I thought I would share a little more today about running an online business, specifically a shop at etsy.
Back just after etsy started in 2005, I opened a shop to sell my hand knit waldorf inspired toys.
This was a very part-time business for me, but slowly I started to see the potential and as Mike and I made steps towards a home based lifestyle, I asked him if he would consider making some toys of branches.
Fast forward a couple of years and we are living in northern Vermont where local fairs yield very little attendance because of our small population. We made some inquiries to the larger online natural toy shops and secured some wholesale customers and had our first request to make birch table number holders for a wedding.
From there, we opened a separate shop, Vermont Branch Company, and were simply blessed with the right timing for birch and rustic wedding and home decor. Our toys continue to sell but to support our family, we really do rely on the wedding market.
To date, we have spent next to nothing on advertising except for recently advertising at Small Things and some blog button exchanges.
Our family relies heavily on our Etsy sales - Mike and I think too much now and have begun to brainstorm ways to incorporate a more holistic approach to income that can utilize our homestead more (food, flowers, herbs, goat milk, vacation stays, etc..)
Etsy has also started to allow sellers to sell manufactured goods as long as the seller is the designer (from what I understand). I am very concerned about this and am keeping my eyes open for new options limited to only handmade one of a kind pieces.
But... for those starting out in the online world of sales, etsy is a wonderful place to begin.
It is very user friendly and there is no cost to start a shop except .20 per item listing.
They do take 3.5% of sales and bill monthly, but I think that is reasonable.
To get sales, it is really important to have good tags (one or more word descriptions entered in the item listing) and also to list new items regularly - at least one new item each day even if you are just relisting something because I think that helps with the search engines.
Also, find a niche. Make what you enjoy making, but find a way to make it unique. Also, tell your story - the process of making, a bit about yourself, your family, your goals.
Start a blog with regularly postings and add your shop to the side bar:)
I don't use facebook but some sellers do with much success.
Take great pictures and keep them simple. Perhaps use a similar background for most of your pictures to provide a more uniform, polished look to your shop.
When you make a sale, package the item thoughtfully. We used recycled tissue paper and fold the item in it neatly like a gift and then add a wool yarn tie and hand write a note on the back of a business card which goes under the yarn tie. Often we include a little extra something such as a small birch hook. We also still hand write the addresses on the packages as we don't feel the need to use a printer.
I also think it helps to ship orders out as soon as possible and to communicate well with customers. Many of our sales are repeat customers.
It takes time and patience but as your sales increase, potential customers will feel more comfortable buying from an established shop.
I am sure some of you reading this have an etsy shop, please share your thoughts!