Hello! I’m Claire, otherwise known as Claireabellemakes. You can find me blogging about crafts, living a handmade lifestyle and life in my home city of Cambridge (it’s mostly bicycles and pretty buildings). I sell handmade accessories in my Etsy store.
Big thanks to the lovely guys at printed.com who have invited me here today to give you some practical tips in running a small handmade business on Etsy. I have been trading for almost two years now, but I am still learning and would love to hear your business tips too!
1. Research your market
Initially, I made products that I wanted to wear. The handmade accessories and jewellery market is the most saturated category on Etsy, so it was important for me to make something which stood out and told a story. Easier said than done, right? Start by using the Etsy search feature to determine what already exists in your product themes. What will set you apart from your competitors?
2. Take time to refine your product
I started out making one or two products such as rings and hair slides and produced variations. I always take a product through testing after the concept stage, making sure the quality is up to standard. Most importantly I take time to wear my accessories to gain feedback! The amount of comments I have received on my Wooden Scrabble Ring alone makes the hard work worthwhile.
3. Decide on a business name
Firstly and most importantly, check the name isn’t already taken! Check domain names and social media platforms to ensure your name is unique. It should mean something to you. Claireabelle was a nickname my Dad gave me as a child and of course I make things, so Claireabellemakes comes from there.
4. Utilise the information available
Etsy write a super helpful blog with tons of business tips and advice from industry experts and sellers. I always look up my queries in the Etsy seller handbook, where much of the advice applies to all types of small businesses and other selling platforms too. As an Etsy Ambassador, I help people set up their own stores and I often direct them to this great start-up guide.
There are times when you just want to interact with real people and not read reams of information. That’s where Etsy Teams come into play. Joining an online team will link you directly with other sellers and you can share expertise and work on cross promotion. My local team in Cambridge organise meet-ups (with tea and cake) and we have formed a supportive group offering constructive criticism to one another.
5. Marketing doesn’t have to be scary
If you are not experienced in writing marketing strategies, start by setting some achievable goals. How are you going to let people know your shop exists? I spent six months using Twitter and Instagram before opening my store. I connected with likeminded individuals, built a network to market to and started a blog to build my brand. Blogging has enabled me to connect with my ideal customers directly and to share my ideals and mission for a handmade life.
On my blog, I take time to share craft projects that compliment my products such as this brooch display featuring my popular Scrabble Tea Pin. It turns out that most of my customers are blog readers so I know it is worthwhile. Plus, the blogging world is a whole heap of fun!
6. Harness the power of social media
Twitter, Google +, Facebook and the like are FREE tools – remember this before you start paying for ad space. My favourite social media tool is Instagram. The visual element is a winner for handmade businesses and I adore seeing behind-the-scenes shots from businesses I follow.
My brand centres around life in Cambridge, so you will often find me snapping pics of my bike rides along the river, Scrabble games and a few cat pictures thrown in too! I find it gives my followers a great opportunity to get to know the person behind the brand and this is exactly what small businesses are about.
7. Finances don’t have to be a chore
I am not going to lecture you about doing your accounts on time and making sure you set up a bank account, as there are tons of articles out there to help with this side of your business. However, I will say that the One Man Band Accounting Tax Return Toolkit really helped this clueless girl with her first return. Plus it prompts you to reward yourself with cake; yes please!
Claireabellemakes packaging – business cards by printed.com!
I can’t tell you how many opportunities I have gained from a Tweet or email in response to my blog. Putting yourself out there can be really scary at first, but taking advantage of opportunities that are true to your brand will give you courage and confidence as a small business owner. I am constantly challenging myself to learn new things, at the moment I’m learning how to write and publish eBooks and even exploring the app markets!
9. Avoid comparisons
It is difficult not to compare yourself to other businesses and to wonder why you aren’t making as many sales or getting as many blog hits. Ultimately, you are on an individual journey and should only ever compare against your own achievements! I have decided to let my business grow organically and to remain positive. I only ever want to enjoy what I do.
I hope you have all enjoyed my advice today and thanks to the team at printed.com for supporting small businesses like mine. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and my blog – come say hi!