I've recently celebrated 4 years on Etsy! To mark the day, I thought I'd share some of my best-kept secrets from running Soap That Makes Scents (well, ok, they are not really secrets but rather segments of advice I have given out in the forums or in convos as a member of the Sellers Assisting Sellers Team). An FAQ of sorts, and it's all here in one place for you--might be a long read but you can pick out the parts you find useful to reach your own level of success:
~ Promoting ~
Probably the most common question I get asked is "how do you promote?"
My best tip is to figure out your target audience and promote directly to them.
Promoting to a wide audience is fine, but in the end you'll save yourself a lot of time, money and energy focusing your advertising strategies on those people who are more likely to purchase your products.
Think about the ideal person who would shop in your store---how old are they? What sort of websites/blogs would they most likely visit? What kind of magazines do you think they likely to read? What areas of the city would they live in? You can expand to other brainstorming questions but those few should give you a good start in figuring out the type of people who frequent your shop (as well as the type of people you want to direct your items to).
Once you've figured out your target audience, you can then take out ads on those same blogs, websites, magazines etc. Or concentrate on doing craftshows geared towards that "type" of audience.
~ When Selling, Think Like A Buyer ~
For instance...when trying to figure out how to tag your items, think of how YOU search for items when shopping. Do you search by color, or by certain keywords you find yourself using over and over? If so, use them in your tags as well. A great way of figuring out how to describe/tag your item is to ask friends and family. Let them take a look at what your selling (or give them a sample!) and ask what single words they would use to describe it to others. Pick out the most relevant and common ones and use those as tags if they fit, or incorporate some of their suggestions into your item descriptions.
Also---think about what promotional tactics work on YOU. Do you sign up for lots of newsletters? Maybe it's time you offered one of your own to your customers. Do you find yourself throwing away business cards, but keeping magnets and always reminding yourself "to check out that store" everytime you see it on the fridge? Invest in getting some promotional magnets made to give out with your orders or to people you meet. Things like that.
~ Organization Is Important ~
When I started out, I had supplies laying around everywhere--and I mean *everywhere*. My husband used to joke that at times he felt as though he lived in a warehouse. I realized that I was wasting a lot of time by having to go to one place for a box/envelope, one place for a pen, one place for a business card and soap sample, one place to collect the invoice, etc. Now I have a room dedicated to packaging, shipping, wrapping and labelling--Everything is stored in clear plastic bins, and out of reach from tiny hands. Recently we moved the computer in there as well just to make things even more easier. Keeping everything in one place can streamline the process from the time you receive an order, to the time it's shipped out.
~ Going Full Time~
(I took this part below from part of my QYDJ Storque interview so it may seem repetitive if you've read it)
Another common question I get is about how I made the transition from part-time soapmaker to full-time soapmaker. The easy answer would be "I just took the leap, and everything worked out fabulous!!" The more realistic answer is that it was a lot of planning ahead of time, tight budgeting to make my business self-sustainable and turn a profit, plenty of sacrifice (time, energy, luxuries), a bit of luck, and old-fashioned hard work.
If you don't have a Business Plan drawn up, I seriously urge you to get one. You can find lots of information and templates (as well as full examples) at http://www.sba.gov/ It truly is my opinion that no business can succeed fulltime without one. My husband and I sat down and wrote ours several years ago. A business plan covers not only your company's mission and planning out your target audience, but also your fiscal projection for several years ahead, all costs associated with running it from the beginning (ie. licence cost, capital needed, utilities, supplies, advertising budget and a slew of other areas), HOW you plan on covering these costs, short and long-term goals, and will become your Business Manual of sorts. Plus, if you need to go to a bank for a loan to finance your business at any time, many will want to see your business plan (which should then also cover how you plan on paying your lender back).
As it stands now, Soap That Makes Scents pays for itself, with enough left over to pay our bills and rent, as well as groceries, etc. Etsy has been incredible in exposure and while they are the forefront and a large part of my business, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that craftshows, wholesale accounts, and private soap parties (and online soap parties!) make up a large portion of my income--although I wouldn't have gotten any of those accounts if it hadn't been for them finding me on Etsy.com
It's our goal for my husband to quit HIS day job in either 2011 or 2012 by the latest. He's already taken the first step by reducing his hours at work.
~Newsletters Really Do Help~
It was just after the holidays last year that I discovered the wonderful world of having a mailing list. I used to have a blog, but stopped posting in it 'cause it a) seemed too difficult to come up with something exciting to say each time, and b) started to get disheartening wondering if anyone was actually READING it. Starting a mailing list can be one of the best moves promotion-wise. People should hav eto opt-in to receive your email blasts and you know that it's going directly to people who are already interested in what you do and are most likely to shop in your store.
http://www.bravenet.com/ is a simple site for setting up a free mailing list (you can have up to 500 subscribers at no cost and send unlimited emails, plus receive statistics on who's actually read your newsletter). I keep my newsletters to once a month, and advertise my newsletter sign up at craftshows, in my auto-Message To Buyers, and in my shop announcement/profile. My shop views and sales have risen due to special offers given to readers-only.
~But What About Money??~
Budgeting is an important factor at any time in your business, but moreso in the begining stages. You should have a tight budget drawn up before considering quitting your dayjob as well as a sizeable nest-egg set aside to help you through any rocky starts or rough patches along the way. I didn't entertain the idea of quitting my day job to make soap all the time until my online part-time business was already sustaining itself and turning a good profit. A good experiment to see if you can survive on your craft alone, is to bank your paychecks for a period of one year and just live off of what you are making from your home-based business. This not only teaches you a valuable lesson in what are really the neccessities in your life, and where you can cut future costs but also gives you an accurate figure of how much money is coming into the household vs. how much is going out.
Even if you have no plans to take your business full-time you'll want to draw up a budget and stick to it as best as you can. A simple way to keep track of things is to keep organized receipts for everything month-to-month....your crafting supplies, the ink you had to buy for your printer to make your labels/promo materials, your packaging supplies, (even the tape you buy to secure your envelopes properly), anything and everything. Also keep track of your Etsy bills and any other online fees you pay month-to-month (project wonderful advertising, domain name hosting, etc.). This also makes tax-time so much easier, believe me.
~It's Ok To Keep Track Of The Competition~
Really---big companies keep ontop of each other all the time. It's ok to be aware of what your direct competition is doing and perhaps learn from them as well. I'm not saying be fanatical about it, or obsess over every little move they make, or try to copy everything they do thinking it will work for you (most of the time, it won't). What I'm getting at is being aware of who are the "big sellers" in your category and why you think people are drawn to their store. For example, If you notice one of your competitors is frequently on the Front Page or chosen for Treasuries...take a look at their photos, study the techniques they use...or the props chosen that may best show off their items, and get your inspiration for improving and tweaking your own shop photos from there. Take a look at their tags if they carry like items and see if you are missing any key ones (like color of the item, size). Read through the feedback left for them and see what stands out most to you in a buyers' own words: is fast shipping frequently mentioned as a high-point of the transaction? Is that something you can improve on for your own shop? What specifically gets mentioned time and time again? Do dozens of customers rave about how wonderful the communication was from the seller----and do you think that's something you can work on too? Feedback from customers is the #1 way of figuring out how to improve, and give a buyer what they want...you can learn from them whether they are your customers or your competitor's.
Well, that's about all there is for now--I know it's a long read, and by no means is my word the be-all or end-all of anything-...the opinions/outlooks above are based on my own adventures in EtsyLand, and overall business...best of luck with your own journey!
Written by KreatedByKarina.etsy.com
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