Friday, May 7, 2010

Adventure # 1: Basic Training

I opened my Etsy shop on March 24th, 2010. Since then, my shop has undergone several complete overhauls, and continues its metamorphosis each week. In fact, if I had known how much commitment, resolve, effort, time and energy were going to go into this project, I may never have started! But I am glad that I did! Hopefully this blog will provide the newbie Etsian with some shortcuts!

Now, my first question after opening my shop was "How can I get people to check out my shop!?". Initially I consulted the Etsy forums, and with a lot of help from the critique section, my shop started to improve, and so did traffic. So to our first stop:

Adventures In The Etsy Critique Forum:

It is very important to keep an open mind when receiving criticism from other sellers. Obviously, an opinion is just an opinion and should be weighed as such, but if you maintain a positive attitude and an open mind, you can really benefit from some helpful, honest advice. Sometimes it can be difficult to hear criticism when you've spent HOURS AND HOURS working on perfecting your photos, your banner, your avatar, your shop announcement, your sections, Etcetera, but no matter how much energy you put into it, there is ALWAYS a little room for improvement, so even when it's hard, just grit your teeth, smile, and say "thank you". You never know, you might find the key to your success! If you keep an open mind about the suggestions you receive you will quickly learn what works and what doesn't, and begin to familiarize yourself with the many different options you have as an Etsy seller. As an added bonus, you'll get a little traffic from other forum-goers and you could even make a sale!

Adventures in Photography:

There are all sorts of ways to maximize your sales online, but you will get nowhere fast without GREAT photos of your merchandise. Having the right picture of your product should be rule number 1 for any online marketplace. The right picture can be the difference between "that's cute" and "GOTTA HAVE IT!". When I first opened my shop I, like most other sellers, thought all i had to do was slap some pics up online and the orders would just roll on in! Unfortunately, it's not that simple! But it doesn't have to be a big to-do either. Here are some photography tips and tricks I've learned along the way:

-The best thing I ever did for my shop was to build myself a home-made light box out of an old cardboard box and some wax paper. It only took me 20 minutes! Do a google search online and you'll find step-by-step how-to's to make a good, inexpensive light box of your very own! The box itself isn't much to look at, but it helps me take clean, effective, professional-looking photos of my items, and that really helps your product stand out amongst the competition!
- I highly recommend the use of a white background in your photos. Some printer paper will do the trick! Personally, I like using props and other decorations in my photos, but since the size of the thumbnail is so limited, my pictures just wound up looking messy and my product difficult to pick out. I save the more elaborate photos for my posters, which we will discuss in an upcoming section!
- Just like any other new endeavor it can take some time and experimentation before you get the result you're looking for. It's okay to get frustrated and do a little foot stomping and mutter some naughty words under your breath, but don't give up! Keep trying, experimenting and learning, and in a short time you will have a system in place that saves you time and energy, and you will have gained experience and skill along the way!

Adventures in Marketing:

This is the Etsy mystery of mysteries. Where, how, and with whom to market your new Etsy shop! Ask any Etsy seller and you will get a hundred different answers from different folks. Since a lot of it depends on what you are selling, your target market, and your particular price-range, there is no ONE right way to market an Etsy shop. The best advice I can give you is EXPERIMENT. TRY EVERYTHING, and find out what works best for YOU. Be prepared to throw a little money away in the process. If you're not willing to waste a few dollars on an ineffective avenue, you may never find out what really DOES work. Listed here are a few of the techniques I have tried, as well as a few suggestions I've picked up from others. As you can see, there are MANY options available to you!

Some sellers make lots of sales from twitter, and some don't make any. There is one way to find out which category you belong to - try it! Signing up for a twitter account is free and easy. (Go to to find out how.) My personal experience with twitter has been mixed. At first I was super excited that whenever I sent a tweet (with a description and a link to a listing), my item's views would instantaneously go up y 20-40 new views!!! Unfortunately, I soon found out that 99% of these new views were generated by roving internet bots, that is computers with software which perform repetitive tasks, and NOT actual people who might be interested in buying my product! So, I haven't bothered too much with twitter since. However, once you send out a tweet, your listing has appeared in another *fairly prominent* place on the world wide web, thus increasing the chances, however slight, that the right customer will find it.

Facebook Fan Pages:
This is where the majority of my sales have come from, and many other sellers have had success with their FB Fan sites, as well. As my shop was extremely new, and internet shoppers hadn't found out about my wonderful goodies yet, my friends and family were becoming aware that I had a shop, and discovering what was in it thanks to my FB Fan Page, and I am happy to report a number of sales have transpired as a result! It took some time, however, before the Fan Page picked up steam, and at first I was discouraged, but I'm glad I kept with it, because it has dramatically increased my internet presence and has provided all of my facebook contacts with easy access to my shop and my products.

Purchasing Ads on Facebook: I've purchased items from shops who advertised on facebook, so I thought I would give it a try myself and see how it went. Facebook has a really nifty system that helps you easily create an ad and target exactly the people you think would be interested in your merchandise. Unfortunately, depending on your target audience, this can get expensive pretty quickly. Facebook's default system is done on a "per-click" basis. You, the seller, will place a bid on the maximum amount you are willing to pay every time someone clicks on your ad to visit your store, and based on that bid, you compete with other advertisers to have your ad displayed on a potential customer's Facebook Ad space. Generally, bidding under 50 cents per click wont get you anywhere. Unfortunately, this can add up quite fast, especially if you take into account how many people have to view your shop before you actually get a buyer. I continue to advertise on facebook but I keep my bids really low these days, because 50 cents per click isn't going to get me the number of views I need in order to make a sale before I reach my limit! So again, mixed results there. But exposure is exposure! Some other places to advertise, probably a bit less pricey:

Joining Other Craft Sites:
This is an easy, inexpensive way to do some show-and-tell, network with other artisans, make friends, and increase your internet presence. Some great sites include:
Just to get you started :D

Etsy Chat Rooms:
Last, but certainly not least, the Etsy Chat rooms are a MUST for networking, marketing, and having a LOT of fun. You can find the chats by clicking on the "community" tab in "your etsy" or from the homepage. I've made a sale in the chat rooms, and I've found some "gotta have it" items, too! I've also made lots of new Etsy friends, increased my views and hearts, and gained a lot of wisdom and encouragement. Definitely worth checking out!!
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Adventures of the Heart:

Be generous with your Hearts, not only will you be able to keep track of your favorite sellers and items on Etsy, you'll connect with people who share a similar esthetic taste, and thereby form a community from which you may potentially get some sales. You know how nice it feels when you see new hearts for your shop or your lovingly hand-made items! Give others the same thrill when you see something you love! Before you know it, you'll be part of a huge mutual admiration society :D and getting seen by new people doesn't hurt your business, either!

Adventures in Listing Items:
Etsy makes listing items a piece of cake. The main ingredients in a good listing include a good Title, description, tags, photos, and of course the right price!

Titles: I always want to give my items artistic and flowery titles that I think capture the "mood" of my creations. Unfortunately, that really doesn't help your item get seen by people looking for exactly what you have for sale! The trick to item titles is to touch on color, material, and of course, what the item is. For example, instead of an abstract title such as "Gentle Forest Breeze necklace" it is better to have key words that identify the listing like "Orange Aventurine leaf necklace OOAK". I know it sounds boring and utilitarian, but how many people are going to search for a "gentle forest breeze" when what they are looking for is an orange gemstone necklace or leaf pendant? Not many! You can add as much poetry and prose as you want in your item's description!

Description: A basic description should always include color, materials used, and measurements in both inches and centimeters - those are the bare minimum. Additional information can include what inspired you to make the item, any special features that might not be self-evident, links to matching products, and other descriptive details you'd like to share with your customers.

Tags: First, a word of caution, customers and Etsians alike really get their knickers in a bunch when they see inaccurate or misleading tags. It's tacky, and it's sort of cheating, so DON'T DO IT. It's not worth any extra views you may get, because it's going to tick people off. Instead, cover the basics, especially COLOR. Tag every conceivable color in your item, and use all 14 available tags, don't leave any empty. Another crafty little trick is to imagine you are a customer looking for exactly that item and do a search on Etsy using key words that you'd use like "Green knitted sweater" for example. See what comes up, and take a look at the tags for that item. If they fit your item as well, use them! Also keep an eye on what items are getting the most views in other shops, check out those tags, and if appropriate, use them! No shame in copying tags, as long as they are correct and appropriate to your item!

Price: It can be tempting as a newbie to under-price your items, in the hopes that they will sell more quickly. In my experience, lowering the price doesn't do a thing to help me sell. What helps my items move is just having the right person see the right product, and boom! So when considering price, take into account how much time and effort it took for you to make that item, factor in how much the materials cost, and don't forget the time and effort you put into photographing and presenting your item, because you should expect to be paid for that as well, that's just overhead! Another important activity is checking out how much other people are charging for similar items. Visit other stores and scope out the prices. Try to price things based on what it is worth, how much you think shoppers would be willing to pay, and what the competition is doing with their pricing. A synthesis of these methods will produce a perfectly priced item every time :D

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Finally, let me close this post with perhaps the most important advice I have to give:

Starting an Etsy shop is a lot like planting a seed. At first you will be very impatient so see it begin to sprout, but you can't rush it, you simply have to wait, water, nurture and love what you've begun. As you wait, continue to cultivate, till the soil and pull weeds. Being a member of the Etsy community, you will gradually grow strong root systems that will go deeper, and deeper into the marketplace as time goes on. Soon your shop will start to sprout! Don't stomp on it and say "Hey! There aren't any flowers on you!" Instead, applaud your little seedling for the new growth and continue to patiently and diligently garden until one day your shop will be in full bloom!! Good luck! :D


1 comment:

  1. Hello Joan...I just found your blog and I am very excited to read it. I decide to start way back here and read to your current entries. I love this entry. It is so helpful especially for me, a newbie at Etsy.

    I am very thankful for your generous tips here and I especially love your closing point. I definitely am that impatient person that wants results right away, but you are so right. I have to be patient and keep at it. Many thanks!