Category: Business

Rainbow reflected in the palm of a hand.

Wrapped By Alice During the Covid-19 Crisis.

The Effect of Covid-19 on Wrapped By Alice

As you may have noticed if you’ve been on the site, my shop has been closed for business since the start of lockdown here in the UK, all the way back in March! This is because, as well as being a printer of eco-friendly wrapping paper, and a lover of dogs, I am also the owner of a suppressed immune system – the latter I tend to shout about a little less than the first two!

It’s this faulty immune system that landed me in the ‘extremely vulnerable category’, and has kept me at home for the past four months; shielding from basically everyone and everything, including my business, and you, my lovely customers!

Up till now shielding, has made running Wrapped By Alice basically impossible, as the Covid-19 guidance is so strict; stopping me from having interaction with anyone other than my partner, Kenny, and my stepdaughter, Yasmin. So, we’ve been making our own entertainment (and biscuits!) at home.

 

Yasmin with her giant butterfly cookie.

While shielding has presented one obstacle to running the business, the other has been the toll that lockdown, in and of itself, has taken on my health. We’ve all had our lives turned upside down recently, and I think most people have felt challenged by that to some degree. But when the structure of your life is built around managing your health, and then that structure suddenly crumbles around you, it’s bound to have ramifications.

Pre-lockdown I had a very quiet, largely solitary life, where I worked my business and household responsibilities around my health. Then lockdown hit, and overnight, me, Kenny and Yasmin began sharing our space 24/7. Whilst the energy I would normally prioritise for the business was redirected to Yasmin – making sure she was happy and entertained and keeping up with her school work.

At times during lockdown, I have felt like I’ve lost much of what makes me who I am – no longer independent, but rather relying on Kenny for everything; not able to run the business, and too tired to be creative. The times where I was too ill to even help with looking after Yasmin were particualrly hard.

But I am nothing if not resilient (and at times, plain obstinate!) and I feel like I am starting to settle into my new role, and thankfully even have a little left over energy for business planning. Once shielding ends, I’ll be looking after Yasmin until she goes back to school in September. But once she’s back and settled in, I will be reopening; so, like the Terminator, I will be back! 😆 I’ll keep you all posted as to progress! Stay safe my friends x x

my workspace. my printing table with cube storage beneath and shelving above

Big Changes Mean Big Challenges: Chronic Illness in Business

Where I Have Been: Moving House and Beyond

Apparently today is National Writing Day, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain where on earth I’ve been for the last 3 months (apologies to the ‘gram, et al!) 

So, I did a rather big thing while I was away…no I didn’t have a baby! But I did buy a house, move into that house with my partner (not only the first time we have lived together, but also the first time I have ever lived with any partner). And, if that weren’t enough, in the process I also became a stepmum (I prefer the title ‘bonus mum’) to my partner’s 5-year-old daughter.

‘Wow, that’s a lot of stuff’, you might be thinking! Well now, just for good measure, add into the mix, the fact that I also have a number of chronic illnesses to contend with, and you may get some sense of the pile of quivering, overwrought jelly I have been for the past 3 months! Overwhelmed doesn’t cut it. Exhausted doesn’t cut it. But I’ve made it through, and am somehow sat in my new workroom, in my new house, telling you all about it, on National Writing Day!

This Is Going To Get Personal: Chronic Illness In Business

This is something of a sea change for me; I never normally share anything about my health; I guess I am a naturally private person, and, furthermore, a stubborn one – I never want to feel that I’m defined by my illness. Not to mention – and I can’t stress this enough – I don’t think that you, or anyone else for that matter, wants to hear me bore on about my ‘daily struggles’!

Nevertheless, it’s true that over the past 5 years, since setting up Wrapped By Alice, I have had to close the business on many occasions, thanks to severe infections (yay), surgery (double yay), or just being plain unable to get out of bed (…you get the idea). I’ve never really offered an explanation as to those absences, and fair enough – that is one of the perks of being your own boss, after all!

But, having said that, I don’t think that I’ve ever been MIA for quite as long as I have this year, and I feel like I want to let you in on a bit of what’s been going on. So, welcome to my new house! It’s been slow progress, but it’s already feeling like home, here are a few of my favourite bits so far…

Home Sweet Home: Pops Of Colour And Personality

Dining table, with placemats from Ebay. His and Hers Billy bookcases from IKEA.
Close up of my bookcase, adorned with lots of ornaments; all gifts from over the years.
Toy chest from IKEA, Lego Star Wars X Wing, DED ass artwork, antique bear (model wears his own sunglasses and space rocket).

However, no part of the house was as painfully slow to complete as my workroom; by this point I was running on absolute empty; I thought I’d only need 4 days to sort my workroom out once all my stuff had been moved over (what an uncomprehending fool I was!) It actually took over 4 weeks! I was desperate to get back to the business, and reclaim a bit of me, but days on end went by where I was too tired or too ill to do anything. And even on those days where I started with high hopes, I could only manage to get done a tenth of what I had planned; it was like wading through treacle… very, very thick, frustrating treacle!

But all in its own time, and with a lot of help from my brilliant family, finally it was done, and now I am writing this at my desk in my brand new workroom, having just recently reopened the business, and it feels so good!

My New Workroom: A Purpose-Designed Space

wardrobe with neatly stacked wrapping paper sheets
My beautiful paper, all stored away neatly, ready to send out to my lovely customers.

Last But Not Least: My Partner In Crime!

Shout out to my fella, for not considering my health problems, when deciding that I was the one for him. I was going to say, ‘he takes it all in his stride’, but that would be a platitude; it would imply that somehow this is easy for him. It is never easy to build your life with a person who has a chronic illness or disability; I mean it’s a hard enough thing to do as it is! But he accepts and supports me; he never makes me feel bad for the things I can’t do, and celebrates with me in all the things that I can do. I guess he’ll do!

me giving a kiss to my handsome fella.
Obligatory soppy photo of me and the boy.
twitter network hours

Twitter Tutorial, Number 4: Networking Hours

We’ve now learnt all the essentials of twitter – hashtags, the @ symbol, retweeting, liking, and inserting links and images into our tweets. For our final tutorial I thought I would share my favourite networking hours with you, so that you can put into practice all the things we’ve learnt over the course of the 4 lessons.

My Favourite Networking Hours

All hours are in GMT.

All Week:

#wineoclock #womaninbiz: Mon-Fri, 18:00 – 19:00 – use these two hashtags together, to network with other small business owners; this is a really nice community hour.

Monday

#creativebizhour: 20:00 – 21:00 – for creative businesses to promote and connect with each other and their customers.

#vintagewedhour: 20:00 – 21.:00 – for businesses selling vintage, and wedding items, to promote to brides and grooms-to-be.

#buyonlinehour: 20:30 – 21:30 – for businesses that sell online, to promote their products.

Tuesday

#indiehour: Tue, 19:00 – 20:00 – for small, independent, creative businesses to promote and connect with each other and their customers.

#FBlikehour: 20.00 – 21:00 – this is a good networking hour if you want to promote your facebook page to your twitter followers – you can pick up fresh likes for your FB page by including a link in your tweets, during this hour.

Wednesday

#handmadehour: 19:30 – 20:30 – biggest networking hour of the week for handmade businesses.

#weddinghour: 21.00 – 22:00 – biggest wedding networking hour of the week.

Thursday

#handmadehourUSA: 00:00 – 01.00 – the American version of #handmadehour – this is a great networking opportunity if, like me, you have an Etsy shop and make a lot of sales to customers in the USA…unfortunately I am never awake late enough to join in; but if you’re a night owl, this would be a great one to join in!

#bridehour #bridebible: 20:00 – 21:00 – designed for brides who are looking for items for their wedding days, and for makers and suppliers of wedding items to promote their goods to them. Use both hashtags together.

#twittersisters: 20.:00 – 21:00 – great community hour, for women in business to network with each other.

Friday

#retailhourtime: 20:00 – 21:00 – for businesses to promote their products.

Saturday

#satchatUK: 08:00 – 09:15 – for early risers, to share what they have going on with their businesses.

#makehour: 20:00 – 21:00 – for people who make handmade items.

Sunday

#SBS: 17:00 – 19:30 – send one tweet, including this hashtag, and describing your business to@TheoPaphitis, he will then choose his favourite 6 to promote later in the night!

#crafthour: 19:00 – 20:00 – a close second to #handmadehour.

#hndmadehour: 20:00 – 21:00 – biggest networking hour of the week for handmade businesses.

tweeting

Twitter Tutorial, Number 3: Retweets & More

So far, we’ve tackled hashtags and how to use the @ symbol, so now we’re going to handle the two other key principles of twitter – retweeting and liking! We’ll also have a look at how to add images and links to your tweets.

Retweeting

Retweeting is an important part of the twitter community, especially for small, handmade business owners; as I mentioned in the previous tutorials, twitter is a big community, and one of the ways we support each other is by retweeting!

Retweeting expands the audience of a tweet; if you spot a post from another maker that you think looks interesting, then hit the retweet icon underneath the tweet itself, and bam, that tweet is now visible to all your followers too; one or more of them might in turn retweet it, and before you know it one little tweet has reached a big audience – this wouldn’t be possible without all of us working together to promote each other! Don’t just retweet randomly though; I only retweet those tweets which genuinely fit with my own interests; at the end of the day I don’t want to spam my own followers with loads of random offerings!

Liking

Hitting the like button (the little red heart) at the bottom of people’s tweets is another way to show support and appreciation for your fellow tweeps; if you see something you like, be sure to click the heart. As a maker myself, I can say it genuinely gives you a little boost when somebody likes one of your tweets, especially when that tweet is promoting one of your products.

Inserting Links

If you’re a maker or artist you are going to want to include links to your products in your tweets, so that people can get straight to the item in question in your online shop. How you share your products will depend on what platform you use to sell online.

For example, if you have an Etsy shop, then the Etsy Seller’s App (if you have a smart phone, and don’t already have this free app, then I highly recommend you get it) allows you to share the link directly; just go to ‘Your Items’, and click on the product you want to tweet about, and there will be a ‘SHARE’ option in the bottom right corner – this will open the link in twitter, as well as automatically adding the primary image of the listing in question – which means you get a link and an image, all while using just 20 characters or so. Most other ecommerce platforms will have a similar option.

Inserting Images

Having an image attached to your tweet is always a good idea. People are much more likely to engage with a tweet if there is a visual element to it. As mentioned earlier, if you include a link in your tweet, then it will normally automatically add the primary image on the page you linked from to the tweet. But for those occasions where you are not including a link in your tweet, or this function doesn’t work, then you can add an image (or images) manually. You can add images by using the picture icon when composing your tweet, or the camera icon allows you to take a picture there and then, to attach to the tweet.

twitter tutorial

Twitter Tutorial, Number 2: The @ Symbol

In my first twitter tutorial we learnt about hashtags, now we’ll move on to the other sometimes mystifying symbol of twitter – the @ symbol; what does it mean, and when and how should you use it?

The @ Symbol Explained

The @ symbol goes before a twitter user’s chosen twitter name, e.g. I chose the twitter name wrappedbyalice, so I appear as @wrappedbyalice.

Twitter users employ the @ symbol in order to communicate directly with each other (N.B. these are not private communications; they are visible in the same way as all other tweets). For example, someone might tweet, ‘So excited – my goodies from @wrappedbyalice arrived today; can’t wait to get wrapping!’ It would then pop up in my twitter notifications that someone had mentioned me in a tweet, I could then view the tweet, and reply. Mentioning others in tweets like this also provides the added bonus that any other twitter user who sees the tweet will be able to click on my username, and be taken directly to my twitter profile, where they could choose to follow me if they liked!

How To Use The @ Symbol

Shout Outs

As we’ve seen above, one of the ways that we can use the @ symbol is to communicate directly with another user, and perhaps give them a shout out. Publicly supporting other crafters is really important, because twitter is a big community; this is particularly true for small business owners, and even more so for women in business; twitter offers a fabulous way to encourage and support other makers, who will in turn support you, and it’s using the @ symbol that makes all this possible!

Comments

It’s also good twitter etiquette to generally interact with other twitter users – comment on their posts; say a friendly thank you, if someone is kind enough to give you a shout out.

When you leave a comment on someone else’s tweet it will automatically add their username to the tweet, likewise if you reply to someone else’s comment on your own tweet.

N.B. do not start your tweet with the person’s username, at least put a fullstop first – e.g. ‘.@wrappedbyalice, your paper arrived today, can’t wait to get wrapping!’ – this is because tweets which begin with a person’s username, i.e. ‘@wrappedbyalice…’ will only be able to be seen by people who follow both the sender and the recipient; no one else will be able to see it!

Promotion

You can also use the @ symbol to target a specific user(s), for example, to let them know that a certain product is back in stock. N.B. don’t ever spam someone’s account; unsolicited, pushy tweets are the worst! But if someone has shown interest in a product, than it’s perfectly fine to get in touch with a friendly, informative tweet.

You can also use the @ symbol to increase the reach of your tweets, as each networking hour will have a twitter account attached to it – an account which set up the hour and promotes and manages it (for more info on networking hours, see my first tutorial). For example, the twitter account in charge of #handmadehour is (not surprisingly!) @handmadehour (and their sister account @HMNation) and they will retweet other people’s tweets during the networking hour; as they have thousands and thousands of followers it’s great to be retweeted by them…but the only way they’re likely to see your tweet, out of the thousands of other tweets being posted in that hour, is if you tag them directly in it! For example, ‘I hand print beautiful designs onto eco-friendly kraft paper #handmadehour @handmadehour’ (I’d also include a link to my website and image of my work, but we’ll talk about these two things in the next lessons).

To get you started here are a couple of great networking hours, and the accounts that run them; there are so, so many more – get researching find which hours work best for you and start tweeting!

#handmadehour Wed, 19.30-20.30, & Sun, 20.00-21.00. Run by @handmadehour & @HMNation

#crafthour Sun, 19.00-20.00. Run by @Craft_Hour & @crafthourRT.

woman tweeting from her laptop

Twitter Tutorial, Number 1: Hashtags

I’ve been running my on business for a few years now, and have some form of presence on nearly all of the social media platforms. However, Twitter is by far and away my favourite – not to mention, most successful – of all my accounts. This is a little ironic, as when I was starting out Twitter both scared and mystified me; I didn’t understand all the terms, or how to use the platform – when to tweet, what to tweet, how to use hashtags, etc, etc.

As a massive twitter convert, I thought I would write a series of tutorials, containing the sort of information and tips, that I would have found useful when I was starting out on Twitter, in the hopes it might help other creative startups!

Hashtags

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I thought I’d start with the obvious, and for some people the most confusing, aspect of twitter – using hashtags!

Put plainly, a hashtag is something which you include in your tweets, to increase the likelihood that it will be seen by other twitter users. This basically works in one of three ways; I’m going to list them in what I see as their order of importance, for small, creative businesses, like ours, starting with the most important.

Networking Hours

image courtesy of: tkographix.com

There are certain hours set aside each week, where people tweet about a certain subject, using a specific hashtag – I’ll suggest a couple of my favourites at the end of the post – but here’s just one example: #HandmadeHour runs every Wednesday 19.30-20.30 (GMT), and every Sunday 20.00-21.00 (GMT) – during this time lots of people with handmade businesses, as well as people who love to buy handmade, are all tweeting, using the hashtag, #handmadehour, as well as searching for other tweets including that hashtag – it’s a huge community, and there will be lots of people liking, retweeting, and commenting on your work (more of all those terms later!) this means that more and more people are seeing your tweets, and your work, and it does create sales!

Here’s a couple of examples of the sorts of things I might tweet during #handmadehour:

‘I handprint beautiful designs onto eco-friendly kraft paper #handmadehour.’

I will also tweet about specific products, e.g. approaching Valentine’s Day, I might tweet something like ‘My turtle dove gift wrap is perfect for adding that finishing touch to a #Valentines gift! #handmadehour.’

I would also add a link to my shop or specific product in question (most of the time this will bring up the first image on the page your linking to, e.g. if I put a link in to my turtle dove gift wrap, it would also show the first listing image for this product. This image doesn’t use up any extra characters of your 140-character limit). I might also tag other twitter users in some posts too… But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves; let’s just get the basics of hashtags this time round!

Searching Using Hashtags

People with a particular interest or need might search for certain hashtags, e.g. in the run up to Valentine’s Day people might be looking for gift ideas or cards, so may search for hashtags such as, #valentines, #valentinesgiftideas, or #valentinescards (side note – do not put any punctuation in your hashtags, as it will separate the words, e.g. if you tweeted #valentine’scards, twitter would post it as #valentine ‘scards.) So, for example, if someone searched #Valentines, then my previous tweet, where I used the hashtag, #Valentines, would be amongst the search results.

Now, it may be amongst thousands upon thousands of other tweets using #Valentines, however, if you use more niche terms, then your chance of reaching your target customer is far higher! For example, I have a range of dog designs, so if I include the breed of the dog in a tweet about the product, lovers of that particular breed may well find it, as they like to keep up-to-date with, for example, all things #Frenchie, or all things #Pug!

Trending Hashtags:

Image courtesy of: seoclerks.com

Using the search function in Twitter, you can see what the top trending hashtags are at any time; if you think you’ve got something to shout about which relates to one of them, then you could include it in a tweet; e.g. when the marriage equality laws were coming, there was quite often a related hashtag trending; as a supporter of equal marriage, I took the opportunity to promote my range of wedding favours, which cater to both white and pink weddings. Don’t just add a trending hashtag to your tweet for the sake of it though – this is bad twitter etiquette!

My Favourite Networking Hours

#wineoclock #womaninbiz: Mon-Fri, 18.00-19.00 – #wineoclock #womaninbiz – use these two hashtags together, to network with other small business owners; this is a really nice community hour.

#handmadehour Wed, 19.30-20.30, Sun, 20.00-21.00 – biggest networking hours of the week for handmade businesses.

#crafthour Sun, 19.00-20.00 – a close second to #handmadehour.

Get tweeting!

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