When I first had the idea to interview one of Brighton Craftaganza’s regular sellers about their experience of Etsy, Sarah Meredith was the obvious person to approach. She has been involved with Brighton Craftaganza from the outset, including being the first subject for our ‘Meet the Seller’ interview series over a year ago. Her motivated and focused approach to her work and her business made me realise pretty swiftly that if anyone is going to get the most out of their own Etsy shop, it’s be Sarah! She proved this statement still further by recently attending an Etsy conference in Berlin, which designed to show attendees how to have the best experience of Etsy possible.
I’m ecstatic that Sarah agreed to being grilled on all things Etsy for the benefit of the creative community, because her interview has proved to be even more insightful and inspirational than I have even hoped. Thanks again to Sarah for sharing her thoughts and experiences (and the beautiful work on her Etsy page) with us. If anyone has ever been interested in selling on Etsy, read on….
(Sarah pictured above with her delightful daughter, Matilda, rocking matching hats made by this Etsy seller)
How would you describe Etsy to someone who hasn’t heard of it before?
Etsy is a global online market place for everything handmade and vintage, allowing direct customer contact with the maker/seller.
When and why did you first get involved with Etsy?
I joined Etsy back in 2008, the same year that I set up Rock Cakes, my husband told me about it so I signed up, at that point I was thinking more about developing my products, getting work into shops and doing shows rather than selling online, I wasn’t really ready for it.
It was in 2010, when I had my daughter, that I really started to get into Etsy. My work strategy changed, I needed to base myself more at home so I got an assistant to do the workshop things that I couldn’t do in my house, my focus shifted to designing, photographing and selling my work.
I am one of those people that has to make things, it’s compulsive! I began producing non-precious products at home, things that don’t need the concentration and equipment that making the precious work does. These products, by coincidence, lent themselves well to selling online as they have a much lower price point, are easy to photograph and inexpensive to post out.
I slowly started using Etsy more and more, adding products, improving my listings and looking at all of the work for sale, my interest in Etsy just naturally grew.
For me Etsy is an amazing tool, I am still only small on there, there are people that have sold thousands of products and I have only just hit 100 but for me this has been money that can go back into my business. Etsy allows me to sell my work globally whilst being at home with my daughter. I can still have my heart fully in my work and let my little business grow. I have working hours that suit me with direct customer contact with no middle-men, beautiful!!
What are the benefits for crafters/designer-makers like you selling their work through Etsy, compared to other avenues for selling?
I think that it is important to try lots of avenues to sell your work, I have my jewellery in a few galleries and shops, plus I sell at fairs, such as Craftaganza!! I enjoy craft fairs because I like to meet people face to face to see how my work is received, I like to talk about what I do. I find that customers really like to know where their purchase has come from, who made it, how they made it and why they made it etc… Etsy also allows you to do this in a different way, through written descriptions.
The problem with selling jewellery through shops is that their aim is to make money, they need to get your product as cheap as possible and sell it for as much as they can. I have sold pieces where I make £4 or £5 profit and they make £50, it’s not right or fair, and it can be very disheartening. Also, you often have to bend over backwards with gratitude for shops to carry your work on a ‘sale or return’ basis. There isn’t any of that on Etsy, you’re the boss in full control of your products.
Etsy is very, very big and has lots of eyes on it. The potential for people to see your work is massive and global, it therefore has far more visibility than a single shop window could ever have, that’s the new changing/changed world. You are also getting an audience that is actually looking for your product, using key words such as “bird ring”, they are not randomly passing a shop window therefore the potential for selling is greater….
Earlier this year you went to Berlin for a conference hosted by Etsy. That must have been fascinating. What made you decide to go all that way to attend?
Etsy is addictive! The first thing that I do when I wake up in the morning is get my phone to check my Etsy activity during the night to see if there have been any sales or interest in my work. My business is my second baby and Etsy feeds it, some people love Facebook, some flickr, some TV: I love Etsy! It is important to me to do all that I can to keep the lifestyle that I love and grow my business. I had to go to Berlin, to the Etsy conference!!
The conference was entitled “Hello Etsy”. I wanted to hear what they had to say, hear what they have planned for the future, meet like-minded people, be inspired, learn how to use the tool (Etsy) better and properly and mentally have a bit of ‘me’ time.
It was the hardest and most inspiring thing that I have ever done! I am inseparable from my little girl and I left her (aged 18 months) for three days which was daunting and very hard.
What did the conference cover? Did it teach you a lot?
It was mind blowing, better than I expected. It was like going to a futuristic cult meeting for knitters! There were a lot of geeky looking crafters in their finest obscure fashions learning empowering things like web analytics to the potential that this Etsy movement really has.
The speakers were amazing. The world as we know it is changing, global financial systems are unstable and Etsy gives financial power and control to the ‘little people’: small businesses, often just solo artists/designers. The conference covered everything from how to sew a pillowcase to understanding Google analytics, from running a sustainable business to writing creatively about your work. It covered the importance of producing your work in eco friendly ways, making with love on small scale rather than with bulldozers, making real worthwhile products rather than mass-producing a zillion tonnes of crap that nobody really wants. I think that the conference was a massive confidence injection for all who attended.
You can hear many of the talks online here in the Hello Etsy category:
How has your approach to Etsy changed as a result of attending that conference?
The main thing that “Hello Etsy” taught me is that I am going on the right path, choosing a way of working that allows me to do what I love and still have time to be with my family, work during the hours that I choose, in a way that doesn’t feel like work. Tom Hodkinson, who is the author of “The Idler” and runs the Idler café in London, gave a great talk entitled “Mind your business” and it is one worth watching on the Etsy online labs.
The conference also gave me the feeling that creativity is so important, no idea is to big or too silly, and that you should live simply and follow your heart.
I don’t think that it has all really sunk in yet! Even though it was a good few months ago, I am still using the advice to develop the way I work and I think that it will stay with me for a long time.
Etsy is pretty saturated with products for sale, what tips can you share with other designer-makers for getting their products noticed?
• Firstly, make good products; don’t try to do something that your heart isn’t into. If you follow your heart and make products that you love, others will love them too.
• Describe your products well. The Internet works by picking up wording so the better you describe your product, the more chance of the person looking for your product has of finding it.
• Photographs are everything. No matter how good your products are if the images don’t look great then people don’t stop to look, if they are not looking then they are not buying.
• Be quick to contact people in reply to questions and be super nice to people.
• Be honest about the products you are selling and add a little about why you made that product. People like their imagination to be triggered so that there is a mental connection with the item.
• Tweet! (it helps to get traffic to your Etsy shop / website/ blog)
Look at other peoples work, follow them on Etsy, Facebook etc…
There are also a lot of groups and community on Etsy which can be helpful. I need to get more involved with that as it can help your shop to grow and give you knowledge. I’m just stretched for time at the moment!!
What are your favourite Etsy features?
Etsy is very simple to use which is great, it is very easy to list an item and to keep your shop looking nice and pretty. You can easily see and control your sales and view purchases, there are built in analytics so it is easy to keep an overview on how well your shop is, or isn’t, doing.
There is also a really friendly feeling of community where like-minded people are looking at your work, people can favourite your items or shop. The cost of selling products on Etsy is relatively low compared to other methods of selling. I appreciate the helpfulness of the Etsy staff and the fab online labs for advice, direction and general encouragement. Plus, ultimately, Etsy provides the ability to buy amazing things from all over the world and to be in direct contact with the people that make them.
What do you dislike about it?
I dislike that you have to use Paypal which is making money from your sales. It would be nice if Etsy had its own bank! Plus, temptation – the list of things that I want grows daily and sometimes I just can’t help ordering beautiful things!