Monday, September 26, 2011

Bead Manager Pro Review

I was recently given the opportunity to work with and write a review for an exciting jewelry inventory and pricing software called Bead Manager Pro.

This software is great for anyone that makes jewelry for profit or for hobby and it is flexible enough that it can be used to track various other types of handcrafted items you might make for sale or for fun. I have started using it for my sewing and quilting items as well as my jewelry and I think it is going to be the perfect solution to tracking my cost versus profit.

Out of 5 stars I give this software a 4.5 and the only reason I don’t give it a full 5 stars is because I wish there were a way to separate the different categories of products that I offer. Or at least, I haven’t found a way to do that yet.

If there is a way to do this, then I have no doubt that I will find it because this company offers a large selection of help information for using the software to its fullest potential. You also get access to a comprehensive user’s manual by clicking the help button in the software.

Bead Manager Pro provides:

1. Instant stock level tracking and inventory management

2. Automatic pricing of your completed jewelry pieces

3. Customer records and alerts for special dates

4. Data export into Excel format

5. Professionally printed labels, invoices and catalogs

6. Notes and storage archive for designs details

7. Backup and storage of data

8. Invoice management and tracking

9. Vendor tracking

10. Tax calculations for completed items and invoicing

11. Compatible for all countries and currencies

12. Works with Windows based or Mac platforms

Now, as for the reasons I love this software after such a short time, other than the above list of items, is the ease of use and the comprehensiveness of the software. There is a customer database where you can even set up alerts for special dates and you can print labels, and a whole lot more. Plus, the price is very reasonable for this type of program.

I highly recommend purchasing this software and plan on writing another review once I have a chance to play with it some more. I never thought about using it for hobby things as well but it is a great way to track exactly how much I spend.

To read more about this great software, click here.


Friday, September 23, 2011

JCopia Review

If you are like me, you love the free tutorials you can find on YouTube and the various websites that offer wonderful instructions via audio and video. There is a wealth of information on the internet and I find myself searching the various video sharing websites in search of those little golden nuggets that help me when I want to try out new techniques for my jewelry, sewing or just about anything else you can imagine. But, sometimes, trying to organize these tutorials for later reference can be a real pain.

I work full time, plus operate a small craft business so I don’t always have the time to watch the tutorial right at the moment I find it. Plus, I am a visual person so I like to refer back to the tutorials as I am trying out the instructions for the various items I like to make. My interests are broad, so you can imagine the amount of tutorials I can amass in just one setting.

I recently had the opportunity to review a wonderful software program called JCopia, offered by the Jiteco Corporation and I must say I like it. There are several things I would love to see added to make organization easier (I will list those later) but overall, it does a good job and the price is right, just $17.99 as of this writing.

Normally, my filling system for my audio and video files has always been a link in my favorites or sending myself the link by email, then putting it in a special folder. Then there is the problem of having a slow internet connection at times that makes it impossible to watch or you go to click on the link and the video is gone (I hate this!). JCopia has solved this problem for me.

JCopia captures the videos you want then stores them on your computer as files. Now you have a great collection of tutorials to watch whenever you want. No need to use an internet connection or worry that just as you decide to follow that tutorial that shows you how to teach Rover to roll over, the video has been removed. You have a record of it for as long as you want.

For me, this means I can download the tutorial to my laptop then carry it wherever I need to whether it’s my workroom, my sewing room, or just to the couch so I can follow the tutorial but still be with my family.

Plus, the video copy is fast and you can set it to run in the background. That way, whenever you pull up a video to watch, JCopia starts recording. I would say, in about a minute or two, the entire video has been captured and you won’t need to sit there and watch the entire thing, you can move on to the next video.

You don’t want all the videos it captured? Just right click on the video you don’t want then delete. You can even rename your captured files.

The only things that I did not like is that when you watch the video, the display is small. Unlike watching on YouTube, you cannot adjust it to fit the screen. For me, that is an issue because for one, the screen on my laptop is not that large so to see what they are doing in some of these videos, I have to adjust it to fit the screen. One thing to remember though, to make it slightly larger than what it normally defaults to, you must set your YouTube to “Fit Screen”, that way, the display in JCopia will be just a little bit larger.

Secondly, it needs a better way to organize your files. So far, I have not found a way to make new folders and then move the files into the folders. This, I think, is also another big issue.

All in all, I would give it 3 stars out of 5. It is a good program and the price is great. It is definitely one I would recommend and will continue to use myself.

Also, JCopia has a giveaway for any of my readers if they also create a review in any blog/forum/twitter/facebook, etc, and contact Jennifer Johnson with link to the review,

You can read more about JCopia by following this link: JCopia Video/Audio Capture

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chainmail Classes

I will be teaching a class for this chainmail bracelet that I call Parallels. The class will be held on Saturday, August 13, 2011 10:30-1:00 at Beadles bead shop in Broken Arrow, OK.

This is a beginners class with no prerequisites. We use 2 pairs of chain nose or bent chain nose pliers. If you do not have these pliers, I do have class pliers that you can borrow.

For more information, please email me.

I will be teaching a class for this chainmail bracelet on Saturday, August 27, 2011 10:30-1:00 PM a Beadles bead shop in Broken Arrow, OK.

This is also a beginners class and is a must know weave for various other chainmail projects.

For more information, please email me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How to Accessorize and the Jewelry Artist

One of the things I don't see written about very often is accessories and how they can make or break an outfit. Jewelry is a prime example of what can happen if you choose the wrong piece to go with your outfit. I'm sure some of you, by now, are saying " what does that have to do with making jewelry?". I say "Everything".

When I make jewelry for myself, I find that most of the time, I am making jewelry to match a particular outfit. The same goes with your customers. Many customers are looking to update their wardrobe with interesting pieces of jewelry while some even want a conversation piece.  If you are well versed on what will make or break the look of an outfit, then you are better able to expertly guide your customers to making a satisfying purchase.

Find out what affect your customer is looking for. Do they want a bold or a subtle statement? Then use your knowledge to help steer them in the right direction. Just be sure to offer the right jewelry for the right outfit because if the jewelry is wrong, then your customer is sure to draw the wrong type of attention. Ask the customer to show you the outfit they want to match, that way they can see for themselves, how a certain piece will look.

It's not always possible to have the outfit there so you have to use your skills of design when making accessory recommendations. While this can be difficult to do without actually seeing the outfit, you should be able to get enough information from your customer to offer suggestions. Show them several options then let them choose what will best fulfill their needs.

  • Get a feeling for your customer's personal style. What length of necklace do they prefer? What colors and materials do they like?
  • Generally you would want to add a thick, colorful necklace to an outfit that has a simple neckline with a solid color. By doing this, you keep the look from being too busy. This is always good for a more professional and polished look. However, if your customer wants to add some flare to that beautiful paisley print top, then by all means, recommend a bright chunky necklace to highlight that fun print. Choose one of the more subtle colors of the print as an accent. Maybe the shirt has pale purples, blues and yellows. Will that gorgeous chunky turquoise necklace you just made match that blue in the paisley print?
  • Some things to consider when matching colors: Ruby earrings and a red top always looks classy just as a sapphire necklace goes great with a blue dress. These are safe choices that never go out of style however, they can be boring. So why not make a statement? Monochromatic dressing makes a statement, and if executed well can be a powerful choice. One of my favorite combinations is a deep sapphire blue with a bright yellow.
  • Try matching with non jewelry accessories like a pair of sandals with an animal or jungle print necklace. Or, if they can't decide whether to match with casual or elegance, why not suggest something that will work for both? A chunky crystal necklace worn with dark denim and a dressy T-shirt could be just what they are looking for. That same necklace can also be worn with a simple black dress and paired with a beaded purse. Just right for that cozy dinner for two.
  • The most important rule to going with a bold and chunky style is, less is better. Too many accessories take away from the stylish look. Try to limit the jewelry to the chunky necklace. A not so dramatic ring that goes with the general feel of the outfit would also work with the outfit but try to keep away from chunky earrings and bracelets when matching with a chunky necklace.
Of course, each person's taste is different. You must listen to your customer to discover what they like. Then give them several examples to choose from. In the end, you want the customer to make the decision. You as the artist, are there to give them the means to choose that perfect accessory.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Getting Noticed Online

One of the questions I hear asked the most is; how do I get my business noticed online? Whether your business is jewelry or other handcrafted items, the answers will be the same.

When it comes to marketing your products, there are several quick and easy things you can do. I am listing them here in the order that I consider to be the easiest to start with.

  • Signature Line – This is probably, in my estimation, one of the most important things you can do. If you are like me and you are a member of numerous online, clubs and organizations, your email is sent out many times each day. I not only belong to jewelry groups, but also cat care groups, sewing groups, antique groups and the list goes on. So, you can see, when I do email one of these groups, my signature line is made available to people with varied interests.

  • Web Presence – Whether you opt to go with the expense and the time it takes to set up your own website or you choose to use one of the artist communities like Etsy or Artfire, having a web presence is a must. With either venue, you can list your items individually by paying a small listing fee and selling fee, very similar to EBay but, without the bidding. This is good if you only have just a few items you plan on offering. If you have a large number of items to offer, I highly suggest you opt for their monthly plans and open a store. You have a lot more options when it comes to listing and it will save you money and time over listing them with just a basic membership.

  • Blogs – I will admit, I am very slow about updating my blog and keeping fresh material posted however, I do know that blogging is an important aspect to having an online presence. A blog, when utilized correctly, will work hand in hand with your website, Etsy or Artfire store fronts. Adding your Artfire or Etsy shop widget or a slide presentation of your products that directs people to your site is so beneficial in staking your claim on the web.

    With a blog, you can literally, tell the story of your item directly to the shoppers. Talk about what inspired you when making your piece. Is there some type of history that the design was based on or was it a new technique you were trying? Maybe you just returned from a trip and you were so inspired by the scenery that you made this particular design. If it is a new technique, be sure to describe the technique you used to make your pieces as this is usually very interesting to your prospective buyers. Show pictures of things that inspire you. I am always inspired by the beautiful colors of ocean scenery. I have a lot of pictures from my various trips that I use whenever I make a new piece that is inspired by a particular trip. I post it on my blog along with the link to my piece.

  • Tags or Key Words – A very important item to always remember to add when setting up shop. Tags and keywords are what help to direct a customer to your store. These keywords are what buyers key into a search engine to find what they are looking for. Be as specific as you possibly can. If a phrase best describes your item, use a phrase. You are not limited to using only one word in your tags. Crystal wedding necklace would be good for a bride looking for jewelry. Just don’t go overboard on your key words because you will run the risk of being penalized by the search engines for using too many unnecessary words in your site.

  • Social Media and Networking – There are lots of sites where you can network by posting opinions, ideas etc. Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Linkedin, Yahoogroups, and the list goes on, all having a wide range of topics to choose from. Sit down and make a list of all your interests then do a search on the various media sites. Become a member of everything that interests you. You must be fairly active though, for people to follow you. A good introduction and your signature line are very important.

    Please be sure to look at any group rules as some groups have strict rules about how long your signature lines can be.

  • Business Cards – While some people just starting out may think these are not necessary, I have to disagree. Any time someone needs your phone number, regardless of whether it is business related or not, what better way to get your name out there than to give them a business card. Be sure to put your web address on your cards. Your cards don’t have to be expensive in fact, you can get free business cards from Vista Print. They will have the Vista Print logo on the back of the card but it is a very inexpensive way to get started. If you don’t want their logo on the back, their pricing for regular business cards are the best I have seen and they do great work.

  • Small Print Press Releases – If you have a small free paper in your area that gives news alerts for programs or events going on in your area, submit a press release. Maybe there is small local paper that announces things like bridal shows, home and garden shows, etc. What better way to be able to show how your handcrafted items will fit in with whatever event is taking place? Maybe you make bridal jewelry. Write up a press release and submit it to the paper, letting them know you will make customized jewelry for their wedding. A lot of small papers will take press releases at little or no charge. Not only do you gain experience in writing descriptions for your items but you also gain new customers.

You don’t need to do all of these suggestions at once. Start out slow, doing just one at a time until you get comfortable then move on to the next. The point is, get use to putting your name out there. The more venues you use that I have listed, the more venues you will think of as you go along that are not listed here. The possibilities are endless.

I think you will be surprised at difference just one of these tasks will make in getting your items noticed.