The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

the lasting value of small improvements

Five years. That’s how long it’s been since my inspiring wife Kim started her first Etsy shop. Almost to the day, I think.

She didn’t have any big world-domination plans for that first little shop. She just wanted to line her pockets with a little spending cash before the holiday season which is always on her radar way before it’s on mine. She had recently made a few felt hair clips and successfully sold a couple on eBay so when she discovered Etsy it was an easy decision. Here was a site that seemed designed exactly for what she wanted to do. So she did it.

In the five years since that day, our life has changed dramatically in almost every way. The Etsy shop that was just a little holiday side-project turned out to be the starting line for an entirely new existence for us; the first page of a new chapter in the exciting page-turner book of Kim & Tim (and crew). Who Knew?

So much has happened during the interim that I’m sure we’ll never run out of topics to blog about and I might even have an actual book or two up my sleeve, such is the value of the lessons we’ve learned and the desire we have to share our experience with others on the same path. But this little blog post is only about one tiny part of it all.

The Lasting Value of Small Improvements

One of the more remarkable parts of the past five years is the frequency with which we’ve found ourselves disheartened and frustrated with a lack of progress. Interestingly enough, there have been just as many times when we’ve been beside ourselves with the excitement of what felt like unstoppable forward momentum. I suppose that’s what you might call an emotional roller-coaster ride, and I’ve come to believe that it is a typical and common trait of Internet based entrepreneurship.

I’ve been an entrepreneur my whole life so I can attest to the fact that running a business of any kind has its ups and downs, but an Internet business is the most dramatic of them all. If anyone tells you different, it’s just because they’ve never started an Internet business. The lack of face-to-face interaction is part of the reason. The over-abundance of stories about everyone else who IS making it big is part of the reason. The unpredictable whims of the Web is part of the reason as well.

But there is another reason for the dark depths of the low times… a really big reason.

We don’t place sufficient value on the little things we do each day. Little things are a constant part of selling online and/or blogging.

You know what I’m talking about! These things and so many more happen every day but we frequently fail to recognize how big of an improvement we’ve really made.

These little things are the building blocks of success and every time you knock one of them out you’re that much closer to having the shop/blog/business of your dreams!

If there is one secret to building an online success story it is this: Keep moving and don’t quit!

If there is one secret to not quitting it is to keep a good positive attitude about what you’re doing. And the secret to a good attitude about your work? You guessed it… recognizing the lasting value of small improvements.

So, give yourself the pat on the back you deserve and keep moving!

~ Tim

Shipping With Endicia on Etsy or Off

shipping_with_endicia

Endicia, the company that provides the top-notch integrated shipping solution on Etsy, has teamed-up with Etsypreneur.com and EverythingEtsy.com to offer Etsy sellers a free non-usb postage scale and a 90-day free trial of their downloadable shipping software for businesses of all sizes (even individual use). The Endicia software offers convenience and flexibility as well as the ability to put your own logo on your postage labels. See the video below for more details or click here for the special offer.

Last Minute Filers Scramble On Tax DayLong time readers of Etsypreneur and EverythingEtsy.com know that we used to be big fans of using Stamps.com for printing all of our shipping labels, tracking packages, etc. We loved it because of the time we saved not going to the post office and the money we saved by getting the best business rate postage discounts.

But a few months back (almost a year now I think), Etsy unveiled an integrated shipping solution that changed the game for lots of Etsy sellers. What was previously a multi-step process became a matter of just a couple of clicks. We were impressed and obviously pleased with the simplicity. The trips to the post office were still (mostly) a thing of the past and we were still getting the discounted shipping rates and tracking was still super-easy and often free.

Unfortunately, the Etsy integrated shipping isn’t all most people need. For most Etsy sellers, not every single package shipped is an Etsy sale. Some sell on other venues, some sell direct from their own website, and almost everyone has other general shipping needs from time-to-time. The Etsy solution only works for Etsy sales.

The other problem we ran into with the Etsy integrated shipping was the billing arrangement. Postage costs are added to your Etsy bill, which we don’t love because it’s “after the fact” and it’s kind of lumped with other Etsy fees in one payment, making accounting a bit less precise. Also, if you happen to be shipping enough packages, you have to make a payment every time your balance hits $100.00, inclusive of shipping and Etsy fees. For some Etsy sellers, these little issues are a small price to pay for the convenience of printing postage directly from the Etsy dashboard (which the video demonstrates is VERY easy), but for us, we were still left with the need for an additional tool for printing postage.

The Etsy integrated version of Endicia is convenient but has a few drawbacks

The Etsy integrated version of Endicia is convenient but has a few drawbacks

Endicia, who is the company behind the Etsy shipping product, has been in the postage printing business since the beginning and has solutions for businesses who ship thousands of packages every day all the way down to a free product, Dymo Stamps, for printing your personal postage stamps. The Endicia product we’ve been using for a few months now, Endicia Premium, takes care of all of our additional postage printing needs, keeps our bill separate, and even gives us the ability to print our own logo and business branding right on the label!

As an exclusive offer to the Etsyprneur.com and EverythingEtsy.com community, Endicia is offering a free non-usb (non-exclusive) 5lb postage scale and a 90 day free trial of the software. I’ve been on the phone with them and I’ve read the special offer page they’ve set-up just for us and I don’t see any catch.  Endicia just feels strongly that you’ll find the product useful enough to keep using it. Even after you start paying for it 90 days from now, it’s only $15.95 per month for the version we use, which is easily justified if you can avoid only a couple of trips to the post office.

Endicia is offering a free scale and 90 days free to Etsypreneur and EverythingEtsy.com readers

Endicia is offering a free scale and 90 days free to Etsypreneur and EverythingEtsy.com readers

The special offer is available at this link: Etsypreneur.com/EndiciaOffer

Take a look at the video. We’re not talking about super-exciting stuff with printing postage here, so don’t make popcorn and you might not want to watch it when you’re sleepy, but the video does what I was trying to accomplish: introduce the product and company, demonstrate the software and compare it to the Etsy version, and point you toward a great offer from Endicia.

The Endicia Software is easy to use - the video demonstrates printing a label

The Endicia Software is easy to use – the video demonstrates printing a label

As for Kim and I, we no longer use Stamps.com primarily because of the customization offered by the Endicia software, which we’ve only just begun to explore. We currently use “Dazzle” (the Endicia software) for about half of our shipping and take the super-easy Etsy integrated shipping for the other half. Once I get my act together and set-up the shipping labels to print with our logo, we’ll probably switch to Dazzle for 100% of our shipping.

Questions from the video:

The video demonstrates the software, which is really quite simple to use in the “quick print” mode. In the video, I mention a couple of possible questions and promised to answer them in the blog post… so here those are.

1. Send an Email to Customer – The Dazzle software has the option to send your customer an email telling them you’ve shipped the product. (Etsy does this automatically which can be a pain if you’re not planning on actually sending the same day you’re printing postage). I ran into a problem with putting an email in this box because the software then tries to use the email client on your computer to send the email. In the days before webmail, this would have worked for everyone because everyone sent email through their own computer such as Outlook, Outlook Express, or Mail (Mac). However, if you use GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Outlook.com, or any other web-based email service your computer’s email client may not be even set-up. If that’s the case, just leave that box blank.

2. Partial Weights in Postage Calculations - The scale will provide you with a decimal weight, such as 3.4 ounces. But when you go to select a weight in the software it only offers whole number choices, so you have to pick. In the case of 3.4oz, you have to go with 4, not 3. Postage is calculated on a “not to exceed” weight basis. So the rate for 3.1oz is not the 3oz rate, it’s the 4oz rate. Make sense? Just round-up and you’ll always be right and you won’t pay a penny more than you should.

Endicia has software available for both Mac and PC, so hit that link above and check it out.  It seems like a great offer with nothing to lose by trying it out.

If you have any questions, I’ll do what I can to answer them in the comments.

~ Tim

A Better Story Equals Higher Prices

A_Better_Story_Equals_Higher_Prices

If you want to charge higher prices, tell a better story.  So says a recent article in the Harvard Business Review which explores the connection between the price buyers are willing to pay for an item and the story (or lack thereof) that goes along with it.

The article tells of an experiment by New York Times Magazine columnist Rob Walker in which items purchased for next to nothing on eBay were flipped at huge price increases.  The average value of items increased 2700% simply by adding a story.  In this case the stories were written by professional writers and, I gather, were complete fiction, but the lesson is no less valuable.

You don’t have to hire a fiction writer to spin lies about your products to create a great story.  It’s already there if you look for it.  Why you make what you make, where you make it, how you make it, and why you started making it to begin with are all good material to start with.  If you sell vintage, the items you sell might have a story of their own, but even if they don’t there must be a historical “story” of a different time or place when the vintage find was brand new.  Sounds like a story to me.

For a story to work, people have to read it.  Here are a couple of tips that might help with that:

  • Keep it short – Generally speaking, the fewer words you use to get the key points out, the better.
  • Use descriptive language – Invoke feelings and senses the pictures of your products can’t, such as smell, temperature, texture, taste, and emotion.
  • Get some editing help – Have a friend or family member read the story and offer feedback. (if it’s your spouse you might want to motivate them by sharing that a good story can increase revenue by 2700%)
  • Don’t be afraid – Be willing to tell the story that goes with your item and don’t worry about it being a best-seller… you’re just trying to give some intrinsic and intangible added-value to the item you’re selling.

People shop on Etsy partly because they desperately want a great story.  They want something different than what everyone else has.  They want something that starts conversations and is fun to talk about.  Give it to them and you can increase those prices and start earning what you’re worth!

TellAStory EverythingEtsy

Free Printable – Download Link Below

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For more reading on telling a story and to download a free printable of the “Don’t Forget Tell A Story” image above, check out this post on EverythingEtsy.com

The Hidden Danger of The Internet Opportunity

the-hidden-danger-of-the-internet-opportunity

I’ve fallen into and clawed out of one of the most dangerous traps this new world of Internet opportunity we’re all living in has to offer.  I think my experience might help you avoid the danger and reach the goals you’re pursuing.  Let me explain…

It’s been over four months since I wrote a new blog post on Etsypreneur.com.  Between that post and the one prior to it… six months!  Two posts in ten months time.  This from a site that says “Daily” tips at the top! Do I need a refresher on the meaning of the word “daily” and how it differs from its sibling “yearly”?

The truth is that I fell into one of the greatest traps of the Internet opportunity and found myself completely ensnared, unable to move forward, unable to seize the potential that I knew was in front of me.

There is no shortage of opportunity for me here.  The Etsy community is growing a record pace that is increasing every day.  All of the driving forces behind that growth continue to intensify.  The team at Etsy, while maybe not always everyone’s best friend, is doing a fantastic job at improving the Etsy product and the image of Etsy in the public eye.  The growth of Etsy, and therefore Etsy sellers is a trend with no end in sight.

And here I sit, the original thinker-upper of the word Etsypreneur and the founder of the blog Etsypreneur.com.  At least some level of opportunity seems obvious just with that alone.  In addition to that, I actually know a lot about business in general, having owned multiple companies for a period of over twenty years.  In fact, other than a few years in my teens and twenties when I worked for my grandfather, I haven’t had an employer for the vast majority of my adult life.  I’ve always been an entrepreneur.

Most readers here also know that my wife Kim and I are long-time Etsy sellers and have been blogging about Etsy for almost half a decade at her awesome blog, EverythingEtsy.com.  Through that site, we have access to over 100K followers in various social media settings and over 20K people we can send an email to at a moment’s notice, though we rarely do.

In the process of all of this, we’ve become true experts in blogging, graphic design, advertising, photography, and much more. I’ve also been told I write a decent article, that I’m a good teacher of skills, and that Kim and I make a likeable team.

I’m not saying all this to toot our own horn, and I hope it doesn’t sound that way at all.  What I’m trying to point out here is that there really is no question as to the “opportunity” that I have sitting here 24/7 at Etsypreneur.com.  Yet I stopped.  Why?

More importantly, how does all of this apply to you?  How does this equate to the experience you might have been living through over the last months or years?

Here’s how…

Your opportunity is just as real as ours.

We started all of this a few years ago with no money, no experience, and no knowledge of what we were doing or where it might lead.  We just followed the path that felt right with faith that it was leading somewhere good for our family.

The reason this opportunity has grown around us is summed up in one word: Internet.

The internet did then, and does now, represent a huge and burgeoning unsettled territory of limitless opportunity.  The paths to success are innumerable (just as the definitions of success are innumerable).

You may sometimes feel that all the good opportunities have been taken; that you’re a day late and a dollar short. That’s just not true.  The opportunity has grown, not shrunk.  The tools are easier, cheaper, and more powerful.  The acceptance amongst the population that the Internet is a real and respectable venue for business is getting stronger, not weaker.

The opportunity is huge and it is now. So the first way our story equates to yours is that your opportunity is massive.  Just like mine is.

Your danger is just as real as ours.

Now we get to the debrief on what happened to me.  Why did I only write two posts in ten months?  Why not, in that same time frame, didn’t I publish two hundred posts, three ebooks, and a few dozen videos?

It’s not for lack of subject matter, there’s a gazillion things to talk about and teach on.  It’s not for lack of ability, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of blog posts already.  I could say it was lack of time, but I think that really wouldn’t be true.  I certainly had time for more than a couple posts, of that there is no doubt whatsoever.

What happened is that I fell into what I think is the most dangerous and most common trap for Internet entrepreneurs (Etsypreneurs as the case may be).

The Information Overload Trap

We all know there is an overabundance of information, but not all information is created equal.  Some is helpful, some is benign, and some is dangerous.

For me, the most dangerous information is information about competition.  I’m a product of the eighties and nineties which is an age before all the “economy of abundance”, “Creative Commons”, and Web 2.0 open source love came happily onto the scene.  No matter how hard I try to convince my brain that their is room for everyone in this new frontier, on some subconscious level I must not really get it.  Because every time I see someone doing anything like what I’m doing, I feel threatened.

I probably should feel encouraged, justified, reinforced… but I don’t.  When I see someone else doing the thing I knew I needed to do but haven’t gotten around to yet I feel like I missed the boat. I feel like I’m a day late and a dollar short.  Someone beat me to it.

Such was the feeling when a book was published which I felt kind of stole “my” word… Etsypreneur.  Such was the feeling when Etsy business blogs popped up everywhere, with everyone claiming to be an expert, many of them younger and prettier than me (hard to believe, I know). The list of “they beat me to it” situations goes on and on.

In fact, I found, these types of feelings feed on themselves and that’s the real danger of the Information Overload trap because the ideas are out there.  Other people will see the same things you see and many will have similar ideas. Some of them will act on those ideas.  Your ideas!

I mean, how much of a stretch of the imagination is it really to think of the word “Etsypreneur” when talking about people in the Etsy business.  I might have been the first guy to try to buy the domain name, but I’m sure someone would have come along right quick to get it if I hadn’t.

The ideas are out there and if you’re tuned-in to your area of interest, you’re going to keep on hearing about people doing the thing you know you need to be doing.

The trap, once it grabs you, makes you want to just give up; do something else.  Preferably something not connected to the Internet so you don’t have to hear about everyone else “stealing” your ideas and eating “your” lunch.  And that’s the point where you turn your back on the giant, fertile, and wide-open unsettled territory and head back to a life you can better understand.

Either way is fine really… life goes on no matter what.  But what happens if we learn to keep moving forward?  What happens if we learn to ignore those bits of information, or better yet to take them as encouragement and reinforcement?  What happens if we let every single person who does the thing we know we should be doing fuel our own confidence in that path?

Luckily for me, a few things pulled me back in and helped me escape the trap.  Our Etsy business continues to grow in terms of sales, products, and profits.  It’s still “small” by some standards but it’s not the only thing we do.  Our blogs have continued to grow and Kim keeps building a wonderful community in social media, especially Pinterest and Facebook.

My writing has been encouraged by big names that I respect.  I was offered the chance to write a regular blog column on PopularMechanics.com in the area of remodeling and home-improvement (you may not know that my experience before all of this was as a remodeling contractor and my first blog was RemodelingGuy.net) and I’ve had positive feedback from editors much more experienced than myself.

I’ve also seen the same thing over, and over, and over again.  The people who persevere online, the ones who just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not quitting, are the ones who eventually become the “overnight success” everyone is talking about.

So, here I am, writing a new post for Etsypreneur.com and I’ve got at least a few more up my sleeve for the days ahead.  I hope you’ll stay with me and we can stick together as we grow and help each other avoid the Hidden Dangers of the Internet Opportunity.

Can I get an amen?

Word-of-Mouth Advertising {How to Get More of it!}

word of mouth advertising for etsy sales

Here’s something for you to think about…

If your products or service came up in a conversation between two people (neither of which is you), what would they be talking about?

It might take a little time or imagination, or it could come straight to mind. Hard or easy, you would do well to consider not just one, but many hypothetical conversations about the things you sell.

What adjectives do they use?

Do people talk about how useful your product is?

How pretty it is?

How fun it is?

How it makes them feel when they use it?

Do they have a story to tell about your product?

Where it came from?

What it’s made of?

Who made it?

How it impacts the greater good? (think Tom’s Shoes)

What is the answer to “Where did you get that?”

Obviously, it will include “Etsy”, but is your customer inspired to go further and mention you by name and direct people to your shop, blog, or social media?

The point of all this is…

Imagining yourself as the proverbial fly on the wall observing a conversation about your products can help you see your business from a new perspective.

I have to be honest, it can be frustrating and you shouldn’t try unless you’re willing to work to change the answers you don’t like.

The first questions above, the adjectives, will help you understand the physical selling points of your product. Words like cute, fun, pretty, strong, helpful, cheap, etc. will help you know what words to put in your product descriptions to get more conversions.

The second part, the part about having “a story” to tell is where you really graduate to another level of smart business. If you can master the art of creating a story that connects your customer to your shop and your products on an emotional level, that will take you very far indeed.

Tom’s Shoes did it by providing a free pair of shoes to a child in need with every purchased pair of shoes. The idea of “social responsibility” in business is strong and a good thing. The book Start Something that Matters by Tom’s founder Blake Mycoskie is a great motivator on that front.

But what if you don’t have the profit margin to be able to buy yourself a pair of shoes, much less give any away? You still can find a story to tell about yourself, your shop, your motivation, or your products.

I’ve always said Etsy sellers have an opportunity to tell a story about where their products come from and create an emotional connection that way. People like to tell others what makes their purchase unique. Offer them a story to tell.

The last part, Where did you get that? is a bittersweet pill.

On the one hand, the more people out there saying “I got it on Etsy!” the more overall shoppers will find Etsy every day. On the other hand, they just might completely forget to search for your particular item when they get to Etsy and they could even try to find it and find a competitor instead, which would kinda suck.

The best possible scenario would be for your customer to actually hand out a business card, so it might make sense for you to include a few extras in your packaging. I think the more likely “best case” scenario is your customer telling a quick story about you and your great “extra-mile” service, hopefully complete with your name and twitter handle!

It’s About Word of Mouth

The least expensive advertising you can get is also the most effective. Word-of-mouth advertising costs you very little (maybe some freebies in an order, or the cost of some thank you cards, etc.) but the value can be worth thousands of dollars in sales.

People love to talk about the things they buy and it’s very common to open a conversation by commenting on something you imagine the other person is proud of and might want to talk about. This is how word spreads so it pays to be thinking about it.

Perfection is Ever-Elusive

Go through this exercise today and you’ll immediately see ideas you can implement to improve your business. Go through it again next month and you’ll see more. Same thing next year.

No matter how hard you work to perfect your process, your offer, and your story, there will always be more to do. So let it motivate you to press on, not frustrate you into quitting.

Tips or Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your story about what you do to improve word-of-mouth advertising? What works? Am I missing the boat?

Branding is More Than Your Logo

branding is more than your logo

Search the Internet for information about building a brand and see what you find. Search results can be a little bit comical at times, such as the article I found which showed the McDonald’s logo as an illustration for the heading “Make your logo memorable!” and the Coca-Cola logo as an example of “Classic Logo Design“.

What a joke! Of course the McDonald’s logo is memorable, that’s where I get my Egg McMuffins and, oh yeah, there happens to be one on every corner; worldwide. And the Coke logo as a “classic”? Yes, I agree, considering it’s been around since 1886, which I’m pretty sure is about fifty years prior to the invention of the word “logo”.

I did that search because I was looking for a resource to include in a post I wrote yesterday at EverythingEtsy.com, Five Easy Tips to Build Your Brand on Etsy. That post included having a good logo as one of the tips. Obviously, the Coca-Cola/McDonald’s article was useless in regards to any real logo creation advice, but I did find a little eBook on Amazon that got my attention with its contrarian title which included the phrase “Your Logo is Irrelevant“.

That gave me pause for thought. Huh? My logo is irrelevant? Oh no!

Since it was a free borrow on Kim’s Kindle I decided to give it a read. At only 20 pages of actual content (not counting the intro and outtro sections designed to promote another book), the read is a little too quick for my liking, but the ideas were sound and, well, here I am writing a post about it so I guess it was worth it!

The gist of the logo related portion of the message was this…

People don’t choose to do business with you based on your logo.

The point wasn’t that logos are worthless, just that if a buyer is making a decision between two or more sellers, the logos aren’t going to be the deciding factor. Rather, says the author, it’s really about the overall relationship you build with your customer.

If you want to stay relevant then you need to be true to the customers of today. You must understand them, speak to them, engage with them. Those who buy from your competition are not choosing the competition because it has a better logo. What it has is better understanding of their needs. – Your Logo is Irrelevant

Even though I’m a fan of great design and I love the way a good logo looks on a website, a business card, or product packaging, I couldn’t help but agree that, at least for brands that aren’t fully established yet, the purchase decision has a lot more to do with other factors than it does the logo.

Which Factors Matter Most for Etsy Sellers?

  • Good photography shows you care about your products and the look of your shop.
  • Answering questions and telling stories about your products builds a connection.
  • Featuring community-centric points is important to today’s consumer; things like being eco-friendly product or your shop (brand) participation in a good cause.
  • Sharing yourself with shoppers in your shop through your about page and/or blog creates a relationship.
  • Maintaining that relationship through ongoing contact creates repeat customers.

Do Logo’s Matter or are They Truly Irrelevant?

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover! Despite the title, this little eBook doesn’t lead me to believe that a logo is any less important than I already thought it was.

Your logo is relevant and it is very important. It portrays a message in an instant which, if done well, includes a wealth of information about you from your name (of-course!) to your design style, your target market, and maybe even your price point.

What I gained from this (tiny) book is that you can never do too much in the area of understanding and building a rapport with your customers.

If it Works for a Few, It Will Work for Many

As I’m finishing up this post, I’m thinking of the seller who says “How can I learn about or build a relationship with customers I don’t have?”

This is a challenge for all new businesses and one that all businesses overcome the same way, one customer at a time. If you don’t have customers at all, then you certainly have prospects… the people who SHOULD be buying from you. Learn about them and build relationships there.

Once you start to get customers, start learning about them and building relationships with them right away, from day one. Some of the things you try will fail but some will work and what works for a few customers can be built into the way you do business because it will usually work just as well for the customers you don’t have… yet!

What about you? How do you decide who to give your business to? If I was selling something you were interested in, what would make the difference?

The Beautiful Mix of Business and Art

 

businessandart

A few days ago I wrote a post that departed from my normal tone. I was a little gruff; a little direct. Maybe even a little condescending. None of those are what I want to be and I thought about deleting my post before too many people saw it!

This quote from that article will give you an idea of the tone:

“Getting a Sale on Etsy Is Like Winning the Lottery”
No, it isn’t. It’s one sale and you should expect it to happen pretty darn quickly. If it doesn’t then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a talk with your staff.

That post is all business and not wrong. Not entirely.

Here’s where it fails: It neglects to talk about the deep non-business connection you have with your Etsy shop. It forgets that your reasons for doing this go far beyond earning some cash.

In short, I forgot I was talking to an artist. A creator. Someone who gets as much joy from the love of making (if not more) than she does from the cha-ching at sale time.

It’s Not All About The Money — Not Even Close

Less than 6 hours after I wrote that bit of greed-laden, heartless, soulless business advice, I was providentially shown the glaring error of my ways.

12 Bones Asheville

12 Bones = Happy

Kim and I were on a little husband/wife trip to the stunning, tree-covered mountains of North Carolina to celebrate her birthday. We visited Asheville, ate some amazing BBQ at 12 Bones, and then went to the River Arts District.

The River Arts District is sort of like a little “real life” model of Etsy. Building after colorful building is filled with “working artists studios” where you can not only buy the art, but you can meet the artist and, if the stars are aligned and your timing is right, you can watch the creation process happening before your very eyes.

It’s fun. It’s inspiring. And it is a real reminder that it’s not just about the money.

There are successful artists who will sell you a photograph for a few hundred bucks or a painting for a few thousand. But if you look closer you’ll find that everyone is represented. We found one area that had the work of a budding mixed-media artist, we presumed a teen, who had wonderful work on display priced at just a few dollars.

Jonas Gerard - Asheville River Arts District

Shown above is Jonas Gerard whose gallery was our favorite. Photo: RiverArtsDistrict.com

The most impressive thing is that no matter what, whether making $500 an hour or dreaming of making $5, the absolute passion for the art was clearly evident in every artist and every piece of work on display.

The focus on the art was so great at times that sometimes even the customers browsing through were somewhat of an annoyance!

The creation was the main pursuit. The money was secondary; an afterthought.

Etsy Mixes Business and Art

If you’re looking to be a starving artist then my writing probably won’t really be your favorite because, for the most part, I’m talking about how to make money.

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was about 14 years old when I sold my first house painting job. Before that I cut lawns. I’ve always loved it and the excitement I have about the opportunities online is so huge I hardly sleep at night.

So that’s what I write about here.

etsynotebay

But I’ll try to never again sinfully forget that Etsy isn’t eBay. It’s not about selling just to sell. It’s not about marketing for marketing’s sake and accounting as a cure to boredom. Etsy is a place to share your creations and your exciting vintage finds with the world.

It’s a magical and wonderful and inspiring place where you can mix your greatest love with your need to earn a living. You can create and you can sell.

It’s awesome and I hope I can always be helpful on the business side. I’ll leave the whole artsy fartsy thing to my wife, Kim@EverythingEtsy (blog) (pinterest) (facebook), who didn’t need to see a physical Arts District to be reminded… because it’s just who she is.

Me, I’m about the opportunity of it all. It’s just so huge.

Are You in Business or Just Playing Games?

inbusinessorplayinggames etsypreneur

Here’s a comment that came in recently on one of our “How-To” business blog posts:

Getting a sale on etsy is like winning the lottery. I’m thinking of closing my shop as its a waste of time and money. I just want one sale. Just to know that it works. Etsy should help with advertising. I don’t understand how to make a treasury. I even googled it and still don’t understand.

You know what… I don’t understand either.

Getting a Sale on Etsy Is Like Winning the Lottery

No, it isn’t. It’s one sale and you should expect it to happen pretty darn quickly. If it doesn’t then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a talk with your staff. Somebody in the room has goofed and it’s time to get it all out on the table (or counter as the case may be).

After your staff meeting it’s time to fix it, so figure out what’s broken.

  • Is your product up to snuff? Is anyone else selling something similar? Is it professional quality?
  • Is your photography good enough? In case you’re wondering, the answer is no.
  • Are your product descriptions helpful and clear and professionally written? All you have to do to understand what works is go find a few shops with sales and look at what they do!
  • Is your pricing right? Don’t assume it should be lower, maybe it should be higher if your product and photography and descriptions are great. Maybe your deal seems too good to be true.
  • What are YOU doing to market your shop?Nobody is going to do this for you. Etsy isn’t going to help you. It’s totally unrealistic to think that. You market it by:
    • Blogging, a lot, in your niche
    • Paying, a little, for advertising
    • Pounding the pavement – go out and find customers! Email people. Hand out cards. Go to craft shows. Sales offline today lead to sales online tomorrow. Hello.
    • Give away samples – send your items to friends, family, influencers, reporters, whatever.
    • Make a name for yourself – not in the Etsy forums. Elsewhere through guest blogging, commenting in outside forums and on blog posts with helpful tips, through press releases, etc.
  • Are you taking good care of the customers you do get? - Service, with a smile.
  • Rinse and Repeat – you keep doing this, and doing it, and doing it. You’re never done. This is business.

My Shop Is a Waste of Money

How much money? Seriously. What does it actually cost you to run an Etsy business? It’s so cheap that it’s almost free. Of course you can spend money on things but if you look back at the list above and ask yourself “is there a free way for me to do this?” on each item, you’re going to see that there is very little you have to spend money on.

My Shop is a Waste of Time

Only if you don’t do it right. Cooking a Turkey is a waste of time if you don’t prep it right and cook it properly. Washing the car is a waste of time if you don’t use anything but a dry rag. Going to school is a waste of time if you sleep on your desk all day and don’t listen to the teachers.

So, I guess, if you want it to be a waste of time it can be. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be the best time you’ve ever invested in any business or job. It’s really up to you.

I Don’t Know How to Make A Treasury

Who cares? Is that on my list? Do you see post after post here (or anywhere) about how to make a great treasury? Or how to be the most influential person in the Etsy Forums? You can get into treasuries later. They aren’t worthless. They do have business value for a well established shop and they have definite social and community building value.

But making treasuries as a strategy to get your first sales on Etsy is about as efficient as getting out from behind the wheel of your car and pushing it up the street. Uphill. In the snow. At night. Point is, there are easier ways to get where you want to go.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for treasuries after you get all your ducks in a row. It does you very little good to get an item on the front page of Etsy if your whole shop isn’t up to snuff. Your item may get lots of views and you may even get a sale or two. But then what?

You aren’t looking for a “sale or two”. You need sustained sales. You get that by repeating the items in the bullet list above. When you get to that point, then getting featured in a great treasury is going to bring you actual customers. It’s going to get you noticed by people who can spread the word.

Why Am I Being So Direct?

When I read the comment first listed above I pretty much had this whole blog post flash in an instant in my mind. This is just how I think.

But I did have to stop and ask myself this question…

Do people just need someone to be nice to them and encourage them? Maybe the “direct” answer will do more harm than good.

I thought about that a little bit and decided, as you’ve seen, to go the direct route. I want this blog and the community of readers to be about real success. REAL SUCCESS.

I’m talking about Etsy shops that pay school tuitions, or car payments, or the grocery bill. Even more, I’m talking about Etsy shops that grow into businesses that support entire families both now and far into the future. I’m talking about real business.

What about you? Are you really in business or are you playing games?

PS - I almost deleted this post for being to grouchy… instead I wrote another that shared the rest of the story: The Beautiful Mix of Business and Art

Etsypreneur Reads — An Up-To-Date Reading List for Etsy Sellers

reads

So let me ask you something…

As more and more information comes your way online is it a blessing…or a curse?

I’d say it’s probably a little bit of both. I love information. I also love the fact that I can learn anything I want to learn online. So in that sense it is a blessing indeed.

But the problem usually is that there is so much information that it can be a little bit hard to a) find the right stuff and b) stay focused on what I’m really interested in. It’s quite easy to get distracted by an interesting headline or a cool looking picture.

But I know from a lifetime of experience that the more I read, the more creative and inspired I feel. Reading about others who have succeeded in my field gives me the confidence to press on. Reading about the creative ideas of someone “out there” inspires new creativity in me. Keeping up with what’s going on in my industry gives me the information I need to be prepared for what’s coming around the corner.

Reading is a building block of success.

I want to succeed and I want you to succeed.

So I made a page here on Etsypreneur.com that we can both use to keep up with Etsy and Internet business related news, tips, ideas, and inspiration.

I tried to cover a few key areas:

  • Etsy and Handmade Business Specific Sites
  • Marketing and Social Media Specific Sites
  • WordPress specific sites (because I think your blog is your friend)

I know beyond any doubt that I missed some great sites, so please let me know in the comments on this post if you have a favorite site in these categories that I should include.

75 Links Updated Automatically

The list includes the five most recent articles from 15 blogs and is updated automatically when a new post is added, so you can count on always up-to-date information.

I just built this on Saturday, so I hope it keeps working right!

http://Etsypreneur.com/read/

And I hope it helps.

Read on!

- Tim

Etsy as Your Door to a Connected Future

etsyDOORtoFUTURE Etsypreneur

This post is written to the dreamers and doers out there. If you get a little bit excited at the idea that the little Etsy shop you started could be just the beginning, then this is for you. If you’re young, or young at heart, and you love to imagine a wonderful future beyond your wildest dreams, then you and I are on the same wavelength right now.

What Does the Future Hold?

It’s no secret at this point that the Internet is changing the world. We are hyper-connected through smart phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and more. Even our newest cars and televisions are connected to the world, through the web.

While there seems no shortage of people warning of the dangers of all this, and there are certainly many of those, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the opportunities. Limitless, amazing, heart-pounding opportunities.

What will you do, five years hence, when your tv is seamlessly connected to an endless supply of quality video content about every conceivable subject? Will you still watch whatever happens to be on at the moment, or will you search for something of particular interest and relevance to your life?

Will you choose to listen to one of three or four offered voices for news and opinion, or will you find that voice which resonates most deeply with you as a person?

Will you feel limited in what new skills or knowledge you can gain? What about what kind of job you’ll have, or what you consider yourself to “be”?

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that these things and many more are in the process of changing, fast.

Etsy is Just the Beginning

Dreamers like you want to be more than a spectator to this future. You want to be in the game. You want to take the bull by the horns and go for it. I – heart – you.

Etsy is Internet. It is selling online. It is eCommerce. When you have an Etsy shop, you have a web page. You have an online business.

Just claiming a stake in the new frontier is a huge-mega-jumbo step in the right direction! You can’t help but learn when you do it. You expand your knowledge massively as you progress. With each item listed, you grow. With each sale, you become more confident.

Each sale. More confident.

Do the math… what happens if you keep going and don’t quit?

Ex1+1+1 Etsypreneurtreme confidence and utmost competence is what happens. If you keep going and DO NOT QUIT you will become an online professional. You will own a recognizable and tangible piece of theinternetisthefuture real estate.

And then you’ll keep going. Further still. Step by step, day by day.

You’ll start to see opportunities in areas you never expected. You’ll become one of those voices I mentioned that people listen to. You’ll produce one of those quality video programs. You’ll become something new, something more you. Something so beautiful it excites me just to write about it years in advance.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Road Ahead

Years ago I had a friend who mentored me in business. As with all mentors, some of what he said was right, and some was wrong. But one of the things he saw in me that needed to change was right on.

I tended (tend?) to look at what was happening directly in front of me. Right now. Today. I often failed to lift my eyes up and over the events of the day so that I could see further down the road. He urged me to look further and set my primary focus on that which was coming a year, two, or ten years ahead.

I find that advice even more relevant in today’s fast changing world.

How can you change your focus? Realize that every step is progress even if it doesn’t pay cash money today. If you’re late on the rent and your Etsy shop isn’t making money, then you probably need to divert your attention for long enough to earn a few bucks. But then come back. Keep taking steps. Make progress.

Try and learn something new each week. Learn a little about SEO, set yourself up with a WordPress website, get better at photography, learn what works for others in social media.

And stay motivated! I’ll do my best to help with that part.

~Tim

Image – Original source image by Frank Vincentz, Etsyfication by Tim Layton

The term "Etsy" is a trademark of Etsy, Inc. This site is not affiliated with Etsy, Inc.

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