Challenges of a Shop Owner (1)

 

One of the things I’ve learned when working one-on-one with Etsy shop owners is that our language isn’t always the same and, because a lot of shop owners have less than the 10 years of Etsy experience that I have, they don’t always realize what really lies behind their ‘problems’. For instance, when I write a blog post or work with a client on branding, I have to remember that a lot of new Etsy sellers don’t even realize branding is a thing. Instead, I have to tell them how to make their shop more appealing to customers. Same thing, right? But the wording makes a huge, huge difference in how well my clients and I communicate and succeed together – it helps us be on the same page.

One of the ways I do this is by, quite honestly, asking them. I’ve done numerous surveys throughout the Etsy seller market and the one question to which the answers never change is this: ‘What are your biggest problems as an Etsy seller?’. Today, I’m going to share the most common ‘big problems’ as well as some solutions!

Problem #1: Not enough time.

I’ll admit, the first time I saw this on one of my surveys, I thought ‘Hm. That’s interesting’. When I realized that almost 90 of the 100 people who responded also said ‘not enough time’, my mind was blown. You see, the problem isn’t generally that you don’t have enough time. While we all wish that there were 30 hours in a day, we do still all have the same 24 hours and many shops run successfully with just that. The problem, really, is lack of time management and processes that efficiently use time. So here are some tips:

1) Schedule in your marketing time. You can do this for 20-30 minutes a day, once a week, etc. Either way, schedule it in. For me, the majority of my marketing is taken care of on Sundays. I go in and schedule all of my posts for my Facebook Fan Pages and tweets for Twitter on Sundays. I also write these blog posts and newsletters. The only thing i update ‘on the go’ is Instagram, and I do that as I fill customer orders throughout the day. Finish an order, take a picture, post it, move on to the next order. Scheduling marketing time keeps us from sticking around on social media longer than we should.

2) Start using streamlined processes in your shop. For example, as I mentioned above, I post on Instagram when I make custom orders. In reality, my day looks like this: Pinterest for 15 minutes in the morning, print next batch of shipping labels and invoices, start on customer orders, take picture and post on Instagram as orders are finished, package orders, etc. It’s a process. Do you assemble your orders one at a time, or do you do five orders at once in steps? Write it down, and keep it consistent.

3) Ease off the emails and convos. This one is hard, because we always want to respond immediately. I, personally, have a saved ‘auto-responder’ that I send out to most people when they convo me. It lets them know I received their message, and will respond within 24 hours. I then sit down once every 24 hours (usually in the morning), and answer convos. This keeps us from going back and forth with people, or stopping our streamlining to answer questions and tell customers how to track their products.

Problem #2: Can’t Reach Customers

99% of the time, the reason an Etsy shop is having a hard time reaching customers is because they haven’t defined their target audience and/or aren’t branding and marketing to that specific audience correctly. And, on the off chance that they are, they’re not reaching customers in the right places.

1) To whom are you really selling? Think about it – Nintendo is selling to moms and dads, but do they market to moms and dads? Nope. They appeal to those who will be using the product: kids, who then beg their parents for systems and games. Let’s assume you sell accessories for puppies and dogs. What kind of puppy and dog owners are your target market? All of them? Do you have beaded and crystal-studded collars? Do you sell everyday dog items, or high-end dog items for pampered pups? How does that change your market?

2) Where is your target market? I can tell you where they’re not: On your Facebook Fan Page. Unless you have an established audience on your FB Fan Page, you’re not going to reap a whole lot of benefit from simply blasting your product on it. Now, going back to the dog accessories example, if you have a FB Fan Page and you create an ad targeted at fans of Purina Dog Chow and PetSmart, that’s a different story. Not all marketing has to cost money, though. Are your keywords target-market specific? Or are they simply product specific? Get inside of your customer’s head and think of what they would search and where they might hang out online.

Problem #3: Problems Promoting

As I mentioned above, posting your products to your own Facebook Fan Page isn’t going to be a successful marketing plan unless you have an established, interactive community on your Facebook Fan Page already. Yes, we want to build that page and post regularly (I schedule 1-2 posts a day on Sundays and they auto-post for me throughout the week), but our actual, active promotion should take place elsewhere.

1) Join groups! What groups would your target market be in? Where might you find like-minded business people? Personally, I’m Pagan, so I’m in a lot of Pagan business networking groups and pagan market groups. I’m also a WooWoo, positive-manifesty type, so I’m in a lot of those groups, as well. I’m even a member of a Rheumatoid Arthritis support group (I actually do have RA), and I sell my bracelets to a lot of those members, as well, simply because I talk about my struggles with making jewelry with RA and they become interested in what I do. Think about your product and what type of people you might sell that product to, then go find them. Would people who are interested in your interest like them? Even better – go be social! You’ll build trust and a customer base while interacting with people you enjoy at the same time.

2) Try guest-posting and bloggers. I know, I know…working with bloggers has a bad rap with Etsy, but hear me out. First, there are a lot of legit bloggers out there who will market your products to a huge following if you do your research. Second, you don’t have to give away your product. You, my friend, are an artist/artisan AND a business owner. What kind of article could you contribute to a blog or website that would be of interest to their readers? I love submitting business articles, following-your-dreams articles, etc. to blogs and websites…and I get a by-line in the bio that links right back to my website!

Problem #4: Doing it All Alone

I so feel you on this one. Running an entire shop alone can be tough. Not a lot of people outside of small business realize that, when you’re an artisan for a living, you also take on the roles of secretary, accountant, marketing manager, customer service, photographer, and much more. It is doable, though – many successful Etsy sellers have found a may to work for them!

1) Outsource. I know, it’s obvious, but outsource what you can if you can. I know that, financially, this isn’t possible for many, but sometimes it’s more feasible than you’d think. During the holidays, I pay someone to clean my house once every two weeks. While I still keep up with the laundry and dishes, this twice-monthly cleaning saves me houuuuurs of time. Do you now how many bracelets I can stamp in just one hour? A lot more than it costs me to pay the cleaning lady for a day. This, my friend, is called ‘opportunity cost’. If you can find a VA for $15 an hour who will schedule your Facebook and Twitter in 2-3 hours a week, it’s quite often worth the $30-45 you’ll pay to get those 2-3 hours back. And, while she’s marketing, you can be working on something else that makes you money. Assuming you hire a VA for 3 hours a week, that’s 156 hours you can save yourself over the course of a year. How much work can you do to grow and better your business in 156 hours?

2) Remember that you’re never actually alone! If you need advice, want to run your branding ideas by someone, or need some market research, you can always pop by my (free) Facebook Group. We are all kinds of supportive over there, as they can also be in the Etsy Forums. Find yourself some business support groups (where there’s actually more support and positivity than complaining!), and use them as needed!

Problem #5: Organization

A lot of organization issues go right back to time management. Our things are a mess and we feel like chaos the most when our time isn’t allocated properly. On the same note, our time is better spent when our things are organized and everything has a place.

1) Create files on Evernote, Google Drive, etc. to keep track of everything. Google Drive is my go-to, and I have those files saved on a back-up hard drive as well. I have all of my product photos, listings, my listing templates, auto-responder emails (especially ones I use during the holidays), supplier information, purchase information, product ideas, quotes for jewelry, blog post ideas, my calendar, etc. in organized files on Google Drive. I can find it and use it all within seconds. I also have a love for post-it notes. If I have an urgent customer issue, client meeting, or something of the like, it goes both into my Google Calendar with an alarm as well as on a post-it stuck right to my computer. Hard to miss that way, right?

2) Color coordinate all of the things! As someone who works with jewelry, it’s really, really hard to keep everything organized. I have boxes and boxes of business cards, charms, different sizes and shapes of different metals, shipping supplies, packaging supplies…you name it. I have a system, which is color coordinated and separated by shelf, so I know exactly where everything goes. Even better, like goes next to like. This means that my business cards, packaging supplies, and shipping supplies are all within reach of each other so I can handle that step all at once, from one spot. This helps with Problem #1. This is also done in a tiny apartment with about 10 sq ft. of work space, if I’m being lenient, so I know it can be done anywhere!

 

Now, this is just the tip of the ice berg for many of these issues. I go into more detail on these issues and their solutions in my book, and will be going even further into detail and helping my students one-on-one in my Rock Your Shop Etsy eCourse. Interested? You should be! And, even better, there’s still 24 hours left on my ‘Big 3-0 Birthday!’ sale, so you can get the course for $73 instead of the original $499. How cool is that?

Head on over and take a look at everything you can learn for less than $10 a week!

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