Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Standing Out on Etsy 101 - 1. Finding Your Voice

The number one question I get asked about from Etsy sellers and wannabe Etsy sellers is, "How do I stand out?"

(probably because my Polarity shop is listed as an 'expert' on how to stand out for the Etsy mentor group TeamSassy because I picked that category for myself and because I sometimes wear stirrup pants with red converse, but only on Fridays)

so I am devoting this first week of spring to a 3 day Standing Out on Etsy Lollapalooza (but without Vampire Weekend and Jane's Addiction) and a 1 day wrap up with all kinds of wonderful links you will want to check out if you are interested in expanding on these themes.


1. Don't try to be all things to all people. The soprano doesn't try to be a baritone.

(I am feeling the need to work with musical references, it must be my new Vampire Weekend CD, I hope you don't mind)

You don't have to worry about the millions of people out there who will not like/want/need your craft, you just have to focus on reaching the people who will love you.

Example- Your neighborhood five and dime (if you are still lucky enough to have one) sells something for everyone- from fishing lures to underwear, they have it all, but they only stay in business (when they do) if they are the only game in town - on Etsy you will not be the only game in town. Etsy is a niche marketplace- trust me, you need a niche.

2. Your voice must be unique. You could be the best seamstress on the planet, but if you are going to try and sell Amy Butler coin purses on Etsy- well good luck to you. I haven't checked, but I'd bet there are lots of sellers already doing this.

Now you could take those purses to a local craft show and maybe clean up, but you are going to have to sew some pretty unique purses to stand out on Etsy.

3. Your voice must be consistent. It is hard to connect with the right buyer if you fill your shop with very different things.

(dancingmooney does this very well- most sellers trying to combine jewelry and soap and picture frames would certainly muck it up- I would- she doesn't- but you might- so be careful).

Example - I am searching for some bright yellow hair ribbons for my little girl and I pop into your shop where you happen to sell some very nice yellow hair ribbons for $8.00 and I also see in your shop some wonderfully turned, reclaimed, exotic wood wine stoppers for $75.00, well- somehow (in my mind) seeing those wine stoppers will muddy up the yellow hair ribbons for me and on the flipside if I am searching for a wonderfully turned, reclaimed, exotic wood wine stopper and pop into your shop - those $8.00 hair ribbons will somehow de-value those stoppers.

Even more subtle things can cause a shop to just look "off", feel unbalanced and chase away the people you are trying to connect with.

Now, if you are thinking that maybe I would buy some yellow hair ribbons for my daughter, and maybe while I am in your shop, a wonderfully turned wine stopper for my hubby- I can promise you that I wouldn't.

(because #1. my hubby doesn't drink wine anymore, because he claims I steal the corks and stop up the bottles with marshmallows which I only did once during an emergency back order situation that he has never been able to get over and #2. I would have already left your shop)

If I see a shop like my crafty woman above selling hair ribbons and wine stoppers- I would think that this is a creative woman who just hasn't found her voice yet.

Because the kind of woman who's passion would be about pastel hair ribbons (and sugar and spice and everything nice) would most likely be a totally different woman than the one who's passion would be about exotic wood wine stoppers (snakes and snails and puppydog tails).

(unless maybe she wears her leopard print kaftan with her yellow hair ribbons and of course, we may have seen women like this- we just don't want to be seen with them)

So how do you find your voice? Well, your voice is your passion (your voice is what makes you unique) and some artists are born with a strong passion and have an internal pressure to make what they need to make.

If that sounds like you, then your challenge is going to be to find the people who want to buy what you need to make.

Other artists are just born knowing they need to sing (switching back to music again - please keep up), but are not sure what to sing. If this is you- then your challenge is going to be to discover what you want/need to sing.

We are crafty, creative people- we need to make things- the problem may be that we need to make all kinds of things. And I am certainly not saying that you shouldn't make all kinds of things because you definitely should. I make all kinds of things, too- I just don't try to sell all of them.

1. Think about what you love. This can be hard if you have been shut down or busy with so many responsibilities that you have lost sight of yourself.

Look around you- what have you surrounded yourself with? What can't you live without.

Make a vision board and fill it with pictures of the things, colors and styles that you love.

2. Carry a journal and a camera. Jot down your thoughts and feelings, draw pictures, doodle, take pictures of things that capture your attention.

3. Make time for new work. Set aside time to be in your studio (and yes, you need studio space and you need it to be organized because a mess will just give you another excuse to not get going) - this commitment is crucial.

4. Look at art, fashion, industrial design. Lots and lots of it. Particularly work that is outside your medium- all sorts of inspiration is just a click away. Don't be afraid that this will lead you to copy other artists (which is often illegal and always uncool) - it won't, you're not that kind of artist, but it will inspire you.

5. Remember there is no right or wrong. What you make today will be different from what you make tomorrow. First efforts are usually not very good - things evolve.

If you check the early sales of your favorite Etsy shops - you may be surprised at how their lines have evolved. I always think I should refund all my early Uncorked customers because they got something so different from what I sell today!

6. Practice. The more that you work in your chosen medium, the more you will find those ideas that make your work unique. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Our culture is very fast paced and we want things to happen quickly. But, this just isn't one of those things- there is no secret or fast formula to finding your voice.

Inspiration can come in a flash, but only if you are open and ready for it.

As you grow into yourself - (try new things, discover what you do well, what you need to do, what is important to you) and really allow yourself to be who you authentically are (I also find that as I become more authentic in other areas of my life, my work becomes more authentic also) I am very certain you will find your voice.

And it will be strong and powerful (and maybe off-key sometimes, because you are probably not Streisand).

And people will hear your voice (see your work and your shop) and recognize that it is your voice (your work and your shop) and the people who are drawn to your voice will find you. And they will shop.

Do I hear a Hallelujah?!

TOMORROW- Standing Out on Etsy 101- Part 2. It Takes a Village


holly aka golly said...

Cat, you are an inspiration! Looking forward to part two.

Catherine Ivins said...

Thank you Holly!

xo- Cat :)

GlitzGlitter said...

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful ideas!

eNVe said...

Cat, you're so awesome for posting this (and for wearing stirrups and converse)!!! I needed some inspiring words to find me and here they are! Thank you thank you thank you! :)

Lindsey said...

Thank you for this. It is a very important message for a relatively new seller to hear. I floundered last fall because I have two passions-- accessories and kids playthings/ decor. I finally realized I needed to split the shop. While I'm busier, my primary store has a much more cohesive look now.

peaseblossomstudio said...

These are great tips! And EXACTLY what I am going through. You have really really nailed it.

lainedesign said...

Wow Cat- this is fantastic! I think you should write a book (in all your free time :-)) and stop stealing the corks.

Orion Designs said...

Thanks for sharing your insights in this inspiring and well thought out post.

Violeta said...

That was a great article! Will back for more :)

glazedOver said...

Cat, you are so together. I admire your polish and hang on your every word. ~Jill

Anonymous said...

This is such a great post! I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

M.M.E. said...

This is a wonderful series. You've repeated a lot of things I have discovered myself but you expressed it in a much more humorous way. I'm in the process of switching up my studio space to be more in tune with my inner self. Can't wait to see part 2!!

Jessica said...

Excellent advice! And you deliver it in an entertaining way ... can't wait to read what's next!

Green Wedding Planner said...

Thank you for the post. A true viewpoint is a rare thing.

Chantelle said...

The most important reason to follow your own artistic path, is how much more enjoyable it makes crafting. thanks for the tips.
I am finding my voice/niche right now, I had to basically close my shop down to do it, but I know it will be worth it soon.

Anastasia Rinaldi said...

awesome inspirational post :)

Jennifer said...


Hazydaisy said...

This is a wonderful post, I feel totally inspired now!
Looking forward to your next one.
Thank you

Onewithwings said...

Thanks so much for this! I am in the process of 'finding my voice' on Etsy. I do sell only art, but my style and subject matter vary a lot. I am sure they will become a bit more focussed as I gain experience and learn what I like and dislike painting.

ArtSnark said...

wonderful post!

alexkeller said...

i've been trying to kick myself in the pants to get back to creating. you're helping. and dancingmooney does do a good job - the color blocking works really well, as does the grouping and pattern of product placement.

TesoriTrovati said...

"Inspiration can come in a flash, but only if you are open and ready for it."
Amen, sister!
I am really digging your voice today! Such great inspiration...and I am open and ready for it!
Enjoy the day!

Brenda said...

You hit it on the nose - brilliant, Cat! xo Brenda

Riki Schumacher said...

Really great way to position yourself, thanks for posting! I just opened my store, so am looking for some "tips". Thanks so much. Riki

Salzanos said...

I do not usually get so interested in a article that I read the whole thing. You know , one of those busy "skimmers" who rushes through. But this was a excellent post! Very relevant and one that I have been evolving toward my true self.

Thank you very much, I feel I am almost to my goal in my artistic endeavors, and You def. helped!

Jill DeCrenza said...

Wow, probably one of the best Etsy related posts I have read in a long time. Thanks for the inspiration.

About Me said...

Thanks, Holly! Great article and inspiration.

Jen said...

Great article. The bit about the cork caught my attention right away-and I had to pop over and see what you were doing with them. I use them in my work as well. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts I really enjoyed reading this!

Stacy @ Foxglove Studios said...

I'm a bit late getting in on this conversation but I NEED IT SO! Fabulous article, Cat. /runs off to tread the rest...

{ lillith } said...

really enjoyed this post, thanks for the encouragement!