Monday, December 31, 2012

LOW BUDGET Advertising and Promotion Ideas

Top 40 LOW BUDGET Advertising and Promotion Ideas
I started Beantown Handmade with zero start-up money, so I’ve had to get creative with free advertising strategies over the last two years. Here are my top 40 free (or super cheap) methods of promoting your Etsy shop and attracting more viewers to your products. I’ve collected all my favorite marketing and promotion articles from Handmadeology and across the web and linked to them throughout this list. Some of these we’ve heard a lot about like Facebook and Twitter, others may seem a little out there but could be worth your while. Hopefully there will a few new ideas or new articles here that will help make things happen for you and your shop!
1. Take great photos so your items reach Etsy’s Front Page – this has been the most successful free advertising we’ve had in our two years on Etsy
2. Create Treasuries, Be in Treasuries
3. Make connections with Twitter
4. Make connections with Facebook
5. Post photos of your process on Flickr and participate in Flickr groups, Tumblr is another great blog/photo site
6. Comment on the Etsy blog, The Storque
7. Write your own blog, create meaningful content
8. Comment on other blogs, many blogs will link your name back to your website. When you comment make sure you enter your website in the field that asks for it.
9. Do a giveaway on a blog or website
10. Use all 14 tags to describe your item, use a few unique words/colors/descriptors
11 Offer promo codes on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc.
12. Post promo codes to sites like Etsy Saver
13. Include promo codes for returning buyers in your orders
14. Send out a monthly/quarterly shop newsletter with a free site like MailChimp
15. Hand out business cards, take them with you everywhere
16. Participate in a craft show, make sure to hand out business cards or postcards
17. Participate in Etsy Forums/ teams
18. Shop Etsy
19. Use the Etsy favorites and circle features
20. Leave feedback for Etsy purchases and sales
21. Use Google Analytics to analyze existing traffic so you can reach your target audience and keep them in your shop
22. Keep visitors in your shop by Including links to shops sections and other items in your listing descriptions
23. Fill in your country, city and state so people can find you using the Shop Local feature
24. Sign up for the Etsy newsletters so you can stay on top of opportunities, merchandising topics, and current trends
25. Optimize listing descriptions for google search
26. Ship internationally
27. Donate items to charity fundraisers, include a stack of business cards
28. Brand your items with sewn in tags, hang tags, and packaging (especially if you wholesale)
29. Provide awesome service and communication to your existing customers, they’ll tell their friends
30. Find free places to advertise in your local community – put your business cards up in coffee shops, at your salon, gym, or places your customers might frequent
31. Post your items in the Handmadeology Market
32. Optimize your shop’s SEO with backlinks
33. Offer a variety of items at different price points, this will attract a wider range of buyers to your listings
34. Use your own products in public as much as possible (wear them, etc.)
35. Post tutorials on YouTube
36. Collaborate with another Etsian
37. Create a Kaboodle profile
38. Enlist family, friends and trusted clients to help you spread the word about your products. Word of mouth is some of the best advertising out there.
39. List your site in internet directories40. Give out a free trial product – not something we all want to do, but sometimes if you make something great it can pay to let people try it out firsthand
I would love to hear some additional ways you’ve found to creatively promote your shop.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yummy Christmas Treat

Christmas Crunch {Funfetti Popcorn Christmas Style}

Easy and festive Christmas treat? Where? I'm definitely in! I posted this delicious treat back during Easter time and it was called Bunny Bait. In the post I'd mentioned a few other holiday ideas you could do with the same recipe and here's one of them. This is one of the best treats ever! I'm so glad Bake at 350 came up with such a simple and delicious idea (such a great blog by the way be sure to check it out). It seriously only takes about 5 minutes to whip up this treat, so wouldn't it be a perfect gift to give during the hectic holidays? I say it's the perfect "energy" snack for me during the holidays =). It definitely keeps me going! Just a warning, this stuff is addictive so yes it's a dangerous thing. Easy to make but hard to stop eating. I want to make it every day. It's such a versatile snack that has such a delightful crunch. 
Add as many sprinkles as your heart desires. Mine wanted a lot today =). I love sprinkles. Aren't they just fancy? Also, if you'd like you can switch up the candy melt flavor with a mint or peppermint flavor. Enjoy!

Christmas Crunch

1/2 cup popping popcorn kernels, or 2 bags tender white popcorn
1 (12 oz) bag Vanilla Candy Melts (such as Wilton Candy Melts)
1 1/3 cups broken pretzel pieces
1 (12 oz) bag green and red Milk Chocolate or Mint M&Ms
Red, green and white Sprinkles (I used Jingle Mix Nonpareils)

Pop popcorn in a popcorn popper into a large bowl (or alternately in the microwave if using microwave bags of popcorn) according to manufactures directions.  Remove any unpopped popcorn kernels.  Toss in broken pretzel pieces and M&Ms.  
Melt Vanilla Candy Melts in a microwave safe bowl on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth.  Drizzle half of melted chips over popcorn mixture, then stir, tossing gently a few times with a rubber spatula.  Then drizzle remaining half of melted chips over popcorn, and gently stir mixture until evenly coated (don't over stir though or your sprinkles wont stick if the white chips begin to set and harden).  Pour mixture into a single layer onto wax paper.  Sprinkle entire mixture evenly with sprinkles (as many as you'd like) before vanilla chips set.  Allow to cool and harden, then gently break into pieces and store in an airtight container. 
Note: I was able to fill 8 - 9 1/2"x 4" party treat bags about 2/3 full with this recipe, just to let you know so you have an idea for gift giving.

*These can be found in the cake decorating section of some supermarkets, at craft stores or at specialty kitchen kneads stores. 

Recipe Source: Adapted from Bake at 350

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowman Ornament

Here is a fun craft to do with kids of all ages from Rockabye Butterfly.  It's very simple and very fun for them to do.

Supplies:  Glue, Wax paper, and snowman decors.

With glue, draw out a snowman on wax paper.

Then fill in the snowman evenly with a thick layer of glue.  Butterfly and I used our fingers to spread it into the circles.

Then Butterfly added the snowman details and a pipe cleaner to hang.

I let this dry overnight as it took some time, then I peeled it off the wax paper carefully.  Dried up glue like this feels like soft flexible plastic.

Hang in a window and the light will shine through!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gift for Him

My husband is very hard to shop for.  I always try to surprise him with something nice and unexpected.  I found this awesome idea from Visual Heart and am so excited!  I will be making this for him for Christmas and I can write this here because I know he doesn't read my blog :)-  It's really sweet and I think he will really like it:

52 Things I Love About You

I created a template using Adobe Illustrator, measured the size of the card and filled in the type within. Once printed on card stock, I cut out each square by hand. I glued them to the cards using a thin layer of basic mod-podge, but you could also use rubber cement for a faster drying time.
A few people have been asking if I hand wrote the sayings. I’ve decided to provide a link to the font I used, it’s called Mari & David


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Beaded Heart Ornaments

These aren't really jewelry for our Jewelry Spotlight, but they have beads and they sparkle, so I thought - What the heck?!  I thought these were really cute and a fun thing to make for Valentine's Day- which will be here sooner than we think!  Found on Arts and Crafts Collection.

Heart Strings

What you’ll need

  • Glue
  • A spring clothespin
  • Needle and thread
  • Beads

How to make it

  • Heart Strings Step 1
    To make each ornament, first fold an 8- to 16-inch length of ribbon in half, then shape the sides to form a heart, as shown. Glue the ribbon ends together, using the clothespin as a clamp until the glue dries.
  • Heart Strings Step 2
    Next, thread the needle with a 3-foot length of thread, doubling it and knotting the ends together. Choose a bead or two to dangle below the heart. Pass the needle up through the bottom bead, then between the threads near the knot to secure it in place (see diagram). Add a second bead, if you like, then secure the beads in place with a single stitch through the bottom point of the heart.
  • Pass the needle and thread up through the bottom of the heart. Add on more beads until you reach the glued center point of the heart, then secure the thread to the ribbon with another stitch before passing the needle up through the top of the heart. If you like, you can string on more beads above the heart. Pass the thread through the top bead twice to secure it. Cut the thread just below the needle, then knot the ends. Hang your beaded heart ornaments on a door, in a sunny window, or from an overhead fixture.

    ~Jennifer McKinnie
  • Monday, December 17, 2012

    Cleaning Tip for Stove Hood Filter

    How To Clean That Greasy Stove Hood Filter

    cleaning the greasy stove vent filter
    Today’s post is going to AMAZE you….and at the same time probably GROSS YOU OUT a little. You’ve been forewarned.
    I didn’t start out my day with the intention of grappling with this particularly onerous task…but as is often the case with me, one thing led to another and there I was, off on one of my cleaning tangents. Of course the RESULTS made it all worthwhile…but not before I asked myself (several times)….how did I get myself into this???
    cleaning the greasy stove vent filterWell, it all started with a burnt out light bulb.  I was making a grilled cheese sandwich for my youngest on the stove when POOF!…the light above the stove went out. Since I have this thing about needing to SEE what it is I’m cooking…I had to put the cheese sandwich on hold while I went in search of a new bulb.
    As I was changing the bulb I unfortunately noticed the condition of the UNDERSIDE of the hood above my stove. OY!!!  Kinda wish I hadn’t done that. You see normally all I see is THIS SIDE of the stove hood, which I manage to keep pretty clean. Looks nice doesn’t it? Well don’t let that fool you…underneath lurks a beast!

    cleaning the greasy stove vent filter
    A beast in the form of the OVEN VENT FILTER! I must have looked at that thing a hundred times and not even thought twice about how dirty it must be….until today that is.  This blogging stuff is getting to me!  And of course once something gets in my head…as the hubster will attest…you might as well forget it. It’s all over. There’s no use in even TRYING to get it out.  It’s there to stay until *I* decide it goes.
    So slight change of plans for the afternoon. I finished the grilled cheese sandwich and went to consult with my friend Google. It didn’t take long for me to find an incredibly helpful and informative website called The Manly Housekeeper where the (manly) Mark did a post about this very subject just 12 short days ago! How weird is that?
    I immediately decided the idea had merit…so I was off and running with it. Little did I know what I was getting myself in to.
    Mark’s “How-To” on cleaning greasy oven vent filters is simple.  Haul out your biggest pot, fill it with water and bring it to a boil.  Then add 1/2 cup of BAKING SODA….VERY SLOWLY! Literally, you have to add it about a tablespoon at a time because it IMMEDIATELY fizzes up quite alarmingly! (The fizz goes right away.) Then take your caked-with-grease filter and submerge it in the pot. (Well, 1/2 of it anyway.)
    cleaning the greasy stove vent filter
    For the first few minutes I watched in fascination as the boiling water went to work on the grease. You could see it just melting off. But my fascination soon turned to disgust (bordering on horror!) as I continue to watch my filter “cook” in the water. I think the pictures tell the story…
    cleaning the greasy stove vent filter

    Don’t worry, this came clean easily with some Dawn dishwashing liquid.
    Oh. My. Goodness. I couldn’t believe how much grease just kept bubbling up to the surface! I finally decided that I should empty this pot o’ sludge…and give the vent another treatment with a clean pot of water and more baking soda. So I took out the vent, and dumped the grease slick out in the backyard (I wasn’t ABOUT to dump it down my sink!). When I got back in I decided to try rinsing the vent with really hot water out of the tap before boiling it again, but it turned out that’s all it took to get the rest of the grease out. I kept rinsing until the water ran clear….and that was that.
    Before and After pics:
    cleaning the greasy stove vent filter
    After letting the vent dry for the rest of the day propped up on top of the stove…I returned it to it’s “home” tonight and had to admit it was a pretty great feeling knowing it was now a GREASE-FREE zone.  All-in-all it really was a simple fix…one that could have been a lot worse had it involved hand-to-hand combat with the grease. Come to think of it…the only time my hands touched grease was taking the filter out in the first place. Thanks Manly Mark! I owe you one! :-)

    Friday, December 14, 2012

    Beautiful Christmas Cheesecake

    Holiday Cheesecake
    •1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
    •1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
    •2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    •6 tablespoons butter, melted
    •4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
    •1 cup sugar
    •3 teaspoons vanilla extract
    •4 eggs, lightly beaten
    •1 cup (6 ounces) miniature semisweet chocolate chips
    •2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
    •1/4 cup sugar
    •Assorted candies
    •Place an ungreased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.
    •In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, pecans and brown sugar; stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1-1/2 in. up the sides of prepared pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
    •In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into crust. Place in a larger baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
    •Bake at 325° for 1-1/2 hours or until center is just set and top appears dull. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar until smooth; spoon over hot cheesecake and spread to cover. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until topping is just set.
    •Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of can. Garnish with candies. Yield: 16 servings.

    Thursday, December 13, 2012

    Kid-Made Wrapping Paper

    LOVE this idea from Splash of Something!  So cute and your kids will have an absolute blast.  My kiddos love to paint anything they can and also enjoy painting themselves so this is perfect for them :)  Also, you can use this idea for birthdays too, instead of turning the fingerprints into Christmas lights, turn them into birthday balloons instead!  Fun Fun!

    What you’ll need:• craft paint in a few colors (preferably something washable if you’re working with kiddos)
    • an inky black pen or thin black marker
    • double-sided tape
    • one piece of simple construction paper or cardstock, in a color that matches your paint
    • white or brown craft paper
    How you do it:Cut the white or brown craft paper into a piece large enough to wrap your package. Find the center of the paper, where it will cover the top of your box. Dip your finger (or your little helper’s finger) into the paint, and begin adding fingerprints in a line across that center portion of the paper. Add different colored prints to suit your fancy.
    Once the fingerprints have dried, use the pen to turn the prints into lights. Add a sketchy connectors to the tops of the bulbs, and then connect them together with a loopy line.
    Keeping in mind where the lights are positioned, wrap the package. Then finish it off with a matching bow made from the construction paper or cardstock.


    Wednesday, December 12, 2012

    Handmade Gift Boxes

    My family and I are starting a new Christmas tradition of making a boatload of cookies and then giving them out to neighbors, family, and local shelters.  I found this gift box tutorial from Homemade Gifts Made Easy and thought - Yes!  this is the perfect container for our cookies!  I'm going to try to put about four sheets of 12 X 12 cardstock together to make my boxes bigger.  Here's what you do:

    Picture Instructions for Box Base

    This design works best with thin card, about the same thickness as a greeting card. In fact, you can even make your own gift boxes out of last year's Christmas cards.
    Sizing: If you make your box from a 12 inch square, it will turn out the same size as a tie box, about 4 by 4 by 2 inches.
    Make the base from a square piece of paper, with side lengths 1/3 of an inch (1cm)smaller than the piece you use for the lid. But if you use really thick card, then use a square with side lengths 2/3 of an inch (2cm) shorter than the lid-piece.
    make your own gift box
    Step 1: Start with a square piece of paper, nice side facing down. Make a small crease in the centre of each side. I like to mark each crease lightly with a pencil too.
    make your own gift box
    Step 2: Fold all four corners to the centre, using the creases from the previous step as guides.
    make your own gift box
    Step 3: Fold and unfold each side to the centre.
    make your own gift box
    Step 4: Unfold everything. You will have the pattern of creases shown here. Cut along the bolded lines.
    make your own gift box
    Step 5: Fold top and bottom corners to the centre.
    make your own gift box
    Step 6: Fold flaps up along the dotted lines so that they point straight up toward you.
    make your own gift box
    Step 7: Fold top and bottom edges so that they point up toward you.
    make your own gift box
    Step 8: It should look like this. Now fold the flaps on the left and right into the centre.
    make your own gift box
    Step 9: Finished! 

    Picture Instructions for Box Lid

    Remember to use a larger piece of paper for the lid. About 1/3 of a inch larger if you're using thin card, or 2/3 of an inch larger if you're using thick card.
    make your own gift box
    Step 1: Follow steps 1 to 3 of thebase instructions. Then unfold until your paper looks like this. Finally, fold the top and bottom edges to the centre, as shown by the dotted lines here.
    make your own gift box
    Step 2: Fold and unfold along the dotted lines shown here.
    make your own gift box
    Step 3: Completely unfold the paper. You will have a pattern of creases like this. Cut along the bolded lines. 
    make your own gift box
    Step 4: Fold the top and bottom corners to the centre.
    make your own gift box
    Step 5: Fold along the dotted lines shown here
    make your own gift box
    Step 6: The rest of the folding is the same as step 6 and onward of the base instructions. Fold the flaps up to face you, etc...
    make your own gift box
    Step 7: Finished! Here's a picture of the lid and base together.

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012

    Embroidery Beads

    This is an awesome project from Lines Across, especially for someone like me who has tons and tons of embroidery thread left over from the many many many failed attempts at making the fancy knotted friendship bracelets with my daughter.  I think we could both do this and enjoy it much more :)  So many color possibilities as well.  You don't have to make beads of only one color- try two or make a pattern, the possibilities are endless!

    What you need:

    1. Scraps of paper or card stock
    2. Scraps of embroidery thread
    3. Mod Podge

    What you do:

    1. Cut your paper to the width that you want your beads to be. Wrap the paper around something like a BBQ skewer (other ideas: a long nail, a thin paint brush, a toothpick...) and glue the ends together. Make sure you don't glue the paper to the skewer.

    2. Apply a coat of Mod Podge to the outside of the paper bead. Start wrapping the scrap piece of thread around the paper.

    3. Trim the extra thread and add a thin layer of Mod Podge to the outside of the bead. Let the bead dry (I moved the bead along the skewer a few times while it was drying to make sure it didn't get stuck).

    Now you can use these beads to make a bracelet, or you can mix them with other beads. I think they would look especially cute as a part of a hemp friendship bracelet.

    Monday, December 10, 2012

    An Easier Solution For a Mini Gingerbread House

    Judy Moore’s Mini Gingerbread House

    Item’s you will need:
    Royal Icing
    quart size zip lock bag(to pipe on icing)
    graham crackers
    candy to decorate your house
    cardboard wrapped in foil(for the house to sit on)
    crunchy oat squares(thatch roof..this is optional)
    Begin your project with a piece of cardboard covered in foil for your base. I cut the graham crackers with a sharp knife in the shapes shown in the photos. I always use royal icing to “glue” the house base to the platform because it dries VERY hard. You can put your icing into a quart sized freezer bag and snip off a small corner of the bag for easy application. The Recipe for Royal Icing is included in the package of Wilton Meringue Powder. You can buy meringue powder at Michael’s. If you can’t find meringue powder, just google a recipe for a similar icing that calls for egg whites.  Assemble the house with royal icing. You can see how we assembled the house in the photos below.  Add your roof and let your house sit for a little bit to dry. Now it’s time to decorate!  There are really no limits to what you can use to accessorize your house!  I recommend spending a moment on the candy isle for inspiration!

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Cheese and Bacon Potato Rounds

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    Original recipe makes 4 servings Change Servings


    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
    2. Brush both side of potato slices with butter; place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in the preheated 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned on both sides, turning once.
    3. When potatoes are ready, top with bacon, cheese, and green onion; continue baking until the cheese has melted
    Kitchen-Friendly View
    • PREP 20 mins
    • COOK 40 mins
    • READY IN 1 hr