You’ve seen those big sellers on Etsy who seem to be making sales left and right. You have to wonder how they’ve made it to where they are: can they actually be FOR REAL? What’s their recipe for success? And just how do they do it?
This week’s installment of our Etsy Success Story series features Ryan and Lucy of berkleyillustration! This duo has literally taken Etsy by storm; since setting up their shop 2 MONTHS AGO (yes, just months), this pair is quickly nearing 1,400 sales…this must be some kind of record! They currectly reside in Portland, Oregon and are always dreaming up and creating fresh new designs to keep thier fans coming back for more. Keep reading to find out their recipe for success:
Ryan and Lucy: First of all, we wanted to let everyone know that Berkley Illustration is composed of two parts. Ryan is the man behind all the artwork and Lucy is the one behind the scenes doing the magical posting, digital crafting, and business-like things. If you send us a message, chances are you are going to be talking to Lucy.
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
We can’t remember the exact first time we heard of Etsy. We know we heard people talking about it local craft fairs and ending up coming to check it out for ourselves. We also bought some Matt Cipov drawings before we’d really heard of the site so odds are good that something he did brought us here too (www.matty8080.etsy.com). We decided to open up shop as soon as we could afford an archival printer and that turned out to be a pretty good investment.
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
Lucy says: There are a few things that I think have contributed to Etsy success. (Truthfully, we don’t even know if we are a success or not yet. We’ve only been selling on the site for about two months and we still aren’t quite sure if this “success” is going to last. We hope so, but we aren’t quitting our jobs yet!)
One, obviously, is that Ryan is an amazing artist. I think he has such a crisp, clean style that is pretty unique in this festive arts and crafts world we live in.
Two, we try to keep the prints inexpensive. We wanted to create artwork that people like us could easily afford. People tell us all the time that we should raise the prices but we’re trying not to do that — at least, not yet. We have the “luxury” of having full-time jobs so we don’t have to rely entirely on this for income. If/when Ryan becomes a full-time artist we might have to revisit the pricing in order to be sustainable. But if we do, it probably won’t be very much. We really want to keep things affordable!
Three ties in with #1 & 2. The nature of the art and the cost of the prints creates multiple sales orders. As much as I wish we were marketing geniouses, we didn’t necessarily consider that people would want to buy a series of the prints (especially the animal prints). I would say, more than anything, that has been a key to success: having a product with a style and price that causes one customer to buy several at once.
I’d like to think we also have pretty solid customer services and we try to get everything out as quickly as possible. We relist occasionally when things have been sitting a while. We’re hoping that creating release dates for new material will create sales and repeat customers but we haven’t really seen this through yet. Check back on Feb. 1st when we release our new animals! (wink wink)
I also think that the descriptions and bios (which Lucy writes) are helpful selling points. We received a lot of positive response from customers about the animal bios so we ended up packaging those with the prints.
How do you promote your shop?
We have Myspace and Flickr sites that do some promotion but other than that we haven’t done much. We’ve been really really lucky in getting a few mentions on some big blogs (especially the wonderous Design*Sponge) and that has really helped. We also sell at craft fairs Crafty Wonderland & Urban Craft Uprising and we hand out business cards and sell prints there as well.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
A lot of late nights! We come straight home from our day jobs and work on Etsy and art-related business until we go to bed. Generally Lucy works on verifying all the addresses, preparing the envelopes, and doing printing and Ryan works on packaging and stuffing the envelopes. We have pre-weighed every quantity of packaged prints so we know the postage required on all domestic shipping — that way the only post office trips we have to make are for international orders and the occasional odd sized package. We are trying to get ahead of the game by having pre-packaged inventory ready to go but we haven’t quite caught up to that point yet. Once we have a solid stock on hand we’ll just have to stuff the envelopes and that will help us get the orders out faster.
We still need to get a spreadsheet started. We’ve been mostly reactive up to this point and we’d like to be more proactive about sales and organization. Lucy is a nut about organization so it’s bugging her that we don’t have this squared away yet!
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers…what do you do to gain repeat buyers?
We’ve had a few repeat buyers (thanks!!) but largely we see buyers that appear to be new to Etsy. We’re hoping for people to come back and we hope to give them something to come back for by constantly creating new material and other fun surprises that we’ll think up.
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
We don’t really have any trouble staying motivated so I guess it comes naturally. It’s so easy to work hard when you are working for yourself. We love it! Thanks to Etsy for helping that be possible! It’s also super gratifying to know that Ryan’s art will be displayed in houses all over the world.
Do you “Etsy” full time or do you have another job too?
Right now Ryan works full time and Lucy works one full time job and one part time job in addition to Etsy. We miss our friends! Hi friends!
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
I don’t know if it’s a feature, per say, but I definitely look at Storque articles the most. I like the Pounce feature too. We haven’t messed around with a lot of the other things yet but definitely we want to go exploring more. Oh, I also like looking at other people’s favorites and I tend to find most new things that way.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop 1 year from now?
We hope to have a lot more to offer in terms of prints and we’d like to get originals posted as well — maybe even branch out to include other products. We’re thinking about implementing some kind of voting system for people to choose one of the next animal portraits. We want our friendly buyers to come back and we want to find some more friendlies to stop by. Also — more Kenny products and awareness, ahem!
What piece of advice would you give to a new seller on Etsy who might be feeling discouraged? Do you have a quick tip or trick that you have learned over time you would be willing to share?
You never know when something will take off! We just think it’s awesome to make your own work and have this forum to get it out there.
Anything else you want to add?
Perhaps we’d like to see more tools for sellers on Etsy. This might be due to our above-mentioned organizational needs but to have a way to search sales for buyer names and even including an actual ship date would be awesome. It’s sometimes frustrating to match up real names to usernames as well. But, I know if we get that spreadsheet going this might be unnecessary.
After lots and lots of nudging from friends to join Etsy, I would like to say that I am so grateful we did finally get our printer, enabling us to become sellers. It’s been fantastic here. All of a sudden we were face to face with running our own business (something we were both unfamiliar with), and we’ve learned (and continue to learn) a whole lot along the way. The demand for my artwork here has really been a great motivation for me to continue to push and stretch my artistic and creative boundaries. I am also extremely excited about the success of the animal portraits. As an animal lover, I encourage everyone out there to be nice to our animal friends! I also want to thank Lucy for all of the hard work she puts into keeping my page going.
Its been a lot of fun, and we really do appreciate our customers!
We both say:
Thanks to Etsy and everyone for making our first months here so spectacular!
Check out Ryan and Lucy’s top picks on Etsy in the gallery below: