ART | What I've Learned From My 1200+ Sales on Etsy Part Two

Friday, January 29, 2016

Last week, I wrote up Part One of this post where I shared the first 5 things I have learned from my 1200+ sales on Etsy. Anyone can create a shop on Etsy, but not everyone is going to succeed, so my tips can help maximize your chance of success. From my experiences, I have rounded up the top 10 things I have learned since I have started selling. Before reading the rest of the list, I recommend reading Part One.

So here we go! Part two!

6. Differentiate Yourself: Many categories on Etsy are incredibly over saturated. For example, when you look up the keyword "necklace", you get nearly 3 MILLION listing results; the "art" category has over 2 million listing results; there are over 800,000 listings for "bows", and nearly 700,000 listings found by searching "knitted". Everyone has this idea that they can make something that already exists and make money off of it because others are, but it's not as simple as that. Sure, you could go into the abstract art market or start making cute little headbands for babies, but there are a lot of other people who have that same idea. You have to differentiate yourself. In a sea of sellers, you have to stand out. You can do this by providing exception customer service or by offering products in a niche market. If you can't provide a good reason as to why someone should purchase from you instead of another seller, you aren't going to make that sale. My cards have been successful because I found a niche market for military themed greeting cards. I have few competitors and have "insider information" about military life, deployment, and army wife-li-ness. On top of that, I really focus on building strong relationships with my customers and through my efforts, I have distinguished myself to be different from the rest. I found a way to stand out in a sea of incredibly talented sellers and creators.

7. Promote Yourself: As an introvert, I feel very uncomfortable putting myself out there. I feel funny telling people about my products and that I own a business, but this is something I have been actively working on getting passed. The thing is, your products can't speak for themselves. You could have a fantastic product, but if people don't know that it exists, it won't matter. You have to promote yourself. Do not rely on word-of-mouth, do not rely on search words, do not rely on Etsy to do the work for you. Create yourself a Facebook page and/or an Instagram page and start reaching out to people. The key is being active. The more active you are on your social media sites, the more views and followers you are going to get. I'm still relatively new to social media, but I always see a direct correlation between my activity on social media, the amount of followers I have, and the sales I get.

8. Create Realistic Goals: You want to be successful? Create a plan and stick to it. Schedule out time to work on your shop and your products. The more products you have for sale, the more chances you have to be found in a search. The goal on Etsy is 100 products. That may seem like a lot, but the sales start coming in steadily the more listings you have. It seems many sellers see this as the magic number and as I reach my 100 goal, I too, have seen an increase in sales. In fact, this January is my biggest yet for Mail Call! I know that for many, selling on Etsy is a side project done in between working and life, but if your shop never offers new products, you are going to go stale. Create realistic goals for yourself and hit those goals. If you can only work a few hours  a week on your shop, then work those same hours next week. If your goal is to list 100 products in a year, then break that down and see how much work you need to do to create that. If your product takes 10 hours to make and you can only spare 5 hours a week, then there is no way you are going to be able to hit that 100 goal in a year. Be honest with yourself and what you are trying to do. Failure to do sure will surely result in disappointment. Which leads me to my next piece of advice.

9. Try Not to Get Discouraged: There are going to be times where you want to give up. Times where you will think your products are not good enough, where you think you should have never started to begin with. Try not to get discouraged. You will see other people with hundreds of sales and just wish you could get just one. When you get hundreds, you will see people with thousands, and wonder what they are doing differently from you. If this is what you think you should be doing and you believe in what you are doing, don't let these negative thoughts get to you. Stay positive, and NEVER negatively compare where you are to where someone else is. Instead, use it to learn. Use your disappointment to come up with a new angle and strategy. If plan A doesn't work, just remember there are 26 letters in the alphabet. It is so important to remain optimistic and just striving to be better than YOU were before.

10. Know When to Walk Away: Sometimes despite your best efforts, you may find that you need to cut your business loose. There are many reasons why you may have to come to this decision but if you have to make it, make sure it comes from a place of thought and not of emotion. Don't have a bad week and throw in the towel. Make sure you look at what you are doing and if it can be fixed. If your problem is visibility, did you change up your SEO? Low sales? Did you try new product images and thumbnails. Not turning a profit? Did you accurately calculate a price the includes: your labor + materials + desired profit? Try everything you can and put your best effort in before closing down shop. If you need a break to regroup and strategize, put your shop on Vacation Mode and get to business. Walking away needs to be a last resort decision made with absolutely clarity.

Of course, my tips will not guarantee success, but they are what I found to be the most important lessons that I have learned through my experience selling on Etsy. It may be a hobby for you, but it you want to make money, you need to treat it as a business. Having a background in marketing has definitely helped me, but you don't need a fancy degree to have a successful business. Etsy makes it so easy to set up shop and with these tips, you can get a great jump on information that can help make your business successful.

I hope you have enjoyed these tips!

Do you have any other tips that have helped you?


HOME DECOR | Dreamy Emerald Room Inspiration

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I have been so obsessed with emerald rooms lately! I usually am a black, white, and pink girl, but something about these emerald rooms has me thinking about switching my whole decor!


ART | New Art Available at Susie Bennett Studio

Monday, January 25, 2016

I thought it was about time for a reworking of my shop Susie Bennett Studio. The pictures I had up definitely were not doing the artwork justice. So I have been slowly working my way through taking new pictures of the paintings. Some paintings, however are going to be removed forever and reworked into something absolutely beautiful. I decided I only want to put up my best work and if I wouldn't buy it, then it has no business being in my shop. There are about a handful of larger pieces listed again for sale, and more will be making there way in this week! I don't know if I will continue to take drawing work, but I haven't quite yet decided.

Here is a look at the paintings that are listed in my shop

I also do commissions, so if you are interested in something you don't see, send me a message or a comment so we can talk!

I hope you love the new artwork!

ART | What I've Learned From My 1200+ Sales on Etsy Part One

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Since early on, I have always used Etsy as a way to create a shop for whatever passion possessed me at the moment. I consider myself to be a Jack of all Trades and my interest in so many hobbies, combined with my entrepreneurial spirit, has lead me down a path of creativity.

The first shop I ever opened, probably about 8+ years ago, featured clothing I had designed and created. I made a few sales, but after some time, I closed down shop, knowing fully that I was not trained or experienced enough to make custom clothing. I feared returns and unhappy customers and I couldn't operate that way. I had made a few international sales, but it turns out it didn't satisfy me in the way I thought it should. I still sew mostly for myself, but I knew that I didn't have the skill, the confidence, or the real ability to make that a profitable business in the long term. I loved fashion, but sometimes the love of something isn't enough to make a business.

I probably created at least another shop or two before finally landing on my business Mail Call Greeting Cards (Etsy name: ShopMailCall).  Mail Call Greeting Cards offers the biggest selection in entertaining and interactive military themed greeting cards. They are perfect for deployment care packages and keeping loved ones connected while away. Since starting in 2011, my cards have made it to nearly every state in the country and have been sent to soldiers and military members all around the world. I have a 5 out of 5 Star Rating and have been able to donate to military communities locally and nationally. It has only been in the last year or so that I have been able to put in the time to really start seeing real growth. My cards make a difference and I love that. At $5 a card in a niche market, I may not strike it rich, but that's not why I do what I do.

In addition to my greeting card business, I also have opened a shop for my original art, Susie Bennett Studio. I still use this only as a hobby, but I have had dozens of sales and have had many off Etsy, as well. My artwork has made it into people's homes! That blows my mind!

In my years of selling on Etsy I have definitely learned a few things. After having over 1200+ sales, I guess I feel qualified enough to share some wisdom. I have never understood why people who have the experience refuse to share that experience with others. After all, those in a position to help and offer advice should. I firmly believe in that.

(I will be breaking this up into two posts, so this is Part One of Two.)

 So, dear readers and potential business owners, this is what I have learned from selling on Etsy.

1. Passion is Not Enough: Like I mentioned before, when I opened my fashion shop, I expected my passion alone to sell my products. I expected that my passion would turn into skill and I would be the next big fashion designer. What I didn't expect was that selling clothing was complicated. I only knew basic pattern making skills, and even something that looks great online, won't always looks good on the buyer. Fashion is subjective, just as any art is, and I couldn't cut it. When I would get an order, I would create the product, send it off, and pray that they would like it. My ego couldn't handle it and my ratings couldn't handle it. I was fortunate enough that my buyers liked my products, but I quickly realized it just wasn't for me. Passion is not enough. You need to actually be able to deliver on the products you are selling. You need to have a quality product that you can stand behind. I couldn't do that.

2. Spend Time Creating Your Brand: Your brand is so important. Your brand is your quality and your reputation in the simplest form. Pick a name that reflects what your business is and then create a logo accordingly. When I created Mail Call Greeting Cards, I had a reason for choosing that name. Mail Call is a common phrase in the military that refers to the time when mail is being handed out. When designing the logo, I sketched up a few ideas, but ultimately settled on a circular design with the name in the middle and chevrons above and below it. Chevrons are often used to depict rank in the military, as well. The design elements were carefully chosen to nonverbally communicate what my brand is and what it represents.

To reiterate: Your brand is important! It should be well thought out and consistent across all media. It makes you recognizable to new customers and repeat customers and the more you can get your brand out there, the more brand recognition you will have. If you are unable to come up with a logo or need branding help, there are many Etsy sellers online who offer this as a service. I myself offer Logo Design in my shop Susie Bennett Studio.

3. Customer Service is Everything: This should go without saying, but customer service can make or break your business. If you treat your customers like they matter to you, they will feel it. They will come back for repeat business and they will promote your business for you through word-of-mouth. Your customers are able to give you ratings and you want them to be able to give you 5 stars for your product and for your interaction with them. An unhappy customer, can leave you bad ratings and negative feedback, which in turn, can affect whether or not someone else will buy from you. I can tell you that many of my customers are repeat customers. Here are some examples of the feedback I have gotten from my customers at Mail Call and some from my customers at Susie Bennett Studio.

Everything you do is going to be visible and apparent to the buyer. If you say your processing time is 1 day and you take 5 to process, it is going to reflect badly on you. Be honest about your process and time frames. It is better to say, it will take you 1 week and send it out early, than to say it will take 1 day and send it out a week late.

Most importantly, if you make a mistake, FIX IT. You can offer partial or full refunds through the Etsy system or you can include a little gift with their order as an apology. There is nothing more annoying than a shop or company who acts like nothing is their fault. If you mess up, own up to it. Often times, the customer will be happy and may even come back to shop more because they can trust in you and your business. People make mistakes, but it is up to us to do what we can to try to make it right.

4. Product Images Matter: When shoppers are browsing through the searches or even searching on google for products, a thumbnail is usually the only thing they see. It should be clean and as accurate as possible. Internet shoppers shop with their eyes, so if you images don't grab their attention, they are going to skip over you and potentially give their business to someone else. If you don't have Photoshop, there are free photo editors online. The best free editor online is Pixlr and works similar to Photoshop. Use these tools to color correct and clean up your images. I digitally generate a product image of my cards, as the quality doesn't photograph well and the online images are more accurate that actual pictures. This will not always be the case and you should do what is best for your products so that customers can really see what they are purchasing.

5. Learn Basic SEO: SEO, for those of you who do not know, stands for Search Engine Optimization. It involves creating traffic for your page and finding your way onto search engine sites. Etsy has tools that allow you to see where your traffic is coming from and what search words that are using to find you. When you learn what those words are, you should use those words in every relevant listing you have. The keywords people use to search for you need to match the keywords you are using in the product listings. It seems complicated, but even the most basic understanding of SEO will definitely help you.

Okay, so that wraps up Part 1!

PART TWO is now live. You can read it by clicking here.

Hope you enjoyed these tips!


HOME DESIGN | Doors So Pretty in Pink

I've always been fond of a bold door. I love black entry doors and black interior doors, but as I was scrolling on Instagram, I noticed a pink door pop up on my feed. So I started looking and I am blown away by how beautiful these doors look in PINK! Here is a round up of the prettiest pink doors on the internet. 

Gorgeous, no?


HOME DESIGN | A Fixer Upper Obsession

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Every time I watch HGTV's show Fixer Upper, I am always amazed at how Chip and Joanna manage to turn these houses into the dreams homes I never knew I wanted. I used to think there was only one ideal dream home, but now I have realized that my dream home is anything that these two have have had their hands in creating. Not only is the show funny, but they are like magic. Straight up MAGIC.

Joanna seriously has an amazing eye and I have never seen one show where I didn't like how she staged or decorated a home. Can a person be your spirit animal? Because she totally is my spirit animal.

How beautiful are the homes??

If you have not checked out Joanna's Magnolia blog, you definitely need to. It is a treasure trove of inspiration and beautiful design. It was hard to only share a few pics - they are ALL so beautiful!


BEAUTY AND STYLE | NYX Liquid Suede and Ulta Matte Cream Lipstick Review

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Welcome to the battle of the matte lip cheapies! The matte lip trend is EVERYWHERE now-a-days and what seemed to be territory for the Lime Crime's Velvetines has opened up a whole new market for nearly every make up brand. When I first did my review of Lime Crime's Velvetines VS NYX's Soft Matte Lip Creams, there weren't a whole lot of mattes available on the market, so the choice really came down to a few differences and price. Today, you can get a matte lipstick from just about any brand from any store you want.

Today, I'm going to be reviewing a couple of the cheapies in the matte world: NYX's Liquid Suede Lipsticks and Ulta's Matte Lip Cream Lipsticks. Prior to this, NYX only had the soft matte lip creams, but they have launched into the serious mattes with their Liquid Suede Lippies (and yes, they are different from their lip creams.)

So you want to know if you can get a quality liquid matte without breaking the bank?

Well I'll give you my review and then you decide!

Alright, here we go!

Above is a picture of each lippie with no filters used so you can get a real look at the liquid lipsticks. The left is NYX Liquid Suede in Stone Fox and the right is Ulta Matte Lip Cream in Stirring.

Overall: B

I love NYX products. They are highly pigmented and pretty great quality and the price is also affordable. These Liquid Suede Lip Creams come in a variety of colors from nudes to the more unconventional colors you see above. While they do not have a shine to them, the don't completely dry and still remain just a tad wet, which means they can smear and do need to be reapplied when wearing them. The main issue I had with these were that the applicator makes it difficult to apply. It is a little long and a little too flexible, which makes getting a crisp line a little trickier. I'm sure many make up artists don't have as hard as a time as I do, but for the everyday girl, like me, I had to do a bit of touching up after applying. You also do need to apply two coats to get a better and more even application. For those reasons, these Liquid Suede Lip Creams get a B. 

Overall: D

 Earlier this year, Ulta decided to enter the matte lip world and came out with these Matte Lip Creams. When I first got them, I was so excited! Since they are Ulta brand, you can usually get a couple free with your purchase of other Ulta products when they have their promotions. Which actually brings the price down by half to $4.50 when they have their "Buy 2, Get 2 Free" promos. However, while price-wise these seem like a great deal, they are my absolute least favorite mattes I have tried. The applicator is also quite long and even trickier to use than the NYX applicator. I had the hardest time getting a straight line. I used tape just like I did for the NYX products and as you can see in the picture below, the color seeped under the tape.

Also, these lippies NEVER dry, like not even a little. They are definitely creamy and don't dry your lips out, but it is an incredibly high maintenance product. It has to be reapplied and you need to be careful to not smear it, even hours after application. This probably has to do with the fact that their formula is watery. I know this because when I opened one, water flew out of it.

This next picture is of a cotton square pressed on the swatches after 20 minutes. Left is NYX. Right is Ulta.

The NYX products stay a little creamy, but the Ulta ones are still wet, even as I am writing this and it has been nearly an hour. 

The Verdict

NYX is always a safe bet with great products and a nice variety of colors, but just know that you are going to spend a little time with the application. 

As for the Ulta Matte Lip Creams , I really wouldn't recommend them due to their never drying formula and their difficult to use applicator. There are many better options and at $9 a piece (more expensive then NYX) you would expect a better product. 

Have you tried these products? What did you think of them?