8 Tips for a Successful Etsy Business

I remember when I was sixteen I got a job at a call center making outbound sales calls.  It was my first job in an actual office.  I lasted exactly one week.  Calling people, being cussed at or hung up on...I just was NOT good at it.  There were people in that small office who made twenty or so sales a DAY.  I was lucky if I made a single one.  I just SUCKED at sales.  And you know what?  I still do. 

But that brings me to the first point on my list:

1) Self promotion isn't begging or bragging!
     If you've put enough into your craft (or vintage find hunting) that you've reached a point where you're ready to start a business of it then be loud and be proud!  Wear your jewelry prominently, sport that leather cuff that you hand designed, strut your stuff in that quirky tee and when people ask "Hey where'd you get that?" be ready to fish a business card out of your pocket or purse and say, "Why, I make them myself!"  

2) Social Media is your friend
    Along the same lines as above you need to get your brand out there.  Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Even if you're on of those people who say "Oh, I'd never use Facebook!"  you need to suck it up and do it anyway.  Your customers use Facebook so you need to as well.  
     And when it comes to social media you need to actually be present.  Don't just post links to your Etsy listings, post content relevant to your target audience.  Do you make handmade soaps?  Post links to herbs and oils and their properties.  Do you make baby hats?  Post photos of babies (even dolls!) wearing your hats! 

3) Top notch photos
     I've said it before and I'll likely say it in every post I make regarding Etsy sales.  It's just that important.  You need to have eye-catching, crystal clear photography.  If you bothered enough to make the item in the first place then make sure you show it the best you can!  Don't have a fancy DSLR?  Don't worry, a cell phone camera can work just fine as long as you learn to work within it's limitations.  
     Take your pictures in full natural light.  No harsh camera flash please.  And my god, HOLD STILL when you take the picture.  Fuzzy, out of focus images are a surefire way to drive traffic AWAY from your listings.  There are a bunch of tutorials on Pinterest that explain how you can get great shots with minimal equipment.

4) Branding
     One of the first things I did when I opened my Etsy shop in 2013 was settle on a logo.  This appears everywhere on my shop and on my website.  I then chose a color scheme based on how I wanted my brand to "feel".  It's no secret that different colors evoke different emotions in people.  I chose brown because it reflects durability and simplicity.  My items are just that.  There are no big frills, no hidden weirdness.  My items are very straightforward.

     By developing your brand early on you're notably building a recognizable presence but you're also, in a way, telling your customers what they can expect from you and your products.  If I'd chosen a wild tie dyed color set I doubt my items would achieve the success that they have.  It just doesn't match what I make.

5) Use Etsy Shipping
     For the first year that I was in business I lugged each and every package to the post office.  The idea of online shipping scared me.  It seemed too complex and too good to be true.  But then in my second year I had some experience under my belt and thought I'd give it a try.
     Oh...My...GAWD.  Unless I get a really weird, obscure order I will NEVER bother with the post office again.  A simple digital scale (super cheap on Amazon) and a package of blank shipping labels is all you need to make this happen.  I buy my shipping labels in bulk (again from Amazon) and just print them out when I'm ready to mail my packages.
     And Etsy domestic shipping (including tracking) is about 1/3 cheaper than at my local post office. International shipping is right around the same cost but I don't have to fill out the customs form!  Etsy does it for me and that's wonderful =)

6) Always ship with tracking
     This one I can't stress enough.  There WILL come a time when you will get a message from a customer that says "My package never came!" or "When is my stuff supposed to get here?!".  These questions can be easily answered if you have tracking on their package.  This has saved my butt more than once and I know for fact it will do so again.
    Saying in your shop policies that you "aren't responsible once it is dropped off at the post office" just isn't true.  All the customer has to do is open a case with their credit card company and most times (not all but most) they will be refunded.  So cover your butts and track every order!

7) Activity = Sales
     There are two sides to this story.  People who say that listing, renewing, etc bump you to the top of the search engines and those who say it doesn't make a difference.  All I can say is that the more active I am with my shop the more sales I get.  And it's not just listing items.  Editing tags, sharing on social media, and renewing expired items all seem to bump my views and sales.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But as long as it works I'm gonna ride it!

8) Be Patient...but proactive
     When you first start out it's easy to start to doubt yourself.  "Why is my baby hat not even getting views when this chick's baby hats keep selling out?!"  A new shop will nearly always go through this.  A quick visit to the Etsy forums and you'll see tons of people asking "Why am I not getting sales?"  "Why are my sales suddenly dead?"  "Where are all of the buyers?".  And every response will be a variation of the same:  "Be patient."

     This is true to an extent.  You can't make people find and buy your stuff.  So what to do in the meantime?  Make your shop VISIBLE.  Go back to #1 on this list:  promote, promote, promote.  Get your name and your brand out there.  The more people who see your shop the more likely one (or more) is going to make a purchase.  Make your photos pop, make your descriptions irresistible.  Check out local venues that might make a good fit for your items and either advertise there or set up a booth at a craft show!  Donate items to local charities in exchange for a mention on their social media or website!
     There is always something you can be doing to improve your shop and promote your brand.  Etsy is a HUGE market and you have to do everything you can to stand out in it.

Good luck!!  Stay the course, it's definitely worth it!  Just this morning my husband (who does all of my bookkeeping, thank goodness) was going over our numbers for this month and said to me, "wow, I think you might have the potential for a second income here!".


Silhouette Cameo Stamp Kit Review

Last weekend I finally got my hands on a Silhouette Stamp Kit.  I'd been eyeing them for awhile in the craft store but always talked myself out of the purchase.  With the arrival of my birthday last weekend came a gift card to JoAnn's and I knew this was what I needed to get.

I'd done a fair amount of research before buying so I knew that the dye inks that I had on hand wouldn't work well.  So while I was there I picked up four different colors of pigment ink as well.  On sale too, woot!

So in the box you get three sheets of stamp material, the stamp cutting mat, one pad of black ink, three acrylic blocks onto which you stick your designs, an idea book (that wasn't really that fabulous), a CD that I have yet to use, and a digital download code for online content.

So first you want to pick out your design.  You definitely want to keep in mind that you're going to have to hand-place the material once it's cut.  Too many small pieces are a lot harder to realign than a solid image.

Once you settle on your image (which you don't need to mirror at this point) then you want to cut out a piece of stamp material just a bit bigger than your design.  Make sure you pull the white protective cover off of your mat before you place the stamp material down.

You don't need to stretch the material (and you really don't want to or you'll end up with a distorted design).  Just let it lay flat and make sure there are no air bubbles trapped under it.  I didn't really find this to be an issue all thanks to the little air holes all over the mat.

Make sure you select "Stamp Material" and "Stamp Mat" in the cut settings on the Cameo before you start cutting.  It suggests that you put your blade on 9.  the first one I tried to make didn't go so well...

I knew right away that it wasn't the settings, it was my blade.  I'd had it for awhile and knew it was going to need to be replaced soon so I had bought another when I picked up the kit.  The second time through was perfect:

Now the kit comes with three acrylic blocks as I mentioned.  You don't even have to use any adhesive to stick the material to the blocks, it holds pretty well on its own.  But there wasn't a block to fit the image I chose so I improvised.  I snagged a plastic bullet case from my husband's work bench.  It worked exactly like the acrylic except for one thing:  It has little dips in the plastic that didn't let the design stamp fully.  But no matter, I can just peel it off and stick it to another block!

One thing of note here:  this image didn't require any mirroring but most others will.  You want to put your stamp material on the block backward so that when it's pressed down it will read correctly.

I will say though that the acrylic works great.  I made another design (this one of my photography logo) and stuck it to the block and it worked flawlessly.

All in all I'm pretty happy with the stamp kit.  As someone who customizes nearly everything she owns I love that I can choose my own designs.  I'm going to be doing some work on my brand this year and I'm excited to put this little kit through it's paces on a larger scale!

10 Mistakes New Etsy Shop Owners Make

I admit it freely, some of these things (and many others) I was guilty of when I first opened my Etsy shop in May of 2013.  I had a couple of friends who were shop owners and I decided (after some coaxing from my husband) to take the plunge.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

So let's jump right in with 10 mistakes that new (and sometimes even seasoned) Etsy shop owners make:

1) Not accepting PayPal.  
     At least 1/3 and possibly closer to 1/2 of my total sales have been through PayPal.  People trust the company with their money and PayPal has a fantastic complaint resolution department both on part of the buyer AND the seller.  Even in my own online purchases I use PayPal 90% of the time.  But what I prefer and what you prefer doesn't matter.  If your potential customer wants to pay with PayPal and you don't have that option available to them then you may have just lost a sale.

2) Shop policies not complete or not appealing to the buyer.
     What does the customer do if the item they receive wasn't what they expected?  What are they to do if the item arrives damaged or is stolen from their mailbox?  What happens if the dress they ordered wasn't sized properly or made them look like Olive Oyl?  These questions and more should be addressed in your shop policy section.  Let your customer know what to expect from you in the unlikely event of a mistake in shipping or if the item arrives damaged.  Some things are out of your hands (post office delays, etc) but let the customer know that you will do whatever you can to make sure that they are happy with their purchase.
     And, conversely, don't write in your policies "I'm not responsible for your package once I mail it." Not only does this suggest to the customer that they aren't worth your time but also it's just not true.  If your packaging was sub par, resulting in a broken item it is definitely your responsibility and any credit card company will likely side with the customer and issue them a full refund.  

3) About Me and Shop Location blank
   People who shop Etsy generally care more about where the item comes from than someone shopping at the local business.  They want to find something that isn't produced in mass quantities or something vintage that they won't find anywhere else.  By filling out your "About Me" section you are offering them a story to go along with their purchase.  
    Not including your location can sometimes be worse.  When ordering something online people want to know when they can expect their item.  If an item is going to be shipping from overseas or across the country this is something they need to know.  Not only for them but for you as well.  You don't want irate customers wondering why they didn't get their product in three days when they live across the pond. 

4) Crappy Photography
     This is BY FAR the most important thing on this list.  When shopping online people can't pick up your items.  They can't turn something over or see it up close.  Your photos have to be top notch if you're going to have consistent sales.  The better the photos, the more views and favorites, the more sales.  Period.  
     There are a bunch of tutorials on Pinterest that explain how to get a nice, seamless background or how to brighten up dull, lifeless images.  Do your shop the best favor you can and do your research.  
     And if an image is blurry please, for the love of pete, don't upload it.

5) Uploading all at once
     One thing about Etsy...activity gets you ranked higher in searches.  The more active your shop is, the more it will be seen.  It's tempting to bang out ten items, photograph them all, and list them all at once but try to list one or two a day for several days instead.  This keeps your shop fresh and relevant.

6) Not Utilizing "Shop Title"
     The shop title line is right under your shop name on your shop's page.  Don't just repeat your shop name here.  This is where you want to put a brief description of what you sell.  SEO counts here so use some fifty cent words.  Things like Dog Blankets, Crochet Hats, Metal Stamped Jewelry.  Don't go into a paragraph here, there is limited space but try to get a few good ones in.

7) Under charging for shipping
     Here's the thing about shipping on Etsy.  When you list the item you have to include how much you will charge to ship it and to where you are willing to do so.  If you take a guess at it and list that your decorated bricks will ship from USA to Canada for twelve bucks you're going to be SORELY up the creek when you realize that it's closer to $100.  And you can't go back and ask the customer for more money to cover the difference.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK and find out how much it will cost to ship something before you list it.

8) Crappy tags
     Tags are how you are found on Etsy.  If you sell ten different styles of hair barrettes don't tag them all the same way!  Tag one with things like "girls barrettes" "pink hair accessories" and tag another pair with different tags like "gifts for her" and "girls birthday".  By mixing up your tags you are reaching more people.  

9) Minimal listings in your shop
     You have to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of listings on Etsy.  If you only have ten items for sale you are going to have a hard time being found.  They say that the magic number of listings is 100.  Do you sell handmade dog collars?  Make a separate listing for each color.  Do you embroider baby blankets?  Do separate listings for different fonts.  
     The more you have for sale the better your shop looks and the more it's going to be found.

10) Unrealistic Expectations
     You aren't going to make a fortune out of the gate with Etsy.  Sure there are a few shops who make bank but you can bet that they worked their butt off to get to that point.  Selling on Etsy is a lot more than making a few listings and sitting back to watch the money roll in.  It takes patience, dedication, and a LOT of research into what's working and what isn't.  The more you put into it the more you'll get out of it.

I hope this helps some of you avoid a few of the glaring mistakes that we are all guilty of at some point in our Etsy careers.  If you can think of any others, leave them in the comments below!

PS: My images have gotten a lot better, by the way: