Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Work Smarter- achieve more with less effort!

Bear PDF Pattern Exhausted by ch1306

....or put in the same amount of effort but achieve much better results!

Effective and efficient promotion (as well as other aspects of running an etsy business) is a subject that is of great interest to me, because I'm in the final stages of completing my PhD and have a very limited amount of time. I'm also guilty of procrastinating when things get overwhelming, and suffer from a slight etsy addiction :)

This blog post is intended for forum-addicts and etsy sellers who are wondering why they're working so hard and getting nowhere....but it's hopefully relevant to other etsy sellers as well- I'm always looking for ways to streamline my work, both on and off etsy.


Prioritise

Very Important Things To Do List by paperbyforgetmenot

Many people tend to procrastinate when they have lots of things to do, especially when it gets to the point where it all becomes overwhelming. It's really important to be aware of which activities are productive, and which things are distractions or less productive.

I love this piece of advice from Procrastination: Why you do it and what to do about it (an excellent anti-procrastination resource): if your 'To Do' list is too long....do first things first and second things never! Learning to stop trying to do everything and to say no to things is an important skill (still not very good at this myself).

Why is it so important to prioritise? So that you spend time on the things likely to actually bring sales and build your business effectively, rather than wasting time on things that won't help or are very inefficient. This is even more important if you have very limited time, like I do.

Tools to help you create ordered To Do lists:



So how do you know which things to prioritise?


Working out what is important

Thought Bubble Chalkboard Vinyl Decal by asignofthetimes

Google analytics is an extremely valuable resource- I don't think I would be able to run my shop without it. If you've been putting off jumping into your GA results, I can assure you that it is definitely worth the effort! You can use google analytics to find out essential information about which promotional methods are effective so you can adapt your approach- how much traffic do you actually get from your blog/facebook/twitter/off-etsy forums etc?

For my shop, I quickly realised that twitter and facebook were bringing in a large proportion of my traffic, so have really focused on building those up. It's also shown me that blogging is not an effective strategy for me, because my blog is written for other etsy sellers, so I don't really consider it part of my shop promotion (it's just for procrastination and because I need to get some info out of my brain). I therefore don't prioritise it over other more important things. Blogging can be very effective for others- that's why you really need to carefully evaluate what works for your particular shop.

**An important note about using GA to assess the effectiveness of your blog: google analytics does not show clicks through to your shop via etsy minis as coming from your blog, but rather displays them as visits from within etsy. It's easy to see how many people have clicked on your etsy mini and visited your shop by following the instructions here.


Customer contact can bring you very useful information about where your sales are coming from, rather than just views. These two things are often related, but there can be important differences. For example, I can receive hundreds of views from the etsy forums without making a sale, but might receive under 100 views from another source and make multiple sales (because other etsy sellers are definitely not a target audience for me). You can gather information about how your customers found you by asking them directly, and also through the contact you have with them on social networks, as you might recognise them from those venues (or they may even comment on their purchase). You can also ask buyers how they heard about your store by setting up a brief PayPal survey that they can choose to fill in during payment.

Offering special discount codes specific to twitter vs facebook vs your blog vs coupon sites etc can also provide you with some insight into effective promotional venues. Another option is to use google analytics to try to find out which site a specific buyer came from when visiting your site and making a purchase.

This information about where your actual customers are coming from can help you adjust your promotion efforts and focus your attention on areas likely to produce results while minimising time spent on less effective activities. This may involve the realisation that chatting on the forums for hours is actually not effective promotion (depending on the nature of your shop) but is a form if procrastination/just a fun activity, which can be inconvenient to admit ;) I think this is an important point though- many newbies get burnt out and they feel like they're working hard 'promoting' but getting nowhere, despite spending hours and hours on it. Many times, this is because they're promoting in an ineffective way or to the wrong audience (although sometimes it can be because their photos etc need work. See this self-critique article for help with that).

This is a critical point for trying to set things up so that you are 'working smarter' - you need to work out where to direct your effort. Think about each action you take and ask yourself whether it is the best thing you could be doing with that time. Which is likely to be more productive in growing your business- spending a second hour chatting on the etsy forums or using that time to compose emails that you can send out to 5 magazines that might be interested in featuring your work?

Another helpful concept to keep in mind here is that of reaching a plateau- I think it can be useful to make an appearance in the etsy forums, for example, and to read up on the useful information there and find out about any promotional opportunities. However, spending another 3 hours there is likely to be of little benefit and could be better spent elsewhere. The same principle also applies to many other activities (I know some people fall into a social networking trap and get stuck on twitter for hours at a time).

So as well as working out what is important, you also need to think about how long you should spend on those activities, and keep an eye on how you divide your time.


Focus tools

Molded Melting Clock by PragmaticEffects

Here are some useful tools to help you keep track of the time you spend on activities, and resources for helping you to break the procrastination cycle (in case you're someone who pops into the forums and then realises four hours have passed!). I mainly use these when I'm working on my thesis, but hopefully they'll be helpful for others too:


  • Timers can be very useful. I have my homepage set to an online timer so that I remember to start it!
  • It can be a good idea to set different times of day for different tasks using a diary or calendar
  • KeepMeOut- this is a great website that allows you to block certain URLs for certain lengths of time by creating special bookmarks. You can set it up to block a site or warn you if you have visited it too recently.
  • RescueTime is sort of similar but much more sophisticated. RescueTime tracks the amount of time you spend on different activities (including work) and you can set it to block only certain categories of website- those that you have set as most distracting. The program graphs the time you spend on each kind of task/site (warning- sometimes you don't actually want to know how much time you waste!).
  • stickK is a cool site if you're trying to achieve a particular goal. You can make others aware of your goal as a way of making it public so that you're more likely to achieve it, and you can set up consequences if you don't finish the task on time- eg donating money to charity


Be more efficient- some more ideas

Love Bird Studs by redpoppyaccessories

Just a couple more ideas to consider...

Work on setting up your social networks properly. If you spend time in the beginning estabishing a large, targeted following, this will save you a lot of time and effort in the future. A couple of tweets to 2000 followers might be just as effective as 50 tweets to only 100 followers! Some ideas for building up your following (and finding the right audience) can be found here.

Scheduling some of your social networking and setting up automatic posts can also be a smart move. Work while you sleep! You can do this for facebook, twitter and blogs.



Reward Yourself!

6 Handmade Cold Process Soaps by innerearthsoaps

When you've become an efficient etsy machine, don't forget to buy yourself some nice things! Maybe you could even go and have a chat in the forums... ;)

South Sea Shell Pearl and Sterling Silver Earrings - Mercurial by RealisationCreations

. . .

Please share your efficieny and anti-procrastination tips below- I'm always looking for more ideas on this subject!

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14 comments:

  1. i am procrastinating by reading blogs right now! :P

    another great article - am off the check out KeepMeOut & RescueTime :D

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  2. I LOVE THIS! Timely. I start uni full-time {as opposed to the previous scrappy-time load} in 11 days and already know I will only succeed if I get some serious time management and structure in place... Might have to actually start *using* my own to do list ;) - thanks so much for the inclusion here... off to re-read this article now :)

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  3. This is a really creative way to include Etsy buyers in a very useful article. I'm honored that you included me! I'll be passing this along. Thanks!

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  4. Some really useful suggestions. I loved the links you gave - especially to the on-line timer.

    When I started selling on Etsy I bought myself a lovely journal (from a fellow Etsyan, of course!) and I've really enjoyed having somewhere beautiful to write my 'to-do' lists. It really makes a difference!

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  5. Thanks for the suggestions, as a new etsyan sometimes it feels complicated running this shop, not to mention bringing in customers.
    Thanks again! :D

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  6. I would love to see something on how to make SEO work for your etsy shop. I have to say, I just don't get it. I need examples! I'm so confused! :) ps. love love love the chalk board thought bubble!

    www.metroline6.etsy.com

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  7. Thanks for the inclusion here! I am totally procrastinating right now - but - have finished my jobs for today, so that's okay. :)

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  8. Hi. I came across your blog and wanted to offer you to be listed on our giveaway blog network: Giveaway Scout (http://www.giveawayscout.com). Have a look and use our online form to add your blog (http://www.giveawayscout.com/addblog/ ). Thanks, Mike

    ReplyDelete
  9. I find it helpful to carry a kitchen timer with me when I need to get things done. I come up with a realistic estimate of how long it might take to complete a task, then set the timer for that amount of time. It keeps me focused on the task at hand. (Think of the time you meant to clean out your junk drawer, but spent an hour looking at the vacation photos you found in the drawer instead!) I try to beat the timer too. I discover ways to do things in less time and be more productive.

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  10. This is so useful. Thanks, Morphologica.

    I'm happy to learn about sites that help me regulate my time on websites where I tend to waste time.

    My best prioritizing tool is taking 20 minutes in the morning to do a "brain dump" on paper. Julia Cameron calls this "Morning Pages" in her creativity books. You just write, stream of consciousness, for three pages. This gets out all the chatter that makes me feel overwhelmed; and from there I can better identify my priorities for the day. I'm way too tired at night to make my next day's to-do list.

    (It's often hard to force myself to take that morning time, but my day is so much more focused when I do.)

    I'd also like to give kudos to the SASsy Team for helping me recently with tweaks to my shop. Team members' suggestions have been extremely helpful--I deeply appreciate the time taken.

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  11. Jessica, contact me and I will help you with SEO.

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  12. Ha ha! I've been trying to be productive today, but I realize now that I'm really procrastinating. Great article! :)

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  13. Thank you so much for this article - i am now officially obsessed with TeuxDeux :)

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  14. The balance between effort and achievement might be overwhelming for some newbies in the business world. But one of the best ways to keep your head cleared up is to keep everything organized; from the materials, ideas, down to the financial records, or else, the perfect harmony of your craft will eventually be compromised.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for your comment :)

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