Beth Meadows

Happy Birthday, With Bear Hands!!!

"art business", "etsy", "gift"BComment
My Etsy shop, also known as With Bear Hands, is one year old TODAY. So sweet!

my shop banner by the illustrious Heidi Gruner


To celebrate, I'm giving a 15% discount on all items listed November 15 through November 18. Just use the coupon code HBWBH upon check out.

***

As my shop and I embark on year two together, I'd like to share some thoughts about Etsy.

When I first started my shop, I heard there are people out there who make six digits a year selling their wares on Etsy. A year later, I am nowhere near being one of them.

In the past year, Etsy records that I have made 26 sales. As sad as that sounds, thankfully, that number does not represent the actual number of sales I've had in real life.

Etsy is a wild and wonderful place. It is also complex, confusing, and sometimes a drag.

For me, it has been a constant reminder of my failures as I endeavor to be a business woman. I say this as a compliment to Etsy, as it has kept pushing me to work harder and hone in on what I'm good at selling. This journey of marketing artwork isn't easy. By nature, artists are not salespeople and should not have to be, but Etsy helps in providing a mask for artists to hide behind. We can project what we want on our shop; no one has to know if we are reclusive, awkward, crazy, shy, pretentious, what have you.

***

My shop actually did pretty well when I first started it. People were ordering my mason jar paintings left and right from all over the country. One of those people was the Senior Vice President of Retail Development at Polo Ralph Lauren in NYC. He told me through a message, that he bought it while eating a bowl of soup during his lunch break. Somewhere on Madison Avenue, a man I don't know liked a painting of mine enough to buy it. That's freaking exciting.

It didn't take long to learn that my success was a result of poor attention to details on my part. In other words, I wasn't charging enough and therefore making no money.

Once I raised my prices, business slowed, and as a result, my shop sat dormant for a while.

Then, I sold nine paintings to one woman in one day.

Then dormant.

***

While Etsy is about selling a good product first and foremost, that's not enough. It's also about the work you put into it. It's the type of thing you should chip away at everyday, not once a month like me. A successful shop owner spends their time everyday listing items, trolling Etsy for other shops and items they like, corresponding with other shop owners, and they are aware of the best times do all of these things.

The best thing for me has been to talk to other shop owners I know, asking questions and getting their advice. We can work through our hardships together. It's a difficult thing, putting yourself out there, selling work you've made, but knowing someone else is doing the same thing helps.

So here is some more concrete advice for Etsy beginners, some I've learned and actually go by and some I'd like to go by as I enter year two with With Bear Hands:

1) Focus on one or two types of items to sell. It helps you not get overwhelmed and it helps the customer to know what you're about. I'm still working on this one.

2) Find a successful shop and copy them. Yes, I said it: Copy them- Not their products, but their techniques. The shop I go back to is The Black Apple. She has all ready paved the way, so I can use her shop and blog as a resource on prices, aesthetics, etc..

3) Quit selling things that don't sell. Figure out what people buy from you often and stick to that. This goes hand in hand with number one. At the same time, give items a chance. Some things that sit for a while may still sell- they're just waiting for the right person.

4) Offer different price points for products- have things under $10, under $20, and so on. People who like your stuff may buy something small in the beginning and come back for higher priced items later. I finally started making more affordable prints of my paintings and it's turned out to be a great decision.

5) Sell outside of Etsy- sell at markets, consignment shops, fairs, festivals, gift shops, art openings, anywhere you can. You have to get your name out there. If I hadn't done this in the past year, I probably would have given up on Etsy.

6) Always have a business card on you that links people to your Etsy shop.

7) Someone told me I should list 3 items a day. That's not going to happen, but one item a day would be a good goal.

8) Take the best photos you can and have five photos for each listing.

9) Blog about your items. The more presence you have on the web, the better.

10) Be patient. You won't become rich and famous overnight. And if you do, I don't want to hear about it.

Happy Birthday, With Bear Hands. I am proud of your humble beginnings.