Sunday, April 6, 2008

TheJuneBride News: Extreme Makeover for the blog formerly known as Domestic Bliss

Hello... I know, I know... A shocking change. I was never expecting this site to go all commercial, but, well... here we are. Content shouldn't change, I expect. I am hoping that by merging this site with my Etsy efforts, I will update more often. Yay! Everyone wins.

Soon all of the site construction should end and we'll awaken to a beautiful new page full of hope and life. Don't worry, I'm faster than most Michigan road construction projects... I promise.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Etsy Thoughts: Could This Be Brilliant?

In my middle-of-the-night musings about Etsy, selling my items, and the potential for actually turning a profit, I stumbled upon the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, I don't need Etsy. *Gasp!* I think an active Etsy shop will be the best asset to this new idea, but I think it might not actually be necessary.

Since I am at least somewhat technologically-savvy, it occurred to me that all someone really needs to sell something safely is a website of any kind to showcase the items for sale, not even a secure one, and a PayPal account. Seems too simple, and maybe my rudimentary conclusions are not fully formed from lack of actual experience with it. But I think I am going to try something and see what happens with it. Here's my new 4-step plan:

  1. Set up a website to showcase my handmade products. Possibly even this website (I guess we'll see!).
  2. Tell people to contact me via email if they would like to buy something.
  3. Send a PayPal email invoice for amount due.
  4. Ship items when payment clears.
If this works, there are a lot of advantages. I wouldn't have to give Etsy listing fees or a percentage of the sale price. I could use my own html and tagging to (hopefully) attract buyers, and feature any items I want without restrictions, moral and legal considerations aside, of course. The Etsy account would help in the credibility/reliability category. It would also give customers a second location to purchase if they would prefer to use it.

Downsides to this plan would be that customers could not leave feedback, though I could allow comments in some location. On the payment end, since I wouldn't ship without payment and items wouldn't be "unlisted" unless I unlist them, nothing is off-the-table to other buyers until payment does clear. Thusly I wouldn't have to fear the "non-paying buyer" phenomenon that seems to plague Etsy (and of which I was once a hapless victim). Etsy might make it easier to be found by potential buyers, but perhaps not. People go to the Etsy website to buy handmade items, but they also search using google and other search engines, so only time will tell what gets more attention.

Something that wouldn't change is where the money goes. PayPal still gets their cut of each transaction going in, but the credit/debit accounts they offer make it really easy to use those funds for business purchases both on and off the internet.

Those are my thoughts today. I'll ponder them further. It seems like it could be done FOR FREE using a combination of Blogger (or other blogging site), Flickr (or other photo/photostream site), and PayPal (or other payment handling site like Revolution Money Exchange). Free is good for small start-up businesses, and the fact that people would have to contact me directly to purchase items that I have made seems reasonable and appropriate to the arena of handmade items.

Thoughts? Feel free to comment. Bubble-bursters are welcome.

*UPDATE 6/27 - I guess I'll be my own bubble burster. You can't use Flickr for commercial purposes... could get your account terminated! So don't do that. I'm sure there are other options, but, after a little more time under my belt on Etsy, having an umbrella site so people can find you is great thing, even with the fees. There are ways to be more visible on Etsy, and experience will help with that. I will be posting int he future about some general Etsy lessons, so check back is you are interested. Thanks!*

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Etsy Thoughts: Hey! Look at me!

It's been just about 2 months since I opened my Etsy shop. I've sold 106 items. Not bad. That's better than I had hoped, though not as lucrative. Lucrative might not be the right word. Since I'm not doing this for my livelihood but rather my sanity, money isn't the primary goal. But it really is a good indicator of objective success in the business world and certainly would be a welcome asset to the game.

This week things have been slow. As I have learned, March is the month with the consistently lowest sales across the board. Seems to be the consensus amongst Etsy sellers as well as the economy at large. Some blame the tax season, others the rebound from Christmas sales. I don't much care, but it has been a little bit disappointing to be a one-woman show and to see the effects so clearly.

Since I seem to be able to make more things than are currently selling, I have decided to put more effort into marketing my site and trying to increase traffic. You can't buy something if you can't find it or don't know it even exists.

The clever thing that Etsy developers are doing to a) get the best profits and b) keep Etsy looking consistent in each shop is to not allow any html aside from what they have set up. What does that mean in the practical sense? No blinking pictures, no neon text, only 5 pictures per listing and just 14 tags in addition to your item title. This is good for people who like to browse the shops and not be bombarded with overt advertising beyond the item photos and description. Also for some epileptics (not joking... I actually read a recent forum post by a seller who was glad of this fact because her epilepsy was triggered by light patterns!).

Since you can't add your own html, your Etsy shop can't use meta tags to get outside search engines to take more notice. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of meta tags, they're basically tags included by site developers that only search engines can see, and they are used to help rank sites by relevence. Among other things, they will help determine if your site is on the first page to pop up, or the 492, 294th. Thusly they are a critical element of search engine optimization. The first paragraph on a page is another place search engines look for keywords to help rank your site, so writing your descriptions to appeal to both humans and search engines can be a real art form... one that most Etsy sellers aren't quite as proficient in, including myself.

So no outside search engine help other than your item description, and the 14 tags you get for each Etsy listing are easily outweighed by the most important factor in the Etsy world: the timing of your item listings. When a potential buyer searches for something using the Etsy search function, the listings automatically come up with the newest listed items first. The buyer can then organize them by price or listing date, but if your item was not listed in the past week and the price is in the middle of the pack, you might not get noticed. Here's where another great source of revenue comes in for Etsy: relisting items before they expire. Listings are up for 4 months, but because they essentially get "buried" by newer items, by renewing items before they expire (for another $0.20 listing fee, of course), you can keep your items close to the top and in the eye of the consumer.

So it would seem that an outside website, in which you could make the most of meta tagging and keyword usage, one that links to your Etsy shop, would be a very good thing. It would get general searches from search engines rather than searches through Etsy, but if someone is looking for a quality handmade item, introducing them to Etsy could be a very good way to get a great repeat buyer.

Other Etsians favor Flickr for getting some shop attention. I haven't used it beyond general photo sharing on my family blog, and hardly that, so I'll be looking into just why they like to use this, how it can be a useful tool among your marketing strategies, and the best ways to utilize it for your purposes.

More arenas of potential marketing that I'd like to research include submitting a site to the major search engines, Facebook, MySpace, online forums outside of Etsy, online classifieds, and more focused blogging.

That's a lot to digest for a relative Etsy newbie like myself. I'm going to go sleep on it and hopefully make some exciting new discoveries tomorrow. That and work on writing the best descriptions, taking the best photos and making the best products.