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