Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How to Have a Successful Etsy Shop!

Do you want to make a little extra money selling your awesomeness? Or do you already have an Etsy (or other crafty site) shop and need a few extra tips to help encourage sales? I've put together a few ideas to help both beginners and those who need a little push in the right direction.

Determine what it is that you do well. Do you knit? Are you a photographer? Maybe you make miniature buildings perfectly to scale, screen-print tee shirts, make pins, birdhouses, wire sculptures, jewelry; everything has a market! If you lack ideas, look online for help to get you started (Pinterest is an AWESOME place for inspiration!). If you have more than one crafty hobby, pare it down to just one - for now - to make starting easier.

Perfect your craft. Use your own items for a few weeks to see if they have any flaws, and you can also loan out or give away some to friends and family for them to do the same. If you find any flaws in your product, remake or fix the product and try the process again. You want to make sure that when customers purchase your product that they’re getting the best quality for their money (and of course that they become repeat customers and leave good reviews!)

Take pictures of your items. If you’re a great photographer or have an eye for a good photo, you can take your own photos. If not, recruit a friend or even outsource the job; good visual representations of your products are essential! If the pictures don't truly match the colors of the product, try different lighting to accurately capture it (natural sunlight is best). No camera phone pictures allowed!

Write great descriptions of your products. Make sure you add how they were made, the materials used, their size, etc. Don’t leave any detail out! Some potential buyers won't be motivated to contact you for additional information, and may just move on to a similar product <-- no good!

List them for sale. There are many online marketplaces that allow individuals to sell their art: ArtFire, BuyHandmade, Dawanda, Folksy, Etsy (the largest), Craftster, Coriandr, Misi, All Things Original – the list goes on and on (expect to pay a small listing fee and/or a percentage of the sale price to the site).

Market your products. Put your social media skills to use – share the link to your online store on facebook, set up a twitter account to spread the news of new additions to your site, start a blog linking to your site, even kickoff the opening of your online store by doing a feature on a popularly read blog or website including a giveaway.  Get people talking (and retweeting, sharing, etc.)!

Give stuff away. Sometimes having your items in an auction gift basket for your favorite charity can be a great way to spread your store name. Even just one item every few months can bring you more customers over time. 

Communicate with your customers. When you start making sales, make sure to send a small note to your customer saying “thank you!” and marking the item as “shipped” as soon as it is in the mail. Also ensure to leave positive feedback for your buyers (assuming it was positive) welcoming them back in the future. If you fail to receive feedback on a sold item, follow up with a message to the buyer asking them if they’ve received the product and if everything is okay. Great customer service is key!   

Spread out. Create some business cards with your shop web address and contact information and look for local art/craft fairs and shows, festivals, etc. where you could potentially sell your products. If the cost of having your own booth or table is too costly, try finding another crafter (or two!) that might be willing to split the table with you. Additionally, try contacting locally-owned stores who might be interested in carrying your product for a percentage of the sales.

Want to SUPER kick-start some sales online? Look for those who have "liked" your items, added your shop to their favorites or previously bought your products and send them a coupon (online) for x% off any item in your shop. 

Good luck and happy crafting!

Picture credits: Clancy Ratliff, Gordon Hatton

Thursday, November 10, 2011

...Soap, Are You Nuts?

As I am an anti-chemical kind of girl (and I mean that in a made-in-a-factory chemical way, I do realize that chemicals are a natural bond of elements and water technically is a chemical, but you know what I mean). As such, if you haven't already noticed, I try to live without using factory-made chemicals, especially for household cleaning. Anything that has names like "Sun Fresh!" or "Lavender Fields" means "ew!" for me.

It can be a point of contention in our house, as my very patient partner grew up with his laundry neatly folded and placed in drawers; every time he'd pull out a new shirt it would smell like "Soft Linen" or something like that. He's come to associate these kinds of smells with "being clean".

But if something is clean, I argue, it wouldn't smell like anything. It would be sterile, no scent. Definitely a far cry from that bouncing bear on a stack of towels selling his "Rainforest"-scented  detergent on TV (whose products, like most, contain scents that are chemically engineered and according to studies, contain toxic materials and potential carcinogens).

Anyway, clean doesn't have a smell.

Now, to the reason I'm posting. Nuts!

Soap nuts!
Soap nuts, that is.  They're actually a fruit, but they're called nuts. The outer shell of the fruit called the soapnut contains saponin, a natural substance known for its ability to cleanse and wash. Soap nuts certainly are not new on the market; they have been used to clean all kinds of fabric for centuries, before big-name brands started pushing their scented ideas of clean on us.

Do they work? In short, yes. Though to be honest with the powerful washing machines that are commonplace in households today, we probably don't need any soap at all - hot water does magical things. But I do use soap nuts on my clothes for everyday kinds of washings, and unless something is stained it works great! For stains I use baking soda and liquid soap as a pre-wash. Combined with white vinegar as a fabric softener, my clothes come out smelling like... nothing. Just the way it should be - and for a fraction of the cost!

  • They are simply a dried fruit -- 100% totally natural AND compostable!
  • They are organically grown and are free of harsh chemicals, so they are incredibly gentle. (This makes them especially great for those with sensitive skin — including babies and those that suffer from allergies, eczema, and psoriasis).
  • They’re totally biodegradeable, so they’re better for the environment than regular detergent.
  • They’re antimicrobial, so they’re even good for septic and greywater systems.
  • They are low-sudsing -- exactly what you need for HE (or high-efficiency) washers.
Thanks for the list LaundryTree

Soap Nuts!
 You can find soap nuts in natural food stores or online. Give them a try!

Happy washing!