art

Etsy Featured Seller: Amanda Zehner (Living Threads Co)

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

We love businesses who love to help others, and that’s exactly what Living Threads Co. is all about. Founded by Amanda Zehner in 2014, Living Threads Co. features handmade textiles from around the world, in an effort to join these communities with the American market. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy as a way to increase online exposure/awareness to products (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?   

Access to an already established customer base through a marketplace that attracts a similar demographic as Living Threads Co. is targeting. Access to resources and a network of other similar businesses.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

 Yes, a majority of our business is done outside of Etsy. We primarily use Etsy as a supplemental platform and another way to get our name out, help new customers and businesses find us and then direct them to our e-commerce website. We also sell in seasonal pop-ups and through wholesale B2B relationships to expand our impact on small scale artisans.

LTCo. Nicaragua Family Impact 2015.08.11 from Living Threads Company on Vimeo.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?  

We view success on Etsy as relationship building and brand exposure but do not have a great deal of success in sales.  Creation of a shop on Etsy does not mean sales and business. You have to prioritize marketing and driving people to your Etsy shop.  That is not our priority as we choose to focus on driving customers to your own commerce site. However, the cost of maintaining inventory on  Etsy is so minimal that it is worth it to us to maintain it.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?  

We are a higher price point product then a majority of products on Etsy and as mentioned above, we strategically focus our energy on driving traffic to our own e-commerce site. However, I do think that our higher end quality product on Etsy helps us to stand out.

From the Living Threads Co. website. One way Living Threads Co. stands out (in our opinion) is their unique story and the fact that their products are not only high quality but have a direct impact on the lives of others.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy? 

Make sure that you have a strategy for driving traffic to your shop and standing out, high quality product images and a marketing plan with a focused effort to drive people to your site and convert that to sales.  Whether that is a blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or all of the above.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

Have had great experiences purchasing from other vendors and greatly appreciate the ‘small business’  feel. Also being able to interact directly with the owner, have custom work done and have questions answered very quickly.  We have had people reach out about larger orders but have been on completely different pages cost-wise (there seems to be a lack of understanding of the value of hand made artisan products, which is why on our own site we try to tell that story really clearly).

One of our personal favorite items from Living Threads Co is this finger puppets set! There are also sets for other famous children’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

We would buy more custom handmade cotton tags for out handwoven blankets. I love being a part of the design process of each part of our final product and creating a final product that is hand made from fiber to tagging and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives from Guatemala to Maine or Colorado.  So much fun!

Thanks again to Amanda for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Etsy Featured Artist: Dory Smith Graham (Worthy Goods)

 

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

Dory Smith Graham, owner of Worthy Goods, has been using Etsy since 2008 to sell her products. She creates bowties, wool felt jewelry, scarves, and much more from organic, sustainable sources. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?

Etsy was fairly new back in 2008 when I started out, a handmade selling platform that was just beginning to take off. It had a very low barrier-to-entry, and that was perfect for me. I had a wicked slim product line at that point, four reversible baby slings and very little extra time with a 6 month old, a sewing hobby and working part time as a goldsmith. I was able to get the shop up and online in just a day.

One of Dory’s products, a gum ball felt and velvet choker

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

You bet! At SevenArts in Ellsworth, year round, you can find much of worthygoods full lineup of hats, bow ties, linen smock aprons, and more. Other shops that carry worthygoods are Island Artisans in Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor; Salon Naturelles, Bar Harbor; Quench, Belfast; Archipelago, Rockland and Center for Maine Craft at the Gardiner exit. Online there are three venues: my main website, worthy-goods.com with a full product line and I have two Etsy shops as well, worthygoods, and the other is worthygoodstextile where I sell organic cotton fabrics and vintage wooden spools & bobbins from shuttered textile mills. I vend at a handful of vibrant summer and holiday fairs locally on and around MDI as well as in southern Maine. My very favorite events to show at are the IAA Labor Day Fair on the Village Green in Bar Harbor and PICNIC Holiday in Portland.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?

For the first couple years I received a lot of support as a member of the Etsy Maine Team. Then as a more senior member, I offered support to new members. Etsy also offers webinars and email/pdf type ‘schools’ that help with solid advice in parcels that are usually easy to work through to improve targeted areas like developing voice, branding, Etsy SEO as well as planning for the holiday season.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?

Since worthygoods is dedicated to gear steeped in Maine style, I stand out with my product line and my branding. Both highlight and reflect my love of Maine from The County to the coast. My branding uses a vintage Maine lobster license plate, something that still resonates with me and my customers, especially. I find that the more I accentuate the things that ring true to me as reflecting Maine heritage, the more my customers see worthygoods as authentic Maine gear.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy?

If you are just starting out on Etsy, I would suggest you take a long, hard look at your pricing structure. Since Etsy has become a publicly traded company, they have really increased their transactional fees, added a fee-based payment processing platform, incorporated two paid layers of search-based advertising, in addition to the shipping platform. It’s easy to under-price yourself and hard to bump it up later on once you’ve established yourself a bit.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

My favorite sale on Etsy for worthygoods was relatively uneventful, but Farrah Fawcett had an employee of hers custom-order and purchase a hat for a relative. I was on cloud 9 thinking that one of my Little Trapper hats was having a brush with fame in California. An interior design service, Homepolish reached out to me via worthygoods textile on Etsy for a variety of vintage wooden spools and bobbins. They purchased a bunch and used them for a pop-up men’s shop, J Hilburn in NYC. Esquire did a feature article on it and there was a decent bit of local press and write-ups on it, too. I still use their styling as inspiration for my own shop photos and decor.

If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

Ooh, fun! I would buy myself a bag (or put it towards one, at least!) from roughandtumblebags.Etsy.com. I was in Portland recently and was thrilled to find a second-hand one at a cool consignment shop there. They are hand-made in Portland Maine and have a great lived-in look and casual feel about them.
Thanks again to Dory for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website
Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How Running Keeps Me Creative

In times of “bleh,” such as mid-March when Mother Nature can’t quite decide if it should be winter or spring, it’s hard to stay inspired. Creative thinking gets put on the back-burner as we focus on getting through winter.

I believe that we are all creative beings, in our own way. Our methods of expression vary (I mean, you can be creative with how you brush your teeth), but there’s something satisfying about looking at what we’ve made, and thinking, Hey, check out what I just did!

Personally, I channel my creative impulses with writing. Although, last spring I rediscovered Microsoft Paint and it was like the first time I had ice-cream (minus the heartbreak of being a slow eater). During stretches of time when I don’t access my creativity, life becomes gray and shapeless. It’s like the blobs from Zoloft commercials. My theory is that I’m not alone in this feeling. With each passing uncreative day, the lurking doom of losing life’s colors and shapes becomes inevitable. Unless, of course, you have a counter-attack- an activity that helps keep you going.

MS Paint: An often under-appreciated medium for self-expression.

MS Paint: An often under-appreciated medium for self-expression.

For me, that counter-attack is running. Yes, there are all kinds of studies about how running releases feel-good chemicals, but on a more personal level, it just helps me think.

When I run, the ties that bind (be they self-doubt, fear, pride) come undone. Freed from the burden of expectation, nothing is good or bad, but MAN, am I happy. And suddenly, it no longer seems like I’m trying to reinvent the wheel. Ideas start to flow organically. By the time I get back home, creative energy is practically shooting out of my fingertips.

Running may not fuel your creative fire, but something out there does. Maybe you need to move or remain still or stand on your head, talk it out or reflect in silence. Take some time to discover what inspires you, what moves you artistically. And, whether you’re painting a masterpiece, making macaroni art, breakdancing, or singing “Let Her Go” by Passenger in an opera voice on a long drive home, get out there and create.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Selling Art Online: Some Ideas

This post was inspired by my friend’s father, who wants to get into selling comissioned poems online and wanted to know my thoughts.

I am always so excited when artists want to get online and sell their craft, whether it’s some fixed item (here’s a painting I’ve already done for $X) or some custom work (send me your thoughts and I will write you a meaningful poem for your occasion). The internet is niche and just because there is a small sampling of people in your corner of the world interested in, say, watercolors of elephants, doesn’t mean you can’t make a living, or at least part of a living, at your craft. Way to go you for not being limited!

What Do Your Customers Want?

Before jumping into the water with both feet, it may be wise (ok, it is wise) to do a bit of customer research. Some things to find out:

1) Are others doing what you’re doing? (If not, it may be a sign your idea doesn’t have a market… or it may be a sign that no one is as cool as you for thinking of it!)
2) What are people charging for similar work? Can you make money charging these prices?
3) What are people asking about? Do they want to be taught how to use pastels versus buying artwork that uses pastels? Do they want help finishing a drawing they’ve started versus one from scratch? Your idea is all well and good but if it’s not meeting a need, no matter how passionate you are, it won’t fly. What people are looking for will help make your idea better.
4) Who are your customers? Where do they live? What do they think? This may not only inform your marketing but your actual work.

Already your website will kick more butt because you’ve *thought* about what you want it to do and why.

Commissioned Art: Two Ideas For Revenue

There are two routes to go in terms of commissioned work (at least as I see it):

1) Package it as a simple transaction.
Iwanttodrawacatforyou.com is silly in premise but genius in the way it’s set up. Here is one related to poetry that is slightly less user-friendly but a similar idea: http://www.writemeapoem.net/

In both these cases, the idea (and price) are really clear though. I will draw a cat for you for $9.95. I will write commissioned poems for your wedding up to 25 lines for 75 pounds.

With one glace, we see that we can get a cat drawn for us for $9.95. The attractive feature here is the novelty and price point but even more serious sites can learn for the ease of this sale.

With one glace, we see that we can get a cat drawn for us for $9.95. The attractive feature here is the novelty and price point but even more serious sites can learn for the ease of this sale.

2) Custom quotes.

This will have a lower conversion rate (most forms have a less than 10% conversion rate) but you can charge more money for the work.

Here is a custom quote form from a UK guitar maker:

The longer the form for a price quote, the less likely people will be to fill it out... but theoretically, these potential customers are more serious and will pay the price for a very customized guitar.

The longer the form for a price quote, the less likely people will be to fill it out... but theoretically, these potential customers are more serious and will pay the price for a very customized guitar.

So Door 1, charge less for a higher volume of smaller projects, straight-forward payment system. Door 2, more high quality (re: expensive) custom work at a lower volume. Payment less straight forward but you are able to be flexible.

There are clearly pros and cons to both and deciding what kind of art you’ll be selling may determine what kind of category you’ll fall into.

Taking Online Payment

Most people find that a Paypal or Google Checkout merchant account to take online payments is more than acceptable. These services charge a flat fee (around 2-3%) per transaction but totally worth it. Integrating one or both of these services with a website can be tricky so it’s worth getting a pro to do it.

If you want to take payment directly through your own website directly, you need merchant services as well as a secure certificate on your website. Unless you are doing a lot of transactions, this ends up not being worth it which is why so many people use Paypal and/or Google Checkout. To learn more, check out my post about using Etsy to sell art, which also talks about the pros and cons of doing your own ecommerce.

Selling Physical Goods: A Bit More Complicated Than Digital

If you want to get into selling physical goods (versus sending someone some writing or a image via email), that is something to consider.

BigCartel.comand other services off a DIY shopping cart solution that works well for many selling physical products for a low monthly fee. This may be good if you are trying out Ecommerce and don’t necessarily want to throw down $500+ for a custom shopping cart until you know your customers are out there for sure.

Yes, you too can buy needless Breaking Even crap (and yes, this web developer was too lazy to set up her own shopping cart).. breakingeven.bigcartel.com

Yes, you too can buy needless Breaking Even crap (and yes, this web developer was too lazy to set up her own shopping cart): www.breakingeven.bigcartel.com

The thing is with any online shopping cart software is you have to handle the orders as they come in, put items in boxes, perform customer service, etc. And with physical goods suddenly you are weighing everything and thinking about shipping options. Think of what it feels like to list one item on Ebay and multiply that by how many products you want to sell that may or may not frequently change. (You can clearly see how I feel about this… annoying unless you are making enough money to justify the time spent!) ;^)

If you want some third party company to handle the printing of your items (like you don’t want to keep stuff physically at your house ready to ship at all times), you could use a service like SmugMug.com. You upload the image and chose what products to sell (prints, canvases, etc.) Smugmug does the printing, shipping, and order handling for you. They have base prices on all their stuff and the markup is the money you make. Coffee mug is $7 and you mark it up to $10 on your site with your photo on it? You make $3. There are lots of ‘print on demand’ services for artists and here’s a long post about them if you feel like seeing what your other options are: http://www.squidoo.com/Art-pod#module13644552

Make It All Stupid Easy

The key to all things web is to make it stupid easy. Having an ‘order your portrait’ button on every page, contact info in the footer, etc. The easier you make it, the easier it is for people to spend money on your artistic endeavors.

Any artists selling their art online reading this blog? Comment on your issues/ideas and leave a link back to your website so we can see some more examples! (Heck, you might even sell something!)

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Etsy 101

I have had several artists recently ask me about selling their work on their own websites. The problem is an ecommerce website is some of the additional costs that they require:

  • Secure certificate: The little padlock that shows the website is ‘secure’. Prices start at around $10/year  and go higher for more  thoroughly verified/vetted ones. (Thanks to @MattBaya for better wording which has been corrected here.)
  • Ecommerce software: You need some sort of software to handle items (photos, descriptions, etc.), track inventory, calculate shipping, etc. Something like BigCartel can handle this pretty well for a monthly fee (starting at $10/month) or you can pay a web designer a one time fee to set it up. (The going rate seems to be $500 and up.) Note: I’m talking open source (re: free) software and paying only for the web designers’ time to customize it.
  • Merchant services if you want to accept credit cards. Many use Paypal  to get around these fees but the downside is, of course, people being less likely to buy if you only have Paypal.
  • A domain name ($10ish/year), web hosting ($5/month or more), and a website to put the ecommerce software on. This will depend on what you decide in terms of shopping software. Some, like OS Commerce, can run a whole basic website while other software pairs with a content management system like Joomla or Wordpress.

You can see why most people who begin by wanting a shopping cart decide to hold off on it in the end! A lot of decisions and seemingly getting nickeled and dimed with fees.

So what are my crafty but frugal friends to do? I have sent a few to Etsy.com.

Don't want to pay to develop your own shopping cart for your artistic products? Etsy is a good alternative.

Don't want to pay to develop your own shopping cart for your artistic products? Etsy is a good alternative.

How does it work?

1) Set up a profile and pick a store name. Connect your account with a credit card.

2) Load products (20 cents/product) to list.

3) Publicize and ship out any orders you get.

And that’s it. Well, except for creating the products, answering potential buyers’ questions, and publicizing your store of course.

I have a few friends who have Etsy stores. Lynn Cyr sells some high end paintings,  Jessica Harris makes feather handbands and paintings that people see online then buy from her locally, and my friends Chris and Renee started on Etsy with Barkwheats before they opened their own web store and began retailing. (Anyone else out there with Etsy shops I’ve forgotten to mention?)

And I’ve decided to finally set up a Too Cute Tuesday store, you know, when I have time to populate it with crafts. :^)

In other words, Etsy is an affordable, relatively easy way to test the waters of ecommerce with your art. Bonus is the ability to track item views and having the possibility of being listed on the front page of Etsy.com with a featured product, resulting in exposure to millions of people looking to buy handmade online.

So to those of you making things that don’t know how to get them online, try Etsy and let me know how it goes!

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Betsy Thompson On Flickr

I got on Flickr about a year ago and didn’t think a lot about it. I upload pictures there of my mini-adventures. I used to put them on Facebook but I figure this way, I can just connect them to my Facebook account and people like my mom can see them without having accounts.

I was at the Chapter Two Gallery in Corea when I saw one of Betsy Thompson’s mixed media collages. They’re really fun and lively so I took one of the cards she had on hand there. (I see she’s restricted use of her images which is why I’m not putting one on this blog. I’ve put the link below though in case you want to check them out).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/urchinmama/

Now if you’re an artist looking for how to market your work, I think Betsy does a good job of showing her stuff and really using Flickr to keep in touch with her audience. She not only puts up her work for sale but photos from her life and recently a collection she did for Anthropologie.

Flickr allows not only a nice format to display photos (like the white wall of a gallery really) but allows the uploading of multiple images and video at a time (and you can even mass-tag images, which helps them come up in searches). With a Pro account ($20/year), you can also get some stats and additional upload space. A nice tool that I am only beginning to use to it’s full potential but it’s clear people like Betsy figured this out long ago.

If you are a business or non-profit that hasn’t checked out Flickr, I’d do a search for your company, yourself, or even your geographic area and see what comes up. And if you see a photo you like, contact the photographer and let them know. You never know what may come of it!

Anyone else using Flickr and enjoying it? If so, please find me! I need some friends…

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.
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