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Advice for a new business.


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I agree with Min. You can be a professional part time potter. In fact, I recommend it, because it keeps people from taking advantage of any perceived inexperience, and saves a lot of customer service headaches if you present as a professional, regardless of the amount you sell or time you spend.

I find it’s helpful that once I’ve got an update done, I have a handful of friends that I know work off of different browsers and devices that I ask to go see if they can find anything wrong with my website. They’ll find broken links, bad spelling and grammar, ask for clarification on shop policies, all that good stuff. If someone buys something in order to test, I do a refund right away to make sure that works on my end too. Ideally you want to do this a week before any sales go live, so that you have a chance to make a list of things that need fixing before your real customers find them. Extra sets of eyes always help. You want to keep in mind that your website isn’t for you: it’s for and about your customers, so it has to be easy for them to use.

When I started, I also tried setting up a web presence while doing shows. Online stuff is incredibly time consuming, and isn’t really less work than doing in-person shows. It’s just a different kind of work. I let my online languish off to the side while I got my show situation sorted out, but I found once I started spending more time with the online things when things shut down back in March, it helped my Christmas tremendously. I haven’t done the accounting for it yet (the plan is to get to it sometime this week), but it saved my bacon this winter. But it all takes more time than you’d expect.

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1 hour ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

I agree with Min. You can be a professional part time potter. In fact, I recommend it, because it keeps people from taking advantage of any perceived inexperience, and saves a lot of customer service headaches if you present as a professional, regardless of the amount you sell or time you spend.

I find it’s helpful that once I’ve got an update done, I have a handful of friends that I know work off of different browsers and devices that I ask to go see if they can find anything wrong with my website. They’ll find broken links, bad spelling and grammar, ask for clarification on shop policies, all that good stuff. If someone buys something in order to test, I do a refund right away to make sure that works on my end too. Ideally you want to do this a week before any sales go live, so that you have a chance to make a list of things that need fixing before your real customers find them. Extra sets of eyes always help. You want to keep in mind that your website isn’t for you: it’s for and about your customers, so it has to be easy for them to use.

When I started, I also tried setting up a web presence while doing shows. Online stuff is incredibly time consuming, and isn’t really less work than doing in-person shows. It’s just a different kind of work. I let my online languish off to the side while I got my show situation sorted out, but I found once I started spending more time with the online things when things shut down back in March, it helped my Christmas tremendously. I haven’t done the accounting for it yet (the plan is to get to it sometime this week), but it saved my bacon this winter. But it all takes more time than you’d expect.

Yes it is time consuming, but necessary, especially since it all works together. You meet potential customers at a show and hopefully they go to your website. Thats a concept I was struggling with; how to get people to go to my website ( in addition to SEO).  I'm am going to use all of your tips and increase my exposure through shows and shops and hopefully report back with success, covid willing!

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When I sell a pot a business card goes home with those pots period. Thats how I get customers  to see where I'll be next or how to order later or to build my brand name. I have done this for many many decades and over time its become very well known locally and at venues in the western states. After doing shows (the same shows for some time) your name gains that traction . 5 years is a pretty sort time for this.. In a gift shop or retail setting (not a show I'm taking about) you can include a small paper thats tells something about you or the work-not a ad to drive customers your way buy info thats supportive of the product or your way with clay. You can have a contact info on that but just keep it a small poart so shops are not seeing it as losing sales to your own web site. My web site is not for selling and it supports my outlets and drives sales thier way..The site also shows customers where my next show may be.I update it yearly (the show schedule and the site is free-thanks Mea for that tip) I spend way to much time doing bookkeeping etc on a computer and ship way to many boxes in a year to want to do any more (extra of that) so I am not trying to add an online presence and sell more online. But that me and I have 47 years  of sales behind me and the customer base that goes with it. What you need is to be a professional (as others said drop the hobby part) and work on the marketing part. Shows are where most of us start and thats hard now (covid) so the other venues are now where you need to foucus some energy . When a pots sells you need that customer to know about who and why it was made and this will expand your base

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You're definitely not a hobby Potter!

The span of work is a bit great, not only for the customers, but for you too. If you are making this many things this well, fewer things in more repitition would be that much better.

Perhaps you can work Seasonally, with a few collections per season, the work seems to compliment it.

I wouldn't want to see you lessen the scope of work, just organize it easier for both you and customer.

SEO seems not worth the effort. The less niche, the less it's worth the time.

I think you're better off dialing in the website, and continuing Instagram campaigns to drive folks to the site.

I bartered with a website designer for some pots. Find one at Starbucks and woo them with mugs!

Sorce

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After reading what I felt were constructive and thoughtful comments about your website, I decided to visit it again. Maybe someone already pointed this out and/or you are aware of this, when one clicks on the individual pieces, there is neither a description of the product or instructions on how to purchase it. 

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3 hours ago, Callie Beller Diesel said:

It could be they were getting to your website, just not sticking around. I know google analytics can be really daunting, but some website providers do have a few analytics available, to at least know if you’re getting hits or not. 

I use Wix and they do offer stats with my plan.  My bounce rate was high the last time I checked, 73%, ugh!

I just checked and upgrading to e-commerce would just be a small price increase.

 

2 hours ago, Mark C. said:

When I sell a pot a business card goes home with those pots period. Thats how I get customers  to see where I'll be next or how to order later or to build my brand name. I have done this for many many decades and over time its become very well known locally and at venues in the western states. After doing shows (the same shows for some time) your name gains that traction . 5 years is a pretty sort time for this.. In a gift shop or retail setting (not a show I'm taking about) you can include a small paper thats tells something about you or the work-not a ad to drive customers your way buy info thats supportive of the product or your way with clay. You can have a contact info on that but just keep it a small poart so shops are not seeing it as losing sales to your own web site. My web site is not for selling and it supports my outlets and drives sales thier way..The site also shows customers where my next show may be.I update it yearly (the show schedule and the site is free-thanks Mea for that tip) I spend way to much time doing bookkeeping etc on a computer and ship way to many boxes in a year to want to do any more (extra of that) so I am not trying to add an online presence and sell more online. But that me and I have 47 years  of sales behind me and the customer base that goes with it. What you need is to be a professional (as others said drop the hobby part) and work on the marketing part. Shows are where most of us start and thats hard now (covid) so the other venues are now where you need to foucus some energy . When a pots sells you need that customer to know about who and why it was made and this will expand your base

I do send a business card with every purchase altho a bio is a nice touch. I can see how it would help them see me as an individual, as a maker.

 

1 hour ago, Sorcery said:

You're definitely not a hobby Potter!

The span of work is a bit great, not only for the customers, but for you too. If you are making this many things this well, fewer things in more repitition would be that much better.

Perhaps you can work Seasonally, with a few collections per season, the work seems to compliment it.

I wouldn't want to see you lessen the scope of work, just organize it easier for both you and customer.

SEO seems not worth the effort. The less niche, the less it's worth the time.

I think you're better off dialing in the website, and continuing Instagram campaigns to drive folks to the site.

I bartered with a website designer for some pots. Find one at Starbucks and woo them with mugs!

Sorce

I'm seeing it better now.  As you said, "fewer things in repetition" would probably help me evolve my aesthetic and become more cohesive, as Mea said.

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Hi- On your Instagram thing I got a large pop-up in my face right quick-blocking the page essentially-and honestly it drove me away. On your website, I clicked on Collections and was greeted with a blank page. Even tho you have the subpages for the individual categories, I wouldn't leave a blank space sitting out there. Now, I have no business being critical 'cuz I make every mistake in the book, but, that said, I agree with much of the previous observations about cohesion among the different styles/glaze treatments. That extends to product lighting and photo backgrounds. I am terrible at that myself and it has cost me to not have my pics look more congruent. Matchy-matchy actually serves a purpose vs. a calico quilt approach, even with differences of color/form/surface...if the lighting & backgrounds are more standardized, everything looks better, because you can "see" it better. Online marketing is too high-maintenance for me--it has to be petted & fed almost daily to keep people's interest & keep them coming back.  However, once some steam gets build up, it becomes easier to keep the routine going. (Or so I'm told LOL). Just FYI, WIX periodically offers 50% off for e-commerce plans. 

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10 hours ago, LeeU said:

Hi- On your Instagram thing I got a large pop-up in my face right quick-blocking the page essentially-and honestly it drove me away. On your website, I clicked on Collections and was greeted with a blank page. Even tho you have the subpages for the individual categories, I wouldn't leave a blank space sitting out there. Now, I have no business being critical 'cuz I make every mistake in the book, but, that said, I agree with much of the previous observations about cohesion among the different styles/glaze treatments. That extends to product lighting and photo backgrounds. I am terrible at that myself and it has cost me to not have my pics look more congruent. Matchy-matchy actually serves a purpose vs. a calico quilt approach, even with differences of color/form/surface...if the lighting & backgrounds are more standardized, everything looks better, because you can "see" it better. Online marketing is too high-maintenance for me--it has to be petted & fed almost daily to keep people's interest & keep them coming back.  However, once some steam gets build up, it becomes easier to keep the routine going. (Or so I'm told LOL). Just FYI, WIX periodically offers 50% off for e-commerce plans. 

Ugh! My instagram was hacked! The content is still there and friends I asked to check it, can still access it. I know an exceptional artist who completely lost her content and followers. I changed my PW. People can be awful! Thank you for calling that to my attention and for the tips on my website!

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1 hour ago, Sorcery said:

I almost did Wix until it was $60/month for a store. I don't know what they charge per transaction, if anything, but SquareSpace was half monthly at $26 using Stripe for CC(same as wix) for 2.9%+0.30cents per transaction. 

Sorce

Just for price comparison purposes, you can build a simple online store on the Square platform for free. You just pay for the credit card processing, which is basically the same cost as any other processor. It’s easy to link to it from your main website. 

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5 hours ago, rox54 said:

Thank you for calling that to my attention and for the tips on my website!

I tried to look through the threads to see if I was being redundant. I went to your website and under portfolios the page is off so I would fix that. Hey very nice pots and the site is nice as well. When I clicked 'shop individual pieces' I just get an enlarged picture and price. I see there is a message that says pay through pay pal and tax not included on some pages and on others just tax not included but I don't see a way to add anything to a cart and checkout. If the routine is for people browse through your pics and to then go to the contact page and order what they want by just telling you, I wouldn't do that. I would either have a link to an Etsy store (or some other shop listing platform) so they can buy the item or have a site with a cart and checkout. I don't think many would go through this process unless they know you personally.

If I missed you saying above that you are adding a shopping cart checkout then please ignore this annoying post of mine B) 

Good luck, I am sure you will have no problem dialing it in with all the great advice you got in this thread and with such nice pottery to sell. 

here's a screen grab of that errant portfolio page. 

image.png.f5225273f78cf1e63edad60d336c3b58.png

Edited by Stephen
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2 hours ago, Stephen said:

I tried to look through the threads to see if I was being redundant. I went to your website and under portfolios the page is off so I would fix that. Hey very nice pots and the site is nice as well. When I clicked 'shop individual pieces' I just get an enlarged picture and price. I see there is a message that says pay through pay pal and tax not included on some pages and on others just tax not included but I don't see a way to add anything to a cart and checkout. If the routine is for people browse through your pics and to then go to the contact page and order what they want by just telling you, I wouldn't do that. I would either have a link to an Etsy store (or some other shop listing platform) so they can buy the item or have a site with a cart and checkout. I don't think many would go through this process unless they know you personally.

If I missed you saying above that you are adding a shopping cart checkout then please ignore this annoying post of mine B) 

Good luck, I am sure you will have no problem dialing it in with all the great advice you got in this thread and with such nice pottery to sell. 

here's a screen grab of that errant portfolio page. 

image.png.f5225273f78cf1e63edad60d336c3b58.png

Thank you for seeing that page error! I have asked a couple people to look thru it but you caught what was previously missed. I truly appreciate all of the compliments on my work. That keeps my head up! I will definitely work on getting the free Square online platform and other tips I got here. I feel like I made some good friends!

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Rox 

As a group we all have our areas of expertise and we all want everyone to succeed in clay whatever that means to each. Many of us have stepped into potholes  over time that we can try to advise others to avoid. We are all clay lovers and want each to make their own way and be successful .You are now one of us in this quest.

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Just FYI, WIX is $11 a month for me w/the e-commerce features (loyalty price after some negotiation) and Square as the payment processor. With a lot of these website generators that do stores, the pricing is all over the place, but I am good at reverting to my "assertive" Brooklyn persona and tend to get what I need if I am willing to go a couple of rounds with the reps. The offer started out at  $63 a month (dang, I'm good!).  

 

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It could be worth shopping around for providers a bit. Shopify had some really great offers this year because so many retailers went online. I’m with Square currently, but there’s some details I don’t totally love. I’d have tried Shopify, but I did one website rebuild this year, and that was enough, thank you. 

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My only issue with the Square store is that sometimes I’ll be trying to work on my store but the website is bugging out and not functioning correctly. If I walk away and come back a few hours later, it’s fine. The buying experience from the customer side has been flawless. 

I had a few friends also launch Square stores this past year after asking me about mine. I advised them to watch the setup tutorial videos that Square provides. They are short and easy to get through. I found the interface confusing when I tried to figure it out on my own. But after watching the setup tutorials, it all became easy. 

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I did a 3 year plan with wix which saved a chunk of change. I'm not too shy to negotiate either but tire of having to do it everywhere; phone company, propane dealer etc etc...I'm happy with wix and can't imagine having to learn a new website host! Maybe the learning curve is shorter with each one? I gave a pair of coffee mugs to an an acquaintance for a question/answer session which helped a lot! 

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I find there’s some weird glitches around inventory control. First, you have to save the whole listing, and add stock numbers as a separate edit. It’s also not mentioned in the written manual (I prefer text over videos) l that if you don’t put in a quantity on an item you make available in your shop, you can oversell yourself. I had set up an item with the colours I make them in, but left the ones I didn’t have in stock blank instead of adding a zero. Someone promptly bought a colour I didn’t have in stock. She was fortunately very gracious about it. 

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(I find there’s some weird glitches around inventory control)

Well as a potter I find that if you sell one you need to make another-Thats the biggest glitch for me. Its also the key to inventory  control-I make a lot so selling one I still have more NOW.

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I like the squarespace e-commerce platform.  But it does take some learning for sure.  It even comes with phone apps for inventory/commerce and for website analytics which I really like, I'll include some screen shots.  I add products and process orders right from my phone half the time.  

I use pirate ship to ship my USPS orders because it's by far the cheapest.  I really like the analytics because I can basically track where my customers are coming from, when visits spike (shortly after youtube video uploads or popular instagram posts? This post? Who knows? I do!). I can control my email marketing list through squarespace too, as it allows you to use third party services like mailchimp.  

But, of course, it all comes with a learning curve.  You can always try squarespace for free, and mess around with building a page, they have plenty of tutorials and such as well.

 

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Thanks for pirateship tip, yarr!

Didn't directly compare each shipment to discounted (print label at home and drop off) ups, however, the overpacked mug to Alaska was less than ten bucks, and drop off at the PO is closer, simpler, and there's opportunity to thank the PO folk for their work whilst dashing in and waltzing out.

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50 minutes ago, Hulk said:

Thanks for pirateship tip, yarr!

Didn't directly compare each shipment to discounted (print label at home and drop off) ups, however, the overpacked mug to Alaska was less than ten bucks, and drop off at the PO is closer, simpler, and there's opportunity to thank the PO folk for their work whilst dashing in and waltzing out.

Plus, with Pirate Ship the mailman will pick up if it's Priority or First Class. Priority can sometimes be cheaper by weight and the boxes are free. I know i'm stating the obvious for most folks here, but worth mentioning.

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