Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Getting the Sale

“Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.” ~Zig Ziglar

November started out like any other month. And then on November 4th I got an email. This email appeared to be from PayPal telling me that I had money in my account. But it was in my spam folder so I was naturally suspicious. And it was also telling me that in order to get the money I had to upgrade my account. Now the warning bells were going off.

I was sure that I was being duped.  I started combing the message boards on PayPal for evidence of a 'spoof' email. Then I noticed that this money was indeed in my account. I was wary of random dollars floating into my PayPal account. Now I was really worried. I mean, this had never happened to me before. It wasn't until I went back to my email and found the alert in my Etsy folder that I sat down and had a good laugh.

I wasn't being 'spoofed'...I was getting my first sale on Etsy! And I needed to upgrade my PayPal so that I could accept credit card payments. ;-)

Ha ha ha! {Yes, you can all laugh heartily at my foibles. The only thing that would have been funnier would be if I had actually hit the panic button and fired off my supposed 'spoof' email off to PayPal....they would have thought I was an even bigger idiot and I am sure that I would have been the talk around the watercooler at PayPal!}

Since I am behind the rest of the world on the whole Etsy thing, I thought that those of you with Etsy or online websites would find that true story funny, and maybe my insights might help anyone waffling as to selling online. Or make you recall your first sales and how that felt if you are a master online seller {because I know that many of you are!}. Here 10 things that I have learned through this experience...

1::Just list something!
Why did it take me so long to get it out there? I think that I was so concerned with having everything right that I was afraid to list anything. You can't sell it if you don't list it!

{Endlessly Bountiful - isn't this a great picture?
The light captures the intense color and sparkle.
Featuring lampwork glass from SueBeads - SOLD}
2::Take great pictures! I have had to rethink my pictures. The dimensions were all wrong. Deciding what part to focus on. Whether to use props or not. Since light is at a premium with these shorter days of winter, I have set up a make-shift indoor studio with some bits of vellum taped over a bright lamp {but AutoCorrect in Picasa is still my best friend}. I am investigating the props that won't detract but will enhance my shots. I try to take a close up, a mid-shot and a full shot at minimum. Whatever you do, make them great!

{The Last Leaf - inspired by the O. Henry story -
featuring vintage filigree and an Earthenwood leaf.
Available on Etsy}
3::Write amazing descriptions!
Your pictures get someone to take a closer look; your words get them to buy. You want your shoppers to know a bit about you but more importantly about the thing you are selling. Be sure to make it engaging, tell a story to create a mood, include dimensions and what it is made from. Be yourself and find the style that works for you.

{Plunging In - bangle bracelet inspired by Kerry Bogert's Totally Twisted
featuring a custom, one-of-a-kind hollow glass bead by Kerry for my gallery exhibit,
ceramics by Jangles and enamel by Barbara Lewis. Available on Etsy}

4::Know who you are!
I spent a lot of time researching shop policies and deciding exactly how I wanted the experience to be for my potential customers. I focused on a banner and avatar before I even had a thing to sell. I thought a lot about what I could do that might make me different. Let's face it... you are one in a million out there. But you are one with your own unique story to tell. Make sure that shines through.

5::Be accessible!
I responded immediately to that convo and made a personal connection with that first buyer. Turns out she used to live about 40 minutes from where I am...now we have a real connection.

{Cozy & Warm - with Humblebeads, Swarovski crystals & Vintaj.
Available on Etsy}
6::Go the extra mile! My second sale was local, so in this case it was a literal mile. She was someone who had followed me during my gallery exhibit this summer. I offered to deliver the earrings to her personally. Again, another connection. In another sale I put in a surprise pair of matching earrings. I know that I appreciate when someone puts a little something extra in and I want to continue paying that forward.

7::Be flexible!
On the third sale I was contacted from someone overseas asking about shipping. So I had to learn something new about shipping to a foreign country and added that to my shop. And because of that I got two sales instead of just one. Now someone in Europe will be wearing my jewelry, and that is just too exciting! {And it might be the closest I will ever get to visiting there!}

{W.O.W. Pendant - custom made - SOLD}
8::Get custom!
The beauty of Etsy is that people can reach out and connect with artists on a personal level and get exactly what they want. I know some artists' shy away from custom orders and adopt a 'what-you-see-is-what-you-get' mentality. My favorite pieces are the ones created with the spirit of the person it was intended for in mind. I have my first reserved order for a custom pendant inspired by the one above but created to her exact specifications. I love that. I hope she will, too.

{Packaging and branding are important!}

9::Little touches=Big magic
Consider your packaging. I have seen some awesome packaging ideas lately. Check out the Flickr stream Etsy Packaging. Whatever you do, make sure it builds your brand and shows that you care about your customers. For me, I have a copper box with a clear sticker of my signature skeleton key logo and custom imprinted chocolate satin ribbon with my company name and key. Oh, and a key tag. There is one on every necklace and bracelet. But the most important thing to me is a hand written note. Make the experience as personal as possible.

10::Know how they found you!
My first 4 sales came in the first week in November, but why? I don't play the re-listing game {but if you have had success with that, do tell!}. The first two pieces sold to a woman who picked up a magazine and discovered she could get the exact one-of-a-kind pieces from the spread. The third sale was to a local woman who followed me. The fourth sale came from someone in France who had seen me posting on blogs and found my website through that. Always ask. And then keep doing that thing that helped them find you. I know I will continue trying to be published and listing those pieces in Etsy, expanding my local influence, and creating real connections on blogs and websites.

I agree with Zig in the opening quote... to be successful selling all you have to do is figure out how to fill a void, price it right, create the urgency, feed the desire and gain the trust of your potential customers. Simple, no?

I don't know if it gets any easier to navigate selling online, but I do believe what my best friend who encouraged me to open that Etsy shop said... selling on Etsy is like a big ocean...there is a lot of room so jump on in and splash around.

Come on in. The water's fine...

Do you remember your first sale online?
If you have not sold online, what is holding you back?
Any Etsy or online selling tips you would care to share?

Do tell!

Erin Prais-Hintz writes about all things that inspire her at Treasures Found::Inspiration Is Everywhere. Her jewelry designs are one-of-a-kind made one-at-a-time. She collects quotes and dust and invites you to send her your favorite (quote - not dust!) to enjoytheday@tesoritrovati.com. Check out her brand spankin' new website at Tesori Trovati.


Patty said...

I loved the story of your first sale, Erin! And the Ziglar quote is great.

My first sale didn't happen until over a month after I opened my Etsy shop. I listed a couple of new focal beads, and within 45 minutes they both sold! I went outside jumping and shouting with joy, and my husband thought I was nuts. He still does, but that's another story. :-)

I could use improvement in many of the areas you mention. Thanks for a very helpful post.

SilverNikNats said...

Thank you so much!
I have not been brave enough to actually put stock into my etsy shop yet, I think I'm over thinking things and making it too complcated but all this information has been fantastic!

Alice said...

I'm with 'ya sister--a little slow on the uptake when it comes to stuff like this.

I sell via my website, and have actually only had one sale which was to a friend. I really need to devote more time to it but it seems its the last thing I think about for my biz. I do lots of home shows and First Fridays in KC, so the website gets ignored.

Thanks for sharing the story of your first sale. I'm not laughing, because I can see that happening to me. OK, I'm grinning, but not laughing.

Stacie said...

My first sale came just weeks after listing my first items, I thought the email from Etsy was telling me that I bought something! I was so confused! It ended up being from my best friend :)

Connie Eyberg Originals said...

I would have to go with number 1. I want to have everything figured out beforehand and have it just right. Sounds like I need to stop it. I really don't think I have the confidence either. Your post is very helpful though.

CeeGee Jewellery Design said...

Interesting article. I definitely need to give my Etsy shop an overhaul - my lampwork sells well but my jewellery just seems to get lost. Your comments about packaging ring true, and I think I need to show buyers how their jewellery will be presented.

Tip for photos - bounce natural light back by crunching up a sheet of silver foil, opening it out again and sticking it on some card. Place it opposite your light source to reflect light onto your photography subject. C xx

TesoriTrovati said...

Yes! Just get out there and do it! You can always improve and swap out photos as you get better. Great tip on the tinfoil. I will definitely try that!

Thanks for that great comments. Keep 'em coming!

Enjoy the day!

Softflexgirl said...

Terrific post. Made me smile!

miramecreations said...

Loved the story of your first sale on Etsy! Thanks for the pointers, I desperately need it!

BeaderBubbe said...

Great post. Havent had a firs sale yet but hoping with the holidays I get recognized....plan to look over my shop and see where I can improve....I have been using Picasa to spruce up my photos and getting the hang of it....Maybe I will get a sale before the end of the year...

lunedreams said...

It's such a shock when that first sale happens, isn't it!! I remember my first sale, it was to someone in Massachusetts. I was completely. Freaked. Out. Absolutely terrified. WHAT DO I DO NOW!?!?! I knew how I wanted to package it but I was still all a-quiver with anxiety. And on top of that, she informed me it was for a birthday and she wanted it RIGHT AWAY. She didn't offer to pay for expedited shipping and I had no idea how to bill her for it since she'd already bought the item. Well, I sent it Priority Mail anyway (figured I ought to make my first customer happy). Never heard from her again so I assumed all was well. Took several sales before I stopped getting all in a dither, and like a year and a half before I stopped announcing every sale I had to the whole cyberworld. It still surprises me when I make a sale.

As a buyer, I appreciate a personal email from the seller letting me know they're on top of it. Just getting the automated Etsy confirmation and never hearing from the seller makes me nervous. The personal touch really is important. I acknowledge every sale personally by email as fast as I can and let them know when it will be shipped.

Also, your photos need to compete with the best photos you see on Etsy. A poor photo suggests a poor product. Get whatever help you need to do a professional looking photo--there's hints and tips all over the Internet. As a buyer, I like there to be at least one photo that shows me what the whole piece really looks like--I won't buy based on mysterious artistic closeups alone.

Lastly, be scrupulously detailed and honest in describing the components in your pieces. Is it sterling silver? Or silver plate? Gold filled or gold tone? Real pearls or pearlized beads? A vague description will turn away a buyer.

Beatnheart said...

I have my etsy shop all set up, worked for forever to do the banner etc and figure it all out and still nothing in it. I think I am so afraid that no one will visit/buy that It holds me back. yikes!!! meanwhile, stop by my blog, I’m holding a Giveaway and mega sale. Thanks for all your inspiration..

Silver Parrot said...

Congrats on your first sales! But I think you have to add #11 - Make fantastically gorgeous jewelry like Erin does ;-)

Sharon said...

I needed to think through everything over again and again and was terrified to do something wrong in the shop set up. It was 5 months before I listed that first item.

My first order was to a co-worker. Then someone I knew from tango dancing purchased a whole group of little purses for holiday gifts. It was so exciting!

Your photos are really superb!

Judy said...

Erin that is a great post...you are a pro already! I just love your packaging!

Pretty Things said...

Wonderful post, and congratulations!

SummersStudio said...

I completly agree with the personal connection you need to make with your customer. Especially on Etsy where you really are just one in something like a 100,000. But even just in your 'every day' selling. It's one of the most wonderful things about selling something you've put a bit of yourself in. I many times struggle with telling my story but I do know that in my show sales, it's what connects people to me and more importantly I let things go to people who connect to the parts of me that I let go. All of that and tying it up into a thoughtful package adds another layer of meaning to a transaction. In fact, I think that adds the extra thing that makes handmade so meaningful in a world where we don't even have to leave home to buy something. Erin, thanks so much for sharing your insights!

artybecca said...

Hey everybody...just do it! It always a huge thrill to make a sale! Plus, Etsy money now pays for my groceries, more art supplies, vacations, new shoes, and other fun stuff.

I agree with all of Erin's suggestions and here are a few more...

Get seen...put your photos on flickr and post them in groups with similar items. But, also, post your non-etsy items like pets, gardening, whatever hobbies you have, and add them into appropriate groups. That helps people who don't make jewelry (and therefore might BUY jewelry) find you.

Keywords on your etsy items...make sure you use your shop name as a tag. Putting a shop name into etsy's product search won't find a shop...the searcher has to know to use the "seller" search. And most people don't know that. Make your name a tag and make it easy for people to find you! Use your name as a tag on flickr too.

And while you're at it, use the same name on etsy, flickr, your blog, twitter, whereever -- only one name to remember makes it easy for buyers to find you.

I have a super-cheapo-but-works-great light box for small items set up you can check out:

I just relist once or twice a day if haven't posted anything new in a day or so, just to make sure I stay toward the front of the etsy search results.

DO read all the etsy set-up guides. It's very valuable info. But don't get stuck there...Get moving!

e5jewelry said...

What a great read.. I love your post on the first sale Erin. I just opened my Etsy shop(Oct)-although it says I did in Aug. 2010, it took me that long to say to myself-just do it! I was worried about taking all the right steps first. Getting the social media networking down first..that is a job in itself! My first sale was magical to me-to know someone actually loves what I made and paid for it to wear! How cool is that feeling!(very different than family/friends wanting to wear your creations) The buyer bought two other items week later. I love the suggestion about Flickr ArtBecca, posting non-jewelry items to other groups. I am on flickr, and most of my non-jewelry pics are hidden. Did you mean tag your items the name of your shop as well as your name? great idea! that is another one that I get stuck on! I think a great way to get your shop noticed and support fellow artists on Etsy is doing a treasury list. They are alot of fun to make-and a great way to find shops you wouldn't easily find.

Off the Beadin' Path said...

A+ on your informative, entertaining, and practical post, Erin! I feel the same about my always-in-the-future website, why not put a line in the water and see what's biting?! Your Etsy reflects who you are and shows us you are someone special!

BooBeads said...

Wow- some really great advice here. I like the idea of including the shop name. I thought of it previously but wasn't sure exactly how it would help, so thanks!

I do post items in flickr but I've taken note to get in groups- great idea!

My first sale I was absolutely estatic and I still get just as happy with each new one.

I personally don't think the renewing item helps much. Actually I've had more sales since I've stopped renewing which of course, it could be the time of year as well.

I love reading everyone's stories and ideas!

BooBeads said...

I wanted to add~ be available for convos, often and respond quickly if possible.
When I'm shopping for something but have questions, I like to be answered in a timely manner. To me this can make or break a sale.

Just 2 weeks ago I had a lady send me a convo about personalizing an item. I responded quickly and later that day I had a sale. She included in the message that she appreciated my quick response to her question.

I frequently buy on Etsy myself, and as a shopper, seller's who don't respond to convoes lose my business. Yes~ I have bought from seller's that never responded to emails, which to me says, you're not important enough for me to bother answering.

So in short keep good communication lines and those personal responses after a sale are highly important!

For My Sweet Daughter said...

Great post and very inspiring. Your work is so beautiful that I am surprised your first etsy sale was this November. I have just listed my first 3 items on etsy and on zibbet so fingers crossed that I get a sale.
I am afraid to ship internationally because I never have before so I really should get more info on that and open some new doors.
I am ordering tags for my jewelry with my logo too. Are yours from Charm Factory? I would love to see a photo of them sometime.
I have held off listing online (have sold in person for over 8 years) because I felt I had to have everything "perfect" an unattainable goal I am finding out.
Thanks for the great and inspirational post.
Shannon C

Elaine said...

My first on my own sale online - I sold through a group consignment project for a while - came as I was loading up my Etsy shop.

I'm computer savvy but could not figure why there were FEWER things as I was going.

Turns out I had mentioned to friends that I would be loading things on etsy that day and they passed it along for me. People were buying as I was listing.

I still smile everytime I see the little Paypal note pop up on my email!

Hazel Ward said...

I originally opened as a jewellery shop, and never had a sale. Then I found polymer clay, fell in love with making beads from it, and got my first sale :D

I suppose what helped in particular though, was getting involved in different communities, without thinking about selling, just for the community atmosphere - it can help, and at the very least, you have a group to share your experiences with :)

Chris said...

Erin - great post, great tips, and many congrats on your sales. (Doing a happy dance for you!) Keep it up Girl - your work is great!

SerendipitybyErin said...

What an enjoyable story to read :) Thank you for sharing, from one Erin to another!


Mary K. McGraw said...

Great post. I too have been trying to get it right before I start putting my work. Your post has inspired me.