5 Things I’ve learned in My First Year on Etsy

One year. 365 days. 525,600 minutes (RENT fans, you’re welcome.) Can’t believe it!

Even though I originally opened my shop in November of 2014, I was flying under the radar, relying solely on Etsy’s SEO and Pinterest to make sales – until May of 2015 that is! That’s when I finally mustered up the courage to go public with my shop and open social media channels, add new products, and heavily focus on making it happen. Since that decision, a lot has happened and I have learned many valuable lessons in all areas from customer service, to operations, to social media, etc. Here are 5 of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year:

  1. Pictures, pictures, pictures! This is an obvious one, but trust me when I tell you that most Etsy sellers *think* they have good pictures, but we really don’t notice how bad (or average) they are until we do! I’m part of a few discussion forums where I’ve participated in exchanges about many topics, including pictures, and we’ve all massively helped each other better position our items, learn about lighting, etc. My pictures have dramatically changed since I first started out, and trust me when I tell you I thought I was doing a good job, and then I realized how bad they were. Exhibit A:
    Left: Original pictures  Right: Proof that evolution exists

    Left: Original pictures
    Right: Proof that evolution exists

    The picture on the left was the worst of my bunch, but there are no words to explain how I thought that would be good. At the time, I always took my pictures at night with bad lighting, using my “Frosty” colored corrugated wall as a backdrop, flash photography, and weird angles. AND I THOUGHT I WAS KILLING IT. I have nothing to say for myself.

    PRO TIP: Take advantage of all the communities out there, and get feedback on everything you can. You may be a one-man-show like me, but there are so many people willing to help or give quick advice that will make all the difference.

  2. Planning ahead and organization is everything. I’m pretty OCD and I love Excel sheets (really, I do), but when it comes to a self-run business, you really need to be aware of all of your activities/responsibilities, the time it takes you to complete them, the ROI (return on investment) from everything (are you sure you’re spending your time appropriately considering how it converts into sales?), and do as much ahead of time as you can. I’m the type of person who does really well under pressure, and that makes me consciously procrastinate, but unfortunately, I also get “moods” during which I don’t particularly enjoy to craft, and those can last weeks. So doing things ahead of time is very helpful, so that when I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. Also, everything is much harder than it looks, so you will realize that you need more time to do things well until it becomes second nature.
  3. The customer is… an interesting individual. I am happy to say that the bulk of my sales come from total strangers on Etsy, and I’ve come across so many interesting characters that I could honestly write a whole book about. Customer service has always been my priority from the get-go, so I really try to do my best with each order, but that’s not to say that things are sometimes out of your hands and you just have to deal. The majority of my customers have been super nice, and about a third of them have left me great reviews. A portion of them I’ve had little to no interaction with. And a few have been a little more work than the rest. It’s all part of the game, and you just have to play along and hope for the best result, but definitely don’t let it get personal. I let one order in particular get the best of me and it was about a month of feeling crappy 24/7. Not fun. Try your best to separate your work and craft from your personal life and feelings.
  4. Be your own customer. This one has always been obvious to me and I’ve tried to use it in every sense, but it’s always good to analyze every “front of the house” aspect of your business from the customer perspective. For social media, would you ‘like’ the picture you just posted if it came up in your feed? For SEO, would you search for the item you’re posting using those words? For customer service, would you be pleased with the way you’re treating the buyer if that were you? Always do things thinking of the customer and how you’d respond in their place.
  5. Learn, implement and evolve! We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing is more constant than change,” so we need to be sure that we’re evolving with the trends and that our products remain attractive and innovative. Also, something I’m proud of myself for doing this past year is I’ve participated in many workshops (online and in person), free and paid, and I’ve learned a lot of different things that I’ve implemented wherever possible and I’ve definitely seen results from most of them. Information selling is a big thing right now, so a lot of people are putting out content for free to entice you to buy, and it’s always worth looking into. If you learn one thing you didn’t know before, it’s worth it!

I could’ve told you these things a year ago because a lot of it is common sense, but it’s one thing to “know” something broadly, and another to truly live it and see the relevance of following through.

Do you sell your crafts? Are you in business by yourself? What have you learned since launching that you had an idea about or wish you knew before starting out? Comment below!

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Entrepreneurship, Empowerment and Being a Shark: Women’s Business Symposia, Presented by Chase

I’ve had the chance to attend a number of educational workshops, retreats, and seminars throughout my life, and regardless of the size or nature of the event, I’ve always walked away with a few nuggets of information that impact my actions and decisions at some point down the line. Whether focused on leadership, communications, or any other important topic, there are just some events that stand out to me more than others based on the organization, content, agenda and flow, and the Women’s Business Symposia presented by Chase is DEFINITELY one of them.

Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get home to write this blog about the event, that’s how good it was! Let me take you through the basics:

– These Chase #WoBiz events are annual and tour around the US. This Broward one was the last stop for 2015.

– The invitation promised “an evening of insight and inspiration” with a keynote by Inventor, Entrepreneur, QVC Regular and Shark Tank Investor Lori Greiner; a panelist discussion featuring successful female business leaders, and a women-centric experiential networking reception.

– That’s basically all I knew from beforehand, but seeing Lori in person was a big deal to me because I’m a huge fan of her as well as Shark Tank, and an even bigger kicker: attendance was free!

Starting with the beautiful location of the Diplomat Resort & Spa, the event was set in its inviting and spacious convention center with different areas set up for the multiple sections of the evening, creating a great flow. The registration attendants were very cheery and helpful, and handed us the name tags, which marks the beginning of my mind being blown by the event. These name tags (besides being very nice) had a little pouch in the back with customized business cards they included for all registered attendees with our information in the front, and in the back it said “We met at Women’s Business Symposia” to facilitate the networking portion of the event. This was such a nice touch, and I personally saw a few people that ran out of their own business cards, so this was incredibly thoughtful and one of the many nice points of the night.

WCB WoBiz 1

Name Tag + Red Wine / Pouch in the back / Custom Business Card front / “We met at” back

After being offered wine post-registration (I’ll take a red, thank you very much!) we had a bit of a chance to mingle with some Chase executives, and I met fellow business owners with whom I stuck for the whole event.

Once we were ushered into the keynote and panel room, each chair had a symposia goody bag, holding Lori’s book “Invent it, Sell it, Bank it!” as a gift to all guests. What a treat! Whenever I watch Shark Tank, Lori talks about getting patents so easily, I’ve always wondered what it entails, and this is part of the information she includes in her book. Also, prior to the event I had no idea whether there would be a chance to interact with Lori, but our handy dandy name tags also included the event agenda, where it said Lori would be autographing books later on in the night… Seriously?! My prayers were answered to the 10000th power.

The event kicked off with some words from prominent Chase women, including Teresa Boyd (Market Manager), Jenn Piepszak (CEO of Chase Business Banking) and Laura Miller (President of Business Card for Chase), all with some great insights into the business world, work-life balance, and women in leadership. Afterwards, Laura moderated a panel with three women from different industries who also shared their experiences and advice in such an honest and relatable way that the whole audience was really engaged from start to finish. I live-tweeted some of the quotes that struck a cord with me on my biz account, check them out! FYI the hashtag for the night was #wobiz.

The Panelists: Laura Miller (moderator), Toula Amanna (Founder & CEO, Flashback Diner Chain), Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons (Founder & President, Total Marine Solutions), and Carmen Montalvan (Crowd Favorite, VP & Co-Founder, Montalvan's)

The Panelists: Laura Miller (moderator), Toula Amanna (Founder & CEO, Flashback Diner Chain), Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons (Founder & President, Total Marine Solutions), and Carmen Montalvan (Crowd Favorite, VP & Co-Founder, Montalvan’s)

Then, Lori came to the stage to give her keynote address, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually love her even more now. With great poise and creating lots of opportunities to connect with people in the audience, Lori shared her entrepreneurial story from her very first idea and took us through the process of turning it into a reality, while making some great points about the most important things to keep in mind to succeed in business (a few of which I tweeted as well) and also being extremely honest about the obstacles she faced and how she overcame each one. Lori’s key advice? “You CAN make ANYTHING happen.” That simple. Lori is a firm advocate of a ‘can do’ attitude and never taking no for an answer, but rather always asking “how can it be done?” instead. This concluded the keynote and panel discussion, and gave way to the rest of the night.

With books at the ready, we lined up outside the signing room, and everyone had a chance to get a few seconds of interaction with Lori. She was super graceful, posed for pictures and held as much of a conversation as possible with everyone in line. I exchanged a few words with her and I can’t wait to sit down and read my very own autographed copy of her book!

WCB WoBiz 3

Across the hall, the reception was in full swing and the energy was fantastic. There was great food, an open bar, lots of people mingling and overall a great ambiance. This is where Chase stepped in with a magic wand and made it all even better… At the reception room, you could also:

– Meet Beverly Johnson: American model, actress, and businesswoman who made history when she rose to fame as the first African-American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974.

– Get a mini Spa Treatment at the Contour Day Spa: getting pampered during a networking event? Yes please!

– Get a new headshot: how many of us put off new headshots because of lack of time/money/space/contacts? Chase took care of that, also free of charge!

After mingling, taking a few bites, another few sips, and visiting all the stations around the hall, the event came to a close and it was time to go home. But wait! There’s more!!! To close this beautiful event that didn’t need much more to make everyone in attendance feel special, they handed each and every participant a ‘Thank You’ bouquet as we left. How do they keep topping themselves?

WCB WoBiz 4

Headshot Section / Meeting Beverly Johnson / Thank You Bouquet

Chase absolutely knocked it out of the ballpark with this event, and I am so happy to have been a part of it. From the great content shared to the perfectly timed agenda, I truly see an incredible value in this symposia tour and I can’t wait for 2016!