Monday, January 19, 2015

Classes at CHA

There is no question that attending the Craft and Hobby Association trade show is a lot of fun, but it is just as much about the education as it is playing with all the latest and greatest products. There are classes geared specifically toward retailers, bloggers or designers, as well as many that are suitable for a broad audience.


Most of the lecture-style classes are included as part of the conference fee (which, incidentally, is exactly $0 for CHA members). Hands-on classes range in cost, but are usually $35 and include a lot of product to take home. Since the classes are so affordable, there's a powerful incentive to take as many as you can squeeze into your schedule!

Here are the classes I attended and what I got out of each:


Your Perfect Social Media Fit

This one-hour class was taught by Christian Kratsas from SnapRetail. He talked about the importance of defining a target audience, establishing marketing goals, knowing the demographics, and then selecting which two social media platforms are most suitable for your business. (He recommended doing two platforms well instead of trying to be everywhere, which is pretty much impossible.) He broke down the statistics of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter users to help us see which fit best for our own needs.

While this class was advertised as suitable for all attendees, it did have a stronger emphasis toward store owners vs. designers or bloggers. Christian frequently referred to advertising a sale or promoting new product that's on the shelves, neither of which are applicable to me. Still, it gave me a lot to think about. There's no question that Pinterest is where I should be putting more of my efforts. A huge percentage of my blog traffic comes from Pinterest despite my barely using it. There is so much more I could (and should) be doing.

I also realized that I need to be doing a much better job with branding. I don't have a logo or use a consistent style for watermarking photos. My business cards coordinate with my original blog design, not the current one. I use different photos of myself on different social media platforms. This is all something I want to fix in the near future. 


Strategic Planning for Solopreneurs

This one-hour class was taught by Sara Naumann of Studio SN. Sara started by saying that planning means you're proactive, not reactive. A strategic business plan ensures that you maximize your time and talents and put your efforts where they will be the most productive. She emphasized how important it is to define for yourself what success as a solopreneur will look like.  

Sara walked us through a series of questions, giving us just a few seconds to write down the first thoughts or phrases that popped into our minds. We wrote about our own history as a solopreneur, then moved on to our mission statement. My scrawled notes read, "Creativity fuels me. I love to write, love to share, love to teach. My work is a way to earn money and be creative while still being a SAHM first." It's not the most eloquent mission statement ever written, but it was the first time I wrote down what my mission actually is. 

We moved on to vision. This was hard. There are a lot of directions I can take my crafting career. Do I want to teach classes, either in person or online? Do I want a regular gig as a designer? Do I see myself writing a book? Where do I want to go from here? Or, am I satisfied with the status quo? I'm not sure. Lots to think about.

Next, Sara talked about our unique selling points, customers, competition, weaknesses and strengths. Those were much easier for me than the mission and vision! We moved on to environment, resources, external opportunities, threats, and critical success factors. We defined success in our own terms, created a 12 month strategy and talked about when and how to plan. Again, so much I need to mull over. 

This was an outstanding class. Looking back at my notes, I can't believe we covered all that in an hour! I learned so much in this class, but as is often the case when faced with a new topic, I also learned that I have SO much more to learn... 



How to Monetize Your Blog through Affiliate Marketing 

This one-hour class was taught by Sarah Crosby from CJ Affiliate by Conversant

Over the past year or so, I've done quite a bit of research about affiliate marketing and, other than setting up an Amazon Affiliates account, I have never followed through with actually putting something in place. It seems very overwhelming and I have a hard time doing anything other than letting it sink to the bottom of my to-do list.

This class was very informative and made me see how affiliate marketing may indeed be a good fit for my blog. However, the class solidified for me that actually doing the legwork myself is not a good fit for me. I'm mulling over some possibilities in my brain regarding this....



Making the Most of Instagram

This one-hour class was taught by Theresa Cifali of The Altered Canvas.

My regular readers will recall that I didn't start using Instagram until last summer and I was immediately completely overwhelmed. I'm not a tech person AT ALL and didn't even know how to use the camera on my phone. I'm semi-competent now when it comes to Instagram, but I don't use it often and am certainly not making the most of it.

Theresa emphasized that Instagram is the fastest-growing social media network in the world and that it is a great fit for us creative types because our work is visual. She gave some very specific tips and hints and I learned a lot. Some of it was very basic (I didn't know you could double-tap to show "like") while other suggestions were geared toward integrating Instagram with our businesses (showing craft room behind-the-scenes or works-in-progress, for example). I left with the following items on my to-do list:

  • rewrite bio to be more complete and more informative  
  • search hashtags related to my name and business name
  • change profile photo to be consistent with other social media



Creative Blogging

There are so many great classes to take at CHA that it can be a struggle to decide which would be the most beneficial. I went back and forth on whether to attend Sarah Hurley's one-hour class on creative blogging, or if my time would be better spent at one of the other classes offered at the same time. I actually know what I'm doing when it comes to blogging; would I get more out of a class on an unfamiliar topic? As it turns out, I am so glad I attended this class.

Sarah started by asking us to reflect on our blogs - is your blog personal or impersonal? Focused on one topic or more diverse? Very organized, chaotic, or somewhere in between? What draws people to it? Who is the audience? What are your boundaries and what is off-limits? What do you have to offer that no one else can? It was very helpful to think about the answers.

Even though this was probably the class I actually needed the least, it was my favorite of all. Sarah was straight-forward and specific. She told us flat out not to apologize in blog posts ("Sorry it's been so long since I blogged, guys. But I've been sick/injured/busy/abducted by aliens....!") because no one wants to hear it. She said to avoid negativity, as no one likes a whiner or a complainer ("Unlike SOME bloggers, I ________"). She said not to feed the trolls because a mean comment says so much about them and absolutely nothing about you.

Sarah also talked a lot about SEO. I do search engine optimization for both my Fun Family Crafts and Scrapbook.com jobs, so this is a very familiar topic to me, but Sarah's tips were still helpful. I hadn't thought about renaming images to help with SEO, nor did I know that descriptive titles for posts are as important as they are.

All in all, it was a great class. As a bonus, I met a lot of fellow creative bloggers and exchanged business cards! It's been a lot of fun checking out their blogs.



EnviroTex Jewelry Resin

The one and only paid workshop I attended was this one, sponsored by Environmental Technology Inc and taught by Myléne Hillam. It was a 90 minute class. After a brief introduction to the supplies and a preview of what we'd be making, we jumped right in. We taped painted Klik Metal Complex bezels to a foam backing. Then we heated Fantasy Film and crumpled it lightly before cutting out circles and tiny bits. Then we mixed the resin.


Here I am layering resin, the circle, more resin, and the bits. Each bezel holds only one color of Fantasy Film. You'd never guess that the predominantly-blue bezel on the left has only pink film in it! 


I'd never done anything like this, so it was great to try something completely new. As a bonus, the results were beautiful!


I transported my bezels home still attached to their bases. There was a mix-up with Klik, so the bracelet that these bezels snap into is being mailed to us at home. Once it arrives, I'll remove the bezels from the foam backing and use them to complete the bracelet. I can't wait to wear it!

9 comments:

  1. I am glad you liked the classes!! I have only taken a couple of them in the past, and those I had to be talked into.. lol!! I think next year I will push myself to try more!!!

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  2. It sounds like you really took some informative classes. Those bezels look awesome, can't wait to see them in your bracelet.

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  3. Glad you enjoyed the classes. Sounds like some great learning!

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  4. Okay, I will not apologize on my blog anymore! ;0)

    Are you going to take the advice and only be active on 2 media sites?
    If so, which ones?
    Sounds like Pinterest may be 1 of the 2.

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    1. I'm already active on FB and post blog links there, so that and Pinterest are my two. Other than the few Instagram posts I did at CHA, I only use Instagram for family stuff. I technically have a Twitter account, but have never used it.

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  5. I really enjoyed reading all about your classes! Sounds like you took some great ones! I'm most interested in the advice to be active on two platforms... it would be an interesting conversation to have. I'm very curious why two and why not more or less? What makes that the magic number? And the bezels look awesome! I can't wait to see your finished bracelet! :)

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    1. Two platforms allow you to reach much of your target audience without being unmanageable/overly time-consuming or appearing spammy. There was a comment that the customers who are on multiple platforms and see the same stuff posted by the same business quickly feel like they're being spammed.

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  6. Oh, loved reading this post! So many good nuggets of information. I rarely remember to pin anything to Pinterest, which is not smart, as it is a great source of blog traffic. Thanks for that reminder. Your classes sound great. Thanks for the wrap-up. I hope you'll tell more specifics in later posts!

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  7. Such wonderful information!! Just reading this post gave me tons to think about for my own blog, especially Sarah's questions/comments. I admit to not knowing a thing about search engine optimization, but I'm really curious if I should learn about that now?!? ;) As always Cindy, you are a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to me!

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