About 2 years ago, I returned home from my mission, I knew I was sitting on a pot of gold with my idea for watercolor mission maps, and I knew I had to act quick. My biggest hurdle was figuring out, HOW THE HECK DO I SELL THESE BAD BOYS? My first thought was Etsy, so I went on the website to create the shop. I sat staring at the page, and couldn't even think of what name I wanted to use for the shop. It was so intimidating. Obviously I could go back through and re-brand if I wanted to, but I felt like I was commiting myself to a new persona, a new part of my life, that I had no idea how to run. I committed to Shop Shannon Sweeney ( I decided I wanted it to be a personal name to me- as the artist), and I was off trying to figure out how the heck to start up my Etsy page.
I've had lots of trial and error over the course of the last 2 years, but I wanted to share little tid-bits of what I've learned. I get asked all the time about advice I have for Etsy/ Small Business beginners, so I hope this advice can help your business take off.
1. Define your "What", "Why", etc.
As of 2017, there were 1.93 Million active sellers on Etsy. ACTIVE sellers. That means everyone and their dog were posting several listings, and making it so customers have to sort through pages and pages of listings before they ever stumble upon yours for a quick second. That's why it's so important to find your "niche". When I first posted my Watercolor Mission Maps, there were ZERO other listings. Now when I go on, there are several pages of them. I attribute a lot of my success to being one of a kind. You can't find another mission map like mine out there (except those who have copied them), and I'm proud of that! Early on, defining my "what" (Ie: Watercolor Mission Maps+more) helped me to create a vision of what I wanted to sell, who my target audience was (ie: future missionaries, mission mamas, etc).
This is one of the first ones I did:
I have continued to expand to reach an even greater audience by adding more to my shop, but establishing, "Hey, it's that girl with the mission maps" was huge for my business. Establishing "why" I was doing it has helped me through the slow times, busy times, hard times, you name it. My personal "why" was to expand the missionary gift market, and bring happiness to others with my art. With each new piece I've created, I've tried to put a "why" behind it, so when I do it, I put my whole heart and soul into it.
I've tried to live by the motto "just because you can, doesn't mean you should". Just because you can paint the exact same thing as someone else, or create the same thing someone else does, doesn't mean you should. I see shops every single day that I'm like, "Wow, I wish I would've come up with that." There are so many talented shops and artists out there, so support them! If a customer comes to me with a photo asking me to do the exact thing in the photo or copy their unique idea, I kindly suggest to have them go to that artist, and support them in their endeavor. When creating things for your shop starting out, it might be tempting to do something exactly like another artist does successfully, but establish who you are as a maker, and follow through with that! You'll stick out more than you with blending in with the other 1,000 makers doing the exact same thing.
2. Brand yo'self
This goes a lot with point #1, but branding is KEY! Get yourself a nice Logo, banner, business cards, and establish yourself visually as a business. Pick branding that tells a story about who you are, and what you're doing. Look at how other businesses you admire brand themselves. Do they have a specific color scheme they follow? What does their logo say to you? If you need some help with any of these things, I can help you out here.
3. Make social media your best friend
Going back to what I was saying about 1.93 mil sellers, and thousands of pages of listings, social media can be your GREATEST strength. A huge majority of the exposure my shop gets is through social media. I won't dive too deep into Instagram algorithm stuff, but DO YOUR RESEARCH. A big mistake that I see is small businesses buying followers/liker bots. Everything that I've ever read advises against it. It not only lowers your chances of people seeing your posts, but you're also not attracting your target audience with it. Be consistent with your feed and your posting, connect with others, and the audience will come! You can also make your IG page an business page, so you can see your analytics, and that can help you to beat the algorithm.I have a whole post dedicated to helping you take great product photos here.
How I actually feel about the algorithm:
4. Become a Customer Service Guru
My heart is filled to the brim with gratitude for those who have supported my lil business. Sometimes I cry happy tears thinking about how my artwork is hanging up in other places in the world. The saying is totally true that "Whenever you shop small, an actual person does a happy dance". I try to convey to customers that I really do appreciate all of their support. You can add thank you cards, thank you coupons, whatever, to help them know that their business means the world to you. And make sure to respond as soon as you can, and try to work with the customer to the best of your ability. They're the whole reason you can do what you do as a business! Reach out to friends, family, and other makers to help spread the word about your shop. Word of mouth is the best way to attract new customers.
5. Stick it out!!!!
In my first month on Etsy, I think I made like 3 sales, and they were all from people on Facebook that talked to me on Facebook. There have been months where my sales are really low, and some that are really high. Be patient and realistic with yourself, and take it day by day. Make sure to stay on top of orders, and keep yourself creating when there aren't any! Every single business out there has slow/busy times, so remind yourself that you're not a failure. I try to come up with new products for the shop, work on my branding, or collaborate with others during slow periods. And be honest with yourself when you're just too dang busy to take on anything else (that's something I'm working on).
Hopefully these tips can help you, and send me a message if you have any other questions! xoxo