2019 in Review & 2020 Goals

2019 was definitely a turning point for Zwellyn Pottery. With my book being published in October and the purchase of a brand new kiln in March, I was extra motivated to grow my art based business. This was a bit tricky since I already have a full time job and 3 kids, but somehow I did manage!

My goal for 2019 was to gross $12,000. I was about $2000 shy of that , however, I made most of that money between September – December so with a little more effort early this year, I’m confident I can make more in 2020.

2020 Goals

Based on my numbers in 2019, here’s what I want to accomplish in 2020:

  • Gross $15,000 in pottery sales
  • Post at least 3 times a week to social media and grow my following by 50%

These are ambitious goals, and here’s how I plan to accomplishing them:

  • Produce more pottery early in the year, making sure to stock up on product lines I know will sell well
  • Create new products at a higher price point that will excite my current customers: oil & vinegar pourers, lamps, soap dispensers, large mugs, beer steins, highly decorated travel mugs and trays
  • Post regularly to Pinterest & try getting some traction on Twitter
  • Join some Facebook groups that promote artisans
  • Do more craft fairs & makers markets in my local area during slower sale times (Winter & Summer).
  • Make my Maine Craft Weekend event bigger this year and do more advertising
  • Try to maintain at least 50 items in my online stores at all times

I’m already off to a decent start! I currently have 60 items for sale online, I signed up for a local makers market and I’ve even started throwing pots a little, which I don’t normally do this time of year.

One thing I always like to stress is having realistic goals. You certainly want to stretch your limits but if you stretch too far you just end up getting stressed and frustrated. Remember that you only have so much time so make sure you have a solid plan for accomplishing goals that doesn’t involve working more than is actually possible. Also, no worries if you fall short of everything you want to accomplish. As long as you are making progress and learning, you are doing great!

Thanks for reading! Hope your 2020 is off to a great start!

free shipping

Mandatory Free Shipping on Etsy?!

A few days ago, Josh Silverman the CEO of Etsy announced that they will do an algorithm update on July 30th, 2019 that will give priority to listings with “free shipping”. Many Etsy sellers are angry about this change and I’ve had several people ask me how I feel about it.

free shipping
Torn paper box with word Free shipping

Truthfully, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, you can’t blame Etsy for the change in expectations of online shoppers. Amazon Prime has changed the landscape of online shopping and consumers have gotten accustomed to fast, free shipping. Many people choose whether or not to buy a product based on shipping and Etsy is making this decision based on market changes.

On the other hand, I agree with the argument that Etsy isn’t doing a great job in recent years communicating with consumers on what makes purchases on Etsy special, which is the fact that all items on Etsy are handmade or vintage.

Although people really like free shipping, most of the time it’s a facade. Sellers on Etsy and other platforms change the price of the item to include the shipping and often buyers in close proximity to the seller end up paying more than they would have if the shipping had just been calculated separately. Even though many consumers understand this, they still make buying decisions based on shipping. There is a couple of reasons for this:

  1. People don’t like unexpected charges at checkout. When someone is viewing an item online and it’s one price and they mentally accept that price, they often will bail out of the shopping cart when they see the shipping charge. I’ve done it and likely you’ve done it too. There are often good reasons for a larger shipping charge, for instance, I’m in Maine and if the item I’m looking at ships from California or somewhere on the west coast. Logically I understand the charge but if I’m on the fence about buying the item anyway, this extra charge is likely to push me toward no.
  2. People like the value of the item to be higher. This is especially true for handmade! An example I use in my book “Guide to Marketing Art & Crafts Online” is that people feel really great about drinking out of a $40 handmade coffee mug, but feel less good about drinking out of a $30 handmade coffee mug that cost $10 to ship. It’s a psychological thing. People have less of a problem paying the extra $10 for the value of the piece but not for the shipping.

On Etsy, I plan to play the game and add the shipping cost into the price of the item so I can offer “free shipping”. On my website, I do not offer “Free Shipping” but I often ship for less than it actually costs so I don’t loose the sale over it. Free shipping does not work on my website because I often sell to local people and have a “local pickup” option that doesn’t charge any shipping costs. Because I have my website as an option for local people, this change by Etsy, isn’t a huge concern for me.

In my opinion, the real moral of the story, is that people shouldn’t solely rely on a 3rd-party platform for their online sales. Everyone should have a website that they drive traffic to and that they can control. Online sellers need to be able to make decisions that make sense for their own business and relying solely on a third-party platform just doesn’t allow for this.

optimizing etsy store

Optimizing my Etsy Store

Right now, most of my sales are coming from my website, but I still make a few sales per week on Etsy so it’s definitely a channel that I want to keep open. Because my main focus over the last year has been my website and writing my book, I’ve neglected my Etsy store and it’s time to spruce it up a bit to get ready for the upcoming season!

optimize my etsy store

For me, the upcoming season starts in September because I LOVE to make Halloween pottery and always it sells well. Then, right after Halloween the Christmas season starts and the traffic on Etsy increases a ton.

I’m writing this post at the end of June and you may be thinking that it’s a little early to start optimizing my Etsy store for the holidays but in reality it’s the perfect time! Etsy, like search engines is based on an algorithm (a mathematical equation that determines the order of the listings in a search). It does take less time to improve in the Etsy algorithm than it does on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, but it will still take time and giving yourself a few months gives you the best shot at having your listings near the top at the right moment.

Here’s what I’m Working on:

  • Adding Listings: There are a number of listings on my website that are not on my Etsy store because I just haven’t taken the time to add them. I am working on adding a few every day. One major thing the Etsy algorithm likes is consistency. If you are posting a little bit all the time, your listings will get a boost on Etsy search.
  • Producing Work Now for the Upcoming Holidays: Pottery takes time, so if i want to have a decent inventory of Fall and Halloween pottery starting in September, I’ll need to get busy now. It’s surprising how soon it starts, in past years, I’ve had customers ask about it as early as September 1st.
  • Refresh my Current Listings: I have a few lines of mugs and other items that I always try to keep in stock. Right now it’s a great time to evaluate them and see what can be improved. The things you want to look at are your images, keywords, titles, description, tags and other attributes.
    • Images: Make sure you are using all 10 image places for your products. If you have some that are not using all 10, take some creative shots and see if it helps increase sales. This time of year I love to take pictures of pottery in my garden!
    • Keywords: Keywords are the words that people put into a search (in this case on Etsy). They are the words you put into your tags, titles and descriptions so your product hopefully comes up in that search. It’s good to evaluate these from time to time and add new ones based on the latest trends. You can see what keywords are working and not working currently by going into Marketing > Search Analytics. Also go to the Etsy main site and look for products similar to yours. See what they are coming up for and pay attention to the words Etsy suggests during your searches.
    • Titles: Etsy suggests that you don’t have super long titles. Having shorter, to the point titles is a better user experience particularly for mobile shoppers and could increase click rates. It’s best to put your main keyword towards the beginning of your title. Make sure to update your titles to reflect your recent keyword research.
    • Descriptions: All search algorithms like words, so if your descriptions are skimpy, try to bulk them up a a little. This is one I personally struggle with! Think about what you would want to know if you were to buy the item. What are the product uses. Talk about the process. Try to get your descriptions up to 300 words if possible.
    • Tags: Now that you have done some more keyword research, you’ll want to update your tags as well. You may have noticed some keywords that are not performing well when you looked at the search analytics stats. Try to replace those. Also make sure you are not repeating yourself. For my mug listing, I only need to use the word “mug” once, I don’t need to add a bunch of similar tags like “pottery mug”, “ceramic mug”, “stoneware mug” etc. Etsy will only count the word mug once so it’s a waste of a tag to reuse it.
    • Attributes: Etsy has changed many of their “Attributes” recently so make sure that these are filled in when appropriate. For my Mug listings I can now put in the capacity (amount of fluid it holds), colors, graphics (if it depicts something specific like flowers or animals), handle (whether or not it has one), dishwasher safe and microwave safe, etc.
  • Drive Traffic: I don’t actively try to drive traffic to my Etsy store very often, mostly because my website is a better option for branding purposes, plus I pay less fees and make more profits when people purchase on my website. One way I am trying to drove traffic to my Etsy store though is Pinterest. I haven’t utilized Pinterest as much as I should and Etsy has this great feature that allows you to share listings automatically with no effort. All you need to do is click on “Listings” in the Etsy Shop Manager Dashboard. Click on the Gear Icon, then click “Share” and choose Pinterest. It’s that easy!

Thinking ahead and getting my listings up to snuff now, should result in better sales during the holidays!

My Book “Marketing Art & Crafts Online” is Almost Here!

I just picked up the first copies of my book “Marketing Art & Crafts Online.” I have a few formatting fixes and a bit more to add but it is nearly complete! As a web developer and a potter, this book combines my 2 passions to help other artists, crafters and makers find their voice online to sell their work more easily online. My hope is to help more artists make money off doing what they love.

The book will be available for purchase May 1st!

marketing art online