So, you want to sell your crafts online? You may already be a member of a site such as Etsy, Art Fire, DaWanda, eBay, or Hyena Cart, or even have your own website, but perhaps sales are slow. Maybe you haven’t yet signed up but are doing your research beforehand (good for you!). Either way, here are some tips on how to rise above the crowd and put forth a professional image for your storefront.
Take the Time to Get Great Photographs
In the world of online sales, photographs are king. They are the only way that your buyers really have any inkling of what they’re purchasing. On Etsy and other craft venues it is hard to stand out above other sellers and it’s a good photograph that is going to earn you clicks. How are you going to get good photographs? You will need to either invest in some equipment or find a friend who knows a thing or two about photography.
A digital SLR (DSLR) will get you much better pictures than a point-and-shoot camera – if you don’t have one, you can pick up a decent used one on eBay or local sites like craigslist for about $350 for a camera body and kit lens. You are also going to need some good lighting. You can either shoot outdoors on a sunny day in the shadow or out in the open on an overcast day, or if you are like me and don’t have much opportunity to get photographs early in the day, you can purchase lighting. You can buy a light specially made for photography, or you can try a cheaper setup initially and see if it will work for you.
What I did was this: I bought a few reflector dish lights at the hardware store along with natural daylight bulbs with the highest wattage the reflector fixture would accommodate. Since most items sold at Etsy or other craft sites are small, this size of lighting is adequate. I arranged my lighting around my subject to ensure it was well lit, then hung white sheets or paper in front of the lights to diffuse the lighting and eliminate harsh shadows.
Since most items for sale on Etsy are small, you will want to use the macro settings on your camera, or even invest in a macro lens. I would also suggest using a tripod as well. After you are done shooting, use a photo-editing program to ensure your colors are vibrant and true to real life. Consider looking into adjusting your computer monitor settings as well so that what you see as far as color is also what the majority of your customers see as well. There are plenty of free online resources that go much deeper into photography than I have done here; search them out if you would like to learn more.
Take the Time to Set Up Shop
On Etsy or other sites that allow you to have a banner and/or avatar on your storefront, consider purchasing the graphic design services of someone else if you are not well-versed in digital imagery. Plenty of sellers offer this at really reasonable rates – there are plenty for $10 and under. On Etsy, you can even go to the Alchemy section and make a request; different sellers will then make bids to do the work for you. Ask to see a portfolio of their past designs or other artwork so you can make sure that what you envision meshes with their style. Also ask about their redesign policy, i.e. how many times will they let you ask to have it tweaked before they charge you more.
Another idea for your Etsy avatar is to use a photograph of something you sell rather than a graphic related to your shop. While a shop graphic can create brand recognition, having a great photograph of your best item can quickly draw people into your store if you frequent the forums or chat portions of the Community section on Etsy.
Etsy allows you to have quite a few text blurbs on your personal storefront. Write a compelling welcome message, but don’t make it too long. You will want to make sure that at least your first row of items for sale is visible without having to scroll down the page. Buyers are probably not interested in reading a whole page worth of text before perusing your wares; to avoid annoying them, put important shop policies in the proper section – linked to from your main storefront page – or even as a reminder at the bottom of listing text.
As far as listings go, feel free to be creative and unique, but also be truthful and describe the item well. Information such as dimensions and materials are essential. Also, be sure to proofread and spell-check ALL of the text on your storefront and perhaps even enlist the editing help of a friend. Nothing screams unprofessionalism like poor spelling and grammar. The most widespread abuse of grammar concerns the use of apostrophes to denote plurality rather than possession (use an apostrophe to say somebody owns something rather than to say that there are multiples of a certain item – something like “Sock’s for sale!” is a big no-no), so pay particular attention to this. Bad spelling and grammar don’t bother everyone, but they do bother a significant percentage of the population, so you will want to be careful to not alienate any of your potential customers.
Also, consider writing some good copy for the “About Me” section. Buyers on Etsy usually appreciate the one-to-one connection Etsy facilitates and knowing more about you makes them feel more connected. Write about who you are and also about your craft. Why do you love it? Any insight on how/when/where/from what you create your items?
Once your shop is set up, ask people for reviews, advice, criticism and suggestions. Be warned that on the Etsy forums this is usually seen as a thinly-veiled attempt to spam your shop link unless you post in the Critiques area, so be sure to play by the Etsy forum rules.
Specialize & Maintain Inventory
Perhaps if you’re like me, you love many different forms of craft and don’t find yourself married to just one. However, if people visit your shop and find one knitted item, one painting, one sculpture, and one beaded necklace, you are going to come off as a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. Even though you may actually be a master-of-all-trades, restrain yourself for now. Pick one type of item that you want to be your signature and your brand and create a few different pieces in this category – I would say six is a good minimum number to shoot for. Hold off on listing them as you create them, once you get your minimum items done and you feel good about the quality and really feel that they represent you and your creativity (you didn’t just bust them out so you could hurry up and start selling on Etsy already – I know the feeling), then list your first items. Try to keep listing new items daily or at least every few days. It will help your shop maintain visibility by bumping it up in the listings of most recent items and most recently updated shops regularly. Experiment with different listing times and days and see what works best for you.
Once you have established your specialty, you can try something else if you need variety, but I would suggest having three or less categories in your shop. If these can be tied together with a theme, that would be even better. You want to create your brand by being the ultramodern baby boutique or the futuristic linocut prints shop; having too many different themes can really confuse your image. If you do want to dabble in different realms, consider opening multiple shops. It is well within Etsy’s Terms of Service to do so.
Another note regarding item quality – make your items with love. This may sound cheesy or sappy, but buyers can really tell if you put yourself into your product rather than just tried to make a quick buck, and they are willing to pay for it. Let your creative juices flow and don’t feel a time constraint – this will impair your creativity and quality and make the whole experience less enjoyable and possibly even take longer. Once you have made a few of your item, you will hit your stride. Make the items as if you were making them for yourself or a loved family member. Quality items will earn you rave reviews and word-of-mouth exposure.
The most-asked question from new Etsy sellers is, “How much should I ask for?” This is a delicate question because if you ask too little, buyers will question your quality, and if you ask too much, you will come off as a pie-in-the-sky dreamer. Start your shop with enough to cover your costs and labor, and as you gain success, you can raise your prices accordingly.
When you are calculating costs, don’t forget any of the following: materials, labor, Etsy fees, PayPal or other money-processing fees, income tax, sales tax if the buyer is from your state, time it will take you to package and ship, and time it took to gather your materials. I would include the cost of the shipping container in the shipping fee, but don’t artificially inflate your shipping fees to include anything but actual shipping cost and cost of the container. Some sellers do this to keep their item prices low; you don’t want to do it because your buyers are smart and you will lose their trust.
As far as what your labor is worth, you will have to decide for yourself. Ask yourself these questions: Are you enjoying the actual making of items, or does it seem like a chore? Do you feel like you are selling yourself short? How much would you make an hour at a regular job? If you want to be successful, you will need to pay yourself enough to make it worth it to you; otherwise you will quit early. Look at other shops selling similar items and see how much they charge and how many sales they have. Recently, Etsy took the sale price off of the pages of items already sold, so you can play with your prices without fearing buyers wanting items for past introductory prices.
A Few More Tips
Spend some time poking around other Etsy shops before you go live (i.e. post your first batch of items). What appeals to you? What makes shops seem professional? What makes you think an item is good quality or that a seller is a master of their art? Make a list of these things and try to incorporate them into your shop. Above all, keep the experience enjoyable and let your personality into your items and your shop – after all, the whole point of Etsy is to let your buyers share in your creativity. Good luck!