Welcome to episode 9 of Etsy Jam. In this episode we talk with Michelle from FourLetterWordCards about all kinds of Etsy stuff. She shares how she got started, write descriptions for her products, keep shipping costs down, perfects her photos and loads more.
How did Michelle get started on Etsy?
My name is Michelle and I own FourLetterWordCards. If you haven’t already figured it out, I curse a little bit because all of my cards surely have curse words because it is more colorful that way. I started my Etsy shop on October 31, 2014. Last year was my year in business and I did pretty well. After I did taxes and everything, I actually did a whole $1,000 in profit. It sounds so small but it was definitely busier than I thought it would be especially during the holidays.
November last year, I had 627 orders in that month alone. In December I ended up having 938 orders and it solely progressively picked up. Last year alone, I had 2,552 orders just from my first year in business and then this year, I’m already at 3,000 orders. In January I had 700 orders, February had 671, March had 196, May 529, June was 521.
Did you sell cards in your shop right from the start?
No, when I first started Etsy I started as a jewelry shop because I was like “Oh I’m gonna make pretty jewelry and I’ll sell it and it will be amazing and it will be my hobby!” because I have a job at the time so it was just going to be a side profit sort of thing. So I put up a couple of listings. They were atrocious, awful, the photos were terrible, and the descriptions and everything are just the worst it could possibly be. Nothing happened. “Why isn’t anything happening?” “Why is there no movement?” I’ve got no traffic and I don’t know what’s going on but I also didn’t like educating myself on anything. So then I started looking into it and I said “I don’t think this jewelry thing is really going to work out”. “I really don’t know how to make jewelry all that well so it’s probably not gonna sell”. Then another week later, I was trying to think of something to do and I just decided to do cards. I couldn’t sleep one night because I was thinking of all the stupid things I could say on cards and it would be funny. I just started laughing like a crazy person in bed while I was trying to sleep because I was just thinking of these funny things I want to put on my cards.
I was going to initially name it “ScrewYouCards”, but I decided that I wanted something a little more clever. So then I made “FourLetterWordCards” because it kinda encapsulates everything since most of my stuff has curse words in it.
What are your thoughts on refunding customers?
As a small business owner, if you were to refund every single person that demands a refund, you’ll be poor. Or you would not make any money. You have to figure out a way where it serves you as a business but you are still helping your customers out and giving great customer service. You need to have policies that work in the favor of both parties.
How do you do your product descriptions?
There’s a lot of people that I’ve seen on Etsy that creates descriptions that are like the most boring thing I’ve ever read in my life. They’re just listing the technical of what they’re selling. So instead of saying “Look at this great, fantastic, colorful card that you can give to your Dad and make him laugh hysterically” and etc… You’re just giving the technical terms like “I print on a 110lb cardstock and I use XX ink and XX printer and your cards 4.25″ x 5.50″ and you get this envelope etc. etc. BUY FROM ME!!!”. People are gonna get bored. They’re not going to read anything of the stuff you wrote. You have not created an emotional connection from me to buy your product so I’m gonna go to the next shop that actually elicits an authentic response from me.
What you can do instead is to captivate the feeling you want the customer to have and then you can break it down into technical terms at the bottom. So if they want to read the technical stuff, they can and if they don’t, they don’t have to read it but it’s broken down enough to where there’s different sections on the page so if they quickly want to see something – they can and they can go to the next thing.
How do you put yourself in a frame of mind where you write something that’s gonna resonate with your customers?
I ask myself these things:
- Why did I create the product?
- What is useful about the product?
- Why do I connect with it myself?
If it’s artwork, you want to elicit the type of emotion that you want the customer to connect with. You want to paint a story or a picture as to why it’s going to be important and why they’re going to want it.
How do you tell when you’re satisfied with the product description that you wrote?
When you read it and you have some sort of connection to it and draws a picture or a story to you. As long as you’re doing that – you’re fine. You can always critique it later on and improve upon your descriptions but as long as you’re eliciting some sort of emotional response when you read it, then hopefully that will be conveyed to your shoppers as well.
Do you have any specific suggestions for vintage sellers?
I think it depends on what you’re selling. Break it down to what it is that you’re selling and who would be buying that product. Say if it’s a furniture, then you may want to depict a story as to how they would use the furniture.
- What type of person is it that would be buying the furniture in the first place?
- What kind of house would they have it in?
- Where are they gonna use it for?
- Is it going to be elegant? Rustic? What are the type of things that they would use it for and what story would it tell inside their house.
- How are they going to connect with it?
- Why would they want to buy it?
For vintage jewelries, tell the historical aspect. Tell a story of what it’s best used for.
- Where it was used for?
- What type of people first had that jewelry?
- Why was it made and what was the significance of the jewelry?
- What does it mean?
Everything is a conversation, everything that you do should elicit some sort of emotional response with the buyer. If they are not feeling something from it, then they’re not gonna buy it. Why would they care? They come to Etsy for something special so if they don’t feel like it’s special then they’re not going to give a fuss and they would go find something else.
How do you keep shipping costs low?
USPS. They have been the cheapest that I have found. With greeting cards, it is $2.54 for me to ship first class in USPS anywhere with a tracking number within the US. International shipping aren’t cheap so just be prepared regardless of where you are shipping to and what it is your shipping. It always ain’t cheap. But USPS is the cheapest.
The other thing I’ve been looking into are the priority flat rate boxes. They are amazing when you need to get something somewhere soon. I’ve tried to calculate how much it is to ship two mugs and when I do two mugs; I have to ship it in the medium flat rate box because it’s cheaper than shipping in my own box. So figure out the calculations of what’s the cheapest and why.
What are your thoughts on Multiple shops vs Single shops?
I think if everything goes together. I think if you have a brand that gears toward a specific person, then I would keep everything within that one shop. If you can justify two different products to fall under one brand, then I would put it together. If not, then I would put up separate shops.
What do you think about Photos?
I hate photos. Period. It’s because people keep copying your photos. Once you find a good layout, people start copying the layout that you used and it really pisses me off to no end because what I do is I try to stand out from the pack. Once you figure out what company uses what layout for their photos, you can then pinpoint each photo and who belongs to what.
I want to make a distinction. But when people starts copying you – then you have to find a new way to improve upon what you’re doing so that it stands out more.