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?

 

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Trying not to be a Discouraged Maker this Holiday Season

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I’m trying not to be a discouraged maker this holiday season.

I read this blog post from the amazing Danielle at The Merriweather Council about staying sane as a maker during this hectic time of year. It totally resonated with me and I have a feeling that others will relate. Recently I have been comparing myself to the success I see in others and it can really pull the brakes on the momentum I have going on. Instead of focusing on what I have on my plate, I’ve been busy looking at everyone else’s and feeling quite sorry for myself.

I think I have split personality syndrome. On one side I am very creative, messy, and chill. Let’s call her Diana. Diana is fun and spontaneous. She doesn’t stick to a menu plan. She throws caution to the wind and tells the kids to get in the minivan because we’re heading to Chick-fil-A for dinner! Yeah, baby! My other side is organized, on time, and if I’m honest, a little intense. Let’s call her Karen. Karen never ever deviates from the plan. If Tuesdays are for tacos, then tacos will be had! Diana and Karen must not get along well because only one of them is in control of me at any given moment. If Diana is in control then my house looks like an episode right out of Hoarders but I’m happily crocheting amigurumi and can laugh off the chaos. If Karen is in charge then my house is tidy, we are on time and I get shit done.

Diana has definitely been in charge as of late and I have been in a super creative space. But because of that the holidays have snuck up on me and I’m not as prepared for them as I would like to be as a maker. Once I realized that it was only a few short weeks until Christmas, Karen pushed Diana out of the way and said she was taking over.

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Karen made a schedule so that the Etsy shop will be in full swing for the holidays. She put the Etsy shop on vacation mode and set the date to reopen on December 7th, plenty of time to ship everything before Christmas.

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The problem is that since Diana has been in charge for quite some time now, I’m not as prepared as I wish I could be. I am going to miss out on a big opportunity that presented itself  because I couldn’t be ready in time to take part in it. An awesome local antique mall (the largest in the southeast US) contacted me and offered me a table at their holiday Open House. To be able to stock an entire table I would need to have lots of animals and dolls ready made. Their Open House will welcome thousands of visitors from all over. As of writing this blog post I have a whopping total of two finished. You read that right…two. I can only make one to two animals per week and that’s if my tendonitis doesn’t start acting up (You can read more about that here: Saying Goodbye to my Beloved Cotton Yarn) That was a big huge bummer. A big, huge, fat, hairy, wet bummer. Not a nice visual, huh?

I started to feel super down about my own abilities and limitations. Scrolling through Instagram only made me feel worse when I saw how well planned and organized so many other makers seem to be. They have been preparing for the holiday season for months, while Diana has been over here flitting around in her own head!

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From the Merriweather Council Blog

“If you feel like seemingly everyone else is killing it this weekend – like everyone else has stacks of packages to ship out, orders out their ears, and everything is going just swell for everyone but you – please know that EVERYONE is on their own track. Everyone has to stay in their lane at their pace and experience their own ups and downs whenever they come. And TRUST ME everyone has downs and ups. Everyone.” – Danielle Spurge

This is exactly how I have been feeling. Everyone else is killing it and here I am picking my nose in the corner. But her quote really resonated with me and allowed me to see that I’m on my own track. This is my first holiday season as a maker as an Etsy shopkeeper. I am currently on track to be able to reopen the shop in early December and I am ok with that. Do I wish I had done more? Yes. Do I wish Karen had been in charge instead of Diana for the past few months? Maybe. Diana is definitely way more fun!

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But here I am, the beginning of November, and I’m going to take Danielle’s advice and stay in my lane, quit worrying about how well everyone else seems to be doing, and make some damn cute amigurumi. (Blog post about how you can make amigurumi too: You Can Make Amigurumi: A Tale of Two Walters)

Next season I will be more prepared. I will start focusing on the holiday season beginning in the summer or at the latest September. I would love to do some handmade markets and especially the holiday Open House at the antique mall. That will take planning and I will be depending on Karen to get me there. But I’ll make sure Diana is waiting in the wings with a double margarita and a sombrero in hand when I’ve completed my task.

Are you a Diana, a Karen, or both? Or do you have a completely different persona? I would love to hear about it!

Top 20 Hilarious Crochet Moments Described in GIFs!

1. When you’re trying to count your stitches and your kids start yelling for you…

2. When someone who doesn’t crochet gives you advice for how to make your project…

3. When your favorite yarn goes on sale…

4. When someone asks what you’re knitting…

5. When you sell something you crocheted…

6. When someone criticizes your amigurumi design…

7. When you’re stressed but you pick up your crochet hook and it all melts away…

8. When you crochet while watching TV and you have no idea what the characters look like…

9. When you find a knot in the middle of a skein of yarn…

10. When you meet another crocheter but you try to act casual…

11. How you feel after a marathon crochet session…

12. When you work on a project forever and you hate it when it’s finished…

13. When you find a mistake in a crochet pattern…

14. When you crochet something and it’s awesome…

15. When you’re in a yarn shop and have money to spend…

16. When you crochet something for someone and they don’t appreciate it…

17. When your husband says you don’t need more yarn…

18. When you go on vacation and bring a “few” projects…

19. When you can’t find your favorite crochet hook…

20. When you finish weaving in all your ends…

 

Do it Scared…Explore Your Creativity

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(Alpaca and Pig Patterns by: Animal Friends of Pica Pau: Gather All 20 Colorful Amigurumi Animal Characters)

Fear has been my BFF since fifth grade. We met in Mrs. Parker’s classroom when a police officer came to talk to us about the dangers of drugs and something I had never heard of before, child abductions. I distinctly remember feeling completely gobsmacked and confused to learn that there were people in the world who wished to do children harm! Seriously? What did we kids ever do to them? As I walked home that afternoon I was convinced that each passing car was a kidnapper on the prowl. One car slowed down to pull into their driveway, but I thought they were just decreasing their speed to get a better look at me. From that day forward the world no longer seemed like a safe place.

Fear and I continued to be in close contact throughout my life. Once I became an adult, we were completely inseparable. My fear was no longer just about my physical safety but also about what I could and couldn’t do. I was afraid of what others would think of me. I was afraid to try new things. I was afraid to be a failure. As terrible as it sounds it was a comfortable place to be. It kept me from challenging myself. It kept me from failing. It also kept me from growing as a human being.

In early 2017 I was going through a very challenging time and desperately needed a creative outlet.  I quickly learned how to crochet from watching YouTube videos and fell in love with the craft (you can read more about that here Why I started crocheting and you should too!) I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I felt early on that this was something I wanted to explore on a more serious level.

My old friend whispered in my ear that creative things were for “other” people, not for me. I pushed those words aside out of sheer desperation for something to do with my hands. I also wanted to connect with others who were seeking creativity as well. That meant being vulnerable, putting my work out into the world, and setting myself up for criticism and failure. It was time to push my fear to the side, to put it in the corner and keep it there.

Recently I heard the phrase, “Do it Scared”, and it resonated with me. This is exactly what I feel that I have been doing. Sharing my passion, my creativity, and my heart has been scary and it continues to be. I’ve heard that bravery isn’t facing an obstacle without fear, but facing it afraid. But on the other side of fear is freedom, opportunity, and self exploration.

Here are some easy steps you can take to explore your creativity even if you have to do it scared.

1. Find a Craft, Hobby, or Creative Outlet to Explore.

There has never been a better time to find a hobby that interests you. Between YouTube, Skill Share, Craftsy, and multiple other platforms, you can easily find tutorials and/or classes that will teach you the skills you want to learn. Don’t be afraid that you won’t be good at it, try different things, let go of your own expectations or perfectionist tendencies. Just have fun!

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2. Put Your Work on Instagram

This one can be really scary at first. I will admit that when I first began sharing my work, I was really really afraid. I worried that my creations were crap. I worried that people would think I was bragging. I worried that people would be hateful. I worried that I wasn’t any good and I would make a fool out of myself. Do it anyway. Do it scared.

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3. Connect with Other Creative People

Find creative people in real life and online. This step isn’t scary at all! Creative people tend to be very encouraging and supportive. Make new friends and have fun with this step!

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4. Sell your Handmade Items

This is the scariest step of all. It involves several opportunities for horrifying things to happen. But selling handmade items at markets or online is a wonderful option for making additional income or supporting your hobby financially. Yes, this one is scary, I’m not going to lie. Do it anyway. Do it scared.  The very worst thing that could happen is that your items won’t sell. In that case, you will have lots of wonderful gifts to share with family and friends. But if the worst doesn’t happen you may find yourself with another new hobby or a successful business! (You can find out more information about why I started an Etsy shop here: Flip-Flopping or How I Started an Etsy Shop)

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5. Teach a Class

Once you have built up skill and confidence consider sharing your gift with others. This step has been more rewarding than I originally anticipated. It takes preparation and opportunity but the potential rewards are huge! Making a difference in the life of another human being is an incredible feeling and you might make some cash! (You can find more information about teaching here: Why You Might Want to Become a Certified Crochet Instructor Even if You Never Plan on Teaching)IMG_1940

I didn’t know what I was doing before I plowed ahead into each of these five arenas. The point is I did it, scared and stupid. Some of these endeavors took off and some have been a slow process. Each failure has taught me A LOT about myself and about my path going forward. Do things that make you afraid. Take chances and risks. Don’t take yourself too seriously! Let’s not waste one more day being afraid.

Do you have fears that hold you back? Does the phrase “Do it scared” resonate with you as a creative?

A Room of Her Own: A Tour of My Little Crochet Room and What it Means to Me

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I was an Oprah Winfrey disciple from 1986 until her show went off the air in 2011. Every afternoon at 4:00 was my time and I rarely let anything get in the way. I became a mother in 1995 and Oprah became my respite. We added children to our family in 1997, 1999, and 2002 and Oprah continued to be a little slice of sanity carved out just for me.

In 1997 Oprah featured the interior designer, Chris Madden, who discussed the importance for women to have a space of her own, and she even wrote a book about it. During that time, with two little girls and a small home, I couldn’t image such luxury but I longed for the day when that could become a reality.

A Room of Her Own: Women’s Personal Spaces

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Fast forward twenty-one years and I now have that space. With two grown daughters out of the house I found myself with an extra bedroom! It certainly needed to double as a place for guests, but for most of the year it sat empty.

It was a fairly easy process to make this my little crochet room since most of the girls’ belongings  had already been either taken to their new destinations or packed away for safe keeping. It was just a matter of looking at the space, rearranging some furniture and deciding the best way to use the space for my crochet accoutrement.

The space is quite small. It’s just big enough for a full sized bed and the additional furniture is really too large for the room, but is useful. Since I only use the room for guests a few weeks a year, it works for my purposes.

Having a space dedicated to my dreams, my creations, and my creativity is a luxury I could only have dreamed of. When all four of my children were young I didn’t have the time or energy for anything creative. I barely had time to breathe. I tried my hand at a few crafts during those years but the effort was more than I could muster. I would look at women who were creative and artistic and feel a pang of jealousy. I just wanted a moment and a space to call all my own.

Now when I step into the room I feel inspired. This is my space, a place that encourages my creativity.

I hope you enjoy this little tour of my humble space, and my heart’s desire is for you to have a place to call your own one day as well!

I also love using pieces and things I already have around the house and repurposing them! The little black alligator tote below used to be a makeup caddy. It was stored in the basement and once I found it, I knew it would be the perfect spot to store crochet hooks, yarn needles, embroidery floss, etc.

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This little set of cubbies once held teenage girl DVDs, books, and beauty products. Now it is a place for my yarn. I divide them between fiber type and weight. Currently my wool blend and worsted weight bins are full to bursting!

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This little piece also serves as a nice little spot to display my certificate and pin from the Craft Yarn Council. (Here’s a link in case you’re interested in reading more about the Certified Instructor Program – Why You Might Want to Become a Certified Crochet Instructor Even if You Never Plan on Teaching)

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I decided early on that I needed a way to organize patterns that aren’t in books. I used an old bankers box that I already had, and I love the bright yellow color! Each pattern has its very own file folder.

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I use Post-It notes to label each file for easy finding later!

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I love keeping my blocking mats and spray bottle out at all times. It is so convenient not having to hunt for them or find a place to lay them out. (Link to blocking mats – Hephaestus Crafts Blocking Mats for Knitting – Pack of 9 GRAY Blocking Boards with Grids for Needlepoint or Crochet. 150 T-pins)

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I have my Simply Crochet magazines out at all times for inspiration and their bright colors make me so happy! I also use mason jars to store scraps of pretty ribbon and embroidery floss.

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I began keeping my yarn labels in order to be able to identify the color and all information about the yarn. I add a scrap of yarn to each label, which makes it very easy for ordering later. IMG_5901

I keep them all in a little turquoise bin!

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The room is not grand, or big, or unique, but it is so very special to me. Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for how you like to organize your creative clutter!

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no cost to you, I will earn a teeny, tiny commission if you decide to purchase them from Amazon. These are products that I know, love, and trust. I have and will continue to recommend them regardless of my affiliate relationship with Amazon. Thank you for supporting Le Petit Saint Crochet!

 

Why You Might Want to Become a Certified Crochet Instructor Even if You Never Plan on Teaching

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It took two hundred thirty-one days from the time I enrolled in the Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program (CIP) to the day I received my certificate and pin. In that time not only did I learn a lot about crochet, but I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I hate having a deadline, but I also learned that I will finish something if I commit to it. I learned how to make a ripple stitch and that you shouldn’t overstretch it when blocking just to make it the perfect 5″ square. I also learned that I’m a total badass when it comes to weaving in my ends!

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The Nuts and Bolts

The Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program (CIP) is a self-paced correspondence curriculum. Students have six months to complete their crochet samples and send them in to their Master Teacher, but you have an additional six months to complete the required fifteen hours of teaching.  The program is broken up into two sections, Crochet Techniques and Teacher’s Handbook. The materials are very well organized and detailed explanations are given for each sample as well as lesson planning. The total cost is $85, but you will need to supply your own yarn, notebook for sending in your coursework, and you will need to pay to have it shipped to your Master Teacher.

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I really believe this program is beneficial for every crocheter, even if teaching isn’t the goal! First learning how to do things correctly is pure gold. The internet is full of tutorials and videos showing how to crochet practically anything, but occasionally there are mistakes. I recently found one when looking through a very popular crochet site and was surprised to see that the woman teaching a fundamental technique wasn’t doing it correctly. Crochet is also a craft that has been handed down from one person to another and it isn’t always taught the proper way. Now the goal isn’t to crochet correctly for correctness sake! Reducing fundamental mistakes will reduce big headaches down the road. It’s not to be nit-picky but to ensure a happy, stress free outcome!

The second, and I believe the most important reason to become a Certified Crochet Instructor, is because inevitably someone is going to ask you to teach them to crochet. I’m sure you’ve already experienced it!  There seems to be a renaissance in handicrafts happening around the world and more and more people want to get back to doing things the way their grandmothers did them! The availability of tutorials on YouTube is wonderful but there’s nothing like sitting down with another human being and learning how to do something useful and beautiful.

Craft Yarn Council’s Certified Instructors Program (CIP)

Have any questions about the program? I’ll be more than happy to answer them in the comments below! Thanks so much for reading and I hope you found this post beneficial!

Voltaire and the One Negative Comment that Kept me up Until 2:00 a.m.

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(For more information about the patterns in the photo above please visit my Amigurumi Pattern Directory)

I try to respond to each comment left on my Instagram and Facebook posts. It is important to me that I answer those who take the time to write a comment or to ask a question. Recently someone left a message that left me feeling pretty crummy about myself as a maker and I didn’t know how to respond. I read the words over and over to make sure I was properly processing this person’s opinion of my work.  I honestly sat up until two o’clock in the morning thinking about her criticism and trying to determine whether or not it had any merit.

I am not above critique. I actually look forward to constructive criticism and find tremendous value in it. I believe in order to become a better crocheter and maker has, and will continue to take a lot of work. I completed the Craft Yarn Council’s program to become a Certified Crochet Instructor for that very reason. I signed up for the course to gain feedback, positive and negative. I received both and learned most from the critical commentary.

But that one unfriendly remark on my Instagram post helped me to see something in myself, so for that I am thankful.  I learned that I will fixate on one negative point and ignore all the good. My family has actually called me crazy for not selling some of the amigurumi I make because there is a flaw that no one but I can see. Once I see the defect I cannot unsee it!

While pondering over my hypersensitivity to negativity I remembered a quote from Voltaire who famously wrote,

“Perfection is the enemy of the good.”

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Light bulb moment! That’s exactly what I have been doing my entire life! Literally! I’ve let perfection become an idol and good is no longer good enough. So from this day forward I am vowing to myself to do things differently.

  1. The pursuit of perfection is bad.
  2. I will fail, and it will be ok.
  3. People will call out my weaknesses and I don’t have to obsess over it.
  4. Good is not just good, it’s great!