Following Mail & Guardian’s recent article “Ten Of The Biggest Voices on South Africa’s Social Media Scene“, I discovered a group of photographers who collectively call themselves “I See A Different You”. They are based in Soweto + photograph their world the way they see it. Soweto stands for “South Western Townships” + is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. I find these guys really inspiring. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook + Instagram. This week I definitely take my inspiration from this group of creative entrepreneurs who seem to be among the loudest shouting online – and have over 16,000 people who are listening.
If one of your goals for 2015 is to start an Etsy shop, I’ve got the guide for you. Etsy has specific rules for shops. If you make handmade goods, crafts, raw supplies, materials or sell vintage items, the marketplace is a good fit for you. If you’re not sure if your shop would be a good fit for Etsy, check out their Guidelines here.
A lot of people ask if it’s “too late” to get started selling on Etsy, because there are so many shops. They wonder if the marketplace is just too saturated to break into. If you’re just starting out as a business + would like an easy way to get started, test the waters + get your systems in place, Etsy is fantastic. It gives you an easy way to:
+ create a shop
+ accept payment
+ reach your customers
It’s perfect for beginners. If you’re already an established shop, Etsy can be a nice channel to make extra sales from. Here are just a few things that contribute to whether or not your shop becomes a business or remains a hobby hustle:
Consistency is how you build your brand + shop presence on Etsy. It’s also how you make consistent sales. One thing to remember is that the frequency with which you list new items directly correlate to how often sales were rolling in. If you’re listing a handful of items every day, you’ll make a handful of sales every day consistently. If you take a month off from listing new items, even though your shop is still full of stuff, sales will drop off.
On Etsy, photography is EVERYTHING. Product photography is what sells your items. You cannot underestimate this. Your photography needs to stand out from the rest of the shops on Etsy. In order to do this, you need to use a professional photo backdrop. A popular one is white seamless paper roll + 18% grey, which is considered “neutral.” These backdrops allow your items to really pop. Try not to take photos of your items in your backyard, in front of your garage door, or on your kitchen table.
When you’re selling vintage on Etsy like many are, volume can be a big factor in how successful you are. The most successful vintage shops have 500-600 items of inventory for sale at any given time. The reason being is that for every listing you have up, it’s one more chance that someone searching Etsy will stumble into your shop via that listing that caught their eye. So the more items you have up, the more chances you have for people to find you.
4. Tags + Keywords
Use all 13 available tags. Don’t worry if you’ve run out of ideas, just put something there. It will help you get found. Colour, shape, style, era, theme, texture, related keywords, emotions, seasons – it’s all fair game. Describe your item as you would to a person who can’t see it. How does it smell, feel, look, fit, and how much does it weigh? It’s okay to overshare. Pull out any keywords from your main description to use as tags for your item.Give your listings very descriptive, detailed titles – use all the characters allowed if you can. Although titles like “Amber Moon” sound cool, they don’t tell people anything about what the item is. It’s bad for Etsy search and bad for getting found. So be really clear in your titles.
5. Shop Setup
On Etsy, you have very limited “branding” opportunities. The only places you can really brand your shop is with your shop banner and your avatar. In effect, these are extremely important to your shop’s appearance and brand on Etsy. Your banner and avatar should have the same branding – meaning they use the same font, colour palette, and graphic elements. You can make your own shop banner using Photoshop. Since the shop banner is the first visual that many people will see when visiting your shop, make sure it’s eye-catching, clearly legible + evocative of your brand. It should attract your ideal customer at a glance.
London-based photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz is a someone who loves pushing the boundaries and stepping outside his comfort zone. He’s known for his high speed photography and pushing it to the extremes, most of the time involving milk! His newest set with milk combines his love for composites and high speed and it shines with some traditional 1940’s pin-ups.
When looking for inspiration, Jaroslav took a page out of calendars by Gil Elvgren, Alberto Vargas, and Greg Hildebrandt. Each of the photographs is comprised of over 100 images. None of the photographs contain any extra illustration and the most intricate piece contains almost 200 layered images. The images were taken all around the world at seminars and workshops that Jaroslav has held.
As a creative entrepreneur – artist, designer, actor, model, blogger, singer, freelance writer, editor, videographer, photographer (whatever it is you do) – there’ll be times you’re asked to work for free. Sometimes an offer of “exposure” is legit, but it’s up to you to vet every offer. As a business owner (your business being yourself), you’re tasked with sifting through all of the various “work for free” offers and ascertaining which ones are useless and which ones will lead to actual exposure for you and your brand. Exposure is good. We like exposure. Marketing leads to discovery which leads to business.
As you grow and your name gets bigger and bigger, people will begin to associate your name with certain positive or negative adjectives. These associations are not necessarily always because of what you do. Sometimes you make a name for yourself by just being in the presence of great (or sinister) people. So you need to monitor what brands you allow yourself to be associated with.
+ Next time you run by a “work for exposure” offer, ask yourself:
- Will being associated with, and working with, this person/business/organization boost my authority in my field of expertise?
- Will I be in the presence of captains of industry which could grow my network and help me build business contacts?
- Will be doing this add valuable credibility to my brand for my audience?
- Will it offer me experience I would otherwise not get or could use more of (building on your skill set, learning new stuff about performing on stage for instance)
- Will I have direct access to an audience that will buy my [service, art, expertise]?
- Will I have fun doing the gig?
If the answer to all questions is yes, consider taking the offer and at the very least get all of your expenses covered. At most? Consider negotiating your way into a paid gig.