When I found Etsy, I joined as a seller, knew one person (who was related to me) and was immediately lost in the crowd.
By the time I opened my second shop, a few months later, I had created a bit of a community for myself and the going was alot easier.
If I was starting out on Etsy today, I would begin as a buyer. I would start a blog before I opened my shop. I would reach out to other people first. Just like our crafty forefathers setting up shop in a small village- I would look for a need to be filled.
1. Be generous with your hearts - If you are a seller, your hearts are more than a wish list. Hearts are a very real way to support other artists, whose work you value.
When I have sellers asking me for advice about "how to stand out" and I look at their shop and they have hearted no one or almost no one, it is very telling about their real problem.
If you want people to give you their money and energy, but do not want to extend any of your own resources outward, there is likely going to be a block of flow. If you want hearts, give hearts. If you want to sell handmade, buy handmade. This is the give and take of the village.
From my first sale on Etsy, I tithed 10% of my profits back to Etsy, I didn't do any exact tabulation, but I would take a look, first monthly and then weekly as things got busier, at what I was making and give a little bit back.
I bought things from the shops I wanted to support (not because they were the hottest thing on the front page, not because they were new and not because they had no sales) - I bought from the shops that inspired me.
Today my tithes also support Kiva artists and the blogs that support handmade.
(I think it is very important to support the blogs that support handmade - if we don't pay them, they don't get paid and they are a part of the community that we would sorely miss if they all left us because they had to get 'real jobs')
Sometimes the money goes into giveaway items for my own blog (which I am sometimes given, sometimes trade for and sometimes yes, I actually buy them).
I have had other blogger's express dismay that I would actually buy something to give away on my blog. But I strongly believe that we need to pay each other - if we don't respect the monetary value of other artists' and community members' work and time, who will value ours?
2. The treasury system - take a look at the front page curation because it's not a bad place to be.
But if you get there and your shop doesn't look amazing, it will not mean anything, trust me on this.
(more on looking amazing tomorrow).
I had given no thought to treasuries or to the front page when my Uncorked shop (which had been open for a couple months) got on the front page for the first time.
The stars were totally aligned for me- it was a Thursday night at 8pm and I was in the center spot in the top row. Primetime on Etsy (and I have been on the front page often enough since then to be certain of this) - I had 8 sales and 150 hearts in the hour or so it was up there. The treasury was made by a seller with a shop called Moxiedoll and she changed my Etsy life.
I started making treasuries and I loved it. Alot of them ended up on the front page. I started commenting on treasuries that I liked. I started commenting on treasuries that got to the front page.
More people started putting me in their treasuries. I got to the front page more often. But the most important thing is that I built a community with some other sellers who loved making treasuries as much as I did.
I loved knowing that as I sat there with my finger on the mouse waiting for that box to open, that hundreds of other people around the world were doing the same thing!
Eventually my treasuries stopped getting to the front page and I decided to move the energy I was putting into them toward a blog. But I still love the idea of seller curated front pages and hope Etsy continues with them.
1. Comment on treasuries that you like and comment on front page treasuries
2. Make treasuries- you can put a couple of your friends in there, of course, but mostly look for things that inspire you.
I know people who keep lists of who has put them in a treasury, so that they can reciprocate and maybe some people expect that, but I think it is best to pass that energy on - like a random act of kindness - you don't expect to be paid back - you just want it to be passed on.
(making treasuries is also a great way to see what others on Etsy are doing, how your work fits in and what stands out - it is also a good way to spot a niche that is not being filled)
3. Join a team. I know, I know- you're not a joiner and I'm not either.
(I'm still more of a "sit arms folded outside the group and snicker" kind of person, but I'm trying)
Some teams require more from you than other teams. There are local teams and if you are planning to do craft shows- that would be a must. There are charity teams. There are medium specific teams. There are niche market teams. There are lifestyle teams. There really is something for everyone. Decide on what you want from a team and what you can contribute and join one or two. Again, you are building your village.
4. The Forums - can be a great place to create even more relationships. Just stay positive and save the drama for your mama, as they say.
(I can whine and moan with the best of them, as you've probably noticed, but it would take something pretty major for me to go into the forums and be negative - I save all the negative stuff for my family and friends)
I am not a forum expert, since I don't go in there much, but you can definitely develop friendships and supportive relationships in there. You don't have to be a big rah-rah, but trust me, snarkiness in a professional setting is always a no-no.
5. Blogs/Twitter/Facebook/Flickr - Now this building your village thing is starting to sound like alot of work (it is) and it can take up alot of your time and energy and it is up to you to decide what to invest your time and energy in.
Many of these work in similarly, mutually beneficial ways. You put energy out there and the energy comes back to you.
(or maybe it just gets passed on like the random act of kindness energy and that is ok, too)
Twitter is the easiest. You follow people. Some will follow you back. If you tweet things people are interested in, they will be more likely to stay with you.
You can't tweet shop listings or sales at people all day long anymore than you can talk to your family and friends about your business all day long.
If you remember that Twitter is a conversation that you are having with other people within your village this will be easier.
Take time to comment on other people's tweets and respond to the people who have responded to yours. Then when you tweet a shop listing or two, people will be interested.
Your blog works the same way. A blog can be a great way to introduce yourself and your life to people- to form connections within your village. You get to decide what you want to blog about based on the goals for your blog, but whatever your goals are you will likely need to blog regularly - at least twice a week, offer your readers interesting information, comment on other people's blogs- that extending yourself thing again- and most of all have fun with it.
Blogging about your work, your upcoming show, your shop, your work, etc- over and over again is fine (maybe), but it will narrow your audience, probably down to people who know you.
So, how does all this help you to stand out?
Well, let's go back to our original village scenario and pretend that my little Etsy shop called Polarity is a totally adorable little village store
(and I think it would be painted turquoise and plum and Olive's little kisser would be proudly displayed on the front awning)
It is 9am on a warm and sunny Wednesday and I pull into town on my bicycle; first stop is my little village's bakery -
not just for a coffee, but I will buy one, in my home brought cup, of course and maybe a donut, because what the hell, I did ride my bike, right?
but also to chat up the other shop owners and villagers about the local news and happenings and the upcoming town festival.
Then maybe as I am walking over to my little Polarity store, keys in hand, I will stop and help Hal, the local hardware store guy who is setting up his ladder display and we will chat for a few minutes about some shelving he is going to be making me for my new locket cabinets.
And then I will spot Noelle, the village screenprinter who will tell me that some girls who saw my lockets on the t-shirts in her window display will be stopping by my store today to buy some.
By the time I am open for business I am feeling relaxed and upbeat and have a big smile on my face for every customer who walks in my door.
(not one of those big creepy smiles where you see gums and everything though)
The customers have heard about my shop and my little, friendly village and they just keep coming.
Now, let's look at my morning another way.
I drive into town because I am in a hurry and I think about that coffee shop, but I really need to save that dollar because times are hard, right, and I sort of see that guy Hal (although I never bothered to learn his name) fumbling with his ladders, but I'm in a hurry so I quickly glance away before he sees me and I just keep moving.
Then Noelle (who is just the pretty girl with the brown hair to me now) approaches me with some hare-brained scheme to put my lockets in her window display (like I am going to just give her my lockets- they will probably get ruined!), so I just tell her I am running late and rush into my shop.
People! I scowl as I settle in behind my counter.
Now, the truth is that we can all totally have the modern equivalent of that little village store and we can have it right now.
We can exchange ideas with each other, convo shops that you love and tell them, have sales and events together, cross-promote our items and shops, put each other's items in our photos, send out other shop's business info with our orders as well as our own, buy advertising space together for a month and trade off weeks, buy from each other's shops and on and on and on.
If you are on Etsy, you already have a village - it is just up to you to make use of it.
(and now that I think of it, I have my awning, too, except it is called my banner and why the heck isn't it plum and turquoise if that is my dream- got to get working on that)
TOMORROW- Standing Out on Etsy 101 - Part III. Looking Good Naked