Five tips to promote your creative business online

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I meet many talented local artists, makers and people who aspire to or have just set up their own creative business. I have met lots of them since I started my own business five years ago – but also before that in my previous job as marketing/audience development consultant in the arts sector. Most of them are women, trying to build a business that will fit around their family. I am no different. And we all struggle with the same question: how do we best promote what we do and where?

I have always worked on a shoestring budget, or actually no budget at all and have somehow managed to get my business name known and steadily grow my business. How did I do this? Don’t get me wrong – I have have so much to learn and improve in how I run and promote my business – you live and learn and fall and get back up – but today I will share some of the things that have helped me promote my business  online and ‘get my name out there’ in the first years of setting up.

1. Be social

Before we get into the online bit, here is tip one: networking is very important, both online and offline. Knowing lots of people helps. Go to local business events, workshops, talks. Speak to people, exchange business cards, ask questions. Chances are you will always come away with at least one new idea, useful contact or bit of info that will help you move forward. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to new people at such events, but just remember that people are all there for the same reasons: they want to learn something new and meet new people. So don’t be shy, because you have something pretty cool to talk about: your business.

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Online marketing means you have to be on social media – there is no way around it. But it is fun, mostly free (with a much bigger effect than any paid advertising will ever have) and with the right approach it can really make your brand and product stand out and reach a big audience.Yes, it can be all consuming and rather addictive even, but if you choose your accounts wisely and set dedicated time aside to update them regularly (or use an app like hootsuite to schedule posts and update them all simultaneously for you), then it is not so daunting.

I won’t go into the detail of every social media platform, as most of you are on it already and plenty info can be found on the internet, but it seems that Facebook and Twitter are still the most popular. On Facebook you can easily set up a Page for your business, sharing news and photos, videos and links. Nina’s Apartment currently has just under 5,000 Likes which didn’t happen overnight but grew through being engaging, entertaining – paying for some posts every now and then (you can boost a post to reach more people for not too much money if you have something very important you want to share) and just generally being active on it. I love Facebook and the interaction with customers and ‘Likers’ and it is also pretty easy now to integrate apps such as the Mailchimp newsletter and Shopify (the online shop system I have used).

Twitter is very different for example, with the added challenge of saying something worth reading  in only 140 characters. However, I find Twitter particularly useful for following professionals, journalists and bloggers in the industry. If you are active on Twitter and start to reply to tweets by people you want to connect with (or be seen by), it is not too difficult to all of a sudden be speaking to a celebrity! That’s the beauty of social media – the formal barriers are not there and people are generally more easily approachable. And so should you be.

2. Be human

Social media is about showing the human face behind your business. It is about connecting with your customers, lowering the threshold, having a conversation. Smile, be nice, be yourself. Your website can be more static and informative – your social media activity however should be fun. An informal, friendly voice talking about what you do and why you do it, rather than a one-way stream of information about opening hours and what you have on offer this week. Listening to people as much as talking to them (and not at them – get it?) is a helpful way to find out what your customers need and think of your business. The ultimate goal of being on social media is to make people want to be part of what you do, to love your brand and tell others about it. Because once you get the ball rolling, social media really is ‘word of mouth on steroids’.

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3. Be consistent

To establish your business name and brand (and remember, a ‘brand’ is not just a logo, it is the whole package: from type font to customer service!) you want to create recognition. A consistent use of logo, colours, images, type font and tone of voice are therefore pretty important in order to come across as someone who knows what she’s doing. Decide how you want to be seen, what look or style you want to portray and stick with it across all of your marketing. It will make your material online and offline look professional, coherent and recognisable.

4. Be pretty

I am not talking about your looks here. I mean the way your business is portrayed in everything you put out. If you design or craft things you want to sell or get seen, make sure your photography is up to scratch too – and consistent. Ever been on Etsy? You are probably drawn to those pictures that are really making the product stand out: white back ground, no clutter, beautiful styling. Keep this in mind when taking photos of your own products. Don’t make things too complicated though, just use what you have already and your imagination. I take all photos on my iphone 5, usually against the same concrete wall background (consistency!), then editing them with the built in image app or putting filters on them in Instagram. There are lots of great free mobile apps available too to turn photos into videos / slideshows, add text, or turn them into collages. All very useful to make your product look pretty and draw attention to your business on social media.

 

5. Be everywhere

Having an actual website is still a good idea, despite having your social media accounts. A website is your base, your home, the place where all your social media leads back to. This can be an online shop or a blog (my website/blog is built on WordPress) or a professionally built website – that is up to you. But everything you put out on social media should lead back to the base. And make sure you can be found. Paying a bit on Google Adwords is worth it if you want to drive people to an online store or actual local shop with an address. There is an awful lot to learn about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which I am still learning more about. Basics? Pay attention to all descriptions, words you use in titles, image captions, links – and get others to link back to your website too.

An email newsletter is a great tool to directly contact your customers. Collecting email addresses is therefore a good idea next time you are at an event or fair. Apps Like   Mailchimp are free and easy to use and make your newsletters look professional and attractive. These apps also offer very useful insights in who opens and clicks on links, telling you a lot about those people who are most interested in what you do.

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As for social media, pick a few social platforms that you like and are happy to commit to on ideally a daily basis – yes you need to post frequently! My opinion on what social media work best? Facebook is great for building a local audience, getting your posts shared, talking to your customers, promoting your product and sometimes finding a buyer for it. Twitter is great for following people in the industry and connecting with professionals – and so is LinkedIn.

Pinterest…oh Pinterest. My favourite! Great for inspiration and highly addictive, but it can also be another tool for yourself to promote your products/business – linking back to your website. Did you know that red items photographed against a white background are the most ‘pinned’ images on Pinterest? Together with those that contain text? I know, so much to learn.
Instagram, another favourite of mine, has the benefit that any photo can be made to look pretty cool with the available filters. Instagram is great to feature your products but you can also share fun, informal photos of yourself at work or the things that matter to you, finding like-minded people all over the world, fellow creatives and also get (local) people to follow what you do. Basically, it is just another platform to show off what you do and build your reputation. I know a lot of people who successfully use Youtube or Vimeo as well to boost their reputation and follower numbers. How about creating little ‘how-to’ videos or demos about what you do? Or a tour around your shop or studio?  Videos have the added bonus of rating higher on Facebook, reaching more people.

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Last but not least: start a blog. Don’t like writing? Just post beautiful pictures. A blog is another way of creating a following and adding something to the online mix. It is something I personally love doing and am committed to. I love writing. I blog about my business, but also about interior design in general, the styles I like, things that inspire me, etc. The goal of my blog is to provide a beautiful, entertaining and informative site that people like looking at and reading – with the additional opportunity for them to buy my products/services if they feel inspired and want to find something beautiful for their home.  So I am not trying to flog my products and services constantly – because that would be plain annoying – but rather aim to offer an attractive ‘package’ that hopefully makes people want to come back to again and again because they like hanging out with me and my brand. And that is the key in all social media: be social, not pushy. And just be yourself.



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1:1 Surgeries
For small creative startup businesses

Feeling inspired and want to learn more? You can now book a 1:1 surgery with Nina Eggens of Nina’s Apartment. Nina has over fifteen years experience working in marketing and pr in the creative sector – plus she knows first hand what it is like to start a creative business from scratch. She is passionate about helping others start up their own creative businesses and can help you feel more confident in promoting yourself and your products online and offline. A 90 minute session costs £45 and could include an online marketing ‘health check’, practical help in setting up social media accounts or simply the opportunity to ask lots of burning questions about promoting what you do and what to do next in your journey of setting up your business.

Get in touch for more information.

Stylish easy care house plants and how to keep them alive

I love house plants. I think it must be a bit of a Dutch thing, as they seem to be far more popular in The Netherlands than over in the UK. Drive down any Dutch street and you’ll find most windows full of flowers and plants. Luckily bringing the outdoors indoors and surrounding yourself with greenery is very on trend this year, so I decided to dedicate a blog post to it.

Sanseviera

The trusted Sansevieria, easy to grow and healthy for your house.

My grandmother used to have the greenest fingers ever and had wonderful lush plants all around the living room. I inherited her ‘sansevieria’ or snake plant after she past away, which amazingly survived my student years in my small bed sit, and I am pleased to say it is still alive – and thriving – now living with my sister. She re-potted it into a larger pot and it has grown much since. The plant must be well over thirty years old now as it appears in many childhood photographs. Strong little fella.


Air purifying plants

Another amazing bit of knowledge? Sansevierias improve indoor air quality. This plant is one of the best for filtering out formaldehyde (ugh!), which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper, tissues and personal care products. Put one in your bathroom — it’ll thrive with low light and steamy humid conditions while helping filter out air pollutants. Who knew. Here are some other low maintenance plants with amazing air cleaning properties:
  • Peace Lily (Spathifyllum)
  • Rubber plant (Ficus elastica)
  • English ivy
  • Aloe vera
  • Heartleaf philondendron
  • Spider plant

snake plant in bedroom
Img: My Domaine
Green fingers, me? I don’t really have green fingers, or at least I have never put much time and effort into learning about plants and how to keep them healthy. I think I am probably not alone on this one when I say I am always a little scared to buy a house plant as they usually die. You too? Well, here are some more useful tips and advice from around the net on how to care for house plants, as well as how to make them look uber stylish in your interior.

 

hard to kill house plant list

 


A lot of these plants have kind of ‘fatty’ leaves, which means they are forgiving when you accidentily forget to water them. If you are short of space, succulents are an example of this type of plant, looking very cute and pretty and small containers or cups lines up on a shelf.

succulents in teacups
A cute way to upcycle those vintage teacups! Plant a succulent in them. Img: Brit + Co
 
 


Terrarium 

Another great idea if you are looking for low maintenance house plants is to buy a ‘terrarium’: basically a glass bowl with succulents and other draught tolerant plants, nicely arranged like a kind of ‘mini garden’. We are currently stocking some by The Potting Shed. Have a look here.

terrarium with succulents
Terrarium by The Potting Shed


Fiddle Leaf fig

The fiddle leave fig plant or ficus lyrata keeps popping up in all of my favourite images on Pinterest just now, so I want to share some tips with you on how to care for one at home. I own one and mine has started to show some brown spots and edges, so I am definitely going to try some of the advice mentioned here. Important tip: clean the leaves, as they get very dusty! Wiping them down with a mixture of water and milk apparently works wonders.
mid century interior with house plants
Gorgeous sideboard surrounded by the fiddle leaf fig and other plants. Img Topista
 
fiddle leaf fig

The beautiful fiddle leaf fig tree. Img: Angi Welsch


Plants and a mid century table
Who says plants need a window? As long as they get the right amount of light, you can place them anywhere. Img: Blood and Champagne
 

bathroom with plants
Plants in the bathroom look great and help purifying the air img: Design*Sponge

 


Hanging gardens

 
Love the hanging gardens look that is very trendy right now? You can hang any plant of course, but some are more suitable if you want to have them trailing down from their pot, such as the spider plant or ivy. If you fancy having a go at DIY-ing your own macrame planter, click here.
hanging plants in boutique Wilderness Amsterdam
Boutique Wilderness in Amsterdam img Lili in Wonderland
 

 

If all else fails, buy a cactus!

Still too scared to buy a plant with leaves? You could of course go down the artificial route, but not sure if having a plastic plant in your bathroom will have the same air purifying properties as a real one! There’s always the option to buy a cactus. Looking cool, and surviving on very, very little.

cacti in a nice interior with blue chair
Image: Bloglovin

How to create a cool interior with mid-century furniture

“Oh my goodness, my mum had one just like that!”….
“It’s like walking into my auntie’s house”….
“I know folk who burnt a whole lot of these on the bonfire, that’s what they used to do”

Yep, that’s what I hear in my shop almost on a weekly basis! I sell old furniture that for some people is too much ‘like their childhood’, or is ‘too recent’ for others. But I love it. And this is why.

The wonderful Mies van der Rohe pavillion in Barcelona
http://www.themodernist.co.uk/2011/12/ludwieg-mies-van-der-rohe/
 —
Danish architect and designer Arne Jacobsen,
who made the famous ‘Ant’ chair

In Groningen, The Netherlands, where I am originally from, I studied Architecture History with the emphasis on the 20th century. Modernism was a big part of the course and that is most definitely where I got my passion for form and design. A lot of architects, such as Juhl, Eames, Mies van der Rohe, Jacobsen and Le Corbusier are not only responsible for revolutionary buildings, but created some of the most iconic pieces of furniture too. If you have ever visited Barcelona you might have come across the gorgeous pavillion by modernist Mies van der Rohe (pictured above). Would you believe this was built in 1929?

The Eames DSW chair

A lot of great chairs have been produced by these guys too. Who doesn’t know the famous ‘Eames chair’ from the 1950s, that is still being produced and more popular than ever? Mies van der Rohe’s ‘Barcelona chair’ is still in such high demand that there are now numerous companies around selling reproductions.

It is the attention to detail, the love for material and the belief that ‘form follows function’ rather than to adorn a piece of furniture – or building – with unnecessary decoration, that make these ‘vintage’ designs into timeless classics. Buildings are ‘light and open’ instead of dark and heavy and so are the chairs, tables and sideboards.

Danish architect Finn Juhl’s house in Copenhagen. http://www.finnjuhl.com/inspiration/inspiration-finn-juhls-house-copenhagen-2/
A Danish style sideboard combined with a Mies van der Rohe ‘Barcelona’ day bed and some bold artwork. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/259027416041155470/

 

A 1960s tallboy that may have ended up on the bonfire if I hadn’t
rescued it, polished it up and painted the outside grey to cover
the stained top.

The key to a great looking interior with these vintage pieces though is to create a cool mix. Don’t buy a complete matching set of 1960s teak furniture or you will recreate your auntie’s house (especially if you get that orange Hornsea coffee pot out as well). Buy a good solid mid-century sideboard, hang a large bold painting or photograph above it, invest in a great new sofa from a designer shop (or get a budget one from Ikea 😉 and add old and new accessories you find on your travels to make the room truly your own. And keep it light and airy.

When you visit my little shop you will often find teak sideboards and chests of drawers, 1960s dining room sets and Scandinavian looking armchairs of at least 40 years old. Some pieces I paint when I think they look better in a different colour or are too damaged to sell as they are. Some chairs I recover to give them an updated look. But all items are chosen because I really liked them.

The word ‘vintage’ is terribly trendy at the moment and the word ‘retro’ always reminds me of brown and orange psychedelic wallpaper (and that matching Hornsea coffee set). When I select furniture for the shop I go for pieces that have a beautiful shape, are well made and would look just as good in a modern home as they did 50 or so years ago. While I can’t promise you that all pieces found at Nina’s Apartment are designed by famous architects and designers (but I do my best to hunt them down!), I do promise that they will be great examples of beautiful & classic design.

Is this 1960s dining set still reminding you of your auntie’s house?
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/259027416042566364/

 

A great looking dining room with some prime examples of mid-century modern design
http://www.pinterest.com/pin/259027416042407314/

Feeling creative: pom poms, t-shirt yarn and a hula hoop rug

It must be that nesting instinct setting in now I’m about seven months pregnant, but I can’t help feeling the incredible urge to make things. Sew, paint, recycle, upcycle, revamp, refurbish, you name it. I am still working my day job though, so I am just collecting lots of ideas in the meantime while still doing the 9-to-5!

Here are a few great ideas you may want to try yourself, whether expecting a baby like me, having a day off or looking for stuff to do with the kids in the holidays.

To cheer up any party or kids room, you could make a pom pom garland. Remember those? We used to make them in primary school all the time. Now it’s time for the grown-up version! If a garland looks more like a week’s work than something you’re able to do in an afternoon, why not keep it simple and make a few to dispense from the ceiling? If you’re really lazy you can of course just buy them from other creatives down at Etsy.

 

This tutorial from Craftaholics Anonymous (great name!) shows you how to make fluffy pom poms made from t-shirt yarn (you know, ‘wool’ made from old tees – see how to make your own yarn here). Very nice.

 

Another cool looking project is the ‘hula hoop rug’, woven from t-shirt yarn. I’d love to give this a try. Looks pretty easy, no? I am crazy about those chunky knitted rugs and poufs at the moment, but I have no idea how to knit them. This seems to be an easy way to create something similar. Not sure about the bold colours in the one pictured, but I’m sure you could turn it into something quite sophisticated by using greys, deep purples or reds instead. Here’s the How-To

familyfun.go.com

 

Making furniture out of old pallets

I am a big fan of recycling, or in other words, making sure that something doesn’t end up in the skip. I love seeing old wood being reused and pallets are an easy way to get your hands on some cheap, rustic looking and very versatile wood.

I found some examples of reused pallets on www.folksy.com, but… £180 for coffee table made from a reclaimed old pallet? It doesn’t look that difficult to screw four wheels under a pallet, give the thing a good varnish and get a cut-to-size piece of glass to put on top of it, does it?

Image: mobius-living.co.uk

Hold on, I just came across this Studio5 website with some tutorials on it… Time to save some money, folks! Tutorial: How to make a coffee table out of a pallet

And another great looking coffee table here… And you know what? I’ve got the tutorial here just for you: pallet coffee table tutorial

You may be charging £180 for your own home-made creations soon!

 

This design is very nice too, an ottoman designed by BCK design from Canada. Looks very contemporary, beautiful and functional at the same time.

Image: Designspotter.com

 

The lovely Recicla e Decora blog also shows a great number of recycled pallet projects (although I can’t understand the Portuguese text – I always enjoy the pictures!). What about this shoe rack…? I know, a bit basic…but an original idea.

 

Image: recicla e decora

One of my favourites is this rustic bench and a similar one was shown in the BBC gardening programme Gardeners World last Summer. I’m pleased to say there’s a video tutorial for it on the BBC website. It’s not the most glamorous looking thing, but hey, it’s a pallet – what do you expect!

Image: treesandthings via GrowsonYou

Pallets are not just great for making tables and benches, London based Studiomama also makes lamps out of them.

Image: studiomama

That’s it for today! But if you still can’t get enough of pallets and the magic you can create with them, go and have a look on www.greenupgrader.com, for many more ideas and “The 8 best resources for Building with Pallets“.

Time to dive into the skip, I think, and find some old planks…