Becoming a successful freelance designer starts with creating high quality artwork, but being visible is key to meeting new clients, expanding your network and engaging with your community. There are numerous ways to stay visible, but some of the most effective methods include social media, trade shows/ events and SEO.
You have probably heard of SEO, which is short for Search Engine Optimization, but if you are anything like me, you have no clue how to use SEO to bring visibility to your business.
Is SEO just luck? Is it a scam? The entire topic baffled me until I started working with SEO expert Liz Lockard. Working with Liz was a game changer for my business. Not only did she help to greatly improve our SEO, but she also brought a sense of direction to our content creation and marketing efforts.
Liz was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about SEO in today’s interview which you can read below. If you want to learn more about the process, Liz is hosting a free training on April 30, 2015 at 10am PDT.
During this training Liz is going to be sharing:
1. The truth about what sort of SEO results are REALLY possible for a small business like yours
2. Her favorite FREE tool that she uses every day for SEO that has nothing to do with “keywords”
3. Her super-simple 3-step process for getting way more of the RIGHT kind of SEO traffic to your website – all with zero headache!
4. The inside scoop on her newly updated course, Your SEO Roadmap
Grab your spot here.
What is SEO and why is it important?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization but really it’s just the art of getting found by more of the right people on sites like Google.
One of the things I love about helping clients develop SEO strategies that attract more of their ideal clients is that once SEO is in motion, it’s *way* less time and *way* less money than other marketing activities can take.
What are the greatest benefits of SEO and what are some of the challenges one might encounter?
I think the BIGGEST benefit to having a solid SEO strategy in place is that it consistently attracts more of the right people to your site – which means more prospects & customers – which in turns means (and this is my favorite) – more time FOR YOU to spend doing what you’d much rather be doing. Whether that’s more time on the craft of your business or more time away from your business.
One of the challenges with SEO is that it can be overwhelming to someone who’s not a techie and who might be just starting out with the concept. A lot of people make SEO out to be this big complicated thing – which it can easily be turned it to – but it doesn’t have to be. I think the challenge for a lot of small to single-person businesses is to know exactly what to focus on and what’s important and what’s not.
How much does SEO cost and are the costs one-time or recurring? If I were to budget this in monthly or annually what do I need to take into account?
The cost of SEO comes down to time mostly. Once you have an SEO strategy in place (which maybe you’ve developed on your own because you took a solid course or maybe you’ve paid someone to help you do this for you), it’s just a matter of who will be doing the implementing. A lot of the day-to-day bits of SEO come down to things like making sure you have the right words in the right places on a new blog post or product listing and then doing some emailing around building links to your site.
Once your strategy is in place, this could be 5-10 hours a month. You could do this yourself or you could have a tech-friendly assistant do this for you (the same person who could upload content to your website for you).
How long does it usually take to see results from SEO? How will I be able to tell if it’s working?
This one is hard but I’ll do my best
You’ll be able to tell if it’s working if you’re seeing more traffic coming to your site from an analytics tool like Google Analytics (which is free).
As for how long… this really depends on how new to SEO you are. Have you had anyone look at your site before from an SEO perspective? Have you done any SEO at all in the past? If you’re really new… you can usually start to see results within 3 months or so. If you’re not, it might be more like 6-12 months.
A frustratingly vague answer I know – but here’s a few reasons why:
(a) your competitors could be really active in SEO
(b) Google could make an update to its formula that favors your competitors
(c) you could be slacking on actually taking consistent action based on your strategy
…All of this is why I help clients come up with “forever” SEO strategies that are based on their ideal clients. Everything we focus on is based on SEO actions that aren’t chasing some Google loophole or trend. Solid strategy + consistent action will get you results no matter what. The Google + competition factors will control by how much.
I can’t promise specific results but I can share what’s possible – a recent SEO client of mine was able to more than double her traffic from about 35,000 monthly visits to over 75,000 visits in 3 months of our work together. Another client who took my Your SEO Roadmap saw about a 32% bump in just a month after taking the course. But again – nothing is guaranteed and it is largely dependent on what you put into it. I’ve also had clients see no results but that’s because they weren’t able to implement anything.
If my competition is utilizing SEO as well, how can I make my website stand out?
I looooove this topic!
So the one huge thing you have going for you is you & your competition may have different ideal clients. Any worthwhile SEO strategy is based on what your ideal clients are saying about the problems you solve. So standing out by focusing on your ideal client’s language is one way.
Another way is to take a look at the search results for a particular phrase you’re trying to get traffic for. Look at all those blue headlines in the results. Are they all the same? Here’s where you can stand out — come up with a more exciting, or at least different, headline that still includes your target phrase. That blue text is usually pulled from what’s called a “title tag” on your site – if you don’t have specific SEO settings available on your website, it’s usually the same as wherever you enter your title or headline of the page.
That’s one of the big secrets to dominating search results without being in the #1 slot (shhh don’t tell anyone ;))
Is it possible to take part in SEO without having to pay for ‘clicks’?
So one thing that gets confusing for a lot of people is the whole pay-Google-for-traffic thing and is that SEO or is that not.
The paying-Google-for-traffic thing is actually called Google Adwords. This is unrelated to SEO except for that the fact that they like to insert themselves about the “natural” search results.
Ads at the top of the search results = paid Google Adwords ads.
Search listings below the ads = unpaid SEO results.
The thing linking them is that they both might be going after the same target phrase. But you absolutely do not *have* to do Google Adwords – I only ever suggest it to clients who are looking to increase traffic by a certain deadline (like seasonal businesses) while waiting for the snowball effect of the SEO work we’re doing to come into play.
Doesn’t my website, for example, Squarespace, take care of SEO for me?
There are 3 important pieces to any SEO strategy:
(1) Keyword stuff (aka what words you’re using where on your site)
(2) Tech stuff (can Google see all your pages, are you confusing Google with seemingly duplicate content and more techie things to appease the Google robot)
(3) Offsite stuff
Your website platform (like Squarespace) can do nothing to help you with #1 and #3 << those are both up to you.
The part that your website platform has a part to play in is #2. And mileage does vary on each platform’s ability to take care of this out-of-the-box. Squarespace in particular is pretty good. WordPress.org is even better. But you don’t have to wait to have the perfect tech pieces in place before getting started with SEO. The only thing that REALLY matters is that you have your website name. So instead of yourwebsite.squarespace.com or yourwebsite.wordpress.com or yourwebsite.blogspot.com you have what’s called a self-hosted domain name of yourwebsite.com.
But hey – if you’re curious about how your specific platform will fare in the tech part of SEO, feel free to attend a free training I’m doing on SEO and ask me live! I’d be happy to give you some personal feedback.
What words of advice or encouragement can you provide for designers who have investigated SEO in the past but found it too complicated?
Ohhhh man. I’ve spoken with so many people in your shoes. My advice would be to take your eyes off the tech stuff – that piece is what I think gets most people’s SEO headaches going. Keep it simple. Find out what your clients are saying about the topics you want to write about and make sure that content has those words in it. Find out what sites your clients are hanging out on and see if you can find a way to get featured on that site. Then maybe hire someone to fix the tech stuff for you (usually not something you have to think about more than once unless you go through a redesign).
I’ll be walking through more of my simple approach to SEO in a free training I’m doing on the subject. I’d highly suggest attending if you’re in the camp of “SEO is baffling/headache inducing” << because I want to eliminate that for you!
Any additional information you’d like to share about what you do and your upcoming Your SEO Roadmap course?
I love what I do.
I get to get inside the heads of so many small business owners & solopreneurs and get to know their ideal clients and how awesome they are at serving them. Then I get to walk them through how to get in front of even more of the people that would love to get to know them.
We keep it super simple and still see killer results.
My Your SEO Roadmap course walks you through exactly what I do with my 1-on-1 clients – though all 3 pieces of SEO (Keywords, Tech Stuff, Offsite stuff) in a super easy peasy manner with online video tutorials but also includes a private Facebook networking & support forum where you get to share what you’re doing and meet your fellow classmates (I love some of the brainstorming that happens in there).
I’ll be walking through more of it in my online training, but if you have any questions at all about it, don’t hesitate to reach out via email – I’d be happy to give you a honest no-BS answer about whether or not I think it’s the right fit for you.
And thanks to Michelle and the PatternObserver team for having me on the blog today!
Emily Sanford is a licensed surface pattern designer specializing in watercolor. She lives and works with her family in New York City.
“After graduating from Roberts Wesleyan College with a degree in Fine Arts, and concentration in ceramics, I continued my personal work as a ceramic artist in my home studio. I was using vintage fabric and wallpaper designs as inspiration for surface pattern texture on my pottery. I also pursued less creative career tracks, from fine art shipping, to arts non-profit work, to real estate. When my daughter was born I picked up graphic design as a hobby, and began incorporating my watercolor paintings into this new found interest.
Spoonflower was the catalyst to my interest in surface pattern design as a business. When my designs started selling, my love for the field was born. When I realized that I could create a digital product from scratch that could sell to a multitude of industries around the world, my mind exploded with ideas and excitement for surface pattern design. It has been such thrill to work with clients in the US and around the world, in many markets and on a variety of products.
My work continues to evolve but always has two common elements: bold color in a simple palette, and hand drawn texture. I am loving the nature of graphite and watercolor together. The feminine wash of watercolor mixes with the bold modern lines of graphite work together in beautiful ways.
I am everyday inspired by my daughter, my city, and my peers, but mostly let the paint and process guide my work.
All of my work starts on paper with gouache, watercolor, pen, ink or graphite. I usually work on mixed media, or watercolor paper. After photographing the images, I clean them up in Photoshop and repeat in Photoshop or Illustrator.”
Emily is active on social media, especially Instagram, and shares a lot of behind the scenes details, and designs. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter, check out her Spoonflower shop or visit www.emilysanforddesign.com to learn more about her work. Have a great Friday! -Chelsea
Swift Textiles is an independent design brand, co-owned by Michal Fierstein and Roni Yeheskel and handcrafted in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel. (You may remember Swift from our post last fall, where you can read more about the brand’s ethos and design methods.) Well today we are delighted to share a few of their new one-of-a-kind products from their latest home textile collection, which includes hand-printed tea towels and table runners, beautiful custom woven wool & cotton blend throw blankets, hand dyed and printed throw pillows, and more.
All photos by Tamuz Rachman
Want to see more from Swift? Visit them on Facebook, Etsy, Instagram, tumblr, or Pinterest.
Each month in The Textile Design Lab we welcome an industry expert who offers training in their area of expertise. We have been lucky to have Bari J. Ackerman of Bari J. Designs on board as our guest expert for the month of April! You can read more about Bari in our interview here.
In this excerpt from Bari’s in-depth training she provides tips and words of wisdom from her years of exhibiting at trade shows like Surtex and the International Quilt Market. There is tons more info to soak up in the full post so come on over and join us in the Lab to access the complete training!
Prior to doing trade shows, I did a ton of consumer shows for my finished handbag line. Some of these required a lot of set up, some less so. However, I knew instinctively that the way to sell stuff was through great display. Of course, there was that one time I pushed a display dresser up a hilly street in San Francisco… in the RAIN! AND learned a whole lot about when to make big deal out of having a great display and when to make my life a heck of a lot easier. I could have avoided a lot of pain had I figured out the logistics in advance, so I’ll be talking a lot about that in this document.
After the consumer shows, I did Quilt Markets, which is the big fabric trade show that takes place twice a year. I’ve now done 4 displays within manufacturer’s booths and I’ll be doing my 6th full booths next month. I also did a booth at SURTEX which is one of the big art licensing shows. I have a lot of experience with displays and the general ins and outs of doing shows. I’m looking forward to sharing all of this with you.
Deciding to Exhibit. What to take into consideration.
• What will the return on your investment be and how long will it take to see it? Will you be able to measure ROI at all?
• If you can’t measure ROI, will there be some other benefit to attending such as brand building or possibly simply being taken more seriously in the marketplace. Are either of these things enough to justify the expense? How long might it take to recoup your investment?
When you decide to sign up for a trade show, you’ll want to read all about it on the trade show website. Before you sign up, there are a few things that I’d be sure to check on. One of the ways to figure out if you might be able to see a good return on your investment is knowing how many people will be attending the show, and in turn, how many vendors will be there. However, this comes with a great big caveat… For many shows, you’ll never know what the return on your investment is. With Quilt Market, for example, I’m either selling sewing patterns or fabric or both. However, my sewing patterns were sold mostly through distributors who are also at shows. My booth, basically becomes advertising for the patterns. However, shops like to buy through the distributors who I send them to.
As a side note, I keep a list of who I’ve sent over to the distributors and I ask the buyers a lot of questions. It’s good to know how many people you sent and where, so that when the sales come in later you can somewhat quantify how you got the sales. Although you will never know for sure.
With the fabric that I’m selling (marketing would be a better word), I never take an order. That’s all done through the fabric manufacturer. So, what am I doing at Quilt Market? Mostly, I’m brand building. I no longer sell sewing patterns, so I’m not making money on that directly. I’m just selling my fabric. But really I’m selling my brand. Yes, I make a good portion of my income on fabric. However, when I do a great booth at Quilt Market, that is a message to the industry that I’m a brand that has longevity. It shows buyers who I am in a very visible way. And this isn’t just to buyers who are AT Quilt Market. Social Media has made the show a virtual marketplace as well. The end user of fabric sees the booths via blogs, Instagram, Pinterest, and Faceb
ook. So you get more than just the people walking through the market seeing what you are up to. It’s important to make the most of this as well. I talk about a few of my ideas for getting seen beyond the trade show floor in the full post.
Since I know this show is really about marketing myself and branding my business, when I want to know just how visible a show the show I’m signing up for is. Ask these questions:
• Is this trade show blogged about a lot?
• Do I see it on social media?
• Are buyers that are not at the show and END USERS potentially seeing my booth on social media?
On the other hand, at SURTEX, there are some ways to measure ROI, but often, it simply takes a really long time to close the deal. At SURTEX, I found that I was mostly making the connections with Creative Directors that buy art for products. I could sell pieces outright and have numbers on that before I even leave the show (as opposed to licensing where the deal takes longer to close. You don’t typically close a licensing deal on the floor at SURTEX.), however, more often than not, I’m making the connection and then it’s all about following up. A few of the connections that I made last May at SURTEX, I’m still talking to, and a few I JUST got contracts with. It takes a long time. So consider that before you sign up. Consider too, if you are the kind of person who really will follow up. You’ll need seriously thick skin for all of this. You might consider hiring someone to do your followup if you know that’s not your gig.
There are those who would disagree, but I think that erring on the side of caution with trade shows is the way to go. For instance, I might not sign up for SURTEX in particular until I already had not just connections to contact ahead of time, but possibly a few contracts under my belt as well. This is just my opinion. I believe this because it is extremely costly. I’ve seen more than a few people recommend to just go for it. But in truth there are many other ways to get licensing contracts, and I’d highly recommend trying those routes first. Look at manufacturer’s websites and get submission guidelines to find out more.
The bottom line is that trade shows are costly and labor intensive undertakings that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Make sure you know all the details, and all the costs up front before you sign up.
Take into consideration the following:
• booth fees
• booth giveaways and collateral material (including business cards, brochures, press kits if you are doing them etc.)
• booth furnishings (this includes absolutely everything you put in your booth including your walls because some trade shows do not include anything but cheap curtains and poles that you may not want to use… I even include the cost of all of my 3m velcro to hang things)
• lighting, electrical and communications (wireless connections if needed)
• labor fees from the convention center (They charge you to receive your crates and boxes. Make sure you know the details beforehand about what you’ll be charged for. It’s all in the service booklet the trade show gives you.)
• fireproofing of materials (Sometimes that is required by convention centers and you have to provide proof that you did so. There are services that do it, and they are usually listed in the trade show service guide. This doesn’t include fabric that is for sale. Just display fabrics like curtains for the booth. Not quilts and other fabrics like that.)
• travel (planes, trains, automobiles… super shuttles and cabs too.
• hotel (consider finding a room mate)
I usually budget it all out and then add a large buffer for overages. I’ve actually been told to figure out what I’ll be spending and then plan on spending double. I’m not sure you need to be that extreme, but remember, there are all sorts of expenses that come up that you don’t think of to begin with. Knowing in advance is key. Ask anybody you know who has done a potential show what their thoughts are as well.
Become a Textile Design Lab member to gain access to the rest of Bari’s in-depth trade show training, which includes Bari’s suggestions on the steps you should take after signing up for a trade show, getting seen before and after a trade show and making the most of your trade show dollars. TDL Membership also comes with access to our private forum, frequent design challenges and variety of e-courses including Five Days to a Better Business, a brand new mini-course out today!!
Artist Amanda Caronia, founder of the design brand Bella Caronia, creates art for a variety of products in the home, gift and apparel industries. She had such a great response to her hand drawn and painted style at Surtex last May, she is back with us to share some of her new work and debuting products.
Amanda has been busy this year introducing her first fabric line, Spring Bloom, with Windham Fabrics that can be found in stores this month. She writes, “The most rewarding thing about designing for fabric is seeing all the beautiful things people make with your fabric.” The Spring Bloom Windham Blog Hop featuring some of these makers’ projects can be found here (see the full schedule below for more details.*)
Left: Artist Amanda with Diamond Pillow in Spring Bloom
Left: Spring Bloom Playsuit and Saudade Sundress; Right: Spring Bloom Winslow Tote
Spring Bloom Chelsea Bags
Amanda’s Kahopo porcelain collection for Paper Products Design (shown left) also debuted at this year’s Atlanta Gift Show, and her Crush line of home office products is now available from Colorful Images.
Amanda escapes to the beaches around her home in Los Angeles for inspiration and spends most days in her studio drawing, painting and planning future projects. She has partnered with art licensing agent Deb Eiseman to build the Bella Caronia brand and collaborates with her talented husband Peter Caronia on all product photography. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements from Bella Caronia in 2015!
*The Spring Bloom Windham Blog Hop can be found here starting April 20th. Here is the full schedule:
April 20 Windham Fabrics Snip-its, Bella Caronia Blog
April 21 Leah and Bea Koch – Wintergreen and the Bee
April 22 Nell Timmer – Nell’s Notions
April 23 Jessica Darling
April 24 Kristy Daum – St. Louis Folk Victorian
April 25 Sherri Sylvester – Thread Riding Hood
April 26 Cindy Wiens – Live a Colorful Life
April 27 Krista Hennebury – Poppyprint
April 28 Felicity Ronaghan – Felicity Quilts
April 29 Casey York – The Studiolo
April 30 Janice Ryan – Better Off Thread
May 1 Deborah Moebes – Whipstitch
May 2 Bella Caronia Blog That’s a Wrap