I also noticed in one of the business groups I belong to online that the question of Etsy and stand alone website comes up frequently, so I've decide to share a little of what I have learnt right here.
I will start by saying first, I am still learning and as far as I know will always be learning so this isn't advice as such but rather the replies I would give if we were having a chat over a cup of tea! Think of these as my small collection of tips that will help you start in the right place and are a little bit different from the usual roll call!
1. Read & Learn!
Two resources I would recommend to people just starting to venture out into the deeper end of the pool, who are interested in opening their own creative/handmade shop online are Create and Thrive which has lots of great handmade specific articles and my all round favourite, The Business Bakery, a brilliant and easy to read (and understand!) resource for all things business from the stuff you need to know, to daily inspiration to keep you chugging along. Both of these sites have paid courses you can embark on if you want to further your knowledge.
Remember, to be successful at anything in life you need a little practice and a little know-how. It might take time to do some reading but think of it as backing yourself with a bit of education. Someone else's experience can save you time in the long run! I still read too much for my own good I am sure!
2. Have a think!
Online shopping is no different to shopping in real life, it needs to be hassle free and enjoyable. So make sure you do your best to make the experience as lovely as possible for your potential customer. Make your little space visually appealing and enticing! If you are handy with design yourself you can easily do a bit of DIY to spiff up your corner of the internet but if you want it to look lovely and professional, I would highly recommend finding a suitable graphic designer. The overall look and feel of your presence online is vital to your success, so start off on the right foot and if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, getting the assistance of a professional designer can really help - they can do what they are good at, giving you more time to get on with what you are good at!
3. Ditto for Photography!
In a 'real' store, you can feel, hold and examine an item for yourself. Online, the only thing customers have to go on is your photos! And more and more people are purchasing based on the image alone so if there is one area you need to have 100% wonderful, it is your photography. Without a lovely photo, that is professional and high quality, you might not have many sales. Photography to me is a big part of your marketing..you will use photos to not only list your items and display them online, but to advertise them and talk about them on social media. Think about the fact that Instagram and Pinterest rely on beautiful images..it's super important! So read up on some handy tips if you are keen to give it a go yourself or enlist the help of a professional. It is well worth the effort and expense!
If you are going to start selling online, you need to make yourself a little space, the same as you have selling in person on your market stall. It has to attract customers and give them an address to find you. Below are a few things I have learned but if you have the dollars to go with a professional web developer from the get-go then they'll help you out.
If you have a tech-savvy friend this is a great time to ask them a few questions, if you aren't comfortable with the whole online shop thing. Registering a professional domain name is the top of your list (that's a .com or .net or .com.au address!) For example my blog is titled www.dollyhenry.com.au instead of www.dollyhenry.blogspot.com.au
It's your business address and you want it to be easy to find. Sites like Crazy Domains make it relatively simple but it's definitely a help if you don't feel up to it to ask a computer person in your area!
There is a whole lot of wonderful DIY website options out there - two I have recommended to people who are super new at the whole website thing are BigCartel and Weebly. Both are very simple to use behind the scenes while you find your feet and are relatively inexpensive.
Etsy is a very good option for both new and experienced users. It's great when you first start out, as you pay per listing to set up. The Etsy site also has so much fantastic information to support their sellers and help them grow. I love Etsy for my shop because I can reach out to an international audience a lot faster than I can with my standalone site.
It's worth getting your international postage sorted if you are going to sell on Etsy so you aren't limiting yourself to only domestic customers. It's also a fun, vibrant little community to be part of - it somehow just doesn't feel as lonely as a standalone shop can and that can be good for your moral if you are working alone at home. It can also help you set goals by having the total amount of sales you have made on the sidebar. I am no Etsy expert but my top two tips (other than having brilliant photos) are:
- Listing titles. To improve your chance of appearing in someones search, make sure you put the search term they are mostly likely to use at the front of your listing title, leading to the least important information last.
Yes Etsy titles can look a bit messy but I save my tidy writing for my description. The listing title helps me get found. For example I am selling a mug.
My product name is "Breakfast for Two" however it is unlikely a customer looking to purchase a mug is going to type "Breakfast for Two" into the search box.
They might instead choose to type in "coffee mug" "pottery mug" "funny mug" "personalized mug" "travel mug" among other things into the search box.
If my "Breakfast for Two" mug is in fact a Coffee Mug, I would instead write something like "Coffee Mug - Breakfast for Two, Handmade Mug, Ceramic, Handpainted, Mothers Day Gift etc etc. as my title. I'm no expert but I find my items come up in searches a bit better this way instead of putting my personal, business, arty title first. Just think - if I wanted to buy this mug, what would I type into Google that might lead me to find it?
- Staying current. With many, many, many other sellers listing their items from all over the world at all times of the day on Etsy, you do need to try and stay fresh in the searches. Some people find that by relisting their items several times a week helps people find them and keeps their items in the first few pages. This costs money (a listing fee) but you do have to spend money to make money and it takes no time at all to click the relist button on the items you want to refresh. I put this into my advertising budget and consider it a necessary cost to let people know I am here! The internet and Etsy is a big pond, with lots of fish. You do have to put some effort in if you want to be caught!
One other thing and this one is just for fun and maybe a laugh! With Etsy you can download the wonderful Seller's app for your phone, which not only makes managing orders a breeze but...whenever an order comes through the app makes a cash register ca-ching! sound which makes it so much more exciting! ;-)
If any of the above has been handy to anyone, I will be happy! If you are embarking onto online selling, for the first time or more seriously, than definitely check out the two sites I mentioned in number 1. There is SO much information on there to get you started!