Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lessons Learned on a Cross-Country Move

A grandma in the backseat with the 10-month old is an absolute must. If I wasn't already (I was), I am now forever indebted to my mom for spending 20 hours playing pat-a-cake with my cranky baby (another lesson learned: the baby who won't sleep in the car on hour-long car trips still won't sleep in the car on 20-hour-long car trips). (Don't worry, Mom, I'll make it up to you. I'll put you in a real nice nursing home someday! The kind that doesn't make it onto CNN for elderly abuse!)


A portable DVD player for said baby is also a must. I can now quote the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs in its entirety. I'm fairly certain about 19 of the 20 hours in the car were spent with this movie playing. I'm sure this will come in handy while trying to make friends in my new town. (Lull in the conversation? Never fear! Meatballs quotes to the rescue!)


When the neighbors at your old apartment joked that the landlady was a horrible old hag who wouldn't give you a cent of your security deposit back when you moved out, they weren't joking. It will take oodles of restraint to resist running her over with the moving truck as you drive away. And the first 2 hours of the drive will be spent mentally drafting the hate letter you plan to mail to her (which may or may not be laced with anthrax . . . note to self: work on the self-restraint issue before mailing the letter).

Leaving your husband driving the moving truck alone while you, mom, and baby drive the car may make him go mildly crazy . . . not scary-crazy, but the kind of crazy that calls the "How's my driving?" numbers on the back of semis just to have someone to talk to. 


People can make anything look good online. The townhouse that looked like a dream come true on the website turned out to be a tenement with holes in the walls, peeling paint, and frightening, shirtless, leering neighbors. (But don't worry, the slumlord who showed it to us boasted that it was move-in ready. Maybe the hole in the wall that I was afraid my baby would climb inside of leads to a play room?) Plan on the housing search taking a tad longer than originally expected.

Having a mom cook for me everyday as I squat in her spare bedrooms is fantastic. Why were we all so excited to leave home? I want to come back! Forever! 

When it's all said and done, the stress and hassle of moving from Iowa to Utah to be near family is made more than worth it when I get to hug my sweet nieces, see Forrest giggling with his grandpa, be instructed in the proper execution of the Bernie by my goofball sister, and watch my little boy fall in love with his relatives.
read more "Lessons Learned on a Cross-Country Move"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Etsy Success :: Behind the Scenes

(You can find the first and second parts of my etsy success tips here and here!)

I've written two etsy success posts now . . . one about your shop and one about your product. But I think there's a third, bigger, more important element to doing well on etsy--the work you could be doing behind the scenes to make your shop successful. 

Customer Service
You need to have good great incredible customer service if you ever want any customers to come back for a second visit or tell their friends and family about you or even just leave you nice feedback! If you get an email with a question, answer it promptly and politely (I've lost sales before because I didn't respond to a customer's inquiry quickly enough!). Ship your items as quickly as you possibly can, and package them as if you were sending a gift instead of a purchase--for me, nothing takes the excitement out of an etsy purchase more than waiting weeks for it to arrive, then receiving an ugly, re-used, torn and tattered package in the mail. Send an email to thank your customer for their purchase and to let them know when their package has been/will be shipped so they don't sit around wondering what's going on. Include a thank you note in your packages--it adds a nice personal touch, and makes the customer feel appreciated. 
If a customer leaves you especially nice feedback or sends a picture of their item in use (oh, how I love seeing pictures of babies wearing my hats!), make sure to thank them and let you know how much you appreciate it (nothing feels crummier than putting forth a nice effort that goes completely unacknowledged!). Chances are, you'll get the occasional customer who will make semi-annoying requests or just generally be a bit of a pain . . . rather than immediately saying no or acting like they're being an inconvenience, just do whatever you can to be accommodating and friendly, because they'll have the chance to leave you public feedback, and wouldn't you hate to get nasty feedback because you weren't willing to ship something faster than usual, or change a detail on an item, or alter the size? I've made special requests before that were probably obnoxious, like requesting gift wrapping, or asking that an item be sent to an address other than mine (like an adorable necklace I recently bought from Bajo La Luna on etsy and had mailed straight to my mother-in-law for her birthday), and I was so grateful that the sellers were happy to do as I asked. They got glowing feedback from me, and I'll be happy to shop with them again and recommend them to friends because I know they're great sellers who value their customers and are willing to go the extra mile to make their customers happy. Treat each shopper like gold and they'll be happy to come back to your shop and pass the word along to their friends!

Promote Responsibly
You often hear about the importance of having a facebook page and a twitter account to connect with customers and promote your business . . . but I think you need to tread very carefully here. I'm fairly certain there's no more effective way to lose customers and fans and friends than to be obnoxious when you're trying to promote your shop. 
We don't need to be provided with a link to every new listing you add to your shop, or every treasury you're included in, or get constant updates on the number of sales you've had. Nor do we need to hear about what you're having for lunch, what you're doing this weekend, or what grade little Susie got on her spelling test. Believe me, potential customers don't want to be bombarded with constant updates, and they'll unlike your facebook page and unfollow you on twitter faster than you can say check-out-my-newest-item! I'm definitely no marketing expert, but I think you should use facebook and twitter (or whatever else you use to market your shop) very carefully. Sure, get yourself a facebook page and include the occasional link to new items or listings you've put on sale or a product you've found that you love, but a little goes a long way! 

Everybody loves a deal!
Etsy lets you create coupon codes that customers can use to receive discounts on products, and it's a great way to find out where your customers are coming from and bring them back in for a return visit. I always include a coupon code in the thank you card I send out with my packages that customers can use for a discount on their second purchase, and you can create special coupon codes for different events . . . is it your birthday? Offer a special birthday coupon code for the week! Feeling festive at Christmas time? Create a holiday coupon code! Or are you wondering how your customers are ending up in your shop? Advertise one coupon code on your facebook page, another on twitter, another on your blog, and so on--that way, you can track which codes are being used the most frequently to find out which of your marketing techniques are the most effective. 

How 'bout a giveaway?
I think offering giveaways is a great way to find new customers and spread the word about your shop--obviously, you can't go overboard with them or you'll never make any money, but find a blog you like whose readers you think will love your work and shoot the writer an email to ask if they'll host a giveaway for your shop.
 Be aware, though, that some bloggers will charge you for hosting a giveaway, but if it's a big blog with a lot of readers, maybe it's worth it--after all, a lot of readers means a lot of potential customers! I've never paid to do a giveaway (it just seems to me like you shouldn't have to pay to give away free stuff), so you can certainly find people who are happy to host your giveaway at no charge. In my experience, you're best served by giving away store credit of at least $20--people love being able to choose whatever they want from your shop, but if you're only giving away a few dollars' worth of credit, they don't feel like it's worth taking the time to enter. And while it might feel like you're giving away a lot of valuable product, think of all the people who will be checking out your shop and falling in love . . . you'll probably end up making a lot more than you gave away!

Advertise!
Maybe you already have a facebook page or a blog to promote your shop . . . another great way to get your shop noticed is to advertise on blogs whose readers you think might be interested in your products. 
Most bloggers offer ad space for pretty darn cheap, and you can get some new traffic headed your way as readers notice your cute lil button on the sidebar of their favorite blog. I know, it kind of hurts to spend money on advertising, but if it brings you more sales, it's worth every penny!

Get friendly
One of my favorite parts of selling on etsy is the personal side--making friends with customers and other sellers is a huge part of the etsy experience, so be friendly! Join some teams that are related to your craft or your location to share advice and experience and meet new people. 
I love the pals I've made on etsy . . . Lori of Jewllori is an absolute riot, Haley of Handmade by HJWilke always has something sweet to say that totally makes my day, and I think Amanda of Amanda's Beans is my proverbial kindred spirit. Having some etsy friends means you'll know just where to turn for advice on your shop, honest comments about your products and prices, and answers to questions you might have, not to mention that you share a common interest already--we're all hanging out on etsy because we love to buy and sell the things we've whipped up ourselves, and wouldn't you love to have some craft buddies? The only downside of etsy friends is the sad realization that you don't all live next door to each other and probably won't get to hang out in real life, but I guess that's an occupational hazard of etsy selling that you'll just have to come to terms with. Or you could be a little hermit hiding alone in your etsy shop if you'd rather take that route, but the friendly option is probably more fun.

Off you go now! Get to work on your shop and stay busy behind the scenes, and I wish you billions and zillions of sales. Also, I want to come vacation with you in your Tuscan villa when you've made your millions on etsy. 
read more "Etsy Success :: Behind the Scenes"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Painted Doily Tee at Lolly Jane

I woke up this morning and thought to myself, it's probably about time I post something I've made recently . . . and then felt a bit depressed because I haven't made anything recently. We just survived a cross-country move (goodbye Iowa, hello Utah!) and my sewing machine, yarn, and fabric are among the items still lost in the packing rubble. Hopefully they'll emerge soon as the dust settles, but, sadly, I haven't been very creative lately.

And then I checked my email and saw a message from the lovely ladies of Lolly Jane letting me know that my post was live on their blog--in all the hustle and bustle of packing, cleaning, a 2-day road trip with a 10-month old, and trying to find a place to live, I had completely forgotten that the project I had created 3 weeks ago to share on their blog was going up today!


So hop on over to Lolly Jane if you'd like to see how I made this painted doily tee ($2 project, people! Two, count 'em, two whole dollars!), a simple little refashion that I love . . . and my last project made in Iowa.

read more "Painted Doily Tee at Lolly Jane"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Etsy Success :: The Product

(You can see the first part of my etsy success tips here!)

All right! Part 2! So after reading my tips for getting your shop in order, you should have a lovely-looking shop that's stuffed to the gills with amazing photos of . . . your product. Dun-dun-DUUUUUUNNNNN! (Was that sufficiently dramatic? It was supposed to be the spelled-out version of this, which was the first hit when I googled "dun dun DUN." Oh, Google, you never let me down!)

Search it, baby!
Very few people are going to head straight to your shop to buy what they need . . . most customers are going to find you through the etsy search, so make sure your items are searchable! If you feel like being an all-star, you can learn about search engine optimization. I don't really know what that entails. I just try to help etsy's search work for me.
It's tempting to use cutesy titles for your products, which I did when I started out, but I don't think it does anything for you. For instance, I would try to give my quilts fun names (exhibit A, my Pure Joy Butterfly Quilt pictured above), but that's kind of a waste. Who's going to head to etsy and type "pure joy quilt" into the search bar? Give your items titles that could match what your buyers might type in to find it. Instead of calling something "The Pure Joy Butterfly Quilt," which no one in a million years is ever going to search for, name it "Baby Girl White Quilt with Pink Purple and Green Butterflies." It's not flashy, it's not cute, but it is descriptive and contains the sort of words buyers might actually include in their searches.
When you list an item on etsy, you can use 5 photos and 13 tags (which etsy's search uses to find your item). Use. Them. ALL! Maybe you already have 2 photos that you think adequately show your product . . . but why waste that free space? Take a really close detail shot of your product, show how you package it so buyers know if it's ready to give as a gift (a photo like this has often been the final straw that got me to buy something--knowing it would arrive beautifully packaged and ready to give away!), show it being used, show it being displayed, show it being worn, and so on. And tag that sucker! Let's say I'm listing one of my baby bear hats. Some obvious tags come to mind: baby, hat, crochet . . . now what? Think of what people could potentially be searching for when they stumble across this hat--how about newborn? Infant? Toddler? Animal hat? Critter? Ears? Cream? White? Beanie? Cap? Winter hat? Accessory? Earflaps? Boy? Girl? Get creative and use tags that describe your item in a less obvious way.

Renew, renew, renew
Listing an item costs 20 cents and keeps your item live for a few months. So why would you want to renew your listings before they expire? Sellers are adding new items to their shops every minute, and newer listings show up at the top of the search while older items get pushed back to page 2, 3, 4 . . . or 40, 50, 60. So your latest item that was right up at the top of the search page when you listed it an hour ago is old news by now, and a buyer would have to click through pages of listings before finding yours.
If you want your products to keep showing up near the top of the search, you'll need to renew them on occasion. Renewing costs 20 cents, the same as creating a new listing, so you can't go crazy renewing every item every day or you'll never make any money. But every now and then, pick an older item in your shop and renew it just so it comes up higher in the search. I've often had items sit unwanted in my shop for weeks and weeks, then renewed them on a whim and had them sold within a few hours.

Give 'em options
One thing I've learned in my time on etsy is that buyers love having choices. I can't tell you how many times I've crocheted a hat, listed it, and almost immediately gotten a message that said, "I love this hat! Can I have it in brown?" or "This is so cute! Can I have it made for my 3-year old?" Shoppers love being able to customize an item to fit their style and needs, so give them some options!

Can it be made in different colors? Different sizes? Different finishes? Different fabrics? Different fonts? Let your shoppers know that you're happy to create custom orders just for them, and you'll be amazed at the difference. I have quite a few products still sitting around my house because no one wanted it in the color or size I chose, but I've recreated them dozens of times as custom orders for people who wanted it in white, or black, or green, or an adult size, or made specifically to fit someone's extra big or extra small head or hands. I've had so many requests for items in colors I never would have thought of using (like hats with bear ears in bright pink and blue), but they come out adorable and the customers loved them . . . because they couldn't find what they wanted anywhere else. Be the one to offer them exactly what they want!

Find a cute model
This one sounds shallow, and maybe it is, but I think it really makes a difference. If your item is wearable, always always always use a model in your photos to show it being worn. I would be a thousand times more likely to buy a hat pictured on a child than a hat just sitting there all lonely-like. And if it's pictured on a cute child? Sold!
In a perfect world, it wouldn't matter if your model is good-looking . . . but, shallowly enough, I think it really does. If you don't feel comfortable modeling your own items, I'm sure you have siblings or friends who would be happy to be the face of your shop.
 My pretty sister models for me on occasion and had this hat sold within a few hours!

Or maybe you don't have a little one to model your baby items . . . do you have a neighbor with kids? (The little cutie in the green hat above is one of my best friends' daughters who got bribed into being my model with a lollipop.) Or do you know a photographer who works with babies who could use your items in their shoots? (Bonus tip: offer a special coupon code for photographers in exchange for photos of your products to use in your shop! I've gotten some beautiful photos that way, and they get advertising through their watermark or a link to their site displayed in my shop.) Find some cute people and snap some pictures of them wearing your work!

Show me the money
I think setting your prices is one of the trickiest parts of running an etsy shop . . . charge too little and buyers will think you're making junk (not to mention that you'll go out of business if you never make anything!), but charge too much and you'll never have any customers. I've seen formulas here and there to help you figure out how much to charge. They generally look something like this:
(Labor + Materials) x 2 = Wholesale Price
Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

But how much is your labor worth? And do you know exactly how much you're spending on materials? Are you including the price of the gas to drive to the store, your shopping time, and shipping supplies in your materials cost? I don't think most etsy sellers are really following this formula . . . if I set my prices by that model, I'd be charging at least $75 per hat, and I'd probably still be waiting for my first sale. Instead, I search etsy for items similar to mine to see what an average price seems to be and set my prices accordingly. But again, if you go too low, people will think you're selling junk and not take you seriously, and if you go too high, you'll never sell anything. So decide what price makes selling worth it to you and go with it. This will probably take some adjustment . . . when I started selling hats, I had them priced at $10 each. Sure, they were selling, but it stopped being fun pretty quickly because it hardly felt worth my time. So I played around with pricing until I found a number that was still selling well but didn't leave me feeling taken advantage of. Figure out a number that makes it worth it to you.

 All right! I'll get cracking on my last post for etsy success . . . things you could be doing behind the scenes that I think make all the difference!
read more "Etsy Success :: The Product"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Giveaway from Did Someone Say Party?

(Giveaway closed . . . thanks for entering!)

Heads up, friends. Get ready for some exciting stuff. I have a fantastic giveaway for you today! I recently met (internet met . . . I wish it was real life met!) Gretchen and Heather, the masterminds behind a brilliant new shop and blog called Did Someone Say Party?
 With my little Forrest's 1st birthday approaching swiftly (what is going on? why is he growing up so dang fast?!), I've had parties on the brain and am always so inspired by the gorgeous, elaborate parties you see featured online. But that looks like a ton of work and I have no idea where to begin.

Heather and Gretchen to the rescue! I'll let them take it away and tell you about their incredible shop and fantastic party planning!

Thank you so much, Rachel, for inviting us to Maybe Matilda.  We are absolutely thrilled to be here today! You are constantly inspiring us with your amazing designs!

Let’s start with a little introduction. Our names are Gretchen and Heather and we are two working moms and long-time friends who created Did Someone Say Party? in an attempt to help bring "handmade" back into parties. We will use any excuse to throw a party, but we know that convenience also needs to be a big element of the party equation in today's busy household. Food Exchange copy
Our blog is a forum for easy handmade ideas and unique touches for celebrations big and small. You can often find us drooling over delicious party-perfect recipes and admiring amazing crafty projects, as well as offering our own tutorials and recipes.

Our etsy shop is designed to be your go-to resource for handmade goods to simplify any celebration. You can create a custom party pack by selecting what you need - from invitations and thank you cards to party hats, banners, serving items and favors. You’ll find coordinating product links within our product listings to help take the mystery out of making a fully coordinated party.Spring Blossom Adult copy
We have created a variety of designs to complement any occasion, including birthday parties, bridal or baby showers, and other themed events including holiday celebrations.  We believe in providing convenient solutions so that hosts and guests can relax and enjoy the party . . . because good company, good food and good times are what it is all about!

Today we are thrilled to offer a giveaway to Maybe Matilda readers! One lucky winner will receive their choice of any of our Handmade Party Hats or our Handmade Serving Item sets, which include Cupcake Wrappers, Cupcake Toppers and Straw Toppers for eight!
Zoo HatsMod Flower ExtrasRobots in Space ExtrasIMG_0938
The winner will have the opportunity to pick any product in either of these sections of our shop (click here and here to check out the eligible items). Although anyone can enter, we will only be able to offer free shipping to those within the United States.

Want to win? Here's how!
Note: each of these is ONE entry.  Make sure to leave a separate comment for each entry method you do! And make sure to either have your email address enabled on your Google profile, or leave an email address in your comment so we can contact you if you win!

1) Visit the Did Someone Say Party? shop and comment on this post to tell us which product is your favorite!

2) Become (or already be) a follower of the Did Someone Say Party? blog! Make sure to leave a separate comment telling us so!

3) Follow Heather and Gretchen (or already follow) on twitter! Make sure to leave a separate comment on this post telling us so!

4) Tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway (and leave a link in your comment . . . one entry each!)

We’ll pick a winner via Random.org on June 24, 2011.

Thanks for entering! And a big thanks to Rachel for hosting our giveaway today!

(Okay, this is Rachel again . . . do you love this shop or do you love this shop?! What an amazing service for those of us whose birthday parties would otherwise consist of a funfetti cake and, if we're feeling particularly ambitious, maybe a couple saggy balloons. Go ahead, enter to win, and throw the birthday party your little one deserves!)
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Cautionary Tale: Stray from the instructions at your own peril

In my early elementary school years, my teacher once handed out a worksheet and told us to read the instructions and get started. Being a typical young student, I got out my pencil and started right in on question #1 without bothering to read the directions first. A line at the bottom of the worksheet said, "When you have answered all the questions on this paper, you may write your name on the blackboard!" Also being a know-it-all-teacher's-pet-showoff, I finished as fast as I could, sprinted to the board, and scrawled my name in gigantic letters so everyone would see that I was done.

Did you have an assignment like this in elementary school, too? Do you know what the instructions, which I failed to read, said? "Don't answer any of these questions; turn this paper over and doodle on the back side until your teacher says the time is up." 

It was an exercise in following directions--those who had taken the time to read the instructions knew that we showoffs hadn't bothered to figure out the purpose of the handout, and doodled smugly in their seats until the teacher pointed out that some students didn't know how to follow instructions.

An important lesson that I clearly didn't learn.
(sigh)

Where to begin with this disastrous failure . . . well, like everybody else with two brain cells to rub together, I love this shoe makeover that Katy of Sweet Verbena came up with:
 $5 Walmart sneakers? A packet of fabric dye? I can totally handle this!

Or not.

Everything started out okay . . . I gathered up my supplies and could hardly wait to see my shoes take on that lovely turquoise pictured on the fabric dye:
But it became clear pretty quickly as my shoes bobbed about in the dye that they were not going to be turquoise, or anything remotely resembling turquoise. I should have taken a picture for you (but your corneas will thank me for the lapse)--they were fiercely blue. Atomic-ly, piercingly, nuclear blue. This is where a lesson learned in elementary school about following instructions would have really paid off . . . I could have stopped here, realized things had gone awry, pitched the shoes, and started fresh by following Katy's instructions a second time. 

But I launched a rescue mission instead. First, I tried scrubbing the shoes under boiling hot water. The shoes and their offensive blue-ness were unaltered, but I think I need to get some skin grafts for my melted hands. Then I got out my big jug of bleach and dumped it over my sneakers, thinking that I could soften it up to more of a robin's egg blue.
That's not so much "robin's egg blue" as "stomped in a puddle of kool-aid."

I know what you're thinking . . . just stop. Let the shoes go. Accept your failure. But no, there's more.

I remembered that I had a bottle of fabric painting medium in my basement, which you can mix with any old acrylic paint so it will adhere to fabric. Brilliant, no? (No!)
Not only did I completely decimate all the portions of the shoes that were supposed to stay white, but it is painfully obvious that I painted my sneakers. The pictures don't quite do it justice--they are downright crunchy

And just when you think I can't possibly do anything more to humiliate myself with these sneakers, inspiration struck again! I thought, "Maybe if I run them under really hot water and scrub them, I'll be able to get rid of that crinkly, painted look."


Another fail. I guess you can't scrub away fabric paint--they began to turn a sickly gray in what I can only assume was a desperate plea for me to just let them die, and I finally took pity on them and put them out of their misery (may you rest in peace in the garbage dump, you poor, poor sneakers). 

Lesson learned: follow the instructions, dammit.
read more "A Cautionary Tale: Stray from the instructions at your own peril"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Etsy Success :: The Shop

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway, and thanks for all your kind words about my shop! The 3 winners are Alice, Samantha, and Christina . . . congratulations, ladies! I've contacted all three of you, so if you don't see an email/comment from me, shoot me an email at maybematildaquilts (at) gmail.com so you can choose your patterns!

Since posting about hitting my 500th sale in my etsy shop, I've gotten a few questions from some of you who have an etsy shop of your own asking for tips and advice. Well, I don't think I have any huge secrets for you, and none of this will be groundbreaking or revolutionary, but I'm happy to share a few little things I've learned along the way that I've found helpful!


I'll be breaking this down into three parts: the shop, the product, and behind the scenes, so keep your eye out for the next two parts!

I'll be straight with you here: I don't think I'm some huge etsy success story . . . I still feel like a bit of a newbie there, and I'm learning new things all the time and am always working on improving my shop and products. I opened my shop just about a year ago and it seemed like it took forever to get going--when I opened, I listed 2 or 3 baby quilts and didn't do anything to promote or improve my shop, so it shouldn't be too surprising that I didn't sell anything for months. I thought customers would just find me on their own and whip out their credit cards . . . I didn't know you actually had to work for it! But when I started to actually put some effort into my shop instead of letting it sit there, ignored and almost entirely empty, I saw a huge difference. Here are some of the shop-based things that I think make a big difference:

Make that shop pretty!
Now, I don't think this first tip is vital to shop success by any means, but I do think it makes a difference when a shop looks nice. Take a good long look at your main shop page (here's mine) . . . if it were your very first time seeing that page, would you want to stick around?
Although it certainly isn't crucial to doing well, I love to see a shop that has a nice banner and a cohesive style; it makes them look more legitimate. If you're good at computer stuff, you can make a nice banner for yourself and save some money . . . my computer skills stop a little shy of Microsoft Paint, so I bought mine here for a few bucks (and, note to self, should probably update it to match my new blog look).

Fantastic photos
Let's say a potential customer heads over to etsy to search for a hat for their baby; here's what they're going to see:
 Page after page after page of teeny tiny itsy bitsy little thumbnail photos. So you darn well better have an amazing shot of your product as the first photo on each of your listings or no one is ever going to notice it in that sea of similar products. If you have any friends or neighbors who are photographers, consider having them take professional photos of your products for your shop.

Honestly, are you going to be intrigued enough to click on a picture like this, especially when it's shrunk down to a thumbnail and surrounded by dozens of amazing photos?
 Nope. You'd scroll right past it without even noticing it. But this one, on the other hand, just might catch your eye--bright, clear, simple, and cute:
Keep the colors and backgrounds simple, get up close to your model/product, and make sure there's plenty of light in your shot! If you need to, edit it up (I use picasa) to make it even brighter and crop in a bit closer. Make sure your first picture in particular is really great since it's the one that has to catch their attention in the search pages, but also include plenty of variety in your other photos--remember, your customers on etsy can't pick your item up and look it over the way they would in person, so include a close up so they can see the detail, shots from the side, top, back, etc.You have to really show your items well to make customers feel comfortable buying it without having held it and looked it over.

  Check out the competition
I feel a little nervous giving this advice because I don't want you to go about it the wrong way . . . I don't want you to pore through every description and picture in similar shops that are selling more than you, obsessing over why they're succeeding when you're not, altering your photos and wording to mimic theirs. The beauty of your shop is that it's you, so don't abandon that! 
But I do think it can be helpful to find a few shops selling products similar to yours (and selling plenty!) to try and pinpoint why they're doing so well. Do they have amazing photos? Are they using tags on their listings that you hadn't thought of? Are their prices significantly lower than yours? It just might help you to identify some things that could be drawing buyers to them instead of you--maybe your descriptions just aren't descriptive enough, maybe their shipping prices are much lower than yours, maybe they're offering more color or size options, and so on. You might find some things you could easily change about your own shop to step it up a bit!

Fill out your profile
One of my favorite things about shopping on etsy (and I'm sure it's a favorite for many shoppers) is supporting an actual person instead of some nameless, faceless entity. So make sure that you aren't a nameless, faceless etsy entity! For the longest time, my etsy profile was completely blank . . . I didn't have a profile picture, I didn't include my location, and I didn't write anything about myself. No wonder no one wanted to buy from me; they had no idea who I was!
Etsy buyers love getting to know the person they're shopping with, so this is your way of welcoming them to your shop. Include a picture of yourself (or, in my case, a picture of my pretty sister), tell your shoppers where you live, and fill out your profile with some personal info (and for heavens sake, please don't write it in the 3rd person). What do you do besides run this shop? How'd you get started? What's the story behind the shop name? What inspires you? I have often moved along after finding an item I loved on etsy because the seller's public profile was blank or boring. No matter how unique you think your product is, believe me, buyers can find dozens of other similar items, so what makes yours special? It might just be you, so be a presence! Let your buyers get to know you through your profile.

Stock your shelves!
So you're browsing etsy and you find two similar items . . . one in a shop with a few pages worth of product, all photographed beautifully and well-described, and one in a shop that only has 4 items for sale. Which one are you going to buy? My money's on the one in the well-stocked shop--even in a handmade marketplace like etsy where customers know they're shopping from home-based businesses and hobbyists, they feel more comfortable buying from a shop that looks and feels professional, and one way to get that look is by filling up your shop.
Make plenty of products, and if that's not an option, maybe you could create custom listings for products to be made to order. Almost every listing in my shop is for a custom order . . . I make one hat, take some pictures, list the hat itself, and then copy that listing as a custom order for that style in whatever size/color the customer wants. That way I've sort of gotten a twofer--my shop is more full, making me look more "real," plus I now have the potential to reach two customers instead of just one! This won't work for every product, but I noticed a big increase in my sales when I started listing more items in my shop, even if they weren't all ready to ship.


Stay tuned for my advice on your products and (possibly the most important piece of all) what you should be doing behind the scenes to make your etsy shop a success story!
read more "Etsy Success :: The Shop"

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Five Favorites 6/11

First of all, have you entered my giveaway? 3 winners get to choose 3 crochet patterns from my etsy shop . . . click here and enter to win!

Now that we got that out of the way, here are my five favorite projects that I spotted this week . . . and it seems I have sewing on the brain, because I was loving all these sewn creations. Not too surprising, really, because of course I'd rather think about sewing projects than my wreck of a half-packed house that looks like it came straight off an episode of Hoarders. You know how you watch Hoarders and think, how can people live like that? I'll tell you how: you start packing, realize how much you hate packing, start sewing instead of thinking about the 5 days you have left to pack up and clean your entire house, and just dig a path through the rubble to the fridge when you get hungry. Easy peasy!

 Oh, how I love a pretty knockoff! This dress used half of a $3.00 Target clearance dress and a simple white tee and only cost a few dollars to make . . . much better than $80 for the original, and it looks identical to the Shabby Apple version. I want one!

Valerie created this beautiful skirt using the Taking Notes skirt tutorial from Sewing in No Man's Land--it's been on my to-do list for a really long time, too, and I love her version! I think I need to get to work on this one . . . I can pack later . . . 

Not very often do you see an adorable craft idea for the little men in your life, but I love this outfit! We went to a friend's BBQ last night and noticed that two of the little girls in attendance were wearing something I had made for them . . . but I've hardly ever made anything for my own son. Whoops.

This is definitely one of my favorite quilts I've ever seen, and it isn't even finished yet! I absolutely love the layout and fun color mix. I've got the quilting itch bad after looking at this one!

I just found Sweet Verbena recently (she has the adorable dyed Keds you've been seeing, oh, everywhere) and I'm loving Katy's great style and fun ideas. She wrote up a fantastic tutorial this week on adding a zippered lining to a bag, and it even includes zippered inner pockets for storage. What an awesome resource to use next time you're sewing a simple bag that you wish had a little more function!

There you go, my five favorite projects of the week! If you were featured, you can snag yourself a little trophy button if you feel so inclined, and enjoy the rest of your weekend, which will hopefully be spent doing anything but packing:


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read more "Five Favorites 6/11"

Friday, June 10, 2011

Scrappy Floral Skirt at Living With Punks

I'm over at Living With Punks today with a project for the Scrap Your Stash series . . . one great idea after another to use up some of that huge fabric scrap pile!



LivingwithPunks


Here's a peek at my project . . . a fun floral skirt that uses more scraps than you would expect:


And if you're still hanging around here and haven't clicked over for the how-to yet, I'll just keep on rambling! I'm like 90% sure I was invited to this series by mistake. I was all sorts of flattered and excited to be a part of her series until she sent out the posting schedule . . . and I saw the other contributors. Hmmmm. I don't know where she got my email address from, but I think it snuck in by mistake and Susan was just too polite to tell me so. There have been some pretty big, pretty awesome ladies involved so far (and I mean big like I would act all awkward and giggly if we met in person, not big like pass the Oreos, please), and there are a lot more big, awesome ones coming up. I'm just glad Susan was too nice to tell me to scram. So head over, check it out, and leave a nice comment so I don't feel like the loner in the middle school cafeteria!
read more "Scrappy Floral Skirt at Living With Punks"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

500 Sales Pattern Giveaway!

You'll never guess my big news.
(Actually, if you read the title of this post, you're pretty well-equipped to make a very solid guess.)

Tonight, I had my 500th sale in my Etsy shop!

Insane, right?! I can't quite believe it, but I'd like to take this opportunity to make an Academy Awards-style speech and thank my little model, Forrest, for making anything look fantastic, Joann's for taking all my money, and yooouuuuuu for shopping with me! Having my little shop has been such a fun creative outlet for me, and I've loved watching it grow, improving my work, pushing myself to try new things, and making new friends with customers and other sellers in the process.

So as a big fat fuzzy thank you for helping me and my shop, I'm doing a spur-of-the-moment giveaway!

This one's going to be for my fellow hookers (I never get tired of that old joke)--I'm going to pick 3 winners who will each get to choose 3 patterns from my shop! (I know, you'd rather just have me make it for you, right? Sorry, but this girl is making a cross-country move next week . . . so for now, it's just patterns) 3 winners, guys! That ups your chances of winning by, like, a bazillion percent (and no, I did not take statistics in college, why do you ask?)!

Which do you want to make? 




Want to win? Here's how!
(each of these is ONE entry . . . so leave a separate comment for each entry method you do and make sure I have a way to get in touch with you, either by enabling your email on your google profile or leaving an email address in your comment!)
 
1) Head over to my shop and tell me which pattern is your favorite!
2) Become (or already be) a follower of this blog! 
3) Like (or already like) my facebook page!
4) Tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway (and leave a link in your comment . . . one entry each!)

That's it!
Random.org will pick a winner for me on . . . let's say . . . Monday, June 13th. 
Have fun entering while I do my little 500 sales happy dance!
read more "500 Sales Pattern Giveaway!"