Contributor post by Sheila from BeadyEyedBird
We asked our CIJ ‘veterans’ to share their most important advice for starting a new online business — to help out anyone who’s just getting started. Here’s what they said.
Well, I am certainly still learning, but I see improvements and more sales in my shop every day, so I will add something that has helped me along the way (just one??!!):
Have a good and creative VOCABULARY.
With an online business, getting found in the great wide web is essential, and great SEO is key. Once you have a product that people want to buy, you have to bring them to your shop. Use key words that shoppers use.
Sometimes that means thinking like a shopper, not an artist. For example, for paintings or fine art photography, save an artistic title for the listing description and use descriptors, style and shopping terms for the titles and tags. My carousel photograph reminds me of my childhood, so I could title it: Return to childhood. I would use that in a gallery show or as part of the photograph signature. But that title is too abstract so I would not put that in the title or tags because most people don’t use ‘return’ to search for fine art photography or carousels. Instead I try to think like a buyer: Who wants the photo and what would they use it for? I had one shopper comment that they found one photograph by searching for ‘picture’ instead of using ‘photography’ or photo.
I like to use phrases that combine highly used words with words specific to the listings. Designers and new parents, for example, would search for ‘nursery decor’ or apartment decor’, 2 highly used phrases. But then using ‘red nursery decor’ or ‘girls boys nursery decor’ would increase my chances of getting found.
I like to use EtsyRank (etsyrank.com) to get keyword help (use the KEYWORD TOOL)
The site has a list of the most popular colors at the moment COLOR TREND). (the word ‘gold’ is clearly the most searched color word according to EtsyRank with 6 million+). I would use ‘red’ as a key title and tag word because that has 2+ million searches). Then I would also add more specific terms like the specific location of the carousel .
I would also use the synonyms for carousel like merry-go-round or merrygoround.
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Cynthia from StraylightVintage said:
The number one tip I would say is to do your best to give excellent customer service.
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Aubrey Campie from Videnda says
My number one tip is to treat it as you would a regular 9-5 job. Put in the hours, but don’t over do it. Have goals in mind and have a friend, spouse, etc. keep you accountable to that goal. Working for yourself, by yourself, in your own home can be a big challenge, but once you have a work routine and goals set in mind, you will see the results start coming in.
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My biggest tip would be to set time boundaries early. Having an internet business means that you will be accessible to people all over the world, at any given time of the day. For the most part people are patient and understand that life goes on outside of your business. But there are a few people out there that try to monopolize your time.
Be nice, be bold, be brave! And let the fun begin!
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Emma and Ivan from treadandpedals said:
My one tip…
Create a Business Plan – jotting it all down on paper makes it real – stick to the plan and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve. As a part of this be sure to create a list of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and with a Timeline). Refer back to these goals and be sure to pat yourself on the back as you achieve them. Remember to set the bar high – you’ll be surprised how high you can jump.
Oh and one more… believe in yourself.
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Diana Voisin from GalleryTwelve said:
My biggest tip is something that was learned after taking a business class.
When creating your items and starting a business, look at the market and see what’s already out there and ask yourself “what can I make that is (somewhat) unique?”
The reason why I recommend you ask this question is because I didn’t and it cost me time and money to figure out what I wanted to sell on Etsy.
When I first started out, I wanted to make wine charms. While I was able to make some cute sets, I really had no plan on how to SELL those wine charms.
They were not unique in any way. I didn’t make the charms myself, everything was bought and assembled, which means that my wine charms, while cute, were not really breaking through an already saturated market.
Then I moved on to jewelry. Again, an already saturated market on Etsy meant that I was going to have to really come up with something spectacular in order to get some sales. And while I did manage to get an item sold here and there, nothing about my jewelry was interesting and creative enough to devote my entire shop to. It is something that took a long time to admit was a failure and that’s okay.
What I realized is that I was chasing my tail, essentially, by making products that were just like everyone else. It wasn’t until I started incorporating graphic design and eventually moving over to mostly digital design and art that I really found success in selling things that were TRULY my own.
It all took a simple question from my business professor that changed everything. When I explained my business plan of selling generic crafts on Etsy, she turned to me, without hesitation and said, “wine charms are a pretty common item that you can find just about everywhere. So why would I buy wine charms from you?”
I didn’t have an answer.
Unless you can answer that question, keep working and you will find your niche. Everyone has the space on Etsy to be creative as you want to be, it’s just a matter of finding that one thing that you excel at above the rest.
While I’m not a great artist, it is nice finding success at selling things that are definitely more my style.
Good luck and don’t worry! It’s rough but it all comes together with time and experience.
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Susan Wagner from beachbabyblues said:
My tip is ~ Be flexible!
When I first started I was listing old books without covers and adding lace or ribbon ~ it wasn’t an original idea , but I was selling them and they were so pretty and I took pride in each set. Well, there is so much of that here now, its hard to stand out !
Then I had a request for the books to have COLOR ~ I was flexible and have developed my own way of painting and distressing them instead ~ Sure, those are being duplicated by others now too .
BUT, it just means I need to once again , be flexible and change things up !
Always be willing to evolve and push past the comfort zone of what you know and HAVE FUN!
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Pam Maggio from PamsPawsJewelry said:
I have learned that a good work, life, and creativity balance is important. Keeping things in perspective keeps you from getting frustrated, LOL!
Promoting , etc. can take up a lot of time and if you allow it to, take away from what you enjoy doing if you make handmade items!
Taking good, clear photos so customers can really get a look at your items and what they might buy is important!
I see a lot of fuzzy, far away, small, and fake looking photos on Etsy. I will still buy something that I like but others might not.
I think it’s OK to have some color and something pretty in the background to offset the item and make your shop interesting to shop in for customers is good too.
If, for instance, I walk into a store and it’s all white and boring I would probably not want to stay as long and look around!
Some items need white backgrounds but it’s OK to be creative and have fun with photos!
I recently ordered some natural shampoos, lotions, etc. from a teamie and really enjoyed her shop as she has her products in settings that remind you of a lovely spa rather than just plain bottles against a white background!
Being friendly and having great customer service is really key too! Thanking customers and letting them know shipping details, etc. and that you acknowledge that they have ordered from you.
And, tags and titles are important for you to be found. First 4 tags should reflect what is in title.
The first phrase is important and should be simply what the item is such as a red ball, not cute or vintage, or on sale red ball. Then after you can say something like red ball with fringe or Smith’s vintage fringed red ball, etc.
People tend to search for simply what an item is.
Make your shop more interesting by filling it all out such as photos, icons, policies, about, and a bit about yourself and what you do!
Hope some of this helps!
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Kelly from ColourcapeStudios says:
The one tip I would give is to be proud of what you’re making and stand behind it! If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, then nobody else will. Last year I took a leap of faith and starting creating gift tags and mini greeting cards after 3 years of working on typography prints and photography, and now they are my best-selling section.
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Jackie Irvin from JackJacksWayart states:
My tip is follow your heart if you love what your creating others will also.
I love doing custom designs and my shop is like no other on Etsy. My door decor is unique and one of kind designs.
Each one will be your alone even if I paint a 100 of the same design it will be a bit different from the one before it.
Easter Cross door hanger
Thanks so much to all who contributed!
Until Next Time,