Time and tide and Etsy shops…

I have enjoyed writing this blog, and I think it did achieve its goal of helping the starting-out artisans and crafters. I have a bunch of ideas for more blog posts that could be similarly helpful; however, since I started a paying gig working from home last fall, I have no time to keep up with blogging.


I shall keep it here in case anyone should need to read the more useful posts, but as of right now (February 2010), I don’t plan to  update this blog any further. Feel free to read and explore as long as you like, and don’t forget to turn out the light when you leave. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and see you around the webz!


Using Twitter to Best Business Advantage, Part 2: Show me the money??

Okay, so a couple blogs ago, I outlined some Twitter basics I’ve identified in my short time on the Tweets, and that’s all well and good.  But if you’re a crafter/seller/artisan, I’m sure the #1 question on your mind is:  So does Twitter actually bring sales??

Well, Twitter does bring views to my individual items (though not my shop as a whole), but as far as I know, my three months on Twitter have brought me exactly two sales–one from a “follower,” and a custom order from the same person a few months later.  On the Etsy forums, I’ve heard people claim it brings them a good percentage of their overall sales and views, while others say it’s done precisely bubkes for their biz.  Given that I can easily kill two or three hours on Twitter in a single day, as a time-spent-for-money-earned ratio, Twitter may qualify as a whale-size fail, depending on who you are.  I suspect success with TwitterBiz also has something to do with what you sell; if your product is more unique than, say, jewelry (just to randomly pluck an example out of thin air, wink wink) then you’ll probably bring more interest from fellow Twitterers than someone who makes a really easy-to-find product.

However, the purpose of marketing isn’t simply to drive people directly to the checkout button (though that is the bottom line); no, any marketing expert will tell you that it’s pretty much equally important to “brand” yourself and get your name known.  That’s part of what Twitter can do for you–getting your shop into the consciousness of as many people as you can, either on an idle click-and-close basis (at least they’ve seen your item) or in a more “Hey, I know her work!” sort of way.  The more widely dispersed your name, the bigger your reputation and the more people will ultimately breeze through your shop–and logic says that the more visitors we have, the greater chance for a sale.

Besides which, whose shop do you want your Tweeps to think of when they are in the market for a pair of knitted baby booties or a goth leather cuff?  You should be the first name they think of for your type of item, right?

Here’s a real-life example of what I’m talking about.  In a town where I used to live there was a very nice locally-owned bookshop, and I loved to go there for all my bookish needs.  It was run by a man who was very nice, but a bit ditzy and capable of, I’m convinced, literally talking someone’s ear clean off their head.  Looking for spending money, I once asked the man if he needed any holiday help for the month of December.  He more or less offered me a position in “marketing,” which in his mind meant stuffing mailboxes with flyers and cold-calling people with Christmas promotions.  I declined and thanked my stars I never had to work for him–then asked him if he’d tried advertising in the local papers, since everyone in town reads the locals.  He said he’d tried running a coupon for a couple of weeks once, but nobody had brought one in.

Even then, I knew that he had it all wrong.  See, I was a regular newspaper-reader, and maybe I didn’t have time to use coupons from the newspaper before they expired, or was too busy to remember a special store event that was advertised on a particular day & time.  But when I thought about real estate agents, I thought first of the ones I’d seen advertised in the newspaper every single week.  And when I thought of carpet stores or chiropractors or lawyers, the ones I’d repeatedly seen in the newspaper were the ones that came to my mind–and perhaps my wallet–first.

And that’s why building your brand is important.  Maybe your Twitter contacts aren’t in the market for what you’re selling now–but when they are, maybe they’ll think of your shop and be there.  Or maybe if they’re asked for a recommendation, your shop is the one they’ll think of first.  And that’s the value of long-term marketing. Thus, I think of Twitter as a permanent  investment in making my brand known.

Oh, and a social outlet, and a source of info on other things I’m interested in–it is best for that, particularly for me.  Ultimately, I wish I could have discovered Twitter’s joys first on a personal level and had the time to enjoy the luxury of following fascinating people who will never follow me back.

But us WAHMs have not this luxury; thus, I create my Twitter balance between shop-talk, shop-promotion, blog-promotion, and just plain chatter with interesting folks.  (And reading @AlYankovic’s wacky tweets.  Just can’t resist!  And hey–wouldn’t my earrings look just smashing with his long curly locks?)

Until next time, my dear reader.  Feel free to request or suggest topics you’d like to see me write about.  And please, leave a contribution in the leetel box below…or e-mail particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Thanks for reading!

Sweet Tweets: Using Twitter to Best Advantage, Part 1

Ah, Twitter…every Etsian who’s done any research into marketing their art/craft shop has been told to get onto Twitter and promote promote promote!  But, uh…don’t promote too much…socialize, mostly, or tweet interesting things…and then promote some…but not too little or people will miss it…um…

If you are confused by the Twitter-mania touted on Etsy and Artfire, I hope these 2 blogs (this one and its sequel) will help you make a bit of sense of this thing called “social media.”

I joined the Twitter brigade about two months ago.  I figured it was a free service to try out and see if it actually would help in promoting my shop.  I was unsure of what to expect, but once I got there, I realized it’s pretty much just the next evolutionary link in the social networking chain–which began eons ago with BBS (bulletin board systems), then Usenet newsgroups, mailing lists, and forums–and ultimately, Myspace and Facebook.  I’ve been down with that stuff practically since Al Gore invented the web, so I felt comfortable in the Twitter groove pretty quickly.  I even surprised myself by actually enjoying the interaction!

Still, a few things are new to me, and I find that I am learning every day that I Tweet.

So here are a few suggestions gleaned from my weeks of experience, based on my own mistakes and those of others.  Take it with a grain of salt, since I am still pretty new to the process, and feel free to share your own experiences in the comments, even if they are different from mine.  We are all still learning, right?

•First off:  Be interesting, or at least be social. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before.  If you think it’s going to be hard to think of non-product things to tweet about, well…I doubt you’ll feel that way for long.  Some days, I enjoy the interaction so much I almost forget to promote anything.  Sounds cheesy…but it’s true!  Oh, and if you only tweet about your products, I may follow you, but I won’t rec you on Follow Friday, and you’re highly unlikely to keep very many non-crafter followers.  And maybe not even the Etsy/Artfire folks, either.

•Which brings me to:  Follow people from other walks of your life. Do you write?  Play golf?  Are you a foodie or a wine enthusiast?  Love the outdoors?  Tech gadgets or gaming?  Star Wars?  Cats?  My followers include not only artisans and crafters, but quite a few moms, dads, and SAHM/WAHMs (that’s Stay-at-home and Work-at-home Moms, for those not in the know), since that’s my current demographic.  I’ve also friended fellow fans of my favorite movies/tv shows/books, people whose music I like, folks from my state, and educators (since I am also a teacher).  Not only might these prove better customer bases for me than, say, the 287 fellow jewelry designers I follow, but (and more importantly), they are folks I can connect to on a very necessary level.  After all, if you’re not going to tweet your products all day long, you have to have other interesting things to talk about, right?  And I’ve discovered some great people (and some great blogs) through the folks I follow, both artsy and otherwise.

•And yes, most of the people I follow do indeed follow me back. If they don’t, you can always un-follow them later–every three weeks or so, I purge those who are not following me back–especially when my Tweeps’ Tweets are already too numerous to keep up with properly!

Know whom you follow, and why. Don’t neccesarily avoid people who do only tweet with professional purpose, if their profession can benefit you on any level.  Say you’re searching for a job; following Tweeps who link you to all kinds of job-hunting tips and posting boards might prove a useful connection.  Or you may enjoy following people who tweet nothing but interesting news stories from all over the web, like @GuyKawasaki.  I highly recommend such follows!  Just don’t expect to sell many earrings to them.  😉

•And when you do actually tout your product (which you definitely should do!), here’s a few tips I’ve learned from experience:

1.  If you say, “Check out my new wool house-slippers!” and then link to your main storefront, you won’t get any views of the house-slippers…though you might conceivably get views of other items, but that’s a crap-shoot.  Pick a specific item to tweet and put up the link directly to it, then sit back and watch the views roll in.

2.  Experiment with doing this at different times of day to find out what times will get you the most views and/or re-tweets.  Twitter is definitely busier at some times of day than others.

3.  Experiment also with wording your tweets to get the most interest in the product you’re tweeting about.  I’m definitely still working on this, but I have seen some difference when I can turn a phrase smoothly in the promo-tweet.

4.  Always promote something different.  I find that if I tweet the same item twice in a day, it usually gets me very few hits the second time around, presumably because my followers who are interested already looked at it before.  Personally, I can’t read all the updates from people I’m following, so I appreciate repetition of links through the day (within reason), but this hasn’t proven true of the people who follow me.  You mileage may vary.

In the interest of brevity, I’ll save the last, most juicy part of this blog for next time, when I tackle the big question:  So does Twitter actually bring sales?? Be sure to tune in!  Leave comments and/or questions if you wish, or e-mail me at particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  And thanks for reading!

My Best Tips for Selling and Buying Online

I’ve been buying, selling, and trading online for over a decade, making me a sort of Galapagos Tortoise of the interwebz–around forever and haven’t changed much.  I was even buying and selling online when ebay still had “What’s that?” status, mostly via e-mail mailing lists and forums.  I bought and sold, and sometimes traded, collectible items; I joined the ebay brigade in 1999, mostly for buying purposes but to occasionally sell a few things and make some pocket cash.

Nowadays, online sales have become almost more de rigeur than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and while most of us have now bought something online at one point or another (or maybe regularly do so), you may not have sold online, or you may still be new to the process.

I’m still a pretty new Etsy seller, but I’ve got years of mild-to-moderate ebay experience, plus my “direct sell” experiences, so here are the most important things I have learned from both ends of the online transaction:

Buying Online:  Read Everything!

The #1 mistake I’ve made as a buyer is being too quick to push that “buy” button without checking everything out first.  I have at times paid far too much for shipping, bought items of the wrong size, given money to questionable sellers, and–naturally–ended up with items I neither liked nor could get rid of.  So read, read, read!

It’s often true that pictures are outright misleading, particularly when it comes to ebay and the like, so read every smidgen of print in the seller’s description and policies, because if you have to file a complaint, it’s the print that will count, not the pictures.

Here are a few details that you should be sure to check if buying on ebay:

Location.  If the seller doesn’t give a specific city, then expect an overseas seller.

Feedback.  Even if the rating isn’t 100%, check it out–sometimes the negative feedback is old, or unjustified.  Likewise, some people give positive ratings but then slip a complaint into the comments, which may prove useful to you.  So skim through at least the feedback for the past few weeks or months.

Shipping cost.  I always look for someone with an actual cost stated; if they say it must be calculated, then send a message asking for a firm quote.  Some ebay sellers try to make a good chunk of their profit from shipping, though most are honest…shipping prices are just really expensive!

And here are a few things people sometimes overlook when buying from my Etsy shop:

Size.  I’m stunned by how many people ask for a resize only after I’ve specifically said, “Thanks for your payment!  I’ll ship your item tomorrow–be sure to let me know if you need it resized!”  Yeah, I state the size in every listing, but folks forget to read all of it, I would presume.  With jewelry and with many other handmade items, size is crucial, so read for size, and if it’s not listed, ask!

Sales and Promotions.  Etsy sellers often have sales information on their announcements (shop front) page, so if you click directly to an item and decide to buy it, you might miss the info.  Be sure to check the announcements on the front page before you buy stuff from Etsy sellers–there may be a code you can enter for a discount!  Also check and see if they have a “Sale” or “Clearance” section in their shop.

Customization.  In the same vein as re-sizing, I think some people simply don’t think to say, “Hey, I like that style but hate pink–what other colors do you have?” or “Can you make that in a bracelet instead of an anklet?”  Most Etsy sellers are thrilled to do custom work, so don’t be shy–or you’ll never get what you really want!

Selling Online:  The Sale is in the Details

Now, don’t assume that because I’ve just said “buyers don’t read descriptions!” that you can get by with vague descriptions.  This is my number one pet-peeve as a buyer on Etsy, and the one thing that will send me fleeing an ebay item quicker than if it were a grumpy skunk.  Even if it’s obvious from the picture that it’s a “blue crocheted scarf,” please state that in the description (for search engines as well as the buyer’s sanity).  Consider that not every picture looks the same on every computer (particularly where colors are concerned); consider also that again, if something goes wrong (for example, your buyer swears that the shirt looked bigger in the picture), you will be able to point to your text as the definitive source of firm information on which he/she should rely/should have relied.

So please:  Put the size.  Put the color.  Put materials.  Put textures.  Put every detail into the description and don’t leave it to me to figure it out for myself.

For both Sellers and Buyers:  COMMUNICATE!

Sorry to shout, but this is really important.  My #1 pet peeve with buyers on Etsy is when they register with Etsy and apparently use an e-mail address that they never actually check; additionally, many new Etsy buyers are unaware of the Conversations feature, or perhaps unsure how to use it.  Thus, it becomes a tooth-gnasher if I need to get in touch with a buyer and can’t.  It delays you getting your item, as well, so please, please, please:  Leave the seller with a way to realistically contact you in case something goes wrong.

Likewise, incommunicado sellers are equally frustrating.  If you submit a question on ebay, it tells you to expect an answer “within 48 hours,” which is patently ridiculous.  If you’re trying to sell an item for a fair price, you simply must answer questions more quickly than that.  I try to have a maximum of 24-hour turnaround on questions, but that’s an outside figure; most of my questions are answered within an hour or two of asking, unless of course you’re on the other side of the earth and I’m asleep at the time.  The same goes for Convos on Etsy or e-mails from Etsy buyers.  Delaying your answers makes you seem either unprofessional or unfriendly, neither of which is likely to bring you repeat customers.

I think things like “pay for your items quickly” and “don’t mislead about what you sell” should pretty much go without saying, so I’ll close today’s tipblog and promise you an even better one next time.  Comments, anecdotes, advice, pocket protectors and Michael’s coupons welcome; post here or e-mail to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.

Until next time, dear reader!

Hanging out your Shingle, Part 3: Titling Your Items for Best SEO

Note:  The bulk of this blog was written before the Etsy SEO/Meta-Tag Horror of 2009–if you follow such things–but interestingly, my advice remains unchanged.  There’s a nice boost for the old ego…assuming this advice actually works.  Heh.  That said, it definitely should, based on many hours of SEO research and trial/error on my part.  Oh, and “SEO” stands for “Search Engine Optimization,” and yes, it’s important.  Enjoy!

Last time around, I’d knocked out a couple more tips for how to smooth out the wrinkles in your Etsy shop, but I saved this one for last, mainly because it’s incredibly long.  However, recent events on Etsy have also rendered it mind-bogglingly timely, so I present to you my Final Tip for Setting Up Your Etsy Shop:

6.  Remember the rule of KISS.

No, no, not “Rock and Roll all Night”! Though that can be a good rule, too.  No, the rule I’m referring to was taught to me in college art class:  Keep It Simple, Stupid.

(Not that I’m calling you stupid.  Though now that I think about it, perhaps our art teacher was calling us stupid…hmm…)

The other things that Google uses to bring up your items in a web search (besides your shop title) are the titles and descriptions of individual items (and now to a greater extent, the tags, but at this point, that will have to wait for another blog).  I’m going to focus on titles today; let’s examine my own approach for a few concrete examples of what not to do.

In the beginning, I dreamily decided to name my items and list the name as the first thing in the description, then hammer out a list of each component of said piece of jewelry; i.e., “MYSTIQUE – Freshwater Pearl/Blue Lace Agate/Imperial Turquoise Triple-Strand Choker Necklace.”   Now, there isn’t anything wrong with this per se (well, okay, there is, but still),  except that people googling “Mystique” probably aren’t looking for jewelry, nor are they likely to be googling “blue lace agate and imperial turquoise choker” (though if they were, I’d probably have been able to sell them a necklace 😉 ).  Much more likely they’ll be searching for “gemstone necklace” or “beaded choker” or just “handmade jewelry.”  Not to mention the fact that some of my creations have eight or nine different kinds of beads–try listing all that without annoying a potential buyer.

But most importantly:  The fact that it was a “choker necklace”–surely the most important elements from a Google-search standpoint–was completely buried at the end…by which time Google has completely lost interest.  Google only looks at the first 70 characters of your title.

So first, you have to try to figure out what your potential customers will do a google search for, that will bring them to your item, and put that information first.  The recommended course is to just briefly describe your item, starting with the words that people might actually search for; for example:  Crystal / Agate Earrings.  Gemstone Choker Necklace in Onyx.   If the item has some special quality or component that people might do a search for, that should also be in the title:  Charm Bracelet w/Hill Tribe Silver.  Swarovski Crystal / Czech Glass Dangle Earrings.  The point is:  Most important words first, and of course…Keep It Simple and direct.

Honesty Check:  These titles are recommended by experts and they get the job done, but there is little oomph and no pizzazz whatsoever to them.  So I tried to find a compromise:  I still list my item names first, but I have simplified and properly-ordered what follows them.  Thus, I recently listed a new triple-strand choker, and the title is simply “BAROQUIA Gemstone Choker Necklace Triple-Strand.”  I’ll let you know how that works for me.

And that concludes my endless Etsy shop tip blog, as those currently are the main areas that I’ve revamped since starting on Etsy.  It’s a constant work in progress, of course, so expect another blog on “More Ways to Tone Up Your Flabby Etsy Shop” later on.  For now, check out this great blog post at Crazy About Crafting (Matthew Nix) that outlines some of the same points I made, plus a few more really choice ones.  And as always, check the Etsy forums for amazing lists of great newbie info.

Leave comments in the tip jar, or ring the bell on the way out if you enjoyed today’s meal.  Feel free to send in questions that you’d like to see answered, as well–I’d love to do a Q&A blog.

Tune in next time for “Adventures in Online Selling:  What I have learned from both ends of e-commerce.”  Cheers!

Hanging out your Shingle: Setting up Shop at Etsy, Part 2

Okay, two blogs ago I had begun listing my clueless mistakes, which became my best tips, in the process of starting up an Etsy shop.  You can read the first part of the blog here; now we pick up with Tip #4, which deals with all those crazy pages you have to write stuff on, starting with your “Announcements,” or the front page:

4.  Roll out the welcome mat.

Under your banner is your shop title.  Here I had something rather poetic at first, because I wanted to convey a sort of “feel” with my shop title.  But then I found out (via the forums, of course) that Google uses the shop title to place your shop in a relevant item search.  So the title should be a pithy description of exactly what you sell; something like “Crocheted Hair Accessories” or “Scrabble Tile Pendant Jewelry” would be ideal.  (Unless of course you sell gothic fine art prints, I suppose…)

Under the title is your “welcome/announcements” text.  I had already seen that some people use this as a place to put all their shop policies, shipping rates, turn-ons, turn-offs and the history of their craft in the Western world, but even Newbie I could see that this was a mistake.  However, I still got a little too poetical the first few times and made it too “texty.”  I learned in journalism classes in college that people’s eyes are drawn to the white space *around* blocks of text, not the grey blob of text itself.  So keep the whole of it short (so people can see your items without scrolling) and keep the paragraphs even shorter.

Also important because Google also uses the welcome text to accurately place your item in search results.  Also, your policies page is already provided elsewhere, so keep policies off your shop’s front page (though on my front page, I do encourage people to read the policies page, in case they don’t know it’s there).

The other mistake I made was overlapping information about myself with my “welcome” message–again, Etsy provides a profile page where one can write to one’s heart’s desire about themselves and their craft.  The welcome page is not the place for that, either.  The idea here is to tell the shop visitor exactly what you make and sell.  If you’re having any promotions or sales, you can also mention those on the front page.  I personally put the URLs of my Flickr page, Twitter profile, and this here blog on my welcome page, too, but those can be put in your profile if you prefer.

And yes, you do need to put something there, and more than one sentence.  I have seen a few sellers who only had one or two sentences–or even just a part of a sentence–as their welcome, but that really doesn’t make people feel very “welcome.”  The point is:  Keep it fairly brief, but informative enough that the visitor feels they understand what they’re going to see while visiting your shop.

5.  Leave no page untexted.

Obviously, you’ll want to fill out your policies page.  How to do this effectively is covered in the sellers’ FAQ on Etsy’s Resources pages, as well as in many forum threads.  Some Etsy-specific tips include:  mention how you pack items (and by all means, take pains with packaging–it brings repeat business), as well as your customization/alteration/resizing/repair/exchange policies (have some!).

As for profile, as I said, I initially conflated the profile and the welcome page, but I eventually broke it down into:  The welcome page is about my shop, and the profile page is about me–and that includes how I approach my craft.  And yes, many Etsy buyers really do read the profiles and really do want to know something about you.  That’s part of the reason people buy handmade:  the personal touch.  (But of course, not *too* personal–particularly if you’re desperate for sales; sadly, people really don’t want to know that.  We are all friendly at Etsy, but it’s still best to maintain a professional approach.)

Okay, that’s all for today.  I have one more big, fat, juicy tip, but this blog is already far too gabby for busy folks like you, so I’ll save it for next time.  And yes, it does relate to the current Etsy controversy over those mysterious meta-tag thingies…but I’ll say no more for now.

Post comments below, or send questions, comments, rotten tomatoes, and air-freshener samples to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Until next time, dear readers!

Pondering the Unique–to OOAK or not to OOAK?

When I conceived my shop, and when I opened it, I was committed to creating 100% one-of-a-kind (OOAK) items.  My reasons were twofold:

First, I’m big on uniqueness all-around.  I like the idea that each piece of jewelry I make is like a novel or a poem or a painting–that there would be only one of them in the world, and someone could own that one special thing.

Second–and probably most importantly–the idea of making the same things over and over again sounds painfully dull to me.  Just call me easily distracted.  Ooh, look–a shiny thing!

Where was I?  Oh, yes, uniqueness.  My original shop welcome message, and every single item description I wrote, proudly proclaimed how “each of my designs is unique/OOAK,” and in the beginning, I really meant to stick by that.

But then some doubt crept in.  First off, there’s a difference between a one-of-a-kind item and a one-of-a-kind design.  OOAK items are not that difficult when you can simply substitute one stone for another–sometimes even the same type of stone can look radically different from one bead to another.  OOAK designs, on the other hand, may get challenging over time.  I mean, if I create a triple-strand choker with a focal bead on one strand, and I stick by my OOAK-design proclamation, I can never create another like that, even if I find a combination of beads that just screams for that design.

So clearly, that was a bad idea.

That left me with an option to go with “OOAK creations,” which is ambiguous enough to mean either design or individual items.  And that seemed okay, but then my family started wanting me to make things that were “like those earrings except with silver instead of copper” or “that necklace but with two turquoise accent beads instead of jasper.”


For now, if I fulfill my family’s custom orders, I’m really stretching the “OOAK” label pretty darn thin.  I know it’s technically still true, but the idea of making things that are virtually identical except for a change of a couple stones makes me squirm.

I also am currently in the planning stages of approaching local shop owners about consignment or wholesale deals, a situation in which remaining 100% OOAK would be difficult to manage, at best, and might cost me potential sales of particularly well-loved items, at worst.

Plus, I found that I really liked some of my designs so much I wanted to replicate them for myself, and in fact couldn’t imagine never making them again.

So now, what to do?  Throw my OOAK commitment out the window?

Well, maybe a little.

If you look at my shop now, you will see that my welcome message says “Many of my pieces are unique/OOAK,” and I do intend to stick by that for as long as I remain Particles of Stone.

Individual descriptors also tell you whether the item is OOAK…and if not, then it either isn’t, or might not be; I’m leaving my options open for some items, particularly if I manage to make some consignment or wholesale deals.

I still love the creation of OOAK items, though; I still buy beads in small quantities just so I can create that unique piece, never to return once it leaves my hands.  There’s something beautifully melancholy about sending your creations away to be used and loved by someone else–very sweet, and just the slightest bit bitter, particularly if you know you’ll never make another like it.

I’m curious to know how other artisans have approached this issue–do you do OOAK exclusively?  Partially?  Not at all?  This blog is intended to help newbies, so maybe the experiences of the experienced can be a good touchstone for us when planning our approaches to the biz.

Post your comments/reactions here, or send them to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Until next time, m’dears–au revoire!

Hanging out your Shingle: Setting up shop at Etsy, Part 1

As I wrote in another blog, Etsy is a new phenomenon to me, but one I have gotten to know quite intimately over the past few months.  There are moments when I love Etsy and wonder where it’s been all my life (mostly as a buyer), and other moments when I wish it were a corporeal entity so I could throw it out the window (mostly as a seller).  I do wish I’d known how much work the marketing would be, and how relisting kind of offsets the money I planned to save by selling through Etsy.  But those are things I have learned how to roll with, and I don’t think my ignorance of those things hurt me too much in the early months at Etsy.

However, there are some nitty-gritty details I wish I’d known when I opened my shop “doors” for the first time.  In other words–my mistakes become your gain.  I’m sharing them with you, in hopes that you either haven’t opened up your Etsy shop yet, or perhaps just dusted off your banner for the first time recently.  Or perhaps you’ve opened up a shop and have no idea why you aren’t seeing traffic and sales.  Thus, I present:

Things to Know When Opening at Etsy Shop (That People Don’t Usually Tell You):

1.  Show up in the forums and have a pretty pitcher.

Truly, if you follow this piece of advice, you can probably just stop reading my blog right here and now, because the forums really contain nearly everything you need to know before you tack up your shop shingle.  (Although I must add the caveat that you can’t always find the threads with the info you’re looking for, depending on how they were titled.)  Go and do a search for “newbies” and you’ll find all kinds of useful threads–plus, you’ll start that all-important networking to get your brand out there into the web ether.  (But that’s really a topic for that elusive marketing blog that I haven’t written yet!)

I’d also recommend a cute and eye-catching icon to entice people to click (which of course takes them to your shop page).  I used something dark at first, but immediately realized it was too dark to make out what it was (beads), and then switched to a picture of a some beads in a teacup.  I love that pic, but it still didn’t convey exactly what I *do*, so I switched to a picture of a necklace I made.  However, the necklace is fairly somber-toned and didn’t really “pop” like other folks’ icons, so I chose (and now use) a picture of a simple white necklace that has gotten a lot of views in my shop.  So my advice is pick a picture that’s light in color and has gotten a lot of flow on Etsy or Flickr and use it–assuming the size change doesn’t diminish its charm.

2.  Build inventory gradually.

Because Etsy defaults to “most recently listed” in the search results, and because so many of their browsing tools rely on recently-listed items, it’s recommended to add only a handful of things at a time, and space it out through the day, to maximize exposure for your shop.  I didn’t know this–I didn’t open my shop until I had 30 pieces of inventory, and I listed them all in one day.  I could have gotten a lot more early eyeballs on my shop if I’d dribbled it out over a week or so.

However, it’s also true that shops with low inventory (say, less than 15 items) tend to sell very little, so make sure you do have enough stuff already made to have at least 15-20 items listed by the end of the week.

3.  Have a banner ready.

Even if it’s just a quick and simple one, people really do expect to see a banner when they click on your shop.  If you don’t have the skills or money for a real logo design, then simply try your shop name in a nice font with some thumbnail pictures of your work (which is all I currently have up).  At first, I didn’t have one, then quickly realized I did indeed have to have one, so I tried my shop name over a fiddled-with photograph of some beads, but it was too dark and foreboding.  It looked like it was going to fall down onto my welcome text and squash it.  Keep it light-colored (unless of course you make Goth or Halloween-themed items) and easy on the eye.

Enough for today–next blog will pick up with point #4 in Honing Your Etsy-Seller Kung Fu, when I talk about exactly what to write on all those “pages” you need to fill in on your shop.  Leave comments, questions, inspirational quotes, meerkats, mice, and SPF 60 sunscreen here or to particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Cheers!

Now That’s Support…

My daughter is six years old, and she thinks my jewelry is “cool.”  She even cried when I sold my first necklace–not out of shared joy, but out of distress that I was not keeping all my creations for myself.  She loved playing with my new bead strands when I returned from the bead show a couple weekends ago, and she always tells me how beautiful my work is.

And all that is really nice.  But to tell you the truth, I never really thought much about the support of a six-year-old.  I’m incredibly grateful for the support my husband (the newest Etsy widower) has given me, even when I know my preoccupation with the beads and the biz isn’t necessarily always where he’d like my priorities to be.  So him, I thank daily for the fact that he understands I need to continue my quest, even when dinner is late or the floor goes unswept. (And I’ve supported him in his share of windmill-tilting as well–it’s all yin to the yang.)

My son is three, so his biggest contribution to Particles is finding my lost beads on the floor when he’s playing with his cars…and giving them to me instead of trying to feed them to the dog.  He’s actually very good at finding seed beads among the carpet fibers.  Future surgeon, perhaps?

At any rate, it came as an extremely pleasant suprise to me to realize that my daughter understands my need to make this business work, too, even at her tender age.  Last week, I made a couple of sales and of course, visibly showed my joy when the e-mails came through.  But then, dinner was made, games played, baths taken, and all seemed forgotten in the flow of daily life.  But yesterday, my daughter sat down with her writing tablet and pencil and proceeded to write the following, completely spontaneously and out of that proverbial blue:

Real Support

We hadn’t even talked about it since I’d shipped the last item more than a day previous.  I was stunned, and frankly, got a bit misty-eyed as she gave it to me.  (And yes, I’m the one who had her write the date on the bottom, so I’d never forget.)

I’m thinking of framing it, so I can hang it on the wall when I finally have a dedicated work space of my own.

We all need that reminder sometimes, that none of our dreams would be possible without the support of the folks who love us most, no matter their age.  I only hope I can be at least as supportive of her in her own quests someday.

Namaste, peeps.

So many beads, so little brains

The Place:  Treasures of the Earth Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show, Salem, Virginia

The Time:  My first at a bead trade show

The Purpose:  To Learn.  And…to buy a lotta beads.

Well, I accomplished both purposes, though not to my complete satisfaction.  As usual, the Noob could have done things better.  But hey–that’s what writes my blog, right?  So in the spirit of Sifting the Particles, I present to you, my readers, my Mistakes & Lessons from my first bead show:

1.  Scope out the possibilities first.

This was not a huge trade show, and it was a pretty even split between rock & mineral folks, jewelry folks, and bead folks.  Of the dozen or so huge tables in the arena, five were selling beads as at least 50% of their inventory.  I looked at one table briefly, decided I’d come back to it later, and then at the second, I spent 80% of my cash.

This turned out to be not too bad–I probably would have spent the majority of my money there in any case.  I just wish it hadn’t been such a large amount–there are a few things I wouldn’t have bought if I’d checked out the other three bead-sellers first.  There were also a few beads I was specifically looking for and wasn’t able to buy because these folks didn’t have them.  In the end, I bought from four of the five major bead hawkers, but I still wish I’d bought a few things from the fifth as well.

2.  Don’t forget to check quality.

I started out very good–I checked the bead strings for inclusions and clarity, for nicely-drilled, straight holes, for chips and chunks at the drilling point–all those things that make me groan when I receive an unsatisfactory web order.  But as time went on, I think I got a sort of “bead fatigue” and ended up not checking things carefully at the last table I bought from.  I brought home some Ocean Jasper beads that I won’t be able to use in my shop wares (though most of the strand is still okay).  Alas!  Next time, I think I will keep a little pad in my hand with all the things I should look at jotted down in a checklist–and force myself to check the list before I pay!

3.  Don’t forget to soft-market.

I was so enwrapt in the beads that I forgot that I was also trying to network and get my product name out there among other tradespeople.  I should have been making chit-chat with the sellers, browsing non-bead tables (and to my credit, I did do this–bought a couple gorgeous crystals and a polished obsidian stone), and finding ways to bring up my craft without seeming too obvious.  One thing I could have done is to show folks the unakite and red tiger eye bracelet I was wearing and say, “Do you have any beads like these?” (I was genuinely looking for more).  Might have spurred a conversaion and a request for a business card.  In fact, the folks I spent the most money from did strike up a conversation with me as they tallied up my purchase (it took a while!) and they did, in the end, ask me for a business card!  How thrilling!

Too bad I’d forgotten to get them from my husband, who still had them in his car.  😦

4.  Take your time!

All my mistakes can probably be chalked up to the fact that I zoomed through the show as if my hair were on fire, instead of realizing I had the entire afternoon and making it a slow, lazy process.  I chalk it up to first-timers’ giddiness.  (And the fact that, as a mom, I’m completely unused to having a lot of time to myself to use as I please–I’m accustomed to doing everything as quickly as possible.)  Next time, I will make an all-day event of it and use every moment wisely.

I will have another chance, when the same show comes to my town in November.  Better start saving my money now… that paltry $400 I took with me this time went entirely too fast!

I did, however, get some gorgeous finds–some unusually-shaped Ocean Jasper, some Rhyolite (finally!  and boy, do I wish I could afford more!), my first strand of red Carnelian and my first strand of faceted stone beads, my first real Turquoise and some funky Smoky Quartz, among many others.  My sister also gave me an old 3-drawer storage unit that was originally a store display for DMC embroidery thread.  Woot!  Now I have someplace to put all my new goodies.

I’d better get to work with the new beads.  In the meantime, leave comments, suggestions, implications, alliterations, altercations, interrogations, and math equations below…or e-mail me at particlesofstone at yahoo dot com.  Cheers!