This post is the second in my ongoing series about being an Etsy shop owner. My previous posts can are: Etsy & The Stay at Home Mom and Six Etsy Tips (an older post).
I don’t know about you, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve made something, shared it on Facebook, and been told, “you could sell that!” The problem is, just because a friend says you could sell it, doesn’t mean people actually will buy it. The art you see in the thousands upon thousands of listings on Etsy isn’t just in the products—it’s also in the creating of something that people will want to buy, and then actually buy.
My shop has definitely changed over time. My earliest products had the focus of being ruffled, fluttered or flowered (my first sale: a rosette clip that my aunt was so sweet to buy). And then I found myself selling a lot of infinity scarves with some of my original style of products mixed in. Eventually I was only really selling the scarves so I stopped worrying about anything else. Finally, I got bored with that, wasn’t keeping up with the current trends, and saw a decrease in customer satisfaction. So I took a break and reopened the shop six months later with a completely different focus.
You can take different approaches to your product line—have a variety of types and styles of items to attract a wider customer base or find your niche and become a leader in one type of item. It’s all about what you personally want to do. Right now I love having a wide variety in my shop—I want customers to feel like they’ve stepped in a boutique on main street in “downtown Etsy.” I personally love looking through all my different items and hope customers do too.
Regardless of which route you take (or if you go back and forth as you find your way), I feel like there are three major aspects to creating your product line: get inspired, create and grow.
I love how easily inspiration can be at our fingertips—Pinterest is a never ending treasure trove, blogs, google, what your friends are talking about on Facebook or Instagram, or even what you find yourself wishing for in everyday life. Keep your eyes and ears open for what people are wanting. Share your process with your friends and keep their feedback in mind as you move forward. Watch what people pin and how they caption it. Get an idea and start searching to see what is already out there. But please, whatever you do, don’t look to other Etsy shops as inspiration. Use them to do market research and test out how much competition you might have, but don’t go looking to see who is selling a lot and recreate their items. It just isn’t nice. Plus, if they have an edge on the market already, it’s going to be really hard to take their customer base away from them.
The best inspiration comes from what people ask for. A while back I posted on Instagram and Facebook a picture of a bunch of zipper pouches I had made (which I haven’t had a single sale of). A friend commented that I should make smaller ones to hold coffee punch cards. I had already made a similar concept (that I personally currently use) that was just a fabric envelope with a button/snap closure (seen HERE), so I let the idea roll around in my mind but wasn’t rushing forward with it. Then she sent me the link to a tutorial she found and said, “This is what I want. If you make it, I’ll buy it.” I played around with the tutorial and was able to make something uniquely mine (I’ll share more about it in a bit). Since then I’ve sold 12 of them between Etsy and a craft fair. And that’s almost half of my sales since I started carrying them. My friend inspired me and it paid off!
Once you have a great idea in mind, you need to make it. And before you can sell it, you need to make it well. If you’re following a tutorial that someone else has made, check and see if they’re ok with you profiting off what they’ve shared. A lot of crochet patterns will say that they’re happy to let you sell products you make using them, but please give them credit in product listings. Others are willing to let you buy a commercial license. Whether or not there is a tutorial for things I make, I like to make them uniquely mine. It not only boosts the uniqueness of my shop, but then I don’t feel like I’m copying someone else’s art.
When my friend asked for a small zippered pouch (which I loved the idea of so much more than a button closure!), I first read through the tutorial she sent me. The construction was a little awkward, and it had a few extra details to it that I knew would take too much time. I’ll talk about pricing another time, but part of it is paying for my time. I had an idea in my mind of what price range I wanted these pouches to be in, and if I paid myself fairly for my time, I’d have to up the price. So I came up with a simpler idea, and gave it a try (the green pouch). The zipper was just across the top. Turns out that makes it hard to dig through the cards in the pouch and easily find the one you want. So the idea of the zipper going around the corner (as it was in the original tutorial) was key. My first attempt at a two sided zipper (not shown) was awful. My second attempt was improved but the zipper started at the wrong end and I realized with something this small completely hidden seams is really difficult. The next one was what I had hoped for all along.
My pouches have the zipper going around two sides, the exposed inner seams are serged for a quality finish, and I have had so much fun choosing bright colored fabrics with contrasting zippers. I can now do a bunch of them in one sitting and have the creation process streamlined.
After I shared the finished zipper pouches on Instagram and Facebook, another friend asked if I could do the same idea but bigger so it could hold a cellphone and a few credit cards. I tried making it even simpler with a magnetic closure but in the end really didn’t like what I came up with. So instead I made my pattern a little bigger and added some sewn in pockets like you have in your wallet (as seen in the black and white one with the pink zipper above, in the middle). But then the phone didn’t seem all that secure, so I added another pocket to slip the phone into.
And now I have my phone wallets. None of these have sold, so inspiration from friends isn’t always magical, but you never know when something will sell (after all, I sold two Valentine and one Christmas item last week!). The key I find in whatever product you make is DO IT WELL. When people are shopping handmade they want it for the special touch that provides, or because they don’t have the time/resources to do it themselves. But they are paying money for it, so they want something that’s beyond what they could go pick up at Target or Walmart. Let your quality distinguish you. Make it so they can look at your listing and say, “That’s better than I can make.” Figure out what details will take you beyond what they could do themselves—is it a little extra top stitching? A more intricate technique? Fabric that wouldn’t be available locally? Be better at your craft than your customer and their friends. Be better than even yourself the first few times you made your product.
Once you’ve found a winner item, don’t just stop there. Keep looking for inspiration to grow your product list. In both THIS and THIS post Gina, the author of How to Start a Home-Based Etsy Business (I’m telling you, BUY THE BOOK! You won’t regret it), talks about the importance of having a lot of listings. She even says 100 is the magic number. In the past I felt like I had a lot of great ideas come to mind, but would forget them when I actually sat down to make something. So with 100 items in mind, an upcoming craft fair, and a desire to earn enough money to buy a new computer (still working toward that goal but getting so much closer!), I decided it was time to get organized.
Since my phone is always within reach, I started a note in the notes app where I can add an item to the list as I think of it. Then, once I’ve made that product I get to add a check mark. I love seeing all the check marks now! I’m constantly adding new items to the list as I think of them and go back to the list regularly. Some things have been deleted once I think them through more. Others just keep getting skipped over, but may make it to completion someday. But at least I have it all in one place.
It takes time to reach 100 listings, but once you get there it is an awesome feeling. And of course, the day after I hit 100 I had a sale and was back to 99. But I figured it was worth it. I’m now up to 104 and hoping to keep adding one or two new items a week. Definitely not the same drive that I had before though. While working to 100 items I spent a lot of time crafting and sewing. During Reese’s nap I’d work while Jace played and watched TV. Then, after putting the kids to bed at night, I’d go straight to my craft closet and Nolan and I would watch shows while I worked. Like I mentioned earlier in this post, I want people to feel like they’re browsing their favorite boutique when they stop in my shop. So I need to have variety and keep adding new products.
Since my life is a pretty open book, my friends are very aware of my shop. And they now send me pins when they see something they think I should make. I value their opinions so highly because I can dearly love an idea, but if no one else agrees I’ll never see profit from it. So if someone sends me an idea, and I like it too, I think it’s pretty worth pursuing. Which takes us right back to inspiration. It’s a cycle, really.
Of course, there’s more to it than just making a product. So I’ll be talking more about how I research the market, create listings, and price my products in future weeks.
How about you? If you have a shop has your process/perspective been similar? What other advice would you have for people developing their product line? If you’re new to the Etsy selling world how are you feeling about developing your products?
Thanks for stopping by!