I love it! Fantastic Sculpture. I love how you created it too! Your thoughts remind me of my daughter. She is 19 and completed her first year in college. We keep telling her that even if she is not going into business, it is wise to have a business on the side to help bring in income. Especially since you never know where the economy is headed, it is nice to have some control over your future and do something that doesn’t put a limit on earnings. She finally decided to open up her own shop after helping me since age 11. She wants to target your younger generation and I know you are both smart for doing that.
Okay, you asked for it. I know you are probably just being nice and respectful like my daughter, but I will tell you what I have learned and try not to make the novel too lengthy. I have had many others ask me how I have made it all work. I couldn’t give them the real answer, because as you are about to read, it is quite involved. As I’m sure you know, there are no shortcuts and days will be long. It is well worth it. If you build it and make it an obsession. . . they Will Come and more importantly, someone will eventually buy!
Concerning your store front and any other venues fill out your Bio. I still need to finish and update this myself. You may have already done this, but remember your Bio gives potential customers a connection to you. Even though you are selling on the internet humans are still very social beings and want to feel a connection or something to engage them. Your greatest asset isn’t your product, it is you and your passion. Tell your story of why you create your product line or why you desire to run a business. Let them know your hobbies and interests. If you have a passion for what you do, customers will realize that you care deeply about your products along with pride in your reputation. This carries into customer service. Make it your greatest priority. The customer is always right, even when we know they are wrong. Protecting your reputation (even when it isn’t fair) and a customer’s view of you is more important than making a dollar. Yes, a reputation is most important for character and ethical reasons, but it will also pay dividends financially long term. Word gets around that you treat people right. Going above and beyond feels wonderful!
Thank you for being one of the catalysts for me finally jotting some of these ideas down. I have been relaying some of this info in bits and pieces to my daughter and others that have started stores, but had not taken the time until now to write this. Though long, there are still volumes that could be written on each one of these tips, but alas, time is a valuable commodity. These are my top ten tips, not in order of priority. I haven’t touched on any of the financials like the hard reality that a great percentage of your profit goes right back into supplies and keeping the business running, especially in your initial phase. That can be saved for another novel.
- Photos. Initially you are selling a picture. Your’s looks great. I only tell you this story because it is just one lesson out of many I have learned through failure. You all live in the digital age so will not be making the mistake plus lack of funds to have a decent camera and photos as I initially did. However, mistakes can be your greatest gift in the long run. The knowledge they will bring you if you are open to the education can prove to be productive. My sales were slow to come and I saw right away my photos did not come close to the professional quality of other stores so I learned through free tutorials for photography on Etsy and requested a decent camera as a Christmas gift. These days most have smart phones with cameras that give clear and crisp photos. What I need to do is update all mine because sometimes up to 80% of people are shopping from digital devices and not sure my old photos look so great on phones.
- Tags. . . You’re up and running, now how do you get seen? Use all of the tags even in the material tags. After I have added the materials, I don’t hesitate to add other helpful tags like gifts for guys, dad gift, boyfriend gift, mario kart, geekery, Father’s day gift (although I think Etsy may not let you put the apostrophe in tags, then I just remove the apos.) etc. I used to watch Dr. Who with my daughter so couldn’t believe the fan base ready with disposable income. You’d be better at thinking up the right categories than me, but you get the picture.
2b. Check out where you fall in Etsy search. To do this just go to the main search bar in Etsy and type in a search word like Mario and see how far down on the pages you show up. If you don’t rank as high as you want, try to figure out what tags others are using to get them there. Also, you can always add relevant search words to your title just separate them with a comma so that Etsy’s engine reads them as that word or group of words rather than one long string. Another tip is put at least the first three relevant search words of your title in your tags. This helps it be seen more. You can also go to Google AdWords. They can be a little confusing for some, and many are still attempting to figure out their algorithm (probably as people get closer they change it ) but you can do your own research without paying for advertising.
- SEO. . . this is what it’s all about. You want to put up your full URL link in as many places as possible. Not just the Resource name (etsy.com), but the Protocol Identifier http://etsy.com. I am old school from the primitive days of html, so I’m still putting my triple w’s in my URL. You probably already know this, but it is how you get ranked higher in Search Engine Optimization. If you don’t already have them get yourself a Pinterest account and start boards with varied interests to help you accumulate more followers. Pinterest viewers don’t like for people to appear self-serving, but it is okay and I advise some boards to market your own products. Just make sure you pin and have boards of other interests so you are rounded out in their community. Their allotted ratio right now is 2:1 on following to followers. That is in accumulating new followers that have not already followed you. You can always follow people already following you even if you are past the 2:1 ratio. The reason Pinterest and an Instagram account are important is free marketing and they are getting ready to roll out a Buy it Now button. They are bringing payment methods like paypal on board to process payments so that people do not have the hassle of going to a secondary link. The same with Instagram. Pinterest will roll out their Buy it Now button hopefully sometime this month, Instagram possibly in the near future. This can be golden for small businesses! I built up followers over a period of 3 years on Pinterest and just recently started working on Instagram. I have never forgotten that I received my first large sale through a pin a customer saw on Pinterest. Since these forums can be a time suck but are worth a consistent investment of time, I usually give myself 1/2 hour per day when trying to gain followers. That does not include the time I relist an item and plug it. This was crucial for me so I could still do all the admin duties for the business along with creating and shipping product. Consider a Facebook business page, Deviantart, Tumblr, Youtube and any other social media site where you can plug your product for free. The more your URL is seen, the more relevant to search engines. Since advertising dollars are not always available to small businesses, I consider it time equity, but definitely set a limit and goals because business owners are generally wearing multiple hats until they can afford employees to take over some of the roles.
- It’s a numbers game. While waiting for sales to come in or if things get slow, start working towards listing more product. If you can come up with small items to produce for example, keychains, pendants, smaller sculptures, digital information to supplement income and help increase the number of items in your store. . . go for it. Really use these months before Christmas (only 7 months away?) use it wisely. It comes before you know it and people NEED /want gifts and you can provide them with unique, hand made gifts! Sounds like you already have many ideas. If not, I know your time investment is much greater than for my jewelry items. I understand because I also do Copper signs which are more labor intensive so can take up to two weeks. Whatever works best for you, just set daily goals and work towards completion of product, photos, listings promoting on every free site you can fit into your schedule. I noticed a substantial increase in sales as I increased my inventory. I realize it may take time, but there are days I set my goal to have anywhere from 3-5 new items listed because that will help increase the views to your page. I don’t know their algorithm, but views definitely increase when you add new product to your storefront. On the other side, if you have more than 5 items to add at once, list 3-5 over a period of days so that your views may be increased for more than one day.
- Community is important. Get involved with the perks Etsy provides. Once again, caution must be taken as you do not want to absorb all your valuable businesses hours reading and building exposure, yet their is a lot of value so constant balance is required. My favorite Pastor said “Be ye balanced is the 11th commandment.” So true! You can also do many of these things in your free time as the business tends to consume you. Lucky you, you are not managing a family yet so can really by obsessive! Don’t hesitate to join Etsy teams as they help promote each other. Yes, there are requirements to fulfill at times, so you use discernment in which team will work best for you. During free time go to Etsy’s trending items page and like products then even favorite stores you like. This can get you some reciprocal likes and fave’s which never stop being valuable and are crucial when first starting out in business. Also take advantage of their forums and tutorials as they are a great source of information. Weigh in once in a while with comments and encouragement on featured sellers. It doesn’t hurt to favorite some of their items and shops as some reciprocate for you and many on Etsy love to contribute to that sense of community. Commenting on featured artists also get’s your store logo seen. Finally, be willing to invest time in doing treasuries. You are not supposed to feature your own store items in treasuries you curate, but if you feature other store’s items, you can send each seller featured a quick email. Some of these sellers will follow up and do a treasury featuring you along with other sellers, and if they don’t have the time, it still get’s your store more exposure as you are the curator. You also have the opportunity of an Etsy admin liking your treasury and if it gets featured on their front page, that is money!
- Double up! If you don’t have your items in another venue, get it set up fast. eBay has an archaic interface and can be challenging, but no one can argue their success and notoriety. They have the proven numbers to bring you much sought after viewers. Amazon may be a possibility for you. You may be able to sell your items now, and if not they are rolling out a hand made storefront in the near future. There is also ArtFire if you want to check them out. I have found that having two stores keeps things moving along. While building my customer base in Etsy, I found I was receiving almost double the sales in eBay, even though I sold some products at a little lower retail value, it still paid dividends in ready income. Having at least two stores, as long as you can manage them just makes sense. Also, you do not have to pay store front fees in eBay until you feel you want to expand. You are given around 25 free listings. I am not sure if they have changed this as they recently revamped a few things. I apologize in advance for their old, 1998 clunky interface. No, I do not work for them and if I did I would make many changes. They are not as user friendly as Etsy, but they do work.
- NEVER give up, put a positive spin or a positive investment of time working towards promoting your business when sales are slow. Of course slow sales can be a reality at times, but you getting your URL plastered out there in cyberspace , more Etsy community involvement, and a demonstration for your creative passion will only help drive you forward while increasing your chances exponentially of making more sales in the future. If things seem stagnate or you are not growing as quickly as you like, consider doing shows. Called the craft or art fair circuit in my day. Most artists have done their time and these events. They can be very useful for getting your product out there. When starting up we tried to find events where the entry fee wasn’t so high as we started with no capital, no loans and no investors. There are many of these starting in fall as people are preparing for Christmas gift giving. Wake up each day, set annual goals, daily goals and as my dad always says, “just do it!” Say this over and over to yourself when you feel sluggish or worn down. You are your greatest motivator. You will succeed!
- Pray, this would be the one to prioritize. There are a multitude of tasks vying for your attention and it can be hard to know what to focus on first. I find that asking for God’s guidance helps you weed out wasting time on inconsequential tasks and focusing on what really needs to be done at that moment. Clear written daily goals can really help.
- Don’t Stop Creating. Even when you are making consistent sales, what drove you initially is probably a creative passion. Well, that and needing to pay bills anyway. You fulfilling that drive helps push your business forward. Fresh ideas and creations only help you grow as a person while increasing your business success.
- Pay it Forward. I didn’t put this one only because I have been writing for so long that I may as well have a number 10 rather than leave it at 9. Rather, it really is part of why we are on this planet. I am blessed to have people around me that are wonderful supporters. I couldn’t make it without them paying it forward, so it makes me feel great when I can do the same no matter how small. Charity auctions are a great way to help out others. It is a double bonus because you get to help and you are allowed to send along promotional materials many times in the form of brochures, business cards, etc. Also free giveaways in one of your social venues for receiving favorites or likes also helps you with exposure.
May God Bless you and your business. I am excited about your ambition and the fact that you are wisely building a business at such a young age. Can you imagine where you will be in just 5 or 10 years? I wish the World Wide Web was this accessible when I was your age. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions. I will be doing a treasury featuring you, my daughter and another wonderful girl either tonight or tomorrow. If you want to make a treasury including one of their items each, I will ask them to do treasuries including your item. Their etsy links are as follows;
Check out his site at https://www.etsy.com/shop/eightbitblockart?ref=pr_shop_more