Friday, November 21, 2008

The Spandexpony Guide to Etsy Selling.

My love of Etsy is certainly no secret; the array of items is unique and hard to find offline, they are made and offered by individuals and artists, and is easy and inexpensive to use. Etsy is a terrific tool for making a bit of dough on the side if you have a crafting skill or an eye for vintage.

Usually, things go peachily-- I put something on my favorites list until I'm absolutely panicked that someone will buy it in the next hour if I don't first, and then a few days later, I get a friendly little package from a somebody in Bangor or Denver with the object of my foamy-mouthed obsession inside.

Misschicboutique definitely has my trust! She custom made me some awesome earrings and even gave me a discount. They arrived quickly. She rules.

Lately, I've encountered a few unfortunate snags--- packages that were never sent, damaged items... and while (I hope!) no one would purposefully sabotoge their shipments, it is so important to be a responsible, thoughtful seller on Etsy because there are still a great big lot of people who distrust shopping online, and especially distrust an individual seller over a bigger company, like say, Best Buy. Being a great seller is an important part of bolstering the Trust at Large in Internet Commerce, which helps everyone in the end.

As someone with lots of selling experience, Internet and otherwise, I would like to present this little guide to you out there; thinking of starting a little something up on Etsy, and for those of you out there who sell, but are maybe a little unconfident on how things are going. I speak mostly from my experiences selling vintage online, but these pointers transfer easily to the crafting ones of ya as well.

What to Sell.

Pixiebell makes awesome hats, takes custom orders, makes them ridiculously fast and has them arrive at your door in a matter of what seems like hours.

1) Would you like to receive this item? When I'm out scouring thrifts, flea markets, and other sacred vintage burial places, I throw everything that looks awesome into the cart, straight off the bat. When I get dispairing looks from the employees who "just know" I'll be one of "them", who dumps the unwanteds where they don't go, it's time to do some narrowing down. Although some items are fabulous in person, it's better to frame your potential buys from the viewpoint of whoever might be receiving the item. Would I want to receive this in the mail? You might buy something that looks crappier in person because you're there to "choose" it, but when it is mailed to you, the loss of control in choosing your item can lead to greater dissatisfaction with comparable, in-person crappiness. When it arrives in an envelope, expectations (and standards) are higher. And hopefully "crap" does not even enter the equation.

2) Can you accurately represent this item? The second most important aspect in choosing an item to sell is to consider whether you have the skill and equipment necessary to accurately photograph an item. I frequently pass over things with odd shapes, complicated dimensions and details and shiny surfaces, simply because they cannot be accurately represented in photos, especially with my camera. My tip: bring your camera with you to the thrift store and take a couple of test photos of a potential store item.

Can you accurately describe with words what this item is? Remember, your customer knows nothing about this product except for a photo you took of it; so if there is something about the item that is too weird to describe, better leave it aside. Can you measure the item easily? Accurate measurements are essential in aiding your customers' decision as to whether or not they should purchase an item.

Ragtrader's jewelry is uh-mazing! Everything came packaged carefully and neatly. To boot, I was going out of town, and I asked her to wait on shipping. The day after I told her I'd be back in town, my necklaces arrived! Outstanding!

3) Does the item have defects? Especially in vintage clothing, most people expect defects. Perfect items are typically the exception to the rule, after all, most vintage items are older than you are and have already been worn. But there are certain defects to rule out automatically. Any defect that affects the structure or function of an item should automatically ring your "reject" alarm. Things like purses that won't close, or shoes with loose heels or missing insoles are prime rejects.

Defects that can easily be fixed (like a missing heel cap) can still be sold at a very low price if the overall shoe is in great condition, but selling defective items gives your "brand" a lower intrinsic value. You don't want to be known as the Etsy seller that sells cheap, broken stuff! There are so many terrific vintage items out there in great condition, that it always mystifies me when I see items with stains-- however imperceptible, or holes, no matter how on-the-seam they are. Why would I want to pay money to receive something in an envelope that has an irremovable stain?

How to Sell.

1) Be Accurate. It's okay if the item is not perfect, as long as you are accurate with your description. Best case scenario-- the customer is surprised with how much better the thing looks in real life. Be sure to get pictures of your item from all angles, so that there are no questions about the item that can't be answered by viewing your post. There is no such thing as being too thorough with your descriptions!

I am dying for this pendant by the very fairly priced Bumblebeadzzz2007. The pendant I ordered from her previously looked even better in real life, and bonus--- the back of the pendant secretly had pink rhinestones in it!

2) Edit your photos oh-so-sparingly! It's important to use Photoshop, if you do, extremely discriminately. I use Photoshop for help with my backgrounds, if I happen to shoot an item against a grimy wall (in my super-old place there are many), and to fix my camera's overexposure problem. It is never okay to Photoshop defects off of the item, enhance the item, or in any way, even slightly, misrepresent your item. It's about instilling trust, not just in you, but in Internet commerce.

3) Be clear about sizes. When it comes to sizing something, make sure you are very clear. I sell a lot of vintage shoes. As a size 8 1/2, I can accurately tell if a shoe is going to fit like an 8, 8 1/2, or 9. Other than that, if a shoe is a size 7 or 10, I usually just measure out the sole, or better yet, have a friend with that size shoe try them on to let me know of the size marked is accurate or not.

After a Sale.

RockyMountainRetro had some of the best after-buy communication ever! She kept me apprised of the progress of my tiny little green plaid suitcase, every step from her door to mine! Also, it was packaged wonderfully. I know have my beady little eyes on these boots, a size 8 1/2! Holy hot-ass boots!

1) Acknowledge your sale! It is a courtesy to acknowledge every sale you make personally, just so that your buyer becomes confident that "someone is there" and is taking care of them. Now would be a good time to ask your buyer if they would like insurance, priority shipping or giftwrapping, if they did not specify before. It's always good to anticipate a buyer's need.

2) A note about delivery confirmations. I highly recommend (and am just now getting into) including delivery confirmations for every buyer. Yes, it does incur an extra cost, but the peace of mind to both seller and buyer is invaluable.

3) DO, DO, DO package your item carefully, and with common sense! If you are selling a pair of leather boots, find a box that is big enough to lay them out, full length inside the box. Stuffing the shafts with a bit of paper is good, too. Not only does it protect the older leather from cracking and flaking from being folded and scrunched up, but is shows whoever is receiving it that you care about the safety of their item. If you are selling a delicate item, make sure that you have appropriate packaging for it, so that it arrives intact. If you have any doubts, don't sell it. If you are a crafter, you might do very well to test your packaging on one of your items first; wrap it up and throw it around --- like what will actually happen at the post office--- to make sure your packaging method keeps your item intact.

4) Notify your customer when you have shipped the item. Also, if there will be a delay in shipping their item. Most buyers expect that their order will be shipped within a couple of days of purchasing. But as most Etsy sellers are individuals, life sometimes gets in the way. It is always to your -- and their -- benefit to drop them a short line about any delays.

... and there you have it! Get selling! And for those of you buyers out there looking for trust-worthy sellers, every item pictured is from an Etsy seller I have bought something from, and had a wonderful experience with.

... and now, your musical snack of the day (epileptics beware!):


Amber said...

Love the Etsy guide. Very informative and I hope to never have problems with Etsy! I have much more faith in it then i do in eBay these days.

Spandexpony said...

Dude, thanks. And I, too love Etsy infinitely more than Ebay!

Munted kowhai said...

This is great!I'm going to forward it to my mum who is thinking of selling art on Etsy!!
So detailed, loves it!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this ethical info. I just received a 100yr old silver plated brides basket today -in a box, wrapped in garbage bags and a scrunched up newspaper - no bubble wrap or anything like that - I nearly cried when I saw that the bowl was bent and the handle was snapped! I wrote to the seller on Etsy, and she had the nerve to say I had "insulted" her packaging, and blamed the postal service! I don't know how anyone can honestly say that a scrimp of newpaper and garbage bags would protect an item this old!

Spandexpony said...

Munted: Thank you!

Anonymous: So sorry that happened to you! Such a downer. I really hope she refunded your money!

José said...


I haven't sold much through ETSY (nowadays I find it to be more crafts than paintings (my case) dedicated).
One thing I find important, be it on Etsy, be it at other venue : present and honour a good image and customer service.

Have a nice weekend,