Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Things I've Learned as an Entrepreneur

So, I've had my Etsy store up and running for a month or two now, and I've started this blog partly to help promote it, and neither thing is quite going the way I'd pictured.  I thought I would share the stuff I've learned.

I feel kind of silly now, but when I was in the planning stages of all of this, I really thought I might start getting sales right away.  After all, my paintings are eye-catching and well-executed and I think it's clear from my policies page that I'm detail-oriented and have mad customer service skillz. 

Basically, I figured people would find my store by searching phrases like "transvestite" or "drag queen" (sure, not a lot of people would be searching those terms, but the ones who did would find me.  I tried those searches myself and only a handful of items came up, mine among them).  And my inherent awesomeness would shine through and the searcher would end up buying something and word of mouth would spread and then I'd be off and running.

I was actually worried that business would pick up really fast and I might have a hard time keeping up - so before I launched the store, I made sure I was 100% ready.  I bought bubble envelopes and three sizes of cardboard boxes in bulk so I would never have to scramble to get shipping supplies.  I bought ribbon and tissue paper to wrap people's purchases in.  I ordered business cards and thank-you notes.  I rented a mailbox so I could put a return address on packages that isn't my actual house.  Turns out I could probably have opened the store first and still had plenty of time to order all that stuff, since nobody's bought anything yet; still, I'm glad I got prepared ahead of time and I recommend that you do, too, if you're setting out to sell things online.  Better to have something and not need it than need it and not have it, as they say.

Anyway, I was going to tell you what I've learned.  This is the crux of it:

Only a tiny percentage of people take action.

Meaning: if you tell a hundred people to check out your Etsy store, only one or two people will actually do it.  If a hundred people look at your Etsy store, only one or two of them will "heart" the store or one of its items.  And if a hundred people "heart" something in your store, only one or two of them will actually go on to buy something (this of course is speculation since I haven't gotten there yet).

On a related note, only a teeny-tiny portion of people who read a blog will comment on it, which is something I didn't know before; I comment on other people's blogs all the time (EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO MY OPINION DAMMIT) and assumed my level of talkativeness was normal.  But nope, now that I have my own blog I can see how many people view it vs. how many people say stuff, and the two figures are very very different.

So basically, if you've just opened a store and you want to generate sales ASAP, just having a good product and good service isn't enough.  You'd better be prepared to walk around wearing a sandwich board and ringing a bell - you need to trumpet your product to as much of your target market as you possibly can, every minute of every day.

To be honest, I'm not really prepared to do the sandwich board thing full out.  I don't want my acquaintances to run when they see me coming because they know I'll be asking "Did you look at my store yet?  Did you?  Did you?  I put new stuff up today!" 

I will, however, do stuff like putting up a Facebook fan page and a blog so that people can choose to check me out when it's convenient for them.  And The Boy says it would drum up further publicity if I got my stuff out in the real world by attending arts and craft fairs and whatnot.  He's right, of course, and I'm going to try.  It's just hard because a) I have issues with shyness/anxiety and b) I think it would be difficult even for an extroverted person to sit and smile while people critiqued their hard work right within earshot.

It'll take a while for things to build momentum for me, but I'm confident it'll happen.

But, guys: if you've been to my store and you noticed some big obvious thing that needs improvement, please tell me in the comments*. 

* "Stop being so weird and start painting pictures of nice things" is not useful advice here; weird and gross is fundamentally who I am.  What I'm looking for is advice on how to present my weirdness and grossness as well as possible so that other weird and gross people will want to buy things.  I need to know whether my pictures and descriptions are eye-catching and my tags are accurate.  Thanks. :)


  1. I admire your strangeness, actually. Another thing you'll learn (or probably have learned) is that the more you set yourself apart from others, the more you'll be noticed. :P It'll take time.

    I started my DeviantArt account WAY before my Etsy Shop and it took a LONG time to gather any lookers. It definitely starts slow.

    Great advice!

  2. the more you set yourself apart from others, the more you'll be noticed.

    This is exactly my feeling. A few of my friends have been like "couldn't you maybe try to do things that are inoffensive and cute?" but I'd rather four people who love what I do than four hundred people who just think it's okay.

    And anyway, cute and nice don't come naturally to me. I'd have to fake it, and that would take out all the fun. :D