When you’re starting out selling your craft online, every single sale gives you a thrill.
Actually – every single sale still gives me a thrill, and I’ve been at this for over 6 years now! Celebrating each and every sale (even if that celebration is limited to a little internal shout of ‘woohoo’) is an awesome thing. You should never lose that thrill – it’s part of the joy of business.
That said… there is a really unhelpful metric out there when it comes to measuring the ‘success’ of one shop or business over another.
That metric is the number of sales a shop has made.
It’s an easy trap to fall into – especially when you start comparing the progress of your business to other people’s businesses. Most online selling venues (Etsy, Madeit, etc.) have the number of sales listed for public view. That is a great thing… for potential customers. It is a figure that gives the customer a quick measure of how long that shop has been in business, and how many other customers they have dealt with.
What it is NOT a good measure of is the financial success of that shop.
Now, I’m the first to argue that success isn’t just about the money side of things – but it is obviously a vital part of being in business. If you’re running a business, you’re doing it to make money, and that’s something you need to keep in mind every day.
But, when you start comparing how well you are doing with others based upon the number of sales you’ve made versus the number of sales they’ve made, you need to take a deep breath, step back, and start being more analytical about it.
If we get down to the bottom line, then the success or otherwise of a business comes down to… the bottom line.
That is: the revenue and profit that the business is making.
And there is no real way you can tell how much profit a business is making based upon their number of sales.
As I write this post, I have made a total of 1,895 sales since I opened in October 2008.
That’s great – it tells my potential customers that I’ve been around for quite a long time (in the world of online sales, anyway) and that I’ve dealt with almost two-thousand customers through my Etsy shop in that time.
Now – let’s take a moment to clarify that my Etsy shop is only part of my business. I have my own website, and I’ve also had shops on many other online venues over the years, not to mention wholesale and market sales over those years. That’s the first part of realising that my Etsy numbers are only part of my business story. So – realise that when you look at one venue that a business sells on, chances are high that they are making sales in other places too.
Putting that aside, let’s go back to my ‘number of sales’.
Last year (2013) I made a total of 328 sales in my Etsy shop.
This year, as of writing (on the 18th of November, 2014) I have made a total of 380 sales in my Etsy shop. I’m guessing that will top out at over 400 by the end of the year.
Now – if you just look at those numbers, you might think ‘oh, she’s made some good progress growing her business, but it’s not a massive amount’.
However, what you don’t see by looking at those numbers is the difference in the revenue.
I may have only made an extra 52 sales, but I’ve made an almost 50% increase in revenue in my Etsy shop in 2014 compared to 2013.
Why? Because not only are my prices higher (I put the prices on my wedding rings up in November 2013, the reasons for which you can read about here) BUT I’ve also sold many more wedding rings than other pieces of jewellery – and they have a much higher price-point.
By that measure, 2014 has been vastly more financially successful than 2013 – even though the difference in the number of sales isn’t drastically different.
Let’s do a quick hypothetical comparison to clarify my point.
Say you compare my store with another store that sells scrabble tile pendants.
After a quick browse of the first few pages of results on Etsy, I’m going to say a mid-range price for a scrabble tile pendant necklace is around $7 (which is just ridiculously low, but that’s a rant for another day).
If a shop selling scrabble tile pendants at $7 per sale had made in the ballpark of the revenue I’ve made in my Etsy shop this year, they would have to make quite a bit over 5,000 sales in 2014.
Me – 380 sales.
Them – way over 5,000 sales.
To make a similar amount of revenue.
This is why you need to stop using ‘number of sales’ as a measure of the success of a shop.
Just for a minute, think about how much more work those 5,000 scrabble tile orders would be in the admin and packing side of things.
Communicating with 5,000 customers versus 380. Packing 5,000 orders versus 380. Sure – the product might be quick and easy to make compared to mine, but product crafting is only part of the work you do for each and every order.
Quite a difference, eh?
So, the next time you look at a shop and lament on ‘how many more sales they’ve made than me’, make sure to take a moment to consider what I’ve talked about today.
If you must compare, ask yourself:
What’s their average price per sale?
That will give you a much better idea of their bottom line – and therefore, how much money they are actually making… which is a much more accurate measure of ‘success’ than number of items sold.
AND – it is a question to ask yourself over and over again to ensure you’re not under-selling yourself.
Imagine – if you doubled your prices and halved your ‘number of sales’ – you’re still making the same amount of money… with half the work.
Ever wondered how you get your fabulous designs/handcraft/artwork featured on blogs? How come you see some makers/artists get their work featured in lots of places all the time? How do they do that?
Or are you even unsure of why you would want to have your work featured – surely the fact that you’ve got an online shop and people can find you with just a few clicks is enough? Ha! The obvious answer is that unless you get yourself out there, nobody knows you even exist…
There are MAJOR benefits to having your work featured, because there are so many other things competing for your customer’s attention. Having your work featured by bloggers regularly can be a huge boost to your business in terms of visibility.
Getting a feature means that not only do potential customers see your work on those blogs, but if they like your work enough, they might also share it on their social media, such as Pinterest and Facebook. And that snowballs. The more places the better I say! Best of all, getting your work featured on blogs is most often free.
So, after featuring hundreds of artists over the past (almost) three years of blogging, and being disappointed many times by great work with poor photos and/or information, I thought it would be useful to write a post on what bloggers really look for.
The number 1 thing is to create beautiful, shareable images.Now of course, that means you have to have great photos of your work – but it’s not the only thing.
1. YOUR PRODUCTS have to be excellent.
Good design and good craftsmanship are the foundation of your business. A good photograph can help sell your product, but it still has to be an honest representation. You don’t want your customer to be disappointed when they open your package, do you? Think quality, always.
Bloggers also value originality. When your work has a particular style that is unmistakable, that’s fantastic. It makes it easy for the blogger to pick a group of work and write a cohesive post about you. When your work and your images look like a mixed lunch, that makes it a whole lot harder for them. And when your work and your presentation look like a hundred other shops, well, they might just move onto something more interesting.
2. YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS are the real clincher.
(You knew I’d get to them, didn’t you!?) When it’s online, it is visual impact first and foremost that you should be thinking about, and your image needs to be beautiful in order to compete.
It really should go without saying that your product photographs need to be crisply focused and in good light. The styling of your product images needs to be consistent too – this doesn’t mean that all products need to be photographed on exactly the same background at the same angle. You could for instance, have a “family” of backgrounds (perhaps 3 – 5) which work together in terms of colour and props.
Another thing that makes me cringe is large, obvious watermarks on your images – especially ones that slash right across the centre of your pic. I won’t feature your work, no matter how beautiful it is.
I completely understand that it’s important to state your ownership for some things (especially photographers’ images), but you can still get your message across with a smaller, softer watermark in the corner of your image. Wouldn’t you rather receive a heap of publicity for your fabulous work, instead of it languishing alone in your shop? You need to realise too that a watermark is an inconvenience, and not a permanent deterrent to stealing your images/ideas. If you are really worried about people copying your work (and remember that 99.9% of population don’t!), don’t put it out there at all.
3. YOUR DESCRIPTIONS might not be as important as your images for convincing bloggers to feature your work, but if you can tell a good story about your pieces, it most certainly helps.
For instance, if you make and sell girl’s dresses, that’s OK, but not very interesting. However, if you sell girl’s dresses that are made from fabric that is handprinted by a textile artist you met at uni a few years back and now you collaborate on the designs – that really gives your work a whole different dimension.
4. YOUR ARTIST BIOGRAPHY is a great way to generate interest in your work.
Again, it’s a lot to do with stories – if you’ve got an interesting story to tell about what drives you, and/or how you ended up where you are, then tell it! Be passionate; don’t be shy about what you’ve done and especially about why you do what you do. Share some of your techniques and inspirations too. People love a good story, and bloggers love having something to write about.
5. BE PROACTIVE. Last but not least, help yourself.
After you’ve got your work and photos in order, be proactive and approach bloggers to feature your work. There is SO much out there for them to choose from, the more you can reach out and say “Hi!”, the better it is for you. Not everyone will say yes, and that’s OK because each blog has its own particular flavour and you may not be a great fit for them. When that happens, just try another blog.
Often when blogs accept submissions, they’ll have a list of criteria they are looking for in work to feature, as well as a list of what they won’t accept, so do spend some time checking that out too.
Don’t be afraid. Us bloggers are generally a very approachable lot – as long as you treat us like real people!! Don’t address us as “dear sir/madam” – at least spend a few minutes finding out a name to address your email to. Introduce yourself and what you do briefly, and explain why you think your work would be a good fit for that blog. Include 5-6 of your (top-quality of course!) images at medium resolution (around 600px wide is a good size).
If you don’t hear back, wait for a week or so before contacting the blog again – don’t hassle us! But DEFINITELY send a reminder if you need to, as sometimes we get sidetracked and crazy busy and forgetful because we’re human…
If your location is not helping you grow your business and get things done, then the only solution is to make a change! You can either change your location or you can make changes to your location to better enable you and other business owners. This is a wonderfully inspirational video.