Craigslist for Small Businesses

September 24, 2008

Craigslist is a powerful tool if you know how to use it right. Thousands of people check ads each day, already in the mindset of buying things, so it’s great if you learn to use it to your advantage.

Create a Craigslist account to keep track of your posts. Every time a post expires, you can renew it from your account page, which makes it nice and convenient. Craigslist frowns on posting to multiple cities, but it’s still allowed, as long as you don’t post duplicate posts. I probably shouldn’t share this online, but as long as you change up the titles, you can usually post the same item in a few cities, but make the titles different! Pick a few different descriptive keywords for each post’s title to cover more ground.

When choosing cities, it actually works to your advantage to choose smaller cities. If you choose a big city, your post will be buried on the fourth page within hours, but go with a smaller city or area and your post could be on the front page for a week. Plus, the busy cities tend to expire posts every 7 days, but the rest usually give it 30-45 days!

Now. On to writing your ad. First and foremost, learn the basics of HTML. Craigslist not only allows html in its postings, it doesn’t even automatically format the descriptions when you enter them. For instance, every time you hit enter to start a new line or paragraph, you’ll need to use code. For one line, enter <br> (for line break). To go down two lines, you can enter <br><br> or you can do <p> to start a new paragraph. If you want to center your paragraph or heading, you can enter <p align=”center>, which will start a new paragraph AND center it. Just know though, that every time you start a new paragraph, you’ll have to enter the same code to center it again. There’s a ton of ways you can format text with HTML, you can bold it, italicize, make bullet points, and more. Just use the right command, and the post is your oyster.
Next, learn to insert clickable links into your description.  If you just want text to become a link, enter <a href=”http://yoursite.com/”>Adorable Site Name Here</a>. The </a> closes the link. Do NOT forget to close the link, or you might turn the entire page into one big, messy link that you can’t get out of. I’ve been there. For extra pizzazz, you can turn an image into a nifty link as well. Simply upload the image or logo to your server and remember the name of it. Then enter <a href=”http://yoursite.com/”><img src=”http://yoursite.com/logo.jpg></a&gt;.

Those are the basics. And of course, EDIT all your posts for grammar or spelling errors. Don’t trust spellcheck! At first, your posts may be simple and text-heavy, but that’s okay. It can take a little while to get the hang of things. Just make sure your site address with a link is in there!

Internet Advertising for Small Stores

September 20, 2008

Since I started LovetheLimelight.com, I’ve been operating on a shoestring budget. The only money I’ve spent has been on supplies and inventory and Web hosting. The rest of it-site design, logos, marketing, picture taking, even most of the jewelry making, it’s all been me. I love it, it’s an amazing experience. So I’m passing on a bit of my knowledge today.

Small business advertising does not have to be costly. In fact, you can do it without spending any money for a while if you have the time to do some viral marketing on your own.

I started off by creating a group on Facebook for my site and inviting all my friends. I encouraged them to invite their friends too. Not a fan of the new facebook, by the way. I’m just anti-change and when you spend 10 minutes trying to find your friend’s wall-to-wall with another person, you’d be too.

Next, I created “passcards” using the business card feature in my word processor (size 2×3.5) and inserting my logo, site name and slogan. I hesitate to call them business cards because that sounds really official and I like the independent sound of “passcards”. I printed some off on cardstock paper and cut them up to pass out to people and to give my friends to pass out as well. I uploaded the document to my server and implored my friends who had joined the Facebook group to print and pass them out as well. (if you want to help, click HERE)

I also went on a major search one day for free online classified directories, and posted either individual items for sale on my site or general summary ads of my site (like craigslist, backpage, etc). There are so many FREE directories out there that you should never pay for a classified ad. It’s just not worth it. Craigslist is by far the biggest classifieds site, but they do have restrictions (more about that in a later post). Don’t underestimate new-looking classifieds sites with few postings either, the fewer posting there are, the more exposure your ads get. Yes, the traffic may not be great, but it’s free, and every link to your site helps.

Another area I tapped into is the selling communities of Livejournal. This is harder to understand unless you’re already familiar with Livejournal communities. Create a good (short!) post with linked photos of products you offer (use an lj cut for more than one photo to be polite) and blanket post to selling communities. check Wants communities too and post if you sell something people are looking for. I don’t recommend this until you’ve been a personal user of LJ for a while though, it gets confusing. And don’t forget to make sure your journal (either personal or created for your business) has plenty of information about your site.

Buying adspace, whether through google ads, facebook ads or link exchanges is also an option, but I don’t recommend it if you’re on a budget. They charge you per click, which means that you’re basically penalized every time someone clicks on your ad, even if they accidentally clicked on it and have no intention of buying from your site. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good deal to me. No, what I recommend is ProjectWonderful.com, which charges you by the day, not by how many people click on the ad. It makes more sense, and since it’s populated by independent sites (not corporations), you can get ads for pennies a day. I just started it, so I’ll let you know how my ads do.

If you use ProjectWonderful.com, you’ll have to create a banner ad ahead of time with certain size parameters, so get started! You have to entice people to click, so post pictures of your most popular items with a bright background.
Contact me if you want an animated GIF image designed for you. After hours of trying to figure it out and eventually succeeding, I consider myself quite proficient and I won’t charge you $100 an hour! (see my banner ads HERE as an example)

The next big idea is link exchanges with other, similar sites. For instance, I recently joined Kawaii Exchange and The Kawaii Directory. Contact other sites you like that are in your same genre and offer to exchange links, which means you post the link to their site on your Links or About Us page (just recommended places, you can post them anywhere easily accessible on your site) and they post the link to your site on theirs.

And don’t forget, if you sell wearable stuff, WEAR IT! I get business all the time when I wear my handcrafted earrings, then give a passcard to people who ask about them.

This is a lot to take in, so I’ll end the tutorial here and elaborate on some of the finer points later. Good luck!

~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

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Alternative materials

September 17, 2008

I posted the other day about my favorite site for alternative art supplies, Mantofev.com. Now I’m going to talk about what I like to use in my creations. In the past few months, I’ve started branching out from my traditional bead jewelry into using different things, namely, things that were not created with the intent to be used in jewelry.
I started with creating bottle cap earrings out of vintage soda bottle caps. I sell a lot of them to older women who remember when those sodas were actually sold in stores. I enjoy the nostalgic style and I like how no one else has the same earrings I do!
I then got the idea one day to comb estate sales for old jewelry and fix them up to either resell or take them apart and reuse the materials. They often come packaged by the bag, usually for only a dollar or two, so you can spend $6 and get a ton of old jewelry. A tip for those of you selling at flea markets, set up a $1 jewelry basket with those pieces fit to sell without fixing up. I get cleaned out every time!
I was at Walmart the other day (yeah, yeah I know, but I’m a college student on a budget) and was just slowly meandering throughout the store, looking for ideas on new jewelry materials, when I saw packages of buttons, full of assorted colors. My brain started clicking, so I bought a few packs. I had a fun time making pink and white earrings out of buttons and jump rings and other similar pairs. Then I ran out of jump rings, so I found some elastic stretch cord to use and started criss-crossing it through the buttons, like my blueberry bunches.

My favorite materials staple is chain. I have a lot of it! I needed some plain silver earrings one day and realized I didn’t have any so I just made some out of some chunky silver chain. I’ve been experimenting with some really awesome bracelets using a combination of the same chunky silver chain, silver links and some delicate chain, so I’ll release those soon for your enjoyment!

Anything else you use for alternative supplies and sources?

~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

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Social Bookmarking sites

September 17, 2008

I’m quickly noticing that my blog will cover a lot of topics that don’t seem to have anything to do with my site, LovetheLimelight.com. But I don’t care, blogging has to be fun too, not just business.

I’ve been exploring other online options to get my site out there in the Internet social sphere, and decided it was time to get on the social bookmarking bandwagon. Social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, Reddit, digg, and Technorati essentially work like the bookmarks option in your browser, only your bookmarks are saved on their site and you can share them with other site members by the use of “tags,” like keywords, to describe the site you’re bookmarking.

Now, a lot of people seem to like these sites. They’re popular with the people reading political blogs with the elections coming up and they’re a “hip” thing to do (you’d think us young people used that word more than we actually do). But I’m going to be honest with all of you. I think they’re a pain in the neck. Now I’ll put them on my site because I need all the marketing help I can get, but having signed up for an account on many of these sites and and tested them out, I think they take a lot more time than necessary. I use Firefox as an internet browser and on it, I have around a hundred bookmarked pages organized into folders, as well as an all important bookmarks toolbar right above my Google search bar. Frankly, I think that’s all I need. When I bookmark something through (insert generic third-party bookmarking site here), I am taken away from the site I liked well enough to bookmark and dropped rudely at the bookmarking site, where I then have to sit and brainstorm descriptive tags or a “quick” summary to label this site that I liked. Now the process becomes not so much a “bookmark” as a full-on, in-depth summary of the site. Why do I have to go through all that? I honestly don’t know. So I’ll promote LovetheLimelight.com through them, but as for my personal use, I’ll stick with my old-school bookmarks.

~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

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The importance of good grammar

September 16, 2008

So I tend to be a pretty intense grammar nazi sometimes. Maybe it’s my background as a communication (read: writing) major or maybe it’s just my OCD-oriented personality, but I have been known to sit down with a magazine, pen in hand, and circle grammar errors to then email to the editor. I’d like to share my biggest pet peeve for a moment, if you will. It’s the difference between its and it’s. Its is a possessive, e.g. its shine is dull. It’s is a contraction, where the apostrophe links together it and is. Thus, it’s can only be used where it is can replace it and still be grammatically correct, e.g. it’s going to rain, which can also be, it is going to rain.

Finding incorrect grammar is an egregious breach of professionalism to me. It’s just low-class to find common grammar errors in copy from large corporations that should certain be able to employ grammar experts. I was at IKEA the other day (I love that place, it’s like an amusement park. or a casino.) and I was reading the back of my receipt where it talks about returns and exchanges, when I saw this: “…and please bring the item back in it’s original packaging.” thud. my jaw hit the floor. If you followed the grammar lesson, you’ll now know that there should be no apostrophe in its. You can’t read it as “…and please bring the item back in it is original packaging,” so it does not take an apostrophe. IKEA. I’d understand if it was the independently-owned coffee shop on the corner, or even in a locally-printed IKEA advertisement, but this was on the back of the receipt paper that presumably goes out to most IKEA stores in the country! How awkward for them. Of course, my friend who was with me when I freaked out was thinking how awkward for ME that the biggest deal of the deal was finding a grammar error on the back of my IKEA receipt.

Now, you may find the occasional error on my blog or in my store. I’m human. These things slip through. But I’m also a one-woman operation. What’s IKEA’s excuse? Sigh. I know I’m a geek. It’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it, and even embrace it to a certain extent. I bet some of you will think it’s truly lame to make an entire post just on grammar, but if I just educate ONE person on the difference between its and it’s, then it was all worth it!

**I am currently offering my services as an editor if you own your own Web site or blog. I don’t charge much, it depends on the size of your site. Or maybe, I might charge per mistake found…hmm. Contact me if you’re interested in ridding the world of grammar mistakes, one misplaced apostrophe at a time.

Yours in good and bad grammar,
~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

PS. Another nerdism about me is that it was like Christmas Day when I discovered AP Stylebook’s Ask the Editor page on their Web site. There were TONS of useless but so-cool grammar questions and answers. I spent WAY too much time there.
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Recommended site

September 16, 2008

For those of you out there who make your own jewelry, collages or scrapbooks, I want to recommend a great site for new materials. It’s called mantofev.com and Sara, its proprietor, gathers “alternative art supplies” for your offbeat art projects. A lot of their stuff is vintage, hard to find or one of a kind, which is my cup of tea, so I love browsing through their products, which range from small metal charms, vintage jewelry or watch parts, antique letters and postcards and whatever else they dig up!

If you ever see anything on there that you’d like to see as a piece of jewelry, let me know and I can do my best to make it happen.

Have fun shopping!
~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

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Get Store Credit!

September 15, 2008

I need your help!

My Web site, LovetheLimelight.com is the culmination of a lot of sleepless nights and I’d love for it to become a successful venture. I want to build a word-of-mouth following, and in order to do that, I need you!

I was wondering if any of you would be willing to hand out business card-type passcards for my site to people you know (I’ll just email you the document and you can print and cut them out). For every person to whom you recommend my site who buys something, I’ll give you free shipping when you place an order!

I don’t mind how you promote my site, either through the passcards or through internet marketing (I do have a facebook group if you want to search for Love the Limelight and get people to join), just make sure people give your name to me. If you create an account on my site, I’ll email you when you score the $5 credit.

Just email me at: lindsey@lovethelimelight.com or use the contact form to request the passcard document and let me know whether you want it in Word or OpenOffice format.

~Lindsey
LovetheLimelight.com

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Flea Market Supply List

September 15, 2008

This is a supplement to the previous post. I sell my wares at flea markets and swap meets, and here’s a good, comprehensive list of things you will need if you decide to sell at one yourself!
What you need:

  • A collapsible gazebo/canopy tent if possible. It keeps you from being subject to the weather (both bright sunlight AND rain makes a day very long). These are expensive though, so try to borrow one from someone.
  • Collapsible camp chair. You won’t be sitting much, but it’s nice to have.
  • table(s). Lightweight is the best way.
  • table covers that reach close to the ground. Do NOT have bare tables and use nice fabric! I personally use some burgundy velvet textured vintage fabric that was originally curtain panels.
  • Cardstock paper for signs
  • Permanent markers (several colors), pens, scissors, pad of paper for notes
  • tape (both scotch and packing tape)
  • calculator
  • extra price tags or stickers
  • baby or antibacterial wipes (wipe down your table beforehand
  • bottled water, some snacks (fruit snacks are great)
  • mirror for customers (bring windex wipes to keep it sparkling throughout day)
  • Camera! It’s always nice to take a picture of the table you spent forever setting up. I always forget mine.
  • Business cards or something with your contact info (create a separate email address for your business if you want) and a holder or display for them.
  • Blank form to list things you sell (if you have some things prefilled out, it’s easier to scribble it down as you sell things. See the one that I use here: Flea Market Price List Example and feel free to print off as many pages as you need.
  • If you’re selling jewelry:

  • Displays! This is a big one. It’s more fun to use something other than traditional flocked velvet displays you get jewelry supply stores. I use a spinning cd rack to hold earrings (I found it for $5 on craigslist, best deal ever). Necklaces can hang on decoration trees (like this one at Ikea or and this one!. Just browse thrift stores or yard and estate sales to find good deals. It’s also nice to have shallow bowls or trays too to hold bangles or things that won’t get tangled up.
  • Extras of ALL findings you use (jump rings, earring hooks, necklace clasps, wire, etc)
  • Extras of most popular beads or charms you use
  • Earring clip cards
  • small clear zip lock bags to protect customer purchases (find them at office or craft stores. I recommend the 3×3″ size for individual pieces, 2×3″ is always a little small. Make sure your business cards fit them and slip one into each bag you pass out)
  • Needlenose pliers, wire cutters
  • Ruler (you never know. Some people will be buying as gifts and want to know how long the necklace is or something)
  • small price stickers (no larger than 3/4 inch in diameter), both single and dumbbell shaped ones
  • Jewelry cleaning cloth
  • Sterilization supplies (I’m sure there’s something easier but I use cotton pads and isopryl alcohol for when after people try on earrings.)
  • Let me know if there are other good supplies you use!
    ~Lindsey
    Love the Limelight

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    Flea Market Tips and Preparation List

    September 15, 2008

    So I sell stuff at flea markets and swap meets here and there when I find a good one, and after the first one I attended, I picked up on how things work a little bit and thought I’d share. I’ve seen a few posts like these on the Internet, so I apologize to anyone if they think I’m copying from them, I’m really not, great minds just think alike!

    Preparation beforehand (and don’t think you’ll do it the morning of):

    1. Organize your products, whether they be jewelry, accessories, clothing, etc. It helps to have everything you sell in one container if possible. A plastic tub, if your stuff isn’t too heavy, is nice, or a backpack/suitcase on wheels works great as well.

    2. Imagine what your table will look like. If you’ve never done a flea market or swap meet before, it helps to do a dry run-through at home and set everything up. That way you can spot if there’s anything you need. Remember everything you used to set up and keep it all together until the big day. If you have a canopy/gazebo, make sure you know how to set it up.

    3. Label every item with prices or clearly written signs (labels are better, some people just don’t read)

    4. If you’re not worried about car theft, load everything into your car the night before, otherwise have it all ready to go.

    5. Get change at the bank. It depends on the prices you ask for your products, but I always have at the very least, 5 $1 bills, 4 $5 bills and 1 $10 bill. That’s the bare minimum though! Lots of people like to break their $20s in the morning too,  so lots of $5 bills are helpful.

    6. Contact the organizers and pay ahead if possible, otherwise find out who you need to talk to when you get there. Paying ahead is a guarantee that you have a spot, so that’s the best way.

    7. Map out where the sale is and how to get there from your place. Research parking options, bring extra money to pay parking if you need to.

    8. Get a good night’s sleep! It’ll be a long, crazy day so get everything done early so you can go to bed early.

    Day of the Sale:

    1. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there. Flea markets usually have a window of time for vendors to set up. Plan to arrive near the beginning of this window of time. If you finish setting up early, take a break and mingle with other vendors until the sale starts! Better safe than sorry.

    2. Decide if you want to actually sell stuff or not. I’m serious! You could sit in the back of your booth reading a book or texting people all day while assuming people will buy something if they like it, or you can stand up and sell your products to people. People don’t usually come to flea markets to buy stuff they NEED, they come to see if there’s anything they WANT. It’s your job to show them why they want something. Personally when I do flea markets, I never sit down unless it’s a really slow period. I don’t hover over people though, I just organize the table or sort through excess inventory, something menial so people don’t feel they’re interrupting if they have a question. Standing behind your table representing things makes people more comfortable asking a question about a product, and thus, more comfortable buying from you. If a person browses through things for a while, or fingers the sunglasses, I’ll casually mention they can try them on if they’d like or recommend a pair of earrings I think might look good with them. And be honest! If someone tries something on that doesn’t match their face shape or hair color, tell them! But recommend something new in its place. They’ll appreciate your honesty and be more inclined to try more things on. Now, rather than deciding WHETHER to buy or not, you have them deciding WHICH product to get. And that’s the key to a sale.

    3. Unless you have a lot of inventory on multiple tables or it’s a busy flea market, you probably won’t need someone else there all day. It’s more fun if you can get a friend to help you out, but don’t feel like it’s a priority. It DOES help though, to have friends stop in throughout the day and monitor the booth when you have to use the restroom, feed the meter, grab a bite to eat or even just get out and browse other booths. Try not to ask the vendor next to you to watch your stuff while you run an errand. It’s nervewracking for both of you because you’re entrusting them to your stuff, and they’re stretched enough trying to handle their own business. Plus, with no one behind the table, you’ll lose potential sales anyway. If you must ask them though, recognize they’re doing YOU a favor and maybe bring them back a water or hot dog or something.

    Tip: Buy a cute apron or something with easily-accessible pockets, because you DON’T want to keep your money in a cashbox. It takes a second for someone to grab it and take off running with your profits while you’re fishing for a pen. Plus, you look ridiculous carrying it to the bathroom with you. Don’t think you’re just going to keep the money in your jeans pocket either, because a) it’s not comfortable carrying a roll of bills in your form-fitting jeans, and b) it’s easy for a stray dollar to fall to the ground and either you not see it or get swept up by the wind.

    This may seem like a lot to take in, but a lot of it is obvious-it’s just helpful to have it all written out. Let me know if there’s anything else! I’ll post a specific supply list later.
    ~Lindsey
    LovetheLimelight.com

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    Long weekend

    September 14, 2008

    Hope you’re liking the blog so far! Well, I’m conceding defeat. When I started this blog the other day, my intention was to place it WITHIN my site, but after trying a few different things and just getting confused, I’ve decided to shelve that idea and just place a direct link here to wordpress. I’m a persistent person. I’ve always found a way to complete visions I’ve had for my site until this, but oh well. First time for everything. Plus, now I can move on and add new posts and products!

    So everyone, let me know what you think of the blog, do you have any questions or topics about jewelry, the biz, website, etc. you’d like to see me cover? Any products you’d like to see?

    Thanks! ~Lindsey
    LovetheLimelight.com

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