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Friday, February 5, 2016

What I Wish I Knew Before my First Year of Running an Etsy Shop - Part 2

Last week we started chatting about some of the tips I wish I had thought about when I first started my Etsy shop in Jaunary 2015. I've got three more today! This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you must know to run an etsy shop. I still have a lot to learn! Perhaps a year from now I'll be writing my "what I've learned after two years post"! (Actually I'm sure I will be writing that...)
These are the keys I've found to be the most helpful in building my shop, and what I think everyone would find helpful before they build a shop of their own, or at the beginning stages of growing their business.

>> If you missed part one you can check it out here

WRITE DESCRIPTIVE DESCRIPTIONS
Some of the most important things to mention in your item description are the dimensions of your product, what it's made of, how you made it, where it would be used and who would use it. If there's anything that makes it special now is the time to say so! Think of this as the resume of your product!

I think there are more than a few ways to write an impactful product description. I like to say what the piece reminds me of, or the inspiration behind it, or why I chose to do it the way I did. This is very easy in my case because I create one-off woven tapestries. By giving this extra detail, it puts that idea in the shoppers mind, adding an extra layer of interest to the item. It also reminds them that this item is the only one like it, and that it really is handmade.

Descriptions that tell a story, or delve into the process of the piece are also effective. We need to remember when we write these descriptions that people are shopping on Etsy because they want something that is special, something that is handmade, something that they can't get in Target/Gap/whatever corporate store you can think of. So make the uniqueness of your item part of the pitch.
This is an odd and extreme example, but check out this Portlandia Episode "Is the Chicken Local". Yes it's totally exagerated, (and hillarious) but they've nailed it! People want to know everything about what they're buying! And more to this point, people want to feel good about the purchases they make. Recycled, upcycled, organic, fair trade, sustainable, hand made, hand crafted, small batch, local, artisan, vintage, shall I go on? These are all buzz words right now. If your products are any of these things (Please don't lie for the sake of selling!) there's no shame in using them.

Remember:

  • Who is this item for? Hip Babies,  Crafty Mom's, Rugged Boyfriends, Modern Yogis, Working Ladies, Fashion Forward Students.
  • What is this item/What is it made of? Porcelin coffee mug, Cotton Dress, Soy candle.
  • Where is it used/When would it be used? At the Office, In the Kitchen, During the Christmas Season, At a Picnic.
  • Why does the customer need it? Your wardrobe isn't complete without it, It's the perfect addition to a Gallery wall, it's a one-of-a-kind necklace, Celebrity-X loves these t-shirts.
  • How did you make it? By hand in your Home-based studio, With locally harvested wildflowers, with your Heirloom pottery wheel.

Things you may not even realize make your product cool, make it very cool.  As an example, I use driftwood to hang a lot of my pieces. It seems totally normal and unimportant to me; I live on the west coast, I wander down to the beach and pick up driftwood for my pieces, no biggie. However I've had people message me asking where I source my driftwood from, where do I buy it, because they want to buy it! Some people are specifically looking for beachy/boho art for their beach houses or want to bring a piece of the ocean home. That's why I always mention that I use west coast driftwood in my descriptions - because not everyone can say that.


TITLES NEED TO BE DESCRIPTIVE
I know we already talked about product descriptions but if your title is boring or confusing, no one will click on your product to even read that well written description.
Just like Google, etsy looks at the title of your listing for tag words when searching. You get 140 characters so use them all. Buyers only see the first few words anyway. So make the first half interesting and simple. The second half can be more descriptive tag-type words.
1st words are ranked as most relevant and it goes down from there. Use lots of describing words and use what you think people will search for.

Take this listing title for example
Fringed Wall Hanging // White, Pink, Grey and Yellow on Driftwood - weaving, tapestry, wall art, autumn
I could have named this listing "Pink Lady - fringed wall art". Because Pink Lady sounds like a cute name for this piece and it is fringed wall art. But nobody's searching for the name of the wall hanging. They're looking for something to hang on their wall in a certain style or colour scheme. So that's how I'm going to title it.
Pro Tip: Type items in to Etsy's search bar, it will auto populate with the most searched for items as soon as you start typing. Use this to your advantage and name accordingly.

YOU WON'T MAKE SALES IF YOU DONT PROMOTE
Just listing your items and hoping people stumble across them on etsy probably won't get you anywhere. You need to promote your business and your shop. I probably spend just as much time on promotion as I do creating product.
Social media is an awesome way to promote yourself, I'd argue the best and most necessary. It's free, it's relatively easy, and everyone is on it. You're an online business, it makes sense to promote online. I use instagram as my main form of social media promotion. I like instagram because I have a niche there and have found it to be the easiest platform to grow my following on. Instagram is a very visual platform, which is why makers do so well on it. Choose whichever platform you're most comfortable with, perhaps you're an avid facebook user and know you will grow a quick following there as you already have lots of friends who will support you. Maybe you already rock twitter and are going to focus your attention there. It doesn't matter what you use as long as you utilize it well.
Once you actually post to you social media utilizing relevant hashtags and joining communities are some of the easiest ways to get your name out there on the internet.

It's called Social media for a reason. You can't just post your pictures or tweets or updates on social media and expect the love and money to come pouring in. You have to socialize. Make sure you respond to comments on your posts, post comments on other users posts, giving compliments goes a long way. At this point you're actually networking and promoting. You'll find the more you interact, the more fruitful your social media will become.


There is still so much to learn when it comes to working and selling online! I believe learning as you go is pretty much the only way to improve, we'll never be successful right from the get-go. What's your greatest Etsy tip? I'd love to hear!


Sunday, January 24, 2016

What I wish I knew before my 1st year of Running an Etsy Shop - Part 1

I can't believe it's been a year since I first opened Love of Sweeties weave  shop! I started my Etsy shop on January 6 2015 and have since made a small amount of money each and every month through my shop to feed my love of weaving. My plan for this year is to turn it into a steadier, more reliable source of income. Not quite my day job income (yet...), but enough to happily consider myself a fully functioning #GIRLBOSS.

I've learned A LOT over the past 12 months of running my shop. This is advice, and a bit of guidance for those starting out, who are worried about being overwhelmed by putting their craft up for sale, or drowning in their fear of shipping costs, or just afraid of what do do once they make their first sale! I was afraid of all these things!

BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR CRAFT This is no longer just a hobby or pass-time for you. Once you list your work for sale, it has to be sale worthy! People will be buying your products to give as gifts so there needs to be a high level of quality to it. If you don't think you're quite there yet - wait! Practice some more, make you skill more specified, invest in better tools, whatever you need to do to feel proud to sell what you make. If you really aren't sure where you are at, ask a friend who will be honest with you. "would you buy this from a store in town?" There's absolutely nothing wrong with not being at that point yet. Improvement is awesome and constant. Also if you list your items before you're skilled enough, you run the risk of damaging your reputation for your future sales.

Think about it this way: CASE STUDY TIME
Jenny from Happy bags started her shop a year ago, 3 months after she learned how to sew. Her bags are totally adorable! She uses all the cutest fabrics and has very trendy designs. She made 20 sales in her first 3 months (go Jenny, wish I had done that well), but her expertise just weren't there yet. After a few uses, the seams come loose on her bags. She's received some negative feedback on her shop's review page because of it. Since those first few months she has perfected her technique, and he bags now hold up wonderfully to wear and tear, but she still hasn't seen the success she had in her first 3 months. She's frustrated and can't figure out why her bags won't sell. They're so professional!

I am guilty of this mistake myself which is why I'm stressing it so much. It's such an easy rookie mistake to make because you've seen the progress you've made since you started, of course you're way better! When I first started selling my wall hangings I didn't realize I didn't know how to properly attach them to their dowel rods once they were done. I gave many as gifts, and I sold a few that way, and although everyone loved them and I got 5 star feedback I cringe when I think about it, And I worry they won't last as long as the properly finished ones I sell now.

Advice on this: research other established, sellers who are selling similar goods to you. Observe their craftsmanship, actually order one of their products, look at the level of professionalism. Are you comparable?
Before selling anything give lots as gifts! Maryann Moody's woolful podcast episode offers some great advice on this topic. I'd highly recommend listening to it, no matter what your craft is.
I have a friend who is a wonderful crocheter but she will never take payment for anything she makes for anyone. Even if they've requested she make them something. Not because she's totally selfless and charitable but because she says as soon as she takes money from someone she can't allow herself to make a single mistake, and the project gets stressful. Doing it for free keeps the pressure off and the project remains enjoyable and relaxing for her. She's told me she "wants to be able to do a bad job and not feel guilty" if that's all she has time for.

BUY A SCALE Investing in a food scale and a tape measure took all the fear out of what to charge for shipping. Its a very small investment, maybe $20 total. So do it!
To figure out your shipping costs, pack up your product as if you were sending it away, box and all. Weigh the package and take its measurements.
Next, go to the postal office's website and use their shipping calculator. Type in some random postal codes to get an idea of shipping within canada. Do the same with us zip codes. Then go international! This is going to be the exact price you'll pay when you go to the post office so no surprises! If you're unsure of addresses to enter, look up some businesses on google in a certain state. "Like Urban outfitters Texas". And use that address as an example.
Don't deny your shop sales because you're afraid of shipping international! Heck, in many scenarios its cheaper for me to ship to the US than it is to ship within Canada. What's up with that Canada Post!?
Once you have the cost of shipping, add in your supplies and packing time to calculate what you will charge for shipping. It may be 9.95 to ship to California, but that box was $1, the bubble wrap was $4 a roll and you spent 25 minutes packing the box and taking it to the post office. Don't sell yourself short. Factor this stuff in or your business will be losing out.

TAKE STELLAR PRODUCT PHOTOS. Notice I said stellar photos, not use a stellar camera. Believe it or not you can do one without the other. A lot of the time I'll take my Etsy photos on my cell phone. They come out great! There's still a lot I can learn of course, but for my current skill I do pretty well. I do not own a DSLR, and I barely know how to use the high-end but very old point and shoot that I have. So I'm telling you, don't worry about the camera.
Make sure your photos are bright, clear, consistent, and feature all the detail of your work.

You're given 5 photo spots so use every one of them! Why waste any opportunity to show off what you're trying to sell? You pay the same for an Etsy listing whether you use one or five photos, so you might as well get all you can out of your listing. Utilize that 1st photo especially! Crop the square, zoom in if you have to, really make it count. It's the only opportunity you may have to catch that customer's eye while they search the bajillions of things for sale on Etsy. And speaking of thumbnails, keep the thumbnails in your shop consistent. It will help brand your store. Let's say you're a rain boot store.  Don't have some of your thumbnails as foot selfies, some as your model jumping through a puddle and some as a styled product shot. Instead, pick one of these styles for the first thumbnail, the others you can always put in the listing.

Your setting should match or makes sense with your product. Garden gnomes belong it the grass, but not bracelets. Use a clean backdrop or setting and avoid clutter. The easiest way to do this for small items is pick up a piece of white poster board at the dollar store. Instant fresh background!

Turn off your flash. Take photos when you have good light. If you don't have good light. stop taking photos. Do something else, and take photos another day.
You also have no need to purchase an expensive editing program. Both Photobucket and Picmonkey are wonderful and free online services that allow you to edit your photos in a very user-friendly interface.

These are my first 3 big pieces of advice when starting out. You can delve so much farther into each of these topics with just a few google or pinterest searches. Next week I'll be getting into how to get your items to start selling!


Monday, January 4, 2016

That Necessary New Year Post - 2016


I know it's been a long time, but it's not like I haven't been around, I promise! Check instagram and twitter, you'll see! I was busy, busy, busy in 2015 and I loved it! Last year was definatly my best year ever in terms of jumping into my dreams, but also setting achievable goals for myself. I've spent my whole life wanting to be a business owner and now I am one! Sure I'm not paying rent with my weave shop or anything, but I'm certainly making enough to sustain my hobby, watch it become a passion, and have money in the bank for the future of my business. That's very exciting for me!


As required at the Beginning of every new year, some of the points I appreciated the most in 2015:
  • I opened the Love of Sweeties Weave Shop on Etsy, where I successfully made profit every month last year.
  • I created my first custom weave, plus a few more!
  • I took part in my first ever Craft fair, the Etsy Made in Canada Market, in September.
  • I worked little by little to give the blog a revamp, which will continue into the new year
  • I was gifted a drop spindle and have been learning how to spin wool.
  • I've lots of fibre friends on Instagram and through the fibreshare community.
  • My work is going to be featured in the first issue of Makers Movement Magazine

I have so many goals for 2016, and I know more will present themselves as the months go by, but to start the year off I have these goals in mind:
  • I will find a better way to utilize my blog for my craft
  • I will take part in two craft fairs
  • Love of Sweeties Weaves will be for sale in a brick and mortar store.
  • I will do a collaboration between Love of Sweeties Weaves and another maker
  • I will begin listing handspun Love of Sweeties yarn in the etsy shop
  • I will learn how to naturally dye fibre from local plants
  • Love of Sweeties will get a professionally made logo and styling
  • I will increase my knowledge of natural fibres
What were your biggest accomplishments of 2015? 


Friday, August 7, 2015

Creating a Craft Fair Sales Kit: Craft Fair Prep Week 6


This week I gathered together all the supplies I'll be needing if I expect to have any success at the Etsy made in Canada market, which is coming up quick (september 26th)! I'm calling it my Craft Fair Sales Kit.

Get all these items into a bag, or box and make sure you don't get into the car without it on fair days. And if you do forget... we'll that's when you swear and curse and turn that car around in a panic like the mad woman you are inside. Annnd that's why you leave 15 minutes early. (like I ever leave early for anything, I wish)

There are quite a few things on this list that will make you go "well duh, Arielle". 
But I hope there are at least a few pieces that you hadn't thought about yet too!


CALCULATOR with the hopes of customers buying multiple items you'll need to be adding your sales up. Also when giving change you want to make sure you're not making any errors!

PEN & PAPER for jotting down all your brilliant thoughts. Or say someone wants you to take their phone number or email for future custom work or to be part of your mailing list.

BUSINESS CARDS Don't let customers, and future customers forget about you! By being able to quickly hand over all your info you just might be cementing future sales. Bring enough to leave on your table too, so shoppers passing by your table can freely take one.
If you want to learn how to design your own business cards check out this post!

SCOTCH or WASHI TAPE sealing up purchases, taping down elements of your table set up, you just  never know.

MOBILE CREDIT CARD READER & PHONE being able to process credit cards will most likely be the difference between processing and not processing more than one sale. If you want to be able to accept more than just cash purchases you can't be without this.

MOBILE PHONE CHARGER If you have power to your table, great! Bring a charger for sure. If you don't, think about picking up a battery operated mobile charger. They aren't very expensive and it's worth it for the chance of your phone dying on fair day, especially if your processing sales through it.

SHOPPING BAGS you'll be needing something to keep your customers purchases safe while traveling from the fair to homes.

EXTRA PRICE TAGS incase you forget some at home, or decide to change some prices mid-fair

RECEIPTS OR INVOICE SLIPS most customers probably won't care, but some would like a recipe with their purchase. Invoice books can be picked up cheap at any office supply store.

CASH BELT or  CASH BOX you can't just be slipping your earnings into your purse. At least not just yet! Get a belt or box for safely keeping your float and all your hard earned cash in.


With all the items listed above you can be sure to be prepared for even the busiest craft fair days! Are there any tools you don't go to a craft fair without?


Friday, July 31, 2015

Craft Fair Prep Week 5: Should I be Charging Tax on my Products?


I had a good long chat yesterday with my day-job manager about "my little weave business" (as my co-workers call it). She let me know all about income tax, business deductions, expenses, and charging tax in a small business (I know, scary accounting and overwhelming information much?). Considering she's owned a few of her own businesses in the past, (including selling ornaments at christmas craft fairs for years,) and helps do the books for her husbands current business, I knew I was getting some awesome insight. And I have to say, I finally feel like I have a small grasp on how the financial side of this creative business should work. I'm not well versed or anything, but I can safely say I understand the importance of keeping every single receipt and how it may actually benefit me come tax season.

Getting into selling handmade goods, my biggest concern was that I didn't know if I needing to be charging tax; At craft fairs, on Etsy, wholesale, whatever. And if I do need to charge it, do I include it in the price, or add it at the till like a "real" business? Will the government come find me in three years if I don't collect tax on my products? Could I go to jail!? These are real fears people!
All this craft fair prep got me thinking, should I be charging tax on my Etsy sales right now? Am I already doing something wrong? 

After my super-informative chat, and a lot of research via the Canada Revenue Agency's website I'm relieved to find the answer to my taxing questions (don't hate me) to be very simple! That answer is DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT (FOR A GOOD LONG WHILE)


I'm going to break this down so it's obvious as to whether you need to collecting tax (GST/HST) on your handmade goods as a small business in Canada:

Please note that all the information in this post pertains to small Canadian Business. Make sure you are aware of the processes in your own Country 

If your business's world-wide revenues exceed $30,000 in the current calendar quarter from sales that could be taxed, you need to collect GST/HST

Even simpler: If you make more than $30,000 a year from your business, you need to be charging tax on your products.


Now I would assume anyone who actually makes $30,000 or more a year from their little makers studio knows what they're doing by now and has this business thing all figured out... but I don't want to assume.


Now, let's take what we just chatted about above and really get into it: 
If you are collecting tax from your customers you must do this by first becoming a GST/HST registrant (this means you have a GST/HST number, which is displayed on receipts you issue to your customers.)
By being a GST/HST registrant you agree to collect tax on the taxable goods or services you sell, and pass these tax earnings onto the government. The amount of tax you collect for the government may cover the amount of tax you owe or payed on your business expenses.

Any Business owner is actually able to become a GST/HST registrant, even if you aren't required to do so. There are benefits to registering, but I'll let you look into those yourself. This post is just focusing on what's required of a small business owner.

If your world-wide sales do not exceed $30,000 in the current calendar quarter, in accumulation with the prior three calendar quarters, you are considered a small supplier, and do not need to collect GST/HST from your customers. 

Now I was still a bit confused at this point. 
What does a calendar quarter look like? Is this just any 90 day period? Can this be any three month stint? Do the quarters start in January or can they start at the beginning of any month, What if I opened my business in May, or August?

The Canada Revenue Agency gets right into this and explains it very well.
A Calendar Quarter is three consecutive months. A calendar quarter must end on the last day of March, June, September, or December.
So... The 4 Calendar Quarters are 
  • JANUARY 1- MARCH 31
  • APRIL 1- JUNE 30
  • JULY 1- SEPTEMBER 30
  • OCTOBER 1- DECEMBER 31
This means: 
  • SEPTEMBER 1 - NOVEMBER 30 is not a calendar quarter
  • JANUARY 5 - MARCH 5 is not a calendar quarter
If your sales do exceed $30,000 within the current calendar quarter, you have 30 days from the sale to apply for a HST/GST registration number.


This makes sense right? Lets do some good old fashioned Case Studies, just in case

SMALL SUPPLIER: Minnie's Mitten Shop 2015
  • Minnie started her mitten selling business in January 2015. She's viewed it as a success so far. Making the odd sale to supplement her full-time job. Her quarterly sales so far have been as follows
    • JAN - MAR : $100
    • APR - JUN : $400
    • JUL - SEPT: $400
  • Unless Minnie miraculously makes $29, 000 in sales in OCT - DEC (hey she could, it's peak mitten season!) she doesn't have to worry about becoming a GST/HST registrant.

So what happens if we look into Minnie's future a little bit...
SMALL SUPPLIER: Minnie's Mitten Shop 2017
  • Minnie's mitten business has been booming, She's managed to get her mitts featured in some fashion magazines and , whoo hoo! Her sales have dramatically improved from her first year
    • JAN - MAR : $16, 000
    • APR - JUN : $9, 000
    • JUL - SEPT: $3, 000
    • OCT - DEC: 19, 000
  • Come this fourth quarter, Minnie's made $47, 000 in sales (Way to go Minnie!) Minnie is no longer considered a small supplier and has to 30 days to apply for a GST/HST registration number and must start collecting taxes on her future sales.

But what if a small supplier made that money faster than within four quarters? There's a bit of an exception here.
SMALL SUPPLIER: Penelope's Poncho shop 2015
  • Penelope knits ponchos, and a lot of them! She started her business this July and her styles caught the eyes of some department store buyers, they want her products in their stores this winter! 
    • JUL - SEPT : $12, 000
    • OCT - DEC : $33, 000
  • Because Penelope exceed the $30, 000 limit within one quarter she will need to charge tax on the sale that put her over the maximum, whether she is registered or not. She then has 30 days after that sale to register.


So! From all this I can safely say I will not have to worry about charging tax on my little weaves for quite some time! I hope you found this post helpful! Small business can be a bit intimidating sometimes  most of the time. And finding the right information can be really difficult! But #makersgonnnamake!


Some other helpful resources for you may be:


Obviously, I don't know everything about small business taxing, heck I only leaned all this within the week! I highly suggest doing some more research of your own until you feel confident with your knowledge on the finances and taxing bits and bobs behind your little business.

My Craft Fair Prep List
  • pay table/booth fee
  • brainstorm/come up with a table design
  • organize all my supplies
  • create lots of inventory
  • make a budget tracker
  • research taxes, what do I need to do?
  • know what I'll be charging
  • have business cards made
  • buy a table
  • create my craft fair business kit
  • make price tags
  • make/buy merchandisers, table and props 
  • get a square/mobile POS
  • acquire a cash box/apron and float money 
  • find a helper for the big day
  • set up a mock table display
  • promote! social media & local posters



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