I hope you enjoy my new blog, with fluffy love and quacks, Mother Duck xxxx

Sunday, 28 July 2013

I am my own worst customer for bespoke items!

How hard can it be?
After all I do it all the time, for customers
I am trying to create a bag for myself.
Seriously how hard can it be?

I sort of know how big it needs to be and I sort of know how many pockets it needs.
I sort of know just how long the handles should be too.
But I cannot translate that into a sketch, and I don't think I will ever get to the real design stage where I can draw a pattern for my bag.

When I talk to my customers about how they want their bags to look it all seems so much easier; they know sort of what size it needs to be and by talking to them I somehow manage to help them settle on the exact size and shape. So why is that so hard for ME to decide?

When I talk to my customers about what they need to put in their bags we manage to decide on the number of pockets, inside and out. So why is that so hard for ME to decide?

When I talk to my customers they know whether they want zips, magnetic catches, a flap over the top of the bag AND how long they want the handles. So why is that so hard for ME to decide?

The subject of fabric is always the one that causes the biggest problem ... because of course that is what decides what the bag will ultimately look like. The choice isn't as simple as patterned or plain fabrics; the type of fabric really helps decide on the finished structure of the bag, a simple cotton will not have as much structure as canvas for example (although a cotton fabric can be given structure if needed!) I haven't even thought about what fabrics I want to use!

I seriously thought making a bag for myself would be easy, after all I do it for other people but I am totally scuppered. I know that it needs to be large enough to carry all my kit and caboodle and a I prefer longer straps BUT that does not make a bag!

What do you like about your favourite use every day bag?
Do you carry things that need special sized pockets?
Do you like pockets to be on the inside or the outside?
What about zips - love them or hate them?

Tell me about your favourite bag and what makes it your favourite. I need all the help I can get to help me channel my mind into making a bag for me.

I think I might even be tempted into giving away a bag once I have made my own!
So keep watching the Blog (I know I don't write it as often as I should) and you will see my new bag created and I will announce a chance for you too win a new bag - the give away won't be one of my bespoke bags but the winner might have some say in the colours etc (I haven't decided yet)

So please help me create my perfect everyday bag by telling me about yours.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Not on the naughty step - just a time out.

If you follow Dizzy Ducks over on Facebook you will know that I frequently remind everyone that they should take some "me time" - I don't mean a spa break or desert island holiday (although both do sound rather blissful and divine). I mean just a 10 minute break from whatever you are doing to allow you to recoup your energy or flagging spirits.

I am as guilty as the next person for not taking breaks when I am up against a deadline or so into a project I just forget to stop. I have on occasion even forgotten to eat or stop for a drink!

No matter what you do find time in your day for some me time ... a 10 minute break in whatever you are doing (more than one a day would be better) or at the very least a lunch break. If you can, I suggest you leave your work area, a short walk maybe? Take a 10 minute break, a cuppa, lunch, a stroll, a walk round the garden ... ten minutes is often all you need to recoup flagging spirits, especially if you manage to eat or drink in the process.

So take a time out ... and not on the naughty step (unless you think you should) look after yourself, especially if you are working for yourself - I have heard the excuse "but I am a sole trader, if I don't keep going things just don't happen" - I say to those people remember that me, myself and I all become exhausted at the same time when working on your own. If you look after yourself you are making sure you are fit to look after your business.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Refuse to be flattered if they copy your work!

'It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation' .. Herman Melville

Imagine the scenario ... you have an idea, you sketch and re-sketch until you think it is just right. You then spend time creating the item to see if the idea will work, you work and re-work it until you are happy with it. Then the fun begins you get to do more research looking for suitable materials to create it in a form that you think it might sell. You order the materials and get excited when they arrive. After unpacking them, checking and rechecking your sketches and patterns you take the plunge and go for it; carefully and lovingly creating the finished item. Hurrah, it looks amazing and you can't wait to see what your customers think. You work and re-work the costing of the item making sure that you have dotted the i's and crossed the t's - you are happy with the figure you finally come up with.

Then there is more planning in preparation for the launch of the new item; it needs photographing and the words writing to describe it, making sure you show it at its best. Finally you are ready to launch it via whatever sales platform you are going to use, you announce it on your Blog, Facebook Page, Website etc and you wait, a little bit afraid that nobody will like it. If you got all the planning right someone will think it is wonderful and want to buy it; then you allow yourself to sigh in relief, especially if more than one person wants to buy it!

Then it happens, something that many crafter designers dread, you are told that so & so are selling a bag, box, vase, ring or whatever your wonderful new item is on their website, Facebook page, etc  you grit your teeth, try hard not to get angry and upset as you go in search of your item being sold somewhere else. There it is, maybe the colour is a little different and you are convinced the quality is no where near as good as yours BUT it is your new design in all its glory. What do you do next? If you are an emotional person you are likely to shout, maybe even scream and possible cry. After all, you put in all that hard work, for some crafter designers a new design will be years in the making, you can't believe that somebody has done this to you.

What do you do next? Some people will just brush it off and say hey its ok everyone gets copied at some time, others will prepare themselves for a battle and do everything they can to claim back their design as their own. If you want to do that, seek advice first, don't go in there all guns blazing, know exactly where you stand in the law etc. Just knowing it is your design is not enough to stop someone copying it and using it to make themselves a profit.

In the past I was told that I should be flattered that someone has copied my work. I wasn't, trust me. I was emotional, angry and weeping all over the place. I wasn't able to do anything about it at the time but I learnt from the experience. I try to make sure that photographs of my work have my mark on them ... often the company name, my name and the month/year. I have stopped sharing work in progress photos on Facebook, and I tend to only share ideas with people I trust but much of my new work never sees the light of day because I feel they are too easy to copy.

What I am trying to say here is, should you be tempted to copy anyone, stop and think before you do, think about all the hard work the designer has to put in BEFORE they created an object they considered ready to sell. After all think of what work YOU have to put in when you steal a design ... you may be able to copy the idea from photographs but you still have to figure out how the original was made; with some items it may be easy but with others you will have to buy the item and de-construct it, make a pattern and work from it. That is actually a lot of work, people, including me, have called those that copy LAZY but actually copying a design can be hard work too, the lazy part is the actual stealing the idea/concept.

Please be unique, use all the energy you have to copy in creating your own designs, give it a go you might be surprised at what you can do.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Lists,sticky notes & mind mapping BUT what is the answer?

No matter how hard I think things are as a self employed home worker I know that by some planning and hard work on my part I can actually make it easier.

How many people have a rolling to do list - one that never ends - as you take one job off the top you add half a dozen to the bottom. What happens to the BIG stuff, the important stuff that you know you have to do but avoid doing, those things that are perhaps a bit scary to face up to. Where do they go? Do you just hope you will get round to them soon or are you proactive and push through those scary phone calls and emails/letters? Mother Duck has lists upon lists upon lists and can guarantee that somewhere along the line something important will get lost or forgotten.
I am addicted to little sticky notes, in bright colours; I stick them on the shelf above my desk, on the desk, in my diary, indeed anywhere that I think they might act as a prompt to make me do something from the to do list. They fall on the floor, get lost and another 'thing' is forgotten.

At the start of each month I try to create a mind map of the month - appointments, events I am standing at, orders to complete etc. from that I try to create a further mind map that should enable me to see exactly what has to be done for each appointment/event. On a good month this works but it is by no means foolproof, some things still get forgotten and have to be shunted to the next month.

I have a business diary, a family diary and a personal diary!
I have to make sure that all three match but can guarantee that something will get missed out.

I am trying to find the perfect answer ... I have tried wall charts, to do lists, mind maps, diaries and the throw it all in the air in frustration method. I haven't yet found the one method that works for me, although I have to say mind mapping is the better of my choices, for me.

One thing I do try to do is move those important items off of the general to do list. I take those one by one and face them head on. They may be the most scary, which is why they have sat on the to do list for so long, but they are usually things that make me move a step closer to a more successful business. They make me acknowledge that I am a small business, that I have to answer to me and my customers if I fail to meet a deadline.

So what is the answer? I am sure that there are books on the market that will give you advice on how to organise your life, office or business. I have read many books giving advice on running a small business, running a craft orientated business, how to Blog (I'm still learning) indeed I have a shelf full of advice for my small business. I have used some of it successfully, some not so successfully and yet I struggle to find the most perfect way to organise myself and my workroom.

I am sticking (pardon the pun) to using my little coloured sticky notes and mind maps and I will be taking those scary items off my to do list one by one and facing them head on ... OK maybe I'll start with those tomorrow.

Anyone have any hints and tips to help organise this daft old duck they really would be much appreciated, leave me a comment.

Friday, 10 May 2013

But my Muse likes the mess

My workroom is in CHAOS!
Indeed it is getting out of hand; so yesterday I decided to tackle it, to put everything back in boxes and onto shelves - a big mistake. I started to discover some beautiful items which in turn sparked ideas which I just had to get down on paper; then of course I had to try some of the ideas which generated more chaos.

When in total chaos I do find that it winds me up and screams at me BUT this is whilst I am creating orders and stock. I don't like the clinical look of a perfectly clean and immaculately tidy workspace but I can no longer work scrabbling for a tiny bit of clear table space. It would be nice to be able to work at my desk without feeling claustrophobic from the piles of paperwork on each side and often obscuring the computer.

So I have pushed some papers, beads, ribbons, glues and other wonderful crafty goodies aside and started to create. I cannot see the desk top. I cannot see either work table. I cannot see most of the floor. I am not proud of myself but I cannot switch off my muse when it strikes.

I have some AMAZING shelves in the workroom AND most of the contents of the workroom do fit into boxes and onto the shelves.

BUT when I am creating I tend to take different bits from different boxes and stack the boxes on the floor next to me as I work. After I have knocked the boxes flying a few times I try and put all but the most essential ones back on the shelves BUT then they come out again because you can guarantee there is something I really need that I put back on the shelves.

It is a vicious circle.
I need taking in hand, I need an assistant, not in any real role just a wee person to sit on my shoulder reminding me to clear away as I move from job to job. To encourage me to tackle it without giving in to the temptation to create something new from treasures I find during the process.

Every so often I take a few days off and clear the workroom, until it looks terribly clean and organised. Massive work spaces uncovered, recycling dealt with, rubbish dealt with; all surfaces cleared and cleaned. Once this is done I then really struggle to become enthusiastic about being creative, almost scared to move anything, accompanied by a total creative block. My muse seems to leave home whenever I tidy the workspace completely and yet I don't see the point in doing half the job. I am sure it would be easier if I only did one type of crafting but I don't, I have so many irons in the fire (not all for the business) that it really is the problem. Yesterday somebody suggested that I tidy it in sections over the space of a week but I can't afford to take a week away from orders and creating stock.

My son took this picture of me, when we could see some of the work table ... he says I am wearing my halo BUT I am too ashamed to take a pix of what it looks like now!

In my past lives in office admin and teaching I had to be organised and tidy; often running several diaries for different people, working on lesson plans, marking etc etc BUT since I have let my creative muse take charge things have gone to chaos! The organised me exited stage left as my muse entered stage right.

How do you work?
Are you a super tidy workspace person of happy in chaos person?
Do you have any hints and tips you can share that might help organise this disorganised old duck?

love & fluffy hugs from a frustrated organised soul turned crafter
Mother Duck x

Friday, 3 May 2013

"It's the way you do it"

I have been a sole trader self employed crafter/designer/maker for a few years now and still my biggest problem is time management. When I was a teacher it was not a problem; when employed in various office roles it was not a problem. So why is it now?

Part of the problem is that I work from home; I know I am not alone in this as there are many people in different sectors working from home. Suddenly our working environment is the laundry, the dining room, the playroom or all of them. Our families and friends find it difficult (as do I, often) to distinguish between just being at home and working. 

So how do you solve the frequent visits, quick coffees and invitations to go out problem; how do you manage to get family and friends to accept that even though you don't leave the house you are working? 

I asked a friend this question recently and the reply was "it's the way you do it". I must have looked at her a little strange because she then tried to explain, at length, what I was doing wrong and how she thought I could put it right. In a nutshell she explained that I need to set boundaries, have fixed working hours and be stronger in saying no when asked out for a coffee. Simples!

Taking that advice on board I am now lucky enough to have a dedicated workroom in the house, making it easier to close the door on the rest of the house, especially at the end of my working day. I have looked at the number of hours I work and have tried to set fixed working hours; my hours are now 10 - 4 daily (Monday - Friday) BUT I often work evenings and of course weekends when doing craft fairs. If I have a craft fair at the weekend then I do allow myself time off during the week to counter the extra evenings/days.

This is all very well in theory but how do I train my family and friends to stick to my working hours? How do I train myself because I cannot control when I feel creative, when a new idea will pop into my head that I just HAVE to sketch/sew/make etc. So will find myself sketching on a napkin or scrap of paper when out with friends or at 3am when the idea just won't go away.

I don't have the answers, although I have started to plan my time better ... I love mind maps and find they are the best way for me to plan. I look at each month and try to map it ... looking at each craft fair, wedding fair and appointment deciding what they need in terms of stock to be made and supplies to be purchased.
I have abandoned my traditional style 'to do list' and each day I select one thing that I know I have been putting off and try to tackle it. I am playing with my to do list in that I avoid it being longer than 5 items long each day ... although I can of course add something new to the bottom if I cross an item off the top. Just a couple of things I am doing to make my day more effective.
This works to a certain degree but I still get easily distracted from what I should be doing by a coffee out.

I am fighting the time management demons and if anyone has any methods I could try to improve my success rate please let me know.

love & fluffy hugs from
Mother Duck

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Beading Challenge Shelved

Many thanks to those that expressed an interest in the beading challenge, sadly there has not been enough interest to warrant the expense of creating the challenge boxes, sending them out, dealing with the admin involved.
fluffy love & hugs
Mother Duck

Friday, 19 April 2013

I had some of those but I didn't do that with them

How many times have you heard people say "oh I had some of those but I didn't do that with them" especially amongst creative people. Give a group of people each a box of exactly the same materials and it is almost a certainty that they will all create something different.

Mother Duck has been thinking about this for some time and although the request for interest in such a project wasn't well received on Facebook I think I would like to give it a try ... what do you think? I want to create 10 identical boxes of beads, findings and random objects to give to 10 random people. There is a catch attached to this gift (well, you have all heard the saying "no such thing as a free lunch") If we do not get enough interest the challenge will be shelved for a future date.

*The recipients will be randomly selected.
*The recipients will agree to writing a short blurb on their final design, for publication on our Blog.
*The recipients will agree to taking photos of their final design for publication on our Blog.
*The recipients will agree for said blurb and photos being used on our website and Facebook page.
*The recipients will agree to abide by all and any terms and conditions in place in the pursuance of fairness
*The recipients will agree to the time scale set by Mother Duck and Dizzy Ducks Creations.
All final terms and conditions to be confirmed.

The opportunity to write a guest Blog here to help you promote your small business

Mother Duck will publish the pictures of all creations received by the deadline here on our Blog and people will be asked to vote for their favourite. In the event of a tie Mother Duck will remove all other pictures and there will be a second round of voting. In the event of a second tie Mother Duck will have the casting vote, explaining why she makes her choice.

So that is it all in a nutshell ... what do you think?
Would you like to be one of the 10?
If you think you might like to participate please comment below ... once we know there is sufficient interest then we will ask you to email us with your contact details so we can notify the selected 10 and mail out the boxes and rules!

Fluffy love & hugs
Mother Duck
PS at the moment we have not declared this a challenge just for those in the UK overseas participants will have to pay postal costs that will guarantee delivery with enough time to complete the challenge in the time scale.



Friday, 22 March 2013

Is a change as good as a rest?

Last year we changed our business Logo and several other small things concerning the business, the theory being that I needed to try and make a turn around in a difficult economy. Was it successful ? Yes, to a certain degree it was, I have seen a few more sales, not enough to make me a millionaire but enough to make me feel that it was worth fighting for my micro-business.

The change of logo was an expense but it did freshen the image of Dizzy Ducks Creations but I have received mixed responses; some people suggesting that it was too comic or immature for the products that I create. So I am in the process of deciding whether I should go for a total change again, maybe a more mature image.

Here is our current logo

I deleted products from our stock lines, added new lines. Started to make small changes in the way we run things at Duckie HQ but still it feels like I am chasing my own tail feathers. I know I am not alone, there are hundreds if not thousands of micro-businesses in a similar position some making dramatic and successful changes and others falling by the wayside and ceasing business.

We changed the events that we do, adding new ones and dropping the less successful so reaching a different face to face audience for our sales. We are updating the website, another part of the new image, and changing the shop system. We have also considered other online avenues for sales, such as Etsy, Folksy and Facebook to name but a few. We found that having a shop on Facebook was unsuccessful for us ... we had no sales over a period of 4 months so decided to remove it. We have tried selling via an album of pictures on Facebook again will little success, although many of our followers on Facebook declare how much they like our work. We had little success with Etsy although that is probably due to lack of effort on my part, something I have full intention of working on. I was trying to see how things went with Etsy before signing up for Folksy, although I have heard mixed reviews of both. I'll let you know in a future Blog how it goes with Etsy and if I join Folksy.

So is a change as good as a rest?
Do I feel better for making the changes I have?
Is the business better?

As a micro-business sole trader I think I can answer yes to all of the above but I also have to say that I have actively sought advice on running a small business, read several books on running a small craft business, followed Blogs and signed up for newsletters. I think the trap many of us fall into is a fear of change; we get comfortable in our small little rut and hear people around us saying things will change when we come out of the recession.

I believe the answer is to make small changes, update your branding, rationalise your stock, analyse your pricing, (have you got it right, are you charging for your time?).

Think about how others, especially your customers, see your business; is it looking tired and in need of an injection of something fresh? It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, a few sensible small changes such as deciding what stock works for you and what doesn't will help. Ask someone you trust to help you look closely at what you are doing; look at your pricing strategy etc.

You might be a sole trader micro or small business but you don't really have to do it alone, there are so many resources available to help.

Here is a small part of the stack of books I have on the desk, beside the desk, on the worktable, by the arm chair and in the car (I may be a little obsessed with self-help books for small businesses at the moment)  they are listed in no particular order - you need to research and see what is best for you. It is also worth checking Blogs - I will try and create a list of some I have found useful in my next Blog. If you have any books or Blogs to recommend please make sure you comment.

Some of my books (which I have to say are full of post it notes and pencilled comments)

*Crafting a Successful Business by Joanne Dewberry
(I also have this as an ebook on my Kindle)

*How to Make Money Using Etsy by Timothy Adam
(a new acquisition for me in the hope it will help me make some changes, I'll let you know what I think)

*The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum
(I think this is a must have for anyone taking pix for a website, Etsy, Folksy, or any other media platform to sell their goods)

*The Craft Business Handbook by Alison McNicol
*Craft Business Heroes by Alison McNicol

What small changes are you going to make or have you already made them?
One of the things I like about being a designer crafter is that I get to meet many like minded people who are, in the majority, friendly and happy to share hints and tips. I hope you have found this small insight into my crafting business thought provoking; Why not take a small step back a take a long look at what you are doing with your own small craft business as I am sure some small changes could make it work better for you.

fluffy love from
Mother Duck

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Enough is enough! Social Media & Networking can easily become all consuming

Mother Duck is feeling over whelmed by social media and the many platforms available to sell our products and give us an on line presence ... so when is social media and the internet too much?

Dizzy Ducks have their Social Media fingers in many pies Twitter,Facebook, Google +  and Etsy we do of course have our own website, we also have our Blog, although not all of these are up to date.
So as a technophobe and a sole trader with only so many hours in the day how do I keep up?
The answer is I don't.
I don't have enough know how to make the best use of what is available out there and so sadly Google+ and Etsy have been sidelined, twitter is hit & miss. The only one I have managed to keep up to date, after a fashion is Facebook; even the Blog and website are trailing behind and in much need of revitalising.

So when is social media too much ... when it is detracting from a work/life balance, when you spend more time on line trying to keep all the balls in the air. I know there has to be a simpler way of doing it ... I just haven't found it yet. I am constantly being told that I need 'get Dizzy Ducks out there' but to be honest there is only so much I can do. I am sure there is a way of linking all of these forms of social media, ways of scheduling posts (figured out I can line up posts and delay their posting on Facebook) so that each of the various 'pies' are getting an equal amount of attention. This is all very well but with the changes to Facebook, reaching my small audience is getting harder, I am never sure quite how to be effective on Twitter. I haven't been onto Google+ for a long time and my Etsy shop has been in holiday mode since before Christmas and finding time to update the website & improve the shop is getting harder.

So what is the answer?
Do I pay someone to control my social media presence?
Do I keep doing what I am doing and hope that enough people will see Dizzy Ducks?

I know that the answer isn't to keep doing what I am doing, I need to make what I say and do on social media platforms count.
I shall continue my daily posts on Facebook, I am currently trying to see what types of post get the most attention and what time it is best to post.
I think this old duck just wants to bury her head in the sand until it all becomes a little easier.

On another note that will get a Blog of its own in the future ... it has been suggested that I try to find a local networking group so that I can expand my local presence but as yet I have been unable to find a group that understands the 'designer/crafter' sole trader. The one group I did try were all businesses employing 25+ people with a whole different set of needs, I felt badly out of place and out of my depth. What about local networking - it has been suggested that as I cannot find a group that is suitable I set one up for other people like myself ... good idea but more time consuming than social media!

When I first entered the world of social media with Dizzy Ducks is was easier but as with everything it needs work and needs to be effective. So what is the answer ... do you know ... is it Facebook, Twitter, Gooogle+ or some other pie I haven't found yet?