Self Care for Makers During the Busy Holiday Season

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I hope you won’t hate me when I tell you this…I don’t really like Christmas. The season feels like a pine scented F-5 tornado spewing candy canes and blinking lights all over the place. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas decor, holiday food, and candlelight church services. Did I mention cookies? I really really love Christmas cookies! What I don’t like are the expectations, the pressures, and the additional obligations that have become synonymous with this time of the year.

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This is my first holiday season as a maker and I am finding myself more stressed than in previous years, which I didn’t think was humanly possible.  I haven’t met the goals I made for myself (which I wrote about here  Trying not to be a Discouraged Maker this Holiday Season.) But recently the term “self care” has been coming at me from multiple directions and I’ve decided I better listen. In the past I thought that making myself a priority was selfish or something that should be addressed when everything else was done. I can hear Dr. Phil in the background yelling in his Texas drawl,

“How’s that working for ya?”

And to be perfectly honest, it isn’t working for me. The time to include some self care into my routine is vital, not only to my happiness, but to my productivity as well. I have a feeling you are the same way! Once this revelation really sunk in I began thinking about what fills me up, what energizes me and I created a list. Your’s may be completely different but my hope is that by sharing mine you might be inspired to think of ways you can care for yourself in a more mindful and purposeful way! And maybe, just maybe, it will help make this a more meaningful holiday season.

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  1. Getting outside – I find that getting some fresh air by either working in my yard or walking around my neighborhood helps clear my mind. Connecting with the outdoors for even just a half an hour does me a great deal of good.
  2. Cleaning my house – I have found that the dirtier my house is the worse I feel mentally. Even just spending a short time decluttering helps relieve my stressful thoughts.
  3. Staying off social media – Fasting from Facebook and Instagram for short periods of time really improves my outlook! I love social media and I have made so many wonderful connections but there are times that I need a little break.
  4. Spending time with family – playing board games or watching a movie all together gives me such a feeling of togetherness that helps me connect and remember what is really important to me.
  5. Work on a project that isn’t for the Etsy shop – knitting or embroidering something that is just for my enjoyment gives me a spark of creative energy.
  6. Yoga – I practiced yoga every single day in the year 2017 and it helped me get through a very difficult time (which you can read about here: Why I started crocheting and you should too!) I absolutely adore Yoga with Adriene and find that spending some time on the mat brings calmness into my mind and body.
  7. Reading a good book – There are very few things in life as enjoyable as a great book. I am currently reading a biography of Julia Child and listening to the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Gailbraith (aka J.K. Rowling).
  8. Lighting a candle – it is surprising how such a small thing can bring me a little brightness and light, literally and figuratively.
  9. Watching mindless TV – sometimes the very best thing for my mood is a little mindless fluff! Letting my brain turn off for an hour or so recharges my batteries and laughter truly is good medicine.

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12 Simple Rules for Growing a Handmade Business Instagram Account

My 12 simple rules for growing a handmade business instagram account!

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When I become interested in a subject I want to know everything about it.  I study, I learn, and I focus. My interest in Instagram is no different. I listen to podcasts, read blog posts and attend webinars all about this social media platform.  November 13, 2018 marks my one year anniversary on Instagram and so much has happened within that time frame. It seems like just yesterday that I posted my first grainy photo. I’m certainly not an expert, but I want to share my twelve simple rules that have worked for me!

How I’m Organically Growing my Instagram Account

  1. Engage – This is my absolute number one, most important piece of advice. Engaging with those who are in your niche or who take the time to comment on your post is critical for growth. When I began my Instagram account I spent a good deal of time looking for crochet accounts. I liked and commented on their photos. I responded when they commented on mine. I built genuine relationships and I continue to nurture them to this day. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough.
  2. Good photos – Please listen to me, your photos matter. They matter a lot and particularly on Instagram. Learn a little about photography. In the beginning of my account I exclusively used an iPhone 6 to take my photos. Originally I applied some pretty awful filters, but I didn’t know any better and I thought they looked nice. I began to improve and upgraded to an iPhone X which has a better camera and I stopped using filters. Recently I bought a DSLR camera, but it is not necessary for taking good photos. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have good pictures. (I wrote a blog post about photography if you are interested in learning more : How To Photograph Amigurumi. ) You can use your cell phone or whatever you have to take photos. Always keep in mind that Instagram is more visual than some other social media platforms. If you don’t have an interesting photo, people will just scroll right on by.
  3. Collaborate – Now that you’re engaging your audience and taking decent photos it’s time to connect with others. One way to do this is to share other accounts on your stories or on your feed. This is a very natural step once you’ve been engaging with others and built relationships. Featuring other accounts benefits that person but also your own followers! It’s always fun to discover new accounts! I believe in the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” philosophy. Don’t just be a taker, be a giver as well.
  4. Hashtags – Hashtags are a very effective way for new people to find your account. You are allowed to add up to thirty hashtags to each post. Spend some time researching which hashtags your favorite accounts are using and try them. Experiment with hashtags, don’t just use the same ones over and over again. Find accounts that will feature your photo for using their hashtag. That is a great way to get your page out there for others to discover.
  5. Consistency – Since Instagram is about building relationships you’ve got to show up on a fairly regular basis. Some people recommend posting more than once a day for optimal success but that isn’t possible for me. I post once a day, in the morning, because that works for me. I know there are apps out there that will even let you know when the best time to post. I have never personally used them but they could be a good tool for you. The point is to be consistent. Show up regularly.
  6. Share something personal, but not private – I like to know the person behind the accounts I follow. I like knowing about their life, but there is a very fine line between personal and private. I share personal things on my page. I have shared about my son’s health issues (you can read about that here: Why I started crocheting and you should too!) and about my love of my dog, Jersey-boy. But I do not share my private life. You won’t hear about the arguments with my husband or that I’m particularly gassy that day. That’s private. Always keep in mind that your Instagram place is public.
  7. Keep it classy, not negative – No one likes a complainer or a Debbie-Downer. People come to Instagram to be inspired, not depressed. There’s a way to share things that aren’t super cheery or upbeat without being negative. I recently shared about how scatterbrained I have been lately without complaining about our busy schedule or my peri-menopause. Negativity pushes people away, positivity draws them in.
  8. Use stories – I am super awkward on video. I hate the way my voice sounds and how old I look! I don’t like it at all, but I do it. Instagram rewards those who use stories, by sharing their feeds more than those who do not.
  9. Be Patient – Success doesn’t usually come overnight. Keep experimenting. Keep learning. When you hit a growth plateau don’t panic, be consistent, try new things, and be creative.

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What Not to Do!

10. Follow for follow – I have had people reach out to me and ask to follow for follow. I don’t play that game. I follow accounts I genuinely am interested in. The follow-for-  follow game is just a gimmick and won’t work long term.

11. Pay for followers – I would never ever pay for followers, which is different than ads.  Be very careful because I have heard that Instagram can find that tactic very spammy and shut down your account.

12. Make your Instagram account one big advertisement – no one is interested in seeing  advertisement after advertisement. You can have a product to sell but have your account be about so much more. The best advice I ever heard about this topic was from the Gold Digger podcast. (Link to my post about my favorite handmade business podcasts:  My Favorite Handmade Business Podcasts) Jenna recommended treating your Instagram account like you would a lifestyle magazine. There will be some ads but every page won’t be an advertisement, that’s boring. If  you are selling a product share your process, teach what you know, or share some behind the scenes.

Instagram, like any other business, is about relationships. It’s about humans connecting with other humans. Gimmicks don’t pay off. Growing your Instagram takes work, creativity, and patience but the connections and opportunities that can come from this platform make the effort worth it! How are you growing your Instagram account?