I’ve received a few questions in response to Tuesday’s post and I thought I would share the answers with everyone. This post is very wordy and long, but I truly hope this helps those who have questions…
First, I was asked to recommend a decent low-cost camera. I have not been a point-n-shoot girl for years, so I really don’t know what good bargains are out there. I do know that you can take awesome pictures with a point-n-shoot camera, though. Ms. Funky Junk herself, Donna, is a great example of that. Check out the photography on her blog. (She’s an award winning photographer with her point-n-shoot!) Read through her Photography Workshop Series for all of her tips and tricks.
When it comes to buying a camera, I would highly, highly suggest that you save your pennies and buy a digital SLR by either Nikon or Cannon. I’m a Nikon girl, myself, but both are excellent brands. I bought a Nikon SLR package years ago from 17th Street Photo and included a zoom (70-300) lens. The camera package came with a 35mm SLR body, a 28-80 lens, a tripod, bag, warranty and a bunch of other accessories. The reason I went with Nikon is that they have made the same SLR lens socket for decades, so I know any Nikon lenses I buy will work with any Nikon camera. When it came time to go digital, all I needed to buy was the body. I bought a refurbished D50 with birthday money for about $300…I think. I’ve had this camera for about three years and I love it. Here are some things to look out for when you’re buying a camera…
There are some very suspect companies that sell cameras online, so make sure you check out reviews and customer feedback before making a purchase. 17th Street Photo and B and H are my go-to places for camera gear.
Don’t buy a camera that is “grey market” or “US Warranty.” It means you have to send your camera to Asia if there’s ever a problem with it. Look for “USA.”
Educate yourself on how to use your camera. It doesn’t make sense to spend almost $1000 on a camera and lenses if you use it like a point-n-shoot. Read the manual and/or take a workshop on digital photography.
As I said on Tuesday, photography is very important if you want a successful blog and want to sell online. It’s worth putting some time and money into it. You’ll definitely get it all back. (And you’ll be a better family photographer to boot!)
The absolute best thing you can do to improve your photography right away is to shut off the flash and use natural light. Try it. You may be surprised what even a dinky camera can do.
What Price is Right?
I received a few questions about pricing and this is something I’ve discussed with other vendors and designers as well. Some people have a formula, like investment + labor + desired profit = price, but it’s much more of a “soft” thing for me. It’s a gut feel. I make a huge profit on some things (like a pair of end tables I bought for $3.00 and sold for $180) and I make a small profit on other things. People are always telling me my prices are too low and I’m working on it, but I’m a cheap person and a DIYer, so it’s hard for me to imagine paying a lot for something. I also like to keep my pieces affordable for the average person (like me.) So, take it or leave it, here are some principles I follow.
Remember the old saying, “You make your money when you buy.” That is so true in this business. You make a bigger profit when you shop smart. I don’t buy antiques if I can’t at least double the price and I try to keep my furniture purchases around $20-40. I pay more for a piece if it’s really substantial or really special. This takes a learning curve. I’ve made a lot of dumb purchases and I’m sure I’ll make more. Just go with your gut, buy things you like, and buy things that are usable and make sense for your market.
Pay Yourself. When I first started with my ornaments, I thought, “I paid $.30 for the ornament and already had the paint, so I’ll charge about $2.00 for the ornament.” OK…that’s stupid. It took me a long time to hand paint each one, so I was paying myself $1.70 for all of that work. It just wasn’t worth it (which is one reason why I don’t paint those anymore!) Make sure you’re giving yourself a reasonable hourly rate for your work and focus on projects that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Know Your Market. If you sell at a junky flea market (between the tube sock lady and 1990’s computer equipment guy), you’re not going to be able to charge a lot for your pieces. People just aren’t coming to buy high end and expensive pieces. If you’re selling in a chic shop or at a popular antique market, your venue will support a higher price tag.
“If demand is greater than supply, your prices are too low.” My brother always tells me this after I sell out of something fast. (Have I mentioned before that he’s the one who named me “Miss Mustard Seed”?) If things are flying out of your space and you can’t keep up, this is a good indicator that you need to increase your prices or you need to teach your toddlers how to make glittered letters and sheet music wreaths. (Just kidding. No need to call the child labor department.)
Lower is not always better. Sometimes when I price things really low, in my mom’s opinion, I’m reminded that people might think there’s something wrong with it or it’s a piece of crap. (I was going to say “junk” instead of “crap”, but we like junk around here, don’t we?) Make sure you’re not underselling yourself or your stuff.
Higher is not always better. I have seen ridiculous prices on total pieces of crap. I mean, unbelievable. Or even really high prices on things that are nice, but they’re nowhere near as nice as people think they are. Just because something is old, “collectible”, or you love it, doesn’t mean it’s worth a lot. Be realistic and listen if people are consistently telling you your prices are too high. I tend to err on the side of pricing things too low, because I want to move inventory. I’d rather sell something for $200 and move it in a few weeks or months than sell it at $300 after it’s been sitting around for a few years.
Ask for advice, but stay within your comfort zone. I’m always asking people what they think of a price on something or what they would pay for something. It helps me to stay in a realistic range. Ultimately, you need to go with what you’re comfortable with. You have to be proud of your product and know it’s worth what you’re asking. If you’re unsure about it, ask around until you get a better feel.
You do not need a designer to start a blog. Just go to Blogger and click on “Create a Blog.” Pick a template you like, add the side bar gadgets you want, and go from there. (Dreamy Whites is an excellent example of this. Maria uses a simple template, but has a gorgeous blog and it is growing like a weed!) My blog was really simple when I started and I learned along the way. Google questions you have or ask other bloggers. A lot of people helped me and gave me tips along the way. My designer (she does my blog, website, business cards, everything) is a close friend, so that’s handy. She’s in school right now, so I’m her guinea pig and class projects. Tap into the techies in your life (if you have teenagers, give them about an hour with your blog and they’ll get you set up) and then worry about getting a designer when your blog is becoming profitable. Here are some tips on growing your blog.
Leave lots of comments on blogs you like. When I first started I would leave comments everywhere and often. I’d visit the blogs of other people who left comments on blogs I liked. Eventually, people started visiting me and leaving comments. Then, they’d start following me. I remember the excitement of reaching 10…20…100 followers.
Participate in lots of parties. Now this doesn’t mean you should SPAM every party you see. Link up to the ones that are appropriate for your post and link back to their party. Also, visit other people participating in the party and leave comments. You don’t want to be the guest who shows up, eats the appetizers and leaves without talking to anyone, right? You’ll see your hits, comments, and followers grow immediately from these parties.
Make a button. It doesn’t take much to make a button. Again, ask a tech savvy teenager to help and you’ll be up an running in no time. People can then grab your button and spread the word about your blog.
Make friends. Leave personal comments and send personal e-mails to people you really like. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, you never know who will become a good blog buddy and will help to promote you. And please…be gracious and nice. I’ve come across and heard of some really pushy people who insist their blog be added to a side bar or who make a case out of people not linking back to their party. Just relax and let things happen naturally.
Be you…someone else is already taken. If you try to make your blog a carbon copy of a blog you like…well…why go to the copy if you can visit the original, right? We all share ideas and are inspired by others, but do it in your own way. Put your own spin and style on your blog. Be authentic and creative People will eat it up!
The last thing, which is most important, is your posts have to be good to gain followers and subscribers. Write about things that you love that others will be interested in reading about. Take great pictures and give good information. People love tutorials, tips, how-to’s, before and afters, makeovers, and clever ideas. Think about what you love about your favorite magazine and bring that to your blog (on a one-woman-show scale.)
It’s “open mic” comment time and I’m all ears.