I wanted to talk today about the three realities that some beginner sellers may forget about when finally taking the plunge into small business. When I started my Etsy store I wasn’t really thinking about all the odds and ends that were extremely important when selling handmade items. I knew what I wanted to sell and how to sell it and even how to photograph it but I missed out on a few little things, that while obvious for some, can be forgotten and cause confusion, disappointment or even the end of your store.
When I started my Etsy store I created my listings, edited my photos to beginner’s perfection (it’s perfection but just a bit less….perfect), and I knew how much I wanted to charge for each and every item. Then I got an order! I was ecstatic, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, I had absolutely NO idea how I was going to ship my little plant hanger and faux plant to this brand new buyer. I never took in mind the fact that I would actually have to send the piece from my little sunroom office across the border into the US. I accounted for shipping costs (I was lucky, I work for a shipping company ) but I never actually put all the pieces together and decided HOW I was going to ship the items to my customers.
Shipping is an important factor in an online business because…well you can’t sell something and then not give your customer their order (I’m pretty sure there are laws against that). Shipping can also be a huge hurdle depending on what it is you are going to ship. Are you going to ship worldwide? Will you offer tracking? Will you add the shipping cost into your product? or will you charge shipping additionally? These are pretty typical but what about the actual packaging? Box or envelope? An envelope lowers your shipping cost (unless you are shipping in Canada..ugh) while a box can offer more security and structure. While I work for a shipping company 9-5 I never took the time to pick my shipping material and test out what my orders would look like packed and ready to go.
Take a moment and pick out your shipping material, try to keep it simple. If you are selling one type of item that is all about the same size, choose one packaging and stick to it. This means you won’t be surprised by the ever changing world of shipping because you decided to switch from one type of packaging to another.
2. You won’t make a sale right away, and that’s okay
If you are like most people, you will have started your online store with minimal pre-marketing. Your social media following will include your friends, family and maybe a few friends of friends that saw your store in their suggested follows. That’s okay! Not everyone is going to start with a huge following and some take longer to build a following than others.
I’ve become more introverted as years have gone by and my instagram following could be so much better, but that is my own fault. Building a social media following is extremely important and can greatly increase your views which could, of course, increase your sales but don’t fret. If you are like me and have chosen to sell on a community platform like Etsy, eBay, Amazon, etc, your customers will come to you for what they are looking for (or not looking for but realized they wanted).
When you enter a selling platform you are entering along with others. This means it may take a bit of time for your listings to pop up to client but it will…I promise! I sell macrame plant hangers, and ornaments and trust me there are a ton of others that do the same but I will offer you this piece of advise. Find a way to make your pieces stand out from others. I have recently decided that I want to reach the millennials and Gen-Z audience. VSCO girls that are trying to show off their aesthetic or boho babes that blog and Instagram for a living. How do I reach their gaze? I edit my photos the way they do and use them as my thumbnails for my Etsy postings. I use the VSCO app to edit my photos and try to create the feel of the lifestyle I’m aiming at. I shoot a full scene rather than just the item I am selling. I wanted to find a way to make my photos pop against a wash of pristine white backgrounds or crisp, perfectly set flats.
You may not sell any items right away but stay true to what you are doing. Post on your socials and tell all your friends about your products. You’re not an MLM so you don’t have to feel bad about pushing your products, you are working hard to make them and your friends could be free marketing for you.
3. You’re going to spend a lot of time working, and working, and working.
It goes without saying that creating an online store (whether in a selling community or not) will take a large amount of work. My Etsy store thrives when I’m updating my listings, posting on my Facebook page and instagram and updating my store details. These things take time and effort and while it can of course be planned out in a weekend or so, you want to make sure you are giving your shop ample time. Creating new products is just a small part of the process and while that too can take a lot of time it’s always good to remember that marketing and outreach are equally important.
Try scheduling out your social media posts and any Etsy updates. You do not need to think of the exact post per-say but think of the theme you want use for the week, this will help you plan out your social media. For instance, if your idea is new and exciting you can post some of your new products but also how to use your products and why they are a great addition to anyones home.
Running a shop can be extremely exhilarating and it worth every moment for anyone wanting to give it a try. Just be really aware and don’t make the mistakes I made. Jump in prepared to share your hobby.