E-Commerce DIY: Online Craft Business

How to Create a Gift Guide

By Sarah Sewell

How to Create a Gift Guide

A gift guide is something you create to offer suggestions for those wanting to purchase a gift. They are super fun to curate and they don’t take a ton of time to put together. Consumers love visuals and gift guides are a quick way for them to see a collection of items relevant to their gift buying needs. 

Studies show that during the holiday’s; emails containing gift guides are purchased from 50% more than any other email promotion. As much as shoppers still want to be in control of their shopping, they still very much appreciate and even look forward to recommendations. ESPECIALLY from brands they love and trust.

How to Get Started:

1. Pick a Theme or Topic for your Gift Guide. You want to keep your audience in mind. The whole point is to provide value and suggestions for your target market. Some examples may include:

  • Gifts ideas $99 and under
  • Unique Gift Ideas for Millennials
  • Gifts that say I Love You for that special person in your life.
  • Stocking Stuffers under $10 for the littles
  • Gifts for the Manly Man in your life
  • Eco-Friendly Gifts under $25
  • Holiday gifts to make your teachers feel special.

2. Curate a Collection that fits your theme. It's totally ok to add your own products into this collection just be sure to omit any products that you have low stock in or items that might sell out quickly, you want the guide to be shoppable throughout the holiday season. It is key to ensure your items match or coordinate with the other products as well, the look and feel of the guide is what will determine its success.

You do NOT have to add only your product! Gift Guides are flexible! You can totally promote say a list of your favorite things! Let's say you have a handmade shop that offers handcrafted wands. Perhaps put together a gift guide titled "Gifts for your Wizarding Friends" and add in your wizard wands, but link to other products within the same theme like cloaks, crystal balls, spellbooks etc... You have freedom here to create what you love. You can add all your own products, add others products, or even work together with other friend shop owners and cross promote one another! As long as you add value to your target audiences lives during this busy season you won't lose!

3. Create your layout. You can use Graphic Design Tools like Canva or similar to help you curate your collection. The best 3 formats to use are:

  • PDF that can be downloaded and shared
  • WebPage that can be linked to
  • Pinterest Board…. (my personal fave... and with Pinterest you can create a main gift guide with sub categories for multiple smaller niches).

Be sure to offer cute captions with the items. A quick title and price will make the viewers more likely to pin, share or purchase. 

4. Share it & Promote it!

  • Create a Social Media Graphic and share on your Social Platforms
  • Create a FB ad for it to be boosted or promoted as an ad
  • Create an Email Promotion around the Gift Guide
  • Post it to your Websites
  • BLOG BLOG BLOG about it!!! Even connect with other bloggers with similar target audiences to share with their followers.
  • Share it in your Etsy Shops
  • Create a link for it and add to your mailings that ship out 

Be sure to get your gift guide up as early as possible, consumers are shopping early this year and have their credit card in hand! Also, if you offer customization or personalization you want to ensure you have enough time to create the orders in time for holiday delivery! 

The point is to have fun and share the fun with others. Have fun curating and creating!

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5 Pillars of E-Commerce for Makers

By Sarah Sewell

5 Pillars of E-Commerce for Makers

Throughout my time as both a online shop owner and an online business coach for makers ,I have collected enough data to know what makes an online business successful.

I created the 5 Pillars of E-Commerce after 15+ years of experience and research. These are the 5 main areas in your online business that you must improve on until you just can't improve it any further. Working in some of these areas will be a consistent project you work on for the entire time you own your business.

The important thing to note, is that you will never have a one and done type of experience with an online business. You must remain fluid and flexible and update and change things as needed and as the market fluctuates.

These pillars can be worked with your own time table, some shop owners only want a part time commitment and income from their craft business, others are looking for 6 figures plus. Your revenue will increase as you increase your time and focus. No matter what revenue you want to see, you won't find much success without mastering these 5 main areas of your online business.

These 5 pillars are the basic backbone of the Flourish program. We touch on many different topics from Social Media Marketing to Web Design and Development, but will ALWAYS daily and monthly teach these pillars, as we have proven that they work no matter what platform or venue you sell from.

Start working the 5 pillars ONLY IF you have figured out WHO your target audience is. If you haven't a clue WHO you are selling to, then you MUST first work on your Target Market. Once you have that clear then move to these 5 Pillars. 

The following 5 areas are the MOST important in having a successful online shop.

1. Branding 
2. Product Photography 
3. SEO 
4. Pricing 
5. Copy

Start wherever you feel your business needs to start. However, these steps should be done in order. 

Pillar 1: Branding

Your brand is the foundation your business is built on. It isn’t just all about the logo, it is about the message behind your business. Who do you serve? Who do you make for? Who is your Target Audience?

Your branding needs to be attractive to your target market. It is everything about your business, from the products you sell, to the photos you take, to the colors, graphics and fonts you use, to the type of verbiage you use throughout your shop and on social media and even through emails and messages. Your brand is who your business is and what it stands for. It is THE MOST important aspect of your online business.

Do you have a brand? Do you have a story? When you make your products, write your copy, take your photos...who are you doing all that for? Your brand must speak to that person. It must be consistent, remarkable, attractive and inspiring.

Pillar 2: Product Photography

Just because you run a small business mainly from your home studio doesn’t mean you want your online store to look like you are renting a space in a flea market. The MOST successful online sellers take professional product shots of their items. Even if you aren’t able to hire a professional you can still have AMAZING photos. It takes practice and patience but you can achieve photos that make your buyers excited to purchase from your shop.

Also watermarks are not encouraged. With todays technology watermarks can be removed in seconds with simple photo editing photography, also many search engines will disqualify you from search results. If you want to work your business name into your photo there are many other creative ways to do so.

How do your current product photos look? Do you have proper lighting? Is the background light and bright? Is the photo clean, or is there a lot of distracting unneeded props in the frame? Visit the product photography section on the member site to learn more about how to take and stage great photos.

Pillar 3: SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Probably the most difficult area for online craft sellers. However, with a little work you can figure out what will work best for your shop. Basically SEO means how you optimize your listings to be found in search. This means you must use keywords in specific areas in your shop to alert the search algorithm’s that you have a certain product.

You must do keyword research to find out which golden words will bring traffic into your shop. Knowing your target audience well is super helpful for this step. There are many tools out there to assist you with your keyword research. Just remember that Etsy SEO is a bit different than regular website SEO. A bit of reading and studying is necessary for this Step.

Pillar 4: Pricing

Many craft sellers just guess at their pricing and throw up a number that sounds good for them. This is a big mistake in the handmade world. It is imperative that you treat your handmade shop as a real business. You must research your competitors and then adjust as needed.

You want to price mid to high against your competitors and also utilize psychology pricing which means using the 9 or 5 to the end of the price point. For example, if you want to price your item at $15.00 instead you would price at $14.99 or $14.95. This price strategy has been proven to increase sales across e-commerce sites and in person selling.

Pillar 5: Copy

Copy is short for copywriting. Your copy is basically any and all text you have listed throughout your website or listing descriptions. The copy in your shop is your “digital salesperson” the words that you use can determine whether or not your buyer leaves your shop or clicks the buy now button.

You want to ensure you are thinking of your target audience while writing out your copy. The words you use need to be delicious and persuasive. You don’t want to be boring or to technical, keep the words fun and lively. You want your customers to be saying “shut up and take my money” by the time they are done reading. You want them to be creating a mental image of using or gifting your product and you want them to be smiling at just the thought of it. Your photos and copy can do this without you having to do any "extra" work to sell the product.

Mastering each of these pillars can take some time, and if you feel that any of them aren't your strong suit, hiring a professional might be the best route to take. If you are however more of a DIY kinda makerpreneur then you can totally make it happen with a little passion and elbow grease. 

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10 Tips for Starting out on Etsy

By Sarah Sewell

10 Tips for Starting out on Etsy

When sellers start their Etsy shop, they fill their shop up and are all excited for the sales to roll in only to get seriously bummed out when all they hear is crickets. I talk with and educate many online sellers every day and almost all questions start with "Why am I not selling anything"?! I then ask what research they have done for their product selection, or what they have learned about building a brand and almost always the answer is...nothing.

Tip #1: Go through the Etsy Seller Handbook

The SUPER COOL thing about Etsy is they have an amazing tool called the seller handbook, it can be a bit lengthy for sure but there is so much information in it that when followed will give all sellers a chance to get ahead of their competition and get sales rolling in.

In our Flourish Community for craft sellers we teach from the Etsy handbook, to ensure our members are always getting accurate information from the source, it is always good to check in with the handbook from time to time as it gets updated quite frequently. Etsy Handbook: https://www.etsy.com/seller-handbook?ref=ftr

Tip #2: Have a BRAND name.

Many sellers start out with a shop called their own name and a suffix like studios, designs, creations, handmade, etc...this works for photographers, designers etc, but if you are offering a product for sale that has a target audience, you want to be sure you brand yourself with a unique and fun name that will attract that audience. Creating a tagline or slogan is nice as well, it becomes something memorable for your audience to remember.

Tip #3: Take BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS.

If I had a nickel for all the grainy, blurry, distracting, and dark product photos I have seen in my time as an E-Commerce educator I would be swimming in moolah! Remember you are SELLING! Your photos and words are ALL YOU HAVE to persuade your customer to buy. You can't take shortcuts with photos if you do you will always be a step behind where you COULD be if you had the right shots.

Tip #4: Learn as much as you can about SEO.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is basically how you optimize your shop or listings to be found in search. You know that thing called Google...well most people know that it is a search engine, but did you know that Etsy has a pretty intense search engine as well? Yes! The search bar you see across the top on any Etsy page, that is what most shoppers use to FIND what they are looking for. Optimizing your Shop, listing titles, tags and copy are some of the best ways to be ranked in search. Don't shrug SEO off, it will be one of the best ways for you to drive traffic to your shop.

Tip #5: Fill out your About section in FULL.

Why do you think people shop on Etsy? Why wouldn't they just go to Amazon? Etsy is a unique marketplace, people flock to Etsy to not only find unique gifts and products but also to support LOCAL, to shop small and buy from individuals instead of BIG Business. Your story as a maker MEANS something. It actually MATTERS!! The more you can connect with your customer the better chance you have of selling them what you make AND earning their trust which will mean repeat business and word of mouth advertising for future business.

Tell your story! What inspires you? Why did you start making what you make? Why do you LOVE being a creative? Showcase your story! Upload photos of your workspace, the materials you use, the space you work in. Show photos of you and your family. CONNECT. This will add so much value to your products and brand and those that buy from you, will treasure what they buy from you just a bit more then they would buying from say a big box store.

Tip #6: Start a Blog.

With over 1.9 million sellers on Etsy many categories offered are way over saturated. Even if you feel that you make a unique product there will be many other sellers that offer similar items. You want to promote your shop beyond how you promote on Etsy. A blog is still one of the BEST ways to drive traffic to your online venues. Simply start a blog sharing information about your products, your brand, or fun how to's can give you a nice boost in visibility apart from your usual Etsy promotions. In your blog be sure to be AUTHENTIC. Be yourself! This is what truly sells especially in an oversaturated market. SELL the story! Include details about yourself and your life! Make sure you are using relevant keywords to properly optimize the blog and link back to your shops and social media pages.

Reaching out to other bloggers in your target audiences interests is another way to connect with customers. See if you can become a guest blogger or see if perhaps an influencer would be open to writing about you and your products. Bloggers LOVE content, in fact that is the base to their business, come up with ways to make them sharing your info beneficial for them as well!

Tip #7: Create RAVING fans!

Highly recommend you read the book Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard. Short and Fun read but describes the ultimate way to create amazing customer service. GREAT customer service is the BEST way to get word of mouth advertising and referrals. Simply offering the best of the best in customer service can grow your brand in leaps and bounds. You never know WHO you are talking to, if they have their own huge audience or if they have the potential to become life long fans of your brand. You want to provide the BEST customer service possible.

Put a mirror on your desk near where you work when corresponding with customers. Make sure to put a smile on your face, EVEN if you are writing an email! Go above and beyond and do whatever you can to establish trust and rapport with your shoppers. This will never be a bad decision. Kindness goes a very long way. 

Tip #8: Get Creative with your Packaging!

Etsy sellers have an AWESOME opportunity to enhance the shoppers experience by providing a unique and personal unboxing event. (I like to call it an unboxing event because that is what it is!) When your package arrives your customers will be excited to open what they ordered. You have a chance during this moment to impress them even further. Become memorable with your audience.

Creative packaging shows your own unique style, it shows the customer that you truly appreciate their business and that they are WORTH the extra time to include a hand written note, or a beautifully stamped wrapping paper, or a little extra token of thanks. This alone could be enough to earn you repeat business, or at least to be talked about when they share their excitement with others.

Tip #9: Price what you are worth.

As a handmade seller you can't compete with the products in Walmart, Target, or even the resellers on Amazon. You shouldn't ever have to either. If you do the work showcasing your talent in your about sections, product photos, and listing copy you should have added enough value to charge what you are worth.

Your customers are receiving something made from your hands, that you created in your space, while trying to balance life and family and self care. You have years and years of experience in your industry. You might think what you make is "meh" but to someone who doesn't know how to make it, it is "AMAZING"! Charge appropriately. If you make something that can be sold in the department stores and you are charging the same price they are asking then you are NOT charging enough and you are doing yourself and your fellow crafters a disservice by not pricing appropriately. We live in a good economy, and when shoppers come to Etsy they EXPECT to pay more then what they would on sites like Amazon. You could even LOSE business by not pricing enough as shoppers may see the item as low quality.

Tip #10: Foster a Growth Mindset.

Those that believe their success can be developed through working smart, trying different strategies, being open to constructive feedback, and being flexible to market changes have a Growth Mindset and tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset.

With a growth mindset you will worry less about making mistakes and you will put more energy and time into learning and moving forward. When times are tough instead of saying "so and so is to blame" or "things just aren't like they used to be" they are putting their noses to the grindstone trying something new. They are being fluid and testing to see what else might work or what else they can do, instead of looking back and hanging their head.

It's not always easy to have a growth mindset, sometimes we makerpreneurs get a good beating. BUT if we don't take ourselves to seriously, we can get back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to keep our businesses moving forward.

 

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Etsy 101: 7 Steps to Set Up Shop on Etsy.

By Sarah Sewell

Etsy 101: 7 Steps to Set Up Shop on Etsy.

Etsy began in 2005, during a time when EBay and main stream retail stores dominated the internet. Amazon was on the rise, but E-commerce wasn't completely trusted by the public yet. It was still somewhat new and in it's infancy.

Etsy came to carve out a space for the makers to have in the new online environment. Since then Etsy has grown to over 1.7 million sellers, 32 million active buyers and over 45 million in products. It is safe to say that Etsy is now a MAJOR player in the E-commerce world and one that isn't showing signs of slowing or stopping. If you make something and want to sell it, Etsy is THE place to start. It is a way for you to quickly build sales, customers and feedback to grow your new online craft business.

So that sounds great, but where do you start? There are a few things you will need to gather and a few decisions you will have to make to get the ball rolling. Assuming you already know what you make and what you will offer you will want to start asking yourself who is your target audience.

Step One: Define your Target Market

Determine who will be your audience/customers for your new business. Ask yourself who would buy what you make and why? Think about what these people might like and not like. Later on you will learn how to create a persona of this audience, for now just have a general idea so that you can move forward with the next steps.

Step Two: Pick a Business Name

Choose a name for your new business. Try to shy away from "insert your name here designs" or "your name creations" as those are very generic and don't speak to any particular audience. You want to choose a name that will attractive your target audience but also something that speaks to your products and offerings. This name will follow you across platforms, social media sites, in marketing materials etc, so this isn't a step you should quickly move through. Take some time and think it through. Rebranding can be done if needed down the line but why go through that headache later if you can choose wisely now.

Step Three: Grab Your Etsy Shop name and Web URL

Check to see if the shop name you chose is available on Etsy. When you go to create an Etsy shop they will ask you for a name, it is possible your name is already taken (even if you don't see a shop using it, it could be from a past business or from a new one that hasn't yet opened) be sure the name is available on Etsy. If it isn't you will need to adjust the name you came up with. Sometimes adding a suffix to the name like shop, studios, and co, etc can help you keep the business name you picked out.

Check to also see if your name is available for a domain. If it is, I recommend purchasing the domain, even if you aren't ready to build a website, domains are usually less than $20 and it is something you want to hold onto until you are ready to build your own site. Even if you think you will never build your own site, you don't want a future competitor snagging your name, so just do yourself a favor and grab it before you even get started.

Step Four: Create Your Shop & Banking Preferences

When creating a new Etsy shop, besides creating a name you will need to give Etsy some other information to get started. Your shop preferences (country, language, currency), enough information to create one product listing and your bank information to be able to set up payment options.

Step Five: Brand Your Shop

Once your shop is created you will need to add a few things in to brand it, and make it enjoyable to shop from. This is where you will add in your logos, branded fonts and designs etc. This makes the Etsy shop now your brands space to sell from. It also will build brand recognition and consistency for viewers and shoppers in your store. The 3 main areas you can use to brand your shop are the Cover Photo area (banner), Shop Icon & Profile Picture.

  • Cover photo – The Large Banner that spans the width of your shop at the very top. This is a space where you want to list your Logo, Shop Name and Tagline. Think of this space as the sign above your door if you were in a physical shop. You want your visitors to know where they are and what they can expect to find in your shop.
  • Shop icon – This is the square space to the left of your shop just under the Cover Photo. This can be your logo or graphic from your banner, it can be a symbol or initials of your shop name, or maybe you have a mascot. As long as it is consistent with your brand image (same color, fonts, graphics images) then it will work! 
  • Profile Pic – The square to the right of your shop under the cover photo. This should be a headshot of you! It will be listed right over your name and I recommend a close up shot of your face with a smile! Think of this as you welcoming your customers into your shop.


You may not have these designed yet. If you are pretty decent with design work you can design it yourself, or hire a graphic designer to build a brand for you. I like to leave that part to the professionals, as your brand has a significant impact on your businesses success. If you aren't at a place to hire a graphic designer yet, you can design one for yourself on Canva.com using their pre-made templates which are already sized appropriately for an Etsy Shop.

Step Six: Craft an About Page

There is an about section in your shop, you will want to fill this with your story. It doesn't need to be a novel, but a short and sweet description about who you are as a maker, why you do what you do, what got you started, what inspires you etc....you will share this information in the form of text, AND photos. There is a photo slide show where you can upload 5 pics or 4 pics and a video....do this!!! 

This is a space for you to showcase yourself and your product as a maker and a handmade business. Show photos of the tools and materials you use, your crafting space, and even photos of your family. This adds value to the products you sell, it further enhances the handmade charm and encourages shoppers to turn into buyers.

Step Seven: Connect your other webpages and links

Lastly there is a space to add in any links where your new business is represented. Add all social media pages you are represented on like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter etc . This is the only section within your Etsy shop where these links are clickable and is a great way to get your customers to follow you on your other online platforms. This is also the perfect spot for you to add in links to your blog or website. 

Following these steps will get the structure of your new Etsy Shop started, you still have many other areas within the shop to add to and tweak but this will get your store built and ready for you to add products into. Then you will need to set a launch date and hold a grand opening for your new handmade e-commerce business!

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