Saturday, April 4, 2009

QYDJ Redux, Bitchslap style

This isn't a Bitch aimed at Etsy admin. Nor even at a culture that exists ONLY on Etsy.

This is one Bitches' Bitch, and the other Bitches may totally disagree and may totally have different experiences. Consider this a Bitch Tips column rooted in one person's experience, and no more.

There's nothing that follows that I would not post to my own blog except that ya'll are so much more LIKELY to see it here. Naturally, anonymity then becomes necessary simply because, well, who trusts Etsy not to brickwall a Friend of Bitches or an infrequent Bitch? Also, I write this for you, not for my own glory and trackbacks, and no one can say otherwise cause where do you track back but here?

Like all business advice, what follows is like an orifice, you know the old saw. And it IS business advice - if you are selling for some date night money and the fun of making stuff, it's not going to do anything but piss you off to try and incorporate it, and you should continue rocking your craft just as you are.

Here is a learned in the trenches bit of bitching that's going to run counter to a lot of the Etsy promotional Myths out there. Yes Myths. As in "widely circulated and accepted BS."

MYTH 1: KNOWLEDGE. IT STARTS IN THE STORQUE. IT IS FOUND IN THE FORUM. SO THERE.

The best advice you're going to get may not be via the Storque or via the forums. There's life beyond both. Google is your friend, or your SE of choice if you're anti-Google. So are books, those hard leafy things. You know what I mean. Jeebus, Suzy, get out of the forums and ask Google your question like "how to improve my product photos?" "How to promote on a budget?" Notice that Suzy rarely makes it out of the Etsy forums though, and her notion of promotion is "I posted every day to threadkilling games in promos, still not selling, sigh."

MYTH 2. OMG - THIS SELFLESS GURU JUST LEFT ME SEVEN TIPS WITH 25 LINKS TO THEIR BLOGS, KEWL.

Reading an About.com column on Guerilla Marketing, or even the book by that title cover to cover, does not make you an expert on such. Hey, I have gurus and pundits I like. I sometimes look at Seth Godin, or the collective widsom of some of the people over at The Switchboards, even. Just, you know. Have a high bar and don't get onto the first bandwagon you encounter, eh? Hint: a lot of the people making a lot of sales on the net are way too busy selling making and shipping their shiz to make a ton of "how I made sales" products and postings but really do answer questions and really will help a noob out!

MYTH 3. PROMOTION = WHEW I PROMOTED HARD TODAY! I POSTED TO INDIEPUBLIC, CRAFTSTER, WE LOVE ETSY, AND MYSPACE. LOTS!

I am not one for rules and telling people what to do or think, but I'm going to do it now. For the love of God, for the love of everyone's Twitterfeeds, please, Etsians, craft seller noobs, everyone - PLEASE consider the following: ROI isn't just a phrase about money - apply it to your TIME.

It is good to be present as many places as possible. Join all the Ning networks, have a Myspace page, have a Facebook for sure, Twitter - definitely have a blog. Now here comes the unpopular part: your work is pretty much done. Get your supercraft shiz up on a page, a smily-happy-you picture, a link to www.mycraftyshiz.com (which may or MAY NOT point to etsy, oui?)

The exception to this would be your blog, which you should do evey day. (I don't, but should.)

Add some myspace or VOX or indiepublic friends if you really have nothing to do and nothing to make and nothing to ship. Visit it on the odd month. It will go on without you, adding a little bit of value to your blog, page, and etsy page rank. A blogger may find you thus. Periodically repost a post from your blog to its blog, that's a good thing to do once in a while - think of it like coning your ears, not like brushing your teeth.

MYTH 4. IF I DON'T PLAN ON BEING ON A SITE EVERY DAY PUTTING UP A PAGE = STUPID.

DO use social media, I'm not saying don't do it. Use as many platforms as you have time to add in - presence is GOOD. Hang out on the ones you like - I'm a facebook person with periodic binges of adding myspace friends if the pages are ones I find interesting enough and local to me particularly. Drop a few bulletins, but really, go do something more productive in a few minutes. Do not get sucked in.

The only BUSINESS perk to MOST social media is probably the increase of YOUR pagerank a TEENY BIT. (Your page which may or MAY NOT point to etsy, oui? oui?)

I'm on facebook - to talk to my friends! A few etsy friends but mostly people I went to school with or know somehow. I'm on twitter - to drop random links and quips when I have NOTHING ELSE TO DO and to sometimes link to a new item I really want my ego stroked over.

A few people will often say "hey, yo, nice craft crap there." That's all I expect and all I want. I do not want to be the person tweeting every advertising utterance that might come into my head. I do not want to be the person tweeting "BUY MY CRAP" to a host of people who want me to buy their crap mostly. Because it's just not worth it.

R to the O to the I. Tattoo it on your hand, tape it to your wall, ask yourself if you are honoring it when you are sitting in Etsy chat hoping someone might buy your crap.

MYTH 5. HTML AND OTHER CODE - DO NOT WANT! IM'A GET RICH ON ETSY BY POSTING FREEEE TO CRAIGSLIST AND FACEBOOK, THEN HIRE AEOLIDIA AND THUSLY ROCK!

I'm gonna be a bossy bitch for a moment and lay some opinion on you.

Best first online promotional expendture - your own domain name and hosting. What if Brooklyn had a giant internet-killing 350 foot sloth attack tomorrow? Huh?

Best free thing you can do with it - put up a WP blog on it, even on a subdomain or sub directory. Those things pull traffic like a caffeinated ox, I shit you not.

Why? In my personal experience - pointing a paid ad to an etsy shop is about as useful as pointing it to ebay or a cave in the woods. Point the ad to YOU and then if people want to etsy from there, make it easy for them.

Best free promotional strategies for your first year: if you do not know enough CSS and HTML to hack a WP template or style a simple site for yourself PLEASE OH PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN IT. I don't believe in hiring designers before you know enough to have some rudimentary understanding of what they're doing and how they do it so you aren't completely at someone else's mercy every time you want to widen a column. Making yourself a placeholder this is Suzy this is her spiffy shiz site is really really important.

Addendum: If you are not taking really really good photos, not just clear, but GOOD - PLEASE OH PLEASE LEARN HOW ASAP. Or sell in person mainly. There's no law that says you have to rely on etsy. But there is a law of online sales which says if it doesn't grab me by the nads and make me go "I can haz?" it's not going to sell.

Those time investments, though, have serious serious ROI attached to them, unlike gathering adult camgirls on Myspace as friends (unless that's a customer base for you, and it could be) Who knows, you may become a CSS junkie and do projects for noobs for $. You may be able to hire out your product photo skills to the local bead store periodically. Capiche? No one said your "day job" had to suck azz.

MYTH 6. PAID ADS ARE A WASTE , DYING BREED, WORD OF MOUTH IS WHERE IT'S AT, LEMME SPAM TWITTER SOME MORE.

Here's an ugly truth that people do not want to address often because it hurts feelings. YOU MUST PUT $$$ INTO PROMOTING A BIZ. If you do not plan on spending anything ever on getting yourself out there, you are hurting your business. Like going medieval on its little cute pikachu eyes self.

I certainly know broke. I know broke-ass broke. It's not easy. That's why you KEEP some of that day job money or you reserve some of that craft show money, or you borrow 200 bucks from a friend who gets what you're trying to do until you do not have to do such things - to be visible. Period. Stumbleupon advertising or Adwords type stuff is a good start.

Which is a good ad? An insular 10 cent spot on a craft blog with 6 readers running Project Wonderful ads because you like the chick with the blog ?

Or A 10 cent Project Wonderful spot on a NON-craft blog?

Come on, Suzy. I know you can answer this, please. Etsy noobs have this incredible tenacity about the importance of marketing to other crafters. Doesn't anyone eventually sit up and say "I would pay 30 bucks to get out of this circle-jerk?" "I would pay 30 bucks a month to be able to make some more amigurumi or feed my children or take a walk instead of posting like a deranged squirrel on Ning communities?"

Every time a non-supplier buys an ad on a site where only crafters hang an angel pulls its feathers out.

It is definitely possible to waste money on a paid ad that you think is where the shopper ladies hang - sometimes ads will misfire. I've placed a few bombs. Expensive bombs, but I didn't buy them unless I knew they might.

This is the ugly truth. Many many indie businesses you see with sidebar ads and blog features everywhere on earth making sales out the azz got that way by eating tuna and rice so they could afford their first ads. They understood and were willing if barely able to shoulder the risk. Don't do something you can't do - but DO do the most you can afford. At every step. I know there are exceptions and people very talented with social netowrking, but frankly, me bringing my A game means being willing to invest. Time - in a smart way. Money - in a smart way.

When I started out, print it yourself business cards were the most I could do - so I do understand. But to grow you need to bust ass. Busting ass is not enhanced, but sidetracked by placing spam on every city's craigslist when you could just put 20 bucks into adwords or renew 5 bucks worth of listings or email 10 blogs with nice pics and "hi, like your blog. Wanna post my shiz? thanks!" (Jena at Modish has great how-tos for how to do this, that was the vastly abbreviated version)

-or get out yo, and scope out the boutiques near you. Or email them if they're not near you.

This said, your paid ad is as good as its 1. placement 2. design.
If those are both azz, you will get nothing. Do not buy visual ad placement unless you are secure with the look and the notion that the venue is talking to the peeps who will buy from you.

7 .ETSY IS REALLY ABOUT THE SANCTITY OF HANDMADE IT'S JUST CONFUSED SO LOOKS LIKE A CRAFT MAGAZINE SPINOFF WITH ALT-CRAFT ONLY. IT ONLY PROMOTES HOT GLUED TOGETHER NEON HOODIES WHEN IT'S DRINKING - ONE DAY IT WILL WISE UP AND LOVE ME BECAUSE IT ALWAYS TELLS ME IT KNOWS NO NICHE, AND IT LOVES ME, REALLY IT DOES!

Rail against, Bitches, but also accept Etsy as it is, until and if otherwise. At least with half your heart and soul. Use the other half to Bitch for betterment.


Etsy says it's about everything handmade. Craftster says "no tea cozies without irony."

Neither stays totally on target with their mission - Craftster is actually a much softer more booster-y happy place where your non-ironic tea cozy is still considered rad enough - hey, that's cool. Etsy dangles the bait for higher end NICHE Magazine worthy work, but makes it a complete bitch to be seen and does nothing to bring in that customer base, does as much as it can to scare it away in fact - staying a bastion of modern cool under $200, brooklyn emo, or shabby chic ALT-craft in its promotions, self-concept, and de-facto identity. Not cool - and I say this from within that market niche, happily selling. I don't like that it tries to be everything and hands out so much fail to so many peeps. Please look at this powerful but potentially dangerous or merely useless animal as what it is, not the cuddly friend you want and it says it is, right?

Craftster isn't fuckin' with all the people's money. So they get a pass for fronting more hipster ironic than they actually are. Etsy is selling itself as something it is not to a lot of talented makers who are trying to find their way on the internet without a ton of technical knowledge or marketing savvy.

It doesn't bug me as much that they have a niche, but that they INSIST they don't. That is way way way uncool.

It would be like BUST craftacular accepting a whole slough of artisans they know won't sell anything there for the table fees, which they don't do because they run a good show and a tight ship. Besides, then their TARGET MARKET doesn't have to wade through miles of things they don't want to buy. Everyone's happier. Bringing hundreds of thousands of people to a site where they can't navigate to find what they actually want to buy is not a great sales strategy, duh!

Etsy IS what it IS. Bitching for change is good, but it's also like accepting a dysfunctional parent. They are who they are - you try to help, but you stop enabling. To succeed sometimes you need to look outward as well as homeward. Take what you can from them, they're not all bad, and maybe they DO love you but can't figure out how.
MYTH 8. SUCCESS AND $$$ AND NO MORE DAY JOB = ETSY, WHAT COULD IT BE BUT ETSY?

TRUTH: Do what you always do and get what you always got. Or the Einstein def. of insanity - doing the same thing, expecting different results.


If you're not aiming for or selling to that BUST Craftacular Williamsburg Gawker handmade type audience who find putting ABC gum into testubes as decorative housewares thrilling, etsy is a keen portfolio page at best, or a good place to do a cheaper more editionable spinoff line.

If you're not selling on Etsy and it's not because your work is really poor and you've only been crafting for ten minutes, chances are you WILL sell somewhere. No, no chances are. You WILL sell somewhere. You do have to find it, however. It may not be Etsy, not today anyway.

It may not be online. You may have to pay to play. You may have to work with stores much more extensively (are you courting stores? It's really easy, actually, it's so much less painful than it sounds - stores are often dying for new merch. Use the internets to find them! They also use etsy to find you!)

Really. This is not a "well fine leave then" post at all, but a reverse etsy rah-rah for getting your OWN site done, submitting how-tos to the mags and photos to the Lark books, to approaching galleries, to using etsy and not letting it use you. Referring a prospective store to a really nicely stocked Etsy page that doesn't necessarily have sales up the wazoo can look nice and polished, especially if you're a techno-noob. Until you are no longer one or until you have enough stores that you don't need to care.

In summation: not selling on etsy? Try everything that isn't Etsy, in addition to what you're doing. Better yet, if YOUR CUSTOMER is not on Etsy, figure out


1. who that is

2. where they are


3. go there

50 Comments:

life-during-wartime said...

Great article! I didn't agree with every word, but it was well worth reading and then thinking hard about what I didn't agree with. I've mentioned this before, but I'll ask again for 'more like this'!

One issue not mentioned was that, based on my observations over 7 years selling online, I think that many members of the online selling hen party are 'innumerate'. They simply have no idea, even after years in the game, how to tell if they are making money and/or what is working for them and what is not. From buying supplies, pricing, chosing methods of advertising, allocating their time -- they are doing what feels most comfortable and looks like the best way to conform to some group, not what brings the best ROI. It's the online shop equivalent of females who actually lose family income by working outside the home because they spend more money on wardrobe, grooming, a fancy ride, etc etc than their net pay brings in.

RastaFooseBall said...

THANK YOU AGAIN for telling it like it is. You have my respect.

forum rubbernecker said...

Etsy IS what it IS. Bitching for change is good, but it's also like accepting a dysfunctional parent. They are who they are - you try to help, but you stop enabling. To succeed sometimes you need to look outward as well as homeward. Take what you can from them, they're not all bad, and maybe they DO love you but can't figure out how.
__________
Wow....so much in your post and so much to say. I think the above statement sums it up for me. The thing a lot of people don't get is that to learn how to run a business, you need to do a boatload of research off Etsy, but to sell on Etsy, you really need to learn how to work the specific Etsy system, pictures, listing, treasuries. To have a full and complete and successful business on Etsy, you need to be able to do both.

I guess one of the saddest things to see is people being encouraged to Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, blog, buy ads, work the promotions forum!!!! and all this stuff when they haven't even learned how to take a decent picture of what they want to sell and haven't listed or renewed in 2 weeks. Here's my general advice:

1. Learn the basics of running a real (not just Etsy) business in all the ways you suggested, OMG, what's a book? You mean there was business advice before the internets?
2. Make stuff well
3. Take good pictures
4. Have a professional banner, avatar, shop announcement, profile, and listings (listings can still be fun AND profession)

Sadly, so few people on Etsy do this. I have rarely seen this being given as the first advice to anyone.
Someone will come into the forums and ask "how can I get more sales" and everyone says "promote". NO........you don't want to go promoting crap photos and sketchy info about you and your shop.

There's so much more I could say, but I want to THANK YOU for encouraging us to seek out boutiques and stuff. I don't get featured very often on Etsy, but my photos have improved and my sales are increasing steadily......I take this as encouragement that I can indeed do well in other venues too.
I'll shut up now........

justbitchy said...

Good post.

I'm not big on black/white statements relating to business, but NEVER advertise a sub-domain link like your etsy URL. NEVER.

Buy a domain name and, for the sake of all that is holy, get a DOT COM, not a .net or .biz. Then use a redirect to point it to your esty store. Use your domain URL on your business cards, not your etsy URL.

And the word on the street is that Etsy is no longer "cool" in most circles and many people find it a joke. Many galleries won't even consider you if they know you sell on etsy. Your best bet is to sell from your own website and perhaps use etsy as an ancillary selling site.

I have tried them all. I even tried my product line on etsy. My website provides steady sales and my website and local shows is my day job now. Despite my success with my domain I got nearly no sales on Etsy.

Etsy is a bizarre universe and the likelihood of you being able to QYDJ with JUST etsy is slim to none. Yes, some have, but the likelihood of you getting struck by lightening is higher than turning your etsy store into a place where you can fully support yourself.

And for clarification, "supporting yourself" means you can meet all your expenses and have no late bills, no help from parents, spouse or SO income, buying your own health insurance and having money to save for your future.

Most of the QYDJ people have support of spouses, SO, parents or have a very low standard of living and are playing health insurance roulette hoping they won't get sick. That's not a viable business.

Unless you send cupcakes and glitter to Crooklyn don't count on any help getting noticed in the sea of etsy humanity.

Go your own way. Don't get caught up in the hype. The Etsy buzz is just buzz. There is little substance behind it.

Plus, the fees people who sell a lot pay to etsy would more than fund website design. I pay a flat monthly fee of $50 with my host which has all the bells and whistles anyone could want with an ecommerce site. Discount coupons, gift certificates, inventory control, full shipping method and price control, item options like size and color choices, packing slips, quickbooks integration, statistics, bulk upload and much more.

I have no idea why anyone would pay etsy several hundred a month when they could get their own website for far less.

spetsy said...

Brilliant.

An admirer said...

Thank you for taking the time to lay it out to people. You speak the truth, and I hope people will take what you say to heart. I fear however, that the truth will be hard for many to hear. Just as losing weight comes down to eating less and exercising more, as opposed to popping pills, creating a successful creative business takes real work and resources that many don't want to part with.

Rana said...

*applause*

Thank you for this - for being so clear eyed, so informative, so practical - in short, what the rah-rah crowd is not.

(Of course, some of my pleasure in reading this may come from my self-satisfaction in realizing that I'm doing much of this already. I still have a lot to learn, but it's good to know I haven't just been deluding myself.)

justbitchy said...

Ditto about knowing how to price!

So many people price to sell and have no idea if they are making money, losing money or breaking even.

There is NO WAY to tell if your business is successful unless you know your gross and net income taking into account ALL of your expenses.

The Astounded One said...

Thanks guys! Forum Rubbernecker brings up some really awesome points - how spam is the cart being put before the product horse in so many cases. Nice.

The Funny One said...

Oh yeah Etsy is what it is, but you left out one whole subject; getting promoted for free on Etsy because you got picked by someone on Etsy as their yearly pet product/seller/store.

Your entire list of marketing do's and don't's completely left out what happens when you happen to be a fave seller on Etsy who gets:
- daily front page advertising for free
- lots of bloggies about your products for free
- you are the FS (for free) and then when you finish your stint as the FS, you get to have 12 permanent spots in the GG's!!!! FOR FREE!
- you get to be the next QYDJ because all that FREE Etsy marketing made you a lot of money
- then you start the whole free marketing loop all over again and get promoted all over Etsy again for the next 12 months.

And then you don't have to lift a finger, press a keyboard, or tweet at 3 AM----------Etsy is doing ALL OF IT FOR YOU FOR FREE! (including the tweets that they throw in FOR FREE!!!!)

No matter how much money or time you spend on marketing your shop on Etsy---------let's face reality here. If you aren't picked by Etsy for free advertising, you will not sell, period.

The Astounded One said...

Section seven is pretty much dedicated to that. What exactly CAN anyone do about that? Other than sell elsewhere, instead of, or in addition to - which I advocate strongly, definitely.

Yes, it's de-facto juried a certain way - it's clear.

Also, I've seen some FS, favorites, and whatnot who STILL aren't selling jack even with the weight of full force Etsy adoration.

The Righteous One said...

Astounded astounds, film at 11 ;)

There's probably more business advice in this one post than the entire Dorque!

forum rubbernecker said...

Your entire list of marketing do's and don't's completely left out what happens when you happen to be a fave seller on Etsy who gets:
- daily front page advertising for free
- lots of bloggies about your products for free
- you are the FS (for free) and then when you finish your stint as the FS, you get to have 12 permanent spots in the GG's!!!! FOR FREE!
- you get to be the next QYDJ because all that FREE
__________
Is it wrong to want this? Don't we all? LOL

And Astounded--thank you. It makes me sad to see the glittery promo horse put before the very necessary but sometimes dull nuts and bolts cart.

Jamy said...

Excellent piece! You do have to spend money to make money.

Unfortunately, I think many people who are selling their work have a very misguided notion that the handmade movement is their ticket to fast and easy money. They are the ones who wouldn't even consider paying $25 for an ad, even if they had the money...not when they can spam the heck out of Twitter, facebook, myspace and all the rest of the free places.

Making and selling hand crafted items is not a get rich quick scheme. To look at it like that is the same mentality as picking up a guitar and thinking to yourself "Hey! If I learned how to play this thing, maybe I'll become a rock star one day!!!"

If you are in it ONLY for the money and don't genuinely love what you do, then you're no artist; you're just another Billy Mays trying to shill a sham wow.

The Funny One said...

Sure every seller on Etsy wants to be promoted constantly for free. But all things handmade is now a marketplace that is an Etsy-imposed marketplace for Etsy-approved products. Not a site for the sellers, the handmade product, or the handmade aesthetic (diversity).

It's a big boxed approach applied to a diverse marketplace that is no longer diverse -- it's an Etsy production.

In other words, Etsy took the uniqueness of the handmade product sold by the artisan who made it and turned it into a hand-picked display case full of products that Etsy has dictated will fit their limited view of what they have deemed to be sellable. And have gone to the extreme of telling sellers in print to make the products that fit their Merchandising Calendar. With all that free promoting and advertising, those products are more sellable-------on Etsy.

If you're an artisan on Etsy who does not make Etsy approved products, you won't sell on Etsy.

Jamy said...

In other words, Etsy took the uniqueness of the handmade product sold by the artisan who made it and turned it into a hand-picked display case full of products that Etsy has dictated will fit their limited view of what they have deemed to be sellable.
---------------------

Actually, they've done worse than that. They've taken the aesthetic of "handmade" and made it into a cheap, mass-produced commodity. That makes me sad.

dillon designs said...

Wow, this is one of the only Etsy-related advice posts that I've ever actually agreed with. Points 7 and 8 are especially great, and they really need to be heard.

At some point, I do think one needs to accept Etsy's aesthetic for what it is, and either work with it or rethink whether what you want can be achieved there. I started just selling my mom's jewelry in our shop, which is hugely popular in person, but not typically "Etsy." Once I recognized that, because I really wanted to make Etsy work for us, I created some new products that were specifically created to appeal to the Etsy aesthetic. Not that I don't love what I make, but it was a deliberate decision in response to what I was seeing on the site. Once the expanded line started getting attention on Etsy, sales of my mom's pieces increased, too.

Etsy fees are high, especially once your shop takes off. High enough that I can only justify them as at least partially marketing--bringing in your own traffic, IMO, doesn't work. The whole reason I stay on Etsy is because, controversial as the idea may be, they bring me the customers--many more than I have ever brought through my own advertising. And that's why I've done my best to cater to the market they bring in.

I don't suggest that everyone needs to change what they're doing to better suit Etsy, but this quote from the OP pretty much sums up how I feel:

"Etsy IS what it IS. Bitching for change is good, but it's also like accepting a dysfunctional parent. They are who they are - you try to help, but you stop enabling. To succeed sometimes you need to look outward as well as homeward."

(I hope people don't hate me for this post...I'm trying really hard not to sound like an asshole)

dillon designs said...

One more point that I left out of my long-winded post--I absolutely, absolutely, ABSOLUTELY agree that if you rely on the Etsy forums, or even the EtsyWiki, to tell you how to run or promote your shop, you're doomed to fail. And maybe nuts. I spent *months* doing google searches, pouring over magazines, looking at competitors' websites...anything that could get me a clue of where to send my line sheets. And then I sent a shitload of them to blogs, editors, shops, you name it. It's *alot* of work, but it led to so many opportunities--I got a Daily Candy feature that way, for one. There are so many more proactive steps that can be taken beyond social networking.

I used to try and give advice in the forums, but I gave up because people just don't want to hear this stuff. Passivity doesn't get the job done.

enestori said...

it is time for some people to face hard,cold facts:
you have two avenues to turn your art into a profitable business.
The first avenue is to create something unique, of your own design that people want and then hire people to make it for you, or replicate it -look at prints and soap (ooh and scrabble pendants, who can forget those- or jewelry)which are the most popular items on etsy(or art markets, festivals, etc.) for example.
Your second avenue is to have as few expenses as possible and eek out an existence until you are discovered and then people will pay you for what your time and energy and one of a kind items are worth.
Both are time tested ways for artists to make money. Anything else is a hobby and when i read featured seller interviews where they state they use their etsy money to buy dinner for their husband or so on it proves a point.
many of their QYDJ interviewees live with their parents or boyfriends or what have you because it is a hard cold world out their and running a businesses profitably is without a doubt only for the tough and those willing to go without (on their own) in order to have success.
dudes i know artists who have spent time living in their cars, in closets and of course in their parents basements for years before being able to make it to survive and survive i dont mean paying rent- survive i mean vacations, insurance, investments, and so on.paying for their own kids or spouses college. not just enough money to keep the lights on- that isnt a profit.
the only issue i have with etsy advertising at job fairs and such with etsy as a way to make a living is that they do not portray the realistic aspects of making a living, what a profit is, and the very real fact that most working artists DO NOT HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE. Many are only one bad tooth away from living under a bridge some where.
return on your investment is a very real aspect of this lifestyle and just ask any artist who has come reeling form their accountant when they find out their profit has been eaten up by personal income taxes and paying unemployment and social security as required by law.
etsy be realistic about how you portray the artist lifestyle. You have about 50 or so people on your staff who couldnt make a living alone by selling on etsy and so they decided to work for you. get real!

Erika Jurney said...

Beautiful -- the point about the futility of essentially trying to sell to sellers is well made. It's hard to get up the nerve to go outside your comfort zone, but the rewards can be so worthwhile!

Top Shelf Totes said...

Thanks for taking the time to type all of that out! Very nice article and overview of what it really takes to run a true business. I spent my entire Christmas holiday working on my own website so I wouldn't be dependent on any site.

As someone else stated here in the comments, Etsy is becoming somewhat of a joke on the outside. Many people see it as an Ebay for crafts (i.e. a place to sell 'junk' that you make). I don't think this is how I want people to view my product, nor is it how I view many of the sellers I see on Etsy.

It's unfortunate that Etsy staff has made itself such a niche, that it's hard for people to imagine there is anything else available on the site. It doesn't help that they have allowed poorly done press pieces out the door that only exaggerate the message that they are a hipster community that only carries trendy items that aren't even made well (the CBS piece mixed with Martha Stewart was painful to watch).

Anyway, I'm totally with you... and I have actually started to realize that physical selling is probably my best avenue (with my online store there more as a promotional tool than anything). Totes are an item that seem to sell much better when people can see and feel them and see how they lie on their shoulder. What I have gained from my own shop, Etsy and Art Fire is great market feedback on my pieces. I have definitely been able to narrow down my line, come up with some new designs and focus my efforts much more effectively based on the feedback I get on my items that are listed online.

All that said, Etsy becomes less important for me because:

1. I don't want to be associated with a place that is perceived to be an EBay for Crafters.
2. I don't want to keep paying Etsy for promotion that isn't really helping much.
3. It is a time suck... and that time can be spent doing more research and promotion on my own site and possibly Art Fire (still evaluating) to ultimately help my 'in person' business get promoted.
4. It is expensive to keep renewing just to be seen, I'd rather spend that money on other promotional/ad placement and the $7/month on Art Fire.

TheHorseIsDead said...

TheFunnyOne - your post was actually pretty funny because it was so inaccurate and frought with apparent jealousy! Maybe you don't make any sales (as is implied by your post - either that or you are one of the 'chosen ones' since you say those are the only 2 options), but there are plenty of people who make lots of sales on etsy and are not favorites of admin.

Paw and Claw Designs said...

Excellent!

sounds advice for the newbies and the more seasoned as well.

just because ti works for "everyone" doesn't mean it works for you!

The Funny One said...

Point taken TheHorseIsDead and if you think it's all about promotion-lust, then my point wasn't clear. If you produce what Etsy (clearly) wants to promote, you sell on Etsy. If you don't, you go elsewhere to sell. However, the style that Etsy has imposed on handmade products is more exclusive than it is inclusive. It's a formula that makes Etsy a lot of money. It works for some sellers. But is is not handmade and the site is not all things handmade. It's a site where products that Etsy likes to promote are produced, promoted and sold. Which is quite different from their trademark all things handmade.

Old Hippie Bitch said...

Damn! Couldn't you just let those clueless sellers keep advertising to other etsy sellers? My Project Wonderful ad placement will have more competition now...

Enough with the great advice! Just let those suckers flounder, k?

TheHorseIsDead said...

TheFunnyOne, ok, I see your point now, that was more clear. I will admit I'm so sick of hearing about anyone making sales on etsy being an admin favorite that I'm a little defensive :) Thanks for your clarification.

Joya said...

Well said, Etsy is simply a venue, you should be using Etsy to promote your business, not your business to promote Etsy. This is true of any venue, Ebay, 1000markets, Handmadefuzion, Artfire, etc...

I want to see artists thrive and make a living, and the artists who starve haven't taken the time or the initiative to market themselves and their art in a productive innovative way.

UnHIp said...

Sure, a person can make more sales if they conform to Etsy's "aesthetic", but that is a self-perpectuation cycle that ultimately makes the site boring.
It would be nice to think half-full and be patient for Etsy to evolve, but time marches on and I don't have the time and patience for Etsy to grow up.
25 years, and those that remain in Etsy's employ will have lived enough to learn something.....that's the only chance at hope.
Which means, Etsy is hopeless as long as it hires people with little expertise and a narrow view of what and what is not marketable.

I don't know if it's dumbness, callowness, or disregard-- but my gut feeling is that they are thinking like young people who think they will live forever and don't take their jobs seriously at all.

They need a CEO on site who has vision. Instead, they pay some washed up decorator to brand the site, and squander advertising opportunities. The free advertising they do get portrays Etsy as a joke. I do believe it is a reflection of the mindset of those who work for Etsy-- it must be, since they allow it. Too bad they drag everyone else down.

NOte: We do not live forever. Opportunities are a gift, and may never come again. Damage can be done. negative reputation is something that is very hard to overcome. A good reputation is VERY IMPORTANT.

Lenox Knits said...

What a great post. There is so much good "advice" here, or anti-advice which is actually more important. you have given me a lot to think about.

BooHoo said...

Unhip, that just makes me want to cry - but I couldn't have said it any better myself. The clip on the morning show & then the critique from Martha S was so cringeworthy. Again, why did they pick that shoddy seller to represent the site?

Kreated by Kelly said...

Holy canoly!!! This is phenomenal advice!! All the noobs should be required to read!!!

ElloOperator said...

I agree. It's really misleading to suggest that people use the forums for sales and advertising.

The forums are great for getting to know the rest of the community. But in 3 years on etsy and more than 500 sales, 95% of them are new to etsy. And probably never visit the forums.

Most of my customers are not other sellers.

Grace said...

Awesome post! I only wish I'd found it a couple years ago. I could have started my own website much sooner than I did.

Since I went out on my own, I'm averaging at least 3x the sales I had on Etsy, and the money is all mine. Even with a higher end ecommerce site, I'm still coming out ahead on the monthly fees. I take the money that I save from listing, and put it into a couple of targeted ads.

One thing that was overlooked in the article is LiveJournal. I've managed to find some wonderful communities out there, and even started one of my own. Once the ball starts rolling, you really only have to check on it a couple of times a week.

Overall, the best ROI I've had is taking the time to sit down and submit "tips" to fashion and lifestle blogs. It's time consuming, but when you get a good featured spot, HOLY MACKEREL! Hang onto your hat. :-)

If you want to see what my current line looks like, please drop by and visit
www.Rivkasmom.com I'd love to see you!

Bookman said...

I wonder about ROI every time I read this blog.

Interesting this comes right on the heels of the post complaining that Etsy's hipster brand doesn't fit most of the actual sellers there.

So if the brand doesn't fit, why do the EBs continue to try to wear it? This isn't a "love it or leave it" argument - you've documented every minute detail of how Etsy doesn't fit your idea of what an online handmade venue should do, and now you have come to the inevitable conclusion of this process, which is that maybe Etsy's not a good fit for your particular business model.

And yet you stick around. Like the noobs who post their blurry photos on myspace every day and wonder why the orders don't come flying in, the EBs post their delirious rants every day and wonder why the other 350,000 sellers don't fall in line. Looks like a poor ROI to me.

To borrow some good advice I just read, if Etsy isn't giving you a good ROI, find out

1. who does

2. where they are

3. go there

Pinto said...

What is ROI?

The Righteous One said...

bookman, if you notice, two of us wrote the two different posts. Personally, I'm not on Etsy anymore, I DID leave because they didn't fit me (I only use them as a minimal presence to cover my ass on traffic and to shop). There are bad habits and misconceptions about running a business and about what handmade is that Etsy has pushed. It affects all of us because of the bullshit they put out there about what "craft" means. Etsy's a big dog and for the sake of the hard work we already put in we can't ignore it, even if we walked away.

The Righteous One said...

Pinto, I'm assuming ROI is "return on investment"

etsy H8r said...

er.....what is R to the O to the I? help a cluesless sixter out. and, good post. informative. if nothing else im stepping up my plans for my own website.

Rana said...

Bookman, what's ironic is that the same could be said about your comments on this blog.

Somehow, I don't think, based on what I've seen, that your ROI in that regard is all that good.

OpentoChange said...

Believe it or not, Bookman, I sell well on Etsy, but I still think it is seriously misguided.
The advice found on EtsyBitch is right on, this original post in particular.

The whole, "if you don't like it, just leave" mentality is juvenile at best and ignorant and narrowminded at worst. Any adult with life experience should know know that things are just not that simple.

OpenYouKNow said...

PS: Bookman, you go there.

Rana said...

For everyone wondering about ROI:

http://tinyurl.com/d7p53k

(Sorry, I couldn't help it. Especially given the content of the original post. *grin*)

EtsyWTF said...

That's a fair observation, Bookman. I can certainly understand how someone might look at this site and see it as nothing but page after page of whining and grousing with no apparent purpose. I am not sure that anyone here personally gets a ROI from posting, not a financial one anyway. In fact, some people post openly using their Etsy usernames, knowing that if they weren't among the favored few before, posting here is going to guarantee that they never will be.

That said, I think this blog is VERY important. There are issues that pointed out here that would instantaneously be locked and buried if mentioned in the forums or ignored in an email. When people are not allowed to express themselves freely in a certain environment, it's bound to come out somewhere. That somewhere is here. I also fully believe that if any endeavor is to be successful, there must be people who are willing to discuss more than just the good aspects of it. Since no negative aspects are allowed to be discussed in the forums, they are discussed here.

Whether you like it or not, whether you agree or not, Etsybitches are the little boy who points out the king's nakedness. Sometimes I don't agree with what they are saying. Sometimes I agree, but think the point is a bit pedantic. But there are many more times when they are dead on and you know what? Etsy listened and made a change.

Personally, my most serious issue with Etsy is that they are trying to control the products that are sold there, just to meet their own narcissistic ideals. They hold the proverbial front page carrot up and saying "If you want sales at Etsy, you've gotta be visible and if you want to be visible, you've gotta make it like WE want it (or be one of our BFFs)."

I think that completely goes against what art is supposed to be about. People making fake mustaches and hideous cowls and shrinky dink jewelry, just to get that coveted front page or gift guide on Etsy, have whored themselves out to the Etsy aesthetic. Art is NOT about whoring yourself out just to make a sale. That's what hacks do.

A good art venue should never pressure its artists to conform to an aesthetic just to make a sale. That is not art. That's mass production of a particular product without the factory and machines or third world sweatshops. Hell, that's mass production without even having to pay their employees. On the contrary, their "workers" pay THEM.

So what is my ROI for posting here and for my little silly blog? Well, nothing monetarily, I can assure you. But then again, it isn't always about money. It's about self expression. You know...like ART is supposed to be. Frankly, I got tired of feeling upset about Etsy's problems and decided instead that I'd rather laugh about them. My ROI from my blog is only this...it make me laugh. I sit there and cook up things to post and giggle my fool head off every minute I'm doing it. I've even given myself a belly laugh or two. Now if a good laugh or giggle every single day isn't a good return on investment, I don't know what is.

etsyH8r said...

okay rana, er, hahahaha youre right; i loved that tiny URL.

to etsyWTF: excellent comment.

..."A good art venue should never pressure its artists to conform to an aesthetic just to make a sale. That is not art."

A.Men.

BooHoo said...

Oh, god...there's a feature about "rompers" in the Storque. This says it all.

The Little Black Box said...

Thank you for this. I just used Myth 6 as a blog post and credited you for all your words. I love it!

greengirlsunite said...

A couple of years ago when I was trying to get off ebay, a friend who was doing very well on etsy said-come on over. You'll do great here. BUT..never let anyone come in "the front door"..ie: the front page. Always direct them straight to your shop. Its too embarrassing. And she was right on all accounts..I've done very well with etsy..I never tell anyone-just go to etsy and type in $%^^&. I'm embarrassed that Etsy thinks that littering the front page with moss in recycled mayo jars and felted wool rings and more damn knitted neckwear than any one person would need in a lifetime is going to attract MONIED buyers. People who want to spend cash on beautiful artistic wares will run in horror. And isn't that the point? To help artists make money? And if a casual visiter to the site looks at that front page and goes..yech, I don't want THIS hippy dippy stuff..they go no further. They never go look for what they might have in mind to buy.
In spite of the fact that I do well on etsy, I would never tell anyone well-heeled I was there. My website is building day by day, and thats where they'll be directed. Not to a site brimming with X-rated cross-stitch charts, necklaces made out of bundled twigs, poorly constructed floppy handbags and other cringe-worthy merchandise.
What I can't figure out is this: WHAT does Etsy Admin find so appealing about this crap?

Kimberly said...

okay...so I read through all...it's all stuff I've been feeling/thinking....how much time am I wasting sitting on this thing when I should be creating....soooo...I'm off to B&N to purchase a book about html

PamperingBeki said...

Holy cow, this is a GREAT article!!

I haven't stopped by EB in a really long time, but I'm glad I did.

You said everything I think each time I step into the forums, and even taught me a few new things, all while entertaining and making me laugh.

I tell people all the time, you have to break out of that "etsy circle" of followers/fans/ning pages/blogs, etc. You have to get away from that and reach people who are your buyers, not other crafters trying to sell to you.

I'm not sure why more people don't see that. ??

I love etsy. I really do! But I see it for what it is, and accept it with it's failures.

Once you recognize what it is, you can make it work for you.

Oui?

LonesomeRoadStudio said...

Possibly my favorite post ever.