ARE YOU THINKING OF OPENING AN ETSY SHOP TO SELL YOUR CREATIONS?
For many creative people, the idea of selling their work can be very daunting. Etsy is a huge platform, full to the brim with creators- all showcasing their best handmade and vintage items. It's easy to take one glance at the competition and turn away. But don't! It can be a great way to begin your journey as a paid artist/ creative. I am writing this blog to share my story and help you begin yours.
MY ETSY STORY
I opened my Etsy shop 'Rekindle By Lisa' in June 2017 with just 6 items. All I had prior to opening my shop, were 6 second denim jackets, 6 small pots of vegan fabric paint, some second- hand clothes, a big passion for animal rights and an exciting idea. I set to work creating the first 6 jackets for my shop in my spare time around my work hours. I was so pleased with the final 6 jackets and I couldn't wait to open my shop and show them to the world. In that first month my shop looked pretty bare and I had no idea if any of the pieces would sell. To my surprise, the first jacket sold just a couple of weeks after I opened the shop and then the second not long after that! I couldn't believe it! And so began my journey as a vegan artist. I kept creating, coming up with new ideas, building my shop and earning monthly income from my art! It was only last year (2019) that I decided to open ashop on my own website as well as Etsy, to give me a second platform- but I never would have received the followers or the customers if I hadn't started with Etsy first. So here are my top tips!:
DECIDE ON YOUR NICHE Before you open your shop, it's important to have a strong idea of what you want to create, why you want to create it and who you're creating it for. Be original. Narrowing your creativity down to a single goal makes it much easier for you when you come to set your keywords, take your photos and publish your Etsy shop. For me, it was easy. My goal is to raise awareness for animal rights and the environment. I decided that I wanted to create up-cycled art work so that I could encourage other people to re use and I could share the message that new IS NOT best- and old can be revamped in to new and exciting pieces for the health of the planet. I knew I wanted most of my art to be wearable, so that the messages I paint about would be seen by more people and more compassion could be spread. With all this in mind, it's clear that my art is for eco- conscious people, vegans and people interested in animal rights. To use another example, a lovely friend of mine is just opening her own Etsy shop (Sunshine and Jane) and is creating wall decorations inspired by her love of Disney and Taylor Swift! This is perfect! It is a clear goal. She is creating pretty home decorations for Taylor Swift and Disney Fans, using her own love of Taylor and memories of working at Disney World as her creative inspiration. So pick your goal. What are you trying to say with your work? What do you want to create? Who are creating it for and why? Jot down ideas and find your niche.
DON'T RUSH YOUR PHOTOS Before you can list any items for your shop, you need to take photos of them. The photos are an incredibly important step and shouldn't be rushed. The photos sell your product. 1. Firstly, make sure you use a good camera. Phone cameras are pretty good these days and, used correctly, can take really professional looking photos. I use a Nikon DSLR with a prime lens which gives a great focus to the foreground image and blurred background (as you can see in the above photo). 2. Make sure the lighting is right. Even with the best camera, if you take photos indoors on a dark, cloudy day with little natural light, you won't be doing your product justice. Find a room that is flooded with natural light or, even better, take your photo shoot outside. 3. Make sure your photos show all of your product. Think about angles, size, close ups etc. As you can see in the photo above, I've used my hand to show scale. If this was just on a wall, it could be any size, but with my hand as a scale reference, you can see it's a small piece of art. Take photos of the sides, the back- take close ups of the detail. Show the whole product so the customer knows what they are getting! 4. Think about the setting. The surroundings should reflect the item. If it's a wall hanging, take a photo of it on a wall! If it's a painting of a woodland, take a photo of it with trees in the background. The whole image is important.
CREATE QUALITY OVER QUANTITY I'm sure most people browse through many Etsy shops before opening their own and see shops with hundreds of items, but these shops have probably been open a long time and have built up their stock gradually. They definitely look attractive and it's certainly great for shoppers to have lots of items to look through, but make sure your first focus is quality. When opening your shop, it is better to have a small handful of high- quality items that you are incredibly proud of, than hundreds of quick makes just to fill the space. That bit will come later. As I said, I opened mine with just 6 jackets and I now have 130 items! I have been able to build the shop over the last 3 years and, once I was able to leave my full- time job, more time opened up to create new pieces. This way the quality remains the same, you just gain more time to create and more confidence to give your time to creating quality items. Be patient with it. Focus on that first small handful of creations and let them set the tone for your shop the way that you want it to continue.
TAKE TIME OVER KEYWORDS A bit of a boring bit- which for many us creative beings is the bit we just want to brush over- but this is a very important boring bit! A keyword is basically a word or a group of words that define your product and narrow it down in to a category so that people who will like it, can find it amongst the clutter! When someone types in the search bar on Etsy, they are typing in words to describe what they want. Those words trigger items with matching descriptions to show up in the results. So using my shop as an example- let's say a vegan is searching Etsy for a piece of activist artwork for their wall. What would that person type? They may type 'vegan activist wall art', they may type 'vegan painting', they may time 'animal rights wall hanging' and there are many more possibilities. This is what you need to be thinking about when you list an item. But where do these key words go? Well they need to go in the 'Title' and in the 'Tags'. So, let's go back to my friends new shop 'Sunshine and Jane' and let's say she is selling a wall hanging with a quote from a Taylor Swift song on it. In her title, she needs to firstly clearly state what the item is- so she may type 'Taylor swift inspired embroidery hoop wall decoration'. That is a clear description of the item, but then she has more space for more keywords. So she could add things that people might type in the Etsy search bar- for example.. 'Gift for Taylor Swift Fan' and 'Pretty wall hanging' and 'Taylor Swift Quote', so on.. you get the idea! Use all of the character allowance on that title and then re-enter them as tags and any others you can think of. These words will be how you are found, so take the time to get them right!
CHARGE YOUR WORTH Pricing our work is probably one of the hardest bits about setting up an Etsy shop- at least it was for me, and it still is. We really want our products to sell, but we also want to be paid for the work we have put in and it's easy to think that if we charge for the work we have put in and cover all of our materials and all of our time and creativity, then we may not sell the items. It took me a while, but I am starting to realise that this really isn't the case. Firstly, when someone decides to look for an item on Etsy, they have made a decision to buy a hand-made item because they want something special and unique. Remember that! Then add up the material costs for the item you have made, think about how long it took you to create it and how much would you be happy to earn for that time. Consider the skill involved in creating your piece. Consider the focus, the concentration. Is it a one-off piece? All of these questions are important. Everyone needs to find their own comfortable way of pricing items, but don't undersell your hard work, your expertise, your passion, your creativity, your ideas and your time. Remember that you can always lower your prices, but it's much harder to increase them- so begin how you wish to continue. Going back to 'Quality over quantity'- those initial pricing decisions will set the tone for your shop going forward, so bare that in mind.
THINK GREEN Ok so this bit is really just me pleading with you to be eco-conscious with your shop! I just couldn't write this post and give this advice without adding this in! Creativity is wonderful and sharing our art and our work with the world is amazing. Platforms like Etsy are created to encourage people to support small business and buy hand made items. They stamp on big companies, over consumerism and unethical practices. Buying hand made is more expensive and more unique, therefore it is a considered and less frequent purchase. It is a vote of support towards artists and creatives. But we can do more to have as little impact on the planet as possible. Think about packaging. Could you use plastic free packaging? Could you re use packaging you receive in the post? Could you use compostable packaging? Are your flyers and promotional materials recycled? Think about materials- could you find eco- friendly alternatives to plastic, could you use second-hand items, could you use organic cotton or hemp? Where do you source your materials from? Not all of these things will be relevant to your work, but you get the idea. Just think green! Most customers will really appreciate this way of thinking and will be so pleased to receive a guilt free package in the post. Going green with your business shows that you care and encourages more people to follow in your footsteps. It is the small individual choices and actions that amount to big change.
LISTEN & LEARN Last but definitely not least- listen to your feedback- read your insights. Learn from them and adapt accordingly! Etsy gives you so much information and feedback. It's amazing and one of my favourite things about the platform. Every time someone 'favourites' your item, you get a notification. You can see where your traffic comes from- Etsy searches, websites, social media platforms etc. Customers can leave reviews or contact you about their purchases. This is all precious information for you to use to build your shop. At one point in my shop I was selling hand-made purses , jackets and sew on patches. The jackets and patches were 'favourited' multiple times, they were purchased quickly- the purses were not. So I stopped making the purses and used my time to make the popular items. If the Etsy insights show me that 30% of my shops traffic came from Instagram but only 5% came from Facebook, I put more time and effort in to my Instagram feed- as I have done. This is why we must read our insights and pay attention to the activity in our shop. It provides us with an opportunity to learn and grow. If a customer is unhappy with an item or if you get a bad review, try not to be too upset! Listen to what they say and make a note to do better in the future. I am very grateful to have had 165 five-star reviews.. but a couple of years ago I got one 1 star review and it was an awful day! The customer said that she was disappointed and could have made the item herself. While I was so upset to read this review, I knew that this was an item that I wasn't completely happy with when I put it in the shop. That came back to bite me and I learned from it. Now I only put items in my shop that I am fully happy with and that pass my high-quality test and meet with the high standard I set for my work! So I took that bad review and I learned from it. So listen and learn and then grow accordingly! And there you have it! My top tips for Etsy. I hope you have found them useful! Best of luck with your Etsy journey! Support Me on Ko-fi