I opened an Etsy shop on August 14, 2014, just after I did the Art in the Garden event, my first craft sale and first attempt at selling my pillows. One of the things I did for that event was whip up some business cards/care instructions/price tags. On the card I put my just-drummed-up business name, email, and my not-yet-in-existance web-site: www.so-fashion.com. I didn’t have time to get a website set up before the sale, but since I’d sold a few pillows and handed out some business cards, I figured I’d better get something set up quickly.
I decided Etsy would be the easiest way to go, so I got my domain name registered with GoDaddy and set it up to forward to my Etsy shop, SoFashionPillows. Setting up my Etsy shop, I have to admit, was harder than I’d expected. Having something to sell is just the start. You also need a name for your shop (no spaces), a description of your shop, great photos, great product descriptions, meta tags, pricing, and shipping all figured out. There are thousands (maybe millions!) of shops on Etsy that make it look easy, but when you do it yourself, all by yourself, you realize that it’s way bigger than you’d imagined. At least that’s how it was for me.
To help me through these types of hurdles I always like to keep in mind Seth Godin’s advise that perfect is the enemy of good, and to just start something! It’s easier to achieve many small goals, than one huge daunting one. So I put a few pillows in my store, using the pictures I’d taken for the Art in the Garden sale, wrote up some descriptions, added a price, did my best to calculate shipping, and that was that. That was a start.
Then something funny happened. A few days after I opened my shop, someone favorited my thistle pillow. Hooray! Someone liked what I made! I know it sounds trivial, but it was a huge ego boost for me. Then a little while later something even better happened. Someone bought the TV pillow! Wow! I can’t tell you how happy that made me. But holy cow, how was I going to package and ship that thing? Turns out a pillow is a ridiculous thing to ship – big and bulky, and it’s hard to find a box just the right size. At least it isn’t breakable.
Initially I was a little wary of Etsy. I’d visited often and bought a couple of things, and it seemed like there were billions of products for sale. How would I ever get noticed? And I’d heard some nightmare stories of people getting their designs ripped off and mass-produced in China. Plus, a lot of stuff on the site looks far from handmade, and so many of the pictures look like they’re straight out of a catalog. Who are these people? How can there be so many freakin’ incredibly talented people out there who are brilliant at making things, take professional quality photos, and write exceptional copy? I could never be that amazing! I mean I’m just someone who’s making pillows in a corner of her house in her spare time. How are people doing this?? (Hopefully I’ll find out tomorrow when I take a free course from CreativeLive: Etsy 101: Establish your own successful shop.)
When I started making pillows last year, I was pretty proud that I’d actually made some pillows. Now I’m understanding that designing and making pillows is just the start; that it’s a whole other ball-o-wax selling them. What’s the best way to sell a pillow? Retail stores? Craft fairs? An e-commerce site? Etsy? I’ve decided I probably need to try them all, and right now I’m trying out Etsy. So far, even though I don’t get much traffic, and I’ve only had a few sales, I’m really loving Etsy, for a lot of reasons.
First of all, it’s a brilliant application. Setting up a shop is pretty darn straightforward, and if there’s anything that confuses you, there is a ton of help available. Not only is there a ton of help, but there’s a ton of advice. Etsy has a great blog written by users who share their experience. Over and over again I read “it’s all about your pictures” and “you need great prictures.” A Google search returns hundreds of articles on how to make your Etsy photos look great. I’ve tried taking better photos, and I’m happier with the ones I have now, compared to what I started with, but at some point I’m going to have to take some great pictures, PhotoShop each one to make them look even better, and figure out a process of creating great shots for every new pillow I want to add. Sounds like a lot of work…
I also love reading success stories from owners of popular Etsy shops; because almost every success story begins with some fails, or at least some hurdles to get over. I read from one shop owner that her shop is a far cry from what she started with – she’s not even making the same products – but that Etsy was the place that allowed her to try things out, evolve creatively, and it took a few years for her shop to become really successful. That is the kind of story I love (and need) to hear.
Something that surprised my about Etsy was that even though it’s a faceless e-commerce exchange, there is still a sense of community. Lot’s of people have favorited my shop and my pillows, and I have started favoriting other people’s stuff (there is so much incredible stuff out there!), and I’ve had some great conversations with buyers and potential buyers.
A few weeks ago I got an email notification that someone had ordered the Tin Man pillow, and included in the order was this message:
I keep coming back to this pillow! It reminds me of my brother-in-law who is a sheet metal man and who has a big heart! Thank you for this wonderful offering.
I shipped off the pillow, and in the order confirmation email I said I hope her brother-in-law loves the pillow, and that my husband is also a metal man. Then just the other day I got another message from the buyer that said this:
Hi, I just wanted you to know my sister said it is a rare moment to see her husband (our real life tin man) show emotion which he did when he saw your pillow. Thank you for making a special man feel special.
I was so touched to get this message, not only because it was so sweet, but because she took the time to send it. It was about the best thing anyone could have said to me about my pillow. It makes me so much more confident in what I’m doing, and makes me love Etsy. It also reminds me to keep following the advice on the back of the pillow.