Friday, August 29, 2008

Etsy Tutorial: IV - Selling Items

Captain Obvious says, "Selling items is what you have to do in order to have a successful shop anywhere". You can make the best things in the world, but if you can't get someone to buy them... well, you know. I've been on Etsy just a little over 6 months and I've had just about 450 sales to date, just so you can feel some confidence in my information. Making sales is almost as much an art form as making the items. That's why God created business school. I've never been, but Etsy has cleared up a lot for me in the word of consumer behavior and just how to be effective with your marketing. I still have a lot to learn, I know, but here are some practical tips I've currently found to be helpful:

  1. Don’t undervalue your handmade items. Perceived value is related to price, so don’t feel bad charging what it is really worth for your time and effort. Reducing the price will not necessarily sell it faster, in higher volume, or at all. Use a pricing calculator to reveal hidden costs (i.e. overhead) in producing your items to make sure you are covering your bases. Think of it this way: If someone asks if you will sell a product wholesale and you can’t cut your price approximately in half and still make enough profit to be worth your time, you aren’t charging enough.
  2. Advertise yourself by being a presence on Etsy. Post in the forums, heart other shops, leave comments in the treasuries or make your own treasury. Showcases are an exception, in my mind. I tried a main showcase and a subcategory showcase and didn’t even get more views, let alone sales. Common experience has indicated that many sellers experience the same thing. A $15 main showcase slot costs the same as renewing 75 items, so spend that money where it will do the most good.
  3. Don’t let slow times get you down. Slow and steady wins the race, right? As Michael from Arrested Development would say, “Keep your head down and power through.”

One note about sales: You can't necessarily assume because a shop has a high number of sales that they are successful. in my case, for example, I sell handmade items and vintage buttons. The handmade items bring in more money because I have to pay myself for my time, though the button sales really beef up my ratings because I sell more of them for less. Ultimately, the buttons might not be considered "worthwhile" since they do require the same work as handmade items to list, yet fetch more in the long run. But I think, by listing a variety of things that appeal to a variety of niches at a variety of prices, I get more views in my shop as a whole and, consequently, more sales.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Etsy Tutorial: III - Making and Listing Items

Making your items to sell is usually the "fun" part, it's what you like to do and probably why you wanted to have a shop in the first place. But it isn't just that simple and there are plenty of other steps in process of making a successful shop. This section is about getting started with making and listing.

Buying Supplies and Making Items

  1. Shop around for cheaper supplies, both for creating and for shipping. A great suggestion from Captain Obvious, but it will help you earn more in the long run.
  2. Making the items should be the best part, so make sure you enjoy the process! You’re not a factory and you shouldn’t feel like one just to make a buck or two. But then, if this is your day job, you will have to make things that people want to buy, so you will have to find that balance in your shop. Hopefully that won’t be a problem!
Listing Items
  1. Take the best photos you can. This seems obvious, but there is a lot of stuff on Etsy that is poorly photographed, and it doesn’t sell. Regularly critique your photos, compare them with photos you like of similar items from other shops, and think about which one a potential buyer would be more likely to look at based solely on the first photo of the listing. Try different lighting (indoor/outdoor, with/without a flash, different exposures, different backgrounds, different angles, closeup or at a distance). There are a lot of good resources out there, so read up if you think your pictures could use some work.
  2. Don’t list all of your items at once (no “grand opening”). Etsy is primarily organized by most recent listings, so you are wasting precious exposure by listing them all at the same time. Instead, maybe list one or more items per day (depending on the volume you want to sell), or renew an old item if you don’t have a new one to list, just to keep your shop current. Try to have one of each major type of item you sell “at the top of the pile” so potential buyers find your shop. Personally, I aim to renew one listing of produce bags, an iPod case, and list several new sets of buttons every day or two. I also relist things when similar items have just been sold. People can’t buy your stuff if a) it isn’t there or b) they can’t find it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Etsy Tutorial: II - Setting Up Shop

Setting up shop on Etsy was a fun time for me... you get to create an environment to showcase the things you love and love to make. There are two main things that you should do to turn a blank shop into your shop:

  1. LOOKS: Create a banner, an avatar, a profile description, and determine your shop policies. I use The Gimp freeware for creating a banner (760 px by 100 px), and simply shrink a photo of one of my listed items to avatar size (75 px by 75 px). My suggestion would be to make your banner appealing to you and relevant to your shop or, at the very least, not completely random. But what do I know? What you put in your profile and shop policies are very personal, so no one can tell you what to write there. When in doubt, go with your gut.
  2. ORGANIZATION: Create appropriate sections. If you are going to sell different types of things, make sure it’s easy for your shop visitors to see right up front what you sell. Make it as descriptive or plain as you like, but make sure it is obvious what will be in each section.

And that's it for now. Just creating those things will take a little while. We'll get to more about shop policies, listing items, and all the rest in a bit. Have fun!