In this Etsy Jam, the guys chat with Danielle from The Merriweather Council who joins us for part 1 of a 2 part series. Today we hear Danielle’s story about how she got started as an Etsy seller. We also talk to her about how you as an online seller can make the most of your Etsy web presence and attract an even larger audience than just your immediate shopper base. These tips are a fantastic way to expand your Etsy shop success.
Danielle graduated from college in 2010 with an art degree in soft materials in three-dimensional forms. Things like weaving, knitting, and crocheting were all part of her degree. She says most people don’t believe you can go to college for this, but she did! She was planning on attending graduate school immediately following her undergraduate graduation. At the very last-minute decided she wouldn’t be attending after running into some issues with the university she was planning on going to. She decided at this point that she would start her own business since her original plan had fallen through.
Danielle had always loved going to craft fairs in Boston where she’d gone to college. She knew her business would incorporate the art she’d learned in school and what she loved at the fairs she’d gone to. She says, of course, it was a slow start on Etsy, but she spent a lot of time learning, researching and testing out her products. Eventually, her Etsy business really started to take off. This was her full-time job for five years.
A born teacher
Throughout those five years, people would always ask how she was running her own business and how she got started. Danielle unofficially started teaching other people exactly what she’d done to start and always loved talking and teaching about her strategies. She discovered through this process that she really had a passion for teaching others about business. Danielle started to really do this with intention, developing systems in order to teach others more efficiently. She now runs her service based business alongside her product based business. This is where she’s at today having discovered one business through the other.
From the very beginning when Danielle was strategizing and planning on starting her business, she always planned on basing her shop on Etsy. She actually did her senior project in college on Etsy artisans and small business owners. So at first, her plan was to simply get on Etsy. It was far less labor intensive than lugging things around to different art shoes and craft fairs. She did do some shows and events, but her primary focus was on Etsy.
Finding her niche
Danielle says she always tells people that she’s learned SO much from doing in-person events. Events helped her learn about her products and what buyers thought about them. She wasn’t sure when she first started making what she wanted to sell long-term. She recalls that she started by selling a few products that were all different. Ultimately this helped her discover what was more and less time-consuming, how expensive her materials were, how her buyers responded to things and which products people actually wanted to buy. She says there’s a big difference between selling products that buyers really want to purchase and selling products that you want to make because you like making it. This can obviously be a challenge for many Etsy sellers.
She discovered that embroidery was what she preferred to sell. She loves that it’s portable and easy to move from room to room as opposed to sewing on a machine. The materials are easier to find and she felt like she found her groove. Over time the products that she embroiders have changed, but embroidery is the medium she sticks to and loves.
Starting from scratch
Danielle says from the beginning she was pretty sure she could make her Etsy business work, she just knew it was going to take some time. She also trusted in her ability to self-motivate and she was VERY motivated to make her shop work. Because she had no other responsibilities when she started, her shop got all of her time and attention. Danielle recalls that it took about nine months to a year before her Etsy shop was really steady.
Once it hit that point of being steady, she knew she needed to be bringing in more revenue. It took another couple of years before her shop was reliable as an income. Danielle says that a lot of that “income” depended on how much effort she exerted. If there were months where she couldn’t put as much time into Etsy, she definitely saw her numbers drop in her shop. She does say that the good thing about Etsy is that it can self-sustain somewhat. BUT you do still have to pay attention to it because it cannot run itself and thrive.
What Etsy’s interested in
Danielle was determined that she was going to make her shop work and so she was constantly reading, observing and researching how to make her business thrive. She saw and understood that Etsy was an amazing tool for what she was doing. It was exactly aligned with what she wanted to do and was there to help her succeed. She says there are a lot of underlying clues on Etsy that people tend to miss regarding how to be more successful. She would tap into these clues, which have changed over time. Etsy used to be really specific in letting their sellers know what trends they were interested in so Danielle would try to go back to her listings to see how she could rename them to fit the ever-changing trends.
She wasn’t making completely new products to fit the trends, she was reworking her products to fit the trends. If a particular color was trending, she’d be sure to work this into her products. She’d also take something that was in the back of her shop and renew it with a new title or keyword phrase.
Leveraging your web presence beyond your Etsy shop
Danielle always wants sellers on Etsy to also have their own website for security reasons and autonomy. No matter where you’re selling, she says there are so many opportunities beyond a buyer simply buying a product from your shop. She says sellers tend to hyper-focus on making more sales and finding more customers. This is definitely something you should want. But…she says if you leverage what you’re putting out there in the universe as a seller on your chosen platform, you can attract opportunities that are so much bigger than just one person buying a product from you.
You want to attract not just customers, but influencers and those who will share your products or collaborate with you. It can be the long way to get more traffic to your shop, but it’s a very lucrative way. For instance, an audience you’d want to attract are bigger brands who work with artists to develop products that involve licensing and working through their channels. Anthropology is a great example of a big brand that constantly taps artists to do exclusive lines for them. The point is that you’re looking at a much bigger picture. It could be a big name brand or the person who purchases products for movie sets, no matter who it is, they’re finding you the same way individual buyers are.
They care about things like a portfolio and proving you’ve made a larger amount of your product. They’re also looking for a level of professionalism that your average Etsy shopper may not even notice. Being sure that your contact information is accessible and up to date is important. Also, make sure your email is available and that you don’t make it difficult to access sending you a message. Danielle wants other sellers to always remember that there are other people out there looking at shops that aren’t just one-off customers. Consider this audience along with your customers who are simply going to buy your product once. Make your shop just as much a storefront as it is a portfolio and entryway into your business.
Danielle says it’s important to let your buyers know what your specialty is, especially if your audience includes bigger brands. Communicating your niche and how you stand out from the sea of other sellers is a huge plus. If you haven’t yet found your niche and are still in that phase where you’re trying out a ton of different products, now is a great time to think about what your niche might be. Showcasing that you have experience in your specialty is important if you’re looking to collaborate with larger brands.
Also, if you’ve been featured anywhere, make sure you have this information available as well. You want to use every feature and opportunity you’ve been given as a seller to create new opportunities for yourself as a seller and business owner. Danielle says to make the shift in thinking of yourself not only as an Etsy seller but as a business owner. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to find and nurture new opportunities that are interesting to you. Take the time to style your shop and really build it out. None of this happens overnight, but building things for the good of your business will only help you in the long run.
Think of your shop as a portal for people to work with you in lots of different ways. There are many ways for people to take profitable actions that are not just putting your products in their cart. Someone with a large Pinterest following could pin your product and it could simply take one pin to go a little bit viral that could change everything for you as a seller. Optimizing your shop for Pinterest is a great way to make this more possible! Also, optimizing your shop and making it beautiful is about so much more than just being found in search. Being featured on Etsy doesn’t happen with a shop that’s a wreck. Look at your shop and evaluate whether it’s the kind of shop Etsy would want to feature.
It’s the little simple things that can unlock a ton of potential. And the more opportunities you are able to cultivate for yourself that work out, the less you’ll have to worry about making five or ten sales a week. You’re going to do work no matter what, so be sure you’re doing work that will end up working for you.
As usual, be SURE you listen to this week’s Jam!! I really couldn’t capture in this blog all the wonderful tidbits that Danielle had to share! She was fantastic. You can visit Danielle’s Etsy shop and website as well as checking out her blog and listening to her podcast! She literally has ALL the things going on:)
Happy selling, everyone!