Saturday, July 23, 2011

Business Lessons 101, A Continuing Series for New Artisans
day 64

#11 ---  Diving into Etsy..the first 150 Days
In January 2011, I bit the bullet. I decided to open an Etsy shop. On February 15, the day after Valentine's Day, properly sated and hung over from chocolate, I listed my first items: River Girls most popular hand poured soaps as well as its handmade cards and painted and stamped marble coasters. 

The decision--- part cavalier seat-of-the-pants and part tortured contemplation-- is a one I do not regret. After five months, I have posted 50 revolving items and have closed 41 sales, serving buyers from Los Angeles, California to Sydney, Australia. Nonetheless, there are things I wished I had known fresh out the gate. For example:

1. Be realistic. 
Stop, take a deep breath. View ETSY, at least initially, as the paper route and baby sitting job of your dreams, not the Martha Stewart empire. Even if you eventually get there--it's going to be a while. While there are a handful of businesses making thousands and thousands of sales and dollars, the vast majority are NOT. For some, the income  will arrive in a steady thin stream, others trickles, and for some, barely at all.  

2. Consider your competition. Recognize that the number of ETSY artisans with open stocked stores is well over 290,000 (but about 318,000 on record).  

What is your niche? Some ETSY areas are more flooded with sellers than others. Jewelry for example is notorious for attracting new crafters and disreputable overseas factories who land daily on ETSY with severely discounted trinkets.  Each niche will have its own challenges. Soap sellers for example are fewer in numbers than jewelers, but they are  also faced with the task of hard selling an item whose scent cannot be be sniffed. 

3. Be prepared to promote your shop--alot! The biggest mistake one can make with an ETSY shop is to set up, fill up and then sit and wait. This is a surefire way of garnering zero customers. The first six weeks on ETSY, I worked 6-10 hours a day writing copy, listing new items, joining teams and making treasuries (see below). ETSY does provide exposure and an easy way to process customers and collect your revenue, but it will not bring droves of customers to you. 

The best way to attract sales is through constant marketing of your store. Bring your past customers by announcing your new shop and informing them of where to find you! For several years, River Girls has had a web site (, but it was not gaining enough looks and was becoming a colorful catalog just for loyal repeat customers. Interestingly enough, sales went up with veteran customers when some began shopping at the ETSY store which runs more seasonal specials and launches new and custom lines.

Next, point potential customers in your direction. Have a website, a facebook page, and/or a blog.  All of these ensure that you are creating a super highway to you! Keep business cards handy, listing the ETSY shop, and pass them out everywhere. Sign all correspondence, including to your mom, with your new ETSY web address.

4. Help Others. Finally, one of the biggest secrets to success on ETSY is what I coin "helping others". First rule of thumb: Whatever customers you do get, always treat impeccably, from shipping what you promised, to answering questions, to being timely and saying "thank you!" This reflects decency but also ensures positive feedback and repeat business. It creates nothing short of a domino effect.  

Equally important, never underestimate the power of the curated TREASURY. When I first began listing at ETSY,  I would make TREASURIES exclusively featuring sellers looking for their first sales. I now make those as well as ones featuring team members. After making  70 treasuries and being featured in 200, I have actually been able to pinpoint rises in my sales. Consider that at a minimum, they increase visibility, and the truth is, the more buyers who see your items, the more likely you are to close a sale.


Good Night & Good Luck Novices!


Fleur de Lis Quilts said...

Thanks for the frank advice. I've been on Etsy over a year now. I have worked harder than I do at my day job.....sales barely pay the Etsy bill. I've been seriously thinking of cutting my losses, but I'll keep trying for a while longer keeping your advice in mind. Thanks, Mary

Rebecca (Soap Deli News Blog) said...

Marketing your shop is definitely a big part of success. It's also a full time job in itself. You can never market too much!

Wanda Fleming of River Girls Soap said...

I am spending hours extra per day now working between my writing, soaping and ETSY. But I do think ETSY requires a great deal of work. ETSY has helped raise River Girls profile. But frankly, I think it serves artisans who have been around a while best. It's gotten very big over there and it has helped us tremendously that we had prior customers. I love the freedom not to do the financial processing too which I still have to do on my traditional webpage.

River Girls Soap & Bath
River Girls Studio 365

Wanda Fleming of River Girls Soap said...

PS Mary, one of your quilts I will be featuring tonight! Still working on the Sunday Montage (see! it never ends!! lol ; ;-)

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