Ok, folks. For the first time since I joined Etsy, I finally got down to see the Forum bit. And I found a number of topics that got me thinking that I probably should say something on the matter. So, I did. Also I'm posting tweaked articles on the matter here so you can have the benefit of having it to hand, so to speak.
Why would one consider selling online/on Etsy? And what advice would you give them?
When I decided to sell jewellery I was making, selling in a local craft shop wasn't an option as I lived in London and there aren't that many (if any) local craft shops - small places for local artists that are happy to take just a few pieces. Setting up a website and selling online seemed a much better option. Tried my own website, but it's rather a lot of work (and a work in progress at the moment). Tried Ebay, but fees are extortionate and the listings don't last long enough for them to get notices. You also have to pay rather a lot to have a shop. Also, on Ebay people expect to get a bargain. Not exactly encouraging to anyone who puts lots of care into something they're doing. Compared to my own website and Ebay, Etsy's been great. Took me a while to get the shop looking decent and figure out policies, photos etc, and it's still ongoing, but low listing fees, templates, and just the whole thing of all the craft related items in one place is encouraging, inspiring and very helpful.
If someone already 'sold in craft fairs or gallery or in boutiques but have not yet ventured online' I would highly recommend Etsy. It's a great way to reach people all over the world and widen the circle of people who like what you're creating without having to go bankrupt. It can also provide good testing ground for any experimental designs or anything you're not quite sure about. Who knows, we all have different tastes and in such a wide community as offered by Etsy there's more chance of coming across a much wider range of likes.
There's also certain anonymity for buyers - they can browse no end without having to be asked if they need any help. As a buyer I just love this aspect of shopping online and as a seller I'm quite happy not to have to be physically present when anyone comes to my shop.
The 'hump' of selling online would be getting your things noticed. I hate doing any marketing and I was quite resistant to revealing anything personal. I hate talking about myself or anything I do. So Profile, Descriptions, Policies, blog do not come easy. But I'm very happy to chat to people online once they contact me or there is a topic I like. For any new seller I would advise to go for it. Put where you are - Location. Put something in the Profile - I don't have my birthday date on but I do have an astrological sign and that gives a certain position in a year. I don't like it when I come to a profile of a person I'm thinking buying from and there's no Femail or Male and not even an approximate date of birth. It's not asking much, but this is a community place and one likes to know the kind of people one is dealing with. This is the difference between buying from a physical and online shop - in a physical you buy something then and there, buying online takes having some trust between buyer and seller. It goes both ways, but especially when someone departs with their money.
Ok. New sellers. If you're shy, don't be. Took me long time to overcome this one. Get exploring the place you're selling in. Etsy's got great community and there is so much inspiration. I keep on looking at the jewellery in physical shops and I just find it rather dull and same. And so with many other items. Get exploring Etsy and it will enrich your own style.
Photos. That's a huge one. I've been doing photography for a while, but not 'product' photos. Figuring out how to photograph small and large things close up with all the colours being right takes me a long time (and it's ongoing). I was looking at some professional equipment, but in the end I'm not a big business with unlimited expenses. So, what I'd recommend, especially to those who are just starting out or thinking about it and really don't have much of a means is: the likelihood is that you already have a decent (mid-range) digital camera. If not then you probably need to get one anyway. It probably already has a zoom and a few features. Experiment. I found that the best photos of jewellery I can make are in the light just after sunrise when there is no glare from the sun. As any painter would be aware, light coming from the north is also good. Take photos in different light, on different backgrounds and at different distances and in different formats. Also, I've notices that there are a lot of sellers with blurry photos - don't hold camera just in your hands, lean against or on something so that your hands and the camera you're holding are not moving. If you have a tripod, that's great. Try to take photos of the 'complete' item - most of the items have more than one dimension.
If I knew anyone who would benefit from selling online, I'd direct them straight to Etsy. As someone based in UK I'm quite aware that most of the sellers on Etsy are in US and also most of the buyers, but it is growing, and I do hope that there will be more sellers from UK and Europe - some items are just too expensive to order from overseas, like pottery, which I absolutely love, but all those postage costs do add up and I would love to buy from someone closer to where I live.
Right. Postage costs. That's also one of the big issues of selling and buying online. Shipping/postage rates is something any new seller has to calculate. I hate high postage costs myself, and they do depend on the items you're selling. Weight, how they should be packed etc. The advice would be to keep them down as much as possible. Do take into account that you're paying for the packaging, and any expenses involved in trips to the post office as well, but I really don't like when sellers don't offer decent discount on any additional items purchased. I know myself that it doesn't take that much to include additional items in the package.Do offer a returns policy. I think a lot of new sellers are worried about a buyer returning the item if they don't like it. I don't have large enough margins to compensate for this sort of thing, that would put prices up, but I do rely on the quality of items I make and the photos and descriptions. Provided you do not deceive the buyer and offer honest and accurate information about what you're selling, you're unlikely to have items returning.
Do be attentive to any customer concerns. Even if you don't have much time, it doesn't take long to check your emails and reply to people within 24 hours.
Ok. I think that's my ranting done on this topic. Hope it helps to anyone thinking about joining Etsy community. The more people joining Etsy the merrier!
There were lots of other replies, some went on about some business strategy and sales strategy and how selling online was part of their bigger plan - these made me cringe. I thought I was hearing suits from a business academy talking. They were soooo business-like and to some degree 'cold' and 'professional'.
The point I did like in someone else's reply, and somehow overlooked in mine, was that selling on Etsy allowed families that live long distances apart to come together. If you create anything and post it on Etsy, your family, whereever they are can see what you're up to. Now, that's a great way to use an online shop!
Ok, this is not a promotion of Etsy. I sell on Etsy, but I'm not sooking up to them. This is my experience and I hope that you can use it. It would have been great if someone told me these things when I began - I would not have bothered with Ebay (and would have saved a fortune!).
Good luck everyone!