This is my first blog post talking business, and it's a little scary to put myself out there in this way. As I was writing this post (after page 12 - not even kidding) I realized 1. How excited I am to share and talk about this with you, and 2. This needs to be much longer, and way more in depth. This post will be a general overview, and I hope to expand on each point in the future.
1. Done is better than perfect
My mom is very successful in her own craft, knitting (if you're into knitting, you should check out her work - Rabbit hole knits). Growing up she instilled a sense of perfection in me that I had a hard time working out. That's not to say I let that desire go, I just became ok with the imperfect steps in between starting a business and running a “perfect” business. In the beginning, I felt immense pressure to have my products, branding, website, images, and instagram game on POINT before going to market. It absolutely was not (seriously-- I encourage you to scroll to the bottom of my instagram feed). It took a long time (4 logos, 3 websites, numerous hours editing photos, and countless product revisions) to develop into the brand I am today (and still evolving). But I’m sure glad I got started! Without taking that first leap, I’d still be sitting here with a dream tugging at my heart. All I really needed to do was go to market. Your business will be constantly evolving. So get started, and let the market to determine what is “perfect” for them.
Listening to customer feedback, becoming a user of my own products, and the experience that comes with time have grown A&O into the company it is today. Which brings me to my next point:
2. It takes time to settle into your niche
Did you know Archer and Olive launched in 2012 as a wedding stationery company? I loved illustration and working with my clients, but quickly realized my dream wasn't in the wedding industry. The first set of A&O notebooks were flimsy paperback notebooks. Cute! But not exactly where I wanted to land. It took about 5 years of changing things over and over (and over) again, that I launched the A&O dot grid notebooks you know and love today. Always be listening to the market for ways to evolve.
Most importantly, find your unique selling point! In a sea of similar products, how can yours stand out from the crowd? The less unique your product is, the more money you’re going to spend on marketing.
3. Finding Success (and making sales)
First, define what success means to you. You can (and should) have altruistic goals, but the bottom line is, your business needs revenue.
Getting sales is a slow process and it's a lot of work. You might have a full time job, kids, and other obligations (I did). You will have to make sacrifices (I absolutely have no social life). There is no fast track to making sales. Etsy is a fabulous place for getting started because it’s a very low cost investment, and you’re in a marketplace where people are looking to buy! You will pay listing fees, and small fees to open your account, but they are nothing like the cost of setting up your own website. I’ll discuss growing into your own website later in the post.
The top reasons people aren’t making sales:
- Bad photos! If you’re selling a product, your photos better look good. Wile done is better than perfect, if you are going to invest your energy into making one aspect as good as possible, product photos is your best bet. If you have a little money to invest, hire a product photographer. If you’re taking photos on your own (I still do) always use natural light (no flash) and a clean, simple background. There’s so much more on this topic which I’ll have to cover another time. Do not clutter your photos with ugly text or graphics.
- Is your product good, or wanted? Be honest with yourself - how many people are searching for this product? Use tools like Marmalead to determine Etsy search terms. Do product testing - see if you’re making sales. Is the field oversaturated (this is less important - but something to consider)? If the field is oversaturated, what unique selling point can you offer?
- SEO. Take the time to write a captivating description with good keywords. Use an app like Marmalead for determining strong keywords.
On Etsy Adds:
Adds aren’t the best way to start. They can be helpful - later. If you’re just starting, it’s best to renew your listings every few days (Marmalead can help with this). After you’ve spent a good amount of time making your store the best it can be, consider trying out adds.
4. Scaling and growing
It feels like a huge leap to go from “how to make sales” to “scaling and growing”. The longest gap of time happens during this in between (in tandem with evolving as a business). If you’re creating handcrafted embroidery pieces, you will only be able to sell as many as you can make. Consider how you can grow beyond your physical limitations. Is branching out into kits a good idea? Are patterns a better way to go? Is there a better way to mass produce your art (absolutely no shame in this)?
There is nothing wrong with running a very profitable business entirely from Etsy (several have done it). But if you’re looking to establish yourself as an independent brand, the time will come when you might desire your own web presence.
In the beginning, do not expect to have the same amount of sales on your website as you do on Etsy. Etsy is a marketplace, where browsers are actively looking to buy. The infinite ocean that is the web is a vast vast place with millions of online stores. To attract customers to your shop, you will need to begin marketing.
As a general rule, you should be spending about 7-8% of your revenue (not profit) on marketing if you want to keep up with the current growth. You should spend up to 10% if your revenue on marketing if you’re looking to grow. This does not include marketing foundation (like building your brand, website, and other things of this nature).
As you continue to grow, and struggle to keep up with the daily tasks - outsource your weaknesses. I could not handle the amount of shipping, so the decision to outsource shipping was an easy one (and one I wish I did much sooner).
5. Building a brand
This final section deserves so much more attention than I’ll be giving it in this post. Your brand is so much more than a logo, fonts, and colors. Every. single. interaction you have with every. single. customer goes towards building your brand image. To this day, I will personally respond to all DM’s I receive on Insta (and there are 100s), because I want the A&O brand to be helpful, friendly, and part of the community.
Form your brand’s voice, decide on your brand’s values, and put those into practice every day.