Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Etsy | My First Year

A few metres of fabric, a little imagination and the drive to create something from nothing are the backbone of my Etsy store known as Darwin & Gray, it is by no means a business but more of a hobby and a platform to showcase my creativity. I feel an impostor when I reply to emails about how I run my Etsy, as I'm still a complete beginner myself.

After my first year from start to finish in the world of Etsy and (just about) surviving my first proper Christmas rush, I thought I'd offer some hints and tips that I've picked up along the way for those with an Etsy, aspiring to open an store or just generally interested in the goings on. I know how incredibly daunting it is to take that step to opening a store. 

This was potentially my most difficult part, you want something that in a few years time you won't cringe and think why, oh why did I do that? So, first things first, who are you? What are you selling? Who is your audience? All of these things can alter your name, if you have a specific item and a target audience that you wish to stick with then a name to suit that whole idea would be best. 

For me, at the moment I only sell a handful of things but when I looked at the bigger picture I blog and I'm a design student so I have ideas of things I'd wish to pursue in the future so I needed an open name, something personal that I could take across the board. Key point of advice is not to rush it, I carry a little sketchbook everywhere I go but I remember around the time of starting my Etsy it was full to the brim of names I'd thought of or spotted out and about. In the end I couldn't get more, well, me. Darwin & Gray is a combination of one of my names and my dogs name, it completely captures my life.

If you're after a full time, quit your day job kinda thing then branding can be vital, it's a shell that surrounds your whole project. I find designing for others way easier than designing for myself, I've been too picky and judgemental about my own brand but eventually I'm getting there (although it will probably change a few times this year). 

If you're a hobby-ist and just want a little space to showcase your pieces then don't fret about branding too much as it can hold you back. If in doubt, keep it simple - also Pinterest is a huge help for anybody wanting a little helping hand in the designing stage, simply search for branding, design and even packaging for inspiration. 

Lovely folk that want a little piece of what you've got to offer. It sounds obvious but manners are key, nobody likes a blunt and rude response to a message so do try to be nice, there are times when customers will test your patience or maybe you're just feeling under the weather but just BREATHE! People will always remember and recommend you to others if you make a positive impact, word of mouth and the follow up reviews can be crucial to your small shop.

Having something made custom is the ultimate selling tactic on Etsy, everybody loves a little uniqueness to their gift. When it comes to pricing it is completely in your control, I struggle with this as you have to take into account the designing of the piece and the creation of something you're not necessarily used to doing. Around busier times, try to limit your custom orders - there is nothing worst than taking on too much then having to disappoint customers. 

Deadlines are critical, I personally make everything from scratch for every order and as much as I would love to make everything in advance and pick to order I just don't have the space or facilities for bulk stock. Besides it feels more personal making something directly for a customer once they've ordered. Around busier times such as Christmas Day, Valentines Day and for me, May the 4th (Star Wars Day) be realistic with your deadlines, pushing yourself to breaking point can be rough and can reflect in your work as well as in the way you come across to customers.

Promote. Promote. Promote. 
Through Etsy Stats you can see what products are getting the most views and why, bump up those stats and get social media savvy. Instagram is perfect to get your audience involved with your process, I always upload working photos when I'm sat sewing or painting just to illustrate the fact that everything is handmade. Also, don't be afraid to appreciate other creatives around you through Social Media. 

Yes, these are an important factor as they are what will sell your products ultimately. There are endless product photographers that will charge a fee to shoot your whole collection but if you don't have much to offer at the moment then don't bother hiring a photographer, instead invest in a decent(ish) camera - I use an old Canon 450D, I've had it roughly 6 years and it's nothing fancy but it does the job. On the other hand, for social media, try to use new content rather than the same photo set - mobile phones are perfect for capturing quick on-the-go moments. 

It's all well and good starting up a little side project with Etsy but remember to not lose yourself in it all, juggling two small jobs, full time studying at University alongside my Etsy is incredibly time consuming and to be honest, I didn't even notice Christmas last month as I was too surrounded by work (Yes, I was that sad 'un making cushions Christmas morning) As exciting as it all is, take time to unwind as this will actually be the moment when new ideas will come to your head whether it is regarding design work, packaging ideas or even your overall branding. 

Like I said, I'm no expert in this field and I'm still learning but they're just some simple but helpful tips that I've learnt along the way. Etsy also boasts an endless amount of useful insights and hints on their website to support you when you're first opening a store so if you're feeling a little overwhelmed by it all then I found them super handy to read. 
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