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!


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