as soon as I get home and turn the computer back on, everything resumes.

Bonus, you can access your files from the internet, so again, super helpful!

 

 

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How to Make Your Etsy Shop More Pin Friendly

 

How to Make your Etsy Shop more Pin + Browse Friendly

It’s a long standing annoyance of mine that Etsy has seemingly favored horizontal imagery in shops for a long, long time – but that vertical images work really well in most other places (Pinterest, blogs, etc). The Etsy thumbnail is cropped horizontally and the way the listing pages are laid out absolutely favors horizontal imagery  (because the longer your image is, the further down the page your description goes.) Meanwhile, Etsy has adopted a Pinterest style browse layout, which DOES favor vertical images, just like Pinterest itself does. Let’s take a look:

etsy browse page optimization

Annoying right? What’s more important? To get noticed in browse and leverage Pinterest? Both of which will make the most of traffic that hasn’t hit your shop yet. Or to have horizontal images that make your listing pages a bit more pleasing for the customers who have already made it to your page?

I’ve decided that it’s actually better to make the images more favorable to the browsers that haven’t made it to your shop yet.

Making the most of the images that GET the traffic to your shop, basically. Now, as you know, the image that shows in search and browse, is the image that will be the first in your listing page.

It’s pretty interesting that in most places on Etsy, shoppers will see the thumbnail of your photo, but not on browse! On browse, they see the FULL image!

In order make my shop more pin friendly – and thus, more Pin-able once it is on Pinterest – and also to appeal to the vertical favoring in Browse, I’ve run a little experiment in my shop. (At the time of this writing, my Etsy shop is on vacation, but this is what I was doing for about 1.5 months before shop went on vacation.)

This was just a trial – to see how it goes, how I felt about it, etc – and so i’m just sharing my experience here with you.

I took all of my listing images that were horizontal, and turned them into vertical images. Further, I added text to them, which is something that we see a lot on Pinterest – and apparently, adding copy to a vertical image makes a pin more likely to be pinned.

It took a bit of work and time, but here’s what I ended up with:

I have taken the classic initial necklace and modernized it by embroidering the letter in cotton floss on cotton fabric and arranging it in a

It actually isn’t terrible on the listing page, either!

Now, I didn’t want to text to show in my main shop page. I wanted my listings to look pretty much as they did in the thumbnail, gallery version and list version view of my shop, so I adjusted the thumbnail in the edit listing mode.

Step one: click “adjust thumbnail” after uploading your vertical image.

Step two: Drag your image around until it is cropped as you’d like it. In my case, this meant moving the image down so the text was cropped out of the thumbnail.

etsy adjust thumbnail 2

Results: My shop shows “normal” text-less images in list and gallery mode.

Modern and Colorful Hand Embroidery by merriweathercouncil on Etsy

Hand Embroidery hoops, embroidered home decor and one of a kind wall art. Colorful, modern stitch and embroidery designs. Handmade inWhen I pinned these images myself (which I only really did a few times) I did notice they got more attention than the text-less horizontal images did when I pinned those. Now, like I said, my shop is on vacation at the moment, so I don’t have a lot of data to share numbers wise, but I think for many shops, this might be something worth trying, specifically if you actual item is vertical!

Generally I do suggest making all of your images the same size and shape on Etsy (all five within a listing, especially) but this might be worth a try for you if you’re inclined to updating a lot of images and feeling experimental.

What do you think?

Interested in more Etsy optimization tips? Check out my course for Etsy sellers! Seriously, don’t list one more thing without this info.

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Behind the Scenes Video Tour of Shopify

behind the scenes video tour of shopify | the merriweather council blog

As we all know, I LOVE Shopify. It’s quite fantastic.

Whenever I do consults with makers who want to branch out off Etsy, or add a standalone Ecom site to their repertoire, I suggest them check out Shopify.

Full disclosure: this is my affiliate/ refer-a-friend link with Shopify. (Use this link to start you free trial that is two weeks but can be extended if you ask very nicely.) HOWEVER, all it does is allow me to use shopify more. So, really, if I didn’t like Shopify, I wouldn’t want to use it more, would I? And, add to that, I definitely wouldn’t tell you to use it if I didn’t think you really should. Because I don’t need that sort of drama in my life.

Without further yadda-yadda here is my video tour of Shopify!

Behind the Scenes tour of Shopify from Danielle Spurge on Vimeo.

Read my first post about + review of Shopify here.

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