Friday, May 8, 2009

Etsy Selling - First in a series on Online Promotion and Selling for Creative People

Today I’m happy to bring you the first in a series of posts looking at online selling & promoting options for creative people. This area is constantly developing and I expect even over the course of these posts that new options will become available.

We start by taking a look at Etsy – the online handmade and vintage shopping site that has revolutionised things for many small sellers. It is unlike Ebay primarily in that it focuses on handmade and vintage and it is not an auction site. For sellers, it is relatively easy to set up and cheap on fees.

If you have never ‘been to’ Etsy, when you get to the end of this post and have finished commenting and sharing ;) use the links to pop on over…

I am not yet on Etsy (yet), so I enlisted the help of a couple of generous Etsy sellers to give an insight into how they approached setting up their Etsy shops and what their experiences have been, so here we go:

Robynne of Potato Patch was my first contributor, she makes wonderful kids clothing using ye olde technique of potato stamping. Her designs are modern and I’d say, timeless all in one, and I can still hardly believe what came from a potato-even in her obviously skilled hands!

My second contributor is Jennifer Brown of New Fangled and J Brown Art. Jennifer ‘upcycles’ – a concept I find very intriguing – she makes lovely bangles from upcycled papers – giftwrap, magazines and all sorts: A complete –and stylish- transformation! And in J Brown Art you can find her original collage artwork prints – evocative pieces on a range of themes that inspire her and I’m sure will inspire you too.

Neither claims to be a guru and both are fairly new to Etsy, but I think you’ll find their generous answers provide a wealth of insight for anyone thinking of expanding their online presence with an Etsy shop:

Q: What is a reasonable time to expect to pass before first sale?

Robynne: For me it was 3 weeks before I saw my first sale. It's sooooo exciting! I still check several times a day and get that same feeling. Be patient and it will happen.

Jennifer: My Newfangled shop was open about 3 weeks before my first sale and I made my first sale in my second shop, in just a couple of days.

There are probably several factors that will effect when you get your first sale, like time of year, popularity of your items and the amount of time you spend promoting your shop among other thing.

I had been networking and promoting on etsy for several months before opening my second shop.

Q: Should I wait to start by setting up with lots of stock or is it okay to open say with a dozen, 2 doz items?

Robynne: A dozen is a good start and just keep adding to your collection when you can.

Every time you add a new item you will be at the front page of your section. This is key, as you want to get noticed.

People add items every minute so it's very easy to get buried quickly, especially in jewellery.

Jennifer: Yes, it is ok to start small. Just make it a goal to add more things as often as you can.
Listing items often (at least once per week) is a good way to keep traffic coming into your shop.

Photographing and listing items can be a little daunting at first; so starting out small will give you a little practice while you continue to create.

Q to Robynn: Do you choose to be listed under certain groupings? Is there a facility on Etsy for this?

Robynne: Yes, Etsy has categories and sub-categories when you post an item. List in as much as possible that relates to your items, this is known as your "tags"

Q to Robynn: Do you send Etsy samples to encourage their featuring you?

Robynne: No samples are required. Etsy chooses items everyday to feature as well as "treasures" from etsy sellers get featured on the front page. I think I have been featured once on the front page.

(Note from me: Etsy sends out a daily newsletter featuring items on a wide variety of themes – they employ people to find the ‘treasures’, so the site as a whole is marketed and individual sellers get exposure too)

Q: what ways do you market / promote your Etsy shop - any proved very good / no use?

Robynne: I attend craft shows and festivals to get known.
Family and the Internet are great tools, blogging and twitter helps and approaching retailers. I have had my fist sale directly from twitter so that works!
I haven't done a whole lot in this dept. It amazes me how people will find you. I have been approached from websites, bloggers and retailers to feature my items which is great. I have also submitted my product for reviews on websites and blogs but from my experience it hasn't lead to sales.
On etsy you can buy a showcase for$7 which will feature your item for that category. I have done that but did not see any direct sales from that.

Jennifer: I promote on facebook, twitter, flicker, my blog and in the etsy forums.
I occasionally do giveaways and participate in team events.
So far I have found that Twitter gets a lot of traffic into my shop but not a lot of buys and flickr has gotten me the most sales.
I used to give out coupons for percentages off of the sale price, but I have found that to not be very effective.

Q to Jennifer: Do you worry about copying?

Jennifer: I try to be as original as possible, but I realize that it's almost impossible to come up with an idea that has never been done. I think it's ok to get inspiration/ideas from others as long as you don't copy it exactly.

(Note from me: I asked this more thinking how paranoid many Caribbean makers are about their ideas being copied – I second Jennifer’s sentiment entirely, I believe you’ll get much further casting aside worries about being copied and investing your energy in being inspired, creative and productive)

Q: Do you participate in the Etsy forums - what's their best use?

Robynne: They say it helps so I do like to post in the forum and occasionally go in the chat
rooms. Any way to get noticed is great, especially in the beginning.
One of the guru's of esty is Timothy Adams. He has a great blog with useful tips for
your etsy shop

Jennifer: Yes - I promote in the etsy forums when I do a new blog post or when I am doing a giveaway. So far I haven't made any sales from these promotions (as far as I can tell) but I have met a lot of great etsy sellers to network with and I learn a lot by browsing through the business topics and site help sections.
Q: what's your best success story and or how far and wide do you sell?

Robynne: Etsy is a wonderful place to start and it's great that it is international. I have shipped to Australia and Singapore! I never thought that things would go so well (for me) as it is such a huge marketplace.”

Jennifer: I'm really just getting started, so I don't have any great success stories yet, but recently I was contacted about doing a wholesale order by a boutique owner: I am very excited about this and hope to sell my items in boutiques all over the place.

Q to Jennifer: Any glitches you had along the way?

Jennifer: My first custom order went terribly wrong. The items got destroyed in the mail and I had to refund the customer. Now I use special boxes for my bangles and all is well. I guess the glitches are best thought of as learning experiences.

Q to Jennifer: Any particular advice?

Jennifer: The best piece of advice that I can offer is to find an etsy team and join it. I joined the ACE Team ( shortly after joining etsy and I have learned everything from how to improve my photography to how to deal with customers in tough situations. Also, teams often plan events that will help promote your shop.
Q to Robynn: What's important to know & do?

Robynne: For setting up a shop it's best to be prepared in advance.
Make sure your shop name is not taken.
Have your item descriptions ready and most of all
GREAT PICTURES will definately get you noticed. (Tutorial here)
Of course pricing and shippings fees play a role in being competitive.
From many posts jewelry is a tough markets as it's very saturated.
In the beginning it's best to list and renew each day to be a the top of the page when buyers are looking to purchase. I find this helps alot. Many time as soon as I post a can get a direct sale! It does work!

So great thanks to both Jennifer and Robynne for sharing their experience so openly. You can thank them by Sharing this post (use the Share This button below) with your friends and colleagues and by visiting their websites and following them on twitter:

UPDATE - READ THIS great post also: Why Buyers Leave Your Shop

If you have any other questions you’d like answered, just pop them in the comments section and please do add your own thoughts, suggestions and experience – we love to hear from you and get your point of view!

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  1. I just learned of Etsy earlier today when looking for some of the beautiful soft-sculpture creations by Melilab. I first found Melilab on Flickr and from there found Etsy. Of course, Etsy has treasures galore and very quickly I fell in love with the site. So glad you're promoting Etsy! Definitely wonderful. xx Jane Shattuck Hoyos, Barbados

  2. It is a wonderful site isn't it! I checked out Melilab on her blog, her sculptures are soo cute!

  3. I adore Etsy...I am full of marketing ideas, and ALWAYS open to new ones, so I'm excited to follow your blog!

  4. Great over view of Etsy! Wonderful info!

  5. Great article! One thing I might add, is that if you are selling something like bath and beauty or jewelry, you would need to add or renew items much more frequently for your items to be noticed.