Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Magic of Online Links & "Networking"

Thank God for my loyal local customers! Despite 7 months of hard work trying to build a base of new customers online, it's been a disappointment. My online Etsy store (
competes with thousands of other Etsy jewelry artisans -- many, many more than any single craft selling there. How in the world would any NEW buyer find me there or anywhere online, really? So how can I SELL online if I don't get found online? The online effort has been very frustrating.

But there is good news ==> I'm finally confident in the quality of my jewelry, having been blessed with steady, enthusiastic purchases by locals who know my work. I'm so thankful for their encouragement & loyalty, as self-confidence in new crafters is in short supply. I do know that the secret to success online in the jewelry craft is to find a niche that is "different" -- but how? I don't ever want to give up making jewelry that most women would love to wear...

In search of "the different," I took a big risk a few weeks ago & gave birth to the Zany Lady collection, a major departure from my normal artistic inclinations! (See my post below dated 1/6/08 :) So Lady Bella & Lady Laura are now listed in my Etsy store as well as my online store local customers use,

BINGO! Thanks to 2 local Etsy-ites, a few hundred new viewers checked out Lady Laura overnight! One Etsy-ite wrote about the Zanies in her blog. Another created an Etsy Treasury of her 12 "most hilarious product descriptions" on Etsy. Treasuries get lots of visibility from Etsy-ites, and overnight my view-count went way up for Lady Laura. Views don't necessarily result in sales, but it's certain that no view = no sales.

As a result, a lightbulb went off in my non-marketing head: Networking with other online sellers is just as important as networking to get that desk job. Plus, the number of other websites linking to mine bumps my site closer to the top when Google, MSN, Yahoo & other search engines list the results of a search on jewelry.

Therefore, in the spirit of online networking, I will frequently highlight 1-2 websites per post that I'm proud to recommend. My links to them can only help folks whose work deserves recognition!


a) Sweet Pea Cards & Gifts -- -- handmade greeting cards, holiday cards, soy candles, knitting, & other handmade gifts. Well-made & attractively presented by a talented crafter. I especially like her Pop Up Christmas Tree card, a beautiful piece of engineering :)
b) Ugly Baby Shower Art -- -- handmade shower art. Can you tell the artist is a part time comedienne? I mean, who'd celebrate ugly babies & create waterproof art for your shower wall?? Her shower art is as quirky as her sense of humor. If you want a gift for someone who has everything, I bet she won't have this!
c)Shameless self-promotion ==> -- Something quirky & fun for Valentines Day. Read about Angelina (aka "Lips")!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

TAX PROCEDURES - Killer of Micro-Business

I should clarify. It's not the taxes themselves. The services we expect from our government aren't free. It's the Process Created To Pay the Taxes that's the killer. I've worked all my life as an employee, where various accounting departments dealt with "all that stuff." But as a micro-business of ONE, I'm getting a crash course in needless, confusing tax procedures that will surely produce one of these results for many like me: 1) It will force otherwise honest people to work "under the table." 2) It will force the business to hire professional help it really can't afford at all. 3) It will force business to turn out the lights on a dream rather than deal with this.

Clumsy tax procedures at every level are a killer for micro-business. But the most recent paperwork arrivals get the full brunt of this rant. I live in Bellevue, WA but sold 1 necklace for $43 in Seattle. In advance of that craft show in Seattle, I bought a Seattle business license (in addition to the State business license purchased already). Apparently the license triggered 2 sets of forms from Seattle: 2 forms about employees tax and 2 forms for the Business License Tax! After my initial dismay & frustration subsided and after wading through 4 pages of legalese, I learned that I owe nothing, but MUST still file those forms by 1/31. Total time spent ==> 2 hours.

But that's not all. We know that as sellers we are tax-collectors for the state. I understand that I'm to collect 8.9% sales tax from local WA buyers for each item sold & must turn that over to the state's coffers by 1/31 each year. But I was adventurous enough in 2007 to sell a few items in 4 different cities. So by 1/31 the state's "Combined Excise Tax Return" requires that I total up the sales in each of these cities separately so that each city gets its fair share of the sales tax I collected on WA's behalf. (I must have added each of these figures 10 times on my tiny little calculator before I got the same total twice!) Since each of these cities changed its own tax rate during the year, I had to get a total per city before 4/1 and after 4/1 -- sub-totals within sub-totals! Then wade through a complexity of topics on the tax form that I only hope don't apply to me. Honestly, it was a nightmare, and compared to most folks, I've got a little comfort with taxes & some accounting! Total time spent ==> 8 hours.

Unfortunately tax procedures will get worse in WA as of 7/1/08. New legislation is aimed at online WA state sellers who sell to WA state residents. WA state bill SSB 5089 is part of the national SSTA movement. (Ironically that stands for "The Streamlined Sales Tax Act"!) The ultimate goal of the national movement is to collect sales tax for all online sales ... even to out-of-state buyers on the Internet. The new WA state law takes the first baby step toward this national goal when its "destination sales tax" takes effect. Beginning July 1, the online seller in WA will no longer charge the sales tax rate based on his own location, but on the location where the buyer receives the merchandise! (Brick & mortar stores already do this by charging at the rate where the buyer receives the merchandise ==> the seller's store.) So online WA state sellers must know in what county & city their buyers live! However, most online sellers transact the actual payment using transaction services like PayPal or Google. When I last checked, these services were not prepared to "know" what tax rate applies to each buyer. I can only imagine that the seller will somehow need to feed the appropriate tax rates into such programs.

At this time, I confess that at least 80% of my time is spent doing overhead tasks for my micro-business, leaving 20% or less for actually making jewelry, quite a risky statistic! Do I need more paperwork or more complex tax procedures? There are 3 things that might save me as the tax situation gets worse --

1. I'm very lucky that I don't need to work. If the hassle takes the joys out of jewelry-making, I will do something else.
2. I am honest to a fault.
3. I am the most hard-headed human God ever created, especially when I must follow useless, tedious procedures.

For these reasons, I will continue to meticulously follow the law, while raising my very shrill voice to the bureaucrats so they know the impact of their policies on folks who work.

Okay, let me take a deep breath & remind myself why I started Seattle Bead Creations!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Help! The Other Cheryl Escaped From the Attic

I don't know what caused the disruption in the world space where I live -- maybe the new year? a weird alignment of the stars & planets? a case of the crud that's had me house-bound for 9 days & counting? But there's someone impersonating me today. I'm certain. She picked up my needle-nose pliers & expensive Lindstrom cutters, just as I do. She took beads & wire from my very own roll-around storage drawers. She turned on my recordings of the Monk re-runs that I love (I've seen them all 3 times). Then her hands started working just like mine. What resulted is certainly a mystery to me.

This is Bella, the first in a series of Zany Ladies, which will appear in my 2 shops ( and whenever the Cheryl impersonator escapes from the attic. (Who let her out, anyway?!) Each Lady comes complete with a name, personality, and a set of features, more or less, and an Official Letter of Introduction. One might even identify with the personality described OR consider it the personality she'd like to be OR the personality she is afraid of becoming! I'll have a don't ask, don't tell policy on the motive for buying any of the Ladies! Meanwhile I've had fun watching the Cheryl impersonator escape for awhile.

QUESTIONS: Is is wise to let the locked up Cheryl run loose with this brainstorm? If so, should this new product line be part of the real Cheryl's online stores? or a new, separate store? I don't know the answers to these question, but I expect to learn this lesson the hard way. I hope it works!

Both Cheryls hope your New Year is off to a great start.