Building a Business on Etsy: Part 2

We've recently been beating the drum that if you want to have a successful handmade business through a presence on Etsy (if you think that's the right place for your biz), then you can't just throw up a shop and expect people to find you. We're so glad to have Australian artist Asphyxia back to talk about her recent forray into Etsy and how she took things next level with some strategy, consistency, capitalizing on momentum and hard work. 

Last week I posted about how to make the most of interactive online platforms to bring customers into your Etsy shop. I’ve been invited back (thanks, Academy Of Handmade!) to talk about some other ways you can increase your sales.

The more people who know what you do, the more people are likely to think of you when they need the kind of product you are offering. Practise a thirty second spiel in which you tell people what you do, which includes a mention of your Etsy shop. Make sure you tell it to friends, family, and use it when you meet new people and they ask what you do. Have a card with your Etsy shop address ready to hand them if they are interested. Have some great photos on your phone ready to show them.

Invite your followers over to an open studio or exhibition, ideally with some activities to help entice them. You might run a workshop or a demonstration. Be sure to have your product displayed beautifully and priced to make for easy sales.

Participate in a local craft market, and have your card and Etsy shop address prominently displayed. Many people who admired my stall at my local Christmas market didn’t make a purchase on the spot, but joined my mailing list and took my card, and some of them have since made a purchase through Etsy. Try a giveaway on a platform like Facebook - ask people to share your post (which has a photo of your gorgeous product), and whoever gets the most likes receives a little something from you.* This can be a way to build your following.

Note that the above ideas are really about letting people know about you and your shop. Then when they are ready to buy, they will come. They also need to be reminded about your existence regularly so that when the time comes, they do think of you. That’s where all the interaction comes in. Focus on connecting with people, being yourself, being open about what you do, and let it flow from there. Now I want to tell you a story about something that inadvertently boosted my sales from the one area that I wasn’t making any sales in: the Etsy marketplace. Last year, my friend Stella Young died. Stella was a brilliant activist, and one of the things I admired about her was her ability to put into words some of the most difficult things about being disabled (which resonated with me as a deaf person). I followed every one of her posts on Facebook because I was trying to learn from her. And then she died, and I hadn’t finished learning. I was devastated. One night when I couldn’t sleep for thinking about her, I got up and carved a rubber stamp portrait of her:

You might not know Stella, but this portrait is a dead ringer of her - and includes the sass in her smile. I wanted to make Stella a kind of legend, so that we would all be inspired to remember her brilliant words and to further the activism she was doing. So I posted this image on Facebook, along with a story about how Stella had impacted me, and I told people that I would send a postcard stamped with this image to anyone who wanted one. I charged $5 each (via my Etsy shop, Fixie’s Shelf[URL]), and promised to donate the money to a cause Stella felt passionately about: domestic violence.

I hadn’t realised just how well known Stella was, nor how many people were impacted by her death. My Facebook post went viral, and orders flowed in. I sent out 256 postcards and raised $1400 for Domestic Violence Victoria, which included auctioning off the stamp itself. This was my tribute to Stella and it helped me to cope with and process her death.

To my surprise, after this I suddenly started getting sales from the Etsy marketplace. I don’t know if the search engine algorithm looks at my total number of sales and ranks my items accordingly, or whether it looks at the rate of sales (a few hundred in one month) and decides that I’m a popular seller and so ranks my items higher. Whatever it was - suddenly my items were getting found in search, and these days I have a modest but increasing revenue from the Etsy marketplace.

I didn’t create my tribute to Stella to try and boost my Etsy presence. I think part of what made it successful was that it was heartfelt and genuine. But there’s plenty for all of us to learn from this. Making an offering, even if you don’t personally profit from it, via your shop, can be a good way to get people into your shop and increase the number of sales Etsy registers for you. Another thing I have done which increased my following and indirectly led to sales later, is create satirist images of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, after he’s made a political gaffe. Sometimes I clean out my studio and make packs of supplies to send to people. I only charge the postage, but these register as sales in my Etsy shop and help to boost my rank/profile.

While I can’t give you a specific recipe to make a post on Facebook go viral or your Etsy shop rank high in search, I can suggest that you do stuff, interesting stuff, all the time, and put it out there to the public, linking back to your shop. Not everything will result in direct sales, but these activities will help people to know you and remember you.

One last tip: don’t forget to experiment with your product, especially if sales aren’t really happening. I have a whole category of paintings in my shop which hardly sells at all. If they were the only thing I offered, I probably wouldn’t make many sales, no matter how hard I tried. By varying what I offer, and providing a range of price points, I’ve been able to find out what sort of items are popular and what are not. By trying out different prices for different items, I’ve been able to work out what people are prepared to pay. (I’ve actually written a whole blog post on pricing, which you can read here if you’d like a bit more help with setting your prices.)

If you’d like ongoing examples and inspiration for how to connect with customers, feel free to follow me on Facebook, subscribe to my newsletter, follow my Instagram feed or read my blog. On Facebook, you’ll only see my posts occasionally unless you hover your mouse over the LIKE button and tick ‘get notifications’. You need to be on a computer to do this, not a mobile device. It’s a tip you can pass on to your followers too, so that they’ll see more of your posts.

Best of luck with your Etsy shop, and we’d be very interested to hear in the comments or via Instagram any tips you have that have helped you increase sales too.

Thanks for reading...

*Please note that the author mentions a way of holding a Facebook contest that is actually against Facebook's terms of service. While many on Facebook will hold contests like these seemingly without consequence, we wanted you to be aware that it is in fact something you could be penalized by Facebook for.