In the middle of the summer, I (very softly) launched my interiors brand, by Rouncefield. It turns out that I haven’t quite become the next handmade superstar after just a few months on Etsy. Instead, I’ve made a cheerful 6 sales, had at least 3 complete mental breakdowns and have had some of my favourite creative ideas of the year. You could say that it’s been good and bad (and ugly – that’s the crying).
Unfortunately, the title does have one little white lie in it, but saying month instead of months is much more pleasing – don’t you think?
So, Etsy, painting things, building a brand – it’s all a lot more work than I ever thought it could be, and I don’t even spend every waking hour working on it! However many challenges these last few months have thrown at me, I’m confident that each has been pretty damn necessary, and will (hopefully) contribute to my growing product line and the by Rouncefield brand values.
Today, I wanted to share a few of the very clear lessons I’ve learnt during by Rouncefield’s baby period. They’re the lessons that I feel everyone even thinking about creating a product or selling on Etsy should start off knowing – although they’ll definitely be more effective as lessons when you learn them from the first-hand experience of online retail – eek!
Packaging is as important as what’s inside
When I sent off my first order, which had been completed with my heart in my throat the whole time, I couldn’t help but look at the bundled up package and feel a little deflated. See, the protection was all there, but the pazaz and the colourful heart of my brand weren’t. As soon as a customer receives a package from you, the assessment and judgement of the product and overall experience is being made. This includes the packaging.
The vibe of the product needs to be reflected in the packaging – well, as far as I’m concerned it does. My products are colourful, so I upped my packaging game (within the realms of current affordability) and started matching up what was inside to the outside. Now when I sent an order out, I proud of every part of it, and just cross my fingers that the customer loves it too.
Undercutting yourself is far too easy
In every Etsy starter tips I’ve read, there is some mention of making sure your pricing is right. Just because I’ve learnt the importance of this, it doesn’t mean that my pricing is wrong, just that I’ve seen how easy it can be to add an hour or two of your time to each order – making that profit margin slimmer and slimmer.
Before I listed my items and started trading, I timed how long my production took, so I could be confident that I wasn’t going to undercut myself. Life, however, does sometimes get in the way. Adding in a little wiggle room in terms of production time has taken the pressure off me when I’ve had an order, and has been reflected in my pricing. At first, I felt like no-one would buy my products at their advertised price, but when you remember how much love and time and individual, non-automated effort goes into each item, you realise that most people know exactly what they’re paying for.
Say it again (and again, and again)
Selling online can already be harder than putting your product in a shop – because your customers will never get that pick-it-up-and-feel-it satisfaction that we like to have before a purchase. I for one absolutely love getting handsy in a shop (lol) and feel drawn to things more or less after I’ve handled them (lol). The first way to combat this disadvantage of online retail is to be ridiculously clear in your title and descriptions.
I, personally, have made the mistake of not completely spelling out what my product was when I first started, and it led to one of my worst fears coming true (read on for that). Now I implement the strategy of say it, then say it again, and again, and once more for good measure. In my case, this was to say that the item comes flat-packed and requires self-assembly and then to say it several more times…
No review isn’t a bad review
When I sent my first couple of orders out, I freaked when weeks had gone by without any reviews being left. Naturally, I assumed that this meant the customers hated the product and planned to post videos of them burning them any day now. In reality, of course, it’s just difficult to get people to leave reviews.
Even if I love something I’ve bought online, do I leave a 5-star review every time? Sure, nowadays (as a creative person) I do try to leave positive reviews for independent businesses and one-girl-bands, but I’m still guilty of forgetting! Often no review on a sale means that everything is a-ok. I’ve learnt to trust that people will let you know if they’re not happy (proof below) and silence is often golden.
You’ll overcome your worst fear
Now, we all have different fears. But as a new Etsy seller, mine were pretty predictable. Number one was the age-old customer hating the product and shouting at you through the internet for being a terrible creative and a liar about your product. Number two was the “The item never arrived. Did you even send it?”. Within my first month (maybe 6 weeks) I’d had my taste of both of these fears coming true.
Although no-one shouted at me through the internet, my sense of embarrassment/guilt/shame about something not going 100% right definitely reached new levels. Even though I did have some crying fits and considered packing up and getting out of town, eventually I used my words and neither of the issues defeated me. The lesson? Things aren’t always going to go to plan, your fears will come true, but you know what? You’ll deal with it because there’s not another option.
Are you an online business owner? I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt during your time online so far! Have you experienced the same realisations as me, or are your lessons more product or communication-based?
Let me know in the comments below!
Until next time,
PS. If you fancy checking out my products then click here, then let me know what you think!