Tuesday, January 29, 2008

All You Wanted to Know about Swapping But Were Afraid To Ask!

Today's blog post is all about swapping. It's a long one so grab a cup of coffee or tea and read on. It's "All you wanted to know about swapping but were afraid to ask." LOL!

I LOVE to swap and I'm often working on swaps.

New customers will often ask me "What's a swap?"

I just tell them that it's like a cookie exchange - you make a bunch of "cookies" and then they're put together & redistributed and you end up with a variety of "cookies" in return. This seems to be the easiest explanation for a non-swapper to relate to.

The next often asked question is "Where do you find swaps?"

You can find swaps on internet groups (like CST, SCS and the Stamp Shack), stamping groups & clubs and even some stores will organize swaps. You can start up your own swap if you know enough people that are interested.

For a paper crafter swaps come in different types and sizes. It's not just "cookies".

Lots of items can be swapped - scrapbook pages, 3D items, and cards just to name a few. It doesn't even have to be physical items swapped. Recently I hosted a couple of e-mail swaps and I found them to be quick, easy and the samples were very inspiring. But most swappers prefer physical swaps where they can touch and see each item up close.

Within these different types of swaps there is so much variety. I won't go into detail on each kind of swap but I will give you more information on card swaps since that is the most common item swapped and what I'm most familiar with.

I've been card swapping for 4 years now (LOVE IT!) and have hosted so many swaps that I've lost count. I like to think that I'm a good swap hostess - I post interesting swaps, I get good participation, I have a reasonable amount of success in getting everyone's swaps in/out on time and I send out a lot of email communication! If you'd like to leave a comment on what you think makes a good swap hostess I'd love to hear it!

I'm a Stampin' Up! Demonstrator so most of the swaps I host or participate in are Demonstrator only swaps. In a Demo only swap you get AWESOME returns (afterall stamping is our business!) and these can used as display samples for business purposes (usually card fronts are swapped to save on paper and because they're mostly used for displays).

Swaps are not just for Demonstrators though - I've participated in a few general stamper swaps and they were for whole cards. I ended up with a variety of AWESOME cards that were all ready to be used!

Swaps are great - I LOVE to swap and not just for samples - but for gathering up different ideas, colour combos, items made with supplies I may not have and to satisfy my need to create and share my love of papercrafting!

Basically a swap works like this:

The swap HOSTESS will post the swap and determine what's being swapped. She's the one who will organize the swap and collect all the items.

There may be a THEME or some kind of CRITERIA, a limit of the QUANTITY of items swapped will be set, and several DATES identified to signup, send your swaps in and for the hostess to send them out to everyone.

Everyone in the swap makes the items, mails them to the hostess by the DUE DATE (this is very important) and includes a SASE for the swap returns (also important!).

Once the swap HOSTESS has received all the participants' swaps she will then have the amazing and complicated task of distributing the swaps - this is called "SWAPPING OUT".

Once that's done she then has to take ALL of the stuffed SASE envelopes to the post office to see if they'll fit through the plastic mail slot template thingy, weighed and that the correct postage has been affixed.

Eventually the return swaps make it to you (the participant) and you get to touch, feel and oh! & ah! over the beautiful items created by the other swappers.

That's if everything goes well! LOL! You know that's highly unlikely!!! Depending on the size & type of swap there may be "complications".

Complications can be things like this:

1. Flakers (someone who signs up for swap and then doesn't send in thier items & does not reply to any of the hostess' pleading & begging emails to them). This is very upsetting to a swap hostess who has set up her swap based on the number of participants. If someone doesn't come through then everyone is affected and doesn't get what they were expecting in the swap.

2. Last Minute Dropouts (someone who drops out after the swap has closed). See explanation for the #1.

3. String-a-longs (someone who keeps the hostess holding the swap up by saying that they'll get their items in later but then doesn't come through). Eventually you have to cut your losses and swap out without this participants swaps.

4. Susie-come-latelys (someone who keeps the hostess holding the swap up by sending in their swaps in too late for the deadline).

5. Angel (not really a complication but a hassle for the swap hostess to find). This is someone who takes over a spot in the swap for any of #1, 2, & 3 above.

6. Postage shortages - swapper not sending in enough postage to cover the return swap package.

7. Misc Complications:
  • Swapper didn't send enough items

  • Not following swap rules for theme or criteria

  • Badly created items.
Not much you can do about the last two but if you find out early enough you can get more swap items to correct the first complication.

*I'm sure that there are more complications that the ones I've listed and maybe someone would like to make a comment if I've left something out.

Swaps In & Swaps Out:

Most swaps are 1 for 1 meaning you send the hostess a set amount of cards and she'll send you the same number back.

Or + 1 which means there is a set quantity (say 10) and you need to send that amount plus one for the hotess (10+ 1 = 11). She gets to keep one of your cards for all the work (and believe me there is a lot of work involved in hosting a swap!) and you get 1 less than you sent in (10) returned to you.

There are also group swaps where you sign up for a swap and are placed in a small group. You will swap only with those participants in that group regardless of how many people actually sign up for the swap. Unless you sign up for multiple groups you will not get any of the other participants swaps. One of the good things about this swap is that you only have to make a small number of items. BUT one of the biggest problems with this swap is that there may be complications (see above section) and then you won't get all the swaps back that you were expecting.

I personally like what I call a "cascading swap". It allows me to run my swap like a group swap - with smaller quantities - but it is NOT affected by complications like Flakers and Drop-Outs. As long as the swap still has enough participants everyone will get back what they put into it. Like a group swap the participants are not swapping with everyone in the swap and like a +1 I get to keep one of everyone's swaps. BUT I have to participate and I make a card for every spot for each participant. This isn't a problem for me because I LOVE to swap!

My Current Swap:

Right now I'm hosting a NEW Spring/Summer Stampin' Up! Catalogue mountable card front swap for Demonstrators only. The THEME is "mountable card fronts" and the CRITERIA is that the swappers must use a NEW stamp from the New Spring/Summer Stampin' Up! Catalogue.

What's a "mountable card front"?

Usually a card front is 4 1/4 x 5 1/2" but I like to make them a bit smaller for those who would like to mount the card front on a base and use the card. I ask for the card fronts to be "mountable" size which typically means 4 x 5 1/4" and then you get a nice 1/8" mat on a standard card base if you choose to mount the swap and use it as a card.

The quantity for my swap is 11. I really like to encourage a smaller manageable swap for both new/inexperiences Demos and also experienced but busy Demos. I know this may seem like an odd number but I have a good reason for choosing this quantity. One sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 cardstock will provide 4 standard card fronts. In this swap the participants are not getting their own card fronts back so I tell them to make 12 (a mutiple of 4) and keep one for themselves (using 3 sheets of cardstock - get it?).

With the NEW Spring/Summer Stampin' Up! Catalogue just out (January 2008) and lots of new samples needed by Demos a swap like the one I'm hosting can get really out of hand with the number of participants and the quantity of swaps to make. I've often seen this kind of swap posted as a MEGA swap (50+ quantity).

In this particular swap I have 46 participants swapping 93 sets of 11 mountable card fronts. All of the participants will get 11 card fronts back but not one from everyone in the swap.

I encourage those that want more samples to sign up for multiple spots on the condition that the swap sets be different (if you sign up for 4 spots then you need to make 4 different sets of 11). So 6 swappers signed up for 4 spots (they're making 44 swaps), 4 signed up for 3 spots (33) and 20 signed up for 2 spots (22 card fronts).

As I said I LOVE to swap and so I participate in all of my swaps and that way I get 1 of everyone's card fronts. In order for that to work in the swap I have to make one for every spot taken. That means that I'm making 46 cards of 1 design, 20 more of another design, 6 of a 3rd and 4 of a 4th design for this swap! That's 76 cards I'm making for this swap!!

Is your head swimming with the math? I know mine was until I figured it all out!

I've done this swap so many times that I've come up with a swap out chart using MS Excel. I just plug in the participants' names, the amount they're swapping and then I input the combinations for swapping out. When I'm ready to swap out I just follow the chart.

So if you've read this far I hope that you have a better understanding of swapping (and that I haven't totally confused you).

If you have any swapping questions I'd love to hear them. Just leave me a comment!

And now here is a little sneak peek of the swap card that I'm making for this swap. I'm making 46 of these. It uses the NEW Stampin' Up! stamp set called ALWAYS and the NEW background stamp caled STITCHED. Yup - I cut out 46 of these birds!!

Have I mentioned that I LOVE to swap!!

I'm just in the process of collecting the items for this swap - the actually due date isn't until Feb 15.

When I have them all in I'll post the photos on here so everyone can see the beautiful work of the many talented swappers!

1 comment:

  1. That's a great rundown. I love swapping. I've been swapping for about 3 years now. I started on Papercrafts then moved the Stamp Shack and I do recipe swaps on 2peas every month.