Monday, October 27, 2014

DIY Light Box for Etsy Photos

Photography comes up a lot in the Etsy forums, and I find myself repeating to lots of people how easy it is to make yourself a light box setup so you don't have to wait for perfect weather to go outside and take well-lit photos. I don't know about you but I've got a day job and two crazy kids, so the only time I really get to take photos is when I'm up at 4am with my to-do list on my mind and that's not when the sunlight is, uh, anywhere.

I use cheap $30 cameras I buy off Ebay to take my photos. The camera, I've found, is not that big a deal. You can spend $3000 on a camera and your photos might be better than mine, but not 100 times better than mine, despite the staggering cost difference. What matters the most is the environment you're taking the pictures in.

So here's my setup:

It's pretty darn basic. You could use almost anything to accomplish this. My light box is made from:

1) PVC pipe, for the basic structure
2) White ripstop nylon to bounce and reflect light around inside
3) Poster board background
4) Clip on lamps
5) Full spectrum compact fluorescent light bulbs
6) Assorted props for photo time

The lamps are from a few places. First I got some clearance desk lamps at Target, but if they hadn't been clearance they might have run my budget up quite a bit. They're okay.

I experimented with several backgrounds - white curtain lining fabric, projector screens, all flavors of more expensive stuff. The cheap white posterboard turned out to be my favorite.

If I had it to do over again I would do it with just these shop lamps, which I got at Home Depot in the electrical section and I just adore. They're cheap, aluminum, and will take a bulb up to 100 W (try that with a desk lamp!) And the clips really hold them in place. Not as pretty but much more functional!

Don't laugh at the whole at the top of my nylon there... it's to stick my camera lens straight through the top and take pictures from above. Works awesome!

The one place I would not cheap out is on the light bulbs. I special ordered full-spectrum daylight compact florescent bulbs from because they don't get as hot as incandescent. I can put a "120 W equivalent" in my "under 100 watt" lamp because when you use CFL, it only actually uses 32 watts! These light bulbs run $6-8 each but they last a long time and have a wonderful effect:

And finally, I keep my photo props handy inside my light box at all time. I wrote before about how at least one of your five photos must give your customers a sense of scale, so I have things like a ruler, cards (because I make card holders), and sometimes coins or markers around to show what the item I'm selling looks like in comparison to everyday objects.

Then it's photo time! Afterwards, I'll still retouch my photos in GIMP to get a really white background. But my light box gives me a great start!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lots of views, no sales: what's a normal ratio?

We get a lot of new members to the Shop Critiques team who tell us they have tons of views and favorites, but no sales. They're asking us what the problem is.

The first question I ask is just how many views and favorites they're talking about here, because they may feel like 50 views is a lot but it isn't. The vast majority of Etsy shoppers look around at tons of listings before making a buying decision. It's a sad truth, but most of the time your item is viewed, it will not be bought.

To quantify this I asked some fellow shop owners for their stats to find out just what a normal views/sales ratio is... in other words, how many views does the average item get before it sells? They told me their sales, views, and favorites over the past few months and I did the math to make those into ratios so we could find out just how many people favorite an item before it sells. Here's what I found:

Etsy ShopViews per saleFavorites per sale

Thank you to all these shops for providing these sample numbers :)

The average views per sale number was 183. But as you can see there was a wide range: 76-282.

The average favorites per sale number was 46. The range was even wider: 7-276. So one could argue that favorites are not as good an indicator of an items' sales performance - the people who click the hearts may not have anything in common with the people who actually spend the money.

Here's what I take away from the data: It can easily take 200-300 views to make a sale - and that's organic views, from people finding it on Etsy's search. That's not you posting it in teams and telling people to view it, because most of those people are not on Etsy to shop today. In fact, I say it's a bad idea to clutter your statistics with those sorts of promotional activities, because then you don't know if you're being found in the search or not.

You've got four months to sell an item before it expires on Etsy. That's 121 days. If an item isn't getting at least 2-3 search views per day, it's not likely to sell.

I may sound like a broken record, but I still say the secret to getting more views is shop critiques. Ask another set of eyes: do your thumbnail photos look like something someone will want to click? Are your titles clear and well-worded for search? Do your tags contain phrases that people are searching for?

I also recommend joining a trade team to figure out if you're offering things that people need. And if you're wondering about your prices, start up a clearance section.

If your ratios are way off, you may need a different set of questions. Say your item has had 500 views but not a single sale. Then you might want to ask if the views are coming from a "clutter source" - like teams, promotion games, social media, or other places that drive gawkers but not shoppers. If the views are coming from Etsy's search, are your prices too high? Shipping out of whack? Does your description leave out some pressing information that people are wondering about? Do you have weird or non-existent shop policies that make people worried about buying? Hate to say it, but customers who read will not buy from a shop that says "I don't take returns and if it gets lost in the mail it's all your fault."

The shop statistics page can get addicting, when I started my Etsy shop I just wanted to stare at it all day. Then I'd rearrange my shop, post in a team, and stare at it again. None of that did me a bit of good. What made the difference was getting off the darn internet, making something to list, posting it up and drawing customers in with new items. So when you feel yourself staring at your view count, break away! Go get back to work crafting and let the items sell themselves!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pounce on New Etsy Shops

You all probably know that I love discovering new shops on Etsy and helping newbies get a bit of publicity. We were all there once! Right?

So I've updated this page as part of my Etsy Widgets: Pounce

Every time you load this page up it'll show you some shops that just opened in the past few weeks, with their three newest listings:


I'm using it to collect shops for a list in my favorites collection: Pounce: The Best New Etsy Shops.

The other thing to do if you love new shops is go check out every Wednesday for our Welcome Wednesday Contest. We vote on favorite items from new shops every week and find some great ones. Here's some items that were featured last week, I love these and they're all from shops that are less than a month old! Go show them some love, we were all new once!

Glazed ceramic necklace - Geo Set15th place October 8th, 2014
Welcome Wednesday! The newest Etsy shops' items from $1-$50.

Glazed ceramic necklace - Geo Set

Hippie Pants Elephant - gypsy clothing harem pant design one size fits all elastic waist ankle in Black White unisex14th place October 8th, 2014
Welcome Wednesday! The newest Etsy shops' items from $1-$50.

Hippie Pants Elephant - gypsy clothing harem pant design one size fits all elastic waist ankle in Black White unisex
by ClothingThailand

Hand Painted Stones, Five Different Flowers(collection of 5)Featured October 8th, 2014
Welcome Wednesday! The newest Etsy shops' items from $1-$50.

Hand Painted Stones, Five Different Flowers(collection of 5)
by TripInTheWoods

Monday, October 6, 2014

When an Etsy Listing Doesn't Sell...

I actually admire the fact that Etsy listings expire after four months - it's a favor to us. The marketplace is forever clear for new lovely things, and that four month clock gives us all a sort of deadline to work towards - sell your item in four months, or lose your listing fee. Which is small, but still something you'd rather not lose.

So when months go by and I've got a listing about the expire off the bottom of my shop, I start thinking about taking action. And I have no shortage of options for stuff that's not selling! Here is my list of actions to take:

1) Listing makeover - maybe the item needs new tags, new photos, extra words in the description to get found. Pretend you're listing it new, using everything you've learned in the last three months, surely there's something you can change!

2) Get a critique - it's easier for people to critique a single listing than a whole shop. Ask the shop critiques team what they think of your listing. Maybe there's something obvious to improve on it.

3) Trade it - seriously, I cannot say enough about the trade team. Trading is the best way I've found to connect with other artists, find out quickly what your "in demand" items are, and move the stuff in your shop that isn't moving. A good trade team will have an active thread where you can post things you're looking to trade the most.

4) Start a clearance section - I know this tip might be controversial because we're all artists and worth a lot, yes. But a clearance section is a good way to find out if your prices are too high... if your items sell like hotcakes at lower prices, consider lowering them. If they don't sell with lower prices, well then it's not your prices keeping people away, you'll feel confident keeping your prices high!

5) Grab bag listing - for the truly expired, I'll sometimes combine them into one big random listing. Crazy, sure, but I've had people throw it in with a "real" purchase.

6) Save it for 4th quarter - around the holidays, sales spike like crazy and all kinds of things can move that sat around in the summer. Mark August 26th on your calendar - anything you list on that day or past it will be an active listing all through Christmas, when you really want your shop to be as well stocked as possible. The holidays are the only time when I renew expired items. The first week of December is my busiest day of the year so I try to have everything but the kitchen sink listed in November.

7) Sponsor a giveaway - Find a popular blogger and offer up an item to their readers in exchange for some free publicity. It really creates some buzz! There are some nice giveaway and blogger connection teams to help you find hosts.

8) Craft fair - It never ceases to amaze me how items that fly off the shelves at craft fairs will go nowhere on Etsy, and items that fly out of my Etsy shop get no love at a craft fair. You just can't predict how marketplaces will be different. I have a craft fair box of things that I will never relist on Etsy but they'll take up space on a table. Split a table with a friend if you're just starting out and still small, it's fun.

9) Donate to a fundraiser - Lots of charities host silent objects with gift baskets to raise money for worthy causes. They'd be happy to have your business cards out on the table along with an item from your shop.

10) Local consignment - where do shoppers buy handmade in your area? Find a local shop and ask if they'll stock some of your items. They'll likely want 40-50% of the retail price but if your prices are set correctly you'll still make a profit. I've found that certain items, like my Kansas-themed gifts, can't seem to find their market on Etsy but they sell like hotcakes in stores!

So that's my list! You may notice, no where did I say to spend more time "promoting" the listing, spamming pinterest or twitter with it. Always remember that social media is nice but your target audience is people who come to Etsy to search, not people who are checking twitter to see what their friends are up to these days. So when a listing doesn't sell, change your game plan, don't just overbroadcast.

And my list may not be exhaustive, I'd love to hear from anyone else what works for you! With a few tweaks you can turn an about-to-expire listing into a sale, a promotional tool, basically an opportunity! Kinda nice to have some things to play with an experiment on... see what works, right? Good luck, everybody!