artists

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.

New Site Launch: Jeremy Frey

Jeremy Frey is a rock star in the basket world. His one of a kind creations go for thousands of dollars (or tens of thousands in many cases). They take months to make and every detail is perfect. When I saw them in his workshop I was blown away.

When we began working with Jeremy, orders were a little slow and he was gearing up for summer shows. He had applied for and gotten a grant to develop a website and some branding materials, knowing that these tools would take him further then he could go at several yearly shows and with his current client base, many who collect his work.

He wanted to reconnect with people he had lost touch with and find new customers who were specifically searching for him online (and clearly not finding him).

We took care of the website part while Jason at Loop Design Group worked with Jeremy on the logo/branding. Since this was finalized earlier this week we can write about the project (we had a stand in header so Jason and Jeremy could work without pressure and so in the meantime so Jeremy would have the site to use for his shows).

jeremyfreyhomepage

I like to joke with Alice about having an inherent bias against black background color websites. (I had a proto-hipster boyfriend about ten years ago whose blog was black with white writing as were the black and white photos he posted. He wrote deep thoughts on this site and it makes me roll my eyes to this day to think of it.) But this website really changed my mind about the whole ‘black background is a moody teenager’ thing.

Alice is right, done properly it can look artistic, and depending on font choices and other design elements can look either ‘boudoir’ or ‘masculine’. In this case, clearly masculine.

Alice also wanted to incorporate lots of basket textures since Jeremy’s work is so intricate. (Loved the Facebook icon she came up with!) These were only used as touches since we didn’t want it to seem over the top.

jeremyfreyportfolio

Since Jeremy’s baskets are made to order (with custom colors, etc.) a shopping cart was not necessary but we did want to communicate that people could order with the website. ‘Baskets Available For Order’ in the menu as well as a custom inquiry form below each basket type meant that people understood they could order without us having to actually show every kind of basket that Jeremy could make (hint: a lot, like hundreds).

But most importantly is Jeremy happy with this site? “I”ve already gotten a lot of inquiries from it.” he said. He says mainly in the way of people he’s lost touch with over the years that have found him and his work again as well as some new customers.

I know many artists who hesitate to spend money on their websites… but  I think people would be surprised that they’d make their investment (if not more) back by just having somewhere online people could see their craft.

Check out Jeremy’s site if you want to learn more: http://jeremyfreybaskets.com/

jeremyfreyportfoliopage

 

 

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.

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: 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.

Marketing Monday: Lil Wayne

Every Monday, I feature some cool marketing, be it something that a person, business, or organization is doing. Please tip me off if you have an idea of what the BE Blog could feature!

Lil Wayne, courtesy of NPR.

Except for listening to the rap/hip hop on occasion (usually while driving or on a treadmill), I hadn’t thought much about Lil Wayne until last week. The rapper was busted for having a concealed weapon, and while they had initially talked about him possibly going to jail for multiple years, it looks like he’s going there for a least one.

But this guy is no slacker. Here’s what Lil Wayne is doing right, post having done something wrong:

He recorded nine music videos in two days. According to a commenter on the NPR story, Elvis did the same thing before going into the Army.

He has twenty songs pre-recorded and ready to go. Yup, that’s an album’s worth. Sure, if some get leaked, he might have to think of more (the hype alone might be worth leaking a few on purpose) but all this groundwork is part of the plan. According to NPR:

“He has a label, Young Money Entertainment, that’s going to keep him front and center while he’s in jail. They are moving from their headquarters in New Orleans to New York, to be close to him while he’s at Rikers Island…His label has made every effort to make it seem like he isn’t gone while he’s actually gone. When he gets out, he may be bigger than he was when he left.”

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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.