I've been haunting my local library lately, looking for a book to recommend to new Etsy sellers.
What Type of Book Works Best for You?
Books for this audience fall into two categories:
A few books are specifically geared towards Etsy like How to Make Money Using Etsy by Timothy Adams published in 2011. The problem with that is that Etsy changes constantly, adding new features and removing old ones. With Etsy's current rate of changes, any printed book that details step-by-step instructions on how to use Etsy probably has a maximum lifespan of 30 days before some part of it needs updating.
The second type of book covers a broad range of selling options including craft shows, online selling, and retail shops. The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin is one that belongs in this category. This is a great overview for beginners who are just thinking about selling online, but it doesn't have enough depth in any of the categories for someone with a little experience or someone who needs more hand holding.
The Everything Guide
The Everything Guide to Selling Your Arts and Crafts Online by Kim Solga is a happy medium between these two options. She covers selling on Etsy, ArtFire, products on demand (like Zazzle), eBay, and your own website using WordPress, as well as social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogging. While some of the specifics about these sites will likely become (or are already) outdated since the book was published in 2013, her general advice on writing for an online audience, pricing, and identifying your customer is solid.
This is not to say that I agree with everything in the book. I was surprised that popular options such as Shopify or Big Cartel for hosting shops received minimal attention. (The author recommends WordPress.) I also found her sample business plan ("by end of month 3, sell 10 items per week on Etsy, increase earring production to 50 per month") unrealistic for most beginners. Still, I can't argue that the act of writing a plan couldn't be a valuable tool. After all, if you don't have a goal, how will you know when you've been successful?
What I Liked Best
- In the section on social media, the author presents a sample 40-minutes a day, 5-days-a-week schedule. While I don't know that I'd follow her plan exactly, I like that she offers it because so much discussion on social media never addresses exactly how you are supposed to incorporate all those extra tasks into your busy workday. You can use this sample as a starting point and add/subtract activities or change time frames to better suit your business.
- I love the author's calm, sensible approach to selling online. Take her viewpoint on search engine optimization (SEO). This has to be one of the main topics that causes new online sellers to freak out. It shouldn't. You've been "optimizing your searches" for years, finding new shoes, the best Italian restaurant in town, and that little gizmo that broke on your refrigerator. Here's what Kim has to say: "Despite the reputation, SEO is mainly common sense. Know your key search terms and use them in your website. That's basically it."
- When the title says "everything," it really means it. I love that she covers things like how to store your completed crafts and a plan for how to study and learn from your competition, topics that aren't always covered in other craft business titles. I'd like to try her idea about writing profiles for your ideal customer to help better visualize him or her and target your business efforts.
I'd recommend this book to new shops who need more step-by-step, nitty-gritty details than you normally find in an overview type of craft business book. I'd also recommend it for those shop owners who've been selling for awhile and are looking for ideas about growing or changing certain aspects of their businesses. So many of us started businesses without a formal plan in place that it can be helpful to go back and fill in any gaps.
I hope an updated second edition is planned. Amazon Handmade, buyable pins on Pinterest, website hosting sites like Squarespace and IndieMade ... innovation and changes in the handmade market keep coming.