Another Monday, another installment of “Behind The Blog”, our series showcasing all of you who are both bloggers and business owners. We’ve previously introduced you to Sarah Moody who organises bloggers events, Jim and Lynette who run an illustration business and Sarah Akwisombe who is an interior designer and stylist.
Today we’re interviewing Claire, a lover of all things handmade, maker, Etsy shop-owner, craft parties host and published author and contributor. I hope you will find this an interesting read and learn from her insights and experience. Don’t forget to give her blog a read and to leave any questions in the comment section below.
If you’re a blogger business-owner yourself, whether your venture is big or small, established or the new kid on the block, I would really love to hear from you for this series. Just get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss being featured.
Hi Claire, it’s a pleasure to interview you for “Behind the Blog” today; we love to showcase the side-businesses, entrepreneurship, and creativity of our talents. Let’s dive right in:
To start off, can you tell us a little bit more about you: where are you from, what did you graduate in and what has been your career path so far?
I’m Claire, a craft blogger, designer, maker and writer from Cambridge. Many moons ago I trained as a dancer, but soon realised there just weren’t enough jobs! After a study break and finding a grown up job as a PA, I undertook a Masters in Arts Management via night school and began Claireabellemakes shortly after graduating.
How long have you had your blog and what do you write about?
I started the blog in April 2012. I write about crafts, running my creative business and living a handmade lifestyle. I love to share my city too as I adore where I live. I have a small obsession with bicycles and also stationery, so they are common themes on my blog. I am also a chronic migraine sufferer so I sometimes write about my health struggles and how craft helps me.
To what extent having a blog informed your desire to start a business?
Having a blog has reignited my creativity. As a dancer, I often choreographed too, but blogging feels like a different kind of creativity. It’s more personal and somehow there is more control. I can change and develop every element of the content and design. It seemed natural that a business evolved from it, where I could be my own boss and experiment.
Can you tell us a little bit about your business and when/how you started it?
I began my handmade accessories business in July 2012. It started with a few fabric rings and Scrabble accessories and expanded from there. I decided to sell my products on Etsy as it is an international market place. Etsy has allowed me to connect with customers across the globe. For some reason unknown to me, the Australians are crazy about Scrabble accessories! All my products have a connection to my home city of Cambridge, with bicycles featuring too.
I also have other streams to my business such as writing and hosting craft parties. The latter is particularly fun as I get to help people celebrate and enjoy craft.
Do you think blogging played a role in giving you the drive, tools or confidence to make that desire a reality?
The blog and the community surrounding blogging have definitely given me a drive and passion I didn’t have before. Without sounding too soul searchy, I think blogging can be a journey of self discovery. The more you do something, the more your confidence grows and I’ve experienced that with blogging and the awesome community. Blogging has pushed me to do things that were outside of my comfort zone like writing for a publisher and attending creative business events (with Nuffnanger Jesse!).
[Jesse’s edit: Pleasure! Thank you for being my plus one at the Crafty Fox Talk – and I see you’ve gone to a second one :p.]
Did you seek anyone’s advice or insights before you took the plunge and what is the best piece of advice you were given?
I read a whole ton of creative business books before I started and researched how other craft businesses were putting themselves out there. Years ago in one of my first office jobs, an academic told me that it is possible to say “No”. I’d never really thought of it before, I guess I was young and a people pleaser.
It stuck with me in everything I ever did after that and especially for my business. I want to keep my integrity and promote my products in the most authentic way possible, so I now feel certain of the things I should say yes to and what is best to avoid. One of the things I know my business could benefit from is a creative mentor. I would love to find someone who could guide me into taking my business to the next level.
Did you set a timeline or goals for launching and growing your business or has it been very organic so far?
I always knew I wanted to start a blog first and spent 6 months networking on social media before I launched anything. I wanted to have a following first and to immerse myself in the creative world to observe trends and interact. The business has evolved organically over the last two years, but now I am turning a profit I am working towards 6 month goals and planning more strategies which integrate with my blog.
Would you change anything you’ve done in launching or developing your business?
I have never written a business plan. It’s all my head and I wonder how things might have been different had I cemented ideas on paper before starting.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
I’m working towards what you might call a ‘portfolio career’ with multiple income streams. One of the ways I make money is to write for publishers for craft books. Doing this has really pushed me out of my comfort zone and I have doubted my abilities as I know I am just beginning in this area. But, as one of my followers reminded me this week, everyone has to start somewhere! So far, the feedback has all been positive which was a relief!
What is the thing you have been proudest of?
Funnily enough, one of the things I am most proud of is the biggest challenge too. Seeing your work in a craft book is a pretty special feeling. Recently, I also had an Etsy order from someone I admire greatly and I was so chuffed.
How do you organise your workday and how to you keep motivated/focused to deal with your different varied priorities?
I wrote an entire blog post about this as I think it is always useful to hear organisational tips! I use a Filofax system to stay organised (I love paper) and I find it has been the most effective way for me to keep on top of my blog, business and personal life.
Bullet journaling has been a revelation for me and is the simplest analogue way I have found to stay organised and productive. I think there is a big difference in being organised and being productive. I love to use list keeping apps too.
What are the next steps you will be focusing on to grow your business?
My next big plan is to rebrand! I’m actually quite anxious about this, but I feel it is time for a refresh and for a new look and approach. In the winter I will have a craft market schedule to get my products out there for Christmas. I always find markets a great way to get instant feedback from customers and I love meeting other sellers.
Is there anything you can share with bloggers wanting to start their own business too?
Research as much as possible and contact people you admire for advice. Don’t always go with the trends, but go with what you are passionate about. If it isn’t in your heart people will see right through it.
Claire, thank you so much for sharing your insights and experience with us and fellow bloggers -entrepreneurs reading us. Nuffnangers, get in touch with Claire on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +.
I’d also recommend you check out her Etsy store and add her lovely blog ClaireabelleMakes to your RSS feed. And if you have any questions or comments for Claire, please leave them in the section below so she can reply to you directly.
Connect with our community of over 1200 UK bloggers and influencers on Twitter, Instagram, Google +, Pinterest and Facebook. Interested in working together on our next blog features, campaigns and blogger events? Just get in touch.