Prestashop – my biggest mistake!

I know I am not technically minded but I pick things up easily and enjoy learning new things. Therefore, I have always worked on my websites myself. I am far from an expert but I have learned a lot.

I have changed the host of www.tiffanyjadeslingerie.com three times. I outgrew each of the hosts that I used. I found, with time, that each host did not offer certain functions that I wanted.

I decided to buy my own template using Prestashop. Prestashop recommended Blue Host for hosting.

I have found Prestashop far from “fast, efficient and easy to use”. From the start, I encountered problems. Initially it was installation of my template. I paid Prestashop to do this. I also paid it to change the colour of my template which took several attempts and chains of emails before it was completed correctly.

I ran updates that threw me back to square one, having to configure modules again. The dashboard is complicated and unfriendly. It is not “easy to use” and you are not provided with “everything you need to open, operate and maintain a successful online store”.

When I contacted Prestashop a few months ago for help I was ignored and then when I contacted them via twitter I was referred to price packages for support. Prestashop would not even look into the reality that my template was incorrectly installed, as advised by Blue Host. In fact after referring me to the price packages, Prestashop would not even respond.

After months of difficulty using Prestashop and wasting money, time and energy, I am at a point of cutting my losses. This has been the biggest business mistake I have ever made. I am spending more time looking at ways to fix and overcome issues rather than building, optimising and promoting the site.

Does anyone else have experience of using Prestashop? Any experiences of good hosts supporting lots of images and products?

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Where you can find my businesses

T. Jays can be found on eBay, Etsy and its own website.
You can follow T. Jays on Facebook, Twitter and its own blog.

Tiffany Jades Lingerie can be found online here.
You can follow Tiffany Jades Lingerie on Facebook, Twitter and its own blog.

If I ever say I’m busy and you do not believe me, please refer back to this blog! I run everything single handed, as well as the house and the munchkins.

Today was a good day!

I have had a productive day today. It has been one of my ideal days. My to do list is very difficult to prioritise because everything is a priority but today I did it all!

  • postage and packing and customer queries for T. Jays
  • messy play with munchkins
  • cleaned
  • cooked (beef and feta cheese burgers with homemade chips)
  • two loads of washing
  • redesigned some wedding garters (yes needle, thread, beads and bows) and listed the on eBay
  • ooh and written this blog post

And the day is not over. I have a web conference at 8pm and still need to take the munchkins hair out, trim it and put it into donkey plaits to sleep in. And let’s not forget Big Brother.

Feeling pretty sweet with myself right now 🙂

 

Beads, Beads, Jewellery Beads

Just received some new beads for my eBay shop T. Jays. As usual they are absolutely gorgeous. I deal with gemstone beads so what I receive are natural, beautiful stones.Coloured Tiger Eye Beads

Every time I receive new beads I just want to create pieces of jewellery. I taught myself how to make Shamballa style bracelets last year and I started designing some like the few below that are available in my eBay shop:

Tiger Eye Shamballa Style BraceletBlue Mottel Effect Shamballa Style Bracelet

However as much as I enjoyed making them, it became too time consuming so I stopped designing and just stuck to these two popular designs.

I order in new beads every month. New gemstones, different shapes and sizes. It just makes me want to make necklaces, earring etc. But time is lacking and I can not add jewellery making to my belt just yet, as I have so many other things to juggle. It is very much in my mind though, every month when new beads come in, so I will probably get into it once the children start school!

Jewellery making beads available from T. Jays

Jewellery making beads available from T. Jays

 

 

To see all of the beads I sell check out my eBay shop here. All come with free UK delivery, no minimum spend and international shipping.

Extra income while at home

While on maternity leave I spent a lot of time looking into ways to make extra cash. I discovered that you could do online surveys and attend focus groups and get paid. I started by writing product reviews on Dooyoo . I enjoyed it for a while but I found that you had to do a lot of work to be financially rewarded. This might suit some people but it did not suit me.

So I moved on to online surveys. This suited me much more as you receive an email for the survey that tells you its length and how many points you will be rewarded. This way you can decide whether it was worth your while before beginning. Some sites rewarded better than others. I had signed up to so many and was being inundated with surveys. I decided to choose my favourite sites and stick to those. I choose Valued Opinions and My Survey . You are rewarded with points which then convert into vouchers. You can also choose to receive Paypal payments but these were sometimes charged and cost more points than an Amazon voucher.

As I started my businesses, I found less time for these surveys and moved on to focus groups. I joined a company called Code 3 Research. They send an email every time they have focus groups or interviews that suit my profile. Depending on the project you could earn £40-50 for an hour or two.

None of these are going to make you rich or even pay your bills but they help with a bit of extra income. I used to use my vouchers on Amazon to buy baby bottles, cups etc. All of those extra expenses that you incur from having babies! Now I save any vouchers that I get to go towards money off any large buys.

Every little helps….

 

 

 

Deciding on a Franking Machine

I post a high volume of letters and packages on a daily basis and spend a lot of money with Royal Mail. Initially I was visiting the post office daily and dreading my trips there with two small babies and 20+ items of post that had to be weighed, measured and stamped while a queue of frustrated customers grew and my babies cried. I really wanted an alternative way.

I tried online stamps through Royal Mail and Paypal/eBay but I found I had the added expense of sticky labels and ink. I also had difficulty printing in a cost effective way.

I received sales calls from different companies offering to save me money on my postage and then the idea of a franking machine was put to me. I would print the postage at home and package it in bags to take to the post office. I would fill in my certificates of postage as usual and get my stamp from the post office but would not have to spend all of the time waiting for each letter to be weighed and stamped. Sounds great? How much does it cost?

Well I was pleased to find out it a cheaper alternative. I would pay a rental cost for the machine but that cost was far less than the amount that I would save on stamps. For example, a large second class stamp starts at 69p, the same stamp starts at 58p by franking. A medium second class parcel starts at £5.20, the same stamp is £4.40 by franking. When you are posting in large volumes, this can be a substantial saving. You can use the machine to post standard post, recorded, registered, overseas and more.

Pitney Bowes DM55I use the Pitney Bowes DM55 which carries a line rental cost of £ 12.95 (exc. VAT). There are a few other franking machine providers including FP Mailing and Neopost. They all have offers available to you in terms of line rental price and free postage. I received £20 free postage with Pitney Bowes.

There were other costs to take into consideration when deciding on the franking machine. You normally receive a free ink cartridge with your machine but once that runs out you will need to purchase another. For my machine they are roughly £50 and give 1500 impressions. I used to have an FP mailing machine and it’s cartridges were £100+ but gave 4500 impressions. I prefer the cheaper option! Yes, I get less impressions but £50 each time is easier to budget than £100+. You do not have to purchase from the company themselves. I have purchased compatible cartridges from Mailcoms Ltd and a few sellers on eBay at a much cheaper price. On eBay I have bought ink cartridges for £15-20. You just need to ensure that the ink is Royal Mail approved and compatible with your machine.

You also need to purchase franking machine labels if you are not printing directly onto the envelope. I post my wedding garters out in normal envelopes but my Disney books and jewellery beads are posted in padded envelopes that do not fit in the franking machine. I go through a lot of labels but I purchase them through eBay sellers at very reasonable prices, i.e. £10 for 1000 labels.

My advice for anyone choosing a franking machine would be to speak to all of the providers. You can fill in your details on a site like Best Franking Prices. They would then forward you details to Fp Mailing, Neopost, and Pitney Bowes. Each company call you quite quickly and give you all of the information that you need. The prices I have quoted are based on my machine, the Pitney Bowes DM55. The machine you get will depend on the volume of letters you are sending. It is good to ask the following:

  • Monthly rental cost – how much is it and is it payable monthly or quarterly?
  • Payment method – do you pay by direct debit? If you pay in an alternative way, is there a charge? Do you pay for postage in advance or in arrears?
  • Ink cost – is the first cartridge included? How many impressions does it give and what is the cost?
  • Reset costs – is there a fee every time postage is added to the machine

Once you have each company’s information, it would be a good idea to compare Royal Mail’s franking prices to stamp prices. You can see current prices (from April 2013) here. Have a look at how much you would save and compare that to the amount you will spend to have a franking machine. For me, I was saving around £100 a month so it was a no brainer!

I find using the franking machine so quick and easy. However, I was still spending so much time writing out addresses and certificates of postage. I needed a quick way to do this as all of my evenings were spent doing my post. I found an excellent solution which I will blog about later.

How I started My Own Business

After a couple of months of maternity leave I missed working. I missed trying to hit targets but I especially missed the four figures paid into my bank account on the last working day of every month.

Yes being a mummy was and is rewarding. I adored my baby and the one I just found out I was going to have, however, I wanted it all.

As money and space got tight in the house, I started selling things we no longer needed on eBay. It became addictive. I wanted to sell things I even needed just to see how much I would get for it. I found that people would buy anything. I even sold some used trainers. Then hubby made the suggestion to start selling on eBay as a business. I had heard talk about people making lots of money on eBay but I didn’t know how they did it.

I always wanted to start my own business, however, I was always scared of the risk. The risk of losing money invested and losing the security of a guaranteed salary at the end of the month. Maybe having two maternity leaves back to back would be the perfect opportunity for me to make something work. I had nothing to lose (except my sanity).

So I began my research. I looked into products and suppliers and what people were selling on eBay. I read blogs and watched tutorials. I had no idea what I was doing. I know how to make money and I can teach myself anything. I have run businesses for other companies but I have no experience with online sales. It is completely different to the high street or a call centre.

In November 2010, I became self employed and created T. Jays Trading. I had £30 for stock and sold wedding garters, hair accessories and cosmetics. I struggled. I had so many ideas but no funds to see them through. I was seven months pregnant and had a small baby so time and energy was very limited. However, I believed in what I was doing and knew I was going to keep going and make it work!

Baby number two came along and I continued to struggle but still believed in my business. I was making a very small profit every month but gave myself the target of making my old salary by the end of the year. To do this I knew I needed to sell different products, however, what do I sell? What can I sell that would increase my profit margins? Time is a serious issue when looking after two babies who are under one so I knew I would need a product that would give me a large margin so that I could make a decent profit with not so much effort. I spent months trying to answer these questions….in fact I still ask myself these questions.

Lingerie was a product that I started to sell. Now I am a sucker for pretty and sexy lingerie. Which girl isn’t? Yes, I love my PJs at certain times but I have always felt sweet wearing a little satin chemise or a pretty night dress with a bow – do not forget the bow! I was selling stockings, hold ups, control pants and bodies. However, I was not overly keen on the stock I had so I had no passion for this product and I am not comfortable selling what I do not like myself.

I kept looking for different lingerie suppliers and requesting catalogues. I had a pile of catalogues on the computer waiting for me to go through. One day, hubby was home from work and saw the catalogues. He loved a lot of the products and suggested that I make my own site. He started building the site straight away and I fell in love with the idea and the site. Tiffany Jades Lingerie was born! This was a product I could be overly passionate about. Beautiful, sexy lingerie PLUS exquisite bridalwear. Bridalwear that made me want to get married again.

My businesses are still going strong. I still struggle with the time issue but who doesn’t? I always want more. I have amazing ideas. As a consumer and with my past experience in retail and management, I know what consumers want and how to give it to them. I know I will continue to be successful in my business ventures and they will grow. That is why I have never given up and never will.

You can have a look at my business my clicking on their names on the header of this blog or following the links on the right hand side under “My businesses”.