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Archive for the ‘Selling Online’ Category

A week or so ago, I got a tweet from Mr. Artfire about something called Rapid Cart. Basically if you have a shop on Mr. Artfire, you can set up a window on your blog or website, and customers can buy right from there without having to go to your Mr. Artfire store. That’s a convenient tool for the customer in a rush!

And then today, I read about Toldya!, a new service that lets you build a portable store on social networking sites or your blog or just about anywhere you’d like it online. There is no fee to set up your store. You pay a $.99 fee if you sell something. However, you don’t get paid until you ship and you have to ship through UPS. That would be inconvenient for me.

But hey, if you use Facebook, MySpace or any other networking sites to promote your products, it might be worth a look.

http://mrartifire.com

http://toldya.com

You can read more about toldya! here: http://tinyurl.com/dl9sz6

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A couple of months ago, I learned about Google Base from an Etsy forum. I found a great tutorial on how to use LetsEts and post on Google Base. It was a little tricky, so I wrote my own blog post about posting to Google Base based on my experience. LetsEts picked it up and apparently it’s been helpful to others. I’m so glad!

One of the recent comments on that post was from a woman who called herself a Geek-in-Training (thanks Carla!). I loved that!!! As crafters, we are in tune with non-technical processes. As a bookbinder, I use board, fabric, a scissor, an iron and a cold glue process.  I love working with my hands. But to be able to even afford my craft, I need to make some money from it, and with the Internet, I now have easy avenues for that purpose. So I’ve also become a Geek in Training.

There are so many ways to sell on the Internet, and many of them are relatively inexpensive  or even free. You really don’t even need a website. However, if you are considering selling your crafts online, and you should, you need to know about a couple of tools that can help you and are relatively easy, even for us non-technical folk.

The next time you are on your computer, consider learning about the following tools for selling your crafts and building a following:

Etsy (of course)

eBay (yes, eBay is still a great place for selling handmade items)

Blogging (wordpress, blogger, typepad, take your pick. They are free and relatively easy to learn). Personally, I like wordpress, can you tell?

Twitter (micro-blogging site that is just the hottest networking tool right now. It’s quick, easy to use and a great way to send new potential customers to your website, etsy store, ebay store, blog, etc. You do want to have somewhere to send your potential customers though.)

Facebook, which is a great social network for connecting with family and friends, as well as setting up a page for your business, connecting in groups where you may find the folks who are looking for what you are selling and a way to find new followers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Of course, you can get so caught up in doing all of these techno things, you might find you have less time for your actual craft, but if you aren’t selling it, you won’t be doing much crafting anyway.

So don’t be afraid. Look up information on the above on google and get fearless. It’s really not as hard as you think. I am still a geek-in-training (the web moves so fast I don’t think we ever stop training), but I’ve learned a lot and I love the technical stuff almost as much as the crafting!

In the following weeks, I will be blogging about getting started on etsy, ebay, etc. These will be very elementary for the true beginner. I hope they help!

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So I saw it on the Etsy forums today and then on Ina Steiner’s Auction Bytes. Etsy has had a banner month in November with  total sales of $10.8 million, representing a 28% increase over October, and a 157% increase year-over-year. Wow.

I know I am having a very good month on both Etsy and eBay. I’ve been working non-stop, one of the reasons I haven’t been posting, and I will be doing so for the next week at least to get all of my orders out in time for Christmas. I wish I had more time to promote and craft and promote some more. I’m certainly not making tons of money but I almost feel like that’s only because I just don’t have enough time.

And yet, I still see grumbling on Etsy forums from shops that are not doing the sales they did in prior years, or shops struggling to get their craft businesses off the ground. My suggestion is to find successful Etsians and see what they do differently. Find different avenues to promote your wares.

Take the time you spend worrying and complaining about  sales that are down and spend it finding new ways to improve, promote and build your business, using facebook, twitter, bloggers and the etsy forums.

Several years ago, I read Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. It was an interesting read…. and one of the things that I took away from it was an exercise in “not complaining.” Spend a week not complaining. It’s not as easy as you think. If you find yourself winding up into a whine session, stop, and turn that into a positive. You will be amazed at how your attitude may change, and in response, your business will change. Things fall into place when we are positive.

So be positive, and grateful….grateful that you have the talent to make things with your hands and that you’ve met such cool people along the way and that whatever extra you gain from your craft business online, even if right now it’s just education,  is something someone else may not be able to do.

Your positive attitude will come through in your listings, in your dealings with customers and in your very own creativity.

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It’s been a while, but I hope to get back to regular blog posts now. We’ve had a lot going on around here and sometimes finding the time to sit and write gets tricky. But there’s so much to share!

One of the things I’ve been busy with lately is album orders. Finally! As we get closer to the holidays, business is picking up, although very few of my orders are holiday gifts or even holiday related. In fact, my life has been so hectic these last few weeks, I haven’t really even had the time to list properly in preparation for the holidays. But enough about me.

There’s something I’ve noticed with my recent orders (still about me…tsk, tsk) that has been a really pleasant surprise. I sell on eBay, Etsy and my own website. I blog, have had some products showcased on blogs (thanks to Etsy) and I have a decent customer base from the years I’ve been doing this.

My orders are coming from all over. Some from eBay, some from Etsy, two from my website in the past month, which is rare but so exciting, and a few from previous customers, who just shoot off an email. I only just added selling on Etsy this Spring and it has already made a huge difference in the exposure I’ve gotten for my albums. I even considered giving up eBay….

But here’s the thing. By having my products in multiple places, very different groups of people find me and I’ve gotten a much further reach for my albums, resulting in more orders than I would have otherwise.

Obviously when you start selling, you want to start in one place to see how things go. Websites are expensive (and that’s not my most effective selling tool), and listing on multiple sites can be quite time-consuming. We need time to craft too! But don’t discount your options. I see quite a few people on the Etsy forums dissing eBay. And while eBay and/or Amazon might not be for everyone, if you’ve got something unique and handmade, you’d be surprised at how much you can sell. Not everyone on eBay is looking for a bargain. In fact, lots of customers go there to find something different that they can’t find anywhere else. And everyone goes to Amazon now. I’m not there yet, but I plan to be by next year.

I like having multiple streams of visibility for my albums. Not only does it give me more sales, it gives me credibility as well. Seeing Iris & Lily in a bunch of different places signals that I am a real business.

If you are only selling in one place, consider your options. I know if I was selling in only one place, my sales would be a little dismal. Try a few different venues and see which ones work for you. With listing fees of only 20 cents in a lot of cases, and now only 35 cents even on eBay, it can’t hurt to try. Weed out the ones that don’t work, but you might be surprised when you find another venue that does.

The holidays are just around the corner, and while money is tight everywhere, there are still gifts to be bought, and lots of consumers are going online to buy them!

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Our Beloved Calvin

Our Beloved Calvin

My family and I are still reeling from the sudden death of our beloved cat on Monday. He was 15 and an integral member of our family. He was always playful, affectionate and cute as a button. And we miss him terribly.

It was unexpected. Even though Calvin was “old,” he was active and vibrant and seemingly healthy. I come home for lunch every day (I work nearby) to feed him and on Monday, Calvin was fine at lunchtime. However, when my daughter and husband got home from work a couple of hours later, he had passed away. I went to my vet to find out what to do next (I was so distraught I couldn’t even find the phone number). We wanted to cremate him and keep his ashes and we didn’t know where to start.

The vet put me in touch with Regency Forest, a pet crematory and funeral home. I was incredibly impressed with the compassion of these people. I called at 4:45 on Monday (they were closing at 5:00) and they told me very gently how to keep Calvin while waiting to bring him to them the next morning. They even have a service where they would have come right then to pick him up. We didn’t do this because they are pretty close by and this service, while convenient and thoughtful, was more than I could afford. They suggested I ask my vet to take Calvin overnight instead. My vet was more than happy to hold him for free.

When we got to Regency Forest in the morning–my 22-year-old daughter Kate came with me–I was greeted with sympathy, a beautiful environment, tissues, and a woman who made the process quick and easy. Kate wanted to take Calvin to the crematory herself to make sure we knew he would be cremated alone and we would get his ashes back (we’d heard horror stories). Even the gentleman who ran the crematory offered his sympathies and offered to walk us through the process if we wanted more information. Or we could have stayed. We graciously declined.

When I went back to pick up Calvin’s ashes, they were thoughtfully returned to me in a lovely tin placed in a gift bag with tissue and a heartfelt card that made us cry on the way home. They took such care with our baby that I would recommend this company to anyone who found themselves in the unfortunate situation we were in. Regency Forest offered us comfort at a very painful moment.

I realize this might be an odd post for a crafter’s business blog, but there is a point. Exceptional customer service–kindness and thoughtful touches–can make such a huge difference to your customers. Consider the companies you’ve dealt with that left an impression with you and how, and then keep those in mind when you are dealing with customers.

I will be forever grateful for the kindness of the Regency Forest people. They made a difference.

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These are uncertain times. Stocks are falling, banks are failing, who knows what the next president will bring to the table? I’ve spent more time reading the news and watching CNN than I ever have. I’ve never been more interested in what our next potential presidents have to say.

And I’m worried. I’ll admit that when I went into my own business, I left a job and mortgaged my house for more than I should have (20/20 hindsight) and now housing prices have fallen. I have more debt than I care to be carrying. My savings are weak at best. And my ‘real’ job is tied to advertising dollars and if things get much worse….who knows?

So what am I looking for in these uncertain times? Comfort. I want to feel safe and secure. I want to be surrounded by familiar, happy things. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’ve noticed (and I’ve seen this before), as the economy sinks lower, my sales on Etsy, eBay and my website have gone up. People don’t stop shopping because banks are failing. Some don’t have to. There are still gifts to buy. People need some comfort, some escape from the bad news that’s around them.

What better place to get that than a craft site like Etsy? Even if it’s just to go there to browse, who knows what they might find and have to have.

Etsy is not particularly political. For the most part, buying something on Etsy is not going to break the bank. And there’s lots of warm, fuzzy things that people make with their own two hands there. It takes people back to a simpler time. It’s relaxing.

I’m going to work on my Etsy store this weekend, and my eBay listings, to make sure that my copy, my photos, my titles offer my photo albums as an item of comfort…a special gift….a keepsake…something invaluable that will last a long time and can remind my potential customers of easy, fun and not so scary times.

The economy is not in great shape. But instead of pulling back and not advertising my albums because “who the heck is going to be buying them now?”, I’m going to make an extra effort to make sure they are available to those people who want a break from the worry and want to remember or celebrate good times.

I’m expecting to have a good holiday season this year because I’m going to make the effort to offer customers something they need right now…comfort.

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On Friday at work, one of my coworkers and I were passing in the kitchen and we exchanged the usual “Hi, how are you?” Of course the answer we always expect is “Fine” or “Good, and you?” and we move on. This coworker jokingly asked me if I was going to wait around for the answer. We were crazy-busy and I was walking as I was asking.

It’s become a joke between us and that’s fine but it did get me to thinking. Are we really listening? Are we really doing the things that our customers would like to see? Or are we doing what’s easy and what we love. I get that as artisans, the whole point of creating is that we love what WE are doing. I’m not suggesting that if one of my customers (I’m a bookbinder) wants jewelry, that I’ll switch gears and start making jewelry. But if a customer asks for a slightly different style book or a fabric I don’t normally showcase, I see if I can do what they are asking or find that fabric. I’m not always successful, but I do listen to suggestion and I always try. I’m fortunate. I create custom products a lot of the time and I have to listen to my customers. But, I get really great ideas from them.

What I’m proposing for this holiday season is that maybe we should ask our customers what they’d like to see…what will get them to click on the “BUY NOW” button…..what they will be willing to spend their disappearing dollars on?

Have a mailing list? Send out a survey to see what people are looking for? Figure out the trends. Pay attention in convos. You may just find the “next big thing” that way.

And when you have a consensus about a color, a pattern, a style….try it. Someone out there will notice you listened and be happy to spend their money with you.

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Let us assume that you want to go somewhere a thousand miles away. You have no vehicle. You can only set off walking and hope that somehow, sooner or later, you’ll get a ride. There’s a risk involved. You have to make a gesture of intention, faith and determination and then see what it leads to. The alternative, however, is to stay at home and decide that as the journey is impossible, the destination can never be reached. With this, there’s no gamble. You can be quite sure that nothing will change. So which is it to be this month? You have no choice. You have to try.

The above is my horoscope for September from Jonathan Cainer. He has an uncanny knack for writing a general horoscope that I feel was meant just for me. I’m a Taurus by the way, so any of you other Tauruses out there, this is your horoscope for September as well.

When I started selling crafts some 22 years ago at craft fairs, I just jumped in. We were fortunate to get a good list of shows to try out and we came up with some products that sold well right off the bat. I left the shows for full-time work and when the creative bug bit again, I started on eBay, again, with little knowledge and not sure how my products would do.

Along the way, I learned the ropes, made some mistakes and revamped my products until I was happy with them. Has it been success all the way? No. I’ve paid my dues, spent some money I didn’t necessarily have and I’m still working to figure out how best to make the most of a craft I love.

Would I trade anything I’ve been through? Not for a million bucks. I’ve learned so much and I enjoy what I do for the most part. I’m still learning and evolving and I’m ready for the next 1,000 miles, wherever that will take me.

The point? Don’t let fear stop you from doing something you think you’ll enjoy. Etsy and eBay are easy places to get started selling your crafts. If you’re considering selling this way, I say go for it. You’ll never know unless you try.

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created at wordle.net

created at wordle.net

In the Etsy forums the other day, there were a couple of posts about getting your Etsy shop visibility in the famed Google search. I thought I might condense some of the information and make it a little easier to implement what appears to be a pretty cool— and free— way to let those outside the Etsy

community know all about your fabulous work!

STEP 1:

First, there’s the way Google finds you. According to one Etsian who seemed pretty techno-savvy, while on Etsy, your tags may be your most important search tool, Google only picks up your title. I’ve noticed that a lot of Etsy shops get creative in their titles but leave out the all-important search words customers are looking for. For example, I have an album titled “Innocence” in my store. It’s a baby pic and that title provides the right sentiment. But…in the same title I have Personalized Baby Photo Album, which is what I would expect customers to search. I also have “photo album” and “baby” in my tags, because I think the important search terms bear repeating. Some Etsians try to only use search words in one place. But this isn’t eBay and you have unlimited space in your title. What can it hurt to use an important search word twice?

And I know I’ve said this before but remember to think like a customer when developing your keyword strategy. How would potential customers search for your products?

STEP 2:

There’s a tool on Google called Google Base. I’ve just gotten around to listing my items here, but wow, this is cool. You need a gmail account to access google base, and if you don’t have one of these, it’s free and there’s lots of space and it’s userfriendly and keeps the spam out. Get a gmail account and sign into it.

Then, search for Google Base in google…. or just click the underlined google base… I looked and looked but could not find the link through gmail but because I was signed in, I had instant access when I searched for it in the search engine.

Now, you need to go to a website called LetsEts.com

This is a great tool that will pull all of your Etsy listings and format them exactly the way they need to be formatted for the Google Base tool. All you need to do is a “Save As,” remember what you called it and where you saved it on your computer. The file is an XML file. Make sure when you do your “save as” you save the document as an XML file.

Next, you’re going to go on Google Base, enter the information they ask you for and upload your XML file. You don’t need to worry when they get to the formatting part. It’s already been done at LetsEts. How cool is that? You don’t need to be a techno-geek to do this!

And that’s it. Supposedly in just a couple of hours, your items will appear on Google under the keywords that are in your titles. There are great tutorials on Google too for how to do this. I’m a first-timer myself.

So I’ve uploaded my listings. They take a while to process, but I’ll definitely let you know how it went. Don’t wait for my results though to do this yourself. It’s free. And free google listings are good!

Just make sure to pump up those title keywords!!!

word image is courtesy of wordle.net

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Rumor has it that eBay is getting ready to change their listing fees again.

This time though, supposedly, listing fees will not go up. They will go away. Final value fees, however, will go up. How might I know this? For more on this subject, check out Ina Steiner, at AuctionBytes.

What does this mean for any of us crafters who are selling on eBay or are considering selling on eBay?

There are some sellers who think eliminating listing fees would be a great thing. I fall in that camp.

There are others who think it will just overrun the marketplace with redundant stuff. Why use store listings if the auction or fixed price listing are free? And initially, it could be overwhelming. But in case you’ve never listed anything (on eBay or Etsy), it is time-consuming and I think a dramatic increase in listings would eventually fall off.

For me, this would be fantastic. My products are unique because they are handmade by me, and I don’t have all that much competition. Not that I want to pay higher final value fees, but if I could list as much as I wanted for free, I could sell more…and then I wouldn’t mind those final value fees so much. You might be thinking the market is already saturated for what you are selling. But if you craft your keywords carefully, you can carve out your own eBay niche, where the competition will not be as much of a hindrance.

I’ve always looked at eBay as a marketing tool, a place for customers to find me. Once they’ve found me, I don’t encourage them to buy from me again on eBay. I encourage them to come to me directly through my website or email, or through my Etsy store.

So fee changes may have already started. According to this article, eBay Motors Fees are being eliminated for the first four cars listed…..a test? http://auctionbytes.com/cab/cab/abn/y08/m08/i14/s02

Sign up for our Iris & Lily Crafter’s Tips newsletter, and I’ll send you a free report on the benefits of selling on eBay!


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