- Decide whether you want to handle your Etsy shop as a hobby or as a business. The approach you use is very different for each. If you're doing this as a hobby, remember to have fun. If you're running this as a business, remember to always treat it as a business. Manage your expenses, charge enough to make a profit, and treat you customers in a professional way.
- Make connections. Spending time getting to know other Etsy sellers in the chat rooms and forums is not a waste of time. You can learn from the experiences of others and get great tips for success. The more people see you online, the more they will visit your shop out of curiosity. Another way to make connections is by joining an Etsy Team. Teams help promote the entire group and you get the same benefits of learning from other sellers.
- Views and hearts aren't sales. There are some websites that allow you to see how many people visited your shop, viewed your items, and "heart" your shop or individual items. This is pretty exciting for a new seller. Unfortunately, people looking at and liking your stuff isn't the same thing as them purchasing from you. Sometimes people check out your shop and decide it's not what they were looking for. Lots of people "heart" your items but may not be able to afford them. There are even those who "heart" your stuff because they intend to copy it. Getting a lot of traffic to your shop is great, but purchases are better.
- Play by the rules. Etsy, like any other site, has rules for what items can be listed, how they should be listed, etc. They are also quite diligent about eliminating "calling out" comments and posts. They're not always good about responding quickly to reports of items that break the rules, but you don't want yours to be the one they get to quickly. There's probably no better way to get more experienced sellers mad at you than to break the rules.
- BNR's are a scam. BNR = Buy and Replace. A Curator will set up a Treasury and tell you that if they buy an item from a shop featured in the treasury, your shop will replace that shop in the treasury. Different people use different rules. Some set a minimum purchase amount and some have provisions for securing yourself in the starting 16 of the next BNR. The most successful BNRs are run by groups of people who take turns managing things. They also garner a lot of publicity in forum posts, Facebook posts, Twitters, emails, and more. It all seems like a great idea and it does bring more people into the shops featured in the BNR. Unfortunately, many are looking to buy the cheapest thing they can in order to take your spot in the treasury. The other thing I noticed was that the vast majority of sales I was seeing in the BNR were the same group of people buying from each other. It made me wonder if they had some sort of deal worked out behind the scenes. The number of sales can look so impressive, but it's the same shops popping in and out while the other shops can be there for days without a sale. I made the mistake of getting involved in a BNR that was set up to be more beneficial for the Curator. She set a $2 minimum purchase, but allowed people to get her spot by purchase a $1.50 from her shop. To make things worse, about 6-8 hours later she started another BNR, and then even another one 8 hours later. It was all about her sales and didn't benefit anyone else. If you had planned on purchasing an item from one of the shops anyway, then go ahead. It can't hurt to have more people looking at your shop. Just don't get suckered in and buy things you don't need or want just to get your shop in. Chances are that you won't sell anything or that you'll be tempted to offer discounts that will eliminate any possible profit you might have made.
- Determine a schedule or plan for your activity. The most successful shops on Etsy have a schedule they follow. They check, package and ship orders at certain times. They devote a certain amount of time to research and promotion. They also have set times for producing the items for their shops. They don't spend all day hooked to the computer to see if one more person looked at their shop.
- Feedback is important. Especially when you are a new seller, feedback is important to show people they can trust you. The larger sellers don't spend much time with feedback and only give it when requested. Don't be afraid to remind buyers to leave feedback. This is your reputation, so make sure you manage any problems that arise.
- Treat your item listings like a catalog page. When describing your items, give the buyer plenty of information so they can make an informed decision. If they buy your jewelry item and it's much bigger or much smaller than they expected, they will be disappointed. If you are selling items that are versatile, let the buyer know about the many ways it can be used. Use interesting pictures. I started with boring pictures that weren't at all exciting. Look at other Etsy shops and you'll see the difference between great pictures and blah ones. Use photos that are clear so your product may be seen, and shoot them with enough lighting. Bad pictures will tell the buyer that you're not that serious about selling.
- Package professionally. Etsy is not the same as Ebay. Buyers want to feel like they are purchasing from a boutique type store, not a yard sale. Some sellers have custom packaging made for their items. You can do things as simple as putting things in gift boxes, gift bags, wrapped in tissue paper, etc. Purchase blank labels from an office supply store and put your logo or a product picture plus the address of your shop. Some sellers include samples of other items from their shops or other small gifts as a "thank you." I started including small thank you cards with a tatted flower attached and a sticker with our shop info. The flower doesn't take long to create, but it adds a more personal handmade touch. I've heard other sellers mention that they purchase packaging at local dollar stores until they start having enough sales to buy in bulk elsewhere. Basically, you want your customer to be excited when they receive their purchase and feel like they got their money's worth.
- Treat your customers well. This one is found in every possible guide on how to succeed on Etsy. It's not just one customer that could be unhappy. They'll tell their friends, post it online, leave neutral or negative feedback, etc. Customers like to know that you received their order and when it will be shipped. You'll really impress them if you contact them after they receive their order and ask them if they like it. If the buyer has a shop of their own, look at the shop and tell them what you like about it. Developing a relationship with your customer leads to repeat purchases and having them recommend you to their friends.
- Promote your shop everywhere. Etsy is huge and has thousands of sellers. The internet as a whole is immensely large. You need to increase your chances of being discovered. Some of the most common promotion methods are Twitter, Facebook posts, Facebook Fan pages, and blogs. If you set up at local craft fairs, make sure you have cards or flyers with your Etsy shop listed as well. There is a whole section in the Etsy forums on promotion and you can get some advice there as well.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I've been reflecting this weekend on what I've learned about selling on Etsy. In the hopes that what I've learned might help others, I'm going to tell you about it. Even if nobody else is reading this, it's probably good to have it in writing in case I forget :-)