15 July 2015

Minding My Business

Hello stranger.  I realized when logging on today that it's been about seven months since I've stopped by this page.  Shameful!

A lot has changed over the past couple of seasons.  No longer a road dog, I'm becoming domesticated.  We have a vegetable garden in the sunroom as the ancient oaks here don't allow enough sunlight on the property to have anything fruitful grow outside.  (I always get sideways glances when buying grow lights at the local hardware store.)  We have.... I'm thinking..... let's see.... twenty-nine chickens.  Yes.  Twenty nine.  The coop and the run are in full swing construction, I have ten babies still in the bathroom brooders, and six in the studio brooder.  Aside from the chickens, the garden, and the wedding plans, I've been spending much more time at the bench- creating, taking on custom work, and teaching both small workshops and private lessons here at Westover Oaks.










Life is grand.  And busy!

Also in the chaos and change, I've shifted gears online.  Since the new year, I've been selling exclusively on my independent site, www.rosyrevolver.com, and the experience has been an educational one to say the least.  Overall I've immensely enjoyed the feeling of being somewhat free and set apart from the super-saturated and emotionally-soluble circus that can be Etsy.  The new site, powered by Big Cartel, is wonderful to work with, but in trying to assess things from a "manager" role, I find myself struggling with which one is the avenue best suited to my needs.

Lately, after feedback from a few customers and a lot of thought, I've been debating on returning to Etsy, at least in part. I thought I'd share my thoughts with you and perhaps you can offer up some of your own experiences in ecommerce!

While I'm sure there are many, many more points to consider, here are a few things I've noticed that differentiate Etsy from Big Cartel in terms of my small business success:


Etsy Pros:

* I have to admit, they make the bookkeeping, the stats, shop trends and order info pretty accessible and simple. 

* As a community website, it's fairly easy to gain fresh exposure and find new potential customers.  Their system of tags and material labeling has certainly helped me in the past.  I would definitely say that exposure on Etsy seems much easier to gain than on Big Cartel.  However, I also am not a marketing guru, and do most of my advertising on Facebook and Instagram.  I'm sure there are ways to promote independent sites aside from these two social media outlets that would perhaps bring the exposure levels of both Etsy and Big Cartel into roughly the same arena.

* Everybody knows about Etsy.  Right?  



Etsy Cons:

* I have some moral/ethical/personal issues with what Etsy has become.  I miss the original spirit of Etsy.  Whereas I used to feel I was part of an artist community, I now feel I'm a cog in an enormous machine.  I don't feel loyalty from them and I certainly don't feel loyalty to them.  It was a great platform to begin my little business, don't get me wrong.  It kept me afloat for years.  But over time, I feel an undercurrent of greed and grandeur that somehow sucks away the "shop local" and "buy handmade" soul of artists' works.  Maybe I'm wrong, but hey, that's just me.

* Um, can you say FEES?  Etsy fees and PayPal fees could put me up towards $600 or more a month at certain times of the year, and at that point in time as a single mother, that was hard to swallow.  Hell, it would still be hard to swallow.   

* I dislike how every time my shop is empty, it no longer shows up in the search engine.  This prevents new and returning customers from even being able to see your previous sales and body of work unless they have a direct link.  It's as if Etsy is saying, "Good job!  You sold out in this last shop update!  As a reward for not having anything else left in your store that could make us money, we're going to prevent potential customers from finding you!"  Excellent.  Thanks, Etsy.  



Big Cartel Pros:

* I pay a flat $20 a month to have as many as one hundred products up for sale at any given time.  Twenty bucks.  Sure beats a twenty cents listing fee and a pretty percentage of sales.

* As I mentioned before, I feel free.  I feel like an independent artist, working on my own terms, laying out my own shop, sort of taking the long way around at times but finding pride in creating my own little web space and learning how to do things myself.  

* I love their helpline.  Everyone I've called or emailed with questions about setting up the site, managing listings and orders, etc., has been extremely kind, has responded promptly, and resolved issues quickly.  Can't claim the same for Etsy.  Just saying.

* It's simple.  I don't feel overwhelmed when I look at my dashboard.  I don't struggle to find where certain information is located.


Big Cartel Cons:

* Unless you can code, there are limits to how you can set up your site.  They do have several templates to choose from, but you'll have to spend some time going through them carefully in order to select the one that is best for you and your products.

* Items that have sold do not get relocated to a separate page or gallery, so unless you manually remove these listings, customers can get frustrated, seeing "sold out" on each thumbnail and having to search through your pages and categories to find what is still available.  You can manually arrange your listings so that all the sold-out items are at the end of your catalog, but that's something you'd have to stay on top of each day or with each sale... and I have not been very good about that.

* The photos.  For my template, all my photos have to be square.  I don't mind square photos- it actually can be nice when pulling images from Instagram; however, sometimes I make a long lariat or want to put a vignette together of several pieces, and the square format doesn't always lend itself to the types of photos I want to post.  This isn't an issue with Etsy, where it's easier to take photos in proportions that will lend themselves best to making the jewelry more appealing.

* The exposure can be tough.  I've had to start spending a bit of money to advertise on Facebook. (That kind of negates being excited about not paying Etsy fees, though I still shell out way less than I used to.)  I've been blessed to have many repeat customers and many have followed me over from Etsy, but I rarely get a new customer now, and that's not so good for growing the business and brand.

So.

For the record, I'll probably think of more points and comparisons after I hit the "publish" button on this post, but at least you have some food for thought, and maybe you can understand why I've been fluctuating on this decision.

Here is what I think I'm going to do:

I am going to use Etsy as a place to keep all of my production pieces.  It will be a place for made-to-order items.  This way, the "selling out" of each listing isn't an option as I can keep the quantity up and just fill orders as they come in.  With items always available, my shop will stay in the search engine results.  Meanwhile, I'll put up a message in the Shop Announcement section (I hope people read those things) saying that all of my one-of-a-kind and art-to-wear pieces will be over on www.rosyrevolver.com.  By keeping the more expensive, elaborate, and frankly, artistic pieces on the Big Cartel domain, I avoid paying Etsy's fees on the higher end items.  It also maintains the feeling I need of being a bit more "grown" in my business and creative ventures. Finally, I'll keep posting preview shots and direct links to new work on the Rosy Revolver Facebook page so that there is a central hub to all this division and madness.

Does that makes sense?

I do worry about maintaining two outlets for sales, but fortunately for me, I have an amazing assistant who keeps my paperwork and orders straight.  I may have to open a third store for chicken sales if things continue to escalate as they have around here.  No, really.  

Where are you selling right now and what do you like and not like about that space?  As a disclaimer, this is not meant to be a blog post giving you business advice, and I am learning everyday myself how to run my business a little better.  I'm also eager to listen if you have thoughts to share.

I hope all is well with each of you.  I'm going to try to make more time to spend here sharing life and love and art with you via words as much as metal. 



Hugs to you, pistols.
xx
RR



14 comments:

  1. Sounds like splitting your work between both sites can work. I'm just waiting for an influx of chicken-inspired pieces, because your chick pics fill me with joy. <3 Hugs, you!

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  2. Incredibly insightful and certainly a lot of points to weigh and process. Above all else, being true to yourself and your vision will ultimately be realized as your life journey......... you so beyond rock!

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  3. Good luck lady...Glad you're back writing...I enjoy reading your post almost as much as those gorgeous creations.
    Love the chickens. Let's see your indoor gardening next post

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  4. Great points, Jessica. This is exactly what I was thinking of doing. If I ever get back to my bench! ;)

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  5. Hi, okay I have an etsy store but I also have a squarespace website with my blog and my shop and everything in one place. I pay $24/month. For sales I use the square. I have a square account so when i sell something say at a show than I can just swipe their card or hand input with my phone. The website square account and the "on the road" account are the same. I used to have to have one for the website and one for the road account. The cost for square is 2.75% per transaction. That's it no monthly, no listing no anything else. I like the square because if someone calls me and wants say something custom or not on my site/etsy. I don't have to do a fake "sale reserved for" type of thing. From square on my computer/tablet I just send them an invoice to their email. I get a notification that it has been paid and the order goes out.
    Squarespace has a great number of templates and you don't have to do code unless you really want to and square has great built-in accounting. Both have really great customer service and answer my questions with very detailed answers - do this, now do this, now do this. I had godaddy before and hated it. Well enough from me. Hope this helps. Kolby Shibui@Shibui-daughters.com www,shibui-daughters.com

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  6. Thank you for this post. A few years ago I began a blog for my papercrafts and other stuff. I thought someday, I might sell some things, but never got that far. But it is still in my mind to do. The person who designed my blog is Sarah Roberts, who I found online one night while searching for a prayer journal ( I think- so long ago now). Very nice person, professional, and helped me a lot. We have not been in touch recently though I need to get in touch as I would like to change some things too big for me like graphics, name, etc.. Going through some medical things right now, so I know the timing isn't right. She is a professional graphic designer who I recommend working with.

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  7. My business is now mostly offline with my retail outlets and studio gallery and frankly, I love the one-on-one physical aspect of that. Quite wonderful! But I am also now working on developing a 'line' and steering away from doing custom work. With this new line, that is what I will be promoting online 24/7 once I get about 20 pieces worked out. I am with Squarespace...love it. Unlimited products to sell and it costs me 288 per year. That is with all the bells and whistles! Their cart is great and the % is fine with me. Square is the card reader I use at the shop, but you can use their free website shop and link to it and everything is in one place for commerce...online and off. Was thinking about doing that, but you can't sell outside of the US. So...going back to transitioning off of Etsy and onto my own store via Squarespace. LOVE the aesthetics of Squarespace...and it is super easy. Way easier than Wordpress...so that is what is happening here...love your new work. Love your writing as always...and happy for your decision to nest and root...I'm trying to do the same too. XO!

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  8. It's great reading what other people have been doing! After getting little to no exposure on etsy I transitioned to Squarespace for my blog, etc early this year. Then I tested out the Square dashboard for a cart option, and... While I love it for on the road situations, the "only in the US" rule was limiting, I want to sell things to Canada, people! The world! My latest experiment is upgrading my Squarespace site to professional, and running everything through it one boat. So far, I like it. It gives me a more streamlined site and the setup is easy once you get over the learning curve.
    I am in the building momentum stage of my art-as-business stage, so not paying up front (like Big Cartel) is a plus for me. Once things get rolling, I may try that option out too! This is the year (or two) of figuring out what works, what doesn't, and being ruthless when things don't work the best for me. Also, Squarespace has great customer service, and I can have a site I'm proud of that feels professional, but still understand how to use!

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  10. love and light my lovely
    know that where ever you are...whatever you do
    YOU ARE MAGIC

    love and light ♥

    ps...loving the abundance I am seeing and feeling here!!! xox

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  11. Wait a minute. Wedding plans? I am so out of the loop.

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  12. You are seriously such a special person. The type not many can ever get enough of. You know what I mean?You exude talent from your fingertips to your brain cage. Anywhere else, not my business (smile and laugh out loud here). I thought you were cool the minute I met you, not to mention talented, funny, shy, and a beautiful person. Super honored to know you. And just wow btw! Hugs to you.

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  13. Dear Jessica,
    May you continue to dream bigger and better dreams, So many amazing things are in your future! One of Amy's dreams is that you write a motivational book!! We both agree!! You're a brilliant artist and an incredible writer! We need your book!! Hugs, Jean & Amy

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  14. Hi.
    I use Wix and like it. I've found the best way to bring traffic to my sites is through Pinterest. I pin everything I make to a generic named board such as - jewelry and most of my visitors come from there, not from FB or Instagram. I agree, however, that you can't beat Etsy for traffic which is a shame. Etsy doesn't bother me for the reasons you state as it really is just a platform for me to use. They're in it for business and I just use it. The fees definitely bum me out though ;) Best wishes to you for your marriage and future :) Deborah.

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