yup, i was a kid who grew up watching the jeffersons...but that's not my point here today, though it would be fun to reminisce about how great tv shows in the 80's were...mr. belvedere...benson...the facts of life...falcon crest...sigh.
oh well, back to work here...
a few weeks ago, the crepe confectionary was honored to be asked to participate in a discussion panel at the North Tonawanda Public Library!
so amidst filling the shop full of valentine's day goodies and preparing for the february Buffalo Indie Market, i began to catalog all the things i had come to learn in my very short time as a business owner. like, always get payment for a custom item before you begin spending time and money on it. or, that good pictures of your work are your best advertisement. by the time i had finished, i had identified a number of tips that i felt were helpful to me in my work thus far. the presentation was a success, and was so well received, that i thought i would share them with you here...
now, if you're anything like me, the crafting part is what comes naturally. the challenge i faced when turning my hobby into my livelihood were all the details related to running a business. i am a doctor by training, with a very little bit of design schooling under my belt. i possess zero business acumen. so i found myself doing what i always do when i take up some new venture, and that's educating myself. i went looking for resources that would be useful to me. these included, but were not limited to: my brother, who has an MBA; my sister in law, who has a very entreprenurial brain; the Canisius College (my alma mater) women's business center, which offers free consulations to new business owners; and last but not least, Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco, a fantastic 'how-to' guide for the beginner.
when it came down to it, i found myself focusing the "business" half of my brain on two areas: branding, myself and my shop, and marketing, my shop and my little creations. these are the tips i had to share with those in attendance at the "how to be an etsy seller" workshop...
when it comes to branding yourself, think about the image you want your shop to portray, the type of customer you are looking to attract, and the level of refinement you desire as a business owner.
- be creative, but not confusing with your shop name. (though 'crepe confectionary' often gets requests for crepes...to which i must regretfully inform the inquirer that i only make those on saturday mornings and they're not for sale...)
- be consistent! use the same name/logo across any websites, including blogs.
- develop a logo and create a shop banner. a logo is a great way to leave a lasting impression with browsers and customers.
- make or purchase business cards or ATCs (artist trading cards), and ALWAYS have them with you. don't be afraid to hand them to people - you are your own marketing department!
- create your own packaging theme and stick to it. customers love when they receive a package that has been carefully and thoughtfully wrapped. it reflects your own level of professionalism, as well as demonstrates the worth of your product.
- surprise your customers with a small token of appreciation for their purchase (i.e. a small photo if you're a photographer, extra scrap supplies, postcards, etc). this will keep your customers coming back, fo sho!
so you have a product, you have an etsy shop, and you're ready to go, right? nope. lol.
marketing yourself is key. sure, your store will get some traffic from the casual etsy browser, but you should strive to build a following, because those are the customers that will continue to support you. etsy is a community more than anything else. to be successful there, you need to be personable and willing to connect to your fellow craftspeople/artisans, as well as your customers. furthermore, you need to be the face of your shop and product. etsy buyers shop on etsy because they desire handmade, quality, one of a kind items, and they want to know from whom they are purchasing.
- create a blog. a blog is a great way to introduce yourself and your product to the world. talk about your inspiration, your creative process, your hobbies, your favorite recipes, whatever! provide tutorials and contests to keep your readers interested.
- network with other etsy sellers and creative bloggers. you would be surprised how many etsy sellers are also etsy buyers. look for other shop owners who have 'hearted' you, and 'heart' them back, or send them a message thanking them for their support.
- read and comment on blogs that you feel capture readers suited to your ideal customer. people will notice you, and the blogger may even give you a shout out on his/her blog. this is a great way to increase traffic to your shop.
- participate in your local community. look for other local etsy sellers, and get to know them. being your own boss and running your own shop can be a great way to make some money, but it can also be quite isolating. furthermore, your fellow artisans/shopkeepers can be excellent resources and wonderful free advertising.
whew! this turned out to be a marathon post, no? lol...well, nonetheless, i hope this was helpful to any of you readers out there who are on the fence about taking the next step with your hobby. i can only speak for myself, but my experience thus far has been nothing but positive. remember, you reap what you sow, so opening an etsy shop can be as simple as a side project for extra cash, or you can be like me, and decide to see if you have the guts to do something that really tests your limits, but feeds your soul. the beauty is, it's all up to you...
what about you? do you have a tip to share? a question you need answering? have you opened an etsy shop recently? i'd love to hear what your experiences have been like...post a comment and feel free to plug your shop or your site or your own blog!