Recently, I chalked up sale number 50 in the Crafty Princess Shop over at Etsy. For me, I find this a significant number. While I have been an Etsy member since spring of 2006, I didn’t open a shop until a few years later in April 2008. Even then, I was just testing the waters and trying to learn more about how it all works. I was not seriously intent on trying to sell that much. Since I write about jewelry making and many jewelry people sell over there, I knew it was important to be part of the conversation. This was my primary incentive for finally opening a shop over there.
As it turned out, sales did trickle in, even when I was not actively promoting it. Some how or another, people found me, friends purchased items, and so on, and I did make a few sales over time, nothing huge but some sales at least.
This trickling in of sales made me realize that, gee, if I actually had time maybe I could make a go of this shop. I knew I didn’t have the time to go crazy over there, but if I could at least get the shop looking better, more listings, etc., then maybe I could get some semi-steady sales from it. So, that’s what I decided to do over my summer break from my teaching job this year.
I think the time I spent on it has paid off to a certain extent. Since May 8, 2010, when I started concentrating on my shop make-over, I have made 22 sales. Before that I had made 28 from March 2008 to January 2010. That means in 4 months I came pretty close to making the same number of sales I had made in almost two years.
Looking back, here are a few things I feel I learned that helped me:
- Take critiques with a grain of salt. There is a critiques folder on the Etsy forum, and I have had a number of Etsians give me their 25 cents over there. Some of it has been really helpful, like when I got a big thumbs down on my banner. Some of it, well, not so much. For example, one recent suggestion was that I accept alchemy requests, which means you agree to make customized items for people. Special orders take a great deal of time, which I don’t have, so that’s why I didn’t include that on my shop. Obviously, this person who suggested it wouldn’t know that.
- Learn by looking. This is a little related to my previous lesson above. While people can tell you their opinions, I think you can learn much more by looking around Etsy (or whatever network you may be a part of) and taking note of successful shops. In fact, many of those who will give you critique suggestions aren’t necessarily burning it up in sales. Sure, things like photos are really important, but they are not the end all be all. I found plenty of successful shops that had one or two clear photos and that’s it. They aren’t some super fancy artistic artwork, just a clear photo of the product.
- Success is relative. For me, a few sales a week would be what I consider successful (repeat, for me). I have a job, actually two jobs. I just want to make a little extra income from my shop. Also, there are lots of Etsy shops that have high sales, but when you look at their products, they are super low end as far as prices. Selling $1 items, even if you sell hundreds of them, well, is not a huge amount of money considering all the time you have to put in to list them.
- Good photos do help. While I said previously that they don’t have to necessarily be perfect, still, you want clear photos of your work. You are asking someone to buy an item from you, and other than your textual description, all they have to base their purchasing decision on is a photograph. I spent a crazy amount of time working on getting my photographs clearer, better, etc., and they still aren’t necessarily perfect, but they are so much better.
- Describe what the heck it is! I buy on Etsy too now and then, and boy, I’m amazed at how many sellers will have their super long, drawn-out stories about a product but almost no basic information: What are the materials it is made of? How big is it? Where did it come from? Don’t just tell me the earrings have pink beads. Are they plastic, wood, stone, crystal? I would rather know that the earrings I’m looking at are made of sterling silver and are 2 inches long than read a stupid story about how some fairy came down and inspired the artist to make them.
- Have a decent selection. I don’t know what the magic number is for me or anyone else for that matter, but I can say that the more I have in my shop, the more I have available to buy. I’m not talking about a thousand items, but if you only have 10 listings, then you don’t have much there for people to look at or buy. If a person only has 10 items to look at, I would think that’s going to be a very brief trip to your store.
- Define your shop the best you can. Most of the shops I find that have high sales seem to have a clear focus about what the shop is all about, a kind of personality to it. I don’t necessarily think you have to be super quirky, like one shop I found that sells women’s silk screened panties, but I do admit that when you go to a shop like that, there is no doubt about what the product is. She clearly has a strong focus and is doing well with her product line. For me, I try to focus on jewelry products: kits, tutorials, supplies, and finished jewelry. Sure, I crochet, but it would just not fit in to have my crocheted baby hats in there.
- Price it right. I’m still working on this, but after making a few low-end sales, I realized that it is not worth my time to sell a $2 bead, pack it, and drive to the post office, even if I do add shipping and packaging costs to each sale. The PIA factor alone, for me, is not worth it. I sill have some low-end items in my shop, but as I list and relist, I try to make sure that my prices are at least within the $10 range. This may mean combining items, like creating a bead assortment rather than selling one or two beads alone.
- Promote yourself. You don’t want your friends and family to run the other way when they see you, but do not expect the network housing your shop to promote you. Have business cards handy to pass out. Include a link to your shop in your email signature. If you blog, well, blog about it. Use social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Twitpic. I can testify that it does bring in sales. How many sales? I can’t say for sure, but I have had the occasional immediate sale after mentioning a new listing on Facebook and Twitter.