Thursday, March 25, 2010

Standing out on Etsy 101 Part 3. Look Good Naked

Now, this isn't one of those posts where I throw in a naked woman to get your attention


I will tie this in, if you are still with me at the end of this, I promise.

In the meantime, let's talk visuals because you can't stand out on Etsy if you don't look good.

(just maybe not in a naked in the supermarket, with that horrible lighting, kind of way)

Your product needs to look good (and be good, really good actually), your photos need to look good, your banner needs to look good, your layout needs to look good.

Now again, this is a process. There are some people who open their Etsy shop and have it all together right away and that is a good, inspiring thing. But it is also a good thing to grow organically within the community, so there is no fear that you have to do everything right (because none of us ever do).

The Visuals

The "B" Word - Some people hate the word branding because it conjures up images of large corporations and things that may not feel like they have any connection to us as people and as artists and crafters, but taking a few minutes to define your work

(I know, you can't be defined and put in a box, but your shop is kind of a box, so trust me for a minute)

can help you create a more consistent visual for your Etsy shop. If you were opening a B&M right now with your work how would you explain it to people - what would it look like?

1. Define the best thing you offer

Take some time and think about defining the single best thing you do. This could be what comes to mind when people think of your work. Or what makes you unique could be the reason you create your art or the life experiences you’ve had which have shaped you as an artist. There is no right or wrong answer.

2. Create a key phrase built around this best thing that you offer

Work towards something that is very short and concise.

3. Create imagery to reinforce the message visually

Having a symbol or visual identity to go along with your branding statement is very effective.

Opening an Etsy shop and then thinking, now I need a banner, is not what you should be thinking if you want to stand out. You don't need a banner- you need an identity.

An identity which will lead to a branding statement which will lead to the creative imagery that represents you which will lead to your banner (and business cards and hang tags,etc).

So, what is it you are trying to say?

This takes us back to the finding your voice thing from Tuesday and if this isn't clear in your mind and heart, you will be changing your marketing materials as you get a better sense of direction. And this is ok - it will just be less expensive if you get a grip on this stuff first.

1. Your banner and avatar - Your banner is your storefront sign (picture that sign over the front door of your little brick and mortar) so it needs to represent you and your brand very well.

A. A professional business should look professional - your banner and logo are a very important part of your brand and worth your time, attention and money.

Someone creating a logo or banner for you should be asking you for pictures of your work. They should be asking you alot of questions. This is going to take a good deal of their time and you are going to have to be willing to pay them for it.

You probably can't go wrong with pictures of your products or your process.

B. Avoid stock images because anyone can buy them and this is about you.

C. Avoid trendy fonts that are hard to read. This may be the hottest font, but I have no idea what this says.

D. Don't rely solely on color. Let choosing your colors become your last decision. I think you should be able to change your colors without changing your branding (and sooner or later you will be printing your logo out for something in black and white). If your logo is really just a trendy swoosh, glow or bevel, then maybe you don't really have one.

E. Make sure your font works with your design and not against it and limit the fonts in your logo to two of different weights.

F. Your avatar should be either a photo of your work or a photo of yourself. No other options.

(Your kids are probably cute, but I don't really need to see them when I am shopping)

I think if you are going to be posting in the forums alot - use your work, otherwise use your kisser.

(I like to see who I am buying from and I think alot of other people do, too)

The biggest problems with banners on Etsy is those that do not represent the work for sale in the shop, include boring stock imagery or use pictures that have been poorly stretched into banner size.

2. Your Item Photos - Now there a gazillion articles out there on taking amazing product photos and I will post some great links next week.

I'm not going to get into the technical stuff except to say that this is something you will have to learn or you will have to send your items out to a professonal for photographing.

There is no way you can stand out on Etsy with poor photos.

Exercise -Do an Etsy search for your item- does it stand out on the page with other, similar items? If your photos are not the ones that jump out at you, take a closer look at the ones that do.

What is the difference between your item photos and the ones that you notice first? Are your backgrounds busier, your items further from the camera, your photos more static and flat?

Now, an important point when you are comparing your photos to other similar items is that you are your own artist with your own brand. You don't want to copy what you see, but you can bring certain aspects that you like into your own photos.

Phydeaux is the knitter who photographs those amazing "scarves coming at you like rattlesnakes" (if we copy specific elements like this with our photos, we are copying someone else's brand and not creating our own).

You can bring the feeling of elements like this into your own photos in your own way.

This will take time and work and no one can really tell you how to do this except you will need to work at your photos just as you do your craft. If it was easy everyone would do it. This stuff is hard.

Often, when I mentor people about standing out and ask them to do this exercise, they tell me that their items stand out to them. And they are not standing out to me.

Sometimes I think we put so much love and energy into our work (good things) that we can't really see it anymore- at least not in the way that a new customer would. So, sometimes another set of eyes may be needed - ask a few people to point out the items that stand out and see if there is anything you can learn from those photos.

Consistency, consistency, consistency. Your photos must be consistent throughout your shop. This can be done with your unique voice and an understanding of your brand.

If you are having trouble getting your shop to have a consistent feel -

I would suggest taking the following photos of each item- 2 photos from interesting angles (both close up and it goes without saying, I hope, that the photos must be clear and bright)- no matter how great the weather and how expensive my camera- it's not super expensive, but it wasn't cheap- I always need to lighten my photos in Photoshop.

1 photo with your product packaging

1 photo of your entire item,

1 photo of your item being used - if you sell clothing or jewelry- you need a live model- well, maybe you don't need one, but if you want to stand out I would highly recommend it - models add movement and life to your shop.

My model pics get many more views than my other items. I always keep a couple on my first 2 pages (where 80% of my views and sales come in).

If you sell prints or photos you need to show a picture of your item hanging in a room or framed on a table - check the vinyl wall art people- they do this very well - don't come up with excuses about why you can't do this - Etsy isn't your portfolio - it is your store - just figure it out and do it.

If you sell a usable item such as a potholder this is where you photograph your checkered potholder lying near a pan on a stovetop with a set of wineglasses in the background.

If you sell a decorative item such as a piece of pottery this is where you photograph the item as someone whould display it in their home.

If you have 5 somewhat consistent pictures for each item, it will be easy to give the first 2 pages of your shop a cohesive but eclectic and interesting visual by varying which picture you use as your first picture.

Take advantage of the fact that you can easily rearrange your items by keeping those first 2 pages looking great- check them daily- if you had a B&M store you would surely walk it everyday and you need to walk your Etsy shop, too.

Your featured items should be changed at least weekly. The first 3 items in your shop (the last 3 you have listed) are the items that show up next to your avatar in people's hearts so you want to keep them varied and representing your entire line.

Other tips:

1. Keep your backgrounds simple. Hanging a pocketbook in a tree is always a bad idea. I use distressed scrapbook paper to add texture to my item photos.

2. If your photos are not square make sure you check the effect thumbnail cropping has on them. When the head is cut off the model purposefully- our eye moves to her dress, but if the dress is cut off, too, due to the cropping, our eye loses its focus.

3. Use negative space wisely. Too little or too much and your subject can be lost.

4. Use props and backgrounds that have some relevance to each other and to your item (again, this is why the hanging of a pocketbook in a tree doesn't work- would you ever hang your pocketbook in a tree? Of course, if this was a really interesting dichotomy, something the customer couldn't miss as a purposeful play on your subject this could work- like a pocketbook in the fridge, or something)

5. When grouping multiple items use odd numbers (even numbers lose their focal point) because you want to control where the customer's eyes end up

Sometimes, very talented craftspeople, the detail oriented thinkers among us who create very fine and intricate work and crave symmetry may need a second set of eyes to create photographs that are balanced but still visually interesting.

Visual merchandising is both an art and a science. Approach it with an open mind. If something doesn't work, try something else. There is no right or wrong and there is no end zone. This is something that will be constantly evolving.

Now, what does all this have to do with looking good naked?

Well, I think that putting your work out there for the world to see (and judge- ugh!) is quite like getting naked in front of everyone.

(not something I am likely to do anytime soon, unless my fire alarm is going off in the middle of my shower and I am running for my life ... and even then I might just wait it out in the shower- those things are kind of fireproof, right?)

We put so much of ourselves into this stuff, the best parts of ourselves; our heart and soul- truly, truly. And we want to do everything we can to make things work the way we want them to. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

My items have sold well on Etsy, but I have done craft shows where all the jewelry sellers around me were selling like hotcakes and I was sitting there trying to smile and pretending that I wasn't getting my feelings hurt.

(I think maybe if you can sit at a craft show with your art and not feel like you are naked, you probably need to put a little more of yourself in it)

There is no surefire thing here.

But if you can work the process (forget the end zone because they will keep moving it on you) I am totally certain that so much good will come into your life (and yes, sales along with the good!) that you will be truly happy that you got naked.

In fact it will become impossible for people to keep clothes on you and your family and friends will be running around behind you with blankets and embarrased faces at all the commotion you will be causing because damn ... you look good.


Next week I will post some great links to expand on all the themes I have touched on this week.


Luv2Have said...

Wow, there is so much great information in this post, thank you! I will have to read through it again to absorb it all. Love the pic of being naked in the grocery store aisle too, not planning on doing that anytime soon
! :)

justagirl said...

That was great reading... thanks so much.

I did the etsy test and my work stood out I think because it was mine. Like when you spot a friend in a crowd, they are familiar... so getting someone else to see whether yours stands out is a good idea, thanks.

peaseblossomstudio said...

You're awesome. Seriously. That's all there is to it. :-) Thanks again for the wonderful tips!

Kendra Zvonik said...

Another amazing post. My head is spinning.
I am going to go think about what you have said and apply it to my shop and my work.
You have put so much effort into helping others and I am truly grateful to be receiving your guidance.
I seriously feel like you helped me raise Green Post to its current state. You are an excellent role model and friend!
Thank you, Cat.

Brenda said...

Wowza, there is so much here to read and digest! And wowee, what an honor to be mentioned! :) Thank you so much, sweets - the looking good part continually evolves - every time I think I can relax, I find another idea for photos!

This is such a great series - thank you! xoxo

ArtSnark said...

another fantastic post! Will be sure to pass this along

TesoriTrovati said...

That seals it. You are at the top of my list for WOI (wealth of information). Thank you. Thank you.
This is exactly what my friend emailed me to say today... I will be sharing your insights with others who might need a push. Thanks for helping me believe that I can look good naked (okay, my widgets can!). Enjoy the day!

donauluft said...

Cat, this especially do concern me!
Step by step I learn not only to put creativeness into making my jewelry, but also in presentation.
I never read it better recorded than in your post.
Btw for the same reason you descripted, I don´t like craft shows, Friends of mine always where more successful in selling my jewelry, than myself.
So the Internet might be a good option, but it is not useful to hide completely behind work.
My daughter is probably going to open an etsy shop, your serie is required reading for her!!!
Thank you!!!

Gina said...

Such great info..I have just spent an hour reading your blog. I love the wealth of knowledge delivered with a bit of sarcasm and humor. Great blog, so happy I found it! said...

Great words- I can't believe how truly bad my first photos were, and even after two years, I just discovered the "edit" feature that let's me lighten my pics; hours of work, but I love how my shop looks!

Tracy Yarkoni said...

Fantastic article - I love your 'voice' ;)

Thanks for sharing!

ana carina said...

This has great great great info! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom! I think I need help, and I need to focus and rethink my shop.
I do think I got better pictures now, but I think I might improve them and I should ask for help.
Once again, thank you :) So useful this post!
hugs, nanouke

Hannah said...

great post. I just signed up for etsy, and these tips will be VERY helpful when I get a shop going :)
By the way, who won the garland giveaway?? this one:
I don't remember it ever being announced, but then, I might have just missed it completely :)

eNVe said...

Thank you, Cat.. times a million! This series was so helpful.. I feel like I'm still trying to figure things out. The whole "naked" thing was so resounding for me personally because I feel like that naked feeling is what's keeping me from branching out (I've actually never done a craft show because the thought of it makes me super anxious.. the thought that I'd just be sitting there twiddling my thumbs and listening to crickets. It was already a big leap for me emotionally to put my jewelry on etsy! I guess it's time to embrace the nakedness. :)

kanishk said...

That was great reading.
free internet jobs

Jennifer said...

I really love this! I've been reflecting on showing more of me and improving the photos. I love your writing style!

3 squares said...

Cat, I learn something every time I connect with you. Your standing out series is just what I need! There are so many things to do it gets overwhelming, but you help to put it in perspective and focus.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

WOW...I learned so much and journey forward with many new creative ideas!

Gretchen Bjornson ART said...

I am soooo in those beginning stages, this all applies to me.....your entire blog is almost like it was written for me. Thanks so much. I will keep checking back for more tips.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for these 3 blog posts about Etsy! i just joined etsy yesterday, though I have been wanting to join for over a year.

I will admit, your posts showed me I have a TON to learn, which is really intimidating. But i also loved how you said its an organic learning process. That comforts me to know that with time, I can become well versed!

Your blogs will help me immensely. Thank you for taking the time to help out us newbies

My Shining Star Designs said...

I just read all three parts. Thank you so much for the great information. Your sharing has been very enlightening and I am definitely inspired.

Jane Buckley said...

Thanks for the straight talk and reeeal help. Have fresh eyes now for tweaking photos and consistency. Found your blog today and I think I'm now addicted.

Do you do shop critiques?