Archive for the ‘jewelry’ Tag

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!

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.”

Erp.

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!

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!

A Rocky Start, Blog #4: Choosing a Home for the Particles

Confession:  Three months ago, I had no idea what Etsy was.

I’d never even heard the name.

I’m not even sure how I first learned of it, but after I figured out what Etsy was, I got very excited.  Not only was this a potential place to sell my wares, but it was the coolest shopping place I’d been in since…since…since…well, it may just be the very coolest shopping site I’ve ever been to.  I wish I had some (any!) disposable income at the moment, for I have a very strong inkling I’d be spending the vast majority of it on Etsy wares.

As a seller, it also excited me, as it was cheaper and prettier to look at than Ebay, and it had that nice “homespun” vibe that gives the place its oeuvre.  I just spent 12 years living in a place where “handmade” and “sustainable” were everyday bywords on the street, so this kind of atmosphere felt very homey to me.

Now, you may wonder why I was comparing Ebay to Etsy.  Well, as an online seller, I had only my direct-with-the-buyer experiences (from posting things to specific mailing lists) and my years of Ebay experience to go on.  I had actually seen a couple of wonderful artisans doing really well with bead-strung jewelry on Ebay.  Here are a couple of examples that made me believe I could do this myself:

http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Stone-Savvy – Another gemstone artisan like myself, but man, does she have a good eye for design!

http://shop.ebay.com/merchant/robintheraven – She has a very specific “brand” in her style, and it really works for her.  This is a good model for jewelry-makers, IMO.

You can check out a seller’s “completed listings” to see how well they’re selling.

Now, your first reaction may be:  “But they could get more money on Etsy!”

And that may be true–RobintheRaven sells her items under value, IMO, although as she builds a reputation, her auction prices may go up accordingly.  And Stone-Savvy was selling necklaces in the $30-40 range when I found her in January.  Then in February, a fluorite necklace of hers bid up to over $80–and the rest of her prices went up accordingly.  So Ebay isn’t all about “cheap,” depending on what you sell and how well you’ve established your reputation.

So why did I choose Etsy instead?

Truthfully, I haven’t given up on the notion that I may still sell some of my jewelry on Ebay or elsewhere someday, and I fully intend to have my own dot-com biz once my kids are both in school.  But for now, Etsy is my shop home.  Here are my main reasons:

Reason #1:  Price

Yes, Etsy is cheaper.  For startup businesses, this is important.  The cost is somewhat offset by the amount of time most sellers have to spend in marketing (especially the vastly oversaturated Etsy horde of jewelry artisans…alas!), so I suppose the question one has to ask oneself is whether it’s more important to save time or money.  Ebay sellers need little marketing to get their product found, although–and this is a big but–they also don’t get the typical “handmade item buyer” who will frequent Etsy.  Typical Ebay buyers simply don’t tend to value the special-ness of handmade items as much as Etsy buyers might.  Which kind of ties in with…

Reason #2:  Layout

The shop pages on Etsy are clean and attractive and easy to navigate.  To be sure, you have to design a good shop banner and work hard on taking good “Etsy-worthy” photographs, but those are good skills for a craft-business owner to have anyway, right?  Ebay is messy and cheap-looking no matter how nicely you design your store.  And honestly?  I didn’t go with Artfire because I find their layout confusing and artistically hodge-podgy.  Whoever works on Etsy’s layout and branding has a good thing goin’ on.

Reason #3:  Community

This is probably the #1 reason to sell Etsy for most folks:  It really is entering into a community.  Not only can you get e-mail newsletters on featured sellers, promotion, shop improvements, tech issues, and everything else you can imagine, but you have at your disposal an incredibly thriving forum community where a good number of the 100,000+ Etsy sellers communicate about various issues.  Like any online “family,” there are some disagreements from time to time, but generally, everyone maintains their civility, if not resorting to downright warmth.  If touchy-feely isn’t your cup of tea, you can still sell on Etsy and not take part in the community.  But for me, it reminds me I’m not dealing with a corporation, which is always a good thing.

Reason #4:  Ease

I still question whether Etsy is the right place for my items.  It seems that any jewelry that isn’t trendy or Victorian or steampunk by nature tends to struggle for sales.  (Sooner or later I hope to have enough knowledge to write a “Where to sell your wares” blog…but not yet.)  Which means, of course, that I have to go off-site to fish for people to come buy my items.  I won’t say Etsy is easy when it comes to marketing–far from it (this is a whole blog unto itself–watch for it).  But any new business that needs to grow into its potential requires marketing, and keeping my shop at Etsy is still easier than starting my own dot-com and having to deal with my own page layout, shopping cart, payments, and what-not.  That day will come, but for now, I’m just as glad to park my Particles at Etsy and let them handle the grunt work.  I’ll handle the beads.

Reason #5:  I just like the place!

It truly bothers me that Etsy isn’t a household name, that I had to start researching my startup business idea to even find it, and then only tangentially–not because it ranks high in Google searches or gets passed word-of-mouse on Digg or Facebook.  These truths disturb me greatly, not just because I want the benefit of selling on a high-profile site, but because everyone needs to know about this great shopping opportunity!  I have a feeling that, even if I choose to move my shop elsewhere in the future, I will remain an active member of the Etsy forums, and I will still link to Etsy sellers on Twitter and Facebook and my forums whenever I can.  It’s an initiative I believe in, and I hope that they can manage to keep abreast of their amazing growth that is sure to come.

I’ll add one more note about Artfire and other artisan-love sites:  I don’t know enough about them to fully appreciate them yet, but I’m sure that when I’m in the market to shop once more, I may even strike out beyond the borders of Etsy-land and take full advantage of all the opportunities that abound for those who love handmade.  In the meantime, I’ll be over at Etsy…come visit sometime.

E-mail me with questions, tales to share, LOLCats, or whatever strikes your fancy.  I’ll see you next time with Yet Another Exciting Episode of….JoolryNoob!

A Rocky Start, Blog #2: A Noob’s Guide to Buying Beads ‘n’ Things

Okay, so having received the official blessing and some start-up cash from the family coffers and my own Ebay fund, I hit the web, heart a-flutter, finger tensely-sprung in “order” mode and waiting to pounce on a bargain.

I’ll be the first to admit it:  My first few attempts at supply-purchasing were…less than stellar.

Not to be too Eeyore about it:  I did find some gorgeous beads.  Several of the things currently in my shop are still from those first couple of shipments.

Even with $400 or so in my metaphorical pocket, I knew it would go fast, so I bargain-hunted like Scrooge’s bloodhound.  I bought clearance-sale pearls, ebay-lot toggle clasps, and “A-Grade beads at wholesale prices!”  (One of the things in that phrase was not true…can you guess which one?)

So, in an effort to share the wealth with fellow joolrynoobs, here are some of my mistakes, and what I might do differently If I Had Known Then What I Know Now:

Bead-Buying Lesson #1:  You get what you pay for.

That website with A-grade strands at wholesale prices?  Well, their prices are stellar–everything pretty much between $3 and $9 for 15-inch gemstone strands.  It’s the A-grade part that wasn’t quite true.  There were some beauteous beads to be found among those strands, it’s true, but I also had to ditch an uncomfortable number of them into the “wastage” bin–probably 4 to 6 per strand, on average.  Ah, well…live and learn.  In the long run, it may have been a bit better to get cheaper strands of this sort, even with the wastage, in the beginning, because it enabled me to get a greater variety than buying true A-grades would have done, my budget considered.  And speaking of variety….

Bead-Buying Lesson #2:  Do you have an egg fetish, or what?

That particular website mentioned above also hasn’t got a great variety of shapes.  Personally, I’m attracted to ovals and pillows, particularly for swirly/mottled jaspers and such, because it really shows off the patterns in the stones.  Round beads, I think, are better for monochrome or the finely-patterned.  Interestingly-shaped beads good for monochromes in bright colors.  But of course, these were opinions not yet formed when I made my first orders, right?  So ovals and ovals and more ovals, and a few squares.  Yes, I ordered some rounds, and I even got some things absolutely right (Picasso Jasper and Imperial Turquoise require big beads–10mm minimum–to look their best, for instance).  But overall, I had way too many ovals and squares and most definitely not enough of anything else.  As my mother-in-law tactfully put it, “You should try making things with some other beads, if you have them.”  And in the same vein, we have…

Bead-Buying Lesson #3:  Rainbows are Pretty.

Once again, as with shape, I ordered what attracted my own eye rather than my “business acumen” eye (if I indeed have one…I’m working on it) and ended up with a lot of brown and grey.  Brown and grey are nice, but…yeah.  Color.  I forgot to order color.  Oh, and the other problem was–when I did order color….

Bead-Buying Lesson #4:  How can there be so many different shades of green??

…many of them didn’t match anything, and I ended up having to buy more things that matched.  And I also forgot to…

Bead-Buying Lesson #5:  Space it!

What I really wanted, you know, were Bali and Thai spacers, but right off the bat, all I could afford were plated and copper rounds and daisies.  I didn’t want to overuse them, so I barely bought any, and I quickly came to realize that many bead-strings just don’t quite look complete without a little metal tossed in.  So let’s not forget the spacers.  And they really shouldn’t all be rounds, either.  Alas.  Oh, AND…one more really superimportant thing that I forgot?

Bead-Buying Lesson #6:  The Key to Finding(s) Yourself

It’s easy to get so swept up in buying the pretty rocks that you forget you have to have stuff to hold them together.  And even if you do remember, it’s difficult to know how much to buy–very few of the tutorial websites give you much help on this.  I had, of course, ordered some headpins and clasps and such, but I had limited myself to what I could afford, and only small amounts of each, so I naturally ran out pretty quickly.  Clasps, in particular, posed a problem.  They tend to be expensive no matter what you do, and I had thought I could simply limit myself to making mostly earrings.  Not very realistic unless I want earrings to be the main focus of my shop (which I don’t).  So yeah…findings.  Make sure you have plenty.

All of these Rookie Mistakes led to many, many extra orders from various and sundry shops hither & yon–many of which I wouldn’t have had to make if I’d just had a really good plan to begin with.  So here are my suggestions for the Startup Purchase:

-Start with a plan of several real Project Ideas.  Not only does this force you to buy the findings, supplies, and spacers you will actually need rather than whatever happens to be on clearance at Verna and Mo’s Bead Shoppe, but it will also give you a color scheme to follow instead of just buying random Pretty Beads that don’t go together.  I started with my own ideas, but jewelry-making books and magazines (as well as downloadable pdf’s from the web) are good sources of ideas as well.

-Take some time to figure out the requisite basic supply needs.  I thought, for instance, i wouldn’t need headpins longer than 1.5 inches, so that’s all I bought in the beginning.  But when I sat with 25mm oval beads in my hand, wanting to make earrings, I realized (as I have repeatedly realized for the past four months), “I need to make another order, dammit!”  So diversify.  Buy headpins of various size, clasps of various styles, crimp beads and crimp tubes, both open and closed jump rings in many sizes, and mix up your metals.  If you put all your eggs in one basket, you’re going to have a basket full of the same damn eggs over and over again.  Trust me.

-After you’ve laid in your basic tools, supplies, and findings…then, and only then, should you shop for actual beads.  I know–I really, really know–that that’s where you want to start.  But believe me, it only leads down the road of “I Can’t Make That!” and “I Have To Order More ____!”  And one more thing on that same note:

-Order beads as if you were planning a wardrobe.  Make lists or charts of the colors, shapes, sizes and styles you want to buy so that you have as wide–but as complementary–a variety as you can afford.  I personally found that 3mm and 4mm beads (no matter the shape) work nicely as spacers and some of them really do match almost anything.  If you can buy the beads in person, do it, and if you have to buy online, get recommendations for reputable sellers.  I can provide some recs if you e-mail me, though I haven’t used as many different vendors as I’d like…at least, not yet.

A few things, I did get right.  I only bought one strand of each bead in the beginning.  This not only creates a wider variety of combinations for you to build on, but it also ensures that you’re not investing too much in a particular bead-seller until you know whether they provide a good product.  I contained my purchases to sellers in the U.S. and Canada (no matter how tempting those cheap Hong Kong sellers on ebay may seem–it is the land of the pirated product, after all).  I bought as much sterling as I could initially afford (which, admittedly, wasn’t much).  And I found a few ebay sellers who show pictures of the actual bead strand they are selling rather than a “it’s just like this one!” picture.

Nice to know I didn’t screw up completely.  🙂

However, without mistakes, we would never learn, and I have learned much in these past few months.  I hope that my mistakes can be your gain as well.  And if you have any great Rookie Tips or Horror Stories, post them in the comments or pass them along in e-mail and I’ll blog them!  particlesofstone@yahoo.com

Next time:  How to Manage Your Management in Ten Easy Mistakes.  (More or less.)