Etsy’s How to Promote Your Shop on Social Media

etsyimageEtsy is a great place to develop your handmade arts and crafts business.  Not only is it a free and simple platform for selling your products online, but Etsy connects you with a priceless sellers’ community and ongoing instruction.

Get to know the Etsy Seller Handbook resources!  You can begin with their article titled How to Promote Your Shop on Social Media, and get some handy tips on how to promote your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

“If you’re new to social media marketing, creating a following from scratch might seem daunting, but there are plenty of ways to get your shop noticed on Instagram, Facebook and other channels. Read on to learn more about the best use of each social media platform, along with ideas for attracting new followers and creating content that leads to clicks — and more sales. If you’re not sure where to start, use whichever social media channel you are most familiar with.”

Take advantage of all the Etsy online articles.  They’re worth their weight in gold.

 

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Top Ten Habits of Successful Online Artists and Crafters – Habit Number One

Selling art and artisan crafts on the Internet is an amazing opportunity, open to everyone and promising abundant rewards!

It can be your road to success at whatever level you imagine, from turning your hobby into a satisfying small part-time business to creating a substantial full-time job and income for yourself.

Woman-and-LaptopThe secret to your success will be a combination of talent, quality, and intuition.  But there are a few things that successful online sellers have in common… Continue reading

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Great Product Photos

The single most essential element to your online selling success is product photography.  Show your work with wonderful photos and everything else will fall smoothly into place.  The opposite is sadly true – you may have the best products in the world, the finest craftsmanship, charming product descriptions packed with powerful search words, great prices and excellent customer service – but if your photos are grey, fuzzy, filled with shadows and dull contrast, you won’t sell a thing online.

On the Internet, photos are the only thing a customer has to judge your work and decide to click the “Add to Cart” button. Your photos must replace the experience of picking up the item, feeling its texture and quality, looking closely at the craftsmanship, and imagining it in use.

Good selling platforms allow you to display multiple photos.  Etsy, for example, gives you 5 photo spots for each item.  So what sort of photos work best and how do you take these photos with your own digital camera?  You’ll find an entire chapter on photography in Selling Arts and Crafts Online, with great illustrations and links to online resources and tutorials.  Here are a couple tips from the book.

 

A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

1. The Plain White Background Photo
This classic “studio” photo is the best way to show off your product. It is simply the whole item on a seamless white background.  Look at the products selected to show on Etsy’s homepage (https://www.etsy.com) and you’ll see great examples.
Tips: For small items, lay them flat on a plain stretched canvas from the art store, or tape white paper to the wall and let it curve smoothly down onto the tabletop.  For larger items, hang white cloth on the wall curved smoothly onto the floor.  A white bed sheet will do in a pinch, but visit a fabric store to buy a large piece of heavy white cloth that will hang smoothly, without wrinkles. Indirect sunlight on a bright day is an ideal light source. If you use spotlights, set up a couple lights shining on the object from different directions to minimize shadows. You can even hold a sheet of white paper or foamboard to reflect light back onto the product. Get full-spectrum lightbulbs for the best product color.

2. The Detail Photo
A close-up shot captures the quality of workmanship in your product. It shows the fine stitching, the details of paint, the texture of wood and clay and stone.  Move in closer and closer and take many different photos from which you will select the best after you download them to your computer.
Tips: Use the close-up or “macro” setting on your digital camera to get the best detail shots.  If you use your mobile phone as a camera, consider buying a “macro lens” (for example see http://store.apple.com/us/product/HE421ZM/A/olloclip-4-in-1-lens-system-for-iphone-55s). Resting your camera on a tripod or simple beanbag helps avoid fuzzy, out of focus photos. Learn how to use a photo editing app or program to crop your photos.

3. A Photo Showing Scale
One of your product photos needs to show the size of the item by placing it in a setting with something easily recognizable.
Tips: Including a human being can be the most intuitive way to communicate this.  Photograph a tiny item in the palm of a hand, show a bracelet on a wrist, hold a vase, have a model wear a garment.  Other common items can provide visual clues.  In the photography chapter of Selling Arts and Crafts Online, Deb from BlueSkyPottery https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueSkyPotteryCO explains how she includes pieces of fruit to show the scale of her ceramics.

And there’s so much your photos can accomplish!  Products in charming room settings.  Interesting angles.  Eye-catching composition.  Outdoor locations and natural backgrounds like sand, rock, weathered wood.  Free online services to help you crop, edit and enhance the photos you take.

Pick up a copy of Selling Arts and Crafts Online to begin improving your own product photography!
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Illustration “Tiger Eye Swarovski Crystal Silver Bracelet” courtesy of and © MidwestGypsy on Etsy.

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Socialize with Pinterest

Since buying and selling arts and crafts is a visual business, it makes sense that Pinterest, the most visual of social networking sites, is an important resource for you to explore.

Pinterest.com is designed for collecting and sharing pictures of things you love. Pinterest users set up bulletin boards with different topics. Then they “pin” pictures from the Internet onto these boards, usually writing a short comment about each image.  Boards are shared with friends and usually available set to be public and available to the whole Pinterest community…(that would be 10 million users in 2013).  People follow other people’s boards when they find them interesting, click “like” when a pin strikes their fancy, make comments, and re-pin other people’s images.  The result is a vibrant visual community of ideas and images – and links, since each image pinned is a link back to the website where the photo originated.

AlyssaPinterestArtists and crafters will quickly discover the power of Pinterest for sharing photos of their work.  And as with all good social media campaigns, it’s all about collaboration and content.  Sign up for a free account and dive in.  You won’t get very far if you only pin your own work, though.  Mix it up – your own pieces should be a tiny percentage of what you put on your boards.  Pin great items you see on Etsy, on artist websites, in blogs and elsewhere on Pinterest.  Others will do the same for you!

The illustration for this article is a polymer clay treasure I pinned a couple years ago…a teapot by Alyssa from ClaydeLys (one of the artists featured in Selling Arts and Crafts Online).  This pin has gotten more likes and shares over the years than anything else I’ve posted on Pinterest…15 “likes” and a whopping 46 “Repins,” so far.  Thousands of people have seen and shared Alyssa’s amazing work, while many have hopefully clicked the teapot and visited her Etsy shop.

More about using Pinterest to promote your own arts and crafts business in The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Onlinepick up a copy and kick-start your success.

Once you’re on Pinterest, be sure to follow the board for Selling Arts and Crafts Online.

Update September 2014:  “Likes” for Alyssa’s teapot have expanded to 22, while “Repins” are now up to 102! The magic of Pinterest continues!

 

 

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Keeping Track

One challenge for serious sellers is managing inventory. This is made more complicated when you are dealing with inventory that appears in many places and is constantly going in and out of stock.  You may have the same items posted in your Etsy shop, on your own website, displayed at craft fairs, on display in a local gallery or giftshop, and sold directly to friends and neighbors.

Keeping track with pencil and paper is a good start, and works for awhile with a beginning product line and a few sales outlets.  Discovering an automated system is your next major step in taking your business seriously.

You can use a spreadsheet application like Microsoft Excel to set up inventory tracking on your computer, especially if you have experience using business applications.  A good online spreadsheet program is free to use on Google Drive.  There are plenty of computer programs you can buy to track inventory, from POS (Point of Sale) systems for stores to inventory management systems for manufacturers.  Some are designed specifically for different types of artists and crafters.

But the latest inventory management tools are “in the cloud” – online systems available for a monthly fee.  There are several specifically targeted to the art and crafts market.  You can track your products at different stores and selling locations, whether Internet based or physical stores and galleries, consignment or wholesale.  You can track individual customers themselves, complete with integrated email lists.

stitchlabsStitchLabs inventory and order management system is very popular among serious Etsy sellers, integrating seamlessly with an Etsy shop.  StitchLabs was developed as an API app for Etsy shops, but goes far beyond.  You can connect to many other online selling platforms, from eBay to Shopify.  There are modules to connect to PayPal payment gateway and to QuickBooks for accounting.  It is a management system with a huge potential for artists and crafters.

Craftybase is another online system made for professional crafters that allows you to track products, sales and much more.  It does an especially good job of tracking the creative process – the  raw materials and the time that goes into making your items.

Bizelo is designed for general online sellers but with a new focus on Etsy and the arts marketplace.

And the Run|Inventory system, while simpler, is free.

So start inventory tracking from the very first days of selling your artwork, and explore the computer options for making this task a whole lot easier and more informative as your business grows.

Links and ideas (and lots more in the book) from Chapter 4 of Selling Arts and Crafts Online.  You’ll absolutely love this book!

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Is there still room to start selling online?

The Internet has revolutionized the sale of handcrafted artwork.  No longer are crafters and artists limited by geography to selling their work in regional shops and galleries, fairs and bazaars.  With the development of online shopping and marketplace websites, artists can develop an international clientele.

The wide variety of arts and crafts available online reflects the diversity of this worldwide market.  There truly is room for every seller and every artistic tradition, from traditional to contemporary, Victorian to primitive, elegant to shabby chic.  It is not too late to get started – in fact, there has never been a better economic and technological environment to build your own success as an online merchant.  The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online is a great first step, with detailed, common-sense advice and instructions.

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Share your expertise

Call for Blog Submissions kim.solga gmail.com GmailThis morning there was an email from Etsy inviting sellers to “Tell Us Your Story.”  The request was from Etsy’s Seller Handbook team.  A handy online form is linked so Etsy sellers can pitch the story they wish to share – either to write it themselves or to be interviewed by a regular editor.  In the words of writer Katie Noonan…

“When you tell the story behind your shop, you give it added value and credibility. Shining a spotlight on your inspiration, materials and process can help attract new buyers and create a loyal following among current ones. Interesting details can also catch the eye of editorials teams, including Etsy’s own Seller Handbook editors, who scour the marketplace regularly for story ideas and sources. With that in mind, take a few minutes to fill out our Pitch Form. ”

So I did just that, offering the subject of how my own experiences as a seller on Etsy (via my BlueOtterArt shop) informed and inspired The Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online.  I hope they take me up on the proposal, and give me the chance to share the amazing collaborations that are included in this book and found on this website.

I challenge you to do the same.  If you have a story to share about your own Etsy experience, submit a Pitch Form yourself.  Share your expertise with your community.  It makes us all stronger!

And explore Etsy’s Seller Handbook Archives.  It’s filled with stories that will inform and inspire your work.

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Elf Dolls and Pricing

One of the toughest things is to find the right price to charge for your artwork…If prices are too high, sales will drop…or simply not even begin. If prices are too low, you’ll find yourself unable to continue making new items. The sweet spot between these extremes, the price that is just right for your wonderful products, is not that hard to discover.

Chapter 14 in Selling Arts and Crafts Online is all about pricing, and gives you the power of a simple formula to help you succeed!

The formula. It’s been around for decades and has been the backbone of many successful businesses. It goes like this:

Materials + Labor + Overhead + Profit = Wholesale price.

Wholesale X2 = Retail price.

elfdollThe first element, Materials, is everything that goes into your product. If you are sewing elf dolls, like this fabulous example from LittleElfsToyshop, it’s the cost of fabric, stuffing, buttons, ribbon and yarn. Remember to include little things like the cost of thread. Figure this cost of a batch – buying everything you’ll need to produce 10 items for example – then dividing by 10 to get your cost per item.

The next element, Labor, is the time it takes you to make and ship the item, and how much is this time worth per hour. Be sure to calculate this at a fair wage. You don’t want to base your business on “sweatshop” wages, whether for yourself or anyone else. Likewise, if you value your time too highly, you will soon price yourself out of the market. Be fair but don’t be greedy.

Overhead: Add up everything it costs for you to be in business for a month…then divide by the number of items you plan to sell each month. What do you spend on your business that you would not otherwise need to pay for? These costs are things such as

  • office supplies and packing tape to seal shipping boxes
  • the cost of your business bank account if you opened one
  • rent for studio space
  • the fee your tax person charges
  • long term costs should also be factored into this…a new computer every few years, repair on the sewing machine
  • ….and so on

At the beginning there will be expenses you do not include. If you are working out of your home, in a spare bedroom perhaps, you might choose to ignore expenses like rent, electricity and heat. After all, you’re living there and would need to pay rent and utilities anyway. But remember that such costs are a legitimate part of doing business. As you grow, you may want to add these costs in anticipation of the day you will need to rent larger studio and office space.

The number of items you will sell should be an honest guess if you are just starting out. After a few months of sales, you will be able to track and project the real number. So overhead total divided by number of sales = the per item amount.

The last element in the formula is Profit. This is the value you put on your investment of energy, your creative spark, your unique talent, and the money you’d like to make to expand your business. Accounting for profit right from the beginning will give you a wholesale price you can live with. Some people double the manufacturing price to get their profit – saying that “materials + labor + overhead X2 = profit”. Other folks add much more, while yet others set their profit far lower. The profit figure is yours to set and to change as time goes by. Only you can decide what it should be.

Back to elf dolls then…let’s say you carefully track what it takes to make dolls.

Materials: You buy enough cloth, yarn, stuffing and buttons to make 10 dolls. The bill is $30 at the fabric store, so that gives you a materials price of $3.00 per doll.

Labor: After carefully logging in the time you spend, you discover that it takes you 5 hours to sew 10 dolls start to finish, another 2 hours to photo them all and add them to your Etsy shop, and finally about 18 minutes to package and mail a doll order (another 3 hours of your time if you sell 10 of them). This all comes to 10 hours per 10 dolls, or an hour each. If you figure a fair wage is $12 per hour, the labor for each doll comes to $12.00.

Overhead: After figuring all of your costs for Etsy fees, Paypal fees, the packing materials, office supplies, sewing supplies, and every other business detail, you come up with a monthly overhead cost of $40.00. You’re working at home, so right now you are not including rent or utilities into overhead. You also have a computer and Internet access for personal use, so you are not going to count that cost either. You average 10 doll sales per month. So $40 divided by 10 sales means each doll sale needs to cover $4.00 of overhead.

Profit: You decide to add $5.00 per doll for business expansion and because your dolls are so unique and awesome!

$3 + $12 + $4 + $5 = $24 is your wholesale price. Double that to get retail, so you sell your dolls on Etsy for $48.

More on how to tweak the pricing formula and make it work for you in Chapter 14.  You’ll absolutely love this book!

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Illustration “Hazel the Girl Gnome” courtesy of and © LittleElfsToyshop on Etsy.

 

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Authentic Arts from Jenny Hoople

HoopleFaceThe Everything Guide to Selling Arts and Crafts Online is filled with real stories – artists and artisans who are successful sellers on the Internet.  Their stories will inspire and their advice will guide your own steps to success.  Jenny Hoople, the owner and creative genius of Authentic Arts at JennyHoople.com, shares her experience in building and managing your own website.  Read her Words of Wisdom in Chapter 11!

"Myself/my biz/my advice are in a book feeling so super famous right now!" Jenny writes on the Authentic Arts Facebook page www.facebook.com/authenticarts

“Myself/my biz/my advice are in a book feeling so super famous right now!” Jenny writes on the Authentic Arts Facebook page www.facebook.com/authenticarts

Jenny calls herself a geology nerd, and indeed her website, blog and Pinterest boards share a fascinating display of mineral beauty.

Her business sense has narrowed this field down to a charming and popular niche.  Jenny creates jewelry from naturally smoothed and rounded river stones… lake stones… sea stones.  These are the sweet little pebbles you pick up on a beach walk.  Hold in your hand, carry in your pocket for awhile.  We love to take them home as souvenirs, line the stones along a sunny windowsill, or display in a clear vase or basket.

Jenny kicks it to the next level.  With perfectly proportioned holes drilled in each stone, she matches the subtle colors and textures to create amazing jewelry.  Check out her wonderful River Rock Jewelry for a great example of developing a popular and successful product line from the wide field of your interests.  Gratitude to Jenny for sharing her expertise, and welcome to new baby Brian!

 

 

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