Wednesday, February 13, 2013

10 Tips for Etsy Businesses

The Homefront Team will be featuring several articles in the next few months, concentrating on building skills for a successful Etsy business.  Here is the first installment:

I was introduced to Etsy, 4 years ago, while I was at a craft show.  One of the sellers and I struck up a conversation about the other ways we were selling our items and she mentioned she used Etsy.  After a few email conversations afterwards, and me checking Etsy out, I went ahead and opened up my very own shop. Through these 4 years, I've learned so much, but by no means a "jedi-master" of the Etsy world.  

Here are 10 tips that I have found helpful for my experience as an Etsy shop owner.

1.  Knowing your product
   Wouldn't it be great if Bob Barker or Drew Carey could tell you what you should be selling your item for?  There are many factors that come into play when pricing your items, so knowing your product is crucial. You need to know how much it costs to make your item, how much time you spend making it, and how much it costs to ship.  These are just a few things to keep in mind when filling out the pricing section of your listing.
   But that's not all.  You have to know what niche your item fits in.  Sure you sell jewelry, but have you seen the search results if you just were type in "jewelry".  What makes YOUR jewelry different?  The key to having a successful business is to know what you are selling and how it's unique/different from your competitors and enterprising on that.
  Plus, know your market.  Who are you trying to sell to?  It may be easier to start out with a smaller audience, so you can build your brand and your customer service, then branch into another field.

2.  Promote like a maniac
   I believe you can never promote yourself enough!  There are so many online tools out there that can be utilize for free, you would be a chump not to use them.  Get a Facebook Business Page, start a blog, get onto twitter, etc.  The best part of some of these applications, you can link them together so you feel like you're doing A LOT of work, but you're not.  Post once, and it will get posted on all your different accounts - easy peasy.
   Do you like newsletters?  Chances are your customers do too, so make one.  Mailchimp is a great resource to do this, and it's pretty simple.
   You can never have too many business cards, either.  Keep them on you ALWAYS.  Seriously.  And it doesn't really matter if they are made with your printer, or you order them from online (Vistaprint is always having great deals and every once in awhile you can snag some mini Moocards from Moo for shipping cost only), just as long as they have the pertinent information: Your name, your shop, your email, and your URL's.  
Awesome idea for getting your business cards out is to put them in books that you returned to the library, give a stack to your local coffee bar, sign-up for a business card group.
   Want to be even more creative?  You can also get magnets or pens with your business name on them.
   Is this your "full-time" job?  Don't be ashamed to share that with other people!  It's taken me a few years to actual tell people what I do, instead of just saying "I'm a stay at home mom."  I even put it on my last application/resume when I had to rejoin the workforce this past fall.

3.  Photography
   Great photography comes with time and skill.  A simple way to achieve good pictures is with a modest set up of using white paper, white matboard to bounce the light off of, near a big north-facing window.  You can edit with free photo-editing tools, like pixlr.com.  You don't necessarily need a camera with all the "bells and whistles", just figure out what all the settings do on yours to get the best image possible.  If all else fails, your cell phone or iPod has a camera built in, and sometimes will take better pictures then your camera (I learned this lesson just a few days ago, and found that I preferred the pictures from my cell then my husband's Fuji camera).  And invest in a tripod, it's worth it!
   In a few weeks, we will have a more in depth article on proper photography.

4.  Descriptions are everything
   So you've heard that a picture is a 1,000 words, right?  Well a 1,000 words is also a 1,000 words.  I'm not saying you need to have a novel for your description, but the key is to describe your item as if there was no pictures in your listings.  Tell me what color it is, how big it is, what it smells like, etc.  Is this a really unique item?  Tell me about the process you took to make it, or to find it, then.  The more you tell me, the more I realize (as a buyer) how much you are into your craft and assured that I'm getting a great item.

5.  Build Inventory
  I was reading an article on www.WAHM.com that said:
"One of the things that sinks Etsy businesses all the time is lack of inventory.  You can make a few weel-crafted things and sell them, but your business will lose momentum when you come to an empty queue."
   Thinking back, there has been many a time that I have left a shop because they had minimal listings.  To a buyer, low inventory a) doesn't give me very many options and/or b) makes me feel that the seller may not be very serious with their craft.  Of course, as a seller I understand that sometimes it's hard to keep up inventory, because life happens.  However, when you have less things to sell, you have less chances to be noticed on searches and the obvious less things to sell to make a profit.

6.  Organize, Organize, Organize
   This one has less to do with your actual Etsy shop, but a lot to do with your business (although in hindsight you could also relate this to the appearance of your shop, too).
   Having an organized workspace helps; this doesn't mean it can't be cluttered.  I struggle with this on a daily basis, lemme tell ya!  But knowing where all your shipping supplies are, where you can find your invoices on the PC, etc, helps you use your time wisely, and your sanity in check.  
   Also, organize your finances.  Here's a tip from Etsy's Blog:
"Even if your business is a small, one-person operation, Morgan Evans says it’s important to set up good bookkeeping and organization systems from the get-go and keep straightforward sales and expenses records. “You’ll establish an organized, logical foundation to build upon when it’s time to do taxes, hire an accountant, or take your business to the next level.”
7.  Offer FAQ's and Up to date Policies
   If you've ever shopped online, you know how important it is to have policies and even FAQs (frequently asked questions).  You want to know when your order will be shipped, how it will be shipped, when you should expect to receive it, what if it doesn't fit, is there a person you can talk to, and the list goes on.  Your Etsy shop is no different.
   Important things to include in your policies:
   1.  Payments
   2.  Shipments
   3.  Return/Refund Policy
   4.  Custom Order Policy
  
  And, go ahead and put a link to your policy page IN the description of the listing, to make it easier on the customer to go straight to where they want to go.

8.  Do you know the way to SEO?
   I'll admit that I haven't really figured out all the ins-and-outs of SEO (search engine optimization), but I know this one is important for geting noticed and boosting sells.  You can find LOADS of resources on SEO on Handmadeology, but here's a brief synopsis of what to do:
   1. Use words that people interested in your item are searching for.
   2.  Look at the search volume of the keyword or phrase you want to use.  The less competition you find            using that word, the better chances you will be found.
   3.  Just because a keyword has a high search volume, doesn't mean you shouldn't use it.  Check out how many competing pages are using that word.
   4.  Use 2-3 word phrases to help make a small niche and less competition.

9.  Customers are Golden
   Without customers, there would be no sales.  So it's important to keep customer service at it's highest!  Other than being nice, and thanking them, here are some ideas of how to get appreciated for stellar customer service:
   1.  Respond to questions/emails quickly.  I try to answer customers as soon within a few hours (if not sooner), but the average time should be no longer than 24 hours.
   2.  Be professional in responses.  I always start off by saying "Thank you for showing interest in my shop..."
   3.  If you feel that a customer is being difficult, step away from the keyboard, take some deep breaths and ask a friend/fellow business owner for some tips.  Sometimes we read too much "tone" in online communication and get a little personal.
  4.  Have a posted set of policies to refer back to whenever you need to.  

10. Have Fun 
   A lot of times, small business owners get muddled into day to day things (mostly because they are a one-man organization) that they forget why they got into it.  Remember to take some time away from your shop, even if it's only an hour or two a day, and relax.  Remind yourself WHY you are an Etsy shop owner.

This article was written by Guinivere Norrington, owner of Camelot's Treasures.  You can find her on  her business page of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogspot, and her own website.

3 comments:

Lita Christopher said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

Jen said...

Excellent advice for both newbies and oldies :) Thanks so much for sharing!

Karla Walker said...

This is exactly the information people wants to read before starting their business. Let’s face it; becoming a business owner can be very overwhelming, what with all the planning, paperworks to file, finances to settle, and much more. But if they know how to start it right, they will have a smoother experience and a less-stressful start. Thanks for sharing!

Karla Walker @ StreetsMart Marketing