Saturday, April 09, 2011
The Business Chat - Behind the scene work
Recently I met a friend for coffee because she was buzzing with excitement and wanted my advice on her new venture. My friend makes jewelry but hasn’t had much success in selling it. She was convinced that this was it, she had the most brilliant idea and the money was going to roll in like crazy. Heck, she was talking about hiring help. Her idea? She was going to set up an Etsy shop!!! Well, she wasn’t going to set it up because unfortunately she’s not really good with computers and refuses to learn, can’t take photos and hates to write. She was going to be partners with a painter, he would do the computer work and she’d ship all the orders. Their shop would have both paintings and jewelry. Oy vey. Much as I try to encourage people I had to rain on her parade before she did something dumb like hiring staff. The reason she has not had much success in the 8 years she’s been making jewelry is because that’s all she does – make jewelry. Making jewelry, or paintings, or sweaters, or wooden toys is the easy and fun part. Selling it is work. Very. Hard. Work. In order to sell successfully either online or offline you must market your work. You must have a strong brand. You need great photos. You need to write about your work. Sometimes you have to advertise. You have to run a business. These things take time and there are no short cuts. I am a full-time glass bead artist and jewelry designer. I make a “living” doing this. For every one hour I spend making work I spend four hours running a business to sell this work. If I didn’t put those four hours in then there’s no point in even spending that one hour making it as I won’t have any sales. My friend wanted to start on online business without having any knowledge of what was involved. She has only been on Etsy once to look for supplies. (Now that shocked me, a crafter who doesn’t look at other artists?) Her reason for jumping on the bandwagon is because she read about it in the newspaper and thought she would hit the jackpot. The article talked about a couple of sellers who were making a full time living online. What the article didn't talk about was the 398,000 who weren't. My advice to her was to do the market research. If you are contemplating a major step such as beginning an Etsy shop you have to know what Etsy is. You need to see who you’re competitors are. Spend a lot of hours looking at the site and checking out your competition. See how they style their photos, look at their pricing, look at their sold items and see what is selling. Read the Etsy forums and get some advice. Network within the forums and make friends. Check to see how the top sellers are marketing themselves, are they blogging, facebooking, tweeting, advertising, what do they do to drive traffic to their site? Opening an online shop is just like opening a bricks-and-mortar shop, you wouldn’t open without doing the research to see what the neighbourhood is like, what your competition is doing and if it’s financially viable. My second piece of advice for her was to ditch the idea of a partnership. To sell you need to have a strong brand and it must stand on it’s own. YOU are what is selling just as much as your work, going in with someone else just dilutes the flavour. If you need help because you don’t have all the skills then get help, hire it or learn it. Running a micro crafty business involves a lot of time being the little engine that could, you just keep chugging along, instead of “I think I can” I like to think of it as “I know I can”. And then do more work.