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

When I found Etsy, I joined as a seller, knew one person (who was related to me) and was immediately lost in the crowd.

By the time I opened my second shop, a few months later, I had created a bit of a community for myself and the going was alot easier.

If I was starting out on Etsy today, I would begin as a buyer. I would start a blog before I opened my shop. I would reach out to other people first. Just like our crafty forefathers setting up shop in a small village- I would look for a need to be filled.

1. Be generous with your hearts - If you are a seller, your hearts are more than a wish list. Hearts are a very real way to support other artists, whose work you value.

When I have sellers asking me for advice about "how to stand out" and I look at their shop and they have hearted no one or almost no one, it is very telling about their real problem.

If you want people to give you their money and energy, but do not want to extend any of your own resources outward, there is likely going to be a block of flow. If you want hearts, give hearts. If you want to sell handmade, buy handmade. This is the give and take of the village.

From my first sale on Etsy, I tithed 10% of my profits back to Etsy, I didn't do any exact tabulation, but I would take a look, first monthly and then weekly as things got busier, at what I was making and give a little bit back.

I bought things from the shops I wanted to support (not because they were the hottest thing on the front page, not because they were new and not because they had no sales) - I bought from the shops that inspired me.

Today my tithes also support Kiva artists and the blogs that support handmade.

(I think it is very important to support the blogs that support handmade - if we don't pay them, they don't get paid and they are a part of the community that we would sorely miss if they all left us because they had to get 'real jobs')

Sometimes the money goes into giveaway items for my own blog (which I am sometimes given, sometimes trade for and sometimes yes, I actually buy them).

I have had other blogger's express dismay that I would actually buy something to give away on my blog. But I strongly believe that we need to pay each other - if we don't respect the monetary value of other artists' and community members' work and time, who will value ours?

2. The treasury system - take a look at the front page curation because it's not a bad place to be.

But if you get there and your shop doesn't look amazing, it will not mean anything, trust me on this.

(more on looking amazing tomorrow).

I had given no thought to treasuries or to the front page when my Uncorked shop (which had been open for a couple months) got on the front page for the first time.

The stars were totally aligned for me- it was a Thursday night at 8pm and I was in the center spot in the top row. Primetime on Etsy (and I have been on the front page often enough since then to be certain of this) - I had 8 sales and 150 hearts in the hour or so it was up there. The treasury was made by a seller with a shop called Moxiedoll and she changed my Etsy life.

I started making treasuries and I loved it. Alot of them ended up on the front page. I started commenting on treasuries that I liked. I started commenting on treasuries that got to the front page.

More people started putting me in their treasuries. I got to the front page more often. But the most important thing is that I built a community with some other sellers who loved making treasuries as much as I did.

I loved knowing that as I sat there with my finger on the mouse waiting for that box to open, that hundreds of other people around the world were doing the same thing!

Eventually my treasuries stopped getting to the front page and I decided to move the energy I was putting into them toward a blog. But I still love the idea of seller curated front pages and hope Etsy continues with them.

1. Comment on treasuries that you like and comment on front page treasuries
2. Make treasuries- you can put a couple of your friends in there, of course, but mostly look for things that inspire you.

I know people who keep lists of who has put them in a treasury, so that they can reciprocate and maybe some people expect that, but I think it is best to pass that energy on - like a random act of kindness - you don't expect to be paid back - you just want it to be passed on.

(making treasuries is also a great way to see what others on Etsy are doing, how your work fits in and what stands out - it is also a good way to spot a niche that is not being filled)

3. Join a team. I know, I know- you're not a joiner and I'm not either.

(I'm still more of a "sit arms folded outside the group and snicker" kind of person, but I'm trying)

Some teams require more from you than other teams. There are local teams and if you are planning to do craft shows- that would be a must. There are charity teams. There are medium specific teams. There are niche market teams. There are lifestyle teams. There really is something for everyone. Decide on what you want from a team and what you can contribute and join one or two. Again, you are building your village.

4. The Forums - can be a great place to create even more relationships. Just stay positive and save the drama for your mama, as they say.

(I can whine and moan with the best of them, as you've probably noticed, but it would take something pretty major for me to go into the forums and be negative - I save all the negative stuff for my family and friends)

I am not a forum expert, since I don't go in there much, but you can definitely develop friendships and supportive relationships in there. You don't have to be a big rah-rah, but trust me, snarkiness in a professional setting is always a no-no.

5. Blogs/Twitter/Facebook/Flickr - Now this building your village thing is starting to sound like alot of work (it is) and it can take up alot of your time and energy and it is up to you to decide what to invest your time and energy in.

Many of these work in similarly, mutually beneficial ways. You put energy out there and the energy comes back to you.

(or maybe it just gets passed on like the random act of kindness energy and that is ok, too)

Twitter is the easiest. You follow people. Some will follow you back. If you tweet things people are interested in, they will be more likely to stay with you.

You can't tweet shop listings or sales at people all day long anymore than you can talk to your family and friends about your business all day long.

If you remember that Twitter is a conversation that you are having with other people within your village this will be easier.

Take time to comment on other people's tweets and respond to the people who have responded to yours. Then when you tweet a shop listing or two, people will be interested.

Your blog works the same way. A blog can be a great way to introduce yourself and your life to people- to form connections within your village. You get to decide what you want to blog about based on the goals for your blog, but whatever your goals are you will likely need to blog regularly - at least twice a week, offer your readers interesting information, comment on other people's blogs- that extending yourself thing again- and most of all have fun with it.

Blogging about your work, your upcoming show, your shop, your work, etc- over and over again is fine (maybe), but it will narrow your audience, probably down to people who know you.

So, how does all this help you to stand out?

Well, let's go back to our original village scenario and pretend that my little Etsy shop called Polarity is a totally adorable little village store

(and I think it would be painted turquoise and plum and Olive's little kisser would be proudly displayed on the front awning)

It is 9am on a warm and sunny Wednesday and I pull into town on my bicycle; first stop is my little village's bakery -

not just for a coffee, but I will buy one, in my home brought cup, of course and maybe a donut, because what the hell, I did ride my bike, right?

but also to chat up the other shop owners and villagers about the local news and happenings and the upcoming town festival.

Then maybe as I am walking over to my little Polarity store, keys in hand, I will stop and help Hal, the local hardware store guy who is setting up his ladder display and we will chat for a few minutes about some shelving he is going to be making me for my new locket cabinets.

And then I will spot Noelle, the village screenprinter who will tell me that some girls who saw my lockets on the t-shirts in her window display will be stopping by my store today to buy some.

By the time I am open for business I am feeling relaxed and upbeat and have a big smile on my face for every customer who walks in my door.

(not one of those big creepy smiles where you see gums and everything though)

The customers have heard about my shop and my little, friendly village and they just keep coming.

Now, let's look at my morning another way.

I drive into town because I am in a hurry and I think about that coffee shop, but I really need to save that dollar because times are hard, right, and I sort of see that guy Hal (although I never bothered to learn his name) fumbling with his ladders, but I'm in a hurry so I quickly glance away before he sees me and I just keep moving.

Then Noelle (who is just the pretty girl with the brown hair to me now) approaches me with some hare-brained scheme to put my lockets in her window display (like I am going to just give her my lockets- they will probably get ruined!), so I just tell her I am running late and rush into my shop.

People! I scowl as I settle in behind my counter.

Now, the truth is that we can all totally have the modern equivalent of that little village store and we can have it right now.

We can exchange ideas with each other, convo shops that you love and tell them, have sales and events together, cross-promote our items and shops, put each other's items in our photos, send out other shop's business info with our orders as well as our own, buy advertising space together for a month and trade off weeks, buy from each other's shops and on and on and on.

If you are on Etsy, you already have a village - it is just up to you to make use of it.

(and now that I think of it, I have my awning, too, except it is called my banner and why the heck isn't it plum and turquoise if that is my dream- got to get working on that)

TOMORROW- Standing Out on Etsy 101 - Part III. Looking Good Naked


Viktoria said...

Your serie is wonderful! You are so right!
I am a bit reserved person by nature , and one and a half year ago I did not even know what a screenshot is, even less a blog or a flickr account ( I have to admit that I don´t use twitter, and my facebook account is more dead than alive). All that started with Etsy!
Today I love to take part . I love to make treasuries, and to read blogs (like your`s) It takes time as you say.....

Sherry said...

When your book comes out, I will truly be the first one to buy it. You can sit beside Seth because this is truly your second calling.


Catherine Ivins said...

Viktoria- I have never started facebook or flickr- ugh!- we can only do so much- but we can do so much more together than alone, I agree! Sherry- are you still on those pain killers? hehe

marian said...

Thank you for this post (and the series too!). This one is chock-full of helpful information, some I already do and some I will be giving a try in the near future. Can't wait for part 3!

GlitzGlitter said...

Another wonderful installment full of such an interesting perspective. It's funny, I think of Etsy as my little village, too. Can't wait to see what you have in store for us next!

Anonymous said...

Terrific post! There is so much support in the Etsy community. I tend to enjoy promoting artists whose work I like. I usually do this through my blog, but have just started creating treasuries - I'm finishing one now but my mind is already on the next. When that support comes back at you, it's amazing.

OhMyAmpersand said...

Thank you for showing a wonderful perspective of the online community/village! A long time ago, I viewed it [connecting online] as being almost creepy and impersonal, but since I opened up my Etsy shop last July, my eyes have opened up. I appreciate and love the connections I've made online! :)

Catherine Ivins said...

I used to view the internet as impersonal, too and it isn't the same as a face to face over a cup of coffee, but it can be pretty close at times!

Orion Designs said...

Another terrific post. Btw, I think the first time I was on the FP was in one of your treasuries -- over 2 years ago! Thanks for that.

sheila at shecological said...

Hi Cat! I'm cruising by on my virtual bike! (unfortunately it's not helping me burn calories!) It is a sunny wednesday and I have to say THANKS so much for getting me in the positive spirit of things! You Rock! Have a great day!

Catherine Ivins said...

YAY Vicki- I really hope it was!! Sheila- I totally think virtual biking burns calories!!

TesoriTrovati said...

You are brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant! How is it that the Universe delivers EXACTLY what I need to hear when I need to hear it? I will go back and find part one (how did I miss it?). I have been dancing around opening an Etsy shop for about a year now. I have Etsy friends who have been encouraging. I just want to do it right. I set a goal for myself to be selling online by the end of Q1. Guess what? That is about a week away. I am not ready, I tell myself. I haven't learned all I can. But you have just brought me up to speed.
I belong to a local BNI (Business Networking Intl) chapter and our philosophy is "Giver's Gain." That is exactly what you are talking about here. I believe in supporting handmade and Etsy is my prime way of doing that, when I can't get what I want by a local producer. I do at least one giveaway a month on my blog, this month it will be 4 giveaways! And I do believe in buying what I give, because it means I am supporting a fair wage for my Etsy faves.
I did start as a buyer. I have learned a lot through that, how to keep customers happy, how shipping should work, how to list and share details about my life and work. My friend says that I already have the marketing and promotion part down, I just need to jump in and make it happen. I won't know if I don't try.
My biggest fear is finding a way to be myself and stand out from the crowd, but I so love the sense of community, of belonging that I want to be a part of it.
Thank you for being such a great source of inspiration for me today. You have given me much to think about.
Enjoy the day!

Catherine Ivins said...

Hi Erin- I remember you commenting before that you were thinking about an Etsy shop- so happy that something in what I wrote here spoke to you- you are doing the things I would be doing if I had it to do all over again.

Don't let the fear stop you because there probably won't be a day when it goes away and you say NOW I can do it- try to let the excitement about the good things it could bring into your life outweigh the fear of it not working the way you want it to- because it will all be a process and there is no real goal or finish line with all this stuff anyway! Maybe just do it and let go of the outcome and just work the process.

xo- Cat :)

Sleepandhersisters said...

Etsy has made the world a smaller place and my village a lot bigger.

Jessica said...

Awesome article! Great visual you create, and of course great information!

Xenotees said...

Cat, you are amazing! I love this post & I am honored. to be in your virtual village! Can't wait for the next one!

Kendra Zvonik said...

I agree with Sherry- you could totally write a book, Cat! These are all really important factors that you have mentioned in being successful on Etsy and even those of us that have been doing this awhile need these reminders to stay open and reach out to our community. I am grateful to have the strong connection to you that I do! Thanks again, Cat.
xoxo Kendra

Jessica said...

This is a really great post! Just stumbled onto your blog and am loving your writing style and topics. I so agree about creating a village and supporting each other. I hear over and over from people that they just can't afford handmade or local, and I know that it's hard and I can't do it all the time either, but every little bit counts. The more we participate, the more we support each other, the bigger our village grows. And the bigger our village, the greater our support system, the easier everything is. And personally, I'd rather have morning A than morning B. :)

Brenda said...

Love love love! I second all of the above and am adding your fantastic and down to earth series to my "must read" list for newbie sellers. Excellente, Cat! :)

Liz said...

I am new to Etsy, so it was great to read all your comments about how to be successful. Thanks!

Unknown said...

I too am new to Etsy and loving your articles. I was not familiar with the treasuries until I read about them in your writeup and went to go check them out. So many amazing things here in listed in those and inspiring to look at. Thanks for passing on your advice and wonderful sense of humor and creativeness in your articles!

Stash said...

I have more work to do than I thought! This is fabulous. THE best advice I have seen yet.

Anonymous said...

I am new to selling on Etsy and do it because I love to make my things and need an outlet to be able to continue doing what I love. Thanks so much for the helpful lessons. I am learning a lot of new ideas from you.

Mizdragonfly said...

Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to write this serie. Now onto reading your 'Look good naked' 101. :)

Big Bad Art said...

Awesome- so helpful! I've stumbled upon your blog before and it is pretty inspiring.
I'm trying to figure out how to be a part of the Etsy village so this was the perfect article for me to happen upon.
Just one question- how do you become part of an Etsy team?