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Mark:Selling pendants online in retirement

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I am a retired  middle/high school art teacher, and I have more time to work in the silence  of my studio.  One type of work that I do are ceramic pendants . I make these to warm up the creative waters and to experiment with textures and glazes. I see them as quick sketches, and I really enjoy making them. I only do one show a year, which is in August, in Pacific, City Oregon. Our local artists' group just had our 27th annual show. I sell quite a few of the pendants at the show ($10). I would like to market these on-line . I am a 69 year "mud and sticks" artist, and I admit that  I am oblivious/intimidated by all of the options out there, and the mechanics of on-line sales. I would very much appreciate any lessons learned about this mode of marketing. I want to focus on selling the pendants since they would be relatively easy to mail . In retirement, I am not interested in sending larger work. Thanks for any ideas that you might have...…...…...………...……...………..Mark

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I am also new to social media marketing.  The threads that Tom mentioned above are great because they are tailored to ceramics.   Your community college may also have classes on social media that would be helpful to get started.  

There is a younger artist in my neighborhood who successfully uses social media to sell his work.  He has offered to help me with getting started with this social media thing.

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So Hulk posted some links to some of the best material we have currently on the forum, and that should get things going nicely. 

Some quick thoughts that I have on my lunch break to add because of your specific circumstances:

If you have no technical ability and are not looking to make a full time, professional living off of selling pots on the Internet, I’d suggest poking around on Etsy. Despite all the grumbling, it remains very affordable and very user friendly to set up something online. There are caveats, though.

1) under no circumstances should you expect Etsy to drive your traffic. The site is too big and has too many users on there now for the owners to be reasonably expected to care about your personal wellbeing. Your marketing efforts are your own responsibility. Take a course of some kind if this is a skill you don’t possess. It’s worth the money. 

2) Take really good pictures, or hire someone who can. It doesn’t matter how good your SEO or descriptions or anything else are if your white balance is off and your picture looks too yellow. Buyers will scroll on past a sickly looking shot of what might be their ideal piece.

3)’stay off the Etsy forum. The business “advice” there is all from people who don’t have it figured out, are working with anecdotal information and hearsay, or who are upset and needing to vent. Refer to the sellers handbook if you need technical help. 

I will try and think of anything else and post later this evening. 

Edited to add:

I know that I sound like I’ve  just contradicted some of my previous thoughts on Etsy here , but I do believe it has its place. It has its drawbacks for those trying to present a full time professional image, but it’s still a secure payment gateway, and is ideal for beginners, part timers and casual users. If your online sales wind up growing to a point where Etsy becomes unwieldy or too expensive, you can look at other options like Shopify or Squarespace, and they’ll be easier to learn since you’ve already figured out Etsy software. 

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does anyone here actually sell anything on etsy beyond a handful of sales?I know there are a lot of potters on there and they used to show the sales numbers and it seemed like the vast majority sold very little.

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Sound observation.

Almost no one on Etsy in any category makes a full time living from that site, despite the "quit your day job" series of blog posts Etsy liked to promote at one point. Last I looked, the actual number doing that was only 2-3% of sellers.  Etsy is best used as one income stream amongst many as a part of a full time income, or as a modest side or part time income.

Online sales results will depend largely on your own ability to understand and execute online promotion. There is no such thing as "set it and forget it." Anyone who says otherwise is likely trying to sell you a course.  

And after sounding all negative and cynical like that, I have to also say that success needs to be defined by the individual. If you're earning a hundred dollars every once in a while to pay for more materials or firing fees and that's all you need, then great! If it's less overheard and stress to have a spring sale online than to pack up and travel out of town for four days at Easter for the same amount of profit, then do the online and save your sanity. Not everyone lives in an area with good in-person sales to hand, and they find their supportive community online instead. At that point, online sales make sense. Do you.

We don't sprout instantly profitable businesses overnight, and online selling is a tool in the box to help  build. Like any tool though, it needs to be used properly to get the best results. 

 

 

 

 

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I figure Etsy is a good place to drive sales to, not a place to get sales from.  Like if you don't have a web store for your stuff and people are interested in buying what you have, you can refer them to your Etsy.  But if you just put stuff on Etsy and wait, the chances of you making sales is slim.  

So just another tool, don't expect Etsy to promote your items

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5 hours ago, liambesaw said:

I figure Etsy is a good place to drive sales to, not a place to get sales from.

I've been coming to this conclusion myself. For some bizarre reason, people will go to my website but seem uninterested in purchasing directly from the nicely done store. They will email me about something that is on there, which of course changes nothing except they've used more of their own time getting the same info & the same price & the same safe payment process.  They buy after emailing. 

My own online store is as clean and clear and attractive as the Etsy format----go figure. Regardless, what most people I converse with ask  me is "Are you on Etsy?" I've neglected my web presence--word of mouth is working just fine for now, but I think next year I may go ahead and do an Etsy store just to see what happens when I answer that question with "Well, yes, yes I am." 

On another note-I suggest taking advantage of SCORE's free workshops, webinars, and mentors. Enormously helpful. I also recommend experimenting with a free high-quality DIY web site generator like WIX  (or Weebly or Wordpress etc.) to create your own website --it's a great learning experience, which helps when you go to do a store on Etsy, plus you can showcase other things, like new work, a blog, or interesting aspects of your process. 

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lee, maybe the people who send you emails want to know that you are working now.  they could have run into what i have, a website that has no current dates so you do not know if it is current or if the owner has died or moved or whatever.   i don't have a website and with my lack of computer skills i do not know how hard it is to put a current date online. 

i really hate the websites that do not stay current.   i run into things like "visit our show on saturday for new spring items.  we will be at the park from 10 til 5, see you there".   and it is halloween week, no city is visible, no park name, a complete mystery to the potential customer.

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On 10/12/2019 at 3:30 PM, liambesaw said:

I figure Etsy is a good place to drive sales to, not a place to get sales from.  Like if you don't have a web store for your stuff and people are interested in buying what you have, you can refer them to your Etsy.  But if you just put stuff on Etsy and wait, the chances of you making sales is slim.  

So just another tool, don't expect Etsy to promote your items

Ya know that might be right on but then you are driving your customers to a large platform with lots and lots of cheap imported machine alternatives to what you sell. I can't really wrap my head around that being a good thing to do. I did set up a store last year one rainy Sunday with bank accounts and such and a few products loaded and a link from my site to it but having trouble getting motivated to load more. Everyone seems to talk about a perceived value  of having a store there but no one these days seems to ever talk about making any money from it.  Lee if you're wondering it really is just a few hours or less process to get it all setup. Since you sell on your regular site you can just use the same pictures and blurps. They do charge though per product so to have 40-50 items up is like paying for another website.

edit: when I say no one and everybody I am talking about potters. I get that a bunch of people make money on etsy.

Edited by Stephen

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Etsy's suitability is largely related to scale, and the level of professional involvement you want to engage in. I fully agree that Etsy isn't a good choice to stay with if you're wanting to build a business that pays you an actual wage or salary. It's a poor choice to build a brand on. It is however an inexpensive place to start out on, learn with and eventually transition off of, or to have a part time presence on. Keep in mind the OP is a retiree. I'd be giving different advice to a 20 or 30 something just starting their business.

Etsy is a tool, like a hammer. It's great if you need to pound some nails, but not the best for driving screws.

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On 10/13/2019 at 12:31 AM, oldlady said:

hate the websites that do not stay current

Excellent point...and I am guilty not only of failure to stay updated and current, but also of not indicating that I am absolutely still active, live & kickin' and making clay objects! I need to get off my lazy bones and do something about it, or take it down.

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On 10/13/2019 at 12:31 AM, oldlady said:

hate the websites that do not stay current

Excellent point...and I am guilty not only of failure to stay updated and current, but also of not indicating that I am absolutely still active, live & kickin' and making clay objects! I need to get off my lazy bones and do something about it, or take it down.

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Ya know while it is possible to drive generic traffic to sites I think really most potters that sell much through their websites probably are out in front of customers all the time and the website becomes an extension. In the old days repeat customers would pick up the phone but these days drop by the site. Facebook pushes of kiln openings and new pots. Show customers picking up cards. They know the potter and the pottery already. 

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So this talk from NCECA this spring, which I unfortunately missed in person, is now up on YouTube. The speaker worked at Etsy for a number of years, and is a former Etsy seller herself, and she gives a good insider breakdown of the strengths and weaknesses of Etsy. It's a 45 minute video, but you can listen to it hands free while you work.

 

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From a buyer point of view, I don't understand Etsy.  I can never find what I'm looking for, even when I know it's there.  Searching is hopeless. (I nearly said the seaching feature, but there is no feature).  I haven't found out how to filter or sort.  I don't think eBay or Amazon are the place to buy hand-made stuff, but at least as buying "places" they do have search features.

 

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Chilly-

Don’t know why the search field doesn’t show up on your browser. My phone and computer both have a large “search for items or shops” field with a magnifying glass right at the top. Not saying that it works well, but it’s available on my devices.

Regards,

Fred

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With Etsy’s new policy of any item over $35 shipping for free it is nearly impossible to make a profit on larger items. I cannot sent a large bowl in a large box properly padded for free. Working the cost into your sales price does not always work as well if you are looking for more salable price points and taking into consideration the ever increasing fees on Etsy.  I would look into local artist collectives, boutique shops and pop up shop collectives for outlets to sell your work. In 10 years on Etsy, I have sold the same amount as I would at one good art show or pop up shop. Selling your wares to shops would require your pendants to be on a chain or cord so they would be instantly wearable, but that would not take much to achieve. You would need to consider the highest price point you would think they could sell at, because the shops buying ‘wholesale’ from you would only want to pay ‘keystone’, or half of the retail price. You mentioned selling pendants at $10. I don’t think it would be too hard to add a necklace cord and make the ‘retail’ price $20 so you actually get the $10 you wanted. It would make you much more to sell larger quantities at once than to try and sell one at a time on line and pay the shipping & packaging cost, etc. This is just my opinion, but I have been making and selling porcelain pendants for 25 years, so I do have experience with this topic in particular. 

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