Thursday, January 19, 2012

Guest Post: Ten Helpful Hints for the New Etsy Shop Owner!

  Wow, I asked Christine of Anna's Trunk last week to write a short exhortation for new Etsy shop owners, but little did I think that I would get such a stellar post! It's incredible, packed with hints and tips that I'm going to be employing in my own shop! Okay, take 'er away, Christine!

Ten Helpful Hints for the New Etsy Shop Owner! a fellow shop owner who’s been there and then some!

Congratulations on your new etsy shop! Starting your own business on etsy can be rewarding, exciting and just downright fun...if you keep a few things in mind as you build your shop presence. I started my little etsy shop in November 2008. As a stay at home mom, I was looking for a way to utilize my  sewing skills and generate a little extra income to help my family’s bottom line. As I looked at my two year old son happily playing on the living room floor, I wanted to try and work at home so I could be with him and  also be available for our older daughter (don’t let anyone tell you teenage girls don’t need their moms!). I did some research on what I wanted to create and how to go about marketing what I would create and then  found etsy. Ahhh, it seemed so easy...just put your stuff out there and boom! I would be in business.!  Well, like perhaps many of you, I found out that there’s a little more to it than that. Being successful on etsy is very achievable (no matter what anyone says or predicts), you just have to  know a few things going in. After almost four years and one thousand sales, I’d like to share with you some things that I’ve found helpful while building my business.

1.  Be Excited! Starting your own etsy shop IS exciting! Be passionate about what you create and others will be too. Revel in the first time you get “hearted,” or when you make your very first sale. Many etsians will tell you (myself included) that they still get a twinge of excitement every time they make a sale. Your enthusiasm for your products and your business will carry you through the times when things aren’t necessarily so enthralling.

2.  Surf the Learning Curve: Starting your own etsy shop is relatively simple, but there are a lot of things to set up: your banner, your avatar, your listings, your policies, etc. etc. and quite frankly it can be a little overwhelming. So...take it a little at a time. Set small goals and work toward completing each piece that will become the online framework of your store. One day, write your policies...the next, set up your Paypal account. When you start to feel a little daunted, walk away and come back to it. It’s YOUR shop, so you can set it up on YOUR timeline! It took me a few weeks to get everything I needed for my shop. I had no idea how to make a shop banner and I had no budget to purchase a pre-made one so I had to figure it out. If I can do it, you can too.  I ended up changing my little homemade banner but that is the beauty of etsy-you can change your shop around anytime you want to! In my opinion, it is better to get things set up and functional so you can open than to wait for everything to be perfect.

3.  Take the BEST Pictures You Can: Your photos are what will largely entice buyers to actually click that little “add to cart” button. Will they be perfect? Probably not at first...photographing for etsy is an acquired skill. Once you start doing it, you’ll be amazed at how you’ll improve and zero in on photographing the most important elements of your products. You don’t need a $2000.00 camera, you don’t need a professional backdrop, you don’t need Steven Spielberg to come in and supervise your photo sessions(of course, if anyone offers you any of those things, personally, I’d take them up on it, especially the latter!). I started photographing my pillows with a very basic Kodak digital point and shoot...I used things in my own home as backgrounds and  went from there. You do the best you can with what you’ve got!  As time went on, I looked at photos on etsy in other shops (primarily of other etsians’ products that I fell in love with) and tried to learn from them. Gradually, my photos got better...and so did my sales. Your photos are the potential buyers’ window to your product. Giving them bright, clear beautiful photos will make your shop look professional...and you’ll give them the confidence to buy!

4.   Where is Everybody?:  Your listings have all been written, you’ve got all your photos, you’ve set up the “bones” of your shop and your shop is finally live, but all you hear are the crickets...where are all the shoppers, you wonder?  A few more days go by and nothing...for many, this is where the doubt starts to creep in...”did I make a mistake?,” “what if NO ONE ever visits my shop or buys anything?,”  and “is there something wrong with my shop?” The answers to these questions are : 
1) No , you did not make a mistake. Starting any business involves some risk and a waiting period until customers are aware that you are even IN business, 
2) I guarantee you that SOMEONE will visit your shop and 
3) No, there’s nothing wrong with your shop. 
This is not to say that tweaking your shop to improve it may increase the chance that more customers will visit. Keep in mind that while your shop is “your baby” so to speak and you’ve put your heart and soul into creating it and the products in it, it is one of many, many, many other etsy shops and it just takes time for people to find you and fall in love with your products as much as you.

5.  Patience Is A Virtue...And Then Some!: This would be the biggest piece of advice I would offer to new etsians! It would be fantastic if we all started our shops and within ten minutes of “going live,” we started watching the sales pour in. While a few very lucky etsians can say that this has happened to them, the reality is that it usually doesn’t happen quite like that. It takes time (and in some cases a really , really long time) to develop a presence on etsy and for potential customers to even find you let alone buy from you. So you should be prepared to do a lot of waiting. And when you think you should be done waiting, buckle up and plan on waiting some more.  It took me about three and a half weeks to get my first sale and I think it would have actually taken longer had I not opened six weeks before Christmas. During those three weeks of waiting, I can tell you that I pretty much drove myself and everyone who knows me bonkers. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Well, the fact was absolutely nothing! It took my husband (in an act of desperation to stop the madness) to sit me down and explain a few things about how the retail world works (he’s been in retail management for over 20 years, so I decided to listen to him).  He explained that there have to be a lot of “no’s” before you can find those coveted “yes” people who want to purchase one of your products...and he stressed the fact that there would be a LOT of “no’s!” He also explained that it’s not personal and that the people who would fall in love with my shop just hadn’t found me yet. And then he gave me the best  advice I’ve ever heard “Christine, it’s not a’s a marathon.”  When you change the perspective  in terms of the “long haul,” then you can hopefully relax a little bit.  I think you have to think in terms of “Ok, I’m new here and maybe people aren’t flocking into my shop quite yet, but I’m going to picture myself in a year  or three years, etc.”  When I opened my shop, I had two products (yes, just two) and I would look at shops that had thousands of sales and hundreds of admirers and dream about the day when maybe I’d be just a little further down the line than where I was.  When I hit 100 sales, I looked back quite fondly on how far I’d come and how much I’d learned and how much I still had to learn. So picture yourself successful and then be patient enough to let it unfold in it’s own good time.

6. An Apple A Day...: There are going to be lots of time for you to reflect on your shop and how it’s doing. During times when things are slow, try and do something EVERY day to improve your shop. Change your banner, improve your photos, spell check, whatever. This will help keep you focused on being postiive and moving forward instead of giving into the doubts that inevitably creep in during the slow times. “Why should I bother doing all that when I don’t even have any customers?” you may ask. Excellent question! You want to make your shop the best it can be at all times and trust me, when you are busy with orders, the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether or not your shipping or payment policies are up to date! You want to create the infrastructure that will support your business during busier times, no matter when that is!

7. Work It!: It’s not enough to set up shop and hang and “open” sign and sit and wait for customers. In this economic climate, you’ve got to go get your customers! I would strongly encourage you to use any and everything at your disposal to get the word out about your shop. If you have a budget for paid advertising, great-make the most of it! More often than not, however, most of us have a zero budget for paid advertising. But that’s ok-there are plenty of ways to get the word out: 

Family and friends 
Business Cards 
Your own website if you have one 
Your blog 
The etsy forums ( a GREAT resource for learning and promoting!!!) 
My Space
Other Social Media 

The more people who become aware of your shop and what you have to offer will lead to greater traffic in your shop and inevitably lead to more sales.  Promoting takes diligence and determination but if you are willing to stick with it, you will see the benefits as you dance around your living room basking in the delight of your first sales!

8.  Paging Dr. Killjoy!:  From the forums to our living rooms, there are always plenty of people who have an opinion about being self-employed and/or etsy itself. And, unfortunately, not all the advice is positive.  If you read the forums long enough, you’ll see plenty of “doomsday threads” predicting that no one will be successful on etsy  because of this, that or the other thing. Nonsense! The only thing determining your success on etsy is YOU! I’m not going to say “don’t listen” because listening and being open minded is essential in business. But you take it with a grain of salt and you determine whether or not the information you are receiving is going to continue as a positive influence in your shop. If yes, great! Constructive criticism can be invaluable. If not, dismiss it and move on.

9. It’s Not Personal...Really: Inevitably, you’ll find people who *gasp!* don’t like your store or your products or even you! Or you’ll get the dreaded “neutral” or “negative” feedback (this happens for a LOT of reasons). And the first few times you’ll want to cry...I know I did! But then you have to remove as much of the emotion as possible and put it behind you. Don’t let a bad experience or two make you think about throwing in the towel. It’s a numbers the course of all the people who go in and out of your shop, you’re bound to have a few less than warm, fuzzy experiences.  As Jimmy Buffett sings, “breathe in, breathe out, move on...

10. Enjoy!!: In the midst of building your business, don’t forget one very important thing...enjoy yourself! Because in the final analysis, that’s why you took this roller coster ride in the first place!

I hope that these little tidbits have helped you gain some perspective on being a new etsy shop owner. Just think, it won’t be long until you’ve got some time and hopefully lots of sales under your belt and YOU’LL be the one offering advice to all those newbies out there! Thank you so much for allowing me to share a few of my experience with you-I wish you the best of luck with your shop and all the success in the world!

All The Best!
Christine Lally
Owner of anna’s trunk 
annastrunk at gmail dot com 

Thanks so much, Christine! What a GREAT post! I'm sure that we all can benefit from these 'tidbits', as you call them. The pillow images are from Christine's shop, ladies; do be sure to take a look! 

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