24 May 2011

Maker Faire: Crafting Your Online Presence


On Sunday, I went to Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, one of the most mind blowingly inspiring events I've ever been to. Described as "the people's World's Fair", Maker Faire celebrates DIY culture of all kinds, uniting amateur crafters, hackers, growers, engineers, poets and chemists. The philosophy of the event is that everyone is a maker. Part of the purpose of my blog is to encourage other people to make their own clothes, to feel the same pleasure, satisfaction and connection to the world that I've felt since I started sewing 17 months ago. So it was so exciting to be at such a large-scale event which recognises the creative potential in everyone. From skittles-powered robots to embroidery demonstrations, gardening to soldering workshops, upcycling to cheese-making, the day spread such joy to everyone who was there, who played and made stuff.



I happened upon the Craft Stage just as a panel discussion was beginning called 'Crafting Your Online Presence'. The session focused on how to turn a craft blog into a successful business, with insights from panellists Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching, Drew Emborsky from The Crochet Dude, Moxie from Made by Moxie, Garth Johnson from Extreme Craft, Cathe Holden from Just Something I Made, Alice Merlino from futuregirl, moderated by Craftzine's editor Diane Gilleland.

Here are ten nuggets of wisdom that the speakers shared:

1) Be authentic. Do and write about what you're excited about, not what you think people want. It may not be for everyone, and that's fine. If you really care about what you're doing, you'll find your people.

2) Be passionate, be reckless, but be organised.

3) It may take years before you get widespread exposure or generate revenue, but keep in mind that you're building up your brand during this time.

4) The more you give, the more you get.

5) Blog stats and numbers of followers don't mean anything. What matters are the people who really like what you're doing and interact with you.

6) If you want or need to make money from your online presence, people understand that. They know that by paying for your product or service, they're helping you to grow your business, not fund a decadent lifestyle.

7) Don't accept every opportunity that comes knocking, or you'll be too busy to do the stuff you really care about.

8) You don't need an MBA to solve business problems. As a creative you can solve problems creatively.

9) If you're serious about building up reader numbers, consider paying for adverts. The Crochet Dude takes out adverts during snow storms when he knows people have time on their hands to browse websites.

10) Don't waste too much energy protecting your intellectual property. Let it go, give stuff away, and stay creative.

What was interesting was the range of opinions and approaches, not all compatible, demonstrating that there are no set rules. In fact, while I was nodding along for much of the session, I didn't agree with absolutely everything that everyone said, and that's okay. What about you? Do you strongly agree or disagree with any of the points above? Do you have your own thoughts on how to make a craft blog or online business successful?

And finally, my favourite thing at Maker Faire - motorised muffin mobiles!



[Soundtrack: 'Some Written' by Metronomy]

28 comments:

  1. Looks like you had great fun! Most of those seem like sensible Ideas. I had been thinking about a few of them
    already!
    Enjoy your trip!
    Stevie

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  2. Sounds like a fabulous session! I really like point #1! So true! Point number 6 is and the others about adverts are tricky. I think it all depends on how you manage it and how open you are about it...but I think inevitably you tend to lose some readers when advertising is introduced. What do you think?

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  3. That's some really good advice there. Some of the ideas in my opinion would be suitable for those who look at their blogs as a business. I certainly agree with the one about giving. There's a song we used to sing in boarding school which said"the more you give the more you receive".
    I'm happy you had fun.

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  4. Sounds like you had fun. How did you find out about it?

    All the tips are good advice but I especially like the first two points about being authentic and passionate.

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  5. Sounds like lots of fun was had! :)
    Ashley x

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  6. Thank you SO much for sharing this, Tilly. I strongly agree with point ten about not being too consumed with protecting the copyright of your writing. Of course, we should all respect each other's copyright at all times, but occasionally if something does get taken, I firmly believe that you need to retain confidence in your creative abilities and move on rather than send yourself demented with bitterness. My mantra in writing, publishing and blogging - and ideas can become 'adopted' by others in all these areas - is 'If you're good enough at what you do, you'll have other ideas.' If other individuals don't have the strength to generate their own original output, that's their look out. I find it off putting when copyright notices are plastered over images and blogs. It sends the message that all potential readers are thieves and therefore alienates your readers. A discreet message is all that's needed.

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  7. Me again! I also strongly agree with the point about being true to your own passion rather than trying to mould your blog too much for a perceived audience. The truth will out and people can sniff faking it from a ten mile radius. Of course, it's good to have audience awareness, just don't let it compromise your output too much.

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  8. That does sounds really inspiring, and lots of good tips which are simple and achievable. I love the motorised muffin too :)

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  9. Being true and authentic is probably the most important. I think it's really important to find your voice and write about things you are one hundred percent passionate about, especially in the ever-growing sea of blogs out there.
    I want one of those muffin-mobiles.

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  10. Very interesting. I agree with Karen's comment about intellectual property. It costs a bomb to pursue copy-write infringement anyway and can be off putting to a reader and a newbie blogger if someone’s site has what effectively says "Don't steal me" over all their images and words.

    I’m not sure about advertising. Sometimes they can be a bit in your face if a blogger has tonnes of sponsor buttons all over their page. Also those posts where it’s a sort of “advertising feature” like in magazines can sometimes put me off. But again there’s another side to that, because I have discovered cool fabric shops etc and even won something in a giveaway due to bloggers promoting other businesses!

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  11. Wow it's so exciting that you got to go to Maker Faire - I've wanted to ever since I heard about it a few years ago! The tips are good - I agree with everyone else about being authentic and true to yourself before anything else.
    Enjoy the rest of your trip! And do let us know if any of those fabric shop tips were good because I'm off there to SF in a few weeks and have so far only been to Britex, which is NOT my favourite fabric shopping experience. Have fun!

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  12. These are all really interesting points. I like the one about not getting to concerned with the numbers. I'm definitely guilty of that. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Oh, by 'taking out adverts', the speaker meant that he puts adverts for his own blog/website on other people's sites to draw readers. But taking sponsors on your own site is another area for discussion. Personally I don't have a problem with reading blogs with sponsors, particularly if they're relevant to the theme of the blog. I understand that people need to / want to make money, and it's their space so they can do with it what they like. In fact, I almost find it a draw to their blog, as a sign that they take it so seriously that they are answerable to people who are paying to be associated with them.

    I have to agree that having loads of copyright notices plastered all over a blog is off-putting to readers. You can tell that they were written during a state of rage!

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  14. Sounds like good advice. Really wish they would drop the "e" off "Faire." It conjures up images of people wearing badly researched, badly made Renaissance costumes.

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  15. I so agree that you don't need an MBA to be successful in business, you need creativity and passion!

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  16. "Don't accept every opportunity that comes knocking, or you'll be too busy to do the stuff you really care about." Wow, I need to print that out to remind myself. This week I'm repairing some jewelry for someone, and I felt like I had to accept the job, but now I have no time to make new jewelry of my own design. Argh.

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  17. So many good points. The most important is to be true to yourself and honest in your representation. True, numbers really don't matter, just have fun.

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  18. Thanks for taking notes and sharing! I especially like point number one. I spend way too much time thinking about what could be potentially popular (booo).

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  19. Oh, you´re so lucky to have been there! Very cool debate you stumbled upon too. I love a lot of the ideas that were discussed, and I admire the work of many of the crafters in the panel.

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  20. That looks like an amazing experience.

    I sometimes find the whole blog as business thing a little difficult. Almost always when a blogger you really like decides to jack in the day job and make the blog his or her business then it completely changes and it no longer feels personal. Much as I love The Cupcake Goddess and Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing, they have changed a great deal since they became businesses. I am absolutely pleased that Gertie and Sunni have been able to make a living doing something they love and I still read their blogs, but it is different and I don't know if you can get away from that. Jane Brockett also had a post recently acknowledging that her blog had become increasingly impersonal over the years, especially after she got so much criticism after the publication of her book.

    Having said that, even when they become more impersonal and more mindful of sponsors etc, blogs can still be far more dynamic and interesting than much of the printed media so if that's the way it has to be in order to have this crafting community then so be it, and I definitely don't expect people to slog away at creating all this entertainment for me for no return.

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  21. Oh sorry misunderstood that bit! You make a good point about the sponsors being relevant to the blog's theme, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I suppose for me it's just that a blog with sponsors feels less personal and more business-y. There's nothing wrong with that, I guess it's just that it affects my blog reading "experience". Sorry if that sounds cheesy but my favourite bloggers are people who are just blogging for fun I guess. But again that’s a totally personal thing.

    The line between blogger and business is so blurry now anyway (Liz makes some interesting points there), as after all so many businesses have blogs, and a lot of bloggers also have businesses, even if it's just an etsy shop. And heck why shouldn’t we start to make an income out of something we love. A few of my favourite bloggers have all done just that recently which is fab, but as Liz says, the blogs evolve into something else then. Again it’s not a bad thing, just different.

    Really interesting post Tilly. I have been enjoying reading all the comments on it, and seeing people’s opinions.

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  22. This is an awesome post, so helpful! Thanks so much! I'm trying to get my blog started, I know it's going to be a slow process (I mean I just started it on Monday) but so far it's fun and that's all I need it to be!

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  23. I have never heard of this gathering. Sounds like you had a great time and learned something new. Thanks for sharing with blogland!

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  24. Oh I wish I had gone. I was considering driving up from the LA area but thought maybe it was just going to be robots and stuff and not much for sexists. I'll have to make it next year.

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  25. Bummed that I didn't go to the Maker Faire! I was going to go on Sunday too but stuff came up and I had found out about it too last minute. Hope you are having fun in the States!

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  26. I didn't get a chance to comment on this when you first posted it, Tilly (damn dissertation!), but this was a very timely post - these are things I've been thinking about myself as I'm planning to re-launch my own blog. So, a big thank you for passing on this sage advice!

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  27. There's some fantastic advice in here. I've just set up a blog to run alongside my business (gentle plug) http://www.marmalade-productions.co.uk - I make online promotional video for travel and fashion companies and so much of the advice I've been getting from my social media guru friends is exactly along these lines. In fact there's a book I would really like to share with you by a guy called Robin Sharma, I'm following him on Twitter and he's so full of good advice and good will. The book is here - I hope some of you might take a look. Best wishes. Stu

    http://www.robinsharma.com/store/books/HardcoverandPaperback/Si9nt-surfer-ceo-robin-sharma

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