Friday, July 17, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 4

In previous columns in this series, we looked at avatars and banners, location, sections, profiles, currency of shop updates, featured items, titles and descriptions, and photography. In this final installment of Sprucing up your Online Shop, we'll wrap up with some thoughts on random concerns that have come up in team chats, as well as, on site forums.

Does the quality of the work in your shop appear to be professional? Are your photos clear and crisp with at least one closeup of the piece? Are both sides shown so you can see that the craftsmanship on the back equals that on the front? Objectively, can you get a sense that you as a seller love your work and take pride in the finished product? If you feel that you need some help with a critique of your shop, ask in the forums and if you're a member of a team or guild, don't be shy in asking for feedback on your shop! People love to give it!

Regarding feedback - what does the person's feedback say? Are there glowing reviews and not just positive marks (plus signs)? Do you get a sense that the artist or craftsperson does a stellar job, has a passion for and takes pride in their work from the comments left for them? Feedback is your reputation online, so make sure you provide excellent customer service as well as a great product.A lot of concern comes from newbies to selling online when they have no feedback. Remember that we all started with 0 feedback at one time and don't stress too much about it!

There have been many suggestions for starting to build feedback by making a few small purchases from other sellers just to get you going. In real life while shopping you have the advantage of seeing merchandise first-hand and being able to pick it up and feel it. Do your best to give potential customers that same confidence and remember that your online shop is open 24/7 and there's always someone shopping, so why not from you? Put a lot of effort into making your shop the best it can be and promote, promote, promote and your feedback from buyers will come!

Are your shop's policies clearly defined as far as shipping, payments, returns and other information? Try and keep your tone upbeat and positive in writing this dry stuff, but also be clear and thorough. If you're shipping internationally (and I strongly suggest that you do) make sure your mailing costs are realistic and accurate. Don't expect your buyer to pay additional funds if you've made the mistake of adding too little for mailing costs. On the other hand, if the cost of mailing is significantly less than your buyer has paid, it's very wise to refund the difference to that buyer as good customer service and they will be more likely to purchase from you again. Good customer service is a cornerstone of your business!

Selling online can be nerve-wracking, exciting, financially rewarding and give you a tremendous sense of pride in your work. The most important point I can leave you with in this series is that you must promote your shop and bring buyers to it. Work each day at honing your craft and making your online shop visually appealing. If you're newer to this vast e-commerce marketplace, consider joining a team or guild for both support, encouragement and camaradie from veteran members. Good luck and if you have comments or questions, please feel free to contact me!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sprucing Up Your Online Shop - Part 3

284554603_bba2084a93_m.jpgIn today's edition of Sprucing up your Online Shop, we're going to take a look at the all-important topic of photography. While I'm by no means an expert on this, I have learned a lot about the necessity of having clear, crisp, and well lit pictures in my online shops, so I hope these elementary tips will help!

Good pictures are the greatest asset in a successful shop, so make sure your photos are clear and focused. Use a photo program such as Picasa to get rid of the greyness in your backgrounds. Use a macro lens to get sharp closeup pictures (especially when your work is a piece of jewelry or other small items).

Use most, if not all, of the photo options available to you. Show your item from different angles, different backgrounds, and in different lighting. Think outside the box and take photos from items that aren't only flat surfaces. If you look in my Etsy shop, you'll see pictures I have taken on slate, rocks, grass, seashells, against a clear blue sky, on a glass bottle and more. Challenge yourself and take a few items you have listed whose pictures you're not thrilled with. Once during a team challenge, we asked each other why particular items we thought would sell quickly didn't. With a few simple changes, we saw the difference some new photos made. The world is your canvas, so use it in unique pictorial ways!

The last installment of this 4 part series will be posted mid-week, so I hope you'll look for that! Teams and guilds are all about learning, sharing, and helping each other become the best we can while marketing in a highly competitive marketplace. If you have comments or suggestions on more ways to improve your photos, I'd love to hear them!

Photo courtesy of aussiegall

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 2

In my last column, we looked at ways to spruce up your online shop and covered avatars, banners, location, sections and profile. In this segment we'll take a look at some other areas that should be easy fixes which will both get more people into your shop and also add to a professional, cohesive look.

Is your shop current with new listings and info in your Shop Announcement area? One sure way to get me to click away from a shop is when it has a stale announcement up (such as a Valentine's Day sale in June) or if the last listing was 2 months ago. Try to keep relisting at a minimum (we all do it at times) and offer your potential customers fresh, new work as much as you can. There have been numerous threads in the forums on how many items is "too much" and my honest opinion is that if you don't list it, there's no way you're going to sell it, so keep on creating and listing!

Are you using your featured items options? Try changing your 3 (or however many each site gives you) featured items at least once a week to garner interest. Switch it up and include older and midway items in your shop since your newer items will be up on your first page anyway. One suggestion is to have a trio of complementary colors or items that tie together somehow. Whichever pieces you choose, make sure they have the wow factor!

Do your products have good titles and descriptions? Do your titles convey clearly what the item is that is for sale? Titles should both concisely say what the item is with a bit of detail, while enticing the buyer to click on your item description for more info. Descriptions should cover all the main characteristics of your item, such as what the item is, color/s, measurements, your work process, and a touch of humor doesn't hurt as long as it's not offensive. If your piece is one-of-a-kind and has a story, tell it! Some of the most charming descriptions in shops make me return again and again. While I might not purchase at the time, it's almost probable that I will put that shop into my favorites and return again in the future.

And that wraps up Part 2 of this series on Sprucing up your Online Shop! In future columns we'll look at feedback, shop policies, cohesiveness and the all important photography and lighting. And again, until then, keep on creating and I'll keep a warm kiln! If you have feedback on this series, I'd love to hear it, and if you have suggestions for future columns, send them my way.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sprucing up your Online Shop - Part 1

From Handmade News

During my almost 3-1/2 years of selling on Etsy and also as a founding member of one of the original street teams, there have been many questions on the forums (or is it fora?) on how to make shops better and increase sales. In this series of columns, we'll take a look at some of these concerns and some possible solutions!

Your shop banner and avatar are the entryway into your shop and you have a few mere seconds to either catch someone's interest or have them click away, so make them professional looking and unique. Your avatar and banner are your personal calling card so make them pop and draw those buyers in! Think of some successful boutiques and shops and their entryways and facades to get an idea. In this highly competitive online marketplace, you need to toot your own horn. There are many talented graphic designers on both Etsy and Artfire who can help you design an avatar and banner if you need help.

Make sure you have your geographic location filled in. If you're worried about disclosing too much information, at least put a state and possibly a city close to you (if you're International, put your country). Many, many buyers will click away from your shop if your location is blank. People have different reasons for wanting to see a seller's location, such as to either support local artists or to judge how long an item might take to reach them after it's been shipped.

Are your sections options being used and are they clear? Personally, I usually have about 350 items in my shop and if I didn't use my sections, it would be a lot to wade through! Make it easy for your customers to zone in and target items they would have a high level of interest in. Maybe they'll click on your other categories if they're well worded.

Is your profile filled in to give potential buyers an idea of who you are as an artist and person? I'm usually disappointed when I click on profile and find it blank. While you don't have to write a novel, some info on who you are and also showing some humor can help. I love knowing who I'm buying from and their passion for their art! Keep it upbeat and proofread and proofread again so there are no spelling or grammatical errors.

Next time we'll look at some more tips for sprucing up your shop. Until then, keep creating and I'll keep a warm kiln!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Indie Artists Join Together!

As a columnist on I've been thinking a lot about the various guilds and teams on both Etsy and Artfire.
Here's a reprint of one of my columns

Etsy and Artfire are two of the many online marketplaces to buy and sell things handmade. One way they set themselves apart from other venues is by encouraging sellers to join together within guilds or teams to better compete in the increasingly competitive online marketplace. Etsy has a few hundred street teams and Artfire, a newer venue, already has several dozen teams or guilds.

Teams and guilds have proven themselves to be valuable marketing tools, both for their team members and the venue where they come together. Teams assist sellers in increasing their individual visibility as well as the team's. They allow artisans to pool their marketing and advertising resources, skills and customer bases. Instead of competing against each other, artisans join together and nurture each other. One's success becomes the team's success and it can be a wonderful environment to thrive in. Veteran artists can mentor and teach newer members about the craft they share an interest in and newer artisans can frequently give motivation and a fresh view to those who have been at their craft for years.

There are a number of ways to help spread the team concept, such as holding monthly challenges for members to step up and meet a certain criteria for designing a piece. Some teams have held contests to design a team business card or to design a logo and some hold cooperative sales for their customers on a regular basis. Most teams use "tags" which are special search terms to enable customer's to find items more easily and blogs for their members to post what's new in their individual studios and also team happenings. Teams and guilds offer as much in return as you are willing to put into them.

With so many reasons to join a team or guild and so many to choose from, sometimes the hardest part is choosing the one that most closely reflects what you're looking for!