Thursday, 29 September 2016

How to open a successful shop on Etsy

I am aware this is not the first nor the last post on the Internet to explain how to do business on Etsy. Actually, I don't think one post would be enough to answer this question properly. Nevertheless, I will try to explain some basics, in order to help anyone wishing to start a successful business on their own or simply looking for advice on how to improve. This is especially valuable to anyone who thinks they have good skill or interesting items to sell, but can't find a buyer locally. Etsy is a worldwide exhibition window and only you can put limits to it. Jobs in Spain are scarce these days, and Etsy can make you a living.

Today, 3 years on and more than a thousand sales after I ventured on this project, I have 2 shops and lots of stock to post. I have hundreds of satisfied customers and all-stars reviews, which I am really proud of.

This is the current look of my original shop on etsy.


As you may have read in my initial post about how I found the buttons, I started from scratch and was ready to spend €5 on my business. Later I learnt that if you get invited to open a shop, you can start for free. Well, €5 was not such a big sum and I must say I recovered it quite quikly, but if you do not want to risk even that little, click HERE (if the link does not work properly, email me).

Know your competition


First of all, before you decide to bother yourself and waste time on opening an on-line buiness, it is advisable to a market research into similar items on etsy. Are there many people selling the same thing? Does this thing actually sell? Does it have any special added value? What kind of customers may be interested in it?

If something doesn't exist on etsy,chances are, you have misspelled it. Otherwise, which would be very unlikely, you would have to assume that nobody sells anything like it, which could mean that IT DOESN'T SELL: But, as I said, this would be really strange. (You wouldn't believe what sort of stuff people sell on line...)

If there are too many websites selling similar items, think of the added value, or uniqueness of your products. There are lots of shops selling handmade jewellery, but not too many sell jewellery made of natural materials like seeds. There are lots of buttons out there, but not too many which are larger than 40 mm, and the bigger, the more sought after!

Also, you can see how the prices range among the competition. You shouldn't, of course, make your product way cheaper, because people may suspect it is worse quality.  But if you are the most expensive, people will prefer to buy from someone else.

It is a good idea to find a role model among shops selling similar items, one that you would like to become, say, in two years' time. It is really motivating and makes it easier to establish short-term and long-term goals.

Stock up your shop

Once you have opened the shop, you must fill it with stock! Use all the free listings, or at least 30 to begin with. If you think you do not have enough range to post 30, think of something easy to make or post and make lots of colours (like these peter pan collars), or post the same item twice if you have two, using different photos and descriptions. Also, this will give you insight to what is more attractive, which description works better etc.

Remember taht shops with just a few items will not get many visits. Or no visits at all.

Make photography your priority


While Etsy keeps repeating this all the time, giving you lots of tips, you may want to get some basics. If you are a professional photographer, you know what to do without advice. But if you are an amatuer, just like me, you will see that it takes time to learn the skill. However, in one of my previous posts I wrote a short guide for anyone who wants to take good product pictures for selling purposes.

If you follow this advice, I am sure you will be able to attract customers with your photographs.

Product titles are key


This is the most important part of SEO on Etsy. You must make it clear what your product is here, and also match the search terms you potential customers may use. To do this, you could do a research by looking for similar items on Etsy. This way you will see what search terms you yourself are using - write these down - plus, you can get an idea from the top results of how to write a successful title.

Use 3-4 word phrases, including the main keyword in each. For example:
Black leather handbag, natural leather purse, large shoulder bag

Ideally, these should be joined into longer phrases, which will make them sound more naturally, like:
Black leather handbag with long shoulder strap

Make sure you use the most important keywords at the beginning. To find out what is most sought, you can use google keyword tool. Remember to use all the synonyms here, as well as in the product description.

Also, words like "beautiful", "amazing" and "pretty" will not work. Not only because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but simply because, nobody uses these terms to search for anything. Have you youself ever looked for anything by typing 'beautiful'?

Product descriptions


This part should also start with a short description, more sentence-like, of your product. The first words are the most important. I initially made the mistake of writing: 'A lot including 7 large green buttons' at first, missing the hits for buttons. And few people look for 'a lot including'. Now I usually start with something like 'Extra large buttons' or '7 blue buttons', or 'a buttton card with'

Do not make your description too long. I doubt whether many people would read more than a few lines of it anyway. Make sure you have enlisted the most important features. I use a list, like the one below (this one is from a buckle description):

colour: dark brown
diameter: 90 mm / 3 9/16"
Suitable for 54 mm / 2 1/16" belts

Do not include all the shipping options and shop policies here. These have a specific space on your shop page. Also, if you want, you can pinpoint the most important questions in FAQ, which will be displayed right below the description, also on mobile devices.

You can also add information about the manufacturing process, care, or even the item's history if it is a vintage object. These are usually interesting to read. But do not ramble on length.

Mind, that on mobile devices, and that includes tablets too, the item description is not displayed at first sight. And few people click on "more info" (they even prefer to send a convo with a question about something they could easily read there). So, if you have some important characretistics, for example in my case, the button size, add this in 'Variations', even if there is only one size available. This will add an extra line in the details column, visible also on mobile devices. I started doing that when more and more people suddenly started asking me a lot of questions about the dimensions, although the information was already provided in product descriptions. I soon changed all listings to include this extra line of information, and guess what? I don't get these questions anymore.

Tags or Search Terms


These are for sheer SEO purposes, so make sure you do not add too many descriptive words which are not used but potential buyers. But... how to know what is used in search?

  • One way to do it is to go to Stats and check all the most popular search ter
  • ms over a time, and use these or similar. But you can only do that after your shop has been running for, say, a month in the very least.
  • Another way is to use the google keyword tool to get some real numbers. 
  • Again, you may imaginne you are looking for this item and see what you use. 
  • Go to the 'Search for items or shops' field and introduce one word, for eample 'buttons' and one space. Etsy will automatically give you some hints on what you may be looking for. These are popular search terms. 
  • Don't be afraid to experiment. A good idea is to use one completely unique tag out of 13 which will be unlike anything else. For example, I used klingon style for one of the buttons. Now guess what? Somebody actually used it and clicked on the buttons. You may discover a whole world of strange search terms that people use!
If you choose the right category for your product, this will add some valuable tags to your list. Look at the first four keywords, with capital letters. These were added automatically, and they are really strong.


Avoid tags like 'round buttons'. Obviously, some buttons are round, but if you someone is looking for buttons, they will just write 'buttons', unless they specifically want triangular or square ones. I did that at the beginning too, as I didn't know how to use up all the 13 tags.

One of the most important things I have learnt about the tags is that you should use two or three words instead of just one for every one of them. At the beginning I did not know that and used tags like:

'button', 'black', 'large', 'flower' etc. 

Believe me, hardly anyone visited my shop. And then I dug the Etsy blogs and in an old discussion post some suggested this to someone else. I decided to try it and BOOM! My stats sky-rocketed! Now I usually use:
'black buttons', 'large buttons', 'flower buttons', etc. 

It doesn't matter if you repeat the key word several times. Google may not like it, but it will help you gain visibility on Etsy. It is important that you understand that Etsy and Google SEO do not work the same way. It is really great to be found on Google, but even more important to get found on Etsy.

Your appearance shows you are a professional


We may not judge a book by its cover but we certainly measure the professionalism by the image a shop gives. This is why you should upload a shop logo, a background picture and a banner (I use this one for packaging slip). Ideally all of them in coordinating colous and themes. Your picture is also a sign that you are a professional - but also a human. No scam. You can use other professionals to help you out. There are thousands of designers on Etsy, specialised in Shop logos and banners. You can also have a go and try to make it yourself.
Don't worry about the background picture - you can improve it later. To start with, you can use a picture of your range, for example, clothes on pegs, I used to have a picture of several button cards, simply cropped into the measurements that Etsy required.

I was lucky, because my sister, who sometimes does graphic design, and also calligraphy, designed a logo for me. With it, I created a nice background composition, using my items.

This is the background photo of my newer shop. I used the same logo for branding purposes.

I use free software for that, like IrfanView and Inkscape. At some point I even used MS PowerPoint to put together some compositions.

Make sure you select a few nice items as featured listings, which will appear at the top of your shop. This will draw people's attention to them and plus, it will add 4 more items to your first page, which is especially important if you do not have too many items.

Add new items regularly


It is definitely a bad idea to add all your items the very first day and then just sit down and wait what happens. The Internet loves fresh content and it is insatiable. So it is best to keep feeding it regularly, but little by little. Later on you will have to renew the listings (they only live on Etsy for 4 months). This will give them new life, and it is also a good moment to revise them and change a part of the title or tags to something that works better.

New and renewed items also pop up on your fans' main sites. So do the Updates, which are pictures you can upload from the mobile Sell on Etsy App. These are also a good idea to bring your buttons to potential buyers, but you will have to install an app on your mobile or tablet. While it is convenient to have it on a device with a camera, it is best to upload quality pictures, taken with a normal camera, as they will be displayed also on computer screens.

Etsy shop updates are best when they include a picture of an item during the production process or a finished product in use, rather than just a repeated detail picture, although sometimes it is not a bad idea to post a close-up photo which is not the main product picture.  

* * * * *

Don't forget about social media, the word of mouth and some good old business cards to promote your shop. Well, how to promote the hop after it has been opened could fill one or more new posts...


I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and even more, you found it helpful. Making mistakes is normal. Learning from them is intelligent. And if you can, avoid them by reading posts like this one.


Good luck!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Déboutonner la mode - My most treasured Book

This book is the catalogue from an exhibition I went to see while visiting Paris last year. It was a surprise visit. Our host offered to take us to Louvre, though not to see the main exhibition, but a small one, dedicated to fashion jewellery and buttons and their history. While the jewellery section, which turned out to be really small, offered some interesting pieces, it was the button exhibition that really impressed us (not only me, a regular button enthusiast).

The book was also a surprise, as I got it as a present.

My book and some antique French buttons

The book 'Déboutonner la mode' shows some of the items I saw in Louvre just as they were displayed, with high quality close-up photos. They were grouped by technique and material, for example, the buttons below are made of natural materials, such as feathers and even sunflower seeds!

I do encourage you to see it in a larger size!

I was really impressed by the oldest part of the exhibition, where we could see embroidered buttons. What a precision! - I thought, but then, it was explained that first the fabric was emroidered and only then it was turned into fabric covered buttons. Otherwise, I guess, it would be entirely impossible to achieve such precision.

antique embroidered buttons on a, XVIII century suit

Lots of world famous designers were mentioned and their works shown. I especially liked this piece, with butterfly buttons, featured in a big size in the book.

This one is even more impressive in person.

The greatest lesson for me to learn was about the button master Henri Hamm. Until last year I had never heard of him. But his buttons formed the core part of the exhibition, with some 900 pieces designed by Hamm. I am really happy I have the book to be able to read more about this great man, even though the it is in French and I do not speak that language. I think I can cope with some written French.

A great art deco button designer

Obviously, the book offers much more than this, and if you are interested, you can buy it here. If you know French, you will be able to learn a lot about fashion and button history.

______________________________________________________________
Tilte: Déboutonner la mode
Author: Veronique Belloir
Language: French
Published: 2015
ISBN: 978-2-916914-54-1

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

How to attatch a buckle with a prong to a belt

Generally, I prefer slider buckles, not because they are easier to sew, but because they do not require making all these little holes along the belt. Plus you can loosen it slightly while at a big dinner (something so typical in Spain...) in a very discreet way ;)

But today I want to show you how to deal with the other kind of buckles, those with metal prongs.



I know two ways of attaching a buckle to a belt. In the first one you have to consider the prong while making the belt itself.


Step 1

After you have stitched the parts of your belt together and before pulling it the right side out, mark a line at one end. I marked 30 mm, which is OK for hand-stitching, but if you want to machine sew your belt, you may need 50 mm or more, depending on the shape of the buckle. The longer it is, the longer the incision you will need (let's say, the length of the prong plus some 12 mm - 1/2" and extra 12 mm for machine-sewing. if you want a measure).

Also, some buckles have very thick or wide prongs, so take it into account when making your belt.


Step 2

Sew around the line, like when making a slit opening and then cut it along the line you marked earlier.


Step 3

Turn the belt inside out and press. You may need a crochet hook to get the slit end out.


Step 4

Now your belt is ready to be attached to the buckle.


Step 5

Sew the loose end. You can machine-sew it or hand-stitch.




If you have bought a strap in a shop and you want to turn it into a belt, you will need to attach your buckle in a different way. Also, you may find that this is just an easier way to do it.

Step 1

At a certain distance, mark a line, 10 mm or 3/8" long, just like when making a button hole. Remember to add extra distance if your buckle is long.


Step 2 

Sew an oval around the mark, not too wide, using a very short zig-zag stitch. I would not recommend using the button-hole mode, as you may need a bit more space for the prong. Key-hole-shaped button hole is not a bad idea, though. Again, make sure you have left enough space if the prong is thicker or wider than usual (for example, this belt buckle has a very wide prong).


Of course, you will want a thread in a matching colour. I am using white to show you better where to sew ;)

Step 3

Cut out the inside of the hole. You can now attach the buckle and sew the loose end.


That's it really. Not that difficult I guess. A few more tips:

  • If you are making a leather belt, instead of cutting out a hole, like in the second method, you can simply make 3-4 holes very close one to another, like in the picture below. 


  • Oh, and don't use wool if you are making a tutorial! It is quite difficult to handle and you have to operate with a humid cloth every time you press it. You may want to use simple cotton fabric instead ;) I chose this pink wool because I had suitable scraps left after sewing this dress