Gift Knitting Like A Boss

Gift Knitting Like A Boss

HoHoHo!

Fiberistas, Break out the stash, It is that time of year again. Time to make your list, check it, and the stash, twice.

We are officially just shy of 6 months from Christmas.

If you are like me, you are gonna want to do what you can to offset any of the normal holiday stress, gift those hand knits like a boss, and actually drink that spiked eggnog for recreation not therapy.

Fiberista, It is time to do some planning…

No worries. I got you.

Today, I give you the UrbanGypZ’s Guide to Slaying Holiday Gift Knitting Like a Boss.

First, here is a post detailing my very best left brain system for out right making a production schedule for this years Holiday knitting.

10 Steps to Beat Overwhelm: Christmas gift Ideas to start knitting NOW!!!

And here is another post with some additional tips for you to work faster, and prevent overwhelm.

Tis the season: Plan your Christmas knitting NOW!

Even though we are almost 6 months out, here are some tips to help you knit faster.

Six Secrets You Should Know If You Want To Knit Faster

I also keep a running Pinterest Board with insanely cool gift ideas to knit/crochet and even felt.

This year Fiberista, I dug deep within my OCD and have made a holiday planner just for your knitting projects!!! It is a free download.


So make that list, check it twice and go make some art to share this year. By all means if there is a project you think I need to add to my Pinterest board, leave me a comment below with a link if you have one and I will make sure it gets pinned in the Merry Knitmas Board.

UrbanGypZ's FREE Gift Like A Boss Holiday Planner

Something I made to help you get your shit together and slay your holiday gift knitting like a boss.

Get the FREE planner

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5 Powerful Keys to Making Your Competition Irrelevant

5 Powerful Keys to Making Your Competition Irrelevant

Jealousy. We have all been there. It does not matter if it is amongst stay at home moms, corporate executives and yes, even artists. There is a time in EVERYONE’s life when you are green with envy over what someone else has. And while I think jealousy is just a fact on every life, I am going to focus today on jealousy in the art scene.

Jealousy can be a good thing in a way. It can fuel action, take your work to the next level, set that bar higher than you would without the challenge. But here is what I hate…the bitterness and even hate when artist become jealous. I don’t know about you but I want to live with as little hate as possible AND to advance and challenge myself to do better work. Jealousy means you are gauging your work against someone else. So today, Fiberista I give you my to 5 Keys to making your competition irrelevant.

Honor what is awesome in other’s work. Let them have their moment without interjecting ANYTHING about yourself. Yes you may have done this before, Yes you may have done it better. So what. This is not your moment, it is theirs. Share in their excitement. Ask questions and LISTEN to what they say. You are being given the gift of seeing something beautiful. Be in that moment of awe and be happy that it happened, even if it was not by your hand. It is just good Karma.

Blue Ocean Strategy. The theory being, rather than operate in an artistic shark tank, competing for the same customers (red oceans) you actually should follow your ideas out into unchartered waters(blue oceans). These ideas are formed by highlighting the differences between you and the competition, and build on those differences. For example, Steve Jobs did this when he designed Apple. He took those differences between his computer and others, amplified the differences, and built on those differences to form more unique ideas. Another example, thing of the differences between Cirque Du Soleil and a traditional circus. Cirque Du Soleil highlighted and built on what set them apart. I might also point out in both cases, these differences were not hamstring by cheaper prices. In fact, these companies are actually able to charge more for their unique offerings. This is all based on a marketing strategy book, called The Blue Ocean Strategy.

Turn down the noise. If you find yourself only looking for your inspirations in other’s work, it is often hard to listen to your own ideas. And especially if you hope to excel in your work, pinning your ideas to another’s pace will eventually limit your growth. Don’t hang faith in your own art on some one else’s path. Sometimes, you just need to detach from the hive mind and go make some stuff. Find inspirations in everyday life, and art journal like crazy.

Be okay with working through bad ideas. Ugly art happens to everyone. But I promise it always leads to better work. It does not make you a bad artist. And it is okay if you don’t want to show any of it. However, I find the most confident artist will show their most self deprecating work bravely. If you are at that point where you are confidently showing your mistakes, I think it is a strong indicator that you are not afraid of competition.

Show your work humbly. Remember when I said to honor other’s work? Eventually it is your turn to show your work. It will be your moment. Despite all the find-your-own-path talk I mentioned in the last three steps, there comes a time when you will have the opportunity inspire others to find their own path. That is where art communities happen. Welcome questions, share information freely and confidently, and encourage others to build their own path through any inspirations they might glean from you. It is okay. Those who copy will find the path short and frustrating. Encourage them past that dead end and into their own ideas. There is no finite resource of creative ideas, there is enough for all. Blue Oceans for everyone.

 

 

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When You Just Show Up

When You Just Show Up

Procrastination. I have to admit, I am so freaking guilty of procrastinating in a big way when it comes to making art. Seriously? I love art. WTH am I doing? Why do chose to do laundry over getting into the studio I love, sitting with an obscene amount of great yarn and make stuff? Just freaking do it already. This is nuts.

Here’s the thing. No matter what you are making, when you are using your right brain you are awfully close to your subconscious, emotions, your vulnerable side. And you may never show your work to anyone, but sometimes the act of facing your own feels no matter what they are is just not what you want to do. Facing self judgement, doubt. Jeez! Art is suppose to be fun not pressure.

It is a simple theory really. Sometimes to break through a creative block, you just need to show up. Get into the studio, straighten up, read a magazine. Sometimes just showing up will get the ball rolling.

Having confidence. Whatever you make is fine. Even if it is bad, mistakes lead to better work. No one has to see the ugly stuff. Make bad art on purpose, then the pressure will really be off of you. Who knows you just might stumble onto something brilliant.

Just being lazy? Fine, be lazy. Do it in the studio.

Entice yourself with good snacks and music. Or movies. Whatever gets you to want to hang out in the studio and maybe do some work

Just schedule it. It does not have to be a lot of time. An hour a week might be plenty of time. Or at least a good start. If you need time to set up space (like the dining room table) then schedule time for that too.

In a nutshell, art won’t make itself. The first step to inviting inspiration for that art is showing up.

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Pricing Your Work Part 2: Getting Paid

Pricing Your Work Part 2: Getting Paid

Alright Fiberista’s so, last week I shared with you the basic formula for finding the number that will support your work. And I spent a lot of time making the case for why you should charge according to that number even if you do not think you need the money or are uncomfortable with that number.

Today, I am am going to push your self value/money issue buttons. I have already gotten a couple of emails from some of you who think I am nuts for asking you to charge for your time because “I just can’t charge that much”. I have no doubt I will get more emails like this today. It is okay. I get it, I have been in your shoes, thought this myself and had to shift my mindset and the way I did business. This is the culmination of 12 years of pricing struggles, bad mistakes and thousands of dollars I have spent on classes about marketing artisan crafts. Today I am going to share with you why you should be using last weeks’s formula, who the hell will buy at that price, and how that is going to make you a better business person AND artist.

Here we go:

Why you do not want to let others set your prices
I am guilty of this too. We have all done this… look at what competitors are charging for similar products when deciding what to charge for our work. Here’s the thing. How are you sure your costs and overhead are exactly the same as your competitor’s? And for that matter, do you know how they came up with their prices? Maybe they are in a long line of people deciding to undercut the last person in hopes of grabbing a sale? This would mean the original sustainably configured price could be way higher than the downward evolution of that price your are considering undercutting even further. Please do not hang the fate and decisions of your business on someone else’s information. You have no idea where they got that price. You have the tools to come up with a number that is sustainable for you. What you really need is a better sense of self value.

That being said, stop trying to compete with manufactured goods.
You are hand making an item. What sets it apart from a manufactured item is the TIME and creativity you bring into it’s production. The “imperfections” lend to the handmade quality…emphasis on quality. If people want to buy a thing  for as cheap as possible and do not care about the handmade aspects then it is a losing battle trying to market your hard work to those people. Let them buy the cheaper item. You want customers who will love the fact that your work is hand made, they want to feel good about buying your genius. I will often go a step further and refer the bargain hunters to my favorite discount resources. I get it. I have done my share of bargain hunting myself. I save my energy for people how love handmade, because they love and value what I have to offer.

Cheaper does not alway mean better sales.
If you are at a fish market will you automatically go for the cheapest price? Price does not alway equal quality. People will always be fine with paying more for what they feel is of better value.

You can charge whatever you want for anything.
Here’s the thing. There is no real law about what you need to charge for your work. What are the differences between a Mercedes SUV and a Ford SUV? Why does the Mercedes cost more? For the most part the cost of the materials are the same. Both are manufactured in similar communities. The difference is how each company caters to their clientele. Think about the typical clientele of each company. Each are at different stages in their lives and have different needs. Each company uses their marketing to advertise their SUV as a solutions to needs of completely different customer bases.

If you think you can not charge your customer a suitable price, you are marketing to the wrong customer.
Yep. When thinking of your ideal customer, the first thing you need to consider is marketing to someone who can afford your work. Period. Do you think Mercedes wastes time marketing to middle class families? no…they historically market to a slightly older, upper middle class professionals with a larger income. How can you raise the VALUE of your work to match the cost of the production plus margins for business growth? Think of that ideal customer(who can afford your price) Why would they buy from you? What will they love about your work? I probably could not afford to buy my own work. That is okay, I am not my ideal customer.

Running a business requires the exchange of money to be sustainable. And for handmade items labor costs are are almost alway more expensive because you do not have equipment or manpower to produce sustainably at a cheaper price. But ideally your customer will LOVE handmade, love the subtle differences in your work. Find the people who will shout “take my money!!” not the people who are grinding you down on your price.

Here’s a hint: Look for art enthusiasts
Straight up, aligning what you make as art will help you raise the value. Yes this can even be done with handspun yarn… Here’s how I did it. My customers for hand spun yarn are older professional women who love art and love to knit, and are right-brained knitters who love the textures and colors over techniques and process. I marketed my yarn as being luxurious enough to feel like they are making art just by knitting with my work. Working with my hand spun yarn would be like making a collaborative piece with me. I encourage them to use the yarn sparingly for accents(looks better in small amounts, besides being cheaper), and provided excellent customer service and knitting resources with invites to brainstorm ideas for their work. Feel free to steal this marketing tactic.

They are not buying the what, they are buying your why
When you are an artist, people love to hear about inspirations, back stories, your passions, your studio. When people are paying more for your work they are buying into your dreams and creative genius. When you share your why’s (and how’s), people want to support those dreams. Buying your work is giving them a piece of that dream. With social media today, artist can so easily market these visions, dreams and stories through instagram, blogging and videos. I know you probably are already doing some social media, just share more art and I promise people with be asking you to take their money.

Maybe selling your work is a just bad business decision
Have you ever noticed there are rarely hand made socks for sale? The time making them is LONG. The numbers just never crunch out enough to be productive or sustainable. Not all art is worth selling. In Lauren Venell’s Bookkeeping for Crafter’s class, Venell shares behind the scenes numbers that helped her decide to move her hand made meat plushies to being mass produced. Sometimes you just can not shave any more time off your own production time, or source the materials cheaper. Sometimes the idea of selling what you make dies in the number crunching. Even in big business, ideas often die when the numbers prove unsustainable. It is okay. There are other ideas to find that WILL be sustainable, save your time and energy with those ideas that work.

What is not okay is doing ignoring the numbers, rethinking your marketing and just charging a bad cheapo price anyway. That is not smart marketing and you are only hurting your fellow fiberistas with your own insecurities about the value of your work. You may or may not be serious about your handmade side business, but there are some people out there who need the numbers to work. I spend a lot of time helping other fiberista’s see their work as art with blog posts, forums, and support groups for this very reason. I want you guys to understand that what you do is not just of monetary value that is worthy of sustaining you financially. Your visual language is worth putting out there and finding customers who VALUE that voice. I promise, they are out there and waiting to help you with your vision and dreams of selling your fiber art.

 

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Pricing Your Work Part 1: the nitty gritty of running the numbers

Pricing Your Work Part 1: the nitty gritty of running the numbers

It is a question I get asked a lot: How do I price my work?

I get it it is so very hard to know how to place value on art work in general. But as far as pricing hand knits and crochet, hand made yarns and fibers it can seem so much more confusing. I mean heck, you can find yarn at Michael’s for less than $10 a skein and sweaters at Target for $29. It totally breaks my heart to see one devalue their work trying to compete with a corporation that is able to produce in mass, gets corporate tax breaks, and large advertising budgets. Plus there are so many other reasons for you to price your work for sustainability as opposed to quick sales, but I am going to climb on that soapbox next week. Today, Fiberista, I am giving you the first of a two part post on how to price your work.  And it is all about how to run the numbers.

So, the formula for calculating your price is quite simple.

(Cost of Goods {I include packaging} + labor{time spend producing x hourly rate}) x 2 = wholesale price

wholesale price x 1.5 to 2.5 = retail price

Labor is what you pay yourself for making your product. The rest of the profit is what you use to pay overhead for your business and invest back into growing that business.

You calculate labor based on what you need to live, divided by the number of income producing hours you will work. Here’s the important part… If you are running a small business, YOU WILL NOT BE WORKING 40 INCOME PRODUCING HOURS. You will have to account for the time you will spend on marketing, accounting, new product research and other admin tasks. It is not uncommon for you to only spend 25-30 hours a week making stuff when you own a handmade business. Here in the US the minimum wage is $7/hour. It is not a sustainable wage. Even if you are supported by a spouse and do not think you need the money, do your fellow fiberistas a solid and do not set your hourly wage so freaking low. There are single moms out there who have dreams of just being able to feed their kids with their cottage industry yarn business as opposed to paying enormous daycare fees to go to a desk job in a cubicle. Your  skills and knowledge are worth more that $7/hr. Besides, a lower price does not alway lead to more sales…I will cover the bizarre theories behind that next week. Just know you can ask any price for anything, keep that price sustainable for the full time business fiberistas.

So, looking at that retail price is pretty scary, huh? Especially if you are pricing something hand knit, because holy smokes knitting takes a long time. So many fiberista’s will shave off their labor costs to make the price more attractive (hey, I have been down that path myself and learned a very hard lesson). Here’s the thing. If you are serious about growing a business, or even just support the idea that fiber artists should be able to pursue the dream of growing business, you will need to factor in the labor costs. When growing a business you will eventually need to hire help. Building in labor cost into your prices provides the path to being able to hire help.

So back to the numbers, If any of these numbers are making you a bit uncomfortable then you are in the right place. Because the follow through with pricing your work based on this formula, and the marketing skills needed to actually get that price involves some serious mental gymnastics. And that I will cover next week.

In the mean time I have a couple of super awesome resources that I have personally used to figure out my pricing.

Craftybase.com
Especially if you have an ETSY, Shopify or other online shop, go sign up for this right now. Designed with makers in mind, Craftybase.com is a super awesome way to keep track of inventory, sales and…my favorite and most used thing…a pricing calculator. Sign up here and get 10% off your subscription(this is an affiliate link)

These two Creative Live classes
Bookkeeping for ETSY Sellers and Bookkeeping for Crafters Both by Lauren Venell. Lauren is a season crafter who grew her business to a thriving popular product. She has so many insights on how to set up your business to make sure growth will happen sustainably. Be sure to check the schedule, you can catch the upcoming rebroadcasts for free. But I would consider buying the class on Demand to refer back to.

As I mentioned there will be a part two next week, where I will help you have the courage to ask for the price you need for your fiber art work, and how to find the customers who will very happily pay those prices.

 

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The 5 Keys to Making Art You Love

The 5 Keys to Making Art You Love

For the longest time, the idea of making a body of work and really embracing the idea of being an artist was just overwhelming for me. I have always done creative stuff. Not just little crafts. I would take art classes and learn some intensive techniques like metalsmithing, bookmaking, lampwork beads, or ceramics. And I had always hung out in art communities. But I never really dove in to creating a body of work. I was an art major in college. How did I not really understand how to make a body of work? It was as if I thought that learning complex creative techniques would somehow give me license to consider myself an artist. And maybe just by the nature of how I used my visual language communicate ideas, did give me license to call myself an artist. But I had nothing of substance other than a couple of successful projects to show for it.

Once I found my medium in fiber art, I kind of felt I really still did not understand where I was falling short in terms of how and what I was making as an artist. Even as I started UrbanGypZ I was not really producing something cohesive that I felt like I could stand behind as really art. It is one thing to be a professional knitter, dyer and hand spinner, but I am not sure I would consider any of those things (outside of the the actual business) a body of work. I found little clues to my own style in the materials(the yarn and the fiber) I was creating. But, actually making a real body of fiber art work– one that I felt was cohesive, had substance and considered my personal style–took a really long time for me to come to terms with and produce.

Here is what I figured out: Being an artist doesn’t have much to do with talent (which by the way is subjective) or even what you are making. It actually is all about consistency and confidence using your visual language. Today I am going to share with you what I have found to be my 5 keys to actually making art I love and am proud to stand behind.

Make art a priority. I am the first to admit, I will often bump my studio time for random everyday errands. But, I have to say, the first thing that HAS to happen when you are really, really ready to start making some art is you MUST show up. Seriously. Get the calendar out, slug out some non-negotionable time, and start saying no to anything else. This shit is not going to make itself. Get in the studio.

Make a lot of the same thing. It is so easy to just cycle through a series of techniques and consider yourself a craftsman. Don’t get me wrong trying techniques and playing with ideas is important and fun. But, what if you take time to explore an idea deeply–doing the same thing over and over, until you feel you have really mastered the technique and it becomes second nature. The next step would be to make tiny adjustments and add small details that bring your personal style to this body of work. The artists whose work I can identify, are the ones who have made a lot of the same or similar things over and over. With each exposure to their work, their style becomes recognizable. I remember the artist and may even seek out their work.

Stay curious. While making a lot of the same thing, you also need to continue to give your work room to grow and evolve. Inspirations are born out of feeding your curiosity. “What if” is the best thing you can ask yourself in terms of growing your work. Be curious enough to take a chance on trying new versions of your work. It is okay if you decide these ideas are not right. There are really no mistakes. It is all information and will most likely lead you to the next “what if” moment. This is what growing your work is all about.

Don’t overthink, just do. It is easy to fall into the trap of measuring your work against other’s– worrying how your art will be perceived and judged. This can be one of the biggest creativity killers. Get out of your head and judge your work only by how you perceive it in your heart. Do you feel a little flutter when you stand back to really look at your work? Do you find yourself thinking “oh hell yes”. When your share your heart, anything you make is a million time better than working off your fear of how your work will be perceived.

Show your work. Just do it. Even if it is only with your friends. Actually…share your work especially with your friends. I know this is outright contradicting point number 3. There is no explaining why this will make you a better artist other than to say, the people who know you the best, will see you and your heart in your work. AND…they will also call you out when your work does not ring true.

Being an artist is not an endpoint, but a never-ending process. Looking back I can see that even the doubt and dissatisfaction I had, was all a pert of the journey. And from what I can tell will continue to be.

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