Posted by Arielle O'Shea
We all have a special talent we wish we could monetize – maybe you make the best pies in the neighborhood, or your photography skills are prized by your friends. But how do you turn it into a profitable business?
We get this question all the time. And the best advice is always to start small, with little to no overhead. If you can moonlight in your pie-making business on the side, you’ll not only make some extra cash in your spare time, but you’ll get a feel for whether it could actually be a profitable, full-time business down the line.
Luckily, there are all sorts of online tools popping up these days to help you sell the fruits of your labor. In a series of posts on this blog, I’m going to detail some of the best ones, starting with one of my favorite online shopping destinations, Etsy.com.
If you’re a crafter – and by that I mean a knitter, sewer, jeweler, graphic designer, and everything in between – Etsy is the place for you to sell your wares. Not only is it easy to set up a shop – you can do it with little to no tech know-how – but it’s considerably less expensive than building your own website. You’re also entering a community of like-minded sellers and a built in audience of buyers.
How it works: You sign up, and create a “shop,” which is where you’ll list your items. You’ll pay 20 cents to list an item for four months, and when it sells, Etsy will take a 3.5% cut. At the end of each month, you’ll get a bill detailing what you owe.
The goal, of course, is to make a lot of sales. That will make that $.20 listing charge more than worthwhile. For tips on how to make your shop profitable, I turned to seller Jess Radlich, a graphic designer whose shop Sublime Designer offers invitations, business logos, and custom work (full disclosure: she made my – lovely – wedding invitations).
- Put some thought into your shop name and design. You want a name that’s easy to remember and distinctive, so people can find it fairly quickly with a quick search on the site. You should also take some time to design a nice header for your store – if you don’t have the skills to do that, there are several designers on Etsy who feature the service for $20 – $30. This is a business, so your space should look professional.
- Focus on presentation. You’ll be able to take photos of what you have for sale and write a description of each item, so really take the time to create an appealing package.
- Upload new products often. “Once your shop is open, try to list new items every day or so. This puts you at the top of Etsy’s search feed and gives you more visibility. Updating often is also a good way to get featured on the Etsy home page, which is free advertising!” says Radlich.
- Give and solicit feedback. Shoppers are going to look at your feedback, listed next to your username, to determine if other customers have had good experiences buying from you. You want to keep your feedback as close to 100% positive as possible – it may be the difference between someone buying from your shop instead of a similar one. “Always remember to give feedback, if you buy something, and remind your buyers to do the same for you. It makes potential buyers have more confidence in you before they make a purchase,” explains Radlich.
- Advertise. Start with word of mouth, by sending an email to friends and family when your shop is up. They’ll tell their friends, and the cycle continues. But you should also use social networking sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to post about your shop and any new items you’ve listed. Radlich uses a blog, which links to her Etsy site, to connect with other graphic designers and post her recent work. And if you have the extra cash, she suggests purchasing a slot on one of Etsy’s showcases, which they do by category (jewelry, art, clothing) or by occasion (wedding, holidays). It’s cheap – about $7 – and your item will be highlighted for 24 hours.