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Joseph F

Creating Product Lines / Over Time

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Etsy isn't an easy road. At Christmas time in 2013 and 2014, i had a lot of orders for custom mugs. Then came the "Sharpie mugs," mugs that people buy from China or somewhere like that and then write on them or have them printed with sayings or names. Number of custom mugs I've sold in the last year: zero.

 

Etsy no longer caters to truly handmade. They have changed their rules, and the etsy market is now flooded with things like the Sharpie mugs, or jewelry that has components made in China and maybe assembled by hand here. It is a tough road. But I do see that there are some sellers who sell very well there: either they have 10,000 sales already of smalls like ring dishes, or they sell something different, like the weights used when fermenting. One lady makes a living making and selling those weights. Ugh. I can't even imagine the repetition in that. 

 

I think there's a way to be successful on etsy, but I haven't found it. I tweak my SEO all of the time, I redid all of my titles and tags, retook many pictures, it's just hard. There's a huge market out there. I do know people say you should have at least 100 active items in your shop, so I do strive for that, between pottery and jewelry. But to me, selling a lot on etsy is like some magic trick I haven't figured out yet, and may never figure out. Just do your homework - you may be better at figuring it out than I am.

 

Best,

Nancy 

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Nancylee: I know several people who make a full time income on Etsy. The secret is hard, hard, hard work, making the same thing over many times and of course it helps enormously if someone at Etsy's headquarters likes your shop so they feature it in their emails, home page etc. 

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and of course it helps enormously if someone at Etsy's headquarters likes your shop so they feature it in their emails, home page etc. 

 

I think the key part to this is having your item in a photoshoot that resembles the things they put on their front page. So if you have a good selling product, it probably is worth the time to setup a photoshoot environment for that particular item. Say if you make a really good selling mug and you want to sell more, setup a kitchen environment, with really good lighting and a greyish surrounding then put some hot coco in the cup with some whip cream and marshmellows and your chances of getting to the front page is 10x better imo. This comes from research and a friends advice.

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Welp! I finally did it. I have officially started selling pottery on etsy. Thanks for all the help guys and gals. I will update about mid year this post with any information and insights I have gained along the way for future readers. I am excited. Lots of work to come!

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Dude! Where's the link?

 

I don't think we are supposed to link to our shops, but if you go to my profile there is a link to my website, then from there you can go to my shop from the link. I don't wanna break any rules.

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Dude! Where's the link?

 

 

I don't think we are supposed to link to our shops, but if you go to my profile there is a link to my website, then from there you can go to my shop from the link. I don't wanna break any rules.

Joseph is correct, links to one's own etsy store are not allowed in the body of a post. We consider it advertising. Links to an etsy store are allowed in your signature and profile. Thanks for being aware of the rules, Joseph.

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I have participated in the online e-course called THINK BIG, a 6 weeks course about

 

  • How to find your audience
  • Communicating in the marketplace
  • Selling in the digital age
  • etc.

 

Almost all of the guests who talked in the e-course are enthusiastic about online selling and selling via social media and think that this is the future. Known potters like Meredith Host and Molly Hatch have fantastic sales figures.

 

No matter how the online shop is called, many potters nowadays think this a good starting point to sell their ware.

 

Evelyne

rayaldridge likes this

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Nancylee: I know several people who make a full time income on Etsy. The secret is hard, hard, hard work, making the same thing over many times and of course it helps enormously if someone at Etsy's headquarters likes your shop so they feature it in their emails, home page etc. 

Hi,

I know a few people, also, but I don't think there is a magic formula. I do a lot of what my friend tells me to do with jewelry, and she sells a lot. But she's been on etsy for a long time. I also agree that if they like your shop and feature you, you're golden! That seems way too happenstance to me, and not like a business plan - you can really predict what they will like or feature. So I continue to explore other ways, including linking my IG and my FB to my etsy shop. I have a tumblr, but haven't used it yet. 

GiselleNo5 likes this

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The issue I have with ceramics and online is the fact that its a tactile purchase. That is ones needs to feel touch pick it up to get it.

Yes any mug with a silly saying on it does not need this but how many flying pigs can tour sell online?

My business is built on my customers feeling touching and handling my product.Handmade ceramics is a feel object 1st then buy.

I always say the right mug is the one that FEELs right-you cannot do this online.

Yes online shopping is expanding and is great for books and pipe fittings but mugs well no so much

Yes there are a few doing well at it with sharpie cute sayings but really

 

Its not like I do not ship myself last year my shipping costs where $804.00 down from 2014 (1,400)

thank god as packing is really no fun as well as you can NEVER get paid enough for it to pay for itself

The one thing I choose not to do in my business was manage lots of people (employees) and spend my days packing up small boxes with uncle George is a sweetheart mugs inside and shipping them all over.

Its my decision and you may decide this is your path to success but my guess its a hard long road and I wish all they choose this good luck.

If your product is hats or jewelry than shipping is a cake walk but pottery is not.

Just pack up a 12 place dinner ware set and ship across country without any breakage and you will immediately get this concept.

I have done that many times in my life .

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I totally understand this mark. I am not looking forward to shipping either, and my main goal is to one day be out there doing shows and bringing home bags of money like you talk about, but until that time I think I am ok with what I have to do. Some objects selling is better than none. I also totally agree with the feel purchase. Unfortunately that is just something I will have to work harder to overcome if possible. In the end this might all not work and fall flat on my head, but if it does it does and I can at least say I tried my best. Once I get my product lines developed I plan to add small local retailers to my options so I can take order, sell it to them and go bring it to them. 

 

Until that time comes, it's the internet!

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Mark is right, I think, about the tactile quality of pottery being important.  Buying online is not the optimal way to acquire a handmade mug.  On the other hand, you can describe the tactile quality of an object, and you can get feedback in the form of reviews of your work, which can go a long way toward reassuring customers that they are getting a good product.  And if the potter does her job, the mug will be comfortable for most folks, even if, as Mark says, the customers are unable to pick the very best mug in a display.

 

I think online sales, for better or worse, are something that artists must learn to exploit.  A lot of folks really like online shopping.  They might not be willing to spend an afternoon at the art festival, but they're willing to spend a few minutes looking online for what they want.  Their dollars are as good as anyone else's.

 

Some years back I had a shop online, and it was just way too much trouble, so I understand the problems people have with shipping and so forth.  At the time, I was under-pricing my work, and underestimating the shipping.  I was pretty stupid about the whole thing. 

 

It's possible that online sales will work best for potters who make higher-end work, since the pain of packing and shipping is less of a profit killer with expensive items.

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(It's possible that online sales will work best for potters who make higher-end work, since the pain of packing and shipping is less of a profit killer with expensive items)

Ray this is defiantly YES

 

I can add that I have a dedicated shed full of second hand free packing stuff at the ready and can double box very fast. I think this is a must if you are headed to online sales.

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Dude! Where's the link?

 

I don't think we are supposed to link to our shops, but if you go to my profile there is a link to my website, then from there you can go to my shop from the link. I don't wanna break any rules.

 

 

Good luck and all the best with your new Etsy shop! We all know how hard you have worked at perfecting your forms and glazes, cheers to a very successful launch!

Joseph F likes this

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Dude! Where's the link?

 

I don't think we are supposed to link to our shops, but if you go to my profile there is a link to my website, then from there you can go to my shop from the link. I don't wanna break any rules.

 

 

Good luck and all the best with your new Etsy shop! We all know how hard you have worked at perfecting your forms and glazes, cheers to a very successful launch!

 

 

Thanks. A lot of hard work has been done, and a lot more to come! I love pottery and I love working, so the two fit for me. I appreciate all the nice information everyone has gave me and said to me. This place is the best. I have some goals and ideas listed down that I am going to be working on and its really because of this particular thread. So thanks everyone again. 

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Grape,

 

I also have health issues.I only do indoor shows in the spring and fall. All local. When I do a show I have a helper to do most of the lifting. They are paid in pottery. Even if you have to hire help and take a loss I would try a couple of shows. The experience of personally selling your work and return in information is priceless.

alabama, Pugaboo and flowerdry like this

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I don't believe anyone has brought this up; my apologies if I'm repeating.... As I understand it, you're not able at this time to do shows. For the experience of selling your work in person without doing shows, sales galleries exist where you rent display space (jury of your work usually required) AND commit to spend some amount of time acting as gallery staff. While you are not there all of the time, this offers the potential both to see customers interact with your work and for you to interact with customers. I know several successful potters who do this in addition to shows, custom orders, straight commission gallery sales, direct sales from their own studio, etc. One caveat, you can lose money if you don't sell enough to cover your rent and transportation costs to/from the gallery, let alone paying yourself for the time you spend staffing the gallery. Congratulations on your new business!

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Creating a product line isn't that hard, but it's easier if you use the pottery and write down the likes and dislikes. Customer feedback is great if you can get it, from sales booths. Sometimes you'll find a gift shop or gallery whose sales personnel or manager will relay what comments were given by the customer. All feed back is good!

Use the cups you make! Be ready to explain why someone should or would want to buy it.

Stay away from any question that can be answered with no, if you're at a booth setting. "Do you need help?"... NO. Are you looking for a cup for yourself or friend? Just say the cups come in different sizes and each handle is slightly different so try holding each one! By the way, the cups are stoneware so the handles don't heat up in the microwave like others. If you've ever grabbed a handle out of the microwave and the handle is hotter than the coffee, obviously there isn't a need for caffeine anymore. :)

Bowls....why yes there are several types of the same size. Make a bowl with no handles and use it. Make à bowl with one handle and use it. There's a good chance that what you like, others like. For the gift shop in Birmingham, I make several types of bowls. I think the most popular is a 1 1/2 pound deep bowl with a regular handles on one side and a lug handle on the other. I think it appeals to the elderly, who can grasp the handle with one hand and cradle the lug handle with the other. My shallow bowls don't sell as well. If I make a set of nesting bowls, the largest bowl will have lug handles on each side.

Stores...if you can find a store that caters to crafts that would be better than say, an arts and crafts setting. You're in Atlanta and should be able to find something nearby. Google Georgià craft stores and see what shows up. Call or visit a pottery supply shop and ask about outlet stores. Check with some local coffee shops for your cups. Check with Atlanta museum giftshops, also.

Right now, I'd stay away from rental spaces....its hard to start off in the hole and have to sell your way out each month.

Throw, shape and trim as many cups as you can...all cups sell!!. :)

Make some face cups too. And its not too early to make some vampire cups either!

For Halloween.

Good luck,

Alabama

Roberta12, rayaldridge and Joseph F like this

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So here is a little update as promised as I go along, I know a lot of people have been curious about etsy and I like to share back what little I have gained so far. 

 

I have been selling pots on Etsy a little over 2 months. The most items I have had listed on my shop was 20. I know I have been terrible about getting items up. I keep going back and forth with creating items or testing items and testing has been unfortunately winning. However while I have been testing my butt off to no real success for the exact look that I am going for, all my items that I listed when I opened my shop have been selling at a pace of about 1 item a week.

 

What is surprising to me is that with as little as 20 items maximum ever listed I have sold 11 items totaling about 250 dollars so far. While I understand this is no great victory or anything to go crazy about on the dollar level, it is a huge success to the merits of people liking my work. I have received some really wonderful personal messages on etsy about my work, as well as some good reviews, although I had one 4 star review due to my error in taking bad pictures that didn't represent the color well, I sorted that problem out quickly by refunding their money and they edited their review which reads really well to my merit of my guarantee, so it turned out to be a good review after all. 

 

So based purely on numbers and having multiple friends opinion who sell on etsy for a living, they were very surprised by my sales compared to when they started out. I think I can definitely make a decent profit from home selling online if and only if I scaled my work up to 300-500 listings by October for the Christmas season. And the continue scaling up my work and progressing from there. One of my main plans is to stop making anything but mugs and yunomi. Based on my statistics from searches, I get the most hits from mugs and yunomi. I also love making these items more than anything else, and they fit the kiln the best for maximum value and no wasted space. They are also very easy to glaze quickly and all fit in the same size box and are easy impulse buys for customers at the 25-35 dollar range. I plan on raising my prices as I get more items listed and more reviews in hand, right now I am selling a mug for $25, that will go up to $28 once I hit the 50 item barrier, and probably continue rising until sales settle off based on elasticity and demand.

 

I know the sample is very small, but I don't see any way that it can't get more successful as I scale up. There are some issues I will have to address but I have been figuring things out along the way.

 

I had a very detailed message typed up, but I figured I would save all that for later when I had more numbers to back up my ideas and reasoning's from a economical point of view. As of right now I am astonished and super happy about my success so far, lots of work ahead of me.

 

I will continue to update this as I go. Thanks for all the help from the forum, I just want to give back a little of what I learn.

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I would still insist on the "one hundred dollar hamburger" side of selling. What this really means is always have a beautiful, expensive piece as one of the first things people see. The goal isn't so much about selling it but to show that you are capable of great things.

 

Besides, even if most of your searches and sales come from YYY, some will still be from other places. I would guess "vase, teapot, teacup, plate" are all commonly searched for.

 

 

That said, I didn't sell the one item I put to Etsy. My direction of selling is more as a method to advertise the classes I teach.

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I agree with the expensive thing to show off skills except! I don't have those skills yet!?  :blink:  :ph34r:

 

I would love to have a huge vase that was brilliantly glazed or something, but I just haven't ventured down that line of work yet. Maybe one day, I am only 2 years into this madness called ceramics. Right now my hope is to increase production a lot, sell a lot more things, buy a small test kiln (from Neil, L&L) that I can fire 2-3 test cups in daily, trying new slow cool schedules until I figure out what the heck I am doing wrong with my glaze testing passion soul search. Meanwhile keep firing production work in my E18, which will fire like 30+ mugs per firing.

 

Then when I finally start finding my place on my pots I will have some big fancy piece to sell, until then I can't waste anymore time on what I have been doing for the past 6-8 months. I keep nailing down really beautiful test, but then the next series of pots has problems, and then I tweak and fix, then more random problems come up. I am working with some really finicky glazes and a really long schedule so its slow going. I am going back to the schedule I achieved over a long period of testing glossy glazes. That schedule produces really good results, which is why I was able to list those original 20 items that I have been selling from that schedule. I am going back there and creating more of that work to pave the road for my future work that will bring in higher prices like your speaking about.

 

Also I just don't want to make anything other than mugs / yunomi at this point. I love making them, they sell well so far, and I don't see any real reason to variate from them until I have saturated my storefront to the point where I can't sell any more per month. Once I reach that point I will start adding different items, which will be something that I can fit into the kiln in the same way with very little space wasted, probably jars.

 

As to your other comments about vases, teapots, plates, etc, yes they do come up I am sure of it because I constantly study other peoples shops for keywords and sales etc. Those other items take skill to make, and they are skills that I haven't gained confidence in that I can sell feeling happy about.

 

I am sort of OCD about learning skills, in the two years that I have been throwing pots, I have primarily made bowls, mugs and yunomi. I know it sounds odd to say, but I have made very few vases, jars, or plates, like in the single digit numbers. I just haven't been interesting in moving on to another shape until I can make the previous shape with real confidence and ability to describe the passion in my work in that shape.

 

A lot of this comes from what John B said earlier on in this thread, "Why should people buy my stuff over other peoples stuff?" This really hit home with me and I spent a good amount of time thinking about it over the past 2 months. Spending a few years making only 2 items will really help me develop an answer to that question and it will also show my ability to make that form in the random eyeballs of the internet, or at least I hope. My plan is when you land on my etsy shop and see 500 mugs, 200 yunomi to choose from, it hopefully kinda makes me an expert by quantity of made product. If your constantly striving to make better and better mugs, better handles, better glaze for those shapes people are going to recognize that and my prices can increase until sales decline, in which case I will know the market for my wares and get the best price possible while also making that shape at a high level of efficiency.

 

Anyways /end wall of text. I appreciate the thoughts and ideas though, I don't mean to be negative in anyway, I just don't have the proper skills to make other good things yet. Is that sad to say? lol.

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