But I wanted to do one from a newbie's perspective. I'm not an expert, I am not making loads of money, but I experienced great successes this year (and numerous learning experiences, good and bad) and sometimes it's nice to see the view from the beginning of the race. I hope this will encourage some to take an EDUCATED leap into this awesome craziness.
I started out knowing NOTHING. I took some pictures, put some things up on Etsy and waited. And waited and waited. I spent the latter part of 2010 getting a few sales here and there. My very first order would be my biggest ever. I made over 350 feet of bunting for a wedding. It kept me busy for a while but there was little activity on my shop and I had no idea how to get anyone to come and look at it.
At the end of 2011 I began running deals with a handmade deal site. These deals were always incredibly successful and it really helped me get people to look at my shop. It also gave me confidence, because people really seemed to like my product. The problem was what to do after the deal, when I didn't have all the exposure.
Now this is a HUGE "duh!" moment. I have no idea why I never did this before. I knew nothing about SEO (search engine optimization), tagging my items, the importance of item descriptions. I read everything I could find and started doing a few things differently. Here is what I started doing.
These are tips coming from an Etsy seller, so if you sell on a different platform, not all of these will apply to you.
1. Make Treasuries - This sounds like the craziest thing ever, but seriously. DO IT. I started making treasuries as suggested in the seller tools. It's not meant for you to showcase YOUR items, but other sellers items. Immediately I saw my numbers increase and sales increased along with it. Getting myself out there in the Etsy community was most definitely related to my increase in views AND sales.
3. Descriptions - Be sure the actual name of your product (Ex.Valentines Burlap Banner) is somewhere in the first two sentences of your descriptions. Save the flowery language about how you were inspired by gazelles in Africa for the next paragraph. Doing this helps you come up in Google and other search engine searches aside from just Etsy searches.
4. Great photos - I don't have even a remotely cool camera, but I've learned to make that crappy little camera work for me and by using simple backgrounds with texture. White works best on Etsy. You should avoid dark backgrounds, you want that item to pop. Even if you aren't using Etsy for your online shop, you can find some great info on shooting products HERE.
5. What are you selling? Take a good look at the amount of products available in your field. Categories like jewelry especially are incredibly saturated on Etsy, so it may be a good idea to look into other platforms where you can get more exposure. Put yourself out there, but be smart too about where you invest your time and money into selling your goods too.
Seem like a lot? Seem overwhelming? Well, honestly, it is. The beginning can be really time consuming and even when it gets off the ground it can take up a lot of your time that you maybe weren't expecting it to.
Remember that running a handmade business isn't like signing up to sell Mary Kay or Thirty One bags. You are the owner, marketing person, product developer, and shipping department. In the beginning it is likely you will wear every single one of the hats a typically business may have individual people to handle.
Absolutely no one knows about what you do and therefore isn't seeking out your product, you have to make sure to spread as many breadcrumbs as you can to lead a trail back to you. This is why creating great listings is a MAJOR priority.
Running a handmade business is such a great feeling, but it also comes with feeling overwhelmed, overworked at times and sometimes the tangible payoff isn't great. But....keep pressing on! And keep reading :)