High Five for Friday!

I can't believe February is practically over. Heck I can't believe we are 2 months into this year! I will say that February has been a much better month for our family than January... maybe it's only up from here?

1. We got SNOW! That's a pretty rare event in Georgia. Like a once a year {maybe} event. Luke has been asking for snow since last summer so I'm glad he finally got his wish. Although it was a WET snow, so we didn't do much playing. The night it was snowing it was simultaneously sleeting (yuck) and then next morning (after it sleeted all night) it was mainly sludge. 

But it was beautiful none the less. Here is my "time lapse". 

We ended up getting about 2 inches. We were literally on the snow/sleet/rain line and we really thought we'd end up getting more with how fast it was coming, but it slowly changed to rain overnight. Major bummer. I'm all "go big or go home". 
2. The kids loved it! Luke went right out to play and being cold and wet didn't seem to bother him. 

Em was perfectly content to watch it from the inside. I didn't even take her out in it. She was napping when it started and sleeping for the night when Luke went out.
 I don't think she would have loved it judging from her reaction last year. 
3. Since we were snowed in for 2 days we were able to get a lot done around here! I am almost ready to share my new office!
4. I don't have any sneak peeks but I FINISHED the kid's bathroom!!! Yay! I only started it SIX months ago. That seem to be my time table lately. Hello lime, navy and anchor goodness! It will be on the blog next week (along with a free printable!). 

5. I thought it would be fun to keep myself accountable and update my new years goals at the end of each month. I am doing well meal planning (out of necessity), I feel like I've kept my momentum up here on the blog, and I already admitted my failure with #5. But the biggest goal we are working towards is saving up money from selling things to create an emergency fund. We had a couple life events in 2013 (new baby, no job, new house) that depleted our savings. So we are working to slowly build it back. We aren't saving what we'd like to be saving (our income took a 45% hit when we decided I'd stay home), but it's been fun to challenge ourselves to this goal. 
We are doing the monthly goals and are JUST at the point where it's getting HARD! We are $20 away from our April goal (which will total at $250 in 2 months) but I am purposely working ahead because it doesn't peak until July! Phew! I am selling on eBay, Facebook, and at consignment sales. I am still waiting for my totals from the last sale that I did so I am excited about adding that to our total! So far we have sold a stroller, Luke's tux from a wedding last year, a few outfits/shoes, old cell phone cases, and just random stuff we come across that we don't need! I have been totally inspired by Living Well Spending Less, and I grabbed their book* back at the beginning of the year. I have enjoyed reading their ideas of saving and putting them into practice!

**Contains affiliate links. Read my disclosures here

Etsy Tips and Tricks

I am working away getting my office set up in our dining room! I am so happy to have made the switch up here!! With lots of natural light I am so inspired to continue creating. I can't wait to share the space with you! Soon, I promise soon! Today I have a post for tips and tricks on Etsy! I had my first sale last June and it was SUPER exciting!

Please note that I have A LONG way to go with selling on Etsy, but I have learned ALOT along the way, so I thought it would be fun to highlight a few tips for you! This doesn't just apply to monogram/embroidery. This could be ANY Etsy shop!

While I'd love to have my own website, for now this is practical and easy. Etsy allows a great platform for beginners to reach more people than you'd probably be able to reach on your own. Each listing is only $0.20 (use this link to get your first 40 listings FREE if you open a new shop!). In full disclosure- I also get 40 free listings if you use my link. #shamelessplug

1. Photography- take good photos. Great photos actually. Remember your customers are not able to feel or actually see the items they are purchasing. Take close up, clear pictures. I use Picmonkey.com to edit everything. If I don't feel the color is displayed properly in my photo I will do my best to edit the photo to look like the item as much as possible. If you don't have a good background Hobby Lobby sells great backdrops. I use the wood floors in our house. I have a spot that gets killer natural light, so I just go with that. I can edit the color and saturation in Picmonkey if need be. I do use my Canon DSLR* shot in Manuel mode to capture my items.

2. Take time to write your listings. I try to make each listing in my shop unique to the item (with all necessary info included). Edit and proofread. And when you think you are done proofing, read it again. I usually save it as a draft and go back to it another day. Or look at the preview... it helps my eyes to see the listing in a different form and with fresh eyes. And let's be honest: No matter how much I proof I still find errors. Try to put yourself in the customer's shoes. The less questions they have to ask the better. Also if a customer does contact me with a question, I make sure to go back and edit the listing with the necessary info (if applicable).

3. Speaking of editing... edit your listings OFTEN. With what I do, seasons and holidays pass so quickly that it's easy to let them go. Keep your stuff current. Even if you have to put your shop on vacation to do it. I took a break after Christmas and during that time I edited everything to make it current for Valentine's and Spring. Also make sure your prices are consistent throughout. If you raise or lower your price on one listing make sure you do it for all. That way your customers don't feel cheated (unless you are having a sale). Sometimes I have long sleeves listed (no need for short sleeve in November), but I have to remember to change that as the seasons change.

4. Use the "deactivate" button to your advantage. Let's say that I created a listing for $0.20 December 1st. It was for a reindeer shirt. After Christmas passed I no longer needed that listing, but I had already spent $$ for the listing. What I did was copied everything over to a new listing ("add new item"), inserted the picture and instead of posting (and spending another $0.20) I "saved it as a draft" so that it will be ready to go next year. Then with the old listing I added a Valentine's shirt. Since listings are good for 3 months, this listing that I bought in December will be good until March. Be smart. Although $0.20 isn't much, it does add up when you have 50+ items listed.

5. Take advantage of Etsy mini. Etsy mini is a widget for your blog. You set up how many items you want it to show and how you want it to look and they give you a code to paste into your blog settings. While I don't love how mine looks currently (all girl stuff), it has been a great tool to connect my blog and my shop! In Etsy go to your shop>items>promote>etsy mini. The last 5 items listed (or however many you choose to show) will show up there. The only drawback I've seen is that you can't edit what items are in Etsy Mini. I wish I could control that, but I haven't found a way (without being very strategic about listing).
6. Get connected. There are TONS of forums to help! When I had sold less than 10 items I was apart of a group to specifically help that. It was fun reading and learning about how Etsy worked. While I still have a lot to learn, I feel like I know a lot more than I did. I *knock on wood* haven't had ONE bad experience!

7. Communicate with your sellers! If you have an issue (your machine breaks, or you don't have a certain color they ordered in stock) LET THEM KNOW. They are much more likely to be forgiving if you are upfront and honest with them. Heck this applies to real life too!

Also, a question I get ALOT that I always have to turn down- "Do you rush orders?" And while I'd LOVE to, I cannot take the time to stress myself or my family out. I do offer to upgrade to priority shipping for a small fee- but I still stick to my 1-2 week turnaround time PLUS shipping time. So the priority upgrade only guarantees 3 day shipping instead of 5.

8. Treat it like a job. If you can't put the time into it, it may not be worth it to you. I spend probably 5 hours a week updating listings (sometimes more especially during seasonal changes), taking pictures, etc. That doesn't seem like much, but I consider it part of what I do. If I feel rushed, my listings end up sloppy with broken links and confusing info. Once a month I try to go through and read every listing from start to finish while clicking all the links/options and comparing it to my inventory sheet (which you can purchase here) to make sure everything is right. If someone purchases an item and I realize my listing was wrong or confusing I immediately try to clear up the confusion with a private message to the buyer. Also don't panic. You can always refund!

9. Like eBay, Etsy is run by feedback. And while I wish I had more feedback/reviews, the reality is that very few people leave reviews (even when they are completely satisfied with their order). This is something I learned early on the forums so I try not to take it personally. I do offer a 10% off coupon code on their next purchase if they leave feedback. Out of 39 sales I've received 7 reviews.  I also state in every listing that they are more than welcome to view my facebook page with reviews there. Building trust is never a bad thing :)

10. Enjoy it! While it should be treated professionally like a job, if you don't love what you do then it may not be the right fit. I love when I am full of orders and stressed to the max. It means that I am able to provide a little for my family while staying home with my babies! Don't go into it thinking that Etsy will be a consistent source of income. For some this is true but when you are in a saturated market, you have to work your way through! Find a way to shine and stand out! For me this is filling orders as quickly as possible (customer satisfaction never hurt anyone) and super cute packaging! Find you niche!

I hope these tips helped! When I started this post I was only planning 5 points. But as I wrote I kept coming up with more tips and ideas! I hope they help you get started (or continue by making your listings better)! Don't forget to download the Sell on Etsy App. It's a great way to keep orders together (and you can write your customers back super fast!).

**Contains affiliate links. Read my disclosures here.

Kid's Clothing Inventory

I created a list about SIX months ago with things I wanted to accomplish. I was hoping to get to these like THAT MONTH. Well, sometimes things move slow around here. And while I would have loved to have this stuff done months ago, I'm just glad it's done. #canigetanamen 

Number 5 on the list was to accomplish 3 small projects. One of those was a hook system for Luke's closet. I'm happy to say that it has actually been up since the beginning of school. So while I've slacked in other areas, this has made our mornings SO EASY. 

I grabbed the dino hooks on deep discount at Hobby Lobby. The board was in a trash pile at one of the new homes being built in our neighborhood. I stained it with my favorite Minwax Deep Walnut* stain. 

Since he is quite the morning person, he enjoys getting up and getting himself ready. I love it that there won't be a fight over his outfit. 

So while we're on the topic of Luke's closet... 

I pulled out and organized both kid's clothes. All of them. Outgrown, too big and what actually fits. It was quite the job. I keep a pile in the bottom of their closets for outgrown clothes. Whenever we come across a shirt or pants that are too small I throw it in the pile. Every few months I'll load it all in a laundry basket, haul it downstairs and store them in tubs in the garage (prepping for consignment sales). 

And since I hit up consignment sales twice a year, I always look ahead for bigger clothes. I can't always find everything I need at the moment I need it, so I buy a few seasons ahead. 

Naturally, Luke's closet was pretty well organized. His closet is HUGE and boys clothes in general are easier to sort- pants, tops, swim, etc. 

Emberly's closet was a different story. I really had to work hard in here. Plus she is growing like a weed, so I have to go through her stuff more often. I literally took everything out of her closet and sorted in the hall. 

I created distinct piles- consignment, giveaway, keep, and then I took the stuff that was leaving away pretty quickly (so it didn't get confused with what was staying). 
I had been collecting bins from around the house for a few weeks so I used them to begin the sort. I wanted all the bins to be clear (so I could see what was in them) and I wanted them to be color coded (pink- girl, blue/white- boy). 
Next I created some super cute, easy to use labels for these bins. Here's the girl version: 
So after all the clothes were sorted I went through and labeled all of them with the contents that are inside. Emberly's closet is MUCH smaller, and would not be able to hold all her bins. Plus Luke is a solid sleeper so I can sneak in his closet, shut the door, turn on the light, and work while he's sleeping.

Since I have quite a few summer clothes for Emberly I ended up sorting them by "shorts-2T" in one bin, "outfits-2T" in another (that's usually a top with matching leggings or bottoms), "dresses-2T" in another, etc. Luke's were simple enough that one bin is 5T, another is 5/6. He is getting a little harder to shop for because he is developing preferences. He wants "cool" shirts. I can't tell you how excited I will be to get UNIFORMS next year. Amen?
 Here's a backed up shot of the whole space. He insisted on the solar system poster ;)
There was one HUGE bin that I used to house Em's 3T, 4T, and 5T clothes. I chose to combine them all in one bin because I can separate them later. I like that I can easily see what's in here with these inventory labels. I know exactly how many dresses, etc. that she has so when I go to consignment sales I can be on the look out for what we NEED.
And a close up of the girl label: 
And since you lasted through this post that was crammed full of pictures and words you can grab you own inventory sheets HERE!! They won't always be free since I'll be adding them to my Etsy shop eventually.
{grab yours here!} 

*contain affiliate links. Read my disclosures here

Small Business Shipping: how to ship without paying a small fortune

One of the lovely parts of running a small business is mailing! I love sending out "happy mail"! And it took me a while to figure out how to do this the most cost effective way possible. I hope that my "trial and error" will help you with your mailings!

1. Package it right:
The first thing I do to prep an order for shipment is to fold it nicely and package it in bread bags*. I always tie the bags closed with ribbon. Why bread bags? Not only do they fit what I ship nicely, and they are ready to gift, but it protects the shirt in the mail. If for some reason the polymailer (that's the next point) gets damaged, the bread bag is added protection.
And I always stick two business cards in there. Why 2? Incase it's a gift for someone!
2. Polymailers
Polymailers are the lightest packaging you can get. Since everything I send is charged by the ounce, I don't want my packaging weighing a lot. They weigh right at an ounce. I prefer the 10x13 size* which fit most of my typical mailings. I love how they self seal and you can fold them over to fit whatever you're sending. Goodbye packing tape! **Also since writing this post I have fallen in LOVE with these pink ones*.

3. Postal Scale
My postal scale* changed my life. Literally. It was the best $15 I have ever spent. My scale is 100% accurate to the post office. How do I know? When I first got it I compared it to the scale in the lobby. Then I would ask the clerk to check the weight just to be sure my scale was right. Sure enough it was exact. Also when weighing, always round up. So if your scale says 4.7oz., round it up to 5oz when printing your labels.

4. Labels 
Labels* are a HUGE timesaver! I print my labels directly from the USPS, PayPal, or Etsy (I'll explain that in a minute). I order the half sheet generic ones from Amazon. I love that when printing through PayPal or USPS, it will print the label on one half of the sheet and a receipt on the other half sheet. Printing the receipt makes it super easy for me to file for taxes and it prints my tracking # for easy reference.

5. Where to print?
If you have requested money or sent an invoice through PayPal, they make it incredibly easy to print the labels. Once you receive payment this will pop up next to the person's name. Click print shipping label.

PayPal will automatically add the buyers address (and they add your address as the seller). Then you have to choose a few options.

This is exactly how my screen looks when I print postage in PayPal. Add however many oz. you are shipping (up to 15.99oz.) and if you aren't mailing today change the shipping date. You click "calculate shipping" and then it will verify that you are about to purchase postage and then it will give you the chance to print. If you mess up and realize after paying you can cancel the label. It takes a few days to get refunded but it's worked the few times I've needed to be refunded. Of course void and trash the canceled label.

Every label that prints this way includes tracking and PayPal also makes it easy to track the packages.

Moving on to Etsy- Etsy makes it incredibly easy to print a label through their site. Once an order is placed and it's ready to ship go to "your shop">orders and then "print shipping label". You pretty much just have to enter the ounces and it creates the label. Also be sure your shipping is set up correctly in your shipping profiles.

So what if you need to ship a package to someone and you didn't use PayPal to receive the money? I'm so glad you asked! Guess what? You can STILL USE PAYPAL! Go to www.paypal.com/shipnow From here you can manually enter the buyers address. I've had to do this a few times when my buyers are unverified and/or they enter the wrong address (Ln. instead of LANE, or if the city and zip clash).

Also if your postal scale says 4.7 ounces ALWAYS round UP. That would be 5oz. The last thing you need is your customer having to cough up money for your shortfall.

What about a package that weighs over 15.99oz? Great question! I usually use a flat rate box from the Post Office. Typically these are larger orders or a big item. I have fallen head over heels in love with PADDED flat rate mailers. They fit a TON (way more than a flat rate box). PayPal now has the option to choose a padded flat rate mailer (this used to not be the case). It's around $7 to ship and is a good option for items over 1lb.
Also order your flat rate padded mailers (or any flat rate box) for FREE right from the USPS website! I order about 20 at a time so that I'm never caught without them. That supply usually lasts me 2-3 months.

6. The best part!
The best part about learning all this is YOU DON'T HAVE TO STAND IN LINE AT THE POST OFFICE! Yes you read that correctly. For the small cost of labels*, polymailers*, and a postal scale* you can avoid the line altogether. Every post office has a designated place to drop off your parcels. Mine likes them piled at one of the stations they never use for customers. There is usually a mile high pile at mine. They scan them in as they have a lull in the crowd. Some post offices have a self serve drop box and you can place them there.

Also you can schedule a pickup from your door step which is super simple. You need to schedule it through the USPS website. This personally isn't my favorite way to drop off. My dad is a mail man and explained it to me like this: The mail man who picks up your package is out on his or her route until 4 or 5pm. Which means that your parcel isn't getting back to the Post Office until that time. If the truck has already come to pick up parcels it may not go out until the next day. So I personally prefer to drop them off on my way to run errands or before/after the carpool line. #callmeoldschool :)

Happy shipping! Oh and customize all you want! My next order of polymailers WILL be colored. And I've contemplated printing stickers and closing the bags or polymailers with them. Decisions, decisions!

*Contains an affiliate link. Read my disclosures here. Thanks for helping support my family!

High Five for Friday!

I haven't done a high five post in nearly a month! It's crazy how fast time flies. We have literally just been doing the same old same old. Working, sleeping, eating, taking Luke to school, repeat.

Here are some highlights from the past 4 weeks:

1. Little man learned how to ride his bike without training wheels! I was REALLY worried because he's relied on training wheels for YEARS. We tried taking them off 6 months ago and he just wasn't ready. This time he was. I held his bike seat twice helping him balance and he was OFF! The hardest part was figuring out how to start/balance/peddle while starting again, but he quickly got the hang of it (and it helped that our driveway is lightly angled).

2. These kids... are just such a joy! Sure the days are long. But at the end of the day I love them more than life itself.

3. I figured this would be a great time to update our New Year goals! You can see that original post here. We are doing well with our emergency fund. We have met our January and February goals and are well into March. It gets harder every month, which means we have to get creative in the ways we are saving. I consigned a bunch of clothes and plan to put that money here and I have a few big ticket baby items I am trying to sell which should also help! It's amazing how quickly just a few $ adds up! I have done well with mostly every goal EXCEPT #5. Maybe I was too ambitious. I did GREAT until our dog died, and then life just stopped for a while. Then we went out of town. So I'm thinking 4/5 isn't too shabby. Now I'm wondering why I didn't put as a goal (spend 15 minutes a day in the sun) or something incredibly selfish/pampering/luxurious like that ;)

4. Monogramming is thriving. I feel like I'm behind on orders, but it's simply because I'm waiting for a shipment of blanks to arrive! I've tried to do what I can with what I have and get those orders knocked out while I wait. There's a sale going on at my Facebook page with summer dresses. Check it out because the sale ends tomorrow!

5. I'm gearing up for easter and then focusing on SUMMER! Yeah! I am totally dreaming of days spent by the pool. We had a spring snap this past weekend and it was 65 for 2 or 3 days. It was lovely. Now I feel like we are hibernating again with lows in the teens and a chance of snow on Monday.
I always say I'm a season ahead and it's SO TRUE. When kids are getting out of school and getting ready for summer I'll be planning back to school outfits and fall! Phew! It sure makes the time go fast!!

How to Start a Blog {and a book to help}

I hope you know by now that I would never promote something that I didn't wholeheartedly believe in. As I was on Pinterest one day I came across Just a Girl and Her Blog. Actually if we're being honest, Josh came across it and sent me the pin knowing I'd like it. And was he right!

Not only did I love the one article he sent me, I fell in love with her blog! It was one of those where I spent way too much time searching through archives to try to catch up. Not only do we share the same faith, but she lives in a 3 bedroom townhouse... holla! One of the things I quickly saw was that she wrote an ebook about blogging! 

While I have been blogging for almost 4 years, I will be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn. I really started this corner of the internet to document our life and projects while also beginning my embroidery business. I've tried to keep the focus more open rather than narrow. Instead of just being business, or just being personal or just being home/DIY, I like documenting a little bit of everything.

While on Abby's blog I realized that she has written a book* (not just for established blogs but also for beginner blogs!). This book has been the perfect stepping stone for me to guide me from my decision to turn this blog into more of a job than an hobby. I finalized my disclosure/privacy and comment policies and update my copyright info (found at the bottom of the blog). Her book guided me through exactly how to set that up and what exactly needed to be included. And if you ever want to make money through a blog you HAVE to have one. 
My biggest takeaways from Abby's book:

1. Ease of Use
Because it is a PDF ebook, it's super easy to search within the text. So if I want to jump right to a page, it's easily set up to do that. Also the table of contents is phenomenal and I love that she links outside sources right there do I can quickly jump screens to get more info. PDFs for the win.

2. Networking &
how important leaving comment love on other blogs is! While this is my FAVORITE part of "blogging" it's also very time consuming. I tend to get sucked into others blogs and ideas start pinging in my brain. So it's a love hate relationship for me! But so necessary!

3. Confidence to just do what you love
I love sharing our life through the blog. To me it's never been a pain to post... if I don't post or I have a small break it's genuinely because our life is crazy or things are happening. She inspired me to do what you love! Try to connect with brands that you use and love. And don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I was terrified to start my blog. But I knew it was something I wanted to do and as I've found my niche it's something I look forward to doing!

4. The nitty gritty
She explains things so well and so easily that it makes me (who knows NOTHING about computers/web design) understand the blog/computer lingo! Again, while I've been around a while, and I know how to post, there is much more to running a blog.

5. Answers questions 
Which platform should you use? Wordpress? Blogger? What is good content? What about photography? The book covers EVERYTHING, including utilizing social media the best way possible.

Click here* to grab your copy!

So if you are on the fence about starting a blog or are already blogging but aren't quite sure how to take it to the next level, then I highly encourage that you grab a copy* for yourself. Just in the last month I've had multiple people ask me how to start a blog. And while I'd LOVE to sit down for coffee and explain how I got started, there just aren't enough hours. So consider this book our coffee date.

So what are you waiting for??

**This link is an affiliate link. See my Disclosures for more info.