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A happy announcement for our family…

Yes, we are expecting or second child!!

And yes, I am still alive. After almost a year of posting on my blog multiple times every week, even while travelling, or packing, or moving across the country — I suddenly fell off the face of the internet. My last post was at the end of November saying I would be back in a week. Yeaaah, that didn’t happen. There has been a lot of difficult things going on lately, and added on top of that, we just moved into a new apartment, Tim had to start working both an overnight job and a day job, and I have been very sick.

BUT – the good news is … Tim was able to quit both of those draining jobs and is now, for the first time ever, able to put his masters degree to work, and is officially an engineer! So happy for him – and so happy that we get to have more family time now that he only has to work one job. And, super happy news for us, the reason I’ve been so sick is that I’m expecting! I’m due in August, and I’m currently 16 weeks along. Our 5 year old is SO excited to be becoming a big sister. :) And a lot of the other difficult things are simultaneously getting better and making us stronger in the process. We are so thankful to God for his provision and seeing us through some dark days.

And sometimes in life you have to say “good-bye” to things that are, perhaps, nice and fine, in order to make room for something better. And so, I am officially closing down my graphic design business and shutting down my Etsy shop for good. We are no longer dependent on it financially, and while I’m grateful that I was able to help our family while still staying at home with our daughter, I am SO much looking forward to being able to devote more of my energy to our family and to more important things. I was, in fact, also planning to shut down my blog, but various family members and friends (including my husband) really urged me to keep it going. And I think I will – it is nice to have a creative outlet, and one where I can chronicle and look back at later and (perhaps) write something that someone else will enjoy, is worth it to me. I will not plan to post 3 times a week, like before, probably more along the speed of once a week. And the focus will be much more on the home and not on business … which was, after all, my intention in the first place with this blog.

But my Etsy shop … it’s going. I’m planning to close in about a week. So if there’s anything you’ve wanted to buy from my shop, now is the time to grab it. I’ve got some inventory I’m looking to get rid of, so starting today until I close, with any order I will also include 3 more prints for free (of my choosing from my inventory.) But very soon it will be closed for good. It feels a little bitter sweet, but I’m also really looking forward to the first time in 3+ years to not be shipping out orders anymore. :)

Anyway, I know I kind of abandoned my blog for a couple months there, and I’m not sure how many of you are still around. If you ARE still around … thank you for your patience. :) I’m so excited about this new phase of our life, and I’m also looking forward to writing here on the blog again.


Gift giving guides

As the gift-giving season approaches, sometimes it can be difficult to know what to get for people. When I design a new piece in my shop, I usually have a specific type of person in mind who would like it – for instance, I’ll make something to appeal to gardeners, or a design specifically for a bibliophile, or a print that I think guys who cook would like, and so on. So I thought it would be helpful to break down into categories some things I have designed that could appeal to certain types of people on your gift giving list! (Plus, if you buy it this weekend while I have my buy-one-get-one-free deal going on, you can get something free for yourself in the process!) All while supporting small business this holiday season. Here are some ideas….

Gifts for the traveler…

Let’s go exploring print
– Road Less Travelled poster
– Adventure print
– More travel related prints

Gifts for the bibliophile …

– Lost in a Good Book mini print
– Oh for a Book print
– I Love Books and Coffee print
– Other reading related prints

Gifts for the home chef …

– Eat your vegetables poster
– Whisk print
– Beat It print
– Onions quote print
– Other food related finds

Gifts for guys …

– Bacon and Eggs poster
– Brevity print
– Nosh print
– Other prints for men

Gifts for the writer…

– I Write mini print
– Dark and Stormy Night print
– Writer’s Art Supplies poster
– Other writing related prints

Gifts for the gardener …

– Herb prints
– Taste of Nature print
– Farm Fresh print
– Stop and smell the roses print
– Other outdoors related prints

And don’t forget – today through Monday (11/23 – 11/26) for Black Friday and Cyber Monday I am having a buy one get one free special in my shop! Just mention in the “message to seller” at checkout which print of equal or lesser value that you want for free.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

Curious, too – how many of you do Black Friday/Cyber Monday type shopping?

Ta-Da! Marketing: Creative Biz Challenge Finale

Well, we’ve reached the end of the 6 weeks for the Creative Business challenge! And for the finale, we’ll be covering the single most asked-about topic from your handmade biz questions: marketing.

I left it for last because one of the reasons marketing can be so difficult is because there are other things about your business that have to be in place first to be able to market more easily, and so I wanted to cover those in the first in the series. I hope you found those posts helpful. If you missed them, they lay out groundwork for how to your marketing so much smoother:

‣‣‣  #1: Your product: the base of your handmade business.
The importance of having a unique, quality and highly marketable product.

‣‣‣ #2: Your target market: who and where are they?
The importance of knowing to whom you should be marketing your products.

‣‣‣ #3 Pricing: one of the hardest parts of running a creative business.
The importance of structuring for profit before marketing.

‣‣‣ #4 Product Photography and Descriptions: your product in its best light.
The importance of letting your product market itself as much as possible.

‣‣‣ #5 Product Photography and Descriptions: Double critique week.
Additional practical tips on your product’s photos and stories.

Once you have all these things in place, marketing becomes SO much easier. And one of the reasons for this is that once these are really firmly in place, your target market will start marketing your items for you.

Positive word of mouth is typically much more effective than marketing you do yourself. Social media sites are obviously a huge part of this. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr – the list goes on and on. In general, when we talk about marketing and social media, we’re talking about how you as the shop owner are using those sites yourself. But I think the first way to look at it is in how your target market uses those sites.

This is where tips from earlier topics in this series come into play. For instance, I suggested to one shop to remove the huge watermark from the photos of their pillows, or at least to make it much less noticeable. I know that the desire is that your photos aren’t used without crediting you – but the unfortunate result is that the photos then aren’t used much at all. I sell art prints. I don’t watermark them. Yes, someone could steal them. (But I keep them at a small enough Internet-res file size that even if they did, there isn’t a whole lot they could do with it). But my prints DO get featured and shared all over the internet. I get tons of traffic from visual sharing sites (Tumblr, Pinterest, etc.) – and not because I was the one sharing my products, but because I have a product that is honed in on one specific target market, and I make it “user friendly” for that target market to share the word about my work. So, a few tips on letting your target market do the marketing for you:

1 – KNOW who your target market is and have a product that strongly appeals to them.
2 – Photograph your photos in a way that is appealing to your target market.
3 – Upload images that are a size that can’t be printed very large – but that is large enough that blogs, Pinterest, Tumblr sites, etc. can share it in an attractive way. (I recommend between 700-1000 pixels wide)
4 – If you use a watermark, make it so that it is not too distracting.
5 – Make sure there are social media sharing buttons on your site.
6 – Give occasional “call to actions” on your site, inviting people to share your site to Facebook, etc.

If you do all of this well, you’ll find that your target market will be doing a lot of your marketing for you. With all the buzz of social media, people love to find and share things that love. Let your target market do the same for your shop.

But, of course, there is the more typical marketing – the kind you do yourself. I’m going to break down this kind of marketing into two basic categories: online and offline.

Since we’re talking about running an online shop, I think online marketing is most effective, so we’re going to focus more on that one. There are four basic strategies to this that I want to point out that seem to give the best results in my experience, and then four strategies that I recommend avoiding.

So, on the four approaches I recommend:

#1 – Selling and marketing on a site that is tailored to your target market. What I mean by this is sites like Etsy, Artfire, Folksy, iPublicate, etc. If there is an e-commerce website that is already working to try and bring in YOUR target market, you can tap into that by choosing to sell your wares there. I personally find Etsy to work best for me – they are the highest traffic. Sure, there are fees, and I could do it cheaper if I built my own site – but the number of hours I would have to put in to try to bring in even a fraction of the traffic into my site makes the relatively small fees of Etsy SO much more worth it. Once you are selling on a site like Etsy, there are a number of things you can do to market your products more effectively there:
Tag and title your items with words and phrases which your customers are likely to use. Sellers often use phrases like “OOAK” and “ACEO”, whereas a customer is probably more likely to be searching “personalized” or “miniature size”, etc. Instead of starting your title with something artistic that no one is going to be searching (like, “Somber Midnight”), begin it with the words people are more likely to be searching (like, “Chunky Black Scarf”), and include the artistic name of the item somewhere else.
Join a treasury team. Getting on a really effective treasury team does require great photos and a time commitment, but can be a great marketing approach, especially as you’re trying to first get found.
Follow the merchandising reports. Etsy publishes regular reports on what trends and merchandising approaches are currently very effective, which is also a reflection of what types of items Etsy itself is looking for to be able to promote. If, for instance, royal blue is huge this season, and you have an item that color, but you’ve been calling it “bright blue”, it might help to change your tags to “royal blue” instead.
List new items regularly. To show up high in the search results, there are a wide variety of factors that you need to have in place, such as how precisely the search term the custom is using matches the terms on your listing. But one of the factors is how recently the item has been listed. Rather than constantly renewing the same items, though, I find it more effective to add new items more often. Not only does this help you in the search, but also keeps your shop fresh.

#2 – Social Media Marketing.
I’ve posted some before on using Facebook and Twitter (which you can find here), but my basic thought is to use each social networking site toward a specific purpose that it’s own unique features tend to mesh with well. Since we’ve moved, I haven’t been doing as much social media marketing as usual, but here is my general use of each site:
– Twitter: I think of it as my open-door office. Good for conversations, good place for people to talk to you. Be conversational! Use it to talk to people one-on-one. I’ve heard Twitter described as the watercooler where you talk to your co-workers – use for networking with fellow entrepreneurs. Join group conversations and Twitter events like hashtag blogging discussions, etc.
– Facebook: I think of my business facebook page as kind of a backstage pass into my business. Good for posting photos, good place for people to share your content with others. Post photos of behind the scenes work, share photos from blog posts, put up polls to let people vote for new products, etc. Good calls-to-action to ask for on facebook: feedback on new products, sharing announcements with their friends, voting in polls, answering questions to generate discussion.
– Pinterest: I think of my pinterest as my gallery – a visual display of my taste and style. Good for pictures of helpful or interesting posts, good place for people to share and have things go viral. Pin pictures related to things your customers find helpful. Pin your own posts/items, but not too often. Watch your page’s source page, or search your shop name to see what people like to pin from your shop/site.

The social media sites you choose to use, and your use of each type of social media may vary from my approach. I think the helpful thing is just to have your own game plan for each site.

#3 – Blogging or newsletters.
These two are not mutually exclusive, you can do both! Personally, I prefer blogging and personally am not a big fan of doing a newsletter, but I know it works well for others. Basically, though, the purpose of doing a blog or newsletter is to have a repeated-touch way to keep in touch with your customers and/or target market.

If you run a blog, write posts about topics that solve the problems of your target market. For instance, if you sell hair bows for kids, then your target market is moms, so write blog posts about fun family activities or healthy recipe ideas, etc. If you sell art supplies, then your target are crafters and artists, so write blog posts about projects to make, how to organize your crafts, etc. Basically, offer valuable information to your target market for free, and that will draw them in. Have clear links to your shop, do occasional posts about a new line of items in your shop, put your wares in the sidebar, etc., to convert traffic to sales. For some more info on blogging, you can check out my series on blog design.

If you do a newsletter, don’t just add people to your newsletter list, or you could get into legal trouble for spamming. Instead, use a site like MailChimp or MadMimi to get set up, and the provide a way on your shop or blog for people to subscribe. Offer an incentive to subscribe – a free printable, a free shipping coupon for your shop, etc. Basically, offer something valuable for your target market for free to encourage them to sign up. Then use each newsletter to give one clear call to action.

#4 – Advertise on targeted sites. Consider finding sites that are highly targeted to your target market, and put your ad on there. Set a limit on your advertising spending, and don’t lock into a long term commitment of payments with a site before purchasing a relatively short time. For instance, try out one month of running an ad on that blog before you buy six months. See how it goes, and if it is worth your money.

As far as the 4 strategies that I recommend you AVOID:

#1 – Running lots of big sales. There’s nothing wrong with running the occasional reasonable promotion (like a giveaway, or a free shipping special), but if you’re often running big discount sales, it’s going to undermine with value of your product and make people think your prices are too high. Generally in a handmade biz, we’re not always making enough profit on our prices for the amount of time we’re putting in anyway – but if on top of that, we’re offering half off sales every couple months, people are going to get used to and expect that and won’t want to pay full price. Make sure you’re still making profit. I know right before we moved, I was trying to move some inventory and ran some sales to try to make some extra money before packing everything up. Looking back I think it did more harm than good.

#2 – Spamming. Just don’t do it. If you wouldn’t run into someone house or business, throw your flyers up in the air and yell, “CHECK OUT MY STUFF!”, and then run out again, then don’t do that online either. Don’t add people to mailing lists they haven’t signed up for. Don’t jump into someone else’s forum discussion and interrupt it with an ad for your shop. Be a real person, not a spammer.

#3 – In-your-face promotion. This is similar to spamming, in that it annoys people, that it isn’t effective, and that it puts a bad taste in people’s mouth toward your business … but the difference is that you’re doing it in places where you’re “allowed” to promote. For instance, on your Facebook page, in your product description, in your Twitter profile, etc. The key in those cases is to still talk like a regular person – not like a shouting advertisement. If your product description are meaningless hype, like “THIS SCARF IS AMAZING!! QUALITY MATERIALS!!! LOOK GREAT WHEN YOU WEAR THIS SCARF!!” or if your Facebook posts are just constant links without specific reasons or enticements, like “Come check out my great products!!!” or if your Twitter profile is just an obvious list of search terms, like “art prints typography prints modern prints kitchen art”, or thing along those lines … um, yeah, that’s what I’m talking about avoiding. Talk like a regular person. Use meaningful words. Don’t tell me “this is fabulous!!”, instead show and describe the techniques, materials and inspiration of the piece, and gently allow me to realize it is fabulous, rather than just asserting it. If you want to share a link on Facebook, let me know why I would want to check it out (and just telling me “it’s great” doesn’t count). Let me know you’re launching this new line of aprons because you think this new style of pockets will really be helpful for cooks, and then give the link. That will get me to click. Just remember to be personable, not in my face.

#4 – Shot-gun approach advertising. You’re not trying to advertise to everyone. This is why if you’re selling handmade goods, you’re going to be able to get people to pay a high price on Etsy than on Ebay … because you’re focused on the right target market on Etsy. If you pay for ads all sorts of places that aren’t really honed in on your target market, you’re going to be spending a lot of money, and even if you do get some traffic from it, it’s not really going to increase your sales, because it’s not your target market.

Ok, so we’ve covered letting your target market do the marketing, and online marketing. Very briefly, now, offline marketing.

I think the degree of importance that offline marketing has is somewhat dependent on how much you’re actually selling offline. Personally almost all of my marketing is done online because I sell almost exclusively online. Here are a couple offline things, though:

– Have business cards. I always have my business cards with me when I go out. The fact that I run my own small biz comes up sometimes, and it is definitely handy to have business cards to hand out. When I asked for you to share your marketing tips on Friday, Alyssa mentioned that you can get 250 free business cards from VistaPrint. You still do have to pay shipping, though, which is about $11. I’ve gotten them from VistaPrint before, but personally my favorite place to get business cards is

– Encourage repeat business when you mail out your orders. Include business cards, perhaps a small free gift, or free shipping coupon code to encourage them to come back, and package the item they purchased in a very that is safe, secure, and attractive.

– Wear/use your product. If you make jewelry, wear it out. If you sew purses, carry one. If you make art, hang in on your wall. And have business cards on hand when someone compliments it.

– Consider craft shows, art fairs, farmers markets, selling in boutiques, etc. If you live in an area where these types of things are available, you might find them to be a valuable asset to your business.

OK! It’s the end of the last post of the Creative Biz series. Time to move on to our last critique…

This week is Abernathy Studios, run by Yvette Norris. Here is the question she posted:

One or two particular areas I would like to learn how to improve in my biz are: I feel like my store is too much of a hodge-podge and I probably should have a main theme. I also don’t know how to promote myself other than sponsoring blogs. I currently sponsor on but just now started. We’ll see how that goes.

Great questions! Let’s take a look at her shop:

First of all, before we jump in, I notice that Yvette has made some changes to her shop since I first checked out her shop when she asked this question a few weeks ago. She had a wider variety of products, such as hair bows and fabric key ring wristlets. It looks like she is working on consolidating her products, as she mentioned she felt like the variety felt more hodgepodge.

Ok, first of all, let’s look at some things she is doing well…

– Photography skills: Her photos are beautiful. They are clear and crisp. The lighting looks great, and all the images are in focus, have proper white balance … and are even cropped nicely on the dolls. I love how we get a really clear view of the face in the thumbnail. She clearly knows how to use a camera! And the photography style is very cohesive.

– Descriptions of the dolls: You can read the love and the joy that goes into her dolls when you read their descriptions. There is personality, warmth, and quality conveyed, all without being in-your-face. Plus she did a nice job dividing it up into sections to make it easier to read. You can’t help but love the dolls, both from the photos and form the descriptions – that is exactly what photos and descriptions should do! It would be good to have that kind of description on all the items in her shop.

Now onto good, but could be improved:

– Profile: She has conveyed a lot of personality and info in an interesting yet concise way on her about page, giving a little of her history, and the joy she puts into her dolls. It’s very well done. I might recommend doing something similar on the profile page as well, since there is not much information there, but there are many links on Etsy that lead to the profile.

Things to work on:

– Shop cohesion and product focus: I can see from her question that having a cohesive theme is something of a struggle for Yvette. And I know how that feels – I ran a couple of different shops and had several types of products before I finally figured out what my theme was. It looks like she has narrowed down somewhat, but I still have a little trouble seeing the connection of items in her shop. I think a good thing to do would be to come up with a statement of what she wants her shop to be about. For instance, mine (which I also use as a tagline) is “FlourishCafe: a place for those who love food, books and art”. That is what my shop is about. It would be good to come up with some kind of summary like that for Abernathy Studios.

Since I’m not the maker, it is hard for me to know exactly what and where Yvette would like her shop to go, so the rest of this will be speculation.

Personally, though, it looks to me from the way she talks about them in her About page, and the way she writes about them in their descriptions (as opposed to how she writes in her other listings), that her dolls are the core product to her shop. The dolls also seem to be getting more views. The natural thought to me would be to make some more dolls. Dolls with different hair color, different skin color, some with freckles, etc., to have a variety of options. Maybe even do a listing for a custom dolls, where parents or grandparents could describe their little girl and have a doll made to match her? For instance, you could have a form for customers to fill out with hair color, hair type like curly or straight, features like glasses or freckled, etc. I could see people just loving that type of thing.

However, I do notice that she only has a couple dolls listed. Perhaps making the dolls is so time consuming that it is difficult to build up an inventory? In which case, the price may need to be raised, and then other products introduced that would be quicker to make and would be at a lower price point. Maybe her shop could be a celebration of young girls’ imagination? Extra special dolls, and maybe bring back the hair bows, and incorporate other such special girl items. I can totally see parents/grandparents/aunts/etc. coming to a shop full of your beautiful dolls and some other items that celebrate little girls’ imaginations and saying to themselves, “Oh, yes, THIS is the place I want to buy a gift for my little girl.” That’s the moment you’re wanting to create with your target market. I don’t know if that is the direction you would want to go or not, but it is one idea.

Another idea would be to go with a more home decor route. As far as the birdhouses, they are super cute, but from the info I can see from the preview before I click on it (the picture and the title), there really isn’t any way to know that it is not a real birdhouse to be used outside. I would imagine that if people see that and think it is a regular outdoor-type birdhouse, then click and find out in the description that it is not, that they would be disappointed, which makes it harder to sell. I’m not as familiar with that sort of decor type item, so I don’t know as much about whether it is actually a marketable product. But if it is, and it is something she wants to keep selling, I would recommend using the photos and title to make it clear that it is decor, not an outdoor birdhouse. Maybe let the first words of the title be “Home Decor Birdhouse” or something like that, and perhaps photograph it sitting attractively on a white book shelf, or as part of a table centerpiece, so that right away people are viewing it in a different context than a regular birdhouse. But in that case it would be so obviously different from the dolls – toys and home decor. You could choose to take your shop the more home decor route – I noticed on your facebook page you seemed to have a variety of more home decor related photos there.

Another idea for what you could do, since it seems from your blog and shop that you enjoy doing a wide variety of crafts – you could look into selling your own PDF tutorials, patterns and such, maybe write a crafty e-book to sell.

Of course, the particular direction of the shop is solely up to the shop owner themselves, so it is hard for an outsider looking in to give very particular guidance, not knowing what direction Yvette would be interested in taking her shop. But the overall advice is this: come up with a phrase that describes what your shop is about, and let that guide your shop cohesiveness.

– Marketing: This is one of those cases where I think once you have a more cohesive shop that appeals more strongly to a more narrow market, they will help to market your shop for you. For instance, if you started specializing in custom-made personalized dolls, I can see people sharing and recommending that online. Or whatever particular direction your chose – like if you started focusing more solely on home decor items. I just think right now since the items are for different people, it is harder for people to say, “Oh, this shop is SO right up my alley, I want to share it!” And I think it is harder, probably, for you to know who to share it with and who to market it to, due to the different target markets for different items.

I see you have a Facebook page, and that is great. I’d recommend posting no more than once a day, no less than a couple times a week. You might consider Twitter and see how it goes for you. Also, you have a great blog that could probably help you out a lot with traffic- I think the main thing you are missing is posting a lot more often. Maybe aim to post at least once a week, and start building some steadier traffic? That could help with marketing. Since you’re doing a lot of crafty posts, have you looked into submitting any of them to CraftGawker? That could also bring in a lot of traffic. I’d also recommend putting an Etsy mini in your sidebar – you can find it under “Your Shop” -> “Promote” -> “Etsy Mini”.

I would also work on marketing within Etsy itself, starting with tags and titles. Right now a lot of your tags are taken up with “orange” “yellow” “red” “soft”, and other single word adjectives. When tagging an item, think less about describing it, and more about how someone would search for it. You can still use those words, but try using them in tags like “soft handmade doll” or “red head doll” or “toys for girls”, etc. For some good ideas on tags, start typing one of your main words (like “doll”) into the search bar and see what suggestions drop down. Those are common searches. Play around with that and see what you come up with. Use more words in your title, and move the really important words to the front. For instance, in a doll listing, doll should probably be the first or second word. You might also want to look into joining an Etsy team. If you work on some of those things, your traffic from within Etsy should increase.

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful for Yvette, and for others as well! Running your own creative biz definitely takes time and strategy, so I hope this series has been useful to help focus on some high leverage tasks to make the time you spend more effective.

What marketing tips do you find useful? Whether from this post, or something you’ve heard elsewhere! :)

What’s your best marketing tip? Get featured!

I’ve been working on the final post of the Creative Biz Challenge on marketing for today – but I’ve just realized there is no way I’m going to be able to get it all finished in time and be able to do any sort of justice to the subject! So I’m going to postpone that post until Monday, Lord willing, and work on having it done for then.

BUT in the meantime, I thought this would be fun to do … share your ideas, and I might include your tips and give a shout-out to your shop in my post on Monday!

Especially if it has to do with off-line marketing. My approach to marketing is almost purely online, and I have a lot more I’m planning to share on that than I do on non-internet marketing. So share any marketing tips you want, and I may include a variety, but I’m especially looking for tips about not online marketing.

Sooo, share away! What marketing tips/techniques/ideas have you found successful? Leave them in the comments below – and make sure you leave a link to your shop, too! I can’t wait to see what you have to say. :)

Photos & Descriptions: Your product in its best light

Well, we are on to week 4 in the Creative Biz challenge! This week we are going to be looking at a couple of topics that came up a LOT in the post where you all posted your creative biz questions: photography and descriptions. A few things have to be in place before really honing those two, though – you have to have a great product, know who your target market is, and be pricing to actually make a profit. Those points are what we have talked about in previous weeks, so now we’re moving on to product photos and product descriptions.

In both of these two topics remember this: you’re trying to use this medium to convey the essence of your brand in a way that is effective to your target market.

First off, let’s jump into photography. Here are 7 tips (and if you followed my blog design series, you’ll recognize a certain amount of overlap)

1: Excellent lighting makes more of a difference than an excellent camera
Your product photography isn’t going to be printed and hung on walls as art. Its primary purpose will be fulfilled in a relatively small online image. You don’t need a fancy camera with a huge number of megapixels. I took my product photos with an old point and click for a long time. Excellent lighting, though, makes a HUGE difference. Avoid using a flash at all costs. Use natural light – but not direct sunlight. Great places to find diffused natural light are near a window, or outside in the shade.

2: The garnish should not be larger than the food
Props/backgrounds/settings can really set the stage for your photos. But just like a beautiful plate of food, the garnish can help make it more appealing but shouldn’t overwhelm or distract from the main dish. Remember, props and backgrounds should be enhancing the visual appeal of your product, not distracting away from your product.

3: White space is your friend
This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to have a completely white background, but leaving some white or simple areas for the eye to “rest” can help your items really pop – as opposed to everywhere being busy or cluttered. You can also get the same effect by having the product in focus, and the background out of focus.

4: Do your own thing
Your shop photography is an excellent opportunity to convey your own signature branding and shop aesthetic. Don’t just base your photos on someone else’s photos; think about how you can portray your own unique style in your photos. This doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel, though. For instance, there are plenty of shops modelling vintage clothing against a white background, and you can do that too .. but if your model is always wearing a bowler hat, that’s going to be unique and identifiable.

5: Limit your photography choices
It’s a good idea to not have a completely different background/style/setting in each and every setting. For instance, if you’re selling earrings, if one photo is of them hanging on a tea cup, one photo on a chalkboard background, one photo on red fabric, one photo on a model, one photo on sand, one photo on wood, etc., etc. – it’s going to be distracting and make your shop less cohesive. Not every background has to be the same, of course, but if you limit to just a few that convey the same style and use them repeatedly in your shop, it will help to convey your branding and style. This also really helps to keep cohesion when you have different types of products in your shop.

6: You aren’t trying to appeal to everyone
Focus on appealing to your target market with your photography. If your target market is stay-at-home mothers, don’t worry whether urban hip-hop teens are going to love your product photos. If you target market is 20-something guys who are into geekery, don’t worry if your product photos aren’t appealing to 40-something fashionistas. As a small handmade business your goal is appeal to a niche market, not to appeal to absolutely everyone.

7: Your photography should always reflect your branding statement
I recommend having a “branding statement” – a short phrase the encapsulates the style and message you want to convey through your shop. I made a free printable to help develop a branding statement – it was originally meant for blog branding, but much of it applies to shops as well: All aspects of your shop should convey your branding – your listings, your photos, your packaging, etc. I find this is easiest when you can actually state your branding in a single statement.

Now let’s talk a little about descriptions…

Writing descriptions can be a challenge, because there are a few different goals you want to accomplish with a description and they don’t necessarily always want to play nicely together. Such as…
– appealing to your target market
– including all the necessary details to compensate for the fact the viewer can’t examine it in person
– using keywords to boost your SEO
– conveying the unique value of your product
– communicating that you have other related items if this one if not quite what the viewer is wanting
– being succinct and easy to read

Online attention span is generally fairly short. Because there is so much information to convey in your description, I used to write reeeeeeeally long wordy paragraphs in mine. But when someone scrolled down from the photo to find huge chunks of text, it actually had the opposite effect of what I was wanting: if it felt like too much to read, the easiest response was to just leave the page.

I have since found the best friend of description writing: bulleted lists.

Of course, there a number of ways you can do an effective product description, but here’s a general outline that I use on my listings (such as the one below) and I hope you will find helpful:

For some more tips on writing item descriptions, you can check out this helpful article on Etsy’s Seller Handbook Blog.

The critique this week is for Elizabeth Hong, owner of Hyperbole Hong. Here is what she posted in the critique request thread about today’s topic:

How can I make my items (through descriptions, photos, etc.) appealing to more people without losing my personality in the mix, or is sterilization a good thing

Thanks for the question!! Let’s take a look at her shop:

First of all, let’s take a look at some things she is doing well…

– Profile and About page: People like to learn about the person behind a handmade business, and Etsy recently gave a unique opportunity to provide this with the “About” page, where you can put up behind the scenes pictures of your process, information about you as an artist and more. Elizabeth has both her her profile and her about page filled out nicely, with interesting info and photos to give people a look into her creative process.

– Craftmanship: her items are look to be very well made. The embroidery in particular jumps out at me .. I’ve tried embroidery and mine never looks so good! :) Her eye for detail is clear in her work, such as the piece below.

– Secondary photographs: she is doing a great job of giving great visual information in the additional photo spots. Etsy lets you put up a total of 5 photos, so it is in your best interest to use all 5, and let each photo give new information. Since the viewers can’t pick up and turn over the item in their hands, use the photo spots to show them as much about the product visually as possible. For instance, she shows the backs of her embroidery, how she packages her items, and other great info in her additional photos.

Now we’ll move on to some things to improve:

– Finding the common thread: I know she mentioned “appealing to more people”, but really the goal isn’t to appeal to a wider audience, but rather to appeal more strongly to a narrow market. I love the eclectic-ness of her shop – from earrings with bows, to geekery inspired decor, to an embroidery piece based on a dress from Singing in the Rain. However, finding a common thread to the shop would be good, and how it ties together in appealing to her target market. She mentioned sterilization, and that is certainly not what I’m talking about – in fact it is the opposite, because the goal is to appeal just to her target market, not to absolutely everyone. I think it would be good to come up with some kind of phrase as far as what the shop is ABOUT and WHO it is that would be shopping there. For instance, the target market for the more formal looking necklaces is probably quite different to the target market for the Pokemon embroidery. (And side note here for Elizabeth – perhaps you have taken care of licencing and such for trademark names and such that you are using, but I wanted to throw this word of caution in here in case you haven’t … things like “X-box”, “pokemon”, “Nintendo”, etc. need to really be looked into as far as the legal side of things and whether you can use them. I know I get lots of requests for custom pieces in my shop that incorporate modern quotes that I simply can’t use due to copyright issues. So that is just a word of caution for you to be careful about the legal side of things.) But coming up with what the unifying theme of the shop is would be helpful in terms of branding and marketing it most effectively. The branding printable from my blog series might be helpful – it was intentionally designed for branding a blog, but could also be helpful in terms of a shop. You may find that you decide to focus on some items instead of others as a result of your theme.

– Unifying your photography style: Once you’ve established the connecting theme of your shop, I’d recommend choosing one photography style to shoot all the different items. When you do have a variety of items, I think photography is a great way to tie them together. Think about your branding theme, and then I’d recommend choosing one or two backgrounds/settings that reflect that without distracting from the items, and use that to shoot them all. And the photography doesn’t have to be “sterilized” – you can put your personality into it! But I’d just recommend limiting the styles. Currently, I see some items in cups, some items on wood, some items on white, some items on a tree, some items on a jewelry form, etc., etc. Narrowing that down will help your shop feel more cohesive. As far as what background to choose … personally, since your items themselves have so much personality, you don’t want to distract TOO much with a competing background. If you use a white background though, you might think about brightening or touching up the color just a little in an image editing program. Here are a few that I think are successful in having a non competing background, and then I’m also showing the result of just a subtle adjustment in a photo editor:

I think these kinds of backgrounds really allow your items to pop – and ever though there is variety in those three items, they flow better with the similar backgrounds. I especially like that on the last two, we can see the entire item, even in thumbnail.

I think backgrounds you might want to avoid are the really bright/deep colored backgrounds (they are fun, but to the point of overwhelming the item itself especially in the thumbnail size image that people see in search results, and the item itself is what you want people to notice and remember) or the hair clips in cups (props should help reflect something about the item – since they were in cups, it looks like they are some kind of tea cozy or herbal sachet or something, to me, and it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized they were hair clips).

– Descriptions: I really like that you are conveying personality in your descriptions, and I think that is an excellent thing to continue. I especially like that you talk in the first person (“I was inspired to make this when..”), as that helps to drive home that these are handmade goods. A couple pointers, though, that might help you to be able to take your descriptions to the next level:
– Be concise but high impact: Keep words and sentences that pack a punch, put them higher in the description, cut out fluffier parts
– Put details in list form
– Have a description format that you use on all listings.

For instance, on this hair clip:

The description you have …

I love cute and unique hair accessories but it’s always so difficult to find something I can get excited about and something that can actually support some hair. That’s why I created this hair clip! I was in a creative rut when I designed these but I had a goal to come up with a hair accessory I could make for myself that would show off some embroidery but not look completely outrageous (well, maybe not completely), and I finally made this. I loved it so much I have made it in every color I have, so if this color isn’t to your liking please check my other listings.
This is a cute and frivolous hand cut light blue felt heart hand embroidered with matching and contrasting embroidery floss then filled with new poly fiber fill and blanket stitched closed. I then hot glue the slightly puffy heart to a metal hair barrette which is then stitched together for an added level of security.

I only use these metal barrettes because I feel they are the only option out there than can securely hold hair without slipping. If you are interested in a set please contact me.
Each item I make is handmade and because of this each one is slightly unique. This item is ready to ship and I usually ship in two days or less.
My embroidered heart hair ornament is approximately 3” x 2” at its widest part.

Everything I make is hand stitched, hand cut and hand assembled by me from my own sketches.

… could become (and I pretty much used words you already wrote, just rearranged)…..

This is a cute and frivolous hand cut light blue felt heart hand embroidered with matching and contrasting embroidery floss. I love hair accessories but it can be difficult to find something cute and unique that that can actually support some hair. That’s why I created this hair clip! The slightly puffy heart is filled with new poly fiber fill and blanket stitched closed, then both glued and stitched to a metal hair barrette for an added level of security.

More details on this sweet heart:
– it measures approximately 3” x 2” at its widest part.
– I use these metal barrettes for the back because they are so effective at actually holding hair.
– This item is ready to ship and I usually ship in two days or less.
– Everything I make is hand stitched, hand cut and hand assembled by me from my own sketches.

Want something a little different?
I love this style of hair clip so much, I made them in a wide variety of colors. Check out the hair clip section of my shop to see the other options:

That way it makes it easy for a potential customer to take in all the necessary info at a glance, but still conveys your personality – just condensed to the more powerful parts!

I hope this has been helpful for Elizabeth, and others as well! (By the way, Elizabeth, I am totally digging those earrings with black bows!)

Are photos and descriptions something you struggle with? Leave your thoughts and comments below! :)

One of the hardest parts of creative biz: Pricing

My apologies that this post is a day late! I usually stay up really late on Thursday nights (or stay up late into Friday morning would be more like it) to put up my Friday post. I must admit that sleep won over this week. Life has been crazy lately. (Although, is life ever NOT crazy and busy? I guess not.)

Anyway! On to this week’s topic for the creative biz challenge, which I think is one of the stickiest:

Pricing. It is hard to figure out how much to charge, especially on handmade items. Pricing feels strange because it is a reflection of how valuable an item is that we have made – and that can feel uncomfortable. I know when I first opened, I felt embarrassed to charge anything more than just the cost of the materials. But it’s even harder for one person to tell another person what they should be charging for their handmade items. Only the artisan know just how much time and effort went into each piece, how much they are relying on the income of the business, as well as other factors. But in the end, you ARE running a business, so you need to get your prices in alignment, or your business won’t be able to stay afloat.

Before moving forward, here is an important question for you: is your shop a hobby or a business? I’ll tell you something I haven’t told you before – at this current time, my online sales and business are our family’s only source of income. It is a short term situation, but even so, it means that my prices HAVE to be profitable. If your shop is just a hobby, and you’re not actually trying to make money from it, you’re going to approach things very differently. I want to make it clear at this point – I’m not saying that money is the most important thing *at all*. If you want to just keep it laid back and only pay yourself back for the supplies you use, you have every right to do that. My advice in this post, though, is for those who are looking to run a more profitable business and have it as a source of income.

I will say this – in general, handmade businesses (such as many of the ones on Etsy) charge prices that are far too LOW. If you are trying to price in competition to the prices you see in stores, like at a department store, you are pricing too low. You (most likely) do not have employees, machines, or the ability to mass produce. Don’t try to price in competition with a company that has those things. They can afford to make a small amount of profit per sale, and rely on the fact that they are having a huge number of sales. Your strategy should not be the same as them. If you are a one of kind, uniquely crafted, artisan brand, then price accordingly!!

Here is one litmus test that I feel can help you gauge whether your prices are high enough: businesses expect that when they place a wholesale order, that they will be paying only 50% of retail price. Suppose a company contacted you with interest in placing a wholesale order. Look at the items in your shop – if you charged wholesale price (half off) for a large order from your shop, would you still be making a good profit? If not, your prices are too low.

Also, realize that people expect the value of the item to be reflected in the price. When I first opened my first shop selling jewelry, I had people flat out say they wouldn’t buy from me because my prices were so low they just assumed I had a low quality product. That may sound harsh, but it is good to know! I put a ton of work into each piece, handcrafting even the beads themselves, but the price did not reflect that. So people assumed that it wasn’t a quality product. Think about it – if you went in to a painter’s gallery, and there was a large original oil painting for sale for $5, what would be your thought? “What wrong with it? Is it actually an original? This can’t be what I thought at first – the price is too low.” If you have a quality product, reflect that in your price. Buyers who want to buy handmade items are looking for quality, not cheap disposable items. They expect to pay that price.

And if you have buyers who are wanting to only pay cheap prices, like you might find at a discount store, you need to find a new target market. You reach out to different target markets with different pricings. Let’s face it – very few of us are selling necessities. We are selling luxury items. Right now, I am on a tight budget. I can’t buy a lot of luxury items. Right now, I am probably not your target market. And that’s fine! I’m not entitled to your products. You should be pricing for who IS your target market – people with disposable income. People who can afford luxury items. I remember one of the Etsy admin making a good point – if you want to get a good idea of your target market, it is someone like you, but who has a lot more money. Price with that in mind.

You might be afraid of sales going down by raising your prices. Interesting tidbit: when I raised my prices, my sales have gone UP, not down. But even if your sales went down – is that always a bad thing? That may sound strange, but stop and think about it. Let’s say you have 5 sales this week at $10 each – that is $50. Now let’s say you raise your price to $20 next week, and your sales drop to 3 sales that week. That is $60. It is fewer sales, but higher profit. Plus, it is less work for you to make/list/ship 3 items than 5. I know it’s easy to gauge your shop by how many sales you have, but really that is not the test. I’d rather have fewer sales at higher prices so that I can actually keep up, than to have TONS of sales, but not making much profit and working myself to the bone.

Ok, but let’s get down to some brass tacks. On what should I base my price? Here is a formula that I’ve heard before, and while this is by no means the right formula for everyone, check this out just for kicks …

((hourly wage x hours spent) + cost of supplies) x 2 = wholesale price

wholesale price x 2 = retail price in your shop

And let me not this: your hourly wage should NOT be just minimum wage.

Now this is just a loose formula, not an exact science, and you very well may decide not to go with the final result. It isn’t the formula I personally use, but it is an interesting guideline. You may judge that it doesn’t work for you because maybe you work very slowly so the hours are inflated, or you may realize the market just won’t bear the final price. BUT I hope at the very least this will give you a little sticker shock in a good way: you should probably be charging more than you are right now. At the very least, even if it is not double like in the formula, I’d suggest that you make sure your wholesale price is more than covering just your expenses (paying yourself and your supplies cost are EXPENSES, not profit) so that you could do wholesale profitably. And then your retail price (the price you charge in your shop) should be double that.

Ok, now it is time for this week’s critique. Here is the question that Olya from OboCreations posted in the opening thread:

“the topic i suggest is a challenge of a turning a hobby to a business. how do i combine it with my daily job and compete with those who are doing full time?. They can devote 8-12 hours per day to Etsy shop vs me spending this doing other things. Seems a catch 22 – to quit my job i need my business to pick up – yet how to do that if all i have is the night? one of the aspect is setting priorities and here comes the question of what they are. As a small business especially as starter you face the need to address so many different aspects – set up online shop, make description, photos, SEO, dig into forums, promote, get social media, make packaging, find bloggers etc etc etc. So remembering i only have few hours before i collapse to sleep – where should i start?”

I think a huge part of the answer to her question is today’s topic: pricing!

Let’s take a look at her products:

Ok, first of all let’s point out some things Olya is doing well about…

Listings: She just opened her shop this summer, and she already has 100 products listed. This is absolutely amazing!!! One huge thing to have a great shop is having enough listings to be able to be found easily in the search and to have enough variety to offer visitors to your shop enough options for them to be able to browse through and choose from. So you are far ahead of the curve on this one, Olya, nice going! In fact, if I were you, I probably wouldn’t add more listings until I started to see how sales are going to do on your product. But the fact that you’ve been photographing and listing that many products is amazing – nice going!

Policies and Profile: You have them both filled out, which is great, and I especially appreciate your very clear policies and info on what to expect since you are shipping from Switzerland. Very, very helpful, especially since most buyers on Etsy are from other countries, so that is very smart to have all that information, well done.

Photos: Your photos are so crisp and clean and look absolutely catalog worthy! They look really professional and clear to see the item. Being able to fully and clearly see the item is of utmost importance in product photography, and you’re doing a great job of that. On the (possible) downside, that catalog look is something people already see a good bit, especially in jewelry, and can also come across as very sterile. Since jewelry is SUCH a saturated market on Etsy with SO many jewelry sellers, it can be hard to stand out. I used to sell jewelry, and it was hard, I know! The style of photography is one thing you can use to help differentiate yourself. Maybe in the future you might think about modeling some jewelry or play around with conveying your branding in your photos? But in asking where to start, you definitely don’t need to do anything like that first because overall your photos are very impressive. I especially like when you leave them not quite so whited out in the background, like the one below. Great work on photography!!

Descriptions: I really like that in this listing on the above bracelet you drive home the handmade nature of it in the description: “This cute Silver colored shiny brass metal bracelet is hand painted using my very special technique. I have used silver grey and red color and let them interact and mix with one another to form this lovely shade and magical pattern . On top the artwork is covered by a high gloss top quality jewelry resin. It protects end enhances the image making it look almost 3d.” Knowing that kind of info is SO important. There are a huge variety of jewelry sellers, so this unique and very handmade technique is very important to emphasize. I think it is important to make that clear in all your listings. On Etsy, it is perfectly acceptable to purchase an already made pendant and use it in the jewelry you make. But since you’re going a step further and painting the pendants yourself, you want to make sure people realize that! Also, watch out for capitalization. Starting sentences off with lower case letters, or using “i” instead of “I” in your description can make it feel less professional. It is one of those things that may seem little, but really can make a difference.

And now, an area to improve:

PRICES!!: Now, not being the artisan myself making the jewelry, I can’t tell you exactly where you should be pricing your items, but I DO think they are under priced. For instance, these earrings are $14:

I can go to the mall and easily find a regular pair of earrings for $14, and they are not hand painted originals from a jewelry designer in Switzerland. Your earrings are!! I think your earrings deserve a higher price tag. If I were to put your price into the formula backwards … Your retail is $14. That means your wholesale is $7. Which means $3.50 is what is there to cover paying you and your supplies. Not to mention Etsy and PayPal fees, which will add up to about another 50 cents. Basically, it doesn’t seem like you’re making much, if any, profit. So if you’re looking for advice on how to go from hobby to business, especially since your time is limited and valuable – make sure you charge for your time! Take a good look at your prices – if your shop suddenly sold out tomorrow, would you have enough money to repurchase all the supplies you would need AND pay yourself to do all the work to restock your shop – AND have also made profit? If not, then you need to start by figuring out a pricing structure that will be actually workable business-wise. If it wouldn’t be profitable for that to happen in one day, it is also not going to be profitable for that to happen over time. So once you’ve figured out what WOULD allow you to make a profit, then try out those prices in your shop for a while. Like we talked about before, make sure you drive home the value of the product in your descriptions, highlighting the handmade nature of the jewelry, and maybe tweak somethings in your shop to reflect a higher end price tag, like maybe a banner that is less cutesy, and work on marketing to your target market. But if you find the market won’t bear those prices, it might be time to look into tweaking your product, like we talked about in the first post of this series. Because if you’re trying to make the switch from hobby to business, you need to get paid for your work at a level that actually is profitable, not just covering your costs. Especially considering it doesn’t sound like you have a lot of extra time you can just pour into this!

Anyway, I hope that has been helpful, both for Olya, and for any of the rest of you who are running a creative biz. I know pricing can feel sticky and hard to figure out, but it needs to be figured out if you want to go from hobby to business.

I told you some of my early pricing woes and mistakes – do you find pricing easy?

Your target market: Who and where are they?

So let’s say you are selling crochet doilies. Should you be marketing to young urban men? Um, let’s go with NO. A hugely important part of running a successful creative business is understanding your target market.

So, we’re going to talk about who your target market is and how to find them, as well as doing a shop critique of one reader’s shop! But before we get into figuring out all of that … why is it so important to know your target market?

In the questions you asked me in the opening post, a lot of people asked “how can I increase views and sales”? What is the different between those two? Let’s say for a moment I had a guaranteed way that for $10 you could get 5,000 views tomorrow, but that ALL of the views would come from 12 year old girls who love horses, listening to whatever is the current top 40, and glitter. Some of you might find that to be a great opportunity. Others of you might be thinking, “5,000 views in one day would be nice … but I don’t think they would be into what I’m offering”. Or here is another scenario – let’s say you could get a celebrity endorsement of your product, and the options were Paula Deen, LeBron James, or One Direction. Your choices reflect the importance of knowing your target market.

You need to know who you are marketing to in order to be able to market to them effectively.

We can talk about marketing, photography, views, etc., etc. – but if you’re trying to market pearl necklaces to bikers, or photographing baby hats on adults, or getting views on your photography only from fellow photographers who prefer their own work anyway – it’s not going to do much good, because you’re appealing to the wrong crowd. Yes, you want to make your shop more appealing and draw people in … but you want to make your shop appealing to and draw in the people who actually want to BUY your items. Would you rather have 800 views where only 1% of the people buy, or 300 views where 50% of the people buy? Your target market is the people who actually want to BUY from you.

So you want these people to buy from you. How do you make that happen?

Step 1 – define and describe your target market. And no, just saying “women between the ages of 20-50” isn’t enough. That describes waaaaaaaay too broad of a group. That could cover a new grandmother, and an indie singer/songwriter, and a stay-at-home mother of 5, and a college fashionista. Those four people all will have very different buying habits. When figuring out out target market, you want to narrow down much more than that. Here is a printable list of questions – not all of these may shed light for every seller, but hopefully this will get your thoughts rolling:

Once you have a good feel for who your target market is…

Step 2 – find and appeal to your target market. There are a variety of ways to appeal to your target market: firstly through your product itself (like we talked about last week), as well as how you do your product photography, through your descriptions, through the style of your shop as a whole, and through the price of the product (and this does NOT necessarily mean a low price). Those various topics, though, are all ones which I will be devoting an entire post to in the future, so in this post we’ll be focusing more on FINDING the people in your target market.

I have three basic strategies when it comes to getting in touch with my target market:

So, firstly, finding the places where my target market already goes. Personally, this why I sell my prints on Etsy rather than on my own site. If you are running a creative business, probably one of the features of your target market is that they like to buy from small/handmade businesses. That target market is shopping on Etsy, and other such similar sites. But, of course, that is still too broad, so even within Etsy you need to be seeking your target market. Think about how your customers actually search. Will they be searching “chunky cobalt knit neckwear” or will they be searching “blue scarf”? If your target market is trendy, and cobalt is a trending color, then you’ll be more likely to include that in your tags/titles. If your target market is less trendy, then blue will be of more value to you than cobalt. In general, make sure you have the more simple terms covered first right at the beginning of your title, then move on to more specific terms that are helpful, but probably not as often searched. Make sure you use ALL 14 tags on your listings, and fill them with words and phrases that have meaning to your target market. And, as we will talk about in later posts, make sure your photos are styled in a way that your target market will be drawn to them.

But even if you are only selling on Etsy, that doesn’t mean Etsy needs to be the only place you are seeking out your target market. Think about other (and non-commerce) sites where your target market is already gathered. Some of these would have some cost – for instance, taking out an ad on a website that your target market likes to visit, or do a giveaway on a blog your target market likes to read, etc. Some of these wouldn’t have to cost any money at all – for instance, you could join a forum that your target market uses and include your website in your profile there if that is allowed, or do a guest post on a blog your target market reads, etc. Yes, it takes time to find these places, and it is different for every target market.

Side note here – One thing you should not do is spam. Each of your reading this may have very different target markets, but I will tell you one thing that I know about your target market: they don’t like to be spammed. Think of it the same way as if your target market was all hanging out in one coffee shop – would you run in, yelling at the top of your voice about your products? Or would you put a flyer about your products on the bulletin board, maybe ask they cafe if they are interested in carrying your items, etc. Behave the same way online.

Ok, moving onto part 2 of my strategy: creating places your target market would like to congregate. I think this is most easily done with a blog. A blog allows for much more interaction than a shop alone. Plus, with a blog, you can offer highly valueable content for your target market for free – and that will draw them in. I think it was Mayi Carles who first enlightened me to this: a good way to come up with blog content is to ask yourself, “What problem does my target market face?”, and then post ideas and solutions on those topics. Is your target market made up of stay at home moms? Post family friendly recipes, home organization tips and activities to do with kids. Is your target market made up of outdoors-y types? Post camping how-to’s, tips on what to pack while backpacking, or give instructions for your favorite trail mix. Posting about topics that your target market will find helpful – and clearly linking to your shop on your blog – can be a great way to get in touch with your target market.

And the third part of my strategy: have a product and brand that appeals to strongly to your target market that they want to tell others about it. Like we talked about last week, having a really strong product is so crucial. But once you have a really sellable product, and a good feel of your target market, and put in some work to start getting in touch with your target market – the good news is that the internet offers soooo many ways for people to share the things they like. Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, etc., etc. Word of mouth is such a great thing, and when your target market starts spreading the word about you, things can really take off. The thing is – that doesn’t necessarily come easy to get to that point. It takes a lot of work of experimenting with your products, as well as studying and finding your target market.

OK! Enough of general discussion, let’s go ahead and take a look at one of the shop owners who asked specifically about target markets. It is Mollie Doyle, owner of the shop The Bottle Garden – take a look:

First of all, let’s point out things she is doing really well on:
-Photography. WOW. These photos are just absolutely gorgeous. The photos have a great ambiance without distracting or competing with the items themselves. The items really stand out, which is great. Also, there is a great cohesiveness to the shop as a whole, with all the items being photographed in a similar way. Gorgeous photos, Mollie!
-Profile. If you browse her shop and visit her profile, she has some great info there on what she does, written in a friendly and interesting way .. this is a great thing to have in a shop!! People who buy handmade love to know something about the person behind the shop.
-Policies. Filled out, clear, concise, and professional, which is exactly what you want. People are less likely to buy from a shop with no policies … or policies that leave them confused or uncomfortable.

And a couple things that are good, but might be tweaked:
-Descriptions. With a name like “The Bottle Garden”, and with the beautiful products in your shop, people are naturally going to be curious about your work – what you did and how you do it. And I don’t mean giving away trade secrets or anything, but along the lines of what you shared on your profile page … that these are recycled bottles and the neat things you have done to transform them. I really like how you put some of that info right at the top of this listing:

…where you wrote, “I designed this bud vase with a smooth broken edge. The top of the glass was carefully broken to create curves and then polished smooth.” That gives some great insight into the work you put in on these pieces! That kind of info is so valuable to a potential buyer. I know you mentioned price being a question – we’ll be getting into price more in a future post, but the more you make it clear the work that goes into each piece, the more likely people will be to pay a higher price tag. Also, in terms of searching, having really relevant words like “recycled” right near the top of the description would be great. I’d encourage you to start of each description talking a little about what it was you did to the piece, a couple sentences, and sprinkle in good keywords. That will be good in terms of people searching, as well as the top part is what the most people will actually read.

And lastly, a couple things to improve in, especially with regards to today’s topic:
-Target market. Really take some time to think about who you are trying to sell to – look at your beautiful products and think about who it is that would be buying this. A couple things jump to mind as I look at your products – because of the recycled nature of your products, the eco-conscious go-green demographic is one that I think would be a great fit for you. Another angle you could look at is the home decor aspect. Think of women with beautiful houses who enjoy decorating them with unique and quality items, and how much they would enjoy your items. Combine those two, and you’re definitely getting into a niche market! Green home decor is a topic I see around the web quite a bit … in fact after a quick search, I found this list of Top 50 blogs about Green Interior Design … sounds to me like 50 places where your target market already is! I’d suggest looking into pitching your products to relevant blogs – you’ve definitely got the great photos that blogs like that love. Also, if I were you, I’d tweak the tags and titles to involve more terms that pertain directly to your target market. Things like “eco friendly”, “go green”, “eco conscious”, “upcycled home decor” “up cycled” (different spellings are good to cover!) “green interior design”, etc. Monitor your stats to see which terms are bringing people in, and tweak as needed. And, of course, if you find that “eco-conscious women with expendable money for home decor” is too narrow, you can always try marketing to the eco-friendly sector more broadly, or to those interested in home decor and housewares, whether green or not.

A couple other ideas for getting found – have you considered joining an Etsy treasury making group? Having high quality photos is a prerequisite to the groups that give the best results, and since you have that, you might want to go for it. Teams like that do have a time comitment, so you’d have to weigh it. I used to be on several treasury teams and while I was doing that, I made it on the front page of Etsy quite often. Eventually, though, I grew to the point that I was bringing in my own traffic and the time commitment was just too much. But it can definitely be a helpful way to network and grow when you’re starting out. Same thing with social media, or if you would want to consider a blog – you have to weigh which ones are really beneficial and useful to you. We’ll be talking more about social media and such in more detail in a future post.

Overall, Mollie, GORGEOUS shop! I think it’s just an issue of really honing in on your target market and starting out seeking them where they are, in the Etsy search terms, on green design blogs and so forth. Good luck!

I hope this post has been helpful for Mollie and for others as well. Are you trying to figure out your target market too? Have questions or comments about it? Leave them below, I love to hear from you!

Where is special to you? Custom map art…

I love maps. And I love when customers give me great ideas for new prints to offer. :) I had someone request a custom map art print to give as a gift to a young couple to commemorate the location where they got engaged! It was such a sweet project, that I thought it would be nice to offer custom map prints for others as well.

I made this as an example if you wanted a print to show your home state, or it could also show the place where you got married, or where your child was born, or a favorite destination from your travels .. any special location you would like turned in to a print! Or, of course, like the project that got me started on this in the first place – you could create a custom print for someone else, which could make a truly unique gift, as the holidays will start approaching before you know it. You get to choose the colors, the text, the location, etc. The details are here.

Where is a place that is special to you? Now that we have moved, I think I might just have to make one of these for our family, with a heart over Boston. :)

The Question No One Asked – Creative Biz Series

It’s time to kick-off the creative biz challenge! WooT! Thank you to all of you who volunteered to have your shop critiqued and posted your questions – it was great to have so many options. And of course while I won’t be able to do everyone’s shop, I hope that the critiques and the information in this series will be valuable across the board. And really, I think that won’t be too hard – everyone asked pretty much the same things! It broke down easily into just a handful of categories. But there was one HUGE topic no one really asked about at all … and that did surprise me. And it is the topic we are going to be taking about today. I’m curious if it jumps out at you…

All great topics, of course! But does anyone else find it interesting what is NOT there? What is the big whole section that no one asked about?


Our creative business products – the core of running our own small business. Now, of course I didn’t expect anyone to ask “what should I be selling?”. No one knows better than you what you are capable of making. And perhaps it is because of the more personal nature of choosing what products to sell that caused it to not be among the questions, and I understand that. There are a wide variety of product questions that are good to investigate, even just on your own. For instance, “Is this product marketable?” or “Should I consider adding a new line of products?” or “Should I discontinue this type of item?” … I know these are questions I had to consider seriously.

I don’t know if you know this, but I actually had two Etsy shops before my current one – both of which did only so-so. The first, at the end of a year, had only about 40 sales. The second shop, at the end of its first year, had about 75 sales. But once I decided to focus on this third shop, and close down the previous two, I had over 300 sales in about 3 months. What changed? Primarily, product.

And I’ll say this – I really did like the products I had in my previous shops: jewelry which I made from books pages, maps and clock parts, as well as vintage clothes and various other items. Here is kind of a sampling:

I liked it a lot! But even with promotion, marketing, tweaking descriptions, etc., while the products were selling, it was at a very slow pace. I started to let some products (like my sewing) go fairly early, while others (like handmade jewelry) I kept longer. But it was only because I was experimenting with different types of products that I finally stumbled on what started to really blossom and sell quickly (my art prints)- and that is what I now sell in my shop, FlourishCafe.

At this point you may be thinking, “Well, but I don’t have the time or know how to make a bunch of completely different products!” They don’t necessarily have to be in such a wide variety of categories. My friend Danielle, for instance, owner of the fabulously successful shop The Merriweather Council, has had a HUGE number of sales in her embroidered initial necklaces. Her shop did well, even from early on, with great photography, beautiful workmanship and everything else. But she didn’t start out selling the necklaces. I remember she sold her sewn buntings and there was more emphasis on her wishbone embroidered hoops at that time. And she has stayed within her field of sewing and fiber art and embroidery and added this new product of the embroidered necklaces … and her sales took off even more! Those necklaces even made an appearance on the Today Show. So you can stay within your field, but still come up with new products until you find what really sells well.

I’d say the majority of you who posted question have had somewhere in the range of 10-50 sales so far. We’re going to be talking a lot in future posts about aspects of how to approach marketing, getting traffic, target market, pricing, etc. … but the very first thing I want you to think about is your product. It might be a good product, like I had in my first two shops. The thing is, there are lots of good products out there that don’t sell very well – and that is what happened to me initially. But sometimes you have to let go of something good to move on to something great. You want to have a GREAT product, something unique and that has a direct target market. Because, after all, you will have a much easier time marketing if you have a highly marketable product. And, again, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave the type of category of workmanship you are in – but you might consider launching a related, but new, line of products.

It may take some experimenting to hit on what works, but once you find that niche, the rest of it is much easier. I’d suggest, if you’re considering a new product, start out in small amounts at first. Don’t list hundreds of a new product, only to find out people aren’t really interested in it. Perhaps try a few different types of things (especially if they are related somehow) and list them, at least enough to fill one or two pages – and see what sells. If you find that the handmade dishcloths are selling well – then make and list more. If the crochet key rings aren’t getting many views or any sales, realize it might be time to let that go and try something else. Especially in the early stages of running a shop, I think it is good to do a lot of tweaking and experimenting to find out the market’s reaction to your products.

I’ve made a printable to help you think about your product….

And many of these questions tie into the topics you asked about in your questions – but I want you to look at them a little differently, and think of them in terms of examining your product first. These six questions will also serve as a loose guideline of the types of topics we will be looking at in future weeks of this series (for instance, this week was the first question – next week will be about your target market, as mentioned in the second question). I hope this will give you some good opportunities to brainstorm about your products, and consider whether you want to tweak them – or if you are happy with the product you have.

It is my plan, as I mentioned earlier, to offer a critique each week on the particular subject for that week. This time, though, since no one asked any questions about products, I feel it would not be my place to critique that subject in particular. I hope the printable and the points mentioned in this post can help you do a self critique this week — and I’ll plan to make up for the fact that I didn’t do one this week by doing two critiques in at least one of the future weeks. All of the rest of the topics are ones that various people asked about specifically, so there should be no shortage from now on. :)

I hope this has been helpful to you, though! What is your product? Do you ever think about branching out? Or letting a certain product go? Feel free to share some answers from your brainstorm sheet – or just your thoughts in general! I love to hear your reflections on these things. :)

And the winning topic for the next challenge is…

Drumroll, please…

So, the winner of the poll I put up for you to be able to vote for the next challenge is finished – and the Handmade Biz challenge is the winner! I think the timing of this is reeeeally good, because if you have a crafty or creative business, right now is is when you should really be putting work into your shop to be ready for the holidays. I’m planning for it to be a 6 week series, which will take us right into the beginning of November. In the last challenge (the blog redesign challenge) I used Lori’s blog throughout the whole thing to demonstrate how to make some changes. I won’t be making direct changes to anyone’s shop in this series … BUT I think it would be a lot of fun to offer this to any of you who have an online handmade business:

I will be giving individual shop/site critiques each week in the series!

Each Friday, I’ll be addressing one particular aspect of running a your own biz – and also offering a critique of one shop/site, addressing that topic specifically. And I’ll pick a different shop/site each week. The tips, just like in the last series, will be directed at that site in particular, but I’ll also be writing it for others’ benefit as well.

Soooo – if you have your own creative biz (such as an online handmade goods shop, or vintage clothing shop, or website where you offer services, etc.), fill out this simple form and I may pick your shop for the critique one week! And, of course, I’ll give a shout out to your site to send you some traffic, as well. Just copy + paste this into your comment:

My name is:
My business’ name is:
My business is about:
My Website is:
One or two particular areas I would like to learn how to improve in my biz are:

Leave your comments below, I can’t wait to check out your sites! :)