This is a continuation of my discussion on 2010 craft sales. The previous blog was getting a little lengthy and since I am switching gears, it seemed to be a good place to split the narrative. If you didn’t read the last one, you should after you finish this one (or preferably before).
Just like the shows, my online sales doubled from 2009. A better economy made this possible. But I also had sales coming from sources that I have never experienced until last year. My only online store is Etsy. I have tried many different online outlets and never had anything sell anywhere other than Etsy. I know a lot of LJs have expressed disappointment with their Etsy experience, but it has worked very well for me. At competing sites I will see one or two visits a day. On Etsy I consistently get 50 to 100 views a day all year. It’s not uncommon to see those numbers hit 300+ per day during the holidays. Views don’t necessarily translate into sales, but higher views greatly increases the odds.
To me, Etsy is just one of many sources for revenue. I may go weeks or months without a sale, or I may have a big week where I am packing and shipping everyday. It would be nice to be able to make a living off online sales, but I just can’t see that happening in the short term. Shows easily outsell online sales 10 to 1 in dollars. However, Etsy does represent thousands of dollars per year in sales to me, so I work it hard between shows to maximize that revenue stream. I’ve been selling for 3 years on Etsy, and it started out real slow. In fact, it was 6 months before I made my first sale. It took me well over a year to figure out how to work and promote the store before sales finally started to increase. I could have easily given up a few years ago, but sticking it out and learning how to work it has paid off in the long run. I have a trickle of sales each month throughout the year, with a few monthly spikes, and then an avalanche the last two months of the year. I have yet to figure out how to get consistent monthly sales, but I suspect I would need a larger quantity and variety which is not going to happen anytime soon. It is difficult dividing my time and inventory between Etsy and shows. In fact, I close my Etsy store during shows.
During one forum post, a LJ made the comment that the only things that sell on Etsy are under $20. There is a little truth to that statement, because if you look at the very successful sellers with 2000+ sales, their average item is $20 or less. However, if you average their sales out at $15 per, that’s $30,000 since they opened their store. Or, the woodworker that sells his items at an average of $180, but has only sold 95 over the past couple of years. That’s still $17,000+. This is not a bad secondary income if true cost, labor and profit are being recovered. Some sellers are giving their widgets away based on their pricing. I personally don’t want to deal with small dollar items online. I sell small dollar items at shows, but to me it’s more trouble than it’s worth to package and ship something that I am only making a $5 profit. My items run between $35 and $95, and I have sold a significant number of custom orders that have run over $300. It surprised me how many custom requests I get from my Etsy store.
As I mentioned earlier, sales doubled over 2009. This is where the one man shop challenge kicks in. My last two shows of the year are in October. October was a wonderful month. It was so wonderful that by November 1st, I was burned out and had no widgets left to sell. Online holiday sales normally start taking off the week before Thanksgiving, so here I go again. I make a few items of everything I sell online, photograph them, and dump them into my store. A lot of people will mark these items as favorites to come back later and purchase, so an empty store is the ultimate sin. I then turn around and start kicking out larger quantities of each. By the time I’m putting a finish coat on the next batch, my store is getting empty. I’m packing, shipping, trying to find time to photograph more items, and building more widgets. This was my world last Christmas. My biggest sellers were lazy susans and P.O box banks. I could not make the banks fast enough and by the week before Christmas, I sold the last one said “I quit!”. I didn’t want to look at another dovetail joint for a while.
I started making the banks in August of last year. I made and sold 166 by Christmas with 110 being sold online. Not all were through Etsy. Quite a few were sold to customers who saw them at shows, or bought one at a show and ordered more, or a friend of theirs saw them and had to have one or more. I get email orders all the time from people who picked up my card at a show or saw my blog. I just send them a PayPal email invoice since they didn’t come through Etsy. After three years my web site is finally getting indexed higher in the pecking order which brings in customers from their search results. This generates email requests or a click through to my Etsy store. One customer in Texas saw my blog on building the banks and ordered 6, all engraved with his grandchildren’s names on the glass. His Son, Daughter, and Mother each ordered one after he received his. Judging from addresses of other orders, I suspect some of their friends also ordered a few. It’s like a snowball.
Email inquiries started coming in the week after Christmas from customers who saw the P.O. boxes on Etsy, didn’t buy, but now wanted one and there were no more in the store. I made up more that week, put them in the store, emailed the customers, and they were all sold by the first week of January. My online sales usually die the week before Christmas and I usually don’t sell anything for three or four months after that. This year, I am seeing consistent sales every month of P.O boxes and the occasional lazy susan. This is a welcome change from previous years. The reason I have not sold any end grain cutting boards over the last few months is that I sold most of my inventory during the last two shows in October and just didn’t have the time to make more before Christmas. The one man shop syndrome strikes again!
I believe that the online store is finally getting established and showing up higher in the search engine rankings. I think all the Twitter activity along with links from other people’s handmade subject matter blogs is also driving more traffic to my store or web site. It took three years and a lot of determination to get to this point. The result is that I can see my total online sales doing even better this year if the current trend continues and the economy doesn’t back up . It was worth the time I have invested, but I still have a long way to go (and probably more to learn).
As soon as I get a little more time, I am going to detail step by step what I do to sell on line. This will include what I have learned about Etsy, how I use Twitter in conjunction with it, and how I get mentioned or linked to from other blogs.
-- I don't make mistakes, only design changes....www.dgmwoodworks.com