Jane Tibbetts draws and prints brilliantly witty and beautiful typographical prints and art cards which she sells under her pseudonym Chatty Nora. We asked her to tell us a bit more about her Folksy shop and how she has grown her business, and share a few tips for other Folksy sellers…
When did you start Chatty Nora, and what kind of things did you consider before setting up your online shop?
I started Chatty Nora in 2011 when I relocated to Yorkshire. At first it was just an indulgent desire to do some design for myself as the plan was for my main income to come from freelancing. I looked at lots of online selling platforms and I started using Folksy because it fitted my needs perfectly as someone just starting out – the commission was low and there is no initial outlay to open a shop. It allowed me to have complete control over my rate of sales because by only listing single items I never woke up to a scary amount of orders overnight! Being part of Folksy meant I could reach a huge audience looking for handcrafted items to purchase, and I didn’t have to work day and night driving traffic to my own independent shop.
Do you think your background as a graphic designer has helped you with your business?
Absolutely. What I do now is still ‘graphic design’ but I design for myself rather than clients. My previous experience has been vital and it’s not just about designing pieces to sell, it’s being aware of how I present myself as Chatty Nora – from logos and photography to the way I describe my products and chat to my customers.
Do you work on Chatty Nora full-time?
Yes, Chatty Nora is now my main income. I still freelance occasionally but only for my favourite clients!
How do you sell your work – online, wholesale, markets?
I sell purely online. Although I have thought about doing some craft markets I’ve never quite managed to get around to booking one – truth be told I’m too scared! I prefer selling online because it can work around my home life I have a nine-month old daughter so my working hours are as and when I can manage them.
What channels do you use to promote your work? And which do you think work best?
I use Facebook, Pinterest and I used to use Twitter, but now not so much. Facebook works for me, but it’s more about building a relationship with people who choose to follow what I do, rather than trying to get people to buy my work. I find word of mouth is my best form of promotion – I have a lot of repeat customers and many new customers tell me they visited my store because they saw my work somewhere. It’s so lovely! I genuinely want all my customers to be happy with their buying experience, so if I can rush an order out to them because they need it quickly I will; if they want a colour change on a pen-drawn piece then I always try to make that happen. People remember things like that and let others know that you’re a good store to buy from.
Eat Your Words, pen-drawn card, £4, by Chatty Nora
How do you calculate your prices?
I tot up the basic material costs, then the packaging costs, and finally take in to account how long the piece takes to produce. This gives me a base price for each piece. I decided very early on to sell most pieces at the same price just to make things a little easier. If something takes a lot longer to produce then I do change the price to cover it, but I try to keep most pieces standard. I also did some research into how much similar items were selling for and made sure my prices were in line with those. The last thing I wanted to do was undersell my work because it damages your brand – if you undervalue your work, so will your customers!
Do you take your own product shots, and do you think having good photos has been important to your shop?
Yes, I take my own photos and also complete all the photographic retouching myself. The actual photography is still something I struggle with, but I can normally rectify problems in the retouch. I mostly struggle with lighting as I take the shots in my own home and have no photographic lighting. I really need to buy some! Good photography is vital. It’s my view that when people buy online they are naturally more nervous about making a purchase, so they have to trust you and believe that your photos accurately convey what they are buying. If your photography is bad, then you’re asking them to take a bigger risk in purchasing from you.
Today You Are You, hand-pulled screen print, £17, by Chatty Nora
How do you manage your time? How much time do you think you spend on the creative side of your work compared with the business stuff?
I manage my time as best I can. I don’t have any schedules that I stick to, but generally I do whatever I can during the day while I am caring for our daughter, and then in the evening my partner takes over and I start work. I work until I have cleared all my orders for that day and have completed anything else that needs to be done… checking stock levels, ordering supplies, photography etc. It’s a lot more hectic than it was before Rosie was born. Back then I would start work at 9am and finish when I had completed the day’s tasks, whenever that may have been! I definitely need to spend more time on the creative side of things, which will hopefully happen soon. I made the decision to use an accountant from day one, I find that takes quite a lot of pressure off of me!
Is there anything you’ve learned along the way that you wish you’d known when you started your shop?
Some people will always think this is your ‘little hobby’ rather than your job. It’s pointless trying to convince them otherwise. So it’s best not to take it to heart and just get on with making it a really successful hobby!
Have you got any tips for other makers?
For new sellers I would say, don’t be downhearted if you open a store and don’t sell anything for a while. Spend the time promoting as much as you can on every platform you can, so people know you exist! It’s also quite hard to critique your own store, so it might be wise to ask someone you trust to give everything the once over. Are the photos doing your products justice, are your descriptions engaging, are your prices fair to both you and your customers? People buying from sites like Folksy are looking for a very different experience than when they buy from an established high-street store, so be friendly and chatty – they want to know you’re a real person not a faceless business. For established sellers, none at all. I expect I should be asking them for advice rather than dishing any out!