Saturday, December 5, 2015

7 things we've learned from using and selling via spoonflower (to-date)

honestly, we can't say enough good things about our fabric-maker and printer: a US-based business in north carolina that hand-writes thank yous on every order sheet and responds promptly to customer-service related questions... or rather singular question that we asked, and were very helpful/kind.  we like to think of them as a fellow small business, but they are growing by leaps and bounds and so we're not actually anything within their league.  spoonflower is a really great company and seems to genuinely value and honor their employees and their customers, which, obviously, makes us feel good about selling our designs on the site and ordering all of our fabric through them.  think that's what you'd call a win-win.

it took a bit of figuring out from our own perspective on how best to use the site for what we wanted to create, and since we're not really calculated, measurement-type folks by trade (sure, it seems like a good idea, but seriously, you have to admit it's sort of a snoozefest)... we learned a bit the hard way about how best to design something to fit appropriately on a single yard of fabric, or a fat quarter, etc.  it's very often that we get this awesome idea and just jump right in without taking any time (literally, none) to think through what we're going to do with this idea we've had and so with those disclaimers/thoughts in mind, here are a few snippets of what we've learned so far on working with spoonflower:

1) the spoonflower design community is very strong and supportive and communal, and the site is still relatively small/unknown, though becoming increasingly more popular by the minute.  we've learned a lot from following spoonflower on instagram and over on their blog, which often has great ideas that you can adapt to make something customized specifically for you or for your shop.  taking a few seconds to browse through other people's creativity seems to facilitate creativity and make the creativity of others on the feed transferable directly to you and your brain, so there's that, too!  we'll call that win-win #2.  they also just released a handbook with plenty of crafty ideas, though if you ask us, it is a bit heavy on the snoozefest details of how to fit something onto a yard of fabric and design a repeating pattern, etc. which was probably helpful for people who have patience.  we skipped all those pages but may come back to them when we feel like getting more into the technical aspects of design.

2) spoonflower seems to be a pretty great driver of traffic to and from our blog, and one of our top blog posts is a direct result of cross-linking our blog photos with the spoonflower site to show what we've done with the fabric we've created and ordered (if you're wondering which post this is, it's the one about our hops designed ornaments constructed via our hops fabric- see the sidebar for a link).  another way to get traction to your site is to enter the design contests, offered weekly on the site.  we're pretty sure we read about someone who entered every contest every week for a year and was able by year's end to have achieved a high level of design experience and had also won a contest!  we're not committed/ambitious enough to do every contest, but we've done 3 and learned a lot, though we have yet to win.  we'll remind ourselves to keep you in the loop on upcoming contests we've entered and how you can help us win:).  our most recent contest entry into the family portraits contest was a drawing gabriella did of faces when she was just 4 years old.  we have a blog post on that as well, which is one of our other top posts (see display your child's artwork without having to hang it on your wall - see sidebar also for link), but the design got over a dozen "favorites" or hearts and made us feel fuzzy inside that people (strangers) were liking something we made.  or actually, in this case, gabriella made it, which made us feel even fuzzier inside! 

3) if you don't have a shop studio on spoonflower, it's mostly impossible to know that it is very easy for designers to change the size of the design to customize it so that the pattern is the best scale for your project.  probably smarter designers have uploaded and offer two or more size/scale options for their most popular prints, but we've yet to get that savvy and don't want to hamper our shop visitors with analysis paralysis by offering a dizzying array of options.  that being said, did you see something you want but slightly (or a lot) bigger?  something smaller?  message us and we can set up a layout that will fit your specifications in less than 10 seconds start to finish.  it's very easy and could make a big difference in whether or not you decide to use our fabric or someone else's.  we did this for oreo fabric for someone looking to order the oreo fabric for a custom dog collar.  as you can probably imagine, she needed small oreos so that the design would be recognizable and the cookies would be whole on a scale that made sense for the dog collar.  easy, peasy.

4) setting up a themed grouping of designs is an easy way to display similar items in your shop as well as cross-market pollinate.  in addition, you're able to order swatches of fabric within your category for much cheaper than the typical $5 swatch order.  this comes in handy if you have multiple versions of the same fabric but in different color combinations that you'd like to offer in your shop (in order to offer an item for sale to others, you must first yourself order the fabric) and you don't have a need for all these different variations for yourself personally but you think it's palatable to a wider audience.  for example: sorry to again refer back to the oreo fabric, but for someone else, we had gotten a request for the oreo fabric, but on a grey background rather than the light blue that we had available.  luckily, we were easily able to go into our original design, swap out the background color, and upload the new version as something that could be offered in the shop.  we also happened to not like one of the fabrics that we had ordered and had currently available for sale in the shop, and we found out that you can "trick" the system somewhat by simply uploading a revised (aka NEW) version of what was previously for sale, meaning that you can swap out a new option entirely for something that you had designed but didn't end up loving - or that you had actually revised to something you did like.  either way, totally able to swap out designs for sale and saves time and cash on having to actually order every single option you have for sale in your shop.  we were able to order swatches of a variety of our oreo fabrics on different backgrounds and thereby offer a lot of color choices in our store for very little investment upfront from us.

5) you get a designer discount and also commission from your sales via spoonflower if you set up a shop.  initially, we were focusing on selling all our items through our etsy shop and so although we would offer an item for sale within spoonflower, we would be a bit saddened to see someone actually purchase something that we had for sale in the etsy shop with the same fabric via spoonflower because commission was small on spoonflower rather than what we would have received had we made the sale of the actual item through our etsy shop, but as time went by, we came to realize that these spoonflower customers are not always customers that shop on etsy or would have necessarily made the same item the same way as we were offering in the etsy shop, so the spoonflower sales were actually complementary rather than detracting from any overall cyberspace presence and sales.  as frozen the movie has taught us, we've learned to let it go and embrace all sales regardless of their origin (how progressive are we?!).

6) linen-cotton canvas is the best fabric hands-down.  we liked the ottoman rib (RIP) and we liked the fake suede, but we think overall in terms of a nice, starchy-like durable fabric for things like pillow covers and dish towels, the linen-cotton canvas cannot be beat when compared to other options on spoonflower.  when we first made a purchase on spoonflower, we went with the cheapest option of that basic cotton and although it was fine, it was simply fine: not beyond that and certainly not great.  it was only through trial and error and a bit of persistence (and free swatch days!) that we were able to find and fall in love with the linen-cotton canvas blend.  we actually owe the creator of the pinterest pin on recipe tea towels for introducing us to the fabric, because had we not done that project as a christmas gift for our mom's side of the family a few years ago, we may not have ever found our love of linen-cotton canvas and the whole course of our etsy shop and offerings would have changed as a result.  sidenote: if you're looking for christmas gift ideas, those recipe tea towels were sort of a pain to draw up and create and order and sew all during the busy holiday season, but boy were they a hit.  it's funny too because some of our relatives won't use the tea towels because they are so precious whereas others use theirs all the time.  to each their own, we guess.  PS wondering how to make these towels and what they look like?  Check out the handy post (again in the sidebar!) we made on how to create these tea towels.

7) speaking of tea towels, the one sort of drawback/complaint we have is that for standard shipping, which is extremely cost-effective, there's a long wait period (up to 10 days) from when you order to when it gets printed and then only after it's printed (duh) can you expect them to mail it, so a lot of waiting can be expected after you order.  it's difficult for the impatient (like us).  if you wait and then find out that your package arrives and you super super love it, yay for you but if you wait all this time to open it and then discover that you really think it would look better if it were scaled a bit bigger or smaller (the viewing options on spoonflower are something that could be improved, in our opinion), then you have to of course re-order and re-wait.  there's a way to avoid the lag time by paying more premium rates for shipping, but we consider that to be sort of a waste of money in general, as we are a proud amazon prime member and hate as a policy to pay for shipping.

we actually are realizing that we have a few more points that we'd like to make but as this post is getting quite long, we'll wrap it up here and put part 2 into a new blog post to be posted at a later date - stay tuned!