C&T Q&A – How did you choose your business name? {Share your Story}

This week’s question is from Karen, who writes:

My question is how do people arrive at their business name? I love yours, Epheriell. It’s a beautiful word, but why not Jess Van Den Jewellery Design? Why and how do people choose what they choose? It’s such an important first impression, that one word or phrase chosen, or to put their whole personal name out there. How do you know what’s the right choice for you?

Also, the boring bit, the legalities of it all. I believe using your name doesn’t require registration, but put ‘Jewellery Designer’ after it, and it becomes a business name, and will cost a fee. It’s so hard to know what your business will look like in 6, 12 months time. I suppose one just has to hope the name will still fit.

I bounce a round a bit with this question Jess, but I would love it if you and your posse would have a go at tackling it.

X Karen

I LOVE this question, and its one that I often wonder about, too.

business name

{photo of Jess by Paul Harris of see saw photography}

Let’s break it down and start with the first question – where does a name come from?

Funnily enough, as often as I get asked about the genesis of the name Epheriell, I’ve never written about it before.

In my case, the word ‘Epheriell’ is one I made up over 10 years ago now. I used to use it as my online handle for many years… and when I started my jewellery business, it just seemed natural that I use it as my brand name.

So, what does it mean? Epheriell is a mash-up of the words ‘Ephemeral’ and ‘Ethereal’ – with the addition of the ‘ell’ on the word, which came from a book I was reading at the time. I believe it was one of Jostein Gaarder’s books, and it had angels in it. I noticed that all the angels’ names ended with the ‘ell’ sound, and thought it was pretty.

And so, the word Epheriell was born!

Honestly, at the time, I didn’t put a great deal of thought into using this as my business name. It just ‘fit’. I certainly didn’t consider using my name, as I was only a hobbyist at the time, playing around. In hindsight, perhaps it would have been a good move, but on the up-side, my name is now still free to represent me and all that I am and do, rather than being tied to my jewellery brand exclusively.

As for the second part – the legalities – alas, I can’t give advice on that, because every country and every state will have different laws and regulations surrounding business names, so the best thing to do would be to search online for the business regulations in your area, or talk to a lawyer or someone else who has the qualifications to tell you what you need to do.

So, where did YOUR business name come from? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

4 Rules to Follow When Considering a New Venue for your Wares

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{image by BlueBerry Ash textiles}

With so many new websites appearing, it is very tempting to open online shop in each and one of them.

More exposure, new customers and better promotions are promised to us. Moreover, a shiny new front, more functions and less fees – it is all oh so inviting!

After I had been invited to sell on 3 new websites that appeared recently, I started wondering… should I spread my efforts on many shops in the hope of more exposure; or should I pick one or two and promote them like crazy?

How many shops is enough and how many is too many? Which one do you promote first? Will your customers get confused when you send them in 6 different places?  So many questions!

I admit, I am writing about this not only because I’ve been asking this question of myself (and of Mr. Plushkin and my family) but because I was caught in this “trap” of too many online shops before…

I found that yes, it is confusing for the customers when there are too many shops available to buy from.

It is better to pick one shop (unless you have your own website) as a main one that will get linked to in your newsletter and your blog.

I am sure that each and every one of the online marketplaces that are available are  great in their own way, but how do I choose just one or two that are right? It feels like I am missing out on something wonderful by eliminating the other shops.

How do you choose an online shop?

4 rules to follow venue

I have 4 basic rules that I apply when considering opening a new one:

1. Easy to use with helpful functions. For me, it`s important for the shop to be easy to use! It’s actually vital as, with over 100 items in the shop, when listing an item takes too long, it just won’t work.

If there are too many boxes to tick with messy layout, I give up fairly quickly. Moreover, I am now looking at how many functions website offers.

Is it easy to apply coupons so you can encourage customers to return? Does it give you an opportunity to list different colours/sizes in one listing? Does a new shop offers something to your customers that the current shop doesn’t?

2. Fees. There are websites that charge for listings plus take a fee. Alternatively, there are website that charge only commission on sale.

I have heard an opinion that websites that charge only commission work better as they are more interested in you actually selling your creation. I am not sure myself as the one commission might be higher then listing fee+sale fee combined.

Get you calculator out and write down how much it will cost you to list and sell the best sellers on different websites.

3. Traffic. Do they have a good google rating? How long have they being around? Check out the shops that sell through the website similar items, how many have they sold?

4. Advertising. Have you seen this website contantly advertising in the magazines/websites/blogs that your target market reads?

The rule of finding a perfect shop for what you make is simple – try.

It will cost a bit in time and fees but if you apply those 4 rules, it will eliminate the ones that are not worthy of the time and effort. Do your research and give it a go. But don’t be afraid to close the shop and walk away thinking that it might take of in a month or two, maybe Christmas…..

Test the shop

Try not to promote it yourself via your media at first.

List items actively, make sure your tags and wording is right so you can be easily found in the search, buy some advertisement on the website without introducing your customers to it and see how it performs.

Look at your stats/analytics and see what’s happening with the traffic and where it comes from. It’s obvious if you will start promoting the new shop via media you use, traffic will come – but does the website that you are paying for gives you more exposure and attract new customers?

Besides, every maker needs to remember – you creations are valuable, you need to believe in that.

You worked hard to create your reputation and customer base and you are bringing it all with you when you open a shop on another website. I hear you saying: “Having a shop open that charges only commissions doesn’t really cost me anything” but having a standing still shop doesn’t really make your brand looks great as well as take into account all that time you have to spend taking listings off that were sold on the other website. Close it, I would say!

I would love to know  how many online shops you are running at the moment? Are you happy with the online shops that you currently have? 

C&T Q&A – Can You Have a Successful Handmade Business Without Etsy?

can you have a successful handmade business without etsy

This week, Kate asks:

Do you think it’s possible to create a successful business without using Etsy? I used to sell jewelry on there and after 3 years my account was suspended for violating the etsy policies.  I didn’t realize it and after pleading with the admins, I realized they weren’t going to let me come back. I’m on Big Cartel and sales are slow.  I’m just not sure if realistically, it will ever amount to a successful business without Etsy. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

First of all, I’m sorry to hear about your issues with Etsy, Kate, that must have been a rude shock. I’m glad to hear it hasn’t stopped you pursuing your business, though!

Honestly, I’m the first to suggest that everyone who has a crafts-based business should have a shop on Etsy.

I still make a good portion of sales there, and it’s where I find a lot of new customers.

Etsy is definitely still the premier online marketplace for handmade – and not only that, it’s also a handmade search engine. I know that Etsy is my first port of call when I want to buy handmade. Both of these reasons are why I will never shut my Etsy shop – no matter how successful my own site becomes (Epheriell.com already accounts for well over half of my total online sales).

However – as useful and awesome as Etsy is for growing and running your business – I also believe that anyone serious about their handmade business should set up their own shop on their own website.

If you’re doing all the hard work to market your business and grow a customer base, you should be sending that traffic to your own website.

Now – there are of course other marketplaces out there online, and if you make reproducible products (you are doing that, aren’t you??) you should set yourself up on as many of these as you can feasibly manage. If only with a small sample of your core range. I see these sites as marketing – getting my work out in front of as many people in as many places as possible, at low cost.

Personally, I have my jewellery on Madeit and Blue Caravan here in Australia, as well as Supermarket HQ, Dawanda, and a few other places overseas. I make a nice number of sales across these marketplaces, but Etsy and Epheriell.com are my main shops, where I stock all of my work.

If you can’t sell on Etsy, for whatever reason, you should seriously consider setting up your own site, rather then relying primarily on another venue.

So, what are the costs vs benefits?

 

Etsy

Pros

  • Premier online marketplace
  • First port of call for many people wanting to buy handmade
  • Easy to use
  • Excellent ‘training’ ground – to compete on Etsy you have to play a stellar game with fantastic photos, good descriptions, excellent customer service, etc
  • Trust – people know that if they buy on Etsy they are protected if something goes wrong
  • Transparent feedback – do a good job and people will see that and buy from you

Cons

  • Fees – you pay listing fees, relisting fees, a percentage of every sale (and this is on top of the Paypal fees you pay)
  • Not as professional – anyone can sell on Etsy
  • Lack of control – like Kate, they could shut you down anytime they like, and all the work you’ve done will be extinguished
  • Distraction – people are likely to favourite you and forget and move on and try to find the best deal within Etsy, rather than sticking in your shop

 

Your Site

Pros

  • Control, control, control – you can do exactly what you like, make it look how you like, and no-one can take it away from you! It’s your baby.
  • Professionalism – having your own site shows you’re a serious business
  • Focus – once people are on your site, they won’t be tempted to click away to all the myriad other options available like they can on Etsy

Cons

  • You don’t have access to an immediate customer base – you have to do the hard work to bring people to you
  • People may be hesitant to make their first purchase from you if they don’t already know and trust you (many of my website customers found me on Etsy or elsewhere first, and after their first positive buying experience with me, now happily shop on Epheriell.com)
  • Might be expensive if you don’t have the knowledge to set it up yourself

 

Obviously, my recommendation is to have both – an Etsy shop and your own site (and any other venues you can manage). Having a shop on Etsy makes building your business a lot easier, especially in the beginning. You’ll find that you reach a kind of critical mass there, too – the more sales you’ve made, the more you’ll make as you are established as a serious seller.

However, you can have a successful handmade business without Etsy. It will just take you a little longer to grow your customer base. But if you’re patient, work hard, market smart, and have a stellar website and webstore, you CAN do it.

 

Want to take your Etsy shop to the next level, or set up shop on your own site for the first time? Join the email list to find out when I launch my upcoming ecourse, Set Up Shop.

10 Tasks to Do in the Quiet Months: learn to use the times of slow sales to your advantage

don't panic and carry a towel - hitchikers guide to the galaxy eye chart

{image by the Pressing Pigeon}

This post is written by Katia Donohoe.

Didn’t have sales for a few weeks and wonder what’s happening? Are you asking yourself if it’s happening to your shop only or is it like this for other shops too?

Most likely it is. There are at least two months a year when the sales drop. Depending on what you sell, it can be January – February or June – July.

So what do you do?

Do you try to buy tons of advertising, discount your creations or get out there Facebooking and Tweeting like mad?

Definitely not!

All those things need to be consistent and time appropriate. It’s not going to make you look professional by overwhelming your reader/followers with tons of updates in their newsfeed and you don’t want to look desperate by selling your creations at a super low prices.

The fact is, it can be quiet for so many reasons – holidays so everyone is away, tax time and, if you are selling overseas, it can be weather, different public holidays and festivities.

After a 3 years in business, I did calm down a little.

I used to think that every sale was my last, got nervous and anxious when there were no sales for a week/two/three, started questioning why am I doing this, stare at the screen, go in circles checking my Facebook page, Twitter, mailbox every 2 minutes…

Sounds familiar? Then read on…

After a while, you will discover that there is no such thing as a quiet month in handmade business.

There might be no sales but you need to learn to think long term. There is always so much to do and there are always areas that you overlook while busy.

Remember, all business owners are going through the same, just at a different time of the year.

Here are a few areas that you might want to have a look at while there are no email popping up in your mailbox:

  1. Check you listing descriptions for mistakes, and maybe add more information about the item and the creative process behind it.

  2. Make sure you use all the tags in your Etsy shop.

  3. Take fresh pictures. After looking at some of my product pictures a few weeks later, I often find that the light wasn’t good enough on that day or I forgot to upload all 5 pictures in the listing…

  4. Pre-make packaging. It is always great to have all envelopes stamped with return address and have all the promotional information that is included with an item in one place, ready for the busy times.

  5. Look at your stock: what is underrepresented? My goal is to have 5 of each creation in the shop in different designs/colours (note: I sell only items in stock, no custom orders) If you take custom orders, then check if you have enough materials for all the items. You might have run out of certain supplies but forgot to take the listing down.

  6. Make new stock! There is no better time then now to create new things. Put them aside and release the slowly when there is just not enough time in the day to make anything.

  7. Tidy up the paperwork. All of us guilty of putting paperwork in a pile and moving it somewhere where nobody can see it. Go, take it out and at least sort it by month and file it.

  8. Research new supplies. Shopping for new fabric/beads/buttons is always fun! If you are not yet ready to buy, at least you will know where to find it.

  9. Research new ways to promote your business, and evaluate your promotional efforts up to date. Can a lack of advertising or marketing be the contributing factor to the slow sales?

  10. Visit those blogs that you love and leave comments.

In conclusion, don’t fixate on slow sales. Instead, use this time to concentrate on the other areas of your business that need attention.

{image by Katia}

Remember that you are in this for a long term and building a successful business takes time and determination.

If you have all those things mentioned above in place and keep adding a new stock to the shop, sales will come in and you will pat yourself on the back for using the slow months to your advantage!

____________________________

katia

Katia Donohoe is designer and maker behind Plushka’s Craft brand.  Being of Russian heritage she treasures handmade crafts and love spending time creating things by hand.

She cannot live without hand-stitching, hot chocolate and Mr. Plushkin, bright tights and suede shoes.

She blogs at Plushka’s Craft where she writes about Plushka’s handmade creations, inspirations as well as her main craft passions – cross-stitch and crochet.

blog facebook | twitter {@plushkacraft}

The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Successfully on Etsy

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Today I’ve got a fantastic guest post for you from my friend and fellow Aussie Etsy seller Cath of My Bearded Pigeon. She has an amazing Etsy success story – hitting over 1,000 sales in her first year – but that was on her second time round! Find out the principles she followed to reach that success in today’s post…

Hello Everyone, and thank you for having me Jess.

Those of you who visit my blog chunky chooky may be familiar with what I have to say about Etsy. I am always happy to help people with their Etsy shops as I had lots of help when I started my first shop on Etsy in March 2008.

Like many of you I found the creative juices started to flow after I had a baby. I was looking for toys for my little that I liked and I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t hideously expensive and made overseas so to cut a very long story short I started sewing and one step lead to another and I opened chunkychooky on etsy.

I made these……

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Sales were slow at first of course but as I researched and read and tweaked and re-took photos again and again and I spent hours in the etsy forums watching and learning and reading everything I could get my hands on and I eventually starting to see a few sales. More importantly I learnt a lot and made a lot of mistakes…

Fast forward two years and I decide to launch My Bearded Pigeon. So it was December 2010, I had this great idea and have found a way to make it work, but this time I knew so much more, this time I was going to be far more organized and this time I knew where to focus my energy.

So in the spirit of what Etsy is all about – sharing and community- I thought I would share some of what I have learnt since I started selling on Etsy 3 years ago. Late last year I hit my 1000th sale on Etsy. It was a massive milestone for me and came at a time our little family really needed some good news.

Many people who have bought from me have returned again and again and told their friends.

So here is by no means a comprehensive list but a good start…

DO Answer convos’ politely and promptly, I think it is great to add a bit of humour be yourself … even if it is the tenth person that week asking if you would like to giveaway a cushion on their blog. You can say “No thank you” nicely. This includes being polite even when people ask you questions you have answered numerous times in your policies, listings and shop intro. For example “can I get the cushion without the insert?” I probably get asked this at least once a week despite it saying on every listing that they come without the insert.

DO Respond to treasuries– when someone puts you in one – go over to the treasury and at the very least say thank you! That is all you have to say- sometimes you can say more, but it is nice to acknowledge that some one has taken the time. This is how you get on the front page remember – by being in treasuries.

DO Say thank you when someone orders something from your shop. As soon as I get an order I respond with a thank you and let them know when I plan to post – usually within a couple of days. I respond to the email from paypal as people new to Etsy may not check etsy convos. I find it quite bad manners when people do not acknowledge your order. I am shocked at how often I get no response when I buy something.

DO Be an active team member, I am in quite a few teams and I try to participate when I can, but of course I am not perfect and cannot participate in everything.

DO Always have your shop looking tip top! You never know when you will be featured in an Etsy finds email or on the front page or maybe even on a popular blog. So if people are coming for the first time it may be the difference of them giving you a heart and returning later or not.

DO Always have high res images ready (if you load pictures onto flickr that will help as you can download any sizes) for magazine editors or bloggers who may be interested in featuring you.

DO Remember the customer is almost always usually mostly sometimes right!

DO Follow Etsy’s rules.

DO price accordingly. Include Etsy fees, paypal fees, packaging and stationary, plus the time it takes to list the item, take photos etc, package it all up, take it to the post office plus the actual making of the item, material costs, time taken to get these materials, time taken to actually make it… what are you prepared to work for?

Be realisitic. Don’t worry so much about what other people are selling items in your category for. What do you need to make a profit? To make it worthwhile for you? I see people selling cushions for $12 and wonder how they can be making any money at all.

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DO think about how to market your product. What makes it unique? Why would someone buy it? When people buy from you what are they buying? For example when someone buys a cushion from me they are buying a souvenir. They are buying the memory of a lovely holiday, the place they went on their honeymoon, the town they grew up in, the place they met their partner. They are buying something eco friendly, so I make sure I tell them this. They are buying something unique they cannot get anywhere else in the world – (I get the fabric printed myself) so I tell them that. This is fabric no one else has, you cannot buy it online – this is what I am selling (and this is why they are priced as they are) explain to them why they want to buy it and why they should buy it.

DO look at your product critically. Is it original? do people get excited when they see it? Is it unique? Can you get it anywhere else? Does it appeal to a wide range of people? I am lucky that my products appeal to women and men and people also buy them for kids too – know who you are selling too and market accordingly.

DO offer a discount for customers who buy several items. I have had many people buy over 5 cushions from me, in some instances 10+. Reward their loyalty with free postage and/or a % discount. You can make your own coupons on Etsy and people love a discount.

DO have postage listed to lots of different places, and make sure it is accurate. Do not make money out of postage, put your prices up if you need to. There is nothing worse than receiving something that cost you $10 in postage to have it say $2.20 on the envelope. Take the items to the post office and get them weighed.

Do have all your shop policies filled out. How long will you reserve items for? What about returns? what about if an item doesn’t show up? What are the postage times?

DO check your convos regularly. I have heard people say “I have a life I don’t want to be chained to the computer all day.” You don’t have to be, but you do have to check your emails at least 2 times a day I think. You have to allow for time differences. I still have most of my traffic from the US so I need to be up early answering convos and emails and also checking in again at night for responses or new convos. I think it is a huge part of an online business to be able to respond to people quickly.

DO take a really good look at your shop. Look at it from a customers perspective. Does it look neat and tidy with all the sections filled out and all the photos looking nice? Really, does it? Is it full of lots of items so you show up in searches a lot. Are you items in sections so people can easily find what they want? have you used every tag for every item?

DO BRAND EVERYTHING: when someone buys a cushion this is what they get:

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There will be no confusion as it to where it came from, so people can tell their friends about you too. Put your logo on shop name on everything!

DO have your shop announcement filled out: it doesn’t have to be a huge amount of writing just a little bit about the products, same with your profile, just a little bio about yourself, why you started making what you make, what materials you use.

DO have lots of detail in your listings and your item title. Who would this be a good present for? On what occasion would you buy it for someone? How can it be used? How is it packaged – say if you are selling artwork people want to know it is going to arrive safely. How big is it? Put the size in cms and inches. It drives me mental how many people put a coin next to the item to show size? how would I know how big a coin from another country is? Are all the tags filled out – every single one?

DO have a good read and think about Etsy ads and about renewing? The thing with renewing is you need to have a bit of a budget in mind and think about when peak times are for you. I seem to get a lot of sales on Thursday and Friday night Australia times – so I renew a lot then. I seem to get less sales and traffic on the weekend so I don’t renew as much. Maybe invest in some Etsy ads? See how it works for you after a week or so…

hangry

Now, for the flipside…

DON’T Tell the customer that you think something is a bad idea. For example I contacted a necklace seller, and when I asked if I could have the chain longer I was told ” the chain is long enough”. Long enough for whom I thought? I have had people suggest things to me that I think are not great ideas but I am polite and talk my way around it.

DON’T Spam your customers… don’t send them loads for convos/emails one to say you received the order and have posted it is suffice.

DON’T Feel like you need to have a facebook twitter blog and flickr account before you can sell anything. All of these things can be very useful but they do take a bit of time to get the hang of and can be done as you go along.

DON’T Put a bad photo on Etsy, you may be tempted to quickly list something but it may be the difference between a heart and a future sale or nothing. Are you photos looking tip top – with the help of some free photo editing like picnik? Just changing the colour contrast and brightness will make a huge difference you want your pictures to really pop off the page. I use a white background for everything and I don’t put my products in a styled way. For example having the cushions on a chair etc but others swear by this so you will have to decide what works best for you.

DON’T Leave bad feedback without discussing it with the shop owner first. Be reasonable, this is someone’s business. If someone does leave you bad feedback you can use the Etsy kiss and make up feature. I have used it when someone left bad feedback because an item had not arrived – in a week from Australia to Brazil! I politely explained how huge bad feedback was for me and my business and she was happy to change it using the kiss and make up feature.

DON’T COPY!! I see people blatantly copying the work of sellers who do really well – orginal is best. Always. And people will know you have copied and think that is not very good.

DON’T obsess about the number of sales. Yes there are shops that have sold 10 000 items +++ but why worry about them? You cannot compare your shop with other shops that sell different products to yours, so don’t.

Most of all have fun! Working at home running an online business can be very difficult. Being part of a blogging community or other online groups does offer great support for you as it can feel overwhelming at times and you can feel quite isolated.

Don’t stay on the computer all day, step way for large periods and stop playing with your phone – it will do you the world of good.


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Cath Young is a  crafter, blogger, mother and wife living an eco friendly life in a tiny town on the mid north coast of NSW. Cath likes taking photos and going for walks in the forest with her dog.

All photos by Cath. First image edited by me to add title.