For as long as I've had my Etsy shop I've wanted to see it fully stocked instead of just having one or two pieces in it. And it finally has a fair number of goods on offer. Which means that now I feel panicky that having a full shop means that nothing is selling! It would be a fair comment to suggest that I am never satisfied!
It is a strange thing though. When I look at other shops, I always see it as a measure of success when there are a lot of items on offer and yet here I am feeling very unsure about my own shop.
I am determined to run it as I would want to run a bricks and mortar shop though. It's been one of my big aims this year to have a good turnover of stock with a lot of variety. Because it's just too easy with Etsy to stick one or two items in every now and then and leave it at that - with no pressure at all. In fact it's been said in the past that sites like Etsy have played an enormous part in the resurgence in both crafting and selling. The opportunity to make one off pieces or small order pieces has really opened up the retail market to absolutely anyone.
There's no longer a need to have a business/marketing/programming/design degree if you want to get your products out there where people can see them. All the work is done for you with the help of Etsy templates and Blogging templates that allow you to create a store front and an ever revolving stock catalogue.
It really is an amazing time to be creating in. When I started my previous small business (as a designer/carpenter) 14 years ago, there was really only one way to get started. I had to write a full business plan, approach the bank (and in my case in the UK, the Prince's Trust - if you're under 28 and in the UK you should definitely get in touch with The Prince's Trust - fantastic support and funding) and spend a lot of time designing and making as much stock as possible before finally getting out there on the road and peddling my wares from store to store.
It was a lot of work and there was an immense pressure to succeed and repay the various loans necessary to fund the amount of stock, advertising, etc needed before you even sold one thing.
Now though, you can make one item and stick it in your shop or on your blog and if you're lucky hundreds of people can see it and buy it with almost no outlay and practically no marketing.
The only downside is the lack of human contact. And the lack of seeing a physical response to a design. As nerve wrecking as it can be to face a buyer, it is also extremely exciting to see the look of delight on their face when they like your designs. And as equally helpful to hear and see the negative reactions to something that you're just too close to. It's also invaluable to be able to discuss the pro's and con's of a design from a buyers point of view.
With online sales the only real response is judged by how quickly something sells, which can be misleading and demoralising. It's perfectly acceptable in a bricks and mortar shop for stock to sit for a while. In fact it would probably be a little scary if something sold out immediately. But with an online shop it all feels so much more immediate.
Which from a design point of view can really be a hindrance. There is a temptation to want to change a product if it doesn't appear to hit the spot immediately. Whereas the reality may be that it is a great design, that just hadn't been seen by the right audience. Or the design may have missed the mark ever so slightly, something that a buyer could easily spot but that an online customer can't let you know about without fear of hurting your feelings or over stepping the mark with unsolicited advice.
Then there's the pricing issue. The bane of any designer/makers life. And something that is unfathomably complicated.
When pricing for a wholesale buyer it's possible to look at their existing product range and customer base and judge your price accordingly. You also know (being a customer yourself) that people expect to pay a certain price for a certain type of product in a certain type of outlet. For instance, if you go in to a small boutique or gallery than you know you're going to pay a premium rate for a piece of hand made work. But if you go into a large high street store you expect to pay less, whether it's hand made or not.
But this just does not translate to online sales. There is a true dichotomy here. People want to support handmade crafts. They want to support the ethics and provenance that comes from buying handmade direct from the maker. And everyone knows how much work and time and effort goes in to creating an original design. But they also want a bargain. And they also know that they could probably do it themselves if they just had the time (I am so guilty of that one!), and they just don't expect to pay as much because it's not out there in the real shops. None of which is a criticism - we are all consumers and most of us have a limited budget. It just makes pricing a little more difficult. Especially when there is no feedback about it. You never know if an item has missed it's audience totally or if it's £5 too expensive.
All of which leads me to the issue of insecurity and fear. When I was selling to buyers or at Craft Fairs I was able to judge a reaction, but here I am not. And that leaves me feeling both invigorated by the lack of constraints and terrified by the lack of input.
It's a new way to run a business and it certainly leads to some interesting dilemmas.
The Pear picture is in the shop now as an original piece. As is little Oskar puppy.
And after all of that I've decided to change the price of the Pear picture because sometimes you just do get it wrong.