Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Are 'How to Sell on Etsy' eBooks the Way To Go?

I have a confession to make: I have some of those 'How to Sell on Etsy' eBooks.

When I first opened up shop on Etsy (, I was approached by an eBook seller who inititated a trade offer (I know now that trades are quite popular and encouraged on Etsy, and it's done with such spirit of community, they're hard to resist!). And since it was my first 'sale', I didn't want to say no - and in all honesty, I didn't yet know how to say 'no' to a trade. And so I received 4 eBooks in exchange for a few bars of soap (I was proud of myself, however, for having the forethought to collect the cost of shipping so I wasn't paying out of pocket on a trade).

Having sold on eBay and my own website for many years, I thought I had all the basics down. And I do, but I was in for a big surprise. Etsy is different. Etsy just seemed completely alien from all the other online sales venues - and the forums/virtual labs/chat rooms were quite intimidating to me. Etsy is a very tight community, and I felt kind of like the kid who transferred to a new school halfway through Senior year.

And so I avidly read my Ebooks - cover to cover. To my great surprise, they helped me out - a lot. They gave detailed instructions on how to fine tune my shop, enable google analytics, even set up an RSS feed for Twitter. I got a crash course in everthing etsy, from taking great pics to snagging treasuries as well as lots of ideas on how to promote my shop. I even received instructions on how to develop YouTube videos to spotlight my products and drive traffic to my store. The tips, hints and tricks he offered are all things that are second nature to me now and many of the topics he covered have been brought up in the Etsy forums now and again, but having them all at my fingertips - right then and there - was priceless.

And this seller was helpful, friendly and willing to answer any questions I had. He stayed available to me throughout the whole process, checking in with me to ensure that the downloads were successful, that the information was valuable and that I understood the material. Now, this was my first experience with eBooks, but I'm truly - and very happily - suprised that part of his follow-up was to make sure I found value in the books. This is customer service at it's finest when it comes to intellectual property, if you ask me.

Not every eBook Seller is going to offer such quality info, nor are they all as friendly and conscientious as the one I worked with. I didn't think eBooks were 'my thing', but I gained a lot of insight into Etsy from the books - and they went above and beyond to enhance my 'newbie' experience.

EBooks definitely arent for everyone, but I have to admit that I genuinely enjoyed my first encounter with them.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Conquering My Fear of the Etsy Banner

I've done it!

I've actually conquered the dreaded Etsy Banner!

Don't worry, this is not going to turn into a tutorial on creating banners and avatars - nor a sales pitch for anyone who does create them (although, more power to ya, gang!). This is just one poor technologically-challenged shop owner's triumph over her fear of creating inferior banners and avatars for Etsy.

When I first opened a shop on Etsy (, I was pretty excited - and nervous. My first thought was that I didn't belong this group of incredibly gifted and talented artists. After all, my sister is the one with all the art ability in the family. However, I had browsed around and found some wonderful sellers proudly marketing similar wares, so I decided to jump in with both feet.
And was immediately stopped in my tracks by something called an avatar. In every case where I had encountered this term, I had always just uploaded my company Logo. But for some strange reason, this didn't work on Etsy. So after several frustrating days, I just started using product photos, like many other sellers do, but still felt something missing.

And then came the terrifying banner. Now, I worked in newspaper advertising for several years - and my time in management forced me to work very closely with our graphics departments, so I know some terminology and a bit more than I care to admit. But 760x100 pixels? How the heck do I do that? Every photo I uploaded stretched out and looked hideous. I went back to all the help pages, articles and tutorials and started over.
I actually managed to make a photo collage in my Snapfire Photo Editing program - and even figured out how to put text on it so I could have my shop name on it - but I still wasn't happy. It looked too busy and crowded - not crisp and clean. It looked slightly blurry and offcenter somehow instead of clear and precise. In other words, it was pretty hack.
And then one day in utter frustration, I wandered into my paint program. I had used it occasionally to correct the backgrounds of photos (you know those pics where you've got more of the light box in the photo than the actual product) and edit snapshots of web pages, but hadn't thought about it for creating ads, banners or avatars.

After a few days of trial and error and lots of deleting - I finally got it! Suddenly it all made sense to me. I started scanning in cool graphics, cropping photos and playing with fonts and color.

I made my first banner - and avatar to match!
Then my second and third! Now I've got matching banners & avatars for my shop for every Holiday, any season and even to spotlight promotions and planned product launches! I'm swimming in them!

So to all of you Etsy Shop Owners who have yet to win the Battle with the Banner, keep at it. You'll get it and you'll be so proud of yourself for sticking with it and learning a new art!
And for those of you who choose not to go to war, there are lots of sellers on Etsy who specialize in graphic arts and will gladly create a custom banner and avatar for you at very reasonable prices.
And my hat is off to every one of them!

Friday, April 24, 2009

What's It All About... Etsy?

In honor of the first ever Etsy Day, today April 24th, I thought I'd post my observations so far of this very unique sales venue/artisan's colony/community -

I opened my shop on Etsy back on December 22, 2008. Since I was insanely busy in the middle of Holiday Season sales, I paid very little attention to it. My intention at that time was to reserve my name and put a placeholder on my shop - which actually is pretty good business sense as a pretty much exclusively online brand. I've done the same with many other sales venues over the past several months.

Once the Holiday season died down a bit in late February, I had more time to focus on my Etsy shop ( I educated myself on the terms of service, read all the help pages and articles, set up my shop appearance, store policies and listed a few items, just as I'd had with all the other sales sites. And then I eagerly headed into the forums (or 'fora', as the plural of forum is used more often in threads) to meet my fellow sellers.

And so with a few topics, posts, threads and chat, my eyes were opened.

Etsy is nothing like any of the other sales venues I've experienced.

This is truly a community of artists, deigners and crafters driving the handmade revolution. No where else have I found so many people applauding fellow artists's skills and abilities and supporting other etsians' accomplishments. They revel in member's triumphs and victories and compassionately empathize with their disappointments. They work hard through blog posts and tweets to spotlight favorite sellers, draw attention to etsians' distinctive talents and expose unique, ingenious items. This community is in fact a motivating force - proving that 'handmade' is not just a way to shop - or even a way of life - but an honest-to-goodness, heartfelt sensibility.

I'm keeping this one short, but read more about Etsy Day here:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Blockhead Radio: Pretty Cool Stuff

I discovered Blockhead Radio ( via the Forums at Etsy ( A bit of chatter here and a busy thread there, and I had to go and check it out.

Blockhead Radio is definitely some pretty cool stuff.

Not only do they champion the work of artisans, host giveaways for artists looking to grow their handmade businesses, sponsor weekly contests for artisans in a variety of categories - but they play some really awesome music, too! And it's all done with a delightful sense of humor and professionalism.

From the Blockhead Radio site:

"Blockhead Radio is all about Independence. We are an independent Internet radio station featuring music from the top rock/pop/jazz indie musicians and our talk shows are about independent artisans, family, and life. BHR uses a pop up player that you can launch and listen too while you work or surf the web. Chat is open 24/7 like the station. "

If you browse about the site (and don't forget to launch the radio plug-in player and groove to some smooth tunes while you do), you'll find some neat things:

Stinkin' Good Giveaways offers their listeners to win some great goodies and helps the sponsors - all wonderful artisans - promote their products.

The Biggest Stalker is a place for big 'thanks' those who are out singing the praises of Blockhead Radio. We all know that BHR's success can mean success for all the fabulous artisans they champion.

BHR Charity Box allows for the support and relief to artisan's who strive to use their craft to raise awareness and donations for charitable organizations. Such altruistic endeavors are brought into the spotlight by BHR, and they look at it as a step toward building an online independent artisan community that can contribute with as much value, has as much clout and possibly even more heart as any huge corporation.

And then of course, there's the Artisans Challenge: a weekly contest for artisans in a variety of different categories that helps them promote their handcrafted wares, bring about more awareness to the handmade community and help artists feel good about themselves and their work.

I'm thrilled to be a part of this weeks Challenge! I entered my Lavender & Lemongrass Handcrafted Soap with Olive Oil & Shea Butter into the Candle, Bath & Body Category some time ago, and was notified this morning that my entry made it into this weeks Challenge! And I'm honored to be among a group of extremely talented artisans.

If you'd like to take a look at the entries and cast your vote, here's the link:

And thanks to all of you, especially Blockhead Radio, for supporting the independent artisan community!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What I Did On My Spring Vacation: Curating My First Etsy Treasury

And so, after having been featured in two Etsy Treasuries recently (what a huge thrill!), I decided to try my hand at creating one myself!

Now, I've discussed Etsy Treasuries in two separate posts and I believe I've been pretty successful in stressing the difficulty in acquiring a Treasury in the first place. Although I'd made a few half-hearted attempts to get one in the past, I really set to task this time. And it's, in a word, frustrating. You have to wait until the number of lists drop below a certain number before you can grab one.

There are those that just get lucky - they just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Others use the random tactic (this is what I used during my first few attempts) - they check and double check a few times a day to see if they can snag one. But those 'in the know' use a fairly scientific mathematical approach. This is how it works: Subtract the 'drop below' number of treasuries from the total number to get the number of treasuries that need to expire before you can grab one. Then count through the lists to reach that numbered treasury to check the expiration time - and come back then. Pretty logical, but I've found it's not quite as fun as nabbing one by chance.
And then, once you've got your Treasury, you need to choose a name (theme), choose your items and alternates, add a subtitle and comment and then sit back and admire your work! Sounds easy right?
Well, I'm here to tell you it was so much harder than I thought it would be! In searching for the items I wanted to feature, I ran across errors in tagging, incorrect categorizing, subjective tagging, poor descriptions (or lack of descriptions entirely), blurry photos, dark photos, etc. There were so many items I wanted to use and searched for but couldn't find. The main reason was because I had to sift through too many pages of items that had nothing to do with my search parameters to find the items I was looking for.
And, as with many curators, I wanted to evoke certain sentiment and emotion with my Treasury. I wanted to stir up thoughts and memories of the beach, the sea, the salt air and the warm sun with the items I chose. I wanted people to view it and think about a wonderful day by the ocean. Using search keywords like seafoam, spray, coral and shell should have brought me hundreds of provocative items to choose from, however that wasn't the case.
This was my first Treasury, and although I know it's never going to be chosen for the Front Page, that's the ultimate goal for curators. And since being on the Front Page brings unlimited views, fabulous exposure and potential sales, every Etsian should be striving to make every listing Treasury-worthy. Keep the way curators will search for items in mind when creating your listings - color, pattern, texture, emotion, theme.
So, here's some advice to Etsy Artisans who want to be chosen for a Treasury:
  • Properly Categorize and Tag Your Items
  • Keep Your Tags Accurate
  • Use Colors, Patterns, Textures in Your Tags
  • Keep Descriptions... well, Descriptive
  • Keep Treasuries in Mind When Listing
  • Take the Best Photos You Can
  • Make Your Photos Visually Interesting
I'm really proud of my first Treasury. And it was exhilarating for me to tell the artists of my chosen items that they've been featured - just as exhilarating as being featured myself. Surpisingly, even more so. (I think I'll be stalking the Treasuries fairly often from now on...)
And I've captured it forever here on my blog - so please, enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Do Product Giveaways Really Work?

Some of my fellow online sellers swear that Giveaways work wonders.

I agree that they're a lot of fun, stimulate interest and may generate a lot of views for your venue (blog, online store, etc.). But what does it really accomplish? And how do you get the absolute most from your Giveaway? Ask yourself a few questions and put some real thought into your plan:

What you are trying to achieve by offering a free product to a random winner? Are you trying to bring more attention to your blog? Are you trying to drive traffic to your website? Or are you looking for more customers to shop in your online store? I suppose these are fairly synonymous, as many use their blog to drive traffic to their shop and bring in sales. But it's very important to have a clear goal in mind so you can gauge the success of your giveaway. If your goal is to drive more traffic to your online store, be sure you have some type of tracking application installed on your site (Google Analytics, for example) so you'll be able to mark your average views or sales before, during and after your promotion. Keep records of all your stats so you can track your success.

What are you offering as a Prize? Is there true value in your giveaway - not only to you, but to the recipient as well? It's important to ensure that your giveaway is relevant to your business or blog, is a true representation of what you have to offer and has significant merit to the beneficiary. I'm not saying it has to be a big ticket item, just one with substance and impact. Be sure to keep your target market in mind, as well. Offering six weeks of free advertising on your blog is a completely ineffective giveaway if only a small percentage of your audience are business owners.

Who is your Prize Winner? Is the winner within your target audience? Is the recipient someone who ordinarily would shop at your store anyway? Is he/she someone who may have made a purchase regardless of a giveaway? Are they a blogger or online reviewer who may write about their prize? Are they someone who may refer friends and family to your store? Think about who you want to attract to your giveaway and who your target market is for both your store and your offer. If you're only promoting your giveaway on the front page of your website or in your shop announcements, for example, chances are good you're going to give a freebie away to someone who is already a customer or is intending to buy anyway.

How will people learn about your Giveaway? Are you just counting on people stopping by and reading about it? Are you only telling your friends and family about it? Set a strategy for promoting your Giveaway and stick to it. Mention it in the forums and newsgroups you belong to. Twitter about it. Bookmark your Giveaway page on Digg or or stumbleupon. Post it on your Facebook or MySpace page. The more attention you draw to your giveaway, the more successful it will be.

Here is a summary of my best advice for conducting a Giveaway:

  • Have a clear goal in mind for the results you want to achieve with your giveaway
  • Establish a clear way to track those results
  • Be sure your Giveaway is relevant and has value
  • Keep your target audience in mind when choosing your Giveaway item
  • Conduct your Giveaway away from your sales site
  • Promote, Promote, Promote
  • Have FUN!

Have lots of fun - and if your first Giveaway isn't as successful as you'd like, rethink your goals and strategies and try, try again!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Are Online Reviews Important For Your Business?

They are for mine.

And I'm not completely sure that 'important' is the right word.

'Crucial', 'Essential', 'Vital' and 'Critical' might be better words to describe the effect that online reviews of my products have on my business. It may have a lot to do with the fact that my products are cosmetics and spa, bath & body products - things that are best experienced in person. Texture, color, consistency, scent and appearance all stimulate the senses and contribute to the overall impression of the product.

But buying online, which is becoming more and more a way of life for many people, is prohibitive toward the aestetic impact of my products. And while I do offer assorted opportunities in a variety of different price ranges (including free! - see to get my products into the hands of prospective buyers, these options are limited to the number of people who see them. So the next best thing, if they can't try the product themselves, is to read independent evaluations by people who have.

There's no better sales tool, as far as I'm concerned, than the unbiased, fair and balanced testimonial of a person with first-hand knowledge of my product. As much as I (and my friends and my family) enjoy using my products, it does little but boost my self esteem. And while that's important too, it doesn't help much with sales. Online reviews allow me to direct potential buyers to a judgement that's not my own, where they can acquire more details and information from a different point of view and they may be able to learn via someone else's experiences, whether something might be right for them.

An impartial, objective and completely unsolicited review is the best advertising my business can get. Someone who gains nothing (nor loses anything, either) by offering their opinion is someone who earns respect and gains an audience who will listen to their advice, suggestions and guidance.

I've been very fortunate to have had Bellissima reviewed online a few times. In each instance, I had no prior knowledge of the slant or status of the opinions that would be given - and in several cases, I was completely unaware that a review would even be published.

Amy's wearing Bellissima

Bali Lagoon EyeShadow

One was published just today by Amy of Chicy Creations on her blog:

Bellissima's very first review was published back in June of '08 by Sarah of the E-Tailer's Mall:

I am unbelieveably honored and beyond thrilled to have such professional and incredibly knowledgeable women take the time to review Bellissima - and publish such detailed, in-depth reviews, at that. Please be sure to post a comment and say hello if you drop by their sites!

There's an old adage that says 'If they like it, they'll tell 10 people; if they don't like it, they'll tell 100'. If you don't believe it, think about the last movie you saw and walked out on or the last restaurant you went to and got bad service. Then think about how many friends you told about your experiences.

Take a moment out today and think about a product you really like (preferably handmade!) - and then tell as many people as you can! It will most definitely be important - and mean the world - to that business owner!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Has Sprung in the Retail World - Or So They Tell Me

Spring Is In The Air!

Even though it's snowing in the MidWest and storming here in the NorthEast today, everything retail is all about Spring! Especially in the online sales venues.

The retail world has always dictated when the shopping 'olympics' begin for a particular season. And to be honest, I always find seasonal shopping exciting - it helps bring on a change in attitude and gets me into the spirit of a new and fresh time of year.

But let's admit it: just because I can buy a lemon yellow halter top today, it doesn't mean I can wear it tomorrow (it's only 45 degrees out, for heaven's sake!). And if I do buy it today, who's to say I'm even going to like it or want to wear it two months from now (when it's finally 75 degrees out!)? Prerogative of a woman, and all...

When I began my mineral makeup business, I promised myself two things:
1) To always be fashion-forward but classicly chic
2) To never offer an item that the consumer can't buy today and use today

So, when developing my Spring line, I decided to be practical:
  • I'm offering lots of exfoliating products to help shed the Winter 'blues' and 'blahs'
  • I'm offering subtle shades that transition well from Winter to Spring
  • I'm offering lighter fragrances that treat the senses to a brighter experience
But I, too, am in a rush for the vivid and intense shades of Summer and the dazzling and glowing rays of the sun! I just couldn't help myself in adding one or two vibrant new shades of eyeshadows to my Spring Collection:

Amazon Lily is a gorgeous peacock blue with gold undertones and a shimmer finish:

Cuban Gold is 24 Karats of pure sunshine with a shimmer finish:

So Celebrate Spring and all the wonders that a change in seasons bring. Revel in all the rich and radiant colors of this incredible time of year. But don't forget - don't buy something today that you can't wear tomorrow (unless it's on sale, of course!).

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Etsy Treasury Feature: Take 2 - Treasury West

Last week I blogged about a first for me: one of my shop items was featured in an Etsy Treasury. I was both extremely excited and honored to be featured - and stunned to have an item chosen after having been at Etsy for such a short time!

Take 2 ~ My item is featured in a 2nd Etsy Treasury! And I'm just as - if not more - excited than the first time! And it's the same item - my Avocado & Lime Soap with Olive Oil & Shea Butter. For me, this is a testament not only to this item's appeal, but also to the overall quality of the photo. If you don't think this is a big deal for me, check out my previous blog post about my lack of skills in taking perfect product photos!
Take a look at it here - before it's gone:
"Color Me Happy: A Few Of My Favorites" by
Joanna at countrybumpkins
And don't forget to leave a Comment!

While all Etsians are familiar with Treasuries, Treasury West is still a bit of a mystery for many.

According to Jared, a Site Administrator for Etsy, "Treasury West is a special test configuration of the standard Treasury running on it's own server. We've taken some of what we've learned from the recent tests and incorporated them into this version." There are different rules that apply to Treasury West, including a maximum of 100 lists available at a time (rather than 333 for regular Treasuries), only 2 lists are allowed per user (considered 'Curators') and Treasury West lists expire in 24 hours. Treasury West is still in test mode, and may change or end at any time.

And so, as far as I'm concerned, being chosen for an Etsy Treasury West is an even more difficult feat and an amazing honor for me!
My heartfelt thanks go out to Joanna at countrybumpkins for including my item in her gorgeous Treasury West! It's full of amazing colors, prints and textures and makes me smile each and every time I look at it!
Please stop by her shop and say Hello!
Thank you, Joanna!