Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 4 - Time for Reflection and Socializing

On Day 4 of our Etsy Challenge we'll be taking a 'break' (not really) and spend some time reflecting on our products as well as doing some networking with other members of the Etsy Community.

"Why do I have to spend time thinking about my products? My items are great! My aunt Sarah and my mom buy them all the time."

Well, there is hard truth to be told here and it is better that you realize this sooner than later. If your product is not good enough to be sold to people you've never met before, it doesn't really matter how many times you go through this entire challenge; you will simply never make the kind of money you might be hoping for.

If you are new to craft sales and have no idea of whether the things you make are good, marketable items; then let's start by asking yourself the following questions:

- Would you buy your own products?

Think about the stores you frequent the most and the reasons why you buy items from there. If you make pottery for example, think of the last time you bought a vase from Pier One or somewhere similar. How does the stuff you make compare to those items you have actually paid money for? Would you buy your own over the ones at the store?

If the answer to this question is no, then you have some serious thinking to do.

- If the answer is yes, ask yourself why? What makes your product special?

Now that I've got you thinking about the last time you bought a similar item from a store, could you come up with a few reasons why yours is better?

"My products are made by hand"
"They are one-of a kind items"
"The designs I use are inspired by Surrealism"
"My vases are made of this clay with super powers that will last forever" (You get the idea!)

If you have at least 4 reasons why your product is special in comparison to others found at local stores or even the ones on Etsy, then you are moving in the right direction.

Remember this: Most Etsy customers look for unique, special items and not those they can buy at Target or Walmart or the Dollar store.

- Is the quality of your items a great deal for the price you are asking?

The main reason why I bring up this question is because I personally enjoy paying a fair price for things I buy and I also LOVE IT when I feel like the items I purchased completely exceed my expectations.

Sadly, I've been in many situations before where I've spent a high dollar amount on handmade items that were just not good for the price. I may have even kept that to myself many times just so that my boyfriend did not get a chance to criticize me for the bad deal I made.

Are you, as an artist, aware of all this? Do you ever wonder what the reaction of your customers will be when they get their goodies?

Do you take pride on the things you make?

I truly hope you do.

At all times, remember to be as professional as you can. The seriousness you portray about the products you make reflect on customers as 'quality'. We like things neatly organized, clean, free of silly mistakes.

"Oh, one of my beads is scratched/broken, let me just send this like that"

NO, NO, NO! You can't/shouldn't lose a customer over a damaged bead. Think twice before making this type of choices please!

The $15 Dollar Experiment.

If you are still clueless about your products and need honest and reliable feedback. I urge you to sign up for a local craft fair/show as soon as possible.

When I first started painting several years ago, I kept trying different subjects, color schemes, materials, etc. I had no clue if my art was good enough to make any money at all. I did not know what other folks were buying, where or how. I had way too many questions and needed answers.

I was then told to maybe look into participating at one of the local art shows/fairs that my town had every single weekend in the Downtown area. The price to participate was $15/weekend.

Immediately, I got extremely nervous just thinking about the looks I would get, the criticism from other artists who would most likely be ten times better than I was. I did not want to do this show thing, No!

After a few margaritas and a couple late night tv-shows at home, I decided that I've had enough of my fears and insecurities and that I just had to know if I was wasting my time painting. So I borrowed a folding table, grabbed a plastic chair, looked for a semi-decent tablecloth to cover the table with and headed out with my paintings, the $15, some spare change and my fingers crossed.

Needless to say, this experience was a huge eye-opener. Not only my paintings were in serious need for improvement, but I also realized that most of my audience that day were 5 year old kids that would approach my table because of the bright colors in my artwork and then walk away as their parents grabbed their hands and pointed much better looking things.

That afternoon, I came home and went straight to my studio. I knew that I had been able to survive the craft fair and that all I needed to do was to come up with a better product, geared to the right kind of audience and that still portrayed who I was as an artist.

The next shows after that were consistently getting better and better. I would get paid for the art, get custom orders and I just knew then that the sky was the limit.

More on Product Critiques

Etsy has provided sellers with a great section in their forums for critiques. Simply click on the Community icon on the top bar of the page and then select 'forums'. Scroll down to the 'critiques' board and read, comment, post as often as you need to.

There is always different users viewings those posts at different times during the day. You will get all sorts of advice and it is up to you to decide which ones will help you improve and which other ones might be a bit biased by the fact that it will most likely be another seller replying.

Also, make sure to check out the Chats. There is a very consistent set of individuals who frequent the chat rooms on Etsy and they are great people!.

Participating in the chats has all sort of hidden benefits.

- You are networking. (This means, people will get to know you, like you, maybe heart your shop, perhaps even add you to their circle)

- You can also get free advice from the people in there.

- You are constantly promoting your products. (Buyers do stop by the chats from time to time so free advertisement while you talk about your cats and what you had for dinner last night can't go wrong!)

And as far as socializing, that's really all the 'homework' I had for you today.

Take some time to make friends on Etsy. We'll look into Facebook, Twitter, etc some other day.
Be Creative!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this! You reminded me that I should really check 'chats' out. I have always felt that as British seller whenever I want to talk no one would be around but clearly worth investigating.