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 Stories features Laura Sue of EarthArt. Laura Sue lives and works in Tennessee and is best known on Etsy for her success in selling original artworks depicting earthy tones and her signature birds on a wire. She has been selling on Etsy for just under 2 years and is quickly approaching 650 sales in original works. She prides herself on being a full time artist and selling primarily through Etsy: keep reading to find out how she does it.
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
I first heard about Etsy from a fellow artist at an art show in Nashville. Her description of Etsy prompted me to explore the site and as soon as I did, it was love at first sight! ( I wish that was an intentional pun.) I joined immediately, but took a few weeks to study Etsy and all the nuances of this large pool of talented crafters and artists before I opened my own shop.
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
The support of my incredible husband, first and foremost. He’s a luthier here on Etsy as well, by the handle of armorguitars – shameless plug. Establishing a style that was recognized — a sense of continuity. Finding that micro niche is difficult because most artists have so many ideas that we tend to want to create a little bit of everything. But if you find something that identifies with many people, it may be that it deserves your attention. I also feel that a high level of communication with your buyers is critical — I acknowledge purchase, send confirmation that art has been shipped and try my best to follow up with a thank you. I also renew and list new works as much as possible to keep visibility.
What are the best and most effective ways you have promoted your shop?
I promote through my customers’ positive experiences. I don’t blog and I don’t advertise anywhere else — I truly feel these are both valid advertising tools, but I stay busy with my customers and their referrals. I give my buyers the best I can give — quality of art and non-failing customer service — and I include business cards. This has been very successful for me in return collectors and friends, co-workers, relatives, etc. of my buyers.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
Being organized is very difficult for me, but without it, I know I would let someone down at some point. My process is as simple as possible: I utilize a folder system for each category — custom work, sales pending such as e-checks, and sales completed and ready to ship. As soon as I have shipped an order, the sales sheet is moved into a monthly main folder that is only for completed and shipped orders. I also include customer requests made along the way and the date shipped with delivery confirmation for each order stapled together for easy tracking if the mail is running slow for someone.
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers…what do you do to gain repeat buyers?
About half and half, and I am so thankful! I treat a buyer like I would like to be treated. I handle a small order in the same way I do a large order. It all comes from the same place.
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
Staying motivated is fortunately not a problem for me: I view motivation as a continuous goal. When I first began selling on Etsy, if I didn’t have a sale in a while it would motivate me to fine tune. When I had begun to hit a steady sales level, I was motivated to establish my reputation. Now that I am at this stage, I am motivated to offer new designs for my customers.
Do you "Etsy" full time or do you have another job too?
I am so happy to say Etsy is my full time job now! I still work with a few designers and custom work unrelated to Etsy but the majority of my time is devoted to Etsy and I am on cloud nine about it!
If you "Etsy" full time, were you able to quit your day job due to your success selling on Etsy?
Etsy enabled me to concentrate on one online source of sales (just Etsy – yah!) and not worry about galleries and art shows like I did before. I was able to ease my stress of unsecured sales and devote my energy towards Etsy which has proved to be very dependable.
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
Conversations – I don’t know if that’s considered a feature, but without it I don’t feel the connection between buyer and seller would be as personal. I do love the LAST feature on listing page, that’s a helpful new feature.
What features do you use most on Etsy?
Aside from conversations, I utilize renew often.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop 1 year from now?
I would like to broaden my array of original works to include sculptures that I have been experimenting with and more metal-based art works.
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?
Oh man, this is where my instincts are to hug anyone with a creative spirit when they are feeling discouraged…but to truly help, I would say don’t whine. Be proactive instead of reactive emotionally. If you have the goal set as selling your craft full time, treat it as a business. Nobody starts at the top, we all earn our stripes — take a step back and pay attention to what the public reacts to and you will find a happy medium in creating what you love and what will be a source of income.
Anything else you want to add?
I am honored to be a part of Etsy. I believe that Etsy is providing the world with more than accessibility to beautiful hand crafted items; I believe Etsy serves up a slice of hope and promise for those who work with their hands and hearts in a manufactured world.
Read our previous Etsy Success Stories. See some of Laura Sue’s work and some of her top picks in the gallery below.