Etsy Talk: 6 Tips for Beginning Etsy Shop Owners

Thursday, July 28, 2011

With my new Etsy shop "Plumed" I am finding my desire is strong to make this a true blue business. A day or two after I opened the shop I was contacted by Emily Henderson of HGTV's Secrets From a Stylist and the winner of last seasons Design Star. She ordered my "I Love Louisiana" pillow cover and it will be on an upcoming episode of her show (airing mid-September, woohoo!) When this happened I suddenly had this realization that, hey, I seriously need to approach this as a business. When you put your product out there you never know what kind of attention it might attract, so having a business mind going in to your venture is a good idea. With the attention from someone like a "design star," and the promise of my product making it on TV, my confidence was boosted for sure, but if you are doing what you love and love what you do, you don't need a fancy designer to catapult you into thinking of your Etsy business as a real business. Apparently I did, but now I am here to tell you, you don't! Since opening my shop and getting this enormous compliment and validation, I have been spending a lot of time online trying to learn the in's and out's, the do's and don't's, how to promote oneself (oh, that is just not in my nature, or it wasn't, waahaha!), market my shop and stay on top of everything.

There is so much information out there and I am still in a learning process (I am talking early stages here) and I imagine this process will continue for a long time, if not forever. There is advice on using facebook, twitter, etsy teams, mailing lists, SEO's (whatever that is), google analytics, etsy circles, etsy treasuries, taking photographs, the list goes on and on. I do not understand all of these methods or how to best utilize them but I have learned a few things that seems to be making a difference and I thought I would pass the information along.

1: Do Take Good Photographs: I think it is better to have a couple great photos than five fuzzy photos. When I see something draped over the back of a sofa with a cat in the corner and a pile of laundry on the floor, I will NOT buy that product no matter how much I love it. As soon as I find a sure fire method for taking photos that is easy, cheap and results in great photos I will be sure to pass the info along. But for now look for tutorials online, try different methods and shots, take lots of photos, edit and don't get too discouraged by the studio shots other Etsy sellers have. If you don't have a studio your photos will never look like that, so get creative and use as much natural light as possible!

 Vintage Tapestry Pillow Cover (photo taken in natural light in front of a window)

2: Communicate! With my first Etsy shop I started out communicating a lot with my customers, but as a buyer, I found hardly anyone communicated with me. For example, when someone would place an order with me I would contact them and say "thank you for your will ship out on this date." Once the item had shipped I sent another message letting them know it shipped and the tracking code (if I had one for them). As a buyer, I found much too often, I would purchase something and then just wait and wait for my item to get to my house, with no confirmation of my order, no ETA from the seller. I took this lack of communication from other sellers, turned it inwardly and believed it to mean I was being a zealot and I shouldn't be contacting people so much. Wrong! My initial instincts were correct. You should absolutely make contact with your customers. I believe the reason for this are as follows: as a buyer when I didn't have a confirmation of my order or that it was shipped, I felt like my purchase didn't really mean anything to the seller. And lets keep in mind that anyone could go to any big box store and buy anything they want, but they are on Etsy. Someone buying from Etsy is making a conscientious buying decision. They are buying from YOU, supporting your business, the local and handmade community. They are complementing your design and your craft; they chose your product out of billions, that's right BILLIONS of products that are out there in the world. You want your customers to feel special because they are making a special purchase. So encourage this and give them the kudos they deserve! Additionally, I believe that if they not only see the product that you make, but also see you as a person, you have a much better chance at having return customers. They will not only remember you make really cool headbands but they might remember you as a person and the next time they need a really cool headband they will remember you and your shop.

3: Be speedy with Orders and Make Them Look Purty: Again, with my first shop most of my orders were custom made so I didn't have the luxury of getting my orders out quickly and if you are doing mostly custom made orders you won't either. You can let them know ahead of time in your listing the approximate turn around for custom orders and again when you email them confirming their order. If you have stock of what you make send them within a day or two of purchase. I usually wait a day to see if I get any other orders in. Driving too often to the Post Office isn't cost effective so this certainly needs to be accounted for (then you can keep your shipping pricing down for your customers too). However, after my one day window to see if I can take two or three orders at once, I head straight to the Post Office. I have realized Etsy customers expect a long wait, but that does NOT mean that they like it, who does? We are a right here, right now culture, look at the fast food industry ; ) Now, of course as Etsy shop owners and crafters we are the opposite of the fast food culture but that doesn't mean we should just take our time because we can. In my shop policies I let customers know that ready made orders will be shipped within five business days, this gives me a cushion for when times are really busy but I always try to send my orders out as quickly as possible and, in doing so, I often get a message back from customers saying "Thank you! It arrive so much sooner than I expected!" This is good business, this is another positive for you and a happy customer is much, much more likely to spread the word about your business or return again. But before you send of that package like speedy gonzales, check to make sure it is in the condition you want it to be sent in, iron if needed, package it nicely with tissue paper, a ribbon or sticker and include a business card. To me this just shows that you take care in what you do. Everything you do for your business speaks about your business, so you want it to all speak wonderful things because your products are wonderful and so are you.

Bicycle, Bicycle Hand-Embroidered Pillow on Linen (photo taken outside against brick wall)

4: Network: Now there are a thousand ways to network and, you know, the whole thing totally overwhelms me to be honest. And I can't imagine not being overwhelmed by the list of places and ways that one can network. So my advice on that is pick a couple and really try to figure them out. Whether that be using pinterest, craftgawker (which is one of my favorites!), a facebook page, twitter, a blog, or one of the other thousands of venues. Pick your poison and spend time on it. If you are opening a new Etsy shop, or trying to really make a go of an existing one and you try to promote yourself on 100 different sites you won't have the time to really learn about any of the platforms you are using, or how properly promote yourself using them. Choose one or two at a time and establish yourself there. Say for example you look into pinterest, have a good time with it (it's really fun and addicting!), follow people, get followers and learn the site, then you will be familiar with the site and promotion will come more organically. At pinerest you "pin" things that you like, so in essence you are promoting others, but if you are active in doing this, like pinning 90% other items/blogs/photos and 10% pinning your own items or blogs, people will follow you back and re-pins items you post - hence the term "networking." The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out of it, is the moral of that story and all networking stories for that matter. If you want a blog to promote your business no one will read it if you don't offer them anything in return other than promoting your Etsy shop. So if you don't have the time to give a blog (and a blog takes a lot of time) by offering new information, tutorials or great stories to share, well, you just won't get a following. Even after you have supplied your blog with great information it takes time to attract readers and there is another map to navigate there in gaining followers and networking too! Bottom line is, look at your options, decide what interests you, because you will have to put time into the platforms you choose to try to promote yourself, and again, (I can't say it enough) pick platforms you enjoy spending time on. 

5. Etsy Teams, Circles and Treasuries...Let's start with Etsy teams, for one they are filled with people just like you, people looking to promote their shops and blogs, network and get answers to the same questions you might be asking yourself, or your computer at 2 o'clock in the morning. While joining Etsy teams you may not see a spike in your sales but you will learn things from seasoned sellers, gain followers for things like twitter, your blog and your facebook page and all in all be apart of the Etsy community. I think it's a great place to start. Now, onto Etsy circles, so, when you join a circle or someone adds you to their circle, your Etsy activity (like the treasuries you created or new items or favorite items you add to your shop) get plastered on other peoples activity pages. The great thing about this is that other people that are in their circle see when they "like" something in your shop. Ultimately it is about exposure and it's a good idea. I know we don't all like seeing 800 other peoples Etsy activity, we want to see who likes OUR products, but just think about all the people that are getting exposure to you and your shop and I guarantee you will see more hearts for your shop, items and get into more treasury lists. Through looking through my Etsy activity page I often find shops and products that other people in my circles like and I end up going to those shops, checking them out and adding them to my favorites. At the same time this is happening for me and my shop too. Etsy treasuries...egads, I don't quite have a full understanding of these yet, but I will say I know the front page of Etsy is taken from curated treasuries from other Etsy users. You can join an Etsy treasury team where your treasury will get more exposure and people will often use other members items in their treasuries, but from what I can tell this is definitely a time consuming undertaking, but if you love making treasuries then this might be great for you! When making a treasury be sure to send a message to the shops you are using, that way they are sure to visit it and perhaps re-post it to twitter or facebook. I often find when I am in a treasury my "hearts" for that item go up; so again, I am getting more exposure for my shop overall. Again, all of the above are about exposure, how that may affect your Etsy sales today isn't the point, it's how your sales will be affected over time. It's about getting your name and product out there as much as possible. So while someone might not need a rhinestone doggy leash today, they might get that cute little chihuahua they've been vying for in a month from now and think, oh, I know exactly where I can go get one of those because they have seen your shop pop up in their Etsy activity feed or in a treasury.
Mediterranean Spice Pillow Cover (photo taken with white cloth back drop, outside in natural light)

6: Use Google Analytics:  I must admit I had a difficult time figuring out how to set it up, but once I did, I find I use it all the time (eventually I watched a video on youtube and that was how I got it working). It will give you a plethora of graphs and charts that show your website activity and trends. My suggestion is to first find out what days and times people seem to be on your site generally speaking. From there you may be able to decide when it is best to post new items or renew items. Personally I have found I get the most visitors to my shop at 9 am, 4 pm, and 9 pm PST, additionally, Wednesday seems to be the day where I get a bit more traffic. So I use this information to my benefit and post my items at those time slots and try to post my new items on Wednesdays. I also keep a paper log of when I post or renew items and compare them to the traffic on google analytics. The days and times in which I post or renew I see that my views double or triple. Google analytics is really an invaluable tool in my book and it's free to boot!

Ok, so these are a few things I have learned by logging hours upon hours onto my poor tired computer. Again, this is just the tip, the very tip of the iceberg. As I learn more, or I learn more simple methods, I plan to update this path of learning and pass along my information. Above all I believe if you are doing what you love give that love over to it. Don't be afraid to promote yourself because others out there aren't blinking an eye in doing the same thing. While self-promotion is a bit aggressive in nature you can still do it with that warm and crafty flair that makes the products you are promoting so spectacular.

Lastly if you have noticed I have also "promoted" myself in this post. To give you some examples, I used photos of pillows from my shop and linked them back to my Etsy store. I have also linked pinterest and facebook to my accounts and so on. That's the point of having a platform, you offer something, support others and then link up your site. Will I sale 500 pillows from this post today? Uh, no. Maybe not even one, but I might get a follower, a viral friend to journey and navigate with or learn something from, links to others amazing shops and blogs where I might find something I like or information I need to know. So the point is you can promote yourself but do it with a wide array of intentions and make them good ones, not just your profit margin, because I might be wrong, but I don't think it works that way. I have also included different images of my pillows using different methods and backgrounds. I included where they were taken to give you an idea for your photos. Good luck! And PLEASE if you have any advice to share or an experience that you would like to add I would love for you to do so in the comments!

Make: Memories Memory Card Game | How to sew your own memory cards game |

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This craft is a really fun way to play the game "memory"  with your kids! It is a little bit labor intensive but it is totally worth it. You can make this game using photos from a memorable vacation, or to show how your kids and family have grown over the years.

Basically it boils down to printing photos onto fabric which you can do following this tutorial Photo Printing On Fabric - The Homemade Way.

What you need:

Sewing machine (if you don't have a sewing machine, don't fret! you can sew the pieces of photo fabric you made and the felt backing using embroidery thread and a blanket stitch which you can find instructions for here.)
Felt - any felt will do, usually I am particularly partial to wool felt, but for this project I used the much less expensive felt made from recycled plastic bottles.
Bias Tape (which you will use as a boarder around your "memory cards.")

First make your fabric photos and cut them.

Second cut your felt squares for the back.

Third place your fabric photos and felt pieces wrong side together and sew the bias tape around them.

Monday Morning Blueberry Muffins Recipe

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ok, well, it's not morning anymore but I did make these in the morning. While we might not be having summer weather here in the great Pacific Northwest, we are still getting all the great summer harvest. Blueberries are a steal right now at the store and I decided to make a healthy version of a treat my kids often love to have, muffins. These muffins are made with white whole wheat flour, flax meal and oats for a little extra nutrition.

These muffins were pretty easy to make, or maybe I was just in the baking mood...

What you need:

6 tbs. butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 lg. eggs
1.5 c. white whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk (I used goat milk)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup Flax Meal 
1/4 cup quick oats (if you want to omit the flax and the oats add an extra .5 cups of flour)
1 1/2 to 2 cups (approx 1 pint) fresh blueberries

What you do:
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease 12 muffin cups generously or use a vegetable oil pan spray, or do as I did and use paper cups (cupcake kind).

In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter and sugar (I mixed mine for about 2 minutes with egg beaters). Add eggs, one at a time, continue mixing after each egg (about 30 seconds). In a separate bowl, mix together flour, flax, oats, baking powder and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, and mix with egg beaters. Stir in the milk and vanilla. mix until smooth. Gently stir in the berries. 

I never know about this licking the spoon thing and raw eggs, but I did as a kid and I loved it! Mine do too! And I just can't help passing over the spoons!

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 to almost full, using all of the batter. Bake the muffins for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are a light goldeny brown, remove them from the oven, and place the pan on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. 

Makes 12 muffins

WIP Wednesday

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Simply Made Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

Monday, July 11, 2011

Having three kids and loving fresh food, I am always happiest with my recipes that are simple, tasty and fresh.Which every recipe I share on this blog aims to be meet that criteria - fresh squeezed lemonade is no exception. It is very easy to make, takes very little time and it is also simple to doctor it up a bit with muddled mint, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries.

For a basic recipe what you need is:

6-8 lemons (I buy the one in a bag which are a little smaller but cost less.) If you have larger lemons you can use fewer but you will want it to yield about 1.5 cups lemon juice.

3/4 to 1 cup sugar depending on your preference. 3/4 cup definitely retains the tartness of the lemons.

8 cups water

To make fresh squeezed lemonade first you need to make a simple syrup. To do this add one cup of your water to a pan with your sugar, heat over low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves - done. Place to the side.

Then you will need to squeeze your lemons with a citrus juicer, this can be the handheld kind, or whatever you have at home.

Then you mix your lemon juice, simple syrup and remaining water together in a container and voila! You are done! It is that easy. Today I made mine with muddled mint from my garden. But again you can add whatever fruits you like, just muddle or puree them and add a few whole piece if you'd like to make it look extra pretty. Side Note: If you do add muddle fruit it is best to allow the lemonade to sit in the fridge for an hour or so before drinking to bring out all the flavors.

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