Monday, June 28, 2010

Your Craft Business Part 3 – Record Keeping and Business Management

Desk 3 This is the final instalment in a 3 part series designed to assist the Australian hobbyist crafter determine if they need to set up as a business. It aims to provide relevant information to help you set about taking this next step; which can be confusing and a bit daunting! It is also a great time to consider this topic, with the start of the new financial year only days away!

Record Keeping and Business Management
How difficult is it to keep proper financial records?
Regardless of the complexity of your business, it is important to keep proper financial records. MYOB and Quickbooks are both fantastic, relatively easy to use software packages that can handle everything from inventory to payroll – and if you only need a basic package to track income and expenses, these are available as well.  That said, until your business reaches a certain level, an excel spreadsheet may be all you need to track the income and expenses related to your business – particularly if you are not registered for GST.

It is important to have some sort of system though. You should be able to extract data quickly and easily which tells you how your business is travelling – for example, you should be able to find out how many items you have sold over a particular time period, what the profit was on those items, and how much total profit you have made over a time period.  These are all important ways of measuring how your business is performing.

If you are running your enterprise as a business (rather than a hobby) you should keep receipts for all expenses associated with your business for at least 7 years (to be on the safe side). Our tax system is “self assessment” which means that the ATO do not “audit” your tax returns as they are lodged; however, they do perform random reviews and audits for a time period following lodgement of the returns (usually between 2 and 4 years). Reviews and audits are much more pleasant if you have kept good records and if you have a system that allows you to find things easily.

What program should I use?
As mentioned above both MYOB and Quickbooks are used regularly for small businesses – everyone will have a different opinion about which package is better. In my opinion, Quickbooks is better for those people with some level of understanding of accounting and MYOB is better for those people who really have no idea of general accounting concepts. Quickbooks provides more flexibility and is probably a more powerful accounting program however, I think this can be a bit dangerous when combined with someone who has no accounting knowledge.

Do I have to worry about Business Activity Statements (BASs)?
If you are registered for GST you will need to lodge Business Activity Statements (BASs) either quarterly or annually. Refer to the second blog in this series to find out whether or not you need to register for GST (link to the blog).

You may also need to lodge BASs if you are paying tax on your income. For example, if you have a business profit of $30k when you lodge your tax return, you will need to pay tax on this profit. In addition, once the tax office receive your tax return, they will assume you are going to make $30k profit in the following year and they will start sending quarterly statements to you to start collecting the tax for the following year (called the Pay As You Go system). If your profit in the following year is significantly less than the year before you can “vary” the instalments on the activity statements.

Year End Checklist For Small Businesses
Here are a few items to consider in the lead up to 30 June:

1. Are there any expenses that you could pay prior to 30 June (which would allow you to claim the expense in this financial year and therefore reduce your tax). This will only be an effective tax planning technique if you have profit that you want to minimise. If you are in a loss, then you will not be paying tax anyway.

2. Is there anyway that you can push income into the following year (i.e. invoice in July rather than just before 30 June)? Same applies to the item above, this will only be effective where you are trying to minimise profit and therefore tax.

3. If you carry stock, you should do a stock take so that you can claim as an expense any items that have gone missing during the year. It is also good business management to do this annually to ensure that your physical stock matches your accounting records.

4. Now is a good time to review your debtors (if applicable) and make the decision to write any debts off that are not recoverable. This will ensure that you are able to claim the “bad debt” as an expense in this financial year.

5. Now is a good time to consider making any donations and/or superannuation contributions (if applicable). Both are great, legitimate ways of reducing your taxable income.

6. You could consider prepaying some expenses (most small business can claim prepayments where the expense relates to the following financial year) – examples may be rent, insurance and interest. Again, this will only be relevant where you are trying to minimise tax in the current financial year;

7. Talk to your accountant and ensure you have a clear understanding of your tax return lodgement deadline.  This can differ depending on the size of your business and whether or not you are lodging through a tax agent.

Please note that the information contained in this post is provided as general information only; none of the information provided takes into account your personal circumstances. It is important that you seek advice from your accountant in order to address your specific circumstances.

Written by Sharon Parker of The
Robin Street Market especially for the CHA.
You can follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter

This was the final instalment for the Your Craft Business series of blog posts by Sharon. Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shopping in the New Social Media World

Online Shopping

Sharon was thrilled to find on a social networking business page a perfect head band to go with the christening outfit that she had bought for her daughter. She chatted to the Facebook store operator and sent her credit card details. Several weeks went by and nothing happened; and when Sharon tried to contact the store, the Facebook page was gone.

Sadly, with the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook becoming an avenue for selling handmade items, we are seeing more and more claims of online fraud in the WAHM industry.

Whilst there is no fool proof method in ensuring you are not a victim of online fraud, there are a few helpful things customers can check, and also tips for store owners to make customers feel completely comfortable in purchasing:

1 Business Registration Whilst in some instances a business does not need to register their name, many businesses do have the relevant registrations and licences required to operate.  This will NOT tell you whether a business is completely genuine, but it can show that a business has taken the time and cost to register to operate their business.

2 Check the Website/Facebook Page for Contact Details  All websites and Facebook business pages should have relevant contact details for the business.  If you should need to contact a store owner for any reason, you should be able to do so easily. Sites and pages should have relevant postal details, email addresses and a phone number for contact.  For business owners who want to ensure their personal details are not revealed, you could try using a Post Office box and a cheap mobile phone to receive business calls on.

3 Payment Always pay by Paypal.  By paying with Paypal, if a transaction does go wrong, you have an avenue to attempt to receive your money back.  Although Paypal comes with fees, it offers more protection that a bank transfer. NEVER email your credit card details or provide your credit details to a site that does not have a secure merchant payment facility.

4 Google Google the business name.  Customers who receive bad service quite often like to tell the world and with social networking sites so popular these days, Googling a business name should provide you with any information you are looking for.  Indeed, you may also find fabulous feedback about a store.

5 Ask Around Ask friends, family, social networking site contacts/forums you are involved on if anyone has used that business before.  Word of mouth is the best form of advertising for businesses and happy customers always like to tell others of the great service they have received.

6 Ask for Registered Post It costs a bit extra, but this can avoid any worry or concern that your parcel will not arrive.  Using registered post you can be assured your parcel has been sent and you have a very good way of tracking it if it goes astray.

6 Store Fronts Call me crazy, but I would not purchase from a store who ONLY operates on Facebook unless I was able to view the products locally. There are so many affordable options for people to operate store fronts and internet shopping carts. Gone are the days when you need to pay thousands of dollars to be able to have a basic store. Stores can be operated from blogs and online shopping malls such as where listing fees are very affordable. Having your own website or store shows that a business has taken the time to establish itself, a domain name purchased and the time taken to publish all information on products and policies in order to operate their store.  Facebook does not offer a lot of options for a shopper to feel comfortable.

In Sharon's case, she was not able to recoup her lost funds and she has learnt the hard way that shopping from a social networking site can have drawbacks.

Written by Handmade Kids

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mixtape Zine – Art and craft meets eco-awareness meets pop culture kitsch

Mixtape The brainchild of Justine Tefler, Mixtape is all about making time for the small things in life. Made at home in Melbourne with the assistance of Justine’s husband and sister-in-law, Mixtape is certainly on the up and up.

With its beginnings early on in 2007, Mixtape was initially printed and photocopied on a humble laser jet printer. It wasn't until issue 8 that Mixtape was professionally printed on 100% recycled paper; but it still holds is original indie feel. With only one print run for each issue, demand is certainly growing.

Submissions for content come in from world-wide; articles, tutorials, recipes, and more.  So it’s always a surprise as to what will be in Mixtape next.  Everything from music reviews, craft tutorials, inspiring stories, and current affairs to quirky fashion and home wares grace the pages of this wonderful little zine. {Maybe you have something to contribute?}

It’s the collaborative feel of Mixtape that makes it so warm, and with so many faces you will know.  It feels familiar from the very first page, and in our house its flicked through many times over.

The current issue (Kids Issue 2010) features a very cute tooth pillow tutorial, a story on post natal depression, some super cool things to do in the garden with kids, a rundown on some Mathilda's market stallholders, and the good ol' cloth VS disposable nappy debate.

The next issue due out very soon, and you can pre-order! Woo!

Aside from the special Kids Issue released once a year, Mixtape is released quarterly and available from selected stores and online.

Submission guidelines and advertising info are available on the Mixtape website.

Till next time, peace -beckie
little wise owl

Mixtape Blog

Friday, June 18, 2010

Your Craft Business Part 2 - Taxation and Small Business

Craft Computer This is the second in a 3 part series designed to assist the Australian hobbyist crafter determine if they need to set up as a business. It aims to provide relevant information to help you set about taking this next step; which can be confusing and a bit daunting! It is also a great time to consider this topic, with the start of the new financial year only a few weeks away.

Taxation and Small Business
What tax will I have to pay when I get an ABN?
When you get an ABN, you need to start disclosing any income and expenses in relation to your business in your income tax return each year. You should start keeping all your receipts to substantiate your business spending, and start thinking about whether you are using your car/phone/computer etc for business purposes. If you are you may be able to claim a portion of these expenses in your tax return.

When you complete your tax return, you will disclose any income and then deduct off this amount any expenses relating to your business. If you end up with a positive amount then this is your business profit and you will need to pay income tax on this amount. It should be noted that if you have no other income then the first $10,000 of profit will be effectively tax free because of the way the marginal tax rates and rebates work. As your level of profit increases, so will the tax rate applicable to that income. Here is a calculator that helps you figure out the tax on different levels of income.

What if I end up with a loss?
If you end up with a loss (that is, your expenses exceed your income) and you have no other income in that year, then you just disclose your loss in your tax return and carry it forward to offset against income in future years.

If you do have other income in that year, then you need to figure out whether you can “offset” the loss against your other income. There are some rules that need to be considered (non commercial loss rules) and you should check with your accountant to ensure you pass the necessary tests. The benefit of offsetting your loss against other income is that it will reduce the total amount of tax that you pay on your income.

Do I have to register for GST?
You do not have to register for GST just because you have an ABN. Registering for GST is optional until your income from business reaches $75,000.

The benefit of registering for GST is that you are able to claim back the GST that you pay when you acquire things for your business. For example, if you are registered for GST and you buy a computer then you can claim back the GST portion of the cost of the computer. You can only claim GST on expenses if you have a tax invoice.

The disadvantage of registering for GST is that you will be obliged to pay 1/11th of your gross sales to the ATO. This may mean you have to increase your prices to ensure that registering for GST does not end up eating into your profit. And when you register for GST you are also required to lodge Business Activity Statements (BASs). You can choose to lodge your BAS annually if your turnover is less than $75,000. If your turnover exceeds $75,000 then you have to lodge monthly.

Please note that the information contained in this post is provided as general information only; none of the information provided takes into account your personal circumstances. It is important that you seek advice from your accountant in order to address your specific circumstances.

Written by Sharon Parker of The Robin Street Market especially for the CHA.

You can follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter.

Look out for the last part in this series; Record Keeping and Business Management.

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Monday, June 14, 2010

The FB Garage Sale: your indoor, warm and comfy (wear your slippers) de-stash Sale!

Garage Sale Collage If you’ve indulged your love of all things crafty a little too much, and have more material, findings, tools, and habby than you can possibly use; or if you have too much old market/out of season stock that you want to shift fast, then perhaps the Facebook Garage Sale is your ticket to more money in your pocket, and more space at your work station!

The Facebook Garage Sale is a mad dash sale where interested parties write SOLD underneath photos of items you have listed for sale. Depending upon the success of your promotion of your Garage Sale, and interest in your items, it could all be over in as little as half an hour; and can be lots of fun! But it does require some through and preparation first.

It utilises your craft related Fan/Business Page, which taps into your existing network of like-minded online friends/fans who will more than likely have a use for your no longer required, but still good quality goods or excess stock. And instead of having to pay for a newspaper entry, sticking up posters and dragging everything out into the yard to have an actual garage sale, you can sit back and watch the sparks fly as people compete to be the first to buy!

It is important, though, to point out that there is a clear distinction between a Facebook Sale and a Facebook Garage Sale (much like in the real world). These 2 terms invoke a very different set of expectations amongst buyers. The Garage Sale is to move unwanted stock or materials at heavily reduced prices; a Sale is knocking off a few dollars to get stock to shift. If you advertise your Sale incorrectly as a Garage Sale, people will be disappointed when they find they are still expected to pay close to RRP; and this will impact your overall sales.

Based on my own experience with a very successful garage sale on my Chicken Ink. Creative page, here are my tips for a successful garage sale.

Be Clear and Specific: Tell people important information clearly and concisely. Use proper English, grammar and punctuation. Don’t use txt spk.

Choose your Day and Time Wisely: Hold your Garage Sale between Sunday and Thursday; people go out and do things on Friday and Saturday nights! Monday was successful for me. Hold it after 8pm for 2 reasons; first because many of your customers will be parents who don’t want to miss out while cooking/bathing the kids/putting them to bed. Also, it helps to account for the different time zones throughout Australia. Remember, when advising the start time, make it clear what time zone/state you are in.

Promotion: Start posting News Feeds about the Garage Sale 2 days before the event to promote and build interest. 48 hours notice is long enough for people to plan to attend, but short enough to build and hold anticipation. Ask your friends to promote the sale for you on Facebook as well; especially fellow crafters with their own fan pages. But meter out your posts; you don’t want to turn people off by posting constant News Feeds about it. 3 posts a day is suitable; 1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and one after 8pm.

Rules of Engagement: Make the rules and processes clear and easy to follow; post them in your News Feed (on your wall) before and during the event.

Country Restrictions: You might want to restrict the sale to AUS residents only; or maybe include NZ customers as well. Remember there are issues with currency conversions and postage rates to take into consideration.

Flat Postage Fee: To save time and hassle, you might consider setting a mid range postal cost that everyone pays, regardless of the quantity of purchased items, or their size and weight. It could take you days to individually calculate postage costs for each customer, invoice them, wait for payment and then send. $3 is a reasonable amount to charge and neither of you stand to lose too much either way (in most cases). Make sure people know up front what the flat postage costs are before they start buying. Also, people might be inclined to buy more if they know they have a reasonable flat postage fee to pay.

Payment Methods: Accept both Paypal and EFT payments if you can. Some people only like to use one of these options and you don't want to limit your audience.

Stock Selection and Preparation: Review the items you wish to sell; measuring, counting and checking for faults. Write a quick and clear description of each item as you go; including things such as size, material type, colour, design, quantity ( if more than 1), and any faults. And of course, decide how much you are going to charge. Group like things together. Assign each item a number. This info is to be published with the photo. Count up how many items you have in total.

Photographing Your Items: Arrange each item, one at a time, for photographing on a neutral surface with plenty of natural light. Having clear photos of each item is very important as people need and want to understand what it is they are buying (which is more difficult in the online environment). If your photos aren’t great, clean them up using a photo editing tool. is great for this, and super easy to use - and free. It’s worth the effort.

Use a Photo Album: Don’t bombard your fan’s News Feeds by posting each item onto your wall. Instead, set up a dedicated photo album and clearly name it Garage Sale. This avoids filling up peoples News Feeds and annoying those that are not interested/not participating. This could lead to them un-fanning your page, or hiding your News Feed - which is not a good outcome! Set your album up with plenty of time to spare on the day. You can publicise that the album is available for viewing, and that no comments before the official start time will be accepted.

Organisation is the Key: Print up a hard copy list with the item number, brief description, value and leave a blank spot to write in a name and email address of the purchaser. This will help you with sorting and mailing in the days after. Depending on the number of items for sale, it could take you a few hours to get the photos ready and uploaded with matching descriptions. Make sure you leave yourself enough time to get this done before the Garage Sale starts!

Inform Your Buyers: This is key - let people know what products they can expect, the most they may expect to pay per item, and how many items will be posted up for sale.

Afterwards: Hopefully you will have sold most if not all of your items. Ask people to email you a list of their purchases (including item # and description), and cross reference this with your own hard copy listing (checking all the comments under each photo in the album). Make sure you have contact with each buyer, confirming their purchases, final amount owning and payment options.

The result of my Garage Sale:

I had over 80 items posted for sale, and every single one sold; most of them had at least 3 interested buyers! There were 38 buyers who successfully made purchases (most people bought multiple items). I was so glad for the flat postage fee! The Garage Sale was well worth the exercise to clear out my work space and re-home some quality products.

Examples of Facebook Posts

Effective News Feed post publicising an upcoming event:

Facebook Garage Sale here on Monday Night - starts 8pm (EST)! Over 80 items for sale including fabric, zips, buttons, and other habby, plus old market stock. No items over $10. Flat postage fee of $3 per customer. Grab a bargain - all items are great; I just have too much! EFT and Paypal accepted. Tell your friends!

Effective News Feed post detailing the rules of your garage sale:

Facebook Garage Sale details: Sale starts at 8pm (EST). See photo album titled “Garage Sale”. You can have a sneak peak at the album beforehand, but comments made before 8pm will not be accepted and will be deleted. First to write SOLD under photo wins purchase right. AUS residents only. Flat postage fee $3 per person. Accepting EFT and Paypal. Please pay within 3 days. Email with a complete list of your purchases after the event advising item number and description.

Good luck and remember people love a bargain! So enjoy the sales as they come flooding in!


Cheers, Chicken

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Saturday, June 12, 2010


WIN ME WINNER Congratulations to:

Rebecca DaCosta of Bec's Bags who is the lucky winner of this Visual Arts Diary!

Thanks to everyone who joined our mailing list and played along.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Win Me!


Want to win this Chicken Ink. Creative Visual Arts Diary? Surely all you creative peeps out there need a lovely place for your ground breaking, wonderful and inspired ideas!

Just subscribe to the CHA mailing list to enter. That’s it. Simple. Maybe I should make it harder? Hummmm. Nope!

Already subscribed? Don’t worry, you are automatically entered into the draw too! We wouldn’t be that mean and leave you out.

You can subscribe via the Blog by entering your email address into the box (see there on the right, that section that says SUBSCRIBE) or you can also enter your email address into the Subscribe tab on our Facebook page. Oh and you must confirm your subscription when you get the confirmation email in your Inbox. That’s it!

Thanks for reading! Oh and if you wouldn’t mind, tell your creative friends about the CHA and get them to subscribe too. As I say, the more, the merrier!

Cheers, Chicken

Boring but necessary bits:
Open to Australian residents only
Winner will be contacted via email to be notified
Winner drawn at 9pm 12th June - our 1st month birthday!
Prize not transferable

Monday, June 7, 2010

Your Craft Business Part 1 – Hobby to Business

Desk 1 This is the first in a 3 part series designed to assist the Australian hobbyist crafter determine if they need to set up as a business. It aims to provide relevant information to help youset about taking this next step; which can be confusing and a bit daunting! It is also a great time to consider this topic, with the start of the new financial year only a few weeks away.

Hobby to Business
When should I make the move from a hobby to a business?

The question of whether you are conducting a hobby or carrying on a business is an important one, as the answer will determine: whether you are eligible to apply for an ABN; whether or not you have to pay tax on your income (as well as whether you can claim expenses); and whether or not you can register for GST.

The hobby vs business question can often be a grey area. Here is a LINK to the items that the ATO recommend you consider when determining whether you are carrying on a business.

In summary, if you are conducting activities on a regular basis with a view to making a profit, and if you have a business plan and are running your activities in an organised, commercial manner, then chances are that you are running a business.

Often, people try and argue that they are carrying on a business if they are making losses from their activities. That way, they are able to offset their losses against other income they are making, in an attempt to get a tax refund. However, it should be noted that there are special rules which need to be considered if using this strategy.

If you decide that what you are doing is conducting a hobby then you don't need to do any form of registration; just keep doing what you are doing and keep life simple!

What does getting an ABN mean - do I get an ABN when I register as a business?

If you are conducting a business as an individual then you need to be running a business in order to apply for an ABN (different rules apply to companies and superannuation funds).

The ABN is a unique 11 digit number which: helps you claim GST credits; ensures businesses you deal do not withhold tax from payment made to you; and allows businesses to easily confirm your details for ordering and invoicing purposes.

Having an ABN can also assist with obtaining trade discounts as it is proof that you are carrying on a business.

You can register for an ABN online at

When and how do I register my business name?

There is no legal requirement to register your business name. However, registering a business name ensures that the name is protected in the state that you register it (i.e. nobody else is allowed to trade using the same name in that state). Following that logic, if you are trading under a business name that is registered by someone else in your state, then it is possible that the other party could take action against you.

You can register a business name at Consumer Affairs Victoria.

If you want to protect your business name Australia-wide then you have to register the business name in each state. Alternatively, you can set up a company with the name of your business (e.g. Craft Pty Ltd). A company name is protected Australia wide.

What if I already have an ABN for another business that I currently own; or have run in the past?

If you have an ABN for another business, then you can just add a trading name to that ABN (rather than getting a new ABN). So, if you want to run a craft business under one trading name and a different business under another trading name, you can use the same ABN for both businesses.

You can add trading names to an ABN online at the ABR website.

You can also find out how to add a trading name to an ABN HERE.

What does Sole Trader mean?

A sole trader means that you are running a business as an individual versus running a business through a company or trust structure. If you are a sole trader then you will disclose income and expenses related to your business in your individual income tax return.

Please note that the information contained in this post is provided as general information only; none of the information provided takes into account your personal circumstances. It is important that you seek advice from your accountant in order to address your specific circumstances.

Written by Sharon Parker of The Robin Street Market especially for the CHA.

Sharon’s 3 passions in life are travelling, enjoying good food with friends and family and buying unique handmade goodies. An accountant and small business advisor by day, Sharon recently started up the Robin Street Market which blends together her 3 loves. Her unique knowledge of accounting and the craft world makes her the perfect writer to assist CHA members with their small business accounting and taxation questions. Thanks Sharon for taking the time to share your wisdom with us! You can also follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter.

Look out for the next 2 parts in this series; Taxation and Small Business, and Record Keeping and Business Management.

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The very 1st CHA Craft Swap!

BBtags1 “A craft swap?” I hear you ask eagerly…

A craft swap is when you make a crafty item (it can be anything you like to make) to send off to a swap partner; and you will receive a crafty item from them in return. Fun all round! It is also a great opportunity to make a connection with a peer in the craft industry, as well as get a pressie just for you!

So The CHA are organising their first craft swap for all you clever crafters out there. Go on - admit it, we all love getting some love in the post!

The more participants the better!

Here are the rules...

Your swap item must be to a value of at least $20 and no more than $50. This insures that everyone gets a similarly valued item.

There is no theme to this swap, you can make anything you please.

To register for the swap, comment under this post with your name and email address, and we will contact you with your swap partners details. If

you have a blog, leave that address too; so your swap partner can get an idea of who you are and what you might like.

Items are to be posted out no later than the 30th June 2010. Partner matching will be finalised on the 14th June! So make sure you have commented by then.

Oh 1 more thing; it’s open to Australian residents only.

How easy is that? So spread the word, and comment below to sign up, and don’t forget you email address!

P.S. If you and your swap partner decide to send us a photo of each of you with your received item, you may be selected to be featured on this blog!

Cheers –Beckie

Little Wise Owl

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Top 10 Online Tools for Your Crafty Business

PHOTO EDITING – Get the most from your product photos (and happy snaps of the family for that matter) with this incredibly user friendly, intuitive and funky online software. Fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye and blemishes, or apply effects and boarders (and so much more); and it features collage capabilities.

COST: Free for most functionality. Or become a Picnik Premium customer to access the more advanced tools for $4.95 a month, $19.95 for six months or $24.95 for a year ($USD).

CHA Tested?: You betcha! I love it and use it daily. After using it for a few months I knew that it would be worth investing in the Premium Package. I have Photoshop and haven’t used it since finding Picnik.

FABRIC DESIGN AND PRINTING – Design and print your own fabric on demand! No minimum orders. Uses premium natural fabrics and eco–friendly textile printing; plus a weekly fabric design competition! They also recommend free programs where you can create your design before you upload it, and point you in the direction of design resources and advice to get a great end result.

COST: Free to upload; pay for the quantity of fabric you wish to have printed.

CHA tested?: Not personally, but comes highly recommended from people in the craft and design industry.

ONLINE FORMS Online Form Builder – Collect information over the internet from your customers, fans and suppliers easily. This HTML form builder allows you to create forms, online surveys, invitations, registrations and online payments without you writing any code. Very easy to set up and use. Stores all the information that you collect and is easy to access.

COST: First 3 forms are free; and then offers a tiered pricing plan which starts at $14.95 per month.

CHA tested?: Yes. Very happy with it thank you!

RANDOM COMPETITION WINNER SELECTION – Select a winner for your competition with true fairness, with this random number generator. You can screen capture the result (edit in paint to crop then save as a .jpg) and publish it to your blog to demonstrate the true random and unbiased nature of the result to your readership.


CHA Tested: Yup! Simple, easy to use and reliable.

-Design banners and buttons for your online store, blog or Facebook page (and other online sites). Free banner functionality is basic and contains some advertising from the supplier. You can upload your own images. Become a VIP and receive access to additional features such as rotating banners and the removal of advertising by the supplier.

COST: Free for basic functionality, or $25 per year to be a VIP.

CHA Tested?: No, but has been recommended to me.

Windows Live Writer - Download it and it will sit on your computer desktop. It makes it easy to write and format your blog post offline, and then publish the finished post to almost any blog service; including Wordpress, Blogger, LiveJournal and TypePad; and many more. It eradicates most (if not all) the difficulties that can be experienced with formatting; especially for those like me who are unfamiliar with HTML code. You can preview everything you’re adding to your blog, to see how the fonts, spacing, colours, and images will look, before you publish.


CHA Tested?: Yes! And I am very happy to have found it. You will see the layout of the CHA blog posts improving as Writer is used (and I get more familiar and experienced with the blogging process)!

EMAIL CAMPAIGN MANAGER – Manages your email campaigns starting from the design of your email communication, through to detailed but easy to understand reporting. Syncs with other online tools including Picnik, Google Analytics and Wufoo. Smart, user friendly, and with massive potential to help you develop a whole new side to your communications with your customer and potential customer base. Short and easy to understand tutorial videos guide you along the way. You can even sign up for free online training. This program is not to be missed.

COST: Free to manage up to 500 contacts in your lists. Then there are many pricing options to suit your needs if you grow beyond the free capabilities.

CHA Tested?: Just opened up my account today and I am loving it! Really looking forward to taking this baby for a spin!

TweetMeme - is a service which aggregates all the popular links on Twitter to determine which links are popular. It is most useful to bloggers who can add a re-tweet functionality to their blog, which facilitates and encourages readers to re-tweet your blog post. If you provide high quality content on your blog and add an easy way for people to share it, then people will help you spread the word!


CHA Tested?: Yes we use it on our blog (see – up there to the left)! Hey don’t forget to Tweet this post for us!

Google Analytics – It provides you with insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness. Its most basic usage will tell you how many hits your site gets, how long they stay, if they are returning, how they found you and which sites are regularly sending you traffic. It can be added to your website, online store, blog even your Facebook Business Page too (Instructions are HERE)! More advanced usage includes setting up advertising using AdWords, or setting goals which can be measured through activity completed within you site. It’s worth having a look around to see what else it can do!


CHA Tested?: Yep! I have been using it on my online store for months now. It helps me to measure effectiveness of different marketing activity and interest in new products which are posted and advertised. I have also just added it to the CHA blog.

MANAGE YOUR FINANCES – Simple, online book keeping. No more Excel spreadsheets! Enter your basic expenses and income information, and see at a glance your profit and loss report. You can run additional reports as needed. It has a tax estimation component but this is only suitable for users inside the USA. Imports data from Etsy and Ebay and talks to Paypal.


CHA Tested: Just signed up an account today and entered some profit and loss data. I found it pretty straight forward.

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Cheers, Chicken

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Things my Grandmother Taught Me

Trixie Collage 1

My grandmother was a very capable woman. She could make the most drab and lifeless rental house become a beautiful and tastefully decorated home, using (I’m sure) nothing more than some rubber-bands and safety pins. OK, well maybe it was that she was marvel at the sewing machine, and had an eye for the potential beauty of an old and unloved piece of furniture in the junk shop.

In her early teens she made clothes for herself and younger sister; and in her late teens she became model u lidapprentice to the famous Melbourne milliner Thomas Harrison. Then after marrying and having children, she invented ‘Model Yu’; a custom dress making body cast tailor’s dummy which ensured a perfect fit to your body, without any dials getting in the way when doing the pinning. In the days of WWII her invention was economical, relevant and very successful. She travelled Australia and New Zealand demonstrating it. As I said, she was a very capable woman.

Of course, she taught my mother to sew; who then taught me. And there were rules to follow when sewing to ensure a crisp, professional finish. These are the things that my grandmother taught me.

Never cut and sew on the same day:
Allow one day for cutting and a second day for sewing. If you try to sew on the same day as you cut, you are more likely to make mistakes.

Press every time you sew: The mantra is press press press! You can’t iron too much! Every time you finish sewing a section, iron it to ensure a crisp, professional finish.

Clean your sewing machine with a feather: Yes, that’s right. When you are out for a walk, keep a look out for a long wing feather. They are perfect for cleaning the fluff away from around your bobbin holder, as they are strong, flexible and nature has provided microscopic little hooks which grab the fluff!

Match colours in daylight: When picking thread to match your fabric, go outside – NEVER use artificial light. This might mean dragging the shop assistant outside with you, but accuracy is more important than dignity, right?

Get out your knitting needle: When turning things the right way out, use your big knitting needle (for creating your chunky knits) to gently but firmly push out all the corners properly.

So tell me, what did your grandmother teach you?

Cheers, Chicken