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My first two months on Etsy.

Always craftin’.

At the end of August, I opened up my Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop. I have always thought about opening up an Etsy store, not because I have an abundance of things to sell, but because there are times when I really enjoy creating things and I always get really excited when they turn out as I’d planned.

For years, I’ve kept a Pinterest board with DIY projects that I hoped to get to “someday”, and in August, I finally had a window of time and started making earrings. They turned out cute, so I decided to put them on Etsy and see what happened.

Like most people starting an online adventure, it seems like when you publish your first blog or post that fist item to sell, the world is going to shift. And then… there’s silence.

I’d heard about this happening with lots of Etsy sellers – that you work so hard to create an inventory of products and take pictures, write thoughtful descriptions… and then you never make a sale.

But it didn’t take long before I made a few sales, mostly from people I knew. But hey, a sale is a sale, and it was good practice on simply using Etsy to see how things work.

Before I knew it, I had several orders, and then I had a slight frenzy when shoppers caught sight of one item: my Holly Golightly sleep mask – a popular Halloween costume accessory, especially now thanks to “Big Little Lies”.

I sold 30+ of the handmade sleep masks, staying up very late (one night i stayed up until 4 am) to hand-sew each item.

I’m proud to say I’ve made it through my first “Holiday rush”, and I didn’t even mess up any of the shipments, which is a MIRACLE.

So, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about Etsy so far – I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this side hustle, business-venture of mine.

Use the Etsy app. The app is easy to use, but most importantly, I get an alert on my phone when someone makes a purchase (it sounds like a cash register), and when someone messages me. This is super important and I know I won’t go online and check my store every day.

Respond to customers. Quickly. A few weeks after I opened my shop, I heard a radio host talking about how she once had an Etsy shop and she hated it because she didn’t make any money and it was more about customer service. Hmm… well, yeah, most businesses – especially small businesses – ARE all about customer service.

We are at the mercy of our customers, because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a reason for a shop. As for not making money, I would venture to say she didn’t have a good enough product, because my revenue has surpassed $500. It’s nothing to quit my day job over, but it sure isn’t “nothing”, especially for a side gig.

Most of the time, customers don’t message me. If they do, they just have a question about the product or arrival. 9/10 times, they are really nice and DO want to make a purchase – so I do try and respond within the hour. You never know what other products they are looking at in order to make their decision.

I’ve found that this is what helps me make sales and get 5-star reviews. I’ve had customers tell me how grateful they are that I simply replied and did so with kindness. What’s up Etsy sellers? Respond to your customers!

I do have a professional background in marketing and I know how the average person shops – they do a lot of research, and making contact is one of the last things people do before pulling out their credit card. So reply!

Price it right. A lot of items on Etsy are expensive. Which is okay – if you’re using fine materials. I disagree with adding in a bunch of labor costs to your item. I figure out my prices by looking at materials and shipping costs (I offer free domestic shipping), and also how much I would pay for a similar item. I ask around, too, or look in stores to see what they are charging for similar items. I’m not going to charge someone double just because it takes me a day to make it – people will move right on over to Amazon. Now, don’t make things cheap – price them at what they’re worth; a price you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to give things away, but don’t rob the customer either.

Be honest with yourself. I have a 3-day window from the time a customer places the order until I have to ship it. I make items to order – I do not have a shop or a place to store ready-made items. So, be honest – don’t put 1-day turnaround if it really takes 4. People will understand, and they don’t want to be tricked.

Create a system for shipping. I don’t have a room, or really even much space, to dedicate to shipping. But, I do have a method to how I create labels and pack my items so nothing gets mixed up. It probably isn’t an issue when you have one or two orders, but trying packing 14 boxes for shipment – it’s a process!

Give customers a reason to come back. I know customers do NOT have to shop on Etsy – in fact, it’s been years since I’ve purchased anything on Etsy. But I know I need to get sales – not for money, but because Etsy displays the number of sales you’ve made – and if it’s a low number, people aren’t going to have confidence in your shop. So, I’ve been giving each customer a coupon for a percentage off their next order. I want them to come back – whether to shop, or to see what new items I’ve got in the store.

There you have it! Etsy has additional resources for succeeding in your shop – a message board, tools, and even a podcast, but I have yet to tap into any of these resources. I’m going to try a few new things over the holidays and will also continue to post new items and sales on my Instagram account (@Orangejulius7), but so far I’ve found that sticking to traditional business and marketing tactics has worked quite well!

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The Bitter Lemon Shop!

Beads, beads everywhere!

I know I’ve talked a little bit about my recently-opened Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop, but I wanted to dedicate a post about it. I didn’t really intend to open the shop and fill it with so much STUFF, but it happened that way – once you start creating, I guess I can’t stop!

At first, I just wanted to make some DIY earrings I’d saved on Pinterest. I have always toyed with the idea of having an Etsy shop, because I really like to make cards and have always liked to make beaded jewelry.

But when I made the earrings, they turned out so cute I thought other people might like them. So, I took pictures of them (although I don’t really know if the photos do them justice) and opened my shop. At first, it was a struggle to get 10 listings – but 31 listings later, here I am, with a ton of ideas!

Currently, the shop is mostly bracelets and earrings – I am really into tassel jewelry right now, so there’s lots of those happening. The bracelets are all beaded so far – I am having so much fun with all of the great beads out there!

One thing I think is important to note is that everything I’ve made is something I would wear (and actually have been wearing); I wouldn’t put out a product that I didn’t like myself.

I am also naming each piece after a place, or a thing that is really special to me. As I write this, I’m wearing the “Back to Black” beaded tassel necklace as a tribute to Amy Winehouse; my sisterhood bracelet (sorority vibes), my Charleston bracelet (s/o South Carolina summers), and my “Saints & Sinners” bracelet as a call to New Orleans.

There’s also a keychain and an essential oil blend roller in the shop – keep your eye out for many more of these to come! I’m thinking a sleep blend, focus blend, an immunity blend, and something for allergies. I also have ideas for costumes, clothing, and of course, more jewelry!

It’s not like I all of the sudden have so much time on my hands, but I’ve found that just sitting and watching TV (or rather, listening to it) while I make jewelry is pretty relaxing. I think it’s an easy way to escape – and I like trying to figure out how to make things or how to fix something. And then at the end, I have something cool to wear!

Blanche is also partaking in the shop, of course. I cleaned out my linen closet and set up a table with my printer, along with a little shelf. I organized my beads and put all of my shipping supplies in a handy container. I even have a few pieces of “Bitter Lemon” wall art along with a scented candle to make my craft area fun. The table is big enough for my supplies, but anytime I’m in the “craft closet”, Blanche scrambles to the table and takes a giant nap – and she takes up at least half the table. So, there I am, stringing beads using a small corner of my table.

I’ve had 11 sales so far, after being open for about three weeks, and it’s cool to think that people in other states are wearing things I made.

If you have ideas of things you’d like me to (attempt) to make, I’m always willing to try. Take a look at the shop, ask me questions, or shop awaaaaay! Visit the shop here and let me know what you think!

The art of letter-writing.

 

From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.

From The Jane Austen Letter Writing Society.

I recently asked a friend to be my pen pal. She lives several states away, and in a sense, a majority of our friendship has been based on writing to each other, although mostly via email, and sometimes through text messages. But, I have been wanting to handwrite letters.

A few years ago, a colleague put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone was interested in writing letters back-and-forth. She wanted a reason to utilize her stationary, and take up letter-writing. I jumped at the chance, but unfortunately, her health didn’t allow us to continue this hobby long (she’s doing well, now).

When I wrote my first letter to her, I realized just how difficult writing a letter can be. Essentially, you’ve got to craft your storyline before you begin – there’s no copy and paste, or deleting. So, how will the letter open, what paragraph will go where and what will follow it.

The other part to consider is the page layout. I know it sounds silly, but most stationary doesn’t have lines on it, so writing in a nice, straight line is one challaenge, while also considering how maybe paragraphs you can fit on one or two pages, with or without using the back of the page.

And of course, there’s the handwriting. I can always start out nice and neat, and by the end, my hand is cramping and it looks closer to chicken scratch.

Just a few days ago, novelist John McGregor wrote a piece for The Guardian (read it here) talking about his love for writing letters; how he grew up basically collecting pen pals, and in those letters they wrote in the margins, using arrows to instruct the reader where it should have gone. And often, letters were stuffed with Post-It notes and mementos – pressed flowers or a lock of hair.

My letters haven’t quite reached that level yet – I’m using some stationary I ordered years ago off Etsy, but have recently purchased a few blank cards for the holidays and am working on my handwriting.

I have recently taken an interest in learning calligraphy, and my mom surprised me my mailing me two beginning calligraphy sets over the Thanksgiving holiday. With the extra time off work, I had hours to spare and wrote a few handmade gift tags and a Christmas card. It took me awhile, but it was well worth it – it looked so cool!

The kits have instructions and examples, along with practice paper and tracing paper, pencials, erasers, watercolor markers and pens with inkwells. Pretty cool.

Of course, there are tons of instructional videos on YouTube, which are much more fun to learn from instead of trying to decipher from a book.

If you’re interested in writing letters, let me know and maybe we can be penpals! I’d love to give myself another excuse to actually sit down with a pen and paper, and of course, practice more calligraphy.

DIY: Destroyed denim.

Yaaaas!

Yaaaas!

I’ve been searching for the perfect pair of destroyed denim for MONTHS. Let’s face facts – 90’s fashion is back in the form of loose, flannel shirts; graphic tees, and destroyed denim so ripped, it puts Abercrombie to shame. And I LOVE it.

But, when I started shopping around for said denim, I found that the prices were way out of my budget, and downright ridiculous. I don’t want to pay $80 for pristine denim, let alone a pair that looks like it’s been hit by a truck. Some of the pairs I came across were even more than $100, and one pair was $1,000! Shew!

I knew there had to be a way around it, and I was excited to see that one of my favorite fashion bloggers whom I follow on SnapChat and Instagram was offering her tips on DIY destroyed denim. Her name is Kathleen, and her blog is “Carrie Bradshaw Lied”. She collaborated with The Every Girl to offer her distressed denim tips.

For her project, Kathleen bought a pair of men’s denim from Forever 21 – as she was going for a baggy look. Me, however, I do lots of my shopping at Goodwill, and after a few weeks of hunting, I bought two pair of jeans to destroy. I bought one super skinny pair of light, stretch denim for $4, and a pair of darker, more straight-leg jeans for $7.

For step one,  Kathleen says to put the jeans on and mark where you want distressed areas, using a marker. So, I tried on my jeans and got in front of a mirror to make my marks. I also took a look at some of the pictures I’d saved over the months for inspiration – I have loads of pics and clips for fashion ideas and I use them for help in times like these!

After marking, it’s time to start destroying (after you take the jeans off)! Kathleen suggests using scissors, sandpaper, and tweezers to get the job done. So, I gathered up those supplies and got started on the skinny stretch denim first. I started with the sandpaper – I had a variety pack I’d gotten at the Dollar Tree awhile back and tried various pieces on the jeans.

It does give the jeans a faded look, but you’ve really got to work at it. I wanted mine to be pretty faded and ripped, so I searched my apartment for additional tools. I ended up finding: a beer bottle cap, a wine opener, a serrated bread knife, and a bristly sponge.

It’s about this time I should suggest putting on a good movie or TV series, because this process takes HOURS. Who knew denim was so, so sturdy? After getting some good faded spots, I made slits using scissors and the wine opener. Of course, you don’t have to cut actual holes if that’s not the look you’re going for.

You can use the tweezers to pull out the denim threads (that run vertical) and that will reveal only the white, horizontal threads if you’re going for that look – which I love. However, this does take time.

I made some sections using the tweezers, and also used the wine opener to rip small holes and pull white threads through. You could also splatter white (or any color) paint on the jeans for added flair.

While it seems like a long process, I enjoyed a “craft” project that forced me to sit on my couch and watch some TV on a Sunday afternoon. I’ve worked on my jeans a little each night, and found it’s a nice way to wind down. And, at the end of the project we’re all going to have completely custom, destroyed denim that didn’t break the bank. I consider that a major win!

Pic of the Week.

Just a few of my handmade Valentine's Day cards.

Just a few of my handmade Valentine’s Day cards.

Last week, I was under the weather. It’s been a LONG time since I’ve been sick; I’d like to think it’s because I’ve been really good about taking my vitamins, eating healthy, getting rest, and using my essential oils.

But, lots of people in my office have been sick, so despite all of my efforts (and slathering my body with antibacterial gel), I got sick and was out-of-commission, no matter if I wanted to admit it or not.

By the time Thursday rolled around, my sick coworkers were all, “Oh, you just have to get through one more day!” But… I use my weekends to get SHIT DONE! I didn’t necessarily hope to be chained to my couch for days (even though that’s what I usually do while writing blogs and editing freelance work).

Either way, I woke up Saturday morning feeling stuffy and exhausted. Luckily, I’d equipped my apartment with cold supplies (did you know there’s such a thing as Kleenex with Vicks?!), and after a few hours on the couch under my electric blanket, I was feeling much better.

And thankfully so, because I knew it was my only chance to craft up some cute Valentines for you guys! I got out all my supplies – some leftover from last year’s batch, and lots of new fun stuff.

After 5 or 6 hours of crafting, and watching rom-coms, including Sleepless in Seattle, Paper Towns, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Longest Ride, I had crafted about 30 Valentines. I’m really proud of this batch, if I do say so myself! I cannot wait to send them to you guys!

Sunday, I was feeling much better, and was ready to venture out of the apartment (I’m suuuuch a recluse). I went shopping for books, a new moisturizer, and other Valentine’s goodies for care packages I’ll be putting together in the coming weeks. I also changed my turn signal and washed my car, inside and out. Like I said, I get shit D O N E on the weekends.

I know all of this Valentine’s hoopla probably makes it seem like I’m obsessed with the holiday. Truthfully, I’ve hated it for years. But, I’ve been a relationship writer for 10 years. Each year, when February rolls around – and each time I’m single – I wonder how to approach it.

There’s been years I’ve tried to ignore it; years when I’ve tried to just be cool about it; times when my girlfriends and I have worn all black and drank ourselves stupid; and times when I’ve been really, really sad over it. But the honest truth is, none of that makes me feel any different about the holiday.

And now, I just feel like the only thing to do is embrace it and celebrate the love I do have in my life. It is not romantic love, but it’s still meaningful and it makes me smile. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know that everyone – single or not – could probably use a little more love every now and then. So, that’s why I’m sending the cards and care packages.

I love you all, and I cannot wait for you to see tomorrow’s post!

Pic of the Week.

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent my weekend getting a ton of stuff done. On one hand, it was really nice to go into a new week having all of my “chores” done, but on the other hand, I wish I would have relaxed a little.

Truth be told, I’m not sure if I know how to relax.

I’m still decorating the new place, so I started Saturday off by hanging 8 frames in my kitchen (check out yesterday’s kitchen tour to see what I’m talking about). Next, I hauled my ass out off the apartment to run some errands.

Once I got the supplies I needed, I sanded and painted an old black shelf I’ve had for years. In the past, I used it to hold my small collection of tacky shot glasses, but my collection outgrew it – I’m still looking for a cool shadow box to house my collection, so if you know of any good places to look, let me know!

I kept the shelf, and decided to paint it metallic gold, and planned to hang it in my bathroom. If you’ve never been to my home, my bathroom is orange and white, with vintage (and authentic) Playboy covers on the walls. I wanted the shelf to match my retro look.

My wondrous @ sign.

My wondrous @ sign.

So, while the gold paint was drying, I got to work on another project. Many months ago, I bought a tin “@” sign that was embedded with small LED lights. I hung it above my desk, my dubbed “blogging station,” and I loved it! But, about two days later, the lights burned out and… I couldn’t get them to come back on, even with new batteries.

I got the sign for $4, which was a steal, but obviously it was junky. The tin signs are everywhere now, but certainly not for that cheap, not to mention, I loved the “@” symbol to go with my job and my blog. It was so fitting!

So, I decided to attempt to gut the entire thing and replace the lights with a small light set I got at Big Lots for $5 (which I actually had a coupon for, making them free).

It took me a solid hour to get all 20 bulbs out of their original sockets, and then rip out the old wiring. Then, I lined up the new lights and glued them into their new slots. But, in the end, it worked, and now my sign is back in action!

Once my sign was hung, I reorganized a closet, cleaned my bathroom, and hung two more pictures. Next, I decided to hang my shelf.

That’s when shit went south.

The shelf is supposed to be one of those “invisible” shelves, so you are supposed to line up the nails so they are hidden in the back, if that makes any sense.

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that nothing I do is precise. That is why I like to cook more than I like to bake. It’s why I write blogs instead of calculate dollars. When I hang pictures, I eyeball it. I tried measuring things and I even got a level app, but in the end, I just eyeball it.

Sure, my curtains are totally off-center, but that’s just the way it’s got to be. So this shelf really kicked my ass.

I did attempt the whole, “two hidden nails” thing, and I measured the holes in the shelf, then marked them on the wall, and at first it worked! But then, the shelf was too heavy for just nails.

Have no fear, I have a toolbox, and I had two wall anchors. So in the wall they went. And then, the shelf wouldn’t actually get onto the nails. So… I then put two additional holes in my wall. And that did not work. So then, I attached two L-brackets to the bottom of the shelf. While it helped, it wasn’t solving all the problems. So, I put a third L-bracket in the top of the shelf, and that seemed to do the trick.

So much for that whole “invisible” thing. If you are following me on SnapChat (@OrangeJulius7), you saw the whole thing live, and I’m sure I looked like a crazy person; I felt like one too!

Honestly, I felt two things: 1. I remembered the reason why I secretly hated that damn shelf, but now that I had 8 holes in my bathroom wall, there was no turning back, and 2. I wished that I could have just called my boyfriend in from the other room and he’d save the night, whether it be with his power tools or his knack for being precise, and we’d laugh off my crazy and live in harmony, complete with gold shelf.

But there is no boyfriend.

I can very easily sit here and tell you that I’ve spent the last two years convincing myself that I can, and will be, perfectly happy living my life as a singleton.

And for a majority of those two years, I’ve believed every word I told myself. How? Because what I have known of men hasn’t been pleasant. I’ve sought after men in times of weakness, and in turn, I’ve become weaker.

It’s easy to wish for a man during an exhausting move, at the sight of a creepy insect, a haunt in the night, or sometimes, when you just need a snuggle. No matter how many pillows I surround myself with, it does not a man make!

I am still working each day to overcome my baggage, and more importantly, to forgive those that have hurt me. I know I need to heal and I will continue to get stronger.

There are plenty of days I wish for a partner that I can share my day with, and nights to wish him sweet dreams. Instead, I always tell Blanche goodnight, and she returns the sentiment with a slap of her tail (bitch).

In my heart, I believe good things do come to those who wait. My job, my apartment, hell, even my crafted gold shelf is proof of that. And so, I carry on. And in the end, we’ll just have to see what happens.

But if a man that’s handy in any way steps foot in this apartment within the next two years, he might have to fix a few crooked frames.

Pic of the Week.

T-shirts full of memories...

T-shirts full of memories…

Helloooo out there, from the world of boxes, packing, and all things moving-related! I’ve been packing and organizing and cleaning whenever I get the chance in order to wrap things up as fast as possible. It’s no secret that moving is a huge task, but it’s one of those necessary evils in life.

As I’m packing, I’m getting rid of a TON of stuff! It’s a good feeling to let go of physical baggage or just that stuff that’s not useful anymore. For the longest time, I’ve had a stack (okay three stacks) of t-shirts on my closet shelf that really just collect dust.

For the longest time, I’ve been saying I’ll go through them, I’ll do something cool with them, blah blah blah. But I really did it! I sorted through my shirts and found around 25 shirts that I don’t wear, but have such great memories attached to them.

So, I paid to have them made into a quilt! I am so, SO excited about this! I cannot think of a better way to make use of my old shirts, then to preserve them, blanket-style, for me to enjoy while I’m binge-watching House of Cards in my new apartment. AMIRIGHT?

I chose Project Repat to make my quilt. Not only do their T-shirt quilts look fantastic (and contain a fleece-backing), but Project Repat is working to bring textile jobs back to the United States. Not to mention the fleece they use is made from recycled plastic bottles. Perfection!

All I did was choose the size of the panels/quilt squares I wanted, the size of the blanket (I got a Full size/5’x6′), and the color of the fleece (gray). Then, I chose my shirts, and just have to send them off! My custom quilt will arrive in 2-3 weeks.

So, what shirts did I choose for my quilt? Here’s a quick description of my shirts in the above picture; from left to right, typewriter style.

  1. Phi Delt Homecoming @ LSU (Phi Delt is my favorite frat!)
  2. Abercrombie & Fitch shirt to commemorate my years of work there and my everlasting love for it
  3. Back of a high school newspaper staff shirt (2003)
  4. High school dance team t-shirt from ’03
  5. First LSU shirt I ever bought; before I was even a student
  6. LSU shirt from my job there
  7. Dance team t-shirt from ’02
  8. Chasing Daylight shirt from Red Dress Run
  9. Various LSU tee
  10. Uncorked BR — the best event in town
  11. Back of dance team tee ’02
  12. A dedication to my love for the sexiest skateboarder alive: Ryan Sheckler
  13. Back of Phi Delt tee: the IMMORTAL six pack
  14. Newspaper staff tee ’02
  15. Custom tee to represent my single life forever 😉
  16. “Kiss my class” journalism tee ’03
  17. LSU Campaign that I worked on
  18. John Mayer tee
  19. Berkelee tee. Because… John Mayer.
  20. Back of dance team tee ’03
  21. Race for the Cure 2012 (there were pink margaritas)
  22. Back of single life tee
  23. Tailgate team tee
  24. Custom Meriwether tee
  25. Bridesmaid shirt. Always a bridesmaid… 😉
  26. Various LSU tee
  27. Love Purple Live Gold campaign tee
  28. Front of custom Meriwether tee
  29. LSU/UCLA Final Four tee ’06
  30. LSU Fall Fest tee

It IS LSU heavy, but hey, when in Baton Rouge… I’m actually happy with the range of colors and graphics for my quilt, and I’m thrilled at all of the fun memories it will bring when I curl up in it. And just in case you’re not sure who Meriwether is: