• Category Archives Selling on etsy
  • Thursday Thoughts – A Plan and a Painting

    First a Painting

    From Chiropractor’s Wall to Collector’s Wall

    You might remember me telling about a painting that I reclaimed from my chiropractor’s office because I felt it wasn’t being displayed satisfactorily.  While I put it there in the hopes that someone waiting for massage or adjustment might see it and decide to buy it, it was never hung in a very visible place.  The place it was displayed was only being seen by people on their way for x-rays, which at a chiropractor’s office is usually only for your first visit.  Well, I reclaimed the painting and put it up in the studio where everyone who came in could see it, and it finally sold. Only it didn’t sell as a result of being seen in the studio.  It sold from my etsy shop to a collector in California.

    This was great encouragement for me, because while I’ve sold prints and T-shirts, cards, and hand painted glassware.  It has been a while since I sold an original painting, and it was making me wonder if it was ever going to happen again.

    Koi fish
    My Koi Pond is off to its new home.

    I just packaged this painting last night and got in the mail today, it should be arriving at its new home next week sometime.

     

    Next, a Plan

    Log it, track it, write it down and add it up.

    So, in my last post I shared about how I didn’t keep track of financials as they happened, and it is causing much delay in filing my business taxes.  Well, I am not making the same mistake in 2017, I am keeping a running ledger, so I will always know at a glance what shape I am in financially.

    While I don’t plan to make up for previous years’ losses, I don’t want losses in 2017.  So, unless the expense is unavoidable, like a bill that is due and can’t be delayed, I will not spend money on my art, or classes, or studio, unless I am in the black.  I have a pretty good start to 2017 already, January I came out $25 in the black, and now with a sale in February I am looking to probably ending February in the black too, by at least as much as January, so the two will accumulate to being at least $50 in the black for the year so far.

    Now of course if I am in the middle of a painting and need a certain color of paint I’ll probably buy it regardless of financials, but a lot of my spending in 2016 were not things I needed right then, a lot of it was because this store or that one was having a great deal on canvases or paints that would likely come in handy later.  Since I didn’t really know I was operating in the red, I went ahead and bought things that I didn’t even really need for a project right then.

    Well no more.  From now on if it is discretionary it will only be purchased if my art business is in the black by enough to cover it.  My goal for 2017 is to at least come out even financially in my art business.  Now, that might not seem like much of a financial plan, but its a start.  Sure it would be great to turn a nice profit, but I love doing art, and if all it does is pay for itself, I will be pretty satisfied.

    One good thing about all the supplies I purchased in 2016, I have plenty stashed up to start 2017 without spending much.  Yes, there may be an occasion here or there where I need something specific, but for the most part I have enough supplies to do almost any art project I might want to do.  If I buy anything at all in the coming year it would likely be paints as I run out.  I have canvases everywhere. I might have to buy more of the economy canvases for my classes at some point, but not right away, and as for the canvases for my personal use, I have more than I think I could possibly use in one year.

    So, I don’t think curtailing my spending is going to curtail my creating of art at all.

     


  • Tips on Tuesday, Keep Track as You Go

    Book keeping nightmare.

    I’m late filing my business taxes this year.  Why? Because I saved all the figuring until the end of the year.  I saved receipts to track expenses, but didn’t add them up month to month.  That means I had to get them all added up in the month of January, with my husband’s help I managed.

    The Department of Revenue wants a lot of detail.

    Then there was income, some sales through etsy, some through the co-op, some independently, some parties/classes through the studio, some independently.  Etsy keeps a good record for me, the co-op told me how much I made through them, but didn’t divide it into sales and classes, which I need to know apparently.  The wonderful bookkeeper  for the co-op is looking into it for me, and soon I’ll know what I need to know.  You see, every painting I make and sale has to be reported as “manufactured goods”, every sale I make through etsy or independently has to be reported as “retail sales”, every sale I make through another entity such as a consignment shop or co-op, my share of that income gets reported as “wholesale”. On top of that I need to know which of the sales I made myself apart from the co-op were made locally or out of state, through etsy.

    This isn’t for income taxes, this is to pay the sales tax on the items I sold at retail in state, and the Business and Occupations tax, and the out of state sales have to kept track of separately in order to not be charged sales tax on them.  Income taxes will be another monster to tackle down the road, but getting the report on taxable income from this first business filing is necessary in order to file my income taxes.

     

    A Ledger would have let me know what I could afford.

    Another thing that keeping track as I go would have told me is that I was spending too much.  I thought maybe I had actually shown a profit this year, but I didn’t.  I spent far too much on supplies.  Now, a lot of those supplies are still usable this year, so maybe next time around I’ll see a profit… but if I started keeping track month to month, I could try to make sure that there was a balance happening, and curtail spending when a profit wasn’t likely.

    So that is my tip for this Tuesday, keep a ledger as you go!

     


  • Looking Back, Planning Forward

    Looking Back over 2016

    For Me 2016 was a Pretty Good Year

    I know that 2016 was a tumultuous year for many in the U.S.A. and was a controversial one politically.  However, on a personal level, and an artistic level, it was a pretty good year for me.

    I have continued taking part in ArtSLAM studio, and have taught a lot of painting classes there, I’ve also taught one class off site, on my own.  The sales of my art has increased considerably, both because of ArtSLAM and because of implementing good SEO strategies for my Etsy Shop.  Now, I don’t yet know if my art income has been greater than my expenditure for the year, but I believe there is a pretty good chance that it has been, and if so, it will have been the first time since I started trying to sell me art.  Even if I didn’t actually profit, I know that at the very least, my losses will be far less this year than ever before, but I do believe that I actually profited a little.

    On a personal level, circumstances that some would see as negative have actually allowed me to grow much closer to my granddaughter than would have normally been possible, so I see it as a positive thing.

     

    There’s Always Room for Improvement

    All in all its been a pretty good year.  Of course though, there are some areas that could have been better.

    In the area of my health, I just haven’t been diligent in eating healthy and exercising, so I’ve regained weight that I had previously lost. Along with the weight regain, problems with my ankles and feet have started resurfacing.  In addition to that I injured my right arm quite unexpectedly, when all I was doing was tuning a radio!  I reached out, tuned the radio, and then, as I was pulling my arm back to my lap, I heard a pop and felt intense pain in my elbow.  My arm hasn’t been the same since, and according to my chiropractor/physical therapist, I have tennis elbow.  With the exercises he gave me for it, it has gotten considerably better, but I still can’t straighten my arm fully, and its been over six months since I injured it.  Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but if I have to lift something heavy, or extend my arm too far, it hurts. Also, if I paint for hours, like I used to, it starts to ache.  As long as I take breaks and stretch the elbow now and then, and as long as I don’t try to lift anything with an extended arm, its okay though.

    Financially, my family really hasn’t kept a budget, also we had to have our roof replaced, and we need a new septic system.  So our debt is growing.

    As for the business side of my art, while I’ve done much better with my etsy shop and with finding ways to earn, I need to get better about keeping my books as I go, so I don’t have to do it all at year-end.  I also really need to do a better job of keeping up my website and blogs.  I also have a lot of new art that has never been uploaded to either site.

     

    Planning Ahead for 2017

    Goals for 2017

    Well, enough looking back. Now for the planning forward part of this post!

    My goals for 2017 are pretty straight forward responses to the issues I noted above.

    1. I want to eat healthier and exercise regularly. To that end I plan to once again begin logging my food on MyFitnessPal starting on January 3rd. I’ve already started walking more regularly because I’ve started walking a dog for pay.  In addition I am going to start slowly adding more walks by walking my own dogs.  I’m adding those additional walks slowly because of the problems with my feet and ankles, and because my dogs, especially my elderly dog Spunky, are out of shape and need to  slowly work up to regular exercise.
    2. I want my family to start figuring out a budget to implement, to that end, starting today I’m keeping track of what we spend at the grocery stores, for gasoline, at other stores, and online.  That way, we can figure out a starting point, and start trying to make improvements.  My goal is to have a budget on paper or computer ready to implement by March.  That doesn’t mean we won’t do anything until March, for January and February we are tracking, so we can figure out where we stand and which areas we might be able to cut back on.
    3. I want to continue fine-tuning my etsy shop SEO, and I want to get my newer art works uploaded to both my website and my Etsy shop.  To that end I am going to try to check each week to see if I need to make any changes to existing listings, or to add a listing.  One or two listings a day, either uploading a new one or fine tuning and existing one, and just be consistent in doing something with it at least two times each week.
    4. I want to start keeping my blogs up.  Especially the blog attached to my art website, but also my personal blog. To that end I want to begin posting on each of my blogs at least once a week.

    The Ultimate Blog Challenge

    To kick off this blogging year, I have once again joined the Ultimate Blog Challenge.  For the next 31 days, I will post something every day.  Now, most of the time it will be on my art blog, but I may occasionally post on one of other two blogs instead,which are my personal and weight loss blog, and my devotional blog.


  • A Few Tips for Using Etsy as a Selling Tool

    There are a lot of pros and cons to using etsy as a selling tool, rather than just selling directly from ones own website, but I’m not going to outline those right now.  Someday I probably will switch over to having a shopping cart on my website instead of going through etsy, but at this time the convenience of etsy’s shopping cart and calculated shipping are working for me while I try to find the best wordpress plug in  to take its place.

    In case you are also using etsy, or thinking about using etsy, I thought it might to share with you some tips I’ve learned.  I learned some of these tips through trial and error, and others through online courses.  I’m not offering this as a full course, instead, I’m condensing it and just passing on what I’ve found most helpful so far.

    You can’t just post it thoughtlessly

    So you’ve made a necklace, or a painting, or knitted a hat, or made any other kind of handmade item you want to sell, and everyone tells you, “Oh that’s great!  You should sell on etsy!”

    So you go to etsy and open an account, and start your store.  Next you take your item, lets say for now its a knitted hat, you see that etsy asks you to post at least one picture, you put your hat down on your table, and snap a picture of it, then you upload the picture.  You see that etsy allows more than one photograph, but you figure one is good enough.  You see that the next step to uploading an item is to enter a title.  You type the words “Knitted Hat”, you figure out the categories and the pricing and enter those, then its time to make a description.  You’ve already told them its a knitted hat, so you look at it try to figure out what else to say.  Its a green hat so you decide to describe it as a “Green knitted hat”  You then decide that maybe you should mention the crocheted flower you attached to your knitted hat, so you edit your description to say, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower on rim”.

    Then you move on.  You are asked to enter tags. So you tag it as “hat”, “knitted”, “accessories”, and “women’s fashions”.

    You are asked to enter the materials used, You enter “Yarn”, then you think better of it and decide to specify, “Green acrylic yarn”, “pink acrylic yarn”.

    You figure out the shipping options, see that the other stuff is optional, so you skip it, then you publish and wait for your hat to sell.  Four months later, your listing expires, and you wonder if its worth renewing it, because according to your stats it only got a few views, and you don’t understand why, its a very attractive hat, the yarn you chose is durable, known for retaining its shape, and is even machine washable, its been cold out, so people should be looking for warm hats.  You decide to give it another go and renew it, and four months later the same scenario ensues, except now its spring and no one is in the market for winter hats anymore.  You abandon your shop and wonder how anyone ever sells anything on etsy.

     

    How to make an etsy listing that will get seen

    So lets look at this, and go through this listing process again, and see how you could have listed your lovely hat in a way that would have gotten some views at least.

     

    The pictures

    Okay, so the first thing you come to when creating an etsy listing is the place to post photos.  What you need to remember about your photos is that need to showcase your item in such as a way as to grab attention.  A hat laying on a table or desk looks, to most people, like clutter.  Like someone forgot to put their hat away.   You can improve the appearance by maybe putting a some boxes or blocks down to lean the hat on, and then cover those with a table cloth in a complimentary color to the hat, or a color such as white or brown that will show it off without clashing.  Set a vase with some flowers in it next to it… prop the hat up on the boxes behind it, get down on eye level, and take the picture.  Now, at least the photo is interesting.

    But wait!  Is there an even better way to showcase this hat?  Sure there is!  Get a friend to put the hat on, go outside in the cold, in some place that shows the season in the background, (for example fall leaves, or if its winter, near a fence or tree that has snow on it).  Have your friend turn to an attractive angle that shows the flower on the hat, and take a couple of photos, one should be close up on her head to show the hat in detail, in another maybe she could be holding a snowball as if she’s going to throw it, in the next maybe sprinkle a light dusting of snow onto the hat and a little on her hair and take another closeup, with her looking like she’s laughing.  Now upload that series of photos to etsy.

    What if you can’t find a friend willing to do this, or its not snowing where your live, or its still summer and you’re getting your listing ready for fall and winter so NOTHING outside looks like its the right season.  Okay, there are ways around all of that.

    A wig head can wear your hat, its probably best if its not a white Styrofoam wig head though, because we might surround it with white stuff, they sell black velvet covered wig heads at a lot of craft stores, if you can get one of those that’s great, or one that is made to look more real, with the skin, face and eyes colored in.

    Now, take some quilt batting and spread it out on your table to look like snow, put the hat on the wig head, dig out your Christmas stuff and find some fake evergreen or holly to set around on the quilt batting. Now take your pictures.  Or, if you had to use a white wig head, maybe you could go with a more fall like setting, put down a festive fall tablecloth, surround the wig head with some fall decor like gourds, colorful leaves, ornamental corn.

    Whatever you do with the background, make it look interesting and related to you item in some way, take photo.  Now slightly rearrange everything and take a photo from a different angle.  In a couple of the photos maybe drape the hat instead of using the wig head.

    Now, make sure that you are taking your photos in good lighting, outdoor lighting, but not in direct sunlight is best to show the true colors of all you items.  Upload you photos, pick the most eye-grabbing one and move it to the first spot, adjust the thumbnail to best showcase the item.

    As an example of some of these principles, look at my featured photo of my T-shirt above, now, does that photo look better, or would a photo of the shirt draped over a table look better?  Which one makes you want to buy the shirt, and which one makes you think of laundry?  😉

    The etsy title

    I’m going to give you a little disclaimer, there is a lot of disagreement about what makes a good etsy title.  Some say keep it short and descriptive,  easy on the eye.

    What I learned from a few of the most successful etsy shops though is this, make your title include as many keywords as you can, and separate those keywords and phrases by commas, because they are also going to be your tags a little later on.

    Now, what do I mean by keywords and phrases?  Well, for our hat it would look something like this.

    Knitted hat, knitted green beanie, hat with flower, machine washable hat, warm winter hat, women’s winter wear, pink green flowers.

     

    Item Description

    Okay, before you get to the description you’ll answer some questions about who made the item, when it was made, what it is for, what category you want it listed in, the price, etc.  I’ll let you figure those out because they are fairly self explanatory.

    For the actual description though, you want to make sure it is short enough that people will read it, interesting, and contains enough information to answer the questions someone might have.

    So, for our hat we might say something like.  “Winter is coming! Get ready for it with it with this lovely pale green knitted beanie that has a feminine pink flower on the rim.  This hat is made from machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture wash after wash.  And its also convenient to dry, just lay it flat on a towel and it dries very quickly because the acrylic yarn doesn’t absorb much water to start with.  This hat is a one size fits most adult hat, it stretches so it can fit hat sizes ranging from small to extra large without any struggle.”

    Now, if you have other items on etsy that might go with this hat, say a pair of mittens in a matching color you can add, pair this hat with the mittens found at _______________ (insert etsy listing link), to stay even warmer this winter!

    A few tips on your description.

    Include as many of your keywords and phrases into it as you can without sounding silly.

    Link to other listings in your shop if they relate to this listing in any way, for example, hats in other colors, mittens in accompanying colors, a scarf that would go nicely with the hat, etc, also make those descriptions link back to this one when you are done.

    Try to anticipate questions someone might have about the item, and try to answer them.

    Make it sound good.  Which of these two descriptive phrases sounds best: “synthetic yarn” or, “machine washable acrylic yarn that is excellent in its ability to retain its shape and soft texture was after wash”?  Try to think like the customer and how each phrase would sound to you.

     

    The etsy tags

    After your description you will set up your shipping options, shop section, and various things like that which are fairly self explanatory, but the next item which most people need help with is the tags.

    The first tags you should list will be exactly the same as your title, just copy your title, paste it in the tags, and click “add”.  If you broke your title up into short phrases with commas between like we described above, each phrase will now be a separate tag.

    Now, after pasting the title into the tags field, you will find you have room left for some more tags, in the case of our hat, if you used the title above, we have room for six more tags.  Now you need to think of 6 more descriptive phrases for the hat, you want to use all the tags you’re allowed, because tags along with keywords in your title and description, is how the etsy search engine finds your listing.  This is tricky, so here I’ll share with you a tool you can use here, and in creating your titles.

    Use Marmalead

    Go to http://marmalead.com and sign up for the free version.  In the search field at the top of the marmalead page you’ll type in a quick description of your item.  For example, “Green knitted hat with pink crochet flower”.  It will search etsy and find similar items scroll past the “matching items” down to the section that says, “tags used”.  You can then use the arrows to sort these various ways.  First sort for the ones that have the best rank, a good rank number is small, for instance, if a tag ranks as “1” it means that if you search that phrase on etsy it comes up on page one, so with rank, the lower the number the better.

    The next part of the marmalead site to use is the “views/item”, use the arrow to sort that so that the highest numbers show on top.  This will show you which tags resulted in the most views.

    Get some tags from both the lower ranking numbers and the high views sections.  Low ranking numbers are good because people will only click through a few pages when looking for something, however a low ranking number can also be deceptive because it might just means that no one else uses that tag, so if you search specifically for that tag, only that one item matches so it comes up first.  In that case you need to look at the tag and think about how likely it is that someone is actually going to search that term.

    The “views/item” with a high number means the items with that tag is getting a lot of actual views, so obviously people are searching relevant terms for that tag.

    By getting some of your tags from the lower ranking numbers and some from high view numbers, you hedging your bets and increasing the chances of your item ending up on pages 1-5 of some shoppers search.  If you can find tags that are both relevant to your item, with high views and a low ranking, that is most definitely a tag you want to use!

     

    Materials

    In the materials field list your materials, keep in mind some hints from the description field, “machine washable acrylic yarn” sounds better to me than just “synthetic yarn” or “acrylic yarn”.

     

    Other fields

    Next you have fields for “occasion”, “style”, and “recipient”.

    If there is a gift-giving holiday coming up select it from the “occasion” field, of course if your item is a wedding cake topper, you’d select “weddings” and if it was a happy birthday banner you’d select “birthday”, but if your item isn’t strictly related to a specific event, you can pick whatever the next gift giving occasion is, and if nothing suitable is coming up you can leave it blank for now.  You can always come and change these fields later as another holiday or gift giving occasion draws near.

    If the item fits into a specific style, select that from the style fields.

    If your item is very clearly for one type of recipient, for instance, “women” or “teen girls”, select that from the recipient field.  If it really would be fine for anyone, just leave that blank.

     

    Now publish your listing.

    A few more etsy tips

    A few more tips for etsy that arent’ specifically about how to create a listing.

    List or renew frequently

    Etsy’s search engines favor new or newly renewed listings.  So if you have 50 items items on etsy they shouldn’t all renew the same day, try to stagger the renewal times out.  Each etsy listing lasts four months, approximately 120 days, so ideally you’d have at least 120 items with at least one item renewing each day, that way there always fresh or freshly renewed content on your shop, but you are never paying to renew an item before it expires.

    As you set your items up, if you choose to have them auto renew, then once you get enough items listed, one per day, they will renew one at a time as well, so that your shop always looks active to etsy’s search engines.

     

    List a lot.

    Shops with more listings are favored by etsy’s search engines.  Etsy itself is a business, and etsy makes its money not only when someone buys something, but also when each seller lists or renews something.  It makes sense that etsy favors the sellers that “contribute” more to etsy’s bottom line by listing a lot of stuff and renewing often.

    Aside from the search engines, think from a shoppers point of view.  Your etsy shop is your store front.  How would you feel if you walked into your local clothing store and they only had three items in the store?  Would you come back?  Shoppers feel the same way if they come to your etsy shop and see three items.

     

    Sales generate more sales

    Etsy’s search engines also favor shops that make sales, so run all your sales through etsy.  Get the “Sell on etsy” app for your smart phone, now, when you are out selling somewhere else, such as a farmer’s market, or even at home with a friend.  Run your sale through etsy.  It counts as an etsy sale and so will help generate other etsy sales. Yes, it costs you some fees that it wouldn’t cost if you sold in person without the etsy app, but think of that as advertising money, a way to increase your sales over the long hall.