Sunday, February 13, 2011

Back to School on Etsy

Last Tuesday I went to school. I turned on my computer and accessed the Etsy site, where I was directed to a seminar on improving your Etsy business. I heard Lorrie Veasey, Vanessa Bertozzi, Nancy Soriano, Noah Scalin, April Bowles and Michelle Ward, a wonderful array of speakers with impressive credentials inside and outside of Etsy. I was in school all day long, running for snacks and meds on the breaks, taking notes and participating in creative challenges.

This is an aspect of Etsy that most people don't see. When you go to, you see a beautiful opening page of premiere products, all either handmade or vintage. If you are there to shop, you put the item, store or seller you seek into the search engine, and proceed from there. But if you are an Etsy seller, one of the thousands who has an active store at the site, you can get a lot more from that front page. Under the heading of "Community" there is a wealth of information. It contains blog entries on every topic related to selling on Etsy: marketing, photography, competition, pricing, rules and regulations, successful seller biographies, pertinent law - those are the ones that immediately come to mind, and there are many more topics that are presented and updated for the use of the community. There is a virtual roadmap for anyone opening or considering an Etsy store.

People ask how I got the nerve to open my store, and how difficult was it. I got the nerve because I had shopped there and seen that sellers were people like me. They had products that they thought were desirable and wanted to put them out there with less overhead or in smaller quantities than a brick-and-mortar store would require. They wanted to work independently. They didn't necessarily have any business or sales experience. And the difficulty-well, on a scale of 1 to 10, getting the store open was a 3. I had to follow instructions, step by step, filling in the blanks as they were presented. I didn't have to know anything about building a web site or writing code or setting up a shopping cart. Moreover, the only charge was the $.20 (yes, that's 20 cents!) fee to list each item for three months, and a 3.5% fee on anything I sell.

Maintaining my shop is the biggie. Yes, I have to make new products, but I also have to come up with accurate and hopefully catchy descriptions. I have to photograph them to best advantage. I must relist my products frequently so that they show up early in the long list of things presented in a search. Each re-listing is another 20 cents, adding up to a considerable advertising budget. Periodically I read my introduction to the shop and my policies, and see if they are a good representation of what I do today. I update the photo for my shop banner as my artistic vision changes. And I am constantly developing new designs and patterns, updating my products, making them appropriate for the season and for my clientele. That means I have to constantly learn new techniques, refine my knitting and crochet skills, and understand what trends are current.

Anyway, enough with the how-to stuff. One of the creative exercises presented last Tuesday was as follows. Noah asked us to think of an object, then use the materials around us to create 10 likenesses or representations of that object in 10 minutes. My object was a ball of yarn. I scrambled around my house gathering materials and twisting them into "balls" and the photo shows what I came up with: from upper right corner, moving clockwise, it's a pair of pants, a hairdryer, a tape measure, a knit headband, dog leash, plastic bags, paper towels, decorative flowers with bendable stems, a hand-knit scarf, and in the center a bra and a cloth belt. That doesn't include the drawing of a ball of yarn that was my first piece. Yes, 12 items. And yes, I was having fun.


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