selling

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.

You Make How Much Per Hour?!

timevsmoneyIt’s everyone’s dream to get paid more to do less, or nothing at all (which is why everyone was clambering for Powerball tickets recently). You’ve probably heard the statistics of corporate CEOs and how their salaries translate to an hourly rate. If I just had their job for ONE hour, I could rule the world…or at least pay off my student loans.

Part of you thinks it’s obscene for one person to have all that money, but another part of you wonders how you can reach this higher plane of financial glory.

Just for fun, let’s take a look at the astronomical figures some people are pulling in each year. One of Chipotle’s CEOs, Montgomery Moran, makes about $13,500 an hour. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burrito, but that number seems pretty steep for convenience food. Moran’s hourly wage is utterly eclipsed by Larry Ellison’s (CEO of data sharing service Oracle) $267,779. To put this in a bit of perspective, Ellison is making more per hour than the average American brings home in a year (roughly 5 times more, in fact). He’s making more per hour than the cost of 4 years of college tuition.

Moving away from CEOs, what do some of our favorite celebrities bring home? In spite of griping about Spotify ripping her off, Taylor Swift had an excellent year. It’s estimated that she makes about $40,000 per hour, putting her slightly behind Katy Perry who makes $67,500 per hour. (Interesting fact: both ladies are ahead of Beyonce now.) The highest paying celebrity in 2015 according to Forbes is Floyd Mayweather, mainly because of the boxing match this past spring.

Each of these high-rollers offer us entertainment or run companies that contribute to our quality of life as we know it. But what are CEOs or celebrities doing that contributes thousands upon thousands of dollars an hour? Checking email? Traveling? Writing songs? Singing? When you consider many of these tasks are actually handled by someone else, maybe some CEOs and celebrities just get paid to exist. It’s difficult to say. As Gigi Hadid recently pointed out to us on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, “Modelling is hard. You have to look good and be nice to people.”

What about the blue-collar end of the spectrum? Anesthesiologists (not quite blue collar in the traditional sense, but not quite at the CEO/celebrity level) usually make around $100/hour. This position is high-stakes with a clearer value to their contribution. Tattoo artists, commercial pilots, and underwater welders all make about $120/hour per project. Even though these jobs usually only require 15-20 hours of work per week, it still averages out to a decent hourly rate.

But, what about you? Using some of the ideas below, you can develop a strategy for making more per hour without necessarily working more.

Idea #1: Charge according to value from the start. Say you’re a freelance sandwich maker. You’ve been doing this for awhile, so you have your routine down to a science, and as a result you’ve significantly whittled down your production time (4 minutes per sandwich). When you get an order for 5 sandwiches, it’s only going to take 20 minutes of your time. If you charge by the hour, you might be selling yourself short. Charging per sandwich (or per project) is the way to go. For other sorts of projects, you’re better off charging per hour.

Clearly as a freelancer, there are going to be some five foot long party subs in your life but the greater percentage of standard sandwiches you can make with your time, the greater your hourly take home pay.

Idea #2: Be on retainer. There is a cost to being available and let’s face it, there are some clients who want you to be available. Getting paid for a set amount of time to be available (and not needing to necessarily be doing something) is a great way to increase your take home… but beware when all your retainer clients need you in the same week! (This is why you don’t want to take on too many of these.)

Idea #3: Profitshare your pay. Take a cue from some of our CEO friends and, instead of getting paid a large base salary, get paid a percentage of profits. There is plenty of revenue sharing softwares out there but, maybe in building that up and coming software company a free online shopping cart and taking 10% gross revenue for 5 years will mean a higher hourly rate than they would have paid you up front. Note: only do this when you truly believe in the company.

Idea #4: Sell people the same thing. Let’s say you get really good at making flyers for musical theater. If you have clients spread out around the country, why not use the same layout for multiple events? This is clearly something only applicable in some instances but if you’ve packaged something together that works for a certain type of client or job, why reinvent the wheel? Please note that we’re talking more along the lines of systematizing than producing carbon copies for clients (depending on your line of business).

Idea #5: Outsource. (Full disclosure: Nicole hates this idea but it exists so we’ll talk about it.) One way to make money off something is to find someone else who will do it for cheaper and be the middle man between them and your customer. Many people make six figure incomes by finding freelancers and designing processes that use their skills effectively. The freelancers get to do what they like at a cost they agree with, the middle man gets to build a team for a fraction of what an employee would cost, and the customer gets a good product. Or at least that’s the idea.

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If Paris Hilton is able to get paid $374,00 an hour to DJ in Ibiza, you should be able to gain a little something for your work, too.

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.

Goats and Ikea Furniture Assembly: How Services Are Coming Online

It was natural in web 1.0 to sell goods: snarky t-shirts, craft supplies, a laptop. Providing photos, a description and pricing options to create a shopping area is now something we are all familiar with. If I asked you to draw a picture of an online shopping cart, you could probably do it pretty easily.

It is also natural that as we’ve maximized what we can do with shopping carts for goods (Coupon codes! Discount for sharing on social media after purchase! Voting and funding products that will be produced in the future!), as a society, we’ve turned our attention to services. How can we use the same shopping cart idea that we know and understand to buy services?

Everything from online therapy to putting together Ikea furniture to renting goats to ‘mow’ your yard. While we are still figuring out standards (How does this work? What information do we collect? How do we control quality?), there are marketplaces that are open now… and no doubt more to follow.

24 Sessions: Online Advice On Demand

businessdivorcelawyer

Knowledge professions, like lawyers, therapists, coaches, and others, can increase their reach online by not only offering bookable services you can pay for online but can also participate in marketplaces like 24 Sessions. The most famous of these was Google Helpouts, which has since disbanded. There are more services like this here: http://www.diygenius.com/online-coaching-platforms/ It seems like different websites specialize in different kind of knowledge to serving from different locations. Ex: the guy above is the only American doing legal advice on this site while there are tons of people from The Netherlands and Belgium.

TaskRabbit: Having People Do A Set Task For You

taskrabbit

If you’re not looking for knowledge so much as getting something done (like assembling furniture, running errands), websites like TaskRabbit allow you to contract with someone to get them done. I took the screenshot of paying someone to stand in line for you at a no reservations restaurant because I thought it was an interesting idea.

Amazon Services: Using Global Marketplace To Find Local Providers

This first came on my radar when I saw a news story about being able to ‘hire’ goats to come and graze in your yard. I love goats, especially mini-goats, but the idea of full time goat ownership intimidates me. That’s why I loved this idea.

hireagoatgrazer

 

This is not available in my area (actually no services seem to be) but as big companies like Amazon seek to partner with local service providers (that agree with their standards of course), I think what we’ll all have access to online will become more interesting. Sure, if you know a guy who has goats you can rent, it’s one thing to be able to search for them online but it’s another thing to offer something like this in a very searchable platform right where people can book and pay.

We all trust the internet more than ever before and with things like identity verification (AirBnB, Uber, etc.) of customers and providers as well as third party protection a book and pay interface provides, services are only going to become more popular online. Shopping carts may not have the same interface that we all understand now but we’ll be able to pay for things online we only dreamed of even a few years ago. In five years, we’ll all know what an online shopping cart for services looks like and be able to draw that too.

But sooner than that, I’ll have goats grazing in my yard while someone delivers my groceries and I have an online therapy session…in the same afternoon. I won’t lie, I am excited about this day. Mainly because of the goats.

If you’re a service provider, how do you plan on integrating any of these type of services into your business plan? 
If you’re a customer, how has using these services been of value to you?

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 Stuff Online: Events

SellingShizOnline

 

In our first couple blog posts of the series, we discussed the basics of online sales and what to consider when selling products. Selling tangible objects seems pretty straightforward, but what if your business a) is a venue, like a community center or stadium, or b) puts on a certain amount of events (or, as I like to call them, funtivities) each year? It’s not the same as selling a physical product on an ecommerce site. I only recently began to appreciate the many considerations of online booking when working on booking for Anchorspace this past month.

1) How does booking work? 

There are two ways we can think about online scheduling. Option 1 is a “Class” event (there is a set number of attendees in one space). Say you’re a higher education institution or a local YMCA. You have multiple instructors offering all sorts of classes at various times, or just one or two classes going every six months. Or, maybe you’re a business like us, and offer a workshop once or twice a year that has roughly 30 spaces open. With this type of scheduling, you want the registration to stop once you reach the desired number of participants. At Anchorspace, for instance, there are 4 desk spaces available to daily users. It’d be inconvenient (and not to mention confusing) to have people signing up for the space even after the four person limit.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.49.51 AM

A “Class” type event. 

The other event type is a “Booking”- perhaps a “book now” situation for car maintenance or a haircut, or renting a bowling alley for a birthday party. This is more about attributing a certain time slot with a certain place/person, regardless of numbers. As the business, you don’t need to sell a ticket to each individual coming to the bowling alley birthday party- you just need to indicate to others that it’s already being used at that time. An example: the conference room at Anchorspace is available for booking every hour. We don’t need to know how many people will be using it (I mean, after 10 people elbow room becomes a concern), just whether or not it’s available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A "Book Now" type event

A “Book Now” type event

Discerning between these types of events will help narrow down the scheduling software that makes the most sense for you (some handle “class” types better than “booking” types).

2) How many people can attend?

Selling tickets for a rural high school’s prom is a slightly different experience than selling tickets to a Patriots playoff game at Gillette Stadium.

If you have tens of thousands of people purchasing tickets through your website, you’ll want to invest some money in a program that can handle that amount of traffic. A smaller venue probably doesn’t need quite as much attention, and can get by without all the complex bells and whistles.

3) How often does this event occur?

Is this a “one and done” event (sports game, New Year’s Eve Party) or recurring (a horse drawn carriage tour that leaves every two hours)? Certain plugins, like Tickera, are intended solely for “one and done” events. Maybe you’ve seen this in action, like a Bonnaroo 2015 site or Wordcamp Boston 2015. These events happen once a year, and often have their own website (though it may be linked to something larger).

Other plugins, like Events Manager, are made for recurring events, or businesses that host multiple events. With Events Manager, you can display a calendar in the widget area in the sidebar, along with your top 5 (or so) upcoming events. The example below is from the Grand Ole Opry. As you might guess, they have an event almost every day, and they have a vast number of users to accommodate in a buyer experience. Their event software is pretty robust and offers different viewing options to cater to the needs of many.

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 9.50.59 AM

4) How does payment work?

Do you want to require people to pay in full at the time of booking, or just hold their card information? (Remember, if you decide to take payment through your website, it’s important to have SSL and a payment gateway in place). Not all plugins integrate with all payment gateways- but there is something called Mijreh, a PCI compliant plugin that links ecommerce systems with payment gateways. As a disclaimer, I’ve never used this plugin, but have seen it referenced in my travels online and thought it worth pointing out.

(Some places may have free events, but since this series is about selling stuff, I’m going to save myself some sanity and neglect such events for now).

All of these questions should help narrow down what you need to look for in event management software. This will also determine how much moneyu you’ll throw down. Most online scheduling software will give you a free month trial to decide whether it’s a good fit for your company’s needs. After that, the pay structure varies. Full Slate, for instance, is around $30/month, but increases an extra $15 for each additional staff member. TicketTailor and Events Manager have a flat yearly rate. Some plugins will take out a certain percentage for commission, so be mindful of that as you’re looking around. Bonus: many offer discounts for non-profits,

Next week, we’ll explore the topic of E-products!

 

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.

Your Guide To Bar Harbor Barter and Swap (And Websites Like It)

To some people in our area, there is an epic Facebook group called ‘Bar Harbor Barter and Swap’. It’s a closed and small group, mainly of people getting rid of random stuff (SCUBA fins!) or looking for random stuff (universal car seat stroller). Two examples from the past hour.

Whether unloading a cactus or buying a trailer, Facebook groups and other online spaces let you get in front of people who can join in your transaction.

Whether unloading a cactus or buying a trailer, Facebook groups and other online spaces let you get in front of people who can join in your transaction.

I’ve learned a few things from buying and selling items on Bar Harbor Barter and Swap… and I think this knowledge may help you on your own local swap/sell group on Facebook, Craigslist, or other online locations where you are wheeling and dealing.

Using the term ‘reasonable offer’ will leave you hanging.

If you post something you are selling and ask for a ‘reasonable’ offer, beware for the sound of crickets. Here’s why.

Clearly you have some notion of what your item is worth (or what you think it’s worth) yet you want the negotiating power that comes from letting someone else say a figure first. You can not have it both ways, my friend. Also from the point of view of the people seeing this, they are afraid their offer isn’t reasonable…so they aren’t going to say anything. So either let people make an offer or communicate your desired price. This ‘reasonable offer’ business helps none of us.

Sellers: Include information like dimensions

Those five pairs of shorts do look cute but I have no idea if I can cram my body into them. Tell me they are a Gap size 4 and people like me can pass and you can spend your time chatting with people who could theoretically fit into them.

We just gave away Derrick’s cactus and included approximate circumference (3 feet) and height of cactus (6 feet) so people would know what they were getting into if they wanted to come pick it up. Don’t make people ask, give them all the information.

Seekers: Include information like what you are willing to pay

I see lots of people seeking objects that no one responds to… but the difference between ‘I am looking for a dishwasher’ and ‘I am looking for a dishwasher that hooks up to my sink for $50 or less’ is significant. If I know you are willing to pay me some money, I might go in my basement and see if my dishwasher would work for you. Also more details makes you more memorable so people can seek items out on your behalf.

Include a link to specs if possible

Including a link to the same product you are selling on Amazon.com or another website. These websites have full product specs and this will save you a lot of duplicate question answering. Especially if you have a technical product (tablet computer, motor, laser printer), include a link to the related product. Bonus: people see how much it would be to buy the thing new… and are much more likely to pay your lower price.

Give me some assurance I am not buying something bad.

So with the cactus post, we put that we were getting rid of it because it is “getting too big for our space”. In truth, it is beginning to take over our small kitchen near the kitchen table and we have no where else to put it. (I know, nothing like having to argue over who has to sit next to the cactus at dinner!)

If you are posting a picture of a printer and you say you’re getting rid of it because you’ve gotten a newer fancier one, that let’s me know I am not buying a hunk of garbage. (Getting rid of kid’s stuff is usually kind of self explanatory that maybe your kids have grown.) ‘Printer works’ is good ‘Printed something last week from my Dell laptop’ is even better. See what specifics can do to give people confidence?

Get second (or third or fourth) in line. 

I’ve been looking for a filing cabinet for months but the idea of buying a new one that I was going to paint bright orange anyway seemed silly. I saw a perfect filing cabinet go by… and someone else had bid on it. I commented ‘Second in line if this doesn’t work out.’ And I got the filing cabinet in the end.

If you see something you like that someone else has dibs on, let the seller know you’d like to be considered if the deal falls through. I think this happens way more often than any of us know.

Know your audience.

There is someone trying to sell a really nice convertible for $8000ish. Problem is we live in a place where there are a ton of dirt roads and snow 8 months of the year (slight exaggeration but you get the idea). If this guy would put this thing on eBay motors or Craigslist, I bet he’d get his asking price.

It’s best to get a feel of the culture of your buying/selling/swapping site first before you post… and if you are in the wrong place, find another where you can get the best price for your efforts. This particular Facebook group seems to do best with transactions at or less than $100 with an occasional exception. Just because a certain website is convenient for you doesn’t mean that’s where your customers are.

I do hope you have some kind of fun distraction in your life like Bar Harbor Barter and Swap. It can help you get rid of the extra crap in your life and occasionally you can buy something you actually need from someone you actually know. I have met some fun people through the site who live near me… a bonus real life benefit in this online world.

And to those of you with some experience in this, is there any tips I might be forgetting?

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.