Friday, 1 August 2014

'No' now may not be 'no' later

Where have you been for the past three weeks I hear you yell!!! Yes I have been a little MIA for the past month, but it was all for a very good reason.  I had a wonderful opportunity that came along so I of course threw myself into it and had to put some little things on hold for a little while.  I've had a chance to work with an agency I have admired for a looooong time, but I've got a little story to tell of how it all happened with a huge lesson in it that I'm finally ready to share with you after being utterly mortified.

I'd wanted to work with this agency for quite a while as I came across them while I was at university and was instantly drawn in by their talented artists and fun style.  Having put it off for a long time I eventually decided to go searching for agent representation, so I made a list of my top agencies (aim high right!) and drafted a simple introduction email just to enquire about their submission process and what they are looking for in artists.

After drafting it and sending it to the first three on my list (this agency being one of them!) I realised I hadn't changed the name of the agency in the email and had sent it to three wonderful companies.  I'd basically scuppered my chances in one fellow swoop.  I can laugh about it now but at the time there was absolutely no way to come back from it and I was convinced I was going to be put on all three of their blacklists, never to be considered.

The lesson would be check, double check and triple check your emails before you send them! For goodness sake don't do what I did!

Luckily for me the lovely gentleman from the agency I've just done some designs for found the funny side and was a little sympathetic.  Nothing happened at this point (which I kind of deserved) but I bided my time, kept designing and my work is now a million times better so I knew I was in a position to go for it again.  I also secretly hoped he had forgotten about my blunder the year before.

So I emailed again (quadruple checking this time) and had a very pleasant chat with this agent, he'd noticed my blog and everything I had been doing to promote myself and build my business and wanted to see my portfolio (Score!).

So I got there in the end :)

Lesson 1 - Check, check and check again before sending!
Lesson 2 - Just because it's no now doesn't mean it's no later!

Oh and nice to be back!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

More from Emma Frances's new greetings collection!

Following on from the Boy's designs here are the Patterned Typography group.  These designs have already proven to be quite popular.  Who doesn't like floral patterns teamed with hand drawn type! There are two other parts to this post with lots of my other greetings cards! Here and here.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Staying Motivated in More Situations

Last week I talked about motivating yourself when your stock isn't selling and when you get rejection emails.  Today I've picked to talk about staying motivated when craft fairs don't go as planned and when your inspiration has dried up.  I've fallen prey to the latter of these two recently and it can be so difficult to stay focused and keep going when these happen.

Craft Fairs

Most of you will know my craft fair experience started out reeeeeeally badly, I've had some absolute stinkers, the type of fairs where no one turns up, it's completely unorganised and you go home and have a good cry (and a large glass of wine).  You can read about my experiences in my previous posts here and here.

It's just disheartening when you've spent a lot of money on stock and packaging, you've made sure your stall looks beautiful and you've put in so much time and skill to ensure your products are the best they can be, and then craft fair is a major let down.

So how do you stay motivated, well first of all, you are not alone, anyone who sells at craft fairs has these days, ask around and I'm sure you'll all have horror stories!  It's nice to be able to laugh about my bad experiences and I have certainly learnt a lot about doing craft fairs from those first three (I'm sure they will haunt me forever!).

How to tackle it! - When you get home from the fair, just have a little 'me' time, enjoy a nice cup of tea and a huge wodge of cake or something similar, and if it's been that bad, have a cry, then sleep on it.  I just look after me when I get home after a bad craft fair, if you ponder on it too much you'll end up feeling really down and things like 'I'm never going to make it...' and 'No one likes my work...' will begin to play on loop in your head.  Don't let this happen!  So a little 'me' time and then have a good sleep and you'll wake up feeling much better.

Next step is to write down what the good points from the craft fair were, what did you learn, who did you meet (other stall holders?), was there anything that happened that made you smile or laugh.  My craft fairs were as bad as they could be, and I still managed to take away something from each of them. Write all of these down and when you have another bad craft fair in the future read these back and just see how far you have come!  I still smile at the little boy from my second craft fair who loved my designs but didn't have enough money for a notebook, I let him have it for less and his beaming face will stay with me forever. He won't even realise the impact he's had!


Next up, how to stay motivated when your inspiration has gone out the window.  I'm having an awful time of this at the moment so would love to hear how others cope with this!  I need to get on and design my Christmas range (yes I know, Christmas, already!), and yet when it is sunny and hot outside I don't feel like thinking about the winter, let alone sit and draw snowy scenes, holly, mistletoe, penguins and other such wintery things.  I honestly struggle with this and some advice like I've heard of is to get away from the computer, go and take photos or do something you enjoy, but this just doesn't work when you need to get something done soon!

How to tackle it! - So my advice here is to just keep drawing, to put time aside everyday for your designing and just keep at it, you may end up with pages and pages of rubbish but there will be some lovely illustrations in there that will have potential.  Sometimes there isn't the option of putting it off and waiting for your inspiration to come back, sometimes the only option is to plod along until you power through and the ideas begin to flow again.  It's like what they tell writers to do, just keep writing, even if it is utter rubbish, eventually it will come together.  If anyone has any better advice for this let me know!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Emma Frances Boys Greetings Cards!

For the past week I have been battling with hayfever!  Having never had it before it has been quite a shock as to how bad it can actually get, but I won't let it stop me.  I've had loads of deliveries over the past week of new products, packaging and just general bits and pieces, I wonder what the neighbours will think!

I've 32 cards in my collection now, and have been packaging them up so I can neatly stack them away ready for any orders that come in, so I thought I would give you a better look at all of the card designs in a few different posts.  First up some of my children's designs, all of which are already proving quite popular!  Find them in my Etsy shop here!

There are lots of other new greetings card in the Emma Frances range too, take a look here and here!

Do you have any particular favourites? I'd love to know which, leave me a comment below!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Staying Motivated in Certain Situations

Staying motivated when you are working from home can be quite difficult sometimes.  Everyone will have those days where they just don't feel inspired, when a design isn't coming together, when they feel sluggish and you don't seem to get as much done.  You need to find some ways of tackling this head on, because if you leave it, it can go on for days and who has time for that!

There are loads of factors that may make you lose motivation, apart from just having 'one of those days'.  I'll often feel a little down in the dumps when a rejection email lands in my inbox, but it can be from buying a lot of stock and nothing is happening on Etsy or when you don't get any email back!  When a craft fair doesn't go well or when you hear a rude comment about your work.  There are so many things that are trying to keep you down and are wanting to prevent you from succeeding!

So here are some ways I handle these things.

No. 1

When you get a rejection email....these can be the worst, it's almost better not to hear anything than to get an email saying 'nope we don't want you'.  It really isn't the end of the world!

I write all of these companies down in a big excel document and it has become my 'I'll show them' list.  I have faith in myself and my designs, so maybe I'm just not a good fit for their company (in which case I'll find one I do fit well with) or maybe now just isn't the right time.  If some of them don't say my work isn't a good fit, then I'll highlight them as ones to contact again in the future.

How to tackle it! - When you get that email, your heart will be beating so fast before you open it and then it'll sink when you realise it's a no.  At that point you need to go and do something you love, what I do is put on a song which makes me feel happy, motivated and as if anything is possible!  At the moment, for me, this is Coldplay - A sky full of stars, don't forget to play it loud!!


So you've spent all of your money on stock and now you're facing the daunting task of selling it.  To who?  Well you've got the choice of online, in person at fairs or gain stockists who will sell it through their shop.  I'm tackling all three of these at once, which is quite the juggling act, but it's not impossible.
Feeling overwhelmed can make you shy away from what needs to be done, so write down what you want to achieve, for example 'sell £X of stock in a month', and then figure out how you will achieve it. Once you have a plan of action for what needs to be done you won't feel so overwhelmed.

What is you have stock that isn't selling?  This can be quite tricky, you can either just keep going and eventually it will sell, just veryyyyy slowly, or what I saw one of my designer friends doing (Louise Wright) is give away these items (as long as they're not costing you loads of money) to customers who buy from you regularly or who spend quite a bit on your stall.  I saw it first hand, and it makes them feel extra special, plus they will remember the kindness.

How to tackle it! - When things aren't selling it is easy to get disheartened but what you may need to do is find another route for selling your products.  For example if you only sell online, try going to stockists, or if wholesale isn't an option then sell straight to the public at fairs.  Look at all of your options if you aren't already.
Have a sale or reduce the stock that isn't moving so you are at least getting some money back that you can then put towards a product that will sell a lot better.

How do you cope with getting rejection emails?  What do you do about stock that isn't selling?

Next week I'll talk about craft fairs not going as planned!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tips for planning your business goals - Part 3

On to part 3 of business planning, if you've not read the first two yet, you can find Part 1 and Part 2 here.

So you have written down your big goals and sorted them out so you have some to aim for now and some you will tackle in the future.  Then you have broken your current goals down into bite sized pieces, you've answered tons of questions about these goals that will help you reach them.  We now need to get going on them and all of the questions you answered make up your steps to reaching them.

What we are going to do now is plan out our weekly and monthly tasks, you can also plan out each day, but I know some people prefer not to do this.

First up, when do you want to achieve this goal?  Get your calendar out (I have a separate work calendar for all of my design deadlines, etc) and decide on a deadline.  Now if you aren't very motivated, and when it comes to your own business you really need to be strict to sticking with your deadlines, you need to think of this deadline as an important client's deadline or a huge university dissertation hand in.  It is just as important (if not more so!) as it will be getting you one step closer to having a thriving business.

After you've marked your big deadlines on you need to sort out smaller deadlines for each week.  There are loads of weekly planners online which will help you with this, so download one of them, or design your own, and use this to give yourself weekly tasks.

Here is the one I designed, I'll write down and highlight tasks I need to get done on that day, but everything else I write down I can do whenever.  I also have three main goals that MUST be done that day!

We're always going to have those easy tasks on our to do lists alongside the not so nice tasks.  It can be so easy to just complete the easy ones first and leave all the nasty ones until last, which is only going to make you feel less motivated and you may not even get everything done in your week if you avoid them!

What I have begun doing is alternate between the jobs on my to do list, I will do one I enjoy and then tackle one of the ones I would rather not have to do!  Knowing I have another nice task after I get it completed makes it easier.  Imagine leaving all of the jobs you don't want to do until the end of the week, it's Friday and you're getting into that weekend mood (which is basically 'NO WORK, WOOOO').  The chances of you getting those jobs done are slim to none, I know, I've been there many a time!

Which brings me to my last point on planning your week, leave a few really nice jobs until Friday, nothing that is going to leave you frustrated and feeling like you need a whole bottle of wine to just get through it.  Just those nice easy ones you don't mind doing, preferably jobs you can have a bit of music on while you do it, it will leave your week finishing on a good note!

You can break down your week even further into daily tasks and I'm sure this works for a lot of you, however I quite like to make a mega list to get done in the week and then I have the choice of what I want to do when.  You may have an off day, a day where you are feeling tired and just not on your game, so you may not get through your to do list that day.  A weekly plan will help you plan out certain tasks for certain days aswell as those jobs you can do on any day, so those off days won't affect your whole week!

How do you plan out your goals?  Do you have daily to do lists or do you use a different method? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 6 June 2014

New product! - Bright and cheerful children's invitations

I asked some of you earlier this week for a little help with my new product - Children's Invitations. Loads of you came to my rescue and let me know which style you preferred, it was incredibly helpful to hear your thoughts, so thank you!

I have finished the invitations, so wanted to let you see a couple of them before they go to print, I'd love to hear what you think!  They will be A6 in size and printed double sided.

Dreamy Garden - Dragonfly
Vehicles - Construction

Monday, 2 June 2014

3 Important Newsletter Tips

I have had the item - Set up a newsletter - on my to do list for months and months, and have finally sat down and set it up! I've always signed up to other designers newsletters as they're a fantastic way of really getting to know these people a little better.  They will often give their readers exclusive deals, first pick on sale items and you get to know all the news first!

By looking at other designers newsletters I've got a good idea of what I want to put in mine and what I want to use it for, I've picked out a few tips that have helped me see how to make it better:

First of all, it is so important not to spam your readers, I've unsubscribed from newsletters in the past because it felt like I was getting bombarded with emails.  Some were trying to sell to me, all the time, which gets old very quickly and others were sent everyday and often said the same thing each time I received it!

So I've decided to go with once a month to begin with, it means I have all of the exciting news from a whole month to share with you.  Of course around exciting times, where I have a lot more news I would send them a little more frequently.

Secondly, DO NOT sell to them all the time!  I don't know about you, but I switch off as soon as I realise they are trying to sell me something.  This isn't to say don't include links to your products, a newsletter is a fantastic way to direct people towards your shop.  I like something interesting to read before being directed out of the email!

Lastly, the subject line is so important, it's the first thing your readers are going to see after all.  So what would make you want to open an email?  I've gone with mailchimp and I can set up several different types of newsletters which can focus on different types of readers.  For example, some of my subscribers are other designers, they may want to hear more about my work and tips for the design industry, compared with potential customers that will also want to hear about my work but will want to hear any new deals and products that will be launching.

It means you can tailor your newsletter to your readers by just slightly changing the layout and order of your newsletter. Which in turn will make them more likely to open and read them!

What will my newsletter include?

Each month will vary, they will all include a funny story or two, some new work and new news aswell as a little look at what is in store for the next month.  I want to really give you the exclusive scoop on what will be happening with Emma Frances before anyone else!  There will be a special deal (only for my subscribers!) each month and maybe even a freebie or two!

If you are feeling enticed and want to hear more about Emma Frances then I have a special deal the first month for my subscribers.  You will all get a downloadable weekly planner which will hopefully help you stay super organised!

What do you like to read about when you sign up to a newsletter?!

You can sign up to the Emma Frances design letter below!

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Friday, 30 May 2014

Tips for planning your business goals - Part 2

Following on from Part 1, about organising your business plans, I'll now show you how I go about planning my goals from the plans in my little notebook.

I can imagine you have quite a few pages covered in colour co-ordinated notes by now, what we need to do is sort these out into what needs to be tackled straight away (these will be the ones that will benefit your business right now) and the longer term goals that will need to be built up little by little.

Start with your large goals, some of mine are:

  1. To launch new product collections
  2. To get more sales through Etsy
  3. To gain more stockists
These are all huge goals which on there own seem an impossible task!  There are tons of questions to be asked for each and it can be daunting to really go for it and make them happen, I mean where do you start!  It's so easy to dilly dally around and put it off so it takes you a lot longer, when your business could be flourishing if you had just taken the leap to begin with!

Some are a little more straight forward than others though.  These three goals interlink with each other too, which helps, so try and aim for goals that all revolve around a similar theme (for example have your freelance goals, building your brand goals, blogging and social media goals, licensing deal goals).  This way you're not trying to tackle everything at once.  You will need the time to build each part of your business properly and you may not invest enough time to ensure you meet these plans, or they may take you a lot longer!

So I've picked my three big goals that I will be focusing on at the moment, from here I need to ask my self lots of questions so I can assess how I will meet them and draw up a schedule I need to stick to to make it happen.

Launching new collections

  • What products would I like to get manufactured?
  • Should I expand upon current product ranges? In which case do new designs need to be made or can do I have designs in my portfolio that work well together?
  • Researching manufacturers needs to be undertaken, and this can take a considerable amount of time!
  • Do I need to send away for samples or get a product sample made up? (these can take a few weeks to be made, sometimes longer!)
  • Which target market will I be aiming these products at?
  • You need to look at your finances and see how much money you can budget for this.
  • What quantities will you be ordering?
  • What packaging would you need to order for these products?
  • Will you need different packaging if you were to sell online or wholesale?
  • Is wholesale a viable option?  Will you make enough of a profit?
  • Will you be launching these collections at an event? In which case how will you need to plan out your production schedule so you meet the deadline?

You get the idea, there are a lot of little things that go into these goals, so you need to write each big plan out and then ask yourself lots and lots of questions.  Ask other people or other designers what you need to do to meet a certain goal, they may know of other aspects that you need to take into account.

One of the most haunting pieces of advice I've been given is that 'you don't know what you don't know', which is why it is so important to ask others!

Follow on to Part 3 here!

Why not ask your questions below so I and others can help you get the answers!

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Tips for planning your business goals - Part 1

It's so easy to feel a bit overwhelmed in this industry, I often have a huge amount of ideas, dreams and goals going on all at once.  When this happens I start to feel a little nervous and worried I'm going to forget one of these important ideas that could be what helps me make it as an established designer or that gets me to the next stage of my career.

I'm sure many of you are the same, it's when ideas come out of nowhere, something just seems to spark when you are doing the most mundane job!  These ideas and plans can come from absolutely anywhere and from everything around you.  With all of these ideas going on it is so easy not to know where to start, this is usually where I become less productive because I'm thinking through each route before I decide what order to tackle them in.  By this point more ideas have sprung up and I'm even more lost!

I'm on a mission to make it in this industry, so this needs to be tackled and I need to be utilising all of the time I have (show of hands for those of you that could use more hours in the day!).  I'm going at this head on, I'll bring in better ways of organising these thoughts and plans and instead of wasting time on triple thinking each and every route and I will find a way of cutting this time wasting down.

It's so important to get your thoughts in line and plan the future of your business so you use your time more effectively.  This is going to be a series of blogposts that will hopefully help others in the same situation.

Ok so today's tip is a way of keeping track of all of those ideas.  No one can possibly do everything at once, you need to pick and choose, this isn't to say you shouldn't keep notes of any ideas you come up with!  They may be future money makers, ideas for future products or generally things you need to do to make your business better but just don't have the time at the present.

What I have begun doing is carrying a small notebook around with me, A6 is a good size as you can pop it in your pocket, but A5 can fit in your handbag too!  I use this to write down anything that happens to come into my head that I would like to look into.  I date the top of the page so I know how long I've been holding onto a certain point and give them a colour code at the end of the day or week.

Green for GO! - These are the ideas I want to address in the short term, those ideas you just don't want to sit on and can't wait to get working on.  These will be the most important for your business at this point in time.  You can then add these into your daily/weekly/monthly plans (more on this at a later date!)

Orange for ON HOLD! - These points are the ones that have sparked your interest and you feel they would be good for your business but you need to slot some other details in before you can act on these. They may be ones you just don't have the money or time to address yet, make a little note of why you can't do them and put them to the back of your mind.  These points shouldn't be worrying you anymore, you've written them down so you won't forget them!

Red for REACH! - These are the goals you are reaching for, the ideas that will come into play at some point in the distance.  These could be products you would want to look into getting manufactured, businesses you would dream of working with, bigger marketing plans.  These are the huge ideas that are just too big a project for a smaller business or the clients you feel you aren't ready to go for.

If there are any ideas you liked at first look but once you've researched a little around it you feel it just isn't right for you or your business then keep a list of these points and the reasons why.  This will stop you coming back to them (which is a waste of your time if you've already looked into it!), so track them in the back of your notebook.

Hopefully this system will help you feel a little less stressed out and the likeliness of you forgetting something amazing has vanished!  I know it has helped me massively and I have been able to build up goals from these colour codes.  You can even give your notebook a little makeover by covering it with your own pretty pattern, much nicer to carry around now!

How do you tackle all of the ideas you get for your business?  Do you have another system or way of keeping track of them all?

If you like this post don't forget to share it! You can do this via the social media buttons below.

Don't miss out on Part 2 and Part 3!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Closer look at Emma Frances's new greetings cards!

I have had the most wonderful weekend, I'm sure many of you will have been out enjoying the sun (for once the weather in England was glorious!)

Firstly I had a day out to Belton House which was spectacular, then Sunday was spent relaxing in the garden which resulted in gaining many more freckles!  We had a delicious BBQ, my dad is an organic farmer and our burgers are the best I've ever tasted which made it extra special.  Then yesterday I got down to some work, feeling completely rejuvenated, and managed to continue with my new greetings collection, which I can show you a few snippets of today!

I mentioned my new greetings range last week and how I was building up my current best selling cards to form bigger and better collections.  My floral Happy Birthday card is super popular so I have taken other floral designs from my portfolio and combined them with some hand drawn typography to bring you some gorgeous greetings!

Bright and cheerful florals!

Cute little flowers and butterflies combined with big sketched flowers

A little sad, I know, but Forget-me-nots were my grandads favourite flower and the underlying meaning with this card is you'll never forget them.

There are more to come too! Are there any particular designs you would like to see as greetings cards? Take a look at my portfolio and let me know in a comment below!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Working on a bigger greetings range!

I have loads going on at the moment and a lot of designing is being done for my expanded greetings collection.  They sold so well at the arts market I did last week that I need to put another order in!

So I have been drawing away and expanding my current collection.  At the moment I have a bit of a mismatch group of designs, although you can tell the same person designed them, they don't all go together cohesively.  It's so important to design in collections and last year I didn't entirely do this.  I did have big plans for larger collections that worked together but somehow in the excitement of getting products manufactured before the Christmas rush, my brain went and flew out the window.

I now have the time to sit down and get this done, so here is a little look at the collections I'm expanding upon and some of my ideas:

The harvest time tractor and combine duo will become a much bigger collection, I've always had loads of ideas for this group of designs and will be including a dumper truck, backhoe loader (digger), lorry, train, plane, helicopter, fire engine and police car.  Below you can see the dumper truck and backhoe loader, what do you think?

The dragonfly card has been very popular and gets a lot of attention so I am adding a bumblebee, ladybird and butterfly to this, complete with the floral coordinating greetings.

Another popular design is the Ditsy Floral Happy Birthday, I've decided to use my other floral patterns and combine them with some hand drawn typography to build up a bright and colourful collection that will sit wonderfully together in the shops.

Finally I'll be adding in some of my other children's designs such as the outer space, the castles and the under the sea designs.  I think this gives me plenty to be getting on with but I do have a few others up my sleeve which you may get a sneak preview of in the future!

Take a look at my current portfolio and let me know if theres anything you think would make a fab greetings card!