Should you open another Etsy shop? What to consider first.

Should you ahve more than 1 etsy shop

Because I frequently make mention of the fact that I juggle 4 Etsy shops in addition to my website and other selling platforms, I am often asked by fellow handmade sellers if it would be a good idea for them, too, to open up more than 1 Etsy shop.

The not-so-simple answer is, of course, it depends.

There are a few factors you should take into consideration before you jump on board the more-than-one shop train.

The first is of course, do you have the time, energy, and gusto to market all 4 of your shops enough to enable each of them to earn sales? There is a lot to it when it comes to harboring a successful Etsy shop, most of which people don’t realize when they sign up for one.

I can personally testify that where you direct your energy is where the flourishing happens. (click to tweet this!)

Do you feel capable of pouring your energy in multiple directions without diminishing the results of any of its locations?

If you’ve answered yes to the above considerations, then you are probably fully capable of hosting more than one Etsy shop. However, this still does not mean that you should.

Often times people think that they should open up more than one shop because they create two different kinds of products. Say, for example, they knit scarves as well as make beaded bracelets.

More than one product offering does not necessarily mean more than one shop is required, however.

If both products are created for and directed at the same target audience, then why split them up? You want the same people to be looking at both selections, so there is no need for you to perform double your marketing efforts in order to get the right eyeballs where they need to be.

On the other hand, if your two products are in fact for two totally separate audiences, then it might be a good idea to consider splitting them into two separate Etsy shops. For example, the people who buy my jewelry from my MegansBeadedDesigns Etsy shop aren’t typically the same people who buy the more cutesy jewelry from my Glamour365 shop. Likewise, the people who buy my ready-to-use glass eyes from my SteampunkDream shop aren’t the same as the DIYers who buy my eye designs collage sheets from my MegansCreativeDesigns shop. So it makes sense that I have these 4 Etsy shops split up to avoid confusion and overwhelm.

Finally, you may want to consider ahead of time the pain it can be to have to sign in and out of your account in order to check up on all of your varying shops. If you primarily use a tablet or smart phone to manage your Etsy shops, it can be frustrating to miss out on incoming customer requests or sale notifications until you get around to signing in and out of each shop. (If you’re on a desktop, then I recommend using multiple browsers so that you can stay signed in to all of your shops at once, if you want to be.)

So, in conclusion, yes, it is completely possible for you to handle more than 1 Etsy shop. If you think it might be the right decision for you, then I suggest moving slowly, building up each shop until it is systematized and established before adding another. The less overwhelm you can create for yourself along the way, the better.

 

 

Why It’s Okay to Get Paid for Your Art

Why its okay to get paid

Artists can be finicky when it comes to asking for money.

They don’t feel okay about doing it, so when it comes time for the transaction to take place, many creators of handmade goods ask for far too less than their work is worth.

(And just to be perfectly transparent, I’m personally guilty of this, too.)

Why do we feel this way?

A big reason is that, deep down, many of us feel that by selling our work we are making our buyers poorer in order for us to get richer.

To put it another way: they have money before the sale, and afterwards we get the money. The seller wins, right?

This line of thinking is, of course, flawed.

Consider: if we became poorer every time we bought something, we would gradually becomes desolate and eventually run out of money and end up homeless and starving, from the holiday shopping season alone.

When someone buys one of your creations, they don’t become poorer as a result, because they are receiving something of value in exchange for their currency.

That’s all that buying and selling really is when you break the concept down to its core: an exchange of value for value.

When a seller creates a widget worth x, and sells it to customer for x, no one has lost any value. The same amount of value has changed hands.

Value, can in fact, be added to the widget, creating even more value into the world.

Say a retailer buys a creators widget on wholesale for x. Then said retailers adds the value of a shopping experience, customer service, and expertise. So when the final customer buys the widget for the marked up price of y, the widget is in fact worth y. Finally, the owner of the widget may add personal sentimental value to their new widget, giving it a priceless value that is not even quantifiable with numbers.

There are only two ways in which selling something for money makes a member of the exchange poorer.

The first is when someone is asked to pay more in the currency form of value than the product is worth. (Aka: magic diet pills that don’t actually do anything, warranties with enough fine print to ensure that absolutely nothing will actually be covered, etc.) This is what artists feel like they are doing when they sell their work, but they shouldn’t.

Because your work is valuable.

You’ve spent years honing your craft and ages perfecting your designs and hours creating your product lines. You’ve brought your expertise and aesthetics to the table. Your work is always improving, and your products are becoming a better and better fit for your customers. The value of your work increases along the way.

Which brings me to the second selling exchange from which a member of the transaction can be made poorer as a result. It’s when something of value is being exchanged for less currency value than its worth.

In this case the creator or source of the product actually becomes poorer by selling.

(Consider: why resource-rich countries are so poor.)

In a transaction where an artist or creator does not ask for a worthy exchange of value currency for their work, value is not being properly added to the world, and one side of the transaction loses.

It’s like trading 5 apples for 3 apples. The value exchange isn’t balanced, causing an overall loss of value in the universe.

(Sorry. Got a bit woo-woo on you there.)

But I’m thinking you’re starting to get the idea. You lose and you make yourself poorer when you do not properly value your work and ask for the currency exchange it is worth. By paying yourself a low or nonexistent wage, you are doing a disservice to the entire selling economy, in both the handmade community as well as on a global scale.

Food for thought, anyway.

Wanna share some thoughts? Post ‘em in the comments below!

What I wish I would have started earlier

An e-mail list: it’s the one thing I wish I would have started 3 years earlier. But alas, life is too short for regrets and we can only move forward, which is a heckuva lot easier if your head isn’t craned around to see what’s behind you.

There’s you’re wisdom for the day, ladies and gentlemen. Completely free of charge.

Anyway, back to my main point:

Why I have an e-mail list and why I think you should get one too:

Reason #1:  Snag visitors before they forget you forever.

People come into your website from all sorts of places. Some will come in through a Google search, perhaps stumbling across one of your blog posts or product listings. They may like what they see, even enjoy browsing your site a bit, but if they leave without dropping off their e-mail address there’s a very good chance they’ll forget about you completely, never to return.

It’s not you, it’s them. Really.

They probably even left with the best of intentions to come back, but without the chance that they’ll get any e-mail reminders, it’s slim to none that they’ll remember to drop back in as they go about their busy lives where a million other distractions are vying for their attention.

Reason #2: E-mails wait patiently.

Social media is great, but whether or not your followers will see your posts depends a lot on what time of day you post – and whether or not that corresponds with the time of day they are interacting on the same social media site. Places like twitter and Instagram move so quickly, you are only having your statuses seen by a tiny fraction of your followers with each post. Likewise, Facebook will only show your updates to a handful of your followers to deem its interactive quality before they show it to a greater amount of your fans. The likelihood of any of your posts seeing ALL of  your followers is virtually impossible.

With e-mail, the message you send to your list will wait patiently in their inboxes until they decide to open it or delete it, for however long it takes.

E-mail sign up form example

The popup e-mail sign-up form on www.MegansBeadedDesigns.com

Reason #3: E-mail is more intimate.

If you’re getting the right people onto your e-mail list, then you know that most of them are very interested in your products – even if they haven’t purchased anything yet. This means you get to be more targeted with your message, and allow your list to feel like you are speaking directly with them (because you are!) You can also offer exclusive insights, free value-laden content, and VIP deals to let them know you appreciate their loyalty.

Reason #4: It can help you turn in-person buyers into online shoppers.

By collecting e-mails at craft fairs and art shows, you can get more of your local customers to check out your website or online marketplace shop. This, in turn, can lead them to not only purchasing from you at their computers, but more recommendations from them to their friends and family who perhaps don’t live in the nearby area.

(As you probably know, word-of-mouth advertising is the best kind there is.)

Reason #5: You can segment and automate your message.

Most e-mail service providers give you the option of breaking up your list into multiple segments. For example, my list is broken up by my subscribers here on this blog, and those who sign up at my website. Obviously, the people who sign up here are more interested in business advice and jewelry-making tutorials, whereas the people who sign up over on my website are more interested in the finished products and style advice.

Two separate lists on the same e-mail provider makes my life easier.

Furthermore, I can write and set up my e-mail newsletters as far in advance as I want to go, scheduling them ahead of time. This way, if I get backed up with other tasks or want to take a vacation, I don’t have to worry about falling behind on getting in touch with my audience.


 

There are plenty more reasons why an e-mail list is a good idea for your business. This post merely scratches the surface.

So, rather than waiting until you wish you would have done it earlier, why not get started setting up your e-mail list today?

 

Oh, and speaking of e-mail lists:



My Top 5 Business Book Recommendations

While I continue to love getting lost in the griping, page-turning pages of a fiction novel, I still intersperse a business book or two in-between bouts of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman over-indulgence. I recommend the following list of my favorite business books because they are either enlightening, clearly applicable, and/or incredibly motivating. While implementation is always required in order for any of the words of wisdom you will learn to take effect, arming yourself with new business knowledge can give you the means to outline the steps that will allow you take your business forward into the direction of your choosing.


1. The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin

The Icarus Deception by Seth GodinThis book is a must-read for all creative-industry members. It centers around several major themes, including the Pick Yourself generation (we not longer need to wait for permission from the gatekeepers), and removing the self-set limitations of flying too high. This is an incredibly uplifting business book that will motivate you to not only create, but ship, your art.

2. Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

Ever wondered why some things on the internet go viral and why some don’t? Why some commercials get shared on social media and others get blocked as annoying ads? This book, with lots of interesting and entertain example, explains. It will not only give you some hints on how to market your own products, but it will leave with you some fascinating insight on why some of the big brands advertise in the way that they do. You’ll never be able to look at another piece of marketing the same.

3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This incredibly motivating, easy  business read will pump you up to act like a professional and do the work. In my favorite concept highlighted within the first section of the book, Pressfield encourages artists to think of their art (their business) as a separate entity for whom they work for. Just like when you go to work at your day job, you need to show up and do the work, whether you like it or not. Inspiration comes after you get busy creating, not before.

4. Manage Your Day-To-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei

Manage Your Day to DayThis is the perfect reference book to keep on hand and re-read when your daily schedule starts to slip. It is filled with easy-to-follow advice from top entrepreneurs on how to set goals, manage daily schedules, and take much-needed breaks. A must-read for creatives who constantly find themselves overwhelmed and easily distracted (like yours truly.)

5. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

The E-MythWe creative types aren’t know for our love of systems. I have never claimed that organization and attention-to-small details were my strong suits. I have, however, felt scattered, unprepared, and overwhelmed when handling all of the bits and pieces that make up my business. There is inventory to be managed, marketing to scheduled, orders to be shipped, live shows to plan for, and so much more. It’s a lot, when you look at all of the pieces that make up the whole, even for a small-scale handmade business. Throughout The E-Myth Revisited, Gerber explains what steps businesses need to take in order to stay in business, and not fall trap into some of the common pitfalls that claim over 80% of small business owners. It’s not the most captivating read, but it very well could be the most enlightening. This single book prompted me to make the necessary changes to how I organized my inventory, scheduled my marketing, and planned future product lines. If you only read one book from this list, The E-Myth Revisited should be it.

You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

Allow me to re-phrase the common saying “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” to the following:

You don’t know what you’ve been putting up with until you move on.

Let me explain.

Last week the 5-minute storm of the century blew through my neighborhood in Spokane, WA. It was short-lived, but the wind and hail did about as much damage as it could mange as it passed through. Trees were uprooted and fell on people’s houses, cars, and so on.

Power lines came down. Electricity was knocked out and the lights went dark.

Photo from spokesman.com

Photo from spokesman.com

My husband and I were lucky. We lost our power, but not our roof, or any other major damage to our residence (or persons!) to speak of.

However, this bring me back to my point.

Growing up, I lived “back-woods poor,” which roughly translates to living out in the woods without running water or electricity. Standard commodities I’ve gotten used to in my old age. ;-)

When I was a kid, we hauled our water in, melted snow and ice on the wood stove to take showers in the winter, and went without fresh fruits and vegetables until our garden could start sprouting again (we were usually sick during these months, probably for this very reason.)

Before you start thinking that I grew up in some hippie-utopian paradise, let me correct your line of thought. Going without plumbing and power lines is HARD WORK. We didn’t realize how much we were putting into maintaining what we had until… of course… we didn’t have to live like that anymore.

Now, coming back to present-day, I go a few days without being able to run the microwave or turn the lights on (not to mention use the internet!) and I’m stressing over how long the food in the fridge will last and trying to figure out alternative ways to print out shipping labels for incoming orders.

Needless to say, I realize now just how much trouble I had been putting up with as a kid, living without the standard conveniences I have since learned to rely on.

I’m not saying that we’re wimps for getting used to having flushing toilets or frozen chicken, quite the opposite, in fact.

I can’t believe how long my family put up with scraping by and barely making it when it would have made so much more sense to “give in” and allow the inventions of the twenty-first century allow up to spend our time on more sophisticated, life-growing experiences.

To bring this to a smaller scale, business related example, it made me think of how long I put up with the work-arounds on Etsy before finally taking the plunge and building my own website.

For nearly 3 years I dealt with small inconveniences such as limited product sections, the inability to live link outside of Etsy, hosting my blog on a separate platform, having to compete with every other shop on the site within the search results, and so on.

While I still think its beneficial to maintain my shops on Etsy for several reasons, it wasn’t until I started to build my own Highwire site that I learned how many options and potential could be harnessed with my own site and domain.

Aside from operating on Etsy alone, some other limitations you may be dealing with without even realizing it are having your blog hosted on a .com platform, using a camera with poor quality images that require much more editing than you would need to conduct if you had better equipment, and so on. Sometimes you can’t realize what you’ve been putting up with until you move on, but sometimes, if you take a step back and really think about it, you can get a sense of what you’re ready to upgrade in order to make room for your business’s growth.

What are some of the things on your ready-to-upgrade list? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Tutorial: How to Make Glass Eye Cabochons

This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the very same glass eye cabochons that I sell from my SteampunkDream Etsy shop. Every now and again I get sent messages asking how to make these pieces, so I figured it was about time I made a guide I could point people to rather than responding to each individual e-mail or Etsy convo with my process.

(Lots of eye designs are available for digital download from my other Etsy shop MegansCreativeDesign, or on my website here.. I will be using one of the designs from this Steampunk Evil Eyes Collage for this tutorial.)

Step 1.

Cut out and separate the eye designs you are going to use from the printed sheet. (I recommend printing your designs on heavy card stock paper or matte photo paper so there isn’t the glare that comes from glossy prints.)

Fantasy-Eye Designs

Step 2.

Drop a single drip of crystal lacquer onto each eye design.

DSC_0142

Step 3.

Press the flat side of the glass dome cabs onto the design, pressing hard enough to push out any air bubbles. Hold for several seconds (until the glass is securely in place and attached to the design without sliding off.) Wipe off any access lacquer with a rag or tissue to keep it from drying on the glass dome surfaces.

How to make glass eyes

Step 4.

Allow to dry for an hour or more.

Step 5.

Cut away the access paper from around the glass dome, making small, close cuts to eliminate all exposed paper stock.

glass cabochon tutorialtaxidermy eye tutorial

Optional step:

Depending on what you are planning on using the glass eyes for, you may need to coat the back side (where the paper stock is exposed) with a some sort of protection. If you are using the eyes in polymer clay sculptures, for example, you’ll probably want to paint a layer of enamel the the back of the eye, or at least a coat of rubber cement depending on your project. If, however, you are going to be attaching the back to a backing for jewelery making (as I use them for), coating the back of the eyes may not be necessary.

 

How to Feel Better About Raising Your Prices

One of the surprising observations I had while staying over in the UK, France, Italy and Ireland, were how few knockoff/made-in-China fashion stores there were. At least in the districts my husband and I explored, over 90% of the apparel and accessory shops were either handcrafted or manufactured within its own country, or offered only designer labels.

I delighted in the fact that there could be a shop in Paris that only sold handcrafted umbrellas (beautifully made, and well worth the 600+ euro price tags) or one in Scotland that only sold ornate mirrors for home decor, and that both appeared to be thriving, well-supported businesses.

Shopping in Italy

This was such a strong contrast against my own city, where the Wal-Mart parking lot is always full, and small boutique-type businesses rarely last a single shopping season. The majority of the shopping population here grabs their attireat discount outlets such as Ross or TJMaxx, and occasionally, at big-box departments stores such as Target or Fred Meyers.

Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this, but as a handmade jewelry designer, being surrounded by and myself inhabiting a discount-seeking culture has made it psychologically hard for me to charge a fair price for my artisan-crafted pieces. Despite the fact that most of my pieces take me several hours to design and create, are made with high-quality materials, and incorporate well over 20 years of beading experience, I found it hard to actually follow any pricing formulas that suggested I triple or even quadruple what I have been asking.

Research and immersion have been key in helping me break this psychological barrier.

Even if I don’t plan on buying anything, I’ve been purposefully spending more time in high-end department and boutique stores, looking at the higher price tags as something to be celebrated and to strive for.

I make frequent visits to sites like NET-A-PORTER and Neiman Marcus. Seeing how much these guys charge for fashion jewelry helps me to realize just how much I am giving my own stuff away.

If you are struggling with charging what your pieces are worth, I implore you to do the same.

Spend more time in Nordstom and less in Nordstrom Rack.

Frequent high-end boutiques and lifestyle stores.

Follow designer labels on Pinterest.

Really take the time to immerse yourself in the luxury market. Because it’s out there and it’s growing. Even if you live in a city like mine, where most people seem to purchase based on price, you can’t be certain that they aren’t shopping online for the more quality stuff, or that someone on the other side of the world, who is more used to paying properly in exchange for quality, won’t stumble across your online shop and find just what they were looking for.

Result Time: Taking a Vacation While Running a Business

notre-dame

Well, I made it back.

After 16 days spent in Europe I’ve returned to my home country, and my home-based business.

Surprisingly, it didn’t all go to hell in a hand basket while I was gone.

Though I shouldn’t say “surprisingly,” really, because I prepared my ass off.

I did have to check in occasionally when I had available Wi-Fi to access with my smart phone when there were questions or custom order requests that my assistant didn’t know the responses to, but she let me know when they were there so I wasn’t having to constantly check or stress that messages were being left in limbo on the days when I didn’t have internet access because. (I had given her some response templates to let these inquirers know that I would be getting back to them within the next few days, so no one ever felt like they weren’t being heard.)

In the past, when I went on vacation for longer than an extended weekend, I had to set my Etsy shops in vacation mode and/or deactivate the majority of my listings. This meant, of course, that sales stopped and inventory remained. Ultimately this not only temporarily endangers cash flow, but can also hurt your site’s SEO (because when the Google-bots come crawling, they won’t see your stuff!), it removes the possibility of any PR and partnership opportunities, and much more.

kilkeny-castle

It’s funny how many of us go into business for ourselves because we want more freedom (to travel, to spend with loved ones, and so on), yet we feel even more chained to the work of our business than we do our day jobs.

(At least at the day job I get 2 weeks paid vacation!)

So it’s nice to conclude that it doesn’t have to be that way. I have to confess that I was really nervous about leaving my business (my baby) in the hands of someone else, even someone who I trust and have thoroughly trained. The only listings I deactivated while I was gone were my made-to-order pieces, which don’t take up a lot of the virtual space on my site anyway. Even that was being overly cautious, as I could have simply had my assistant message the purchasers of these listings in the event of any of them selling, to let them know that there would be a delay prior to the creation of their item, along with putting the information in the item descriptions. Refunds could easily have been made to customers who may have missed the warning and thought they could get their items within my usual time-frame.

So having a vacation while running a home-based business? Totally possible. It only takes some careful planning ahead of time, and organizing as though your are hiring (even if you aren’t.)

Oh, and Europe? So fabulous. I can’t wait to go back and explore even more of the continent. Next time, with even more confidence that my business can keep on going while I’m away.

Pad Your Profits with Multiple Revenue Streams

To create each of my bead-embroidered glass eye rings I go through the following processes:

  1. Digitally designing the eye in Photoshop.
  2. Creating the glass cabochon with the printed design.
  3. Bead embroidering around the glass eye to create the ring.

At the end of this combined process, I have a finished product to sell: a beaded glass eye ring. While this is obvious, what can often be less obvious to other handmade sellers are all of the possible revenue streams that stem from the above process.

Yellow Dragon Eye Ring

Yellow Dragon Eye Ring

Instead of simply creating glass eye rings, I am also creating the possibility for revenue streams such as creating digital collage sheets from my Photoshop designs, selling the glass eye cabochons to other artists to use in their jewelry and/or sculptures, de-stashing the left-over beading supplies or less-than-perfect cabochons, or even selling tutorials on how to bead embroider and create your own ring.

All of these possible revenue streams stem from one process.

Yes, my main focus is to sell the completed project–my eye ring–but there is no harm in padding my bottom line with the other possibilities that go along with it.

Steampunk Eyes Digital Collage Sheet

Steampunk Eyes Digital Collage Sheet

That’s the important distinction to make here. All of the above listed revenue streams stem from one product and process. I am creating the digital designs anyway, I am creating the glass cabochons anyway, and I am documenting my creation process to systematize my production anyway. I might as well take these steps a little farther to generate revenue from them.

Too often business owners confuse “shiny object syndrome” for “multiple revenue streams,” but there is a key way to tell the difference.

Multiple revenue streams branch out from your already existing business activities, while shiny objects distract you from your overall vision and goals. (Click to tweet this!)

An additional revenue stream that does not detract or distract consists of expanding an already existing process within your business, or adding to that process, such as tacking on an up-sell or creating follow-up products that existing customers would most likely be interested in. It could also be the creation of a pre-purchase product (such as an inexpensive sample), selling your already existing products in more than one location, or partnering with other businesses as an affiliate or joint venture partner to earn commission from recommending products to your customers that you personally don’t produce.



Letting Your Business Happen Without You

Let Your Business Happen Without You

So I’m in Europe right now.

If my itinerary all goes according to plan, I should be headed to the Dublin airport to pick up a car where my husband and I will have to figure out how to drive on the wrong side of the road, and with a stick shift used by the wrong hand! Yikes!

Should be quite the adventure. I’ll have to tell you about it after.

I can’t tell you about it right now, because, as I’m writing this, I still have a couple of weeks before I even take off for my vacation.

Woah. Total mind trip.

That’s right. I’m writing this blog post in advance and scheduling it to go live in the future.

(On WordPress you do this by clicking “Edit” next to “Publish Immediately” in the top right sidebar, in case you didn’t know.)

shceulde blog posts in advance on wordpress

Advanced written blog posts, social media updates, and e-mail newsletters are all part of what I refer to as my “Business Buffer.”

A buffer is great to set up prior to any vacation, or other planned event where you know you might be too busy (being too busy relaxing and having fun counts here too!) to worry about getting a Twitter post out there, or announcing your Christmas in July sale.

It’s also great to have any other time too.

Because sometimes things happen that aren’t planned. Like you get sick, or someone in your family gets sick. Or your best friend is going through a divorce and needs to crash at your place. Or there’s a major storm and the power goes out for a couple of days.

Shyte happens.

When you have a buffer in place, you never have to worry about your business suddenly disappearing from all potential prospects and customers. You don’t have to feel like your “missing out” in the fast-paced, short-attention-spanned life of the internet.

In general, I like to operate at least a week ahead of time, that way I always have a week’s worth of buffer set up in case any minor emergency were to strike. During any given week, I’m actually preparing next week’s blog posts, social media updates, and so on. (A marketing calendar makes all of this super painless!)

I also like to keep a file with random social media updates, such as quotes or links to interesting articles, on hand for using to fill up my buffer when I can’t think of a whole lot to say.

So in cases such as this week, when I needed to be scheduling out 3 weeks of content so I could relax and have fun while I’m on my vacation, it wasn’t as much of a stretch as you might think. Rather than working on only next week’s content during my current week, I spend the last couple weeks of May and the first week of June creating content for at least 2 weeks out per my marketing and editorial calendars.

Done, and done, and done.

So if you’re reading this right now, it means that it’s working. My business is running smoothly, just as it should, while I’m on the other half of the world not even having to think about it.

It can happen, it just takes a little forethought and a bit more hustle on your end.