Why the Internet has not imploded on 25th May 2018

Unless you have been living under a rock you will now probably be sick of hearing about those 4 little letters ‘GDRP’, especially if you run a small business yourself!

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the new General Data Protection Regulation which is replacing the incredibly outdated Data Protection Directive, I was a bit nervous that it was going to be this huge thing that would implode the Internet. When the last legislation was written up Google wasn’t even a thing so it was well overdue and now when I look at the big picture, the new legislation will make the world (well the EU at least) a better place.

I can’t say I now know everything there is to know about GDPR because I’m not a legal professional but I probably know a lot more than I really need to for the purpose of my own micro business. Once I get the bit between my teeth I can’t help but read every article and watch every video no matter how dull the content is! I purchased The GDPR compliance pack from Suzanne Dibble (GDPR expert) and spent many evenings watching her very informative video chats even about topics that weren’t even relevant to me.

My main takeaway from my research concluded that there wasn’t too much work I needed to do to make sure my business was legal and above board and I think I actually spent about 2 days in total spilt over a couple of weeks getting my privacy policy updated, filling in the relevant documents in the compliancy pack and Googling stuff (what did we do back in 1998?). This might sound like a lot of time to some people but when you know how obsessive I get about these things I have probably gone further than I really needed.

Privacy seems to be a bit of a luxury in the modern world where everything is connected and tracked.  I sometimes think that life without mobiles and internet would be easier, then I remember how many times I’ve checked when the next bus is due on my phone or pulled over to look at a traffic map when I’ve spotted a jam up ahead. However, it is important to know what companies have information on us and what they are doing with it. Transparency seems to be the predominant feature of the new legislation. I also like the right to be forgotten clause, I have this crazy idea that one day I might want to go off the grid and live on a farm with 27 cats.

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Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/@samburriss

There has been a great deal of panicking about the new laws especially in the small craft business community, rumours spread like wildfire and they can be hard to extinguish. The important thing to remember is that the ICO (the ones who are regulating all of this) are not trying to ‘catch us out’ and sending out fines of millions of pounds. They are just trying to make it safer for our personal data and if it stops the endless emails from dodgy companies that have bought my email address from a list then I’m definitely in favour.

If we as small businesses are collecting any data such as from customers or potential clients, then we need to make sure we are dong it legally and it is being stored securely. Reporting security breaches sounds like a really dramatic thing but the chances of actually needing to do it are slim to non but it is worth finding out how and why in advance to be prepared for any situation. GDPR should be treated the same as any other aspect of our businesses.

So, there you have it. The internet has not imploded on the 25th May 2018, even if my personal mailbox has been hit hard over the last few days. It has been a good opportunity to unsubscribe from the companies that I no longer felt connected to and didn’t realise still had my information. I did hold onto the rescue cats newsletter though incase that dream about living on a farm with 27 cats comes to fruition!

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Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/@frsphoto

But…

please, please don’t bury your head in the sand though. If you are yet to get things in place then make sure you sort it as soon as possible, it really isn’t as bad as you think! This blog post is not designed to be any kind of substitute for legal help, you should check out the ICO website (if you are UK based) or the Suzanne Dibble Facebook Group for starters. If you have an Etsy shop, they have a privacy policy template ready for you to personalise.

A reflection on #marchmeetthemaker Instagram Challenge

You may have seen the hashtag #marchmeetthemaker floating around social media or if you are a maker you might have been joining in. It is a month-long photo challenge set by Joanne Hawker and is designed to encourage you to post more thoughtfully and create a community. This year I decided to join in and we are on Day 26 and nearing the end of the challenge I thought I would reflect and showcase some of my favourite posts so you can get to know me a bit better.

When I set my mind to do something I am very strong willed so I have so far managed to craft a photo for each prompt AND on posted them on the correct days! The success to sticking with it has been scheduling posts, I took advantage of times when inspiration struck or when it was a good photography day and planned ahead. I was also lenient with myself and interpreted the prompts in my own way rather than sticking with the clichés. Some of the posts were shared on Instagram stories only which is why some are missing but if you want you can see everything on my Instagram (@clarisecrafts).

I’ll hopefully come back and update this post at the end but I know it is Easter weekend and wanted to get ahead of the game incase I was too busy hunting down chocolate eggs. My conclusion is that it was a worthwhile challenge and I’m fully committed to continuing posting in the same way as I have seen a great upward trend in my reach which is always a bonus. I will just have to come up with my own daily prompts!

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DAY 4 – FAVOURITE TO MAKE: My favourite thing to make is probably always going to be custom stamps. Each one is completely unique which makes them really special and knowing that they will be well loved and regularly used makes me happy. Custom wedding stamps are usually the prettiest but it can get a bit repetitive as I find myself making the same design multiple times in a single day due to current trends. Business stamps are more varied and interesting as everyone has their own purpose for their stamp and I design and make them to very specific requirements.This was a recent design featuring the customer’s logo on one and then care label information on the other. I do have a thing for standardised care icons as I like the formality and clarity they bring so if I had to pick a favourite kind of custom stamp it would probably be care label stamps.
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DAY 5 – PHOTOGRAPHY: Late last year I invested in an entry level DSLR camera. I was worried that it was going to end up sitting in a drawer not being used as it was too heavy or complicated and that I would stick to what I knew with my iPhone. Surprisingly the exact opposite has happened! I actually watched tutorials, read some photography books and took the camera off auto mode.I’m fairly confident that I know what half of the buttons now do and when I should be pressing them and but I think one of the most effective ways to learn is by practising. I always had in my head what I wanted my photos to look like and I’m quite pleased with what I have achieved. Styling is still quite a challenge but I’ve learned to keep it simple and you can’t go far wrong.
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DAY 7 – ROUTINE: My routine is quite structured now, it has evolved over the years and at times I felt a little bit out of control. Now I have a rough plan of what I’m doing on a weekly basis it is easier to sit down and make start on a morning. I currently only go to the post office twice a week now on Tuesday’s and Friday’s and usually before midday so Monday’s and Thursday’s are spent making and packing up orders. Wednesdays are reserved for design work and Friday is a reserve day although I try to take the afternoon’s off to spend with my OH who no longer works on Fridays. My daily routine is less organised but I generally have a to do list on the go and I find that I am most productive before lunch so I can get motivated by about 9.30 then it’s going to be a good day.
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DAY 8 – FLATLAY: When I first started my business it was all about the flatlay photo, I think they were just called top downs then (feeling old). It worked really well for my products and it was simple to get a half decent shot using my iPhone. I think the main lure of flatlay photography is how quick it can be to set up, you can take them almost anywhere and you don’t have the think about the background too much. Not having to drag a big heavy camera around is also a benefit. Since getting to grips with my DSLR I’ve found myself experimenting more with depth of field and different angles and product photography has become much more enjoyable. However, I’m not going to abandon the humble flatlay as it does have its uses but I’m going to try using the camera a bit more to create them like this one from my recent packaging stamps shoot.
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DAY 9 – HOW IT’S MADE: You might be surprised to hear that I make everything to order; that even includes non customised items! It means I don’t have loads of stock taking up space, I can move with the trends quickly and I don’t feel guilty if I want to redesign a product. Occasionally I make up samples or spares which I save and have a stock clearance a couple of times a year.⠀
All my items are made by hand by me only. I don’t use a laser cutter or any big machinery which takes away from the fact I am literally running my hands over and checking the product every second it is being manufactured. I’m obsessed with quality so this is the only way I can feel confident that everything is top notch.
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DAY 10 – TIME TO RELAX: Being self employed can make it hard to relax and switch off. I made the decision to switch off all app notifications on my phone so that I can decide when to check my messages and it has done wonders for my metal health. I still check the apps far too frequently and I know it is addictive so I’m trying to get better at that.I don’t really have many hobbies so my time to relax usually involves a bit of stitching, reading or short walks. This photo was taken in Otley, one of the best places nearby for a stroll.
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DAY 12 – POSTAGE & PACKAGING: I’m not ashamed to say I’m a bit of a packaging geek. It is an ongoing battle between being a minimalist and saving every piece of beautifully designed packaging I come across. One of my favourite things to design is packaging stamps and I have quite the collection now. Stamping is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make your letters and parcels look fun but professional at the same time. It is also very eco-friendly.
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DAY 14 – DREAMS & PLANS: Today’s theme is dreams and plans and this is something I struggle with. I never really plan anything more than a few weeks or months ahead and I don’t know why, I guess it is just who I am. Since the start of the year I have been doing more drawing on paper so hopefully I’ll be able to use those doodles as part of my creative development. I also dream of a house full of lovely greenery, my plant collection is slowly building so we’re halfway there.I guess my only real plan is to keep doing more of what I love and less of what I don’t! 
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DAY 19 – CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Right now I would have to say I can’t live without the DSLR camera! A few months ago I was feeling a bit stagnant and that my marketing efforts were a bit lacklustre; I knew how I wanted to portray myself and my business but it just wasn’t looking right. Now I know what is possible and it has opened up a load of possibilities for development and creativity so I’m very excited about that. I use my phone less and less these days, I even prefer to use social media on the iMac because I think it takes away the hustle and allows you more time to say what you really want. I’m not in a crazy rush to post something that’s not my best, I can source the most appropriate photo from my hard drive and plan my posts in advance so If I need new photography then I have the time to do it properly and enjoy it.
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DAY 20 – TOOLS & MATERIALS: When it comes to tools and materials I use on a daily basis, it is pretty standard stuff. Even my stamp making kit is pretty low tech utilising only light and water but it does the job.The majority of my raw materials are clear so very difficult and uninspiring to photograph so I decided to focus on the paper based side of the business instead.I have always been a huge paper addict, a lovely sketchbook or textured card make me so happy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. There is a simplicity about paper that inspires creativity; you can sketch, paint, write, layer, cut, stick in so many different ways that you always end up with something unique.At the moment I am having a massive sketchbook revival making scrapbooks as well as using them for drawing. I’m slowly getting over the fear of ruining that perfectly pristine sheet.
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DAY 22 – SKETCHBOOKS & LISTS: If I could make lists of lists then I absolutely would. Although my list books are not very pretty and most of the time the writing is illegible but when they are scrunched up in the recycle bin at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.Sketchbooks on the other hand are something I’m precious about. I’m always terrified of starting a new book incase I ruin it or something doesn’t turn out quite right. I’m trying to be more free about putting pen to paper, knowing that if I need to tidy up my drawings I can do it digitally in Photoshop and Illustrator. I think digital drawing is just as valid as the ink kind but when I’ve spent all day in front of a screen it is nice to relax on the sofa with my sketchbook.
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DAY 23 – HANDS AT WORK: Quality control is where I take my time. It is not worthwhile rushing because so much relies on getting the perfect outcome. My QC threshold is pretty high on all my products but especially stamps. I use both sight and touch to test my products; running your fingers across is a great way to see if there are any air bubbles or loose bits. As my stamps are clear polymer mounted on clear acrylic it is so hard to tell if there are any issues by sight alone. I always test them in ink too but I think the hands are a really integral step in this process. The only downside is that my hands get very dry and sore but I think it is worth it.
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DAY 24 – ACHIEVEMENTS: Achievements are not something like to shout about but if I had to pick something that I’m really proud of is when I was asked to be an Etsy Resolution mentor last year, my task was to help new Etsy sellers find their feet and it was very rewarding. During the training at Etsy HQ in London I got to spend it with the lovely @jillyjillydesign and @handmadebymonica. The office was brand new at the time and they hadn’t yet finished decorating so I’m enjoying seeing up to date pics from this weekend’s Captain’s Summit.A close second was getting invited to meet Linda Kozlowski, COO of Etsy with a few other sellers including @lunaharkinand @elsieandnell to discuss improvements to the platform. She had flown over from the US so it was a real privilege to get to chat with her.
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DAY 25 – BEING A MAKER MEANS: Being a maker means so much to me. I like to be one hundred percent accountable for myself by physically crafting things as well as doing all the other stuff that comes with running a small business; marketing, shipping, admin, accounting…I’ve thought about outsourcing things for a while to streamline my processes and free up some precious time but I’m not sure it is for me. I like to be hands on and relying on others causes me so much stress. It means that I am limited with how I can progress but I’m sure I’ll work it out in time.
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DAY 26 – BOOKS, BLOGS & PODCASTS: I absolutely love books, especially ones that I can come back to time and time again. Brand Brilliance by Fiona Humberstone (@thebrand_stylist) is a permanent reference source for me, I also enjoy reading her blog as it is full of words of wisdom.
My copy of Brand Brilliance is especially precious to me as I was lucky enough to go to the book launch last year and Fiona signed it for me. It’s a great little reminder to Be Brilliant.

How To Set Up Instagram Story Highlights

If you like to hang out on Instagram you might have noticed the Instagram stories highlight feature. If you have no idea what I’m referring to then you might have seen the little circles on a person’s profile about the main grid. They will only be there if that person has added them so don’t worry if you haven’t come across them yet.

The benefit to these ‘highlights’ is that you can add some of your quick posts that aren’t quite grid-worthy but that you want to hang around for longer than 24 hours. You can even add posts retrospectively but bear in mind that highlights are shown chronologically from oldest to newest.

 

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I am a huge fan of having everything coordinated so as soon as I made the decision to start using highlights on my profile, I wanted to create some cover photos for each category so that they looked pretty and consistent. You can have as many highlights as you want but remember that visitors might not be keen to keep scrolling through endless stories, so only pick your favourites and keep it relevant. It is also worth pointing out that you might only be able to see 4 or 5 highlights (on larger screens) at initial glance so keep those for your best posts.

Setting up highlights is pretty simple but it does require a little bit of faffing to get the covers where you want them. Annoyingly you have to have added the covers as part of an existing story. My workaround was to design and add all the ones I wanted at once with an apology/ explanation as to what I was doing. I’ll no doubt have to add some more covers as I plan more highlights.

Step 1: Create your custom covers in your favourite design programme. The dimensions are 1080 x 1920 pixels for a story so it will be easiest to position the text by creating files of these dimensions first. Here is a handy guide to give you an idea. I saved them at 72dpi and the quality was fine as they are going to be very small.

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Step 2: Download the files onto your phone and then upload the covers as an Instagram story in the usual way. You might want to make the posts into a actual story if you don’t want to confuse your followers.

Step 3: There are two ways to turn them into highlights. The first option is to view your story and click the heart in the bottom right, it will then allow you to create a new highlight or add to an existing one. Alternatively you can click on the circle on your profile with a + in the middle and the word ‘new’ underneath to set up your highlights. You can do the same thing to add individual stories from the past but remember they will go before the cover post. You can only post stories older than 24 hours using the second method.

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Step 4: When you are on your own profile page (as shown above) you can view each highlight tag that you have set up and click the three dots in the bottom right and choose edit highlight. This is where you can add and edit the cover, you can even reposition it to ensure it is completely central etc. Click done to save your changes.

I hope that helps explain the method I use to keep my Insta profile looking tidy and coherent. If you need any more help feel free to message me and I’ll do my best to answer any questions.

Brand Challenge – The Results

A few weeks ago I had the idea of organising a social media challenge in an attempt to help clarify my own brand and hear from the community about their own businesses. I’ll be honest and say that it wasn’t the riproaring success that I had hoped for and it was mainly down to being hit by an Instagram ‘Shadowban’ on day 2 of the challenge.

If you don’t know what a Shadowban is then it is when any posts that use hashtags do not show up in searches and therefore it kills engagement. The way I knew it had happened was my engagement dropped to 10% overnight so to confirm I created a new account  to spy on myself (essentially looking for unique hashtags that I have used and seeing if I appear in the results). There doesn’t seem to be any real reason behind it but some people suggest it is overusing hashtags or using hashtags that are ‘banned’. Whatever the reason it is frustrating and demoralising. I ploughed on with the challenge regardless, I just opted to not use any hashtags until the ban was lifted; which was nearly 2 weeks later.

One of the positives that came out of the challenge was the content that I managed to create for my social media and I will show you some of the posts. Another positive was seeing the people who were joining in and I’ll shout out a few at the end.

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The challenge covered topics including Logo, Ethos, Mood, Collateral, Colour Palette & Typography. You can see the posts searching #CCBrandChallenge

Thank you to those that took part via Instagram and Facebook, here are a few of my highlights. I’m hoping to redo the challenge in the future and hopefully get more of the community involved as I think branding is such an important topic that every business needs to build on.

From left to right:

@zetaemmedesign
@hanmadeincornwall
@sallyflorencedesigns

Has anyone else been hit by an Instagram Shadow ban, can you shed anymore light on it? I’d love to hear your experiences.