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Share you war stories here! Share tips on packaging, paypal, and spreadsheets. What lessons have you learned? Will you do it again?

PIN MAKERS:

Pin Promotions

Contact: Jeff York

Phone Number: 1-800-264-3923

Dollar Pins

Contact: Laura (say Dianna of Clay Train Connction sent you)

Phone Number: 563-927-3179

Based in Iowa. Dianna had her pins within 7 business days. Free Shipping.

Pin Mart

Pin Pros offering a 5% discount to Clay fans

email Margi@pinpros.com

ENVELOPES

Uline.com

ESupplyStore

EBAY (type in bubble mailers and boom!)

POSTAGE

US Postal Service

TIPS

From Geekette: I learned (also the hard way) that printing return address labels using Avery's standard template just doesn't cut it. I have a custum label set up with a little extra space on the left margin so it doesn't cut off the first few characters. I don't know if it's my set up or what, but practice on a blank page and adjust as needed.

Note: You see where I'm going here. I'm going to try to put all the important info from you all in this first post.

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lesson #1 Have head examined

lesson #2 be prepared for the onslaught

lesson #3 be organized - I'm not sure if I did everything exactly right, but Ansa and I had a plan and it felt like we were never overwhelmed. Well not too much anyway. We'll see how well organized I am when I start packaging everything up tomorrow.

I think Pin Promotions is a great company. I think they are probably a bit overwhelmed by all the orders but I thought they had great customer service and follow up.

Things I'll remember for next time:

1. I really didn't think about pay pal fees when I set the price but fortunately I had so many orders it didn't matter. This would have been a problem if the order was just a few hundred.

2. Your website or fan groups URL (or something else) can be put on the back of the pin instead of the phone number to pin promotions. I should have remembered this because I had my clackhouse pins and saw that on the back.

Tips

Thanks to Geekette at the CH, I got my "4X8 bubble mailers" off ebay for about 11 cents/envelope. I probably could have gotten my mailing labels there too but my shipment surprised me by arriving a couple of days early so I just went to Office Max.

ETA: Had to add was the best part of this whole process was chatting with other Clay fans. I made a few connections with people on different boards that I probably would have never met without the pins.

Did anybody use a company other than Pin Promotions? I would love to know how that experience was.

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I used an different Vendor. I, actually, ordered the first round of our pins for just our members before the huge on-slaught of the frenzy began and didn't know about Pin Promotions. The vendor I used is Dollar Pins. She was very good and did an excellent job for us.

I now have another pin in to her so we shall see how this one goes.

I also got my envelopes on Ebay! What a savings that was! I agree. Being organized is the key. On The Clay Train Connection, we are so very spread out across the country that I did the entire process on my own. It was a cinch when I started with just 200 pins! But 700 pins later, I also thought I should be committed! LOL

But it actually was so much fun meeting all the wonderful Clay fans through the purchases that I forgot about the "work" of it all. Just another day in ClayNation Land!

Dianna

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I was set up to use a Paypal button to seel my pins, but at the last minute I got an e-mail from someone who said it was a bad idea. So I had people pay for their pins by giving them a Paypal account name and the amount of money to pay for each pin. Keeping track of everything has been a pain.

Did anyone use the Paypal button and if so, what kind of support did they give you? Sortable spreadsheets? Printable invoices? Up-to-date tabulations? I'm going to be selling another pin, and I could use some advice.

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I think I got to Jeff at Pin Promotions seconds before the onslaught. He wasn't quite as harried for the WMS pin as he was for the Tsathy pin. BUT, he was GREAT!! Very matter of fact, which I like, and things worked out well.

I am lucky I had a board with a specific thread to have people post their interest. I am amazed by the people who took pre-orders and then orders after that. We are shipping about 1000 pins and there is no way I could have handled all those emails flying around. So, we got an idea of interest, posted a paypal order form for a week and let 'er fly. After we closed the ordering window, I downloaded all the order activity from paypal to Excel and let it do the counting up. After I picked my jaw up off the floor (I thought we'd sell 100 if we were lucky! ha!), I placed my order with Jeff, and received my pins in exactly 10 days.

I bought my envelopes from http://www.uline.com/. Got overnight delivery of 4x8s for no extra cost. It looks like you guys got a bit of a better deal than I did, but I'm still good.

I ended up buying 4x8 Stamps.com or Paypal shipping-compatible labels online too. I downloaded my paypal orders into a comma delimited file which is imported to the Stamps.com address book. Labels and postage print from there. I have no idea if this is the best way, but it's what I chose, so this weekend is going to be a packaging weekend! Weee! :P

It's been fun watching the pin frenzy. We did our design early on and I might have changed a few things about it all had I come in a little later to the game. But, I'm very happy with our cute little pins and how it's all turned out. Broker, but happy! Hee.

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Well, I wish I had know about buying the 4X8 envelopes online but I did pretty well by buying the 6x9 ones in bulk from Staples. I needed the larger ones for the multiple pin orders plus the keychain anyway.

I used a Paypal button and it worked pretty well except for the fact that I had it set up for a flat rate and Paypal took it upon itself to add a $1 S/H fee. Will make up for that with a donation to UNICEF. I printed all the invoices to stuff in the envelopes and have made special mailing labels. :D

I used Pin Promotions and Jeff was great. The poor man hasn't been sleeping much though since he heard the name Clay Aiken. He even had all the calls forwarded to his house over 4th of July weekend in case anyone had problems. Now that is way beyond the call of duty!

All in all, once the initial rush was over, things went pretty smoothly (after getting my email address removed several times from one board). I only had a few people who wanted more than was allowed and one who ordered a keychain even after I said no, since she wasn't a member of the CH :angry: ...she had already ordered a dozen pins!(BTW, I refunded her money for the keychain.)

This definitely was a learning experience but actually quite a lot of fun. Got to meet lots of Clay fans from all over. It almost seems boring not to be getting a zillion emails a day...just kidding!

And I do like using the silly little emoticons every once in a while!

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--Dear Fellow Clay Fan and Pin Trader,

PA Clay Fans is putting together 1, hopefully2, complete pin sets to auction off for the Fun Center Project. May we count on you for a donation? When you reply, could you please specify the name of the pin and the number of pins (if you choose to donate). We thank you for your consideration.

Bonnie Markowski

PAClayFans

e-mail:albon725@adelphia.net

I put this over in the community thread but thought I'd put it here as well so that the pin makers could see it.

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Guest geekette

I'll echo couchtomato on her lessons (organize, organize, organize!) and add a few more...

I convinced couchtomato to "go first" buying envelopes off ebay, but I ended up getting our bubble mailers from esupplystore. Cheapest price I could find, and they shipped quickly and are good quality.

If you're shipping something that's under an ounce and it's over 1/4" thick (and with a pin in a bubble envelope, it will be) you need to add .12 (total of .49) for "not machinable". Otherwise a bunch will come back for postage...learned that one the hard way mailing italian charms.

Shipping international is cheaper than I expected! The Post Office site allowed me to calculate postage for the pins and buy the right amount of postage to have on hand when the "stuffers" came to help. Canada's basically .23 extra, and other countries are about .50-.60 extra. I was surprised.

I learned (also the hard way) that printing return address labels using Avery's standard template just doesn't cut it. I have a custum label set up with a little extra space on the left margin so it doesn't cut off the first few characters. I don't know if it's my set up or what, but practice on a blank page and adjust as needed.

MSWord's mail merge came in very handy for printing the labels. We only had one type of pin, so I sorted the list by country, then by number of pins ordered (very handy). After the name I added a few spaces and had mail merge put the number of pins in parentheses.

I pre-weighed the envelopes with pins, and created a cheat sheet with postage. One or two pins required .49, so two .23 and 1 .03 stamps. Three to five required one .60 stamp, etc.

We had quite the assembly line going yesterday. One person to put labels on, one person to stuff, one to seal, and 2 to stamp. I floated wherever there was a bottle neck, and actually everyone was very flexible in pitching in to keep the line going smoothly. We did 450 envelopes with anywhere from 1 to 20(!) pins in about an hour and a half. I think they only half jokingly called me anal...but it seemed to work.

Just please don't let any come back!

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Damn Geekette, I wish I read your post YESTERDAY. Yes, my labels were cut off on the left side...some of them, not all..and I spent time writing out the envelop for those. And I learned a whole bunch of other stuff from your post which I'll utilize when I continue with my mailing. Only got about 200 done yesterday.

In other words, I only THOUGHT I was organized.

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Thanks so much for this thread! I'm in the process of getting orders for my own board's pin (non Clay, so I hope it's ok to even be posting this here!) I'm the designer and the one working with Jeff (who has been very prompt whenever I have a question! I hope I'm not becoming a pain, but I wonder if he's just glad to not be working on a Clay pin for a change, haha.) But another member is going to be doing the accepting money/sending out part (I've dealt with that in the past...not this time!)

I was going to ask here for advice about shipping, but I've already gotten some great advice from what's been posted! Any other tidbits that might help, I'd be happy to hear about it.

Your website or fan groups URL (or something else) can be put on the back of the pin instead of the phone number to pin promotions.

OMG, I didn't know that! I'm definitely going to have that done. I've ordered so many pins, have had about 10 arrive so far, but haven't even taken any out of the plastic bag yet (crazy, I know.)

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I got the 2004 Maine pre-concert party pins from Pinmart.com - they were fine to work with from what I recall, with reasonable prices. Since I had these made strictly as gifts, I didn't have to deal with payments from buyers nor did I have to do any mass mailing.

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Boy, I have a lot of questions. I hope all of you can help me. I just approved my pin order. Now I am looking for envelopes, but you seem to have answered all those questions already. My problem is paypal. Here are my questions:

1) What account do you have to set up to accept credit card payments?

2) Let's say I ordered 200 pins. I already have close to that amount in pre-orders. How does paypal know when to stop accepting payments from people? I mean, if I only have 200 pins and people order more than they say they would, does paypal reject the payment or do I have to go through everything and do it myself.

3) Should I just have a link to paypal and tell people what amount to put in and also what information they should put in OR should I have a paypal button link.

All of you are much more experienced than I am, so any help or advise you can give me would be MUCH appreciated.

Thank you. :)

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2)  Let's say I ordered 200 pins.  I already have close to that amount in pre-orders.  How does paypal know when to stop accepting payments from people?  I mean, if I only have 200 pins and people order more than they say they would, does paypal reject the payment or do I have to go through everything and do it myself.

I didn't do the payment stuff myself, but I wouldn't order just 200 pins for 200 orders - get some extras just in case. In case some get lost, in case you want some for folks who forgot orders, in case you miscount somewhere, etc.

We had orders for about 1250 and ordered 1300. People who helped pack ended up wanting extras, and we only have 20 lef for mismailings, not to mention our waitlist.

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What we did is we gave a certain time for the orders to come in then we based our orders to the number of orders we got by the deadline. Yes we had to have some extras as well. we figured we can cover the cost of the extras by offereing the pins again later on...but I don't think we will need to do that

We used the preorders we got as a way to estimate the number of pins we will orderand the final cost of the pin. Of course our final order was way above our original estimate.

what I like with the deadline procedure is you are not in a panic to make sure that everyone received the info that your orders are done. But of course you cannot control the number of orders you get that way.

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Ansa & guest, Thank you for your advice. It really helps.

Um, Ansa, I have a problem with your avatar. I can't concentrate on what I'm doing when I read any of your posts. All I want to do is look at that gorgeous picture. hahahaha

*sighs*

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Got a question for the experts.

Have any of you folded the 10x7 envelope in half or any of the larger envelopes? I have received a couple of orders with the envelope folded in half and sealed that way. I would think it would be more protective for an order with say one or two pins. It seems that the postage still stays around the same. I just wonder if the post office would have a problem with the envelope done that way.

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Guest geekette

We put out feelers and based our price on that number...then proceeded to get orders for over 3x that many. Our price went down not only for pins, but envelopes and just about everything else as well. Postage was also less than expected since we were told to expect about an ounce each, and based pricing on 2/3 ounce. Ours ended up just under 1/2 ounce each.

Nobody wants to lose money on these, and I think charging enough to cover your expected costs and donating the rest is a reasonable way of doing it. We're not quite done, but we'll have a pretty decent donation to split between BAF and UNICEF.

As for doubling bigger envelopes, I don't think it's a problem, but you'll still have only one bubble layer on one side of the pins (unless you put them in the middle and seal the edges - too much trouble for me!)

Has anyone heard of any pins being damaged in transit yet?

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I'm not a pin designer (don't hit me), but I wanted to pop in for a minute. Some of the pins have photos on them (or the outline of photos). Technically, you need to contact the photographer to ask permission to use that. I was asked and was more than happy to say yes. Just something to think about as you work on your pin designs, which are fabulous, BTW.

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Good point so if you would also like to give credit to the photographers of your pictures let me know I will put their names in the gallery.

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Guest cheesy4clay

Hey - I came over here because a friend sent me the link for pin help hehe.

Then she realized that the Clay Aiken Picture pins had already been mailed and it was too late.

I bought all my envelopes at Staples and printed address labels on my own computer. The envelopes were maybe 30 cents a piece, so not bad, but certainly not 11 cents either lol.

I didn't use any of the companies listed. I went to www.pinpros.com and Margi handled my order (and she's a big Clayfan!!!) She was great about helping with design, copyright laws, ordering cost (showed me price differences based on how many would be ordered), and let me add to my order as needed. And I got the pins in just over two weeks :)

It REALLY helps to be organized. I used Microsoft Excel to handle all the orders and total up all the cost. Its a VERY helpful program - especially when you receive PayPal and snail mail payments.

Pins are a lot of work - especially doing them on your own. My greatest advice is to find a partner :D

[but I'll definitely keep in mind ebay next time I need packaging supplies...]

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Not that any of us would ever do this again, *grin*, but . . .

Over at The Clackhouse we've been thinking about something additional for our holiday pin, which you view here. If we can get the ribbon loops actually cut out, we're thinking you could put one of those hanging thingies through that and hang the pin as a tiny ornament on one of those small, table-top Christmas trees. It seemed like a really good idea, so I thought I'd pass it along.

Edited by artquest
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Not that any of us would ever do this again, *grin*, but . . .

Over at The Clackhouse we've been thinking about something additional for our holiday pin, which you view here.  If we can get the ribbon loops actually cut out, we're thinking you could put one of those hanging thingies through that and hang the pin as a tiny ornament on one of those small, table-top Christmas trees.  It seemed like a really good idea, so I thought I'd pass it along.

that looks totally cute and I think a great idea for the holidays...something to think about

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artquest, I love the Christmas pin/ornament! I know RedJet has some Christmas designs planned as well - I can't wait to see those, too!

I just made a post discussing appropriate pin sizes on the Clayboard, and I thought I should post it here as well.

My thought on pin sizes, in general, is that bigger is not better. In general, I feel that 0.75" to 1" in size is ideal for most pins, unless it is a long, skinny type of design. 1.25" should be the upper end on size, depending on complexity. However, simpler designs are usually much more effective than overly complex ones.

I've been somewhat surprised and a little dismayed at how big some of the pins are when I received them. Making the pins too big can make them lose any elegance or cuteness that the original design has, and it can make them borderline tacky in my opinion, which is unfortunate. On the other hand, I have also been pleasantly surprised when a pin turns out to be smaller than I feared it would be.

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