Friday, January 29, 2016

What I Wish I Knew before I Opened My ETSY Shop, and Stuff…

I've been on ETSY since 2008. I opened my shop after quitting  my freelance illustration career in favor of a left-brained-day job so my husband (who's self-employed) and I could buy our first house together.

Leaving the illustration field was hard for me. Art and writing is a very deep part of who I am,  and considering all I've ever wanted was to work out of my studio full-time– like all the other creative lucky peeps I knew, I was bummed. Returning to a full-time day job and reducing my creative making schedule to part time seemed to be my lot in life.

But ETSY provided me creative relief and I joined back when they had Alchemy, Pounce and Treasuries were the front page. Business isn't my strong point, but my husband's been instrumental in driving home some basic rules to me. Even so this was my own adventure and after I realized I could write my own copy, use archival images in the public domain and put the work on magnets and pinbacks I shifted my shop to represent my written word and opened up a second shop for my illustration and art products.

When I finally left the day job after twelve years due to a move and resulting difficult commute, focusing full time, and working finally, full time in my studio I had the time to reflect on what I could've done differently, or wished I had done differently over the years when I was working part time on my creative business that included my two ETSY shops: SmirkingGoddess and SuzanneUrban

Herewith my List of Do's and Don'ts:

• Don't consign at Brick and Mortars.

Offer wholesale instead. Why? Because if the shop closes, you might not receive your work back, your work can get damaged from so much handling. I consigned at a shop where my magnets and pinbacks sold rapidly. Unfortunately the owner was too lazy to cut me a check and insisted I come in count up how many sold and then she would cut me a check. I pulled my work when I realized it wasn't my job to do her accounting. In another place I went to check on some prints of mine that sold well at another location, I couldn't find them so I asked and the gallery manager said: "They're too beachy for this season". So she stuck them in a drawer.  If you're consigning, your work shouldn't be put away and hidden. And lastly, one place they'd closed the gallery for several months and I didn't know, I was wondering why I hadn't received a regular check. Consigning doesn't work in my book. I went to pull my work only to have the new manager hand everything back to me. So I instead went to a gift shop in town and opened up a wholesale account with them. In fact they've ordered twice and just called me with a small job. The Universe encourages you to be successful in wise ways.

Be very careful about selecting vendors to assemble your products or manufacture them yourself.

I outsourced my magnet and pinback designs to be assembled by a company and sent back to me-this was expensive but I couldn't initially afford the Tecre machine and parts to manufacture my own. Unfortunately, the vendor used adhesive backed paper that create a chemical reaction with the metal backing. I now have a huge box full of magnets and pinbacks with rust marks on the face of the design. There's no telling how many customer's I've lost due to the manufacturer using cheap materials. He denied that he was at fault, he did reimburse me $30. but that in no way covers the loss. I did try an outfit on ETSY and received a magnet with image so dark it was hard to read. So I bit the bullet, bought the machinery sooner than I'd plan to.

Send a Cease and Desist letter to someone who lifted your unique concept.

Don't simply send a blunt email asking where  the got "their" funny idea from and copyright your more popular work hoping they'd take it down. An opportunistic plagiarist's laziness, lack of talent, naiveté or intrusive behavior to bank on your work can seriously impact your sales i.e. income. I also google my own ideas before implementing in product form to make sure it isn't already copyrighted or trademarked.

• Don't make too many products ahead, especially if it proves unpopular.

Just because you love it, doesn't mean others will. Sometimes there's no second guessing the consumer market, so don't make a huge batch until you've test driven a few to see how it's received by the public.

• Don't be quick to "go to Press".

Nothing good happens fast. I'm an impatient Gemini, but I've learned product development takes time. I love the laminated lapel pins made by other illustrator's on ETSY, so I decided to make some myself. This resulted in trying to find a strong adhesive to bond the pinback to the laminated piece. buying a laminating machine, as self-laminating sheets showed bubbles and trying to find a market for my illustrated pinbacks.

Keep working on the SEO on your ETSY shop.

Just when you think you've learned everything you can about SEO, there's more to learn, even if you're sick and tired of this term, you can't ignore it. I'm still finding ways to improve my tags, titles and descriptions. Google for webinars or look on Youtube for some great videos to improve your SEO

• If you join a team join a PROACTIVE team on ETSY, otherwise fuggedaboutit!

I am lucky that here in Connecticut we have a very proactive team  (NutmegCollective) with driven, talented leaders. They run a tight ship and do not put up with non-contributing members and aren't afraid to revoke membership from those who joined to "take" but not share. I've learned a lot from this team that has a blog, shares info on shows, is on social media and started a local Pop-Up Market in my own hometown. If you are lucky to find such a team, participate! if not, don't waste your time until one surfaces. And if you decide to start one, make sure you have a talent for managing people and that you hold their feet to the fire to respect ground rules, don't end up like I did years ago when I organized an online group by over-doing for too many non-compliant, non-participating members, it just got too frustrating and hard on me and the co-leaders and I ran out of time to run it, so do appreciate a solid group with fab leaders running it!

If someone tosses a bunch of their business cards at you, hand them a bunch of yours.

Years have gone by and there's always that person who will toss a bunch of their biz cards at me and never request some of mine in turn. What's with that? Or they will ask me to help them "do ETSY", I don't have time to volunteer all I know for free, so as a good friend of mine said, make a brochure of my ETSY tutoring course with price and hand it to them.

• Take time to check your ETSY shop for spelling errors, and other mistakes. 

Even if you've become a listing wiz, you might be amazed at some oversights in your lisitngs at a later date.

This is it for now,  I may sound a little harsh, but the lessons were harsh and so it's what I wish I knew. I will  probably re-visit this subject in the future! Stay tuned!