Behind the scenes…

*Just a reminder that my Etsy Holiday Sale is LIVE through Dec. 18th! Get 20% off your whole purchase by using coupon code JINGLE at checkout.  Plus, $5 shipping per address. Not including custom orders.*

I had a shop open on Etsy for years before really adding anything to it. (Sound familiar to anyone else?) I was intimidated by the process and overwhelmed at where to even begin tackling it.  I knew that I really needed to have my whole process figured out before really diving into it.  I wanted to make sure that all my customers would have the very best experience shopping for pottery online.  I know that buying pottery online is hard.  It’s 3 dimensional, tactile and really personal.  Part of selling one of a kind items online is that you not only want to represent them in the best light, you want to represent them accurately! You don’t want someone to receive their box of pottery and be surprised at what they find inside (unless it’s a happy surprise)!

I thought I’d share a bit of my behind the scenes part of the process. It might help you if you’re starting to think about opening a shop.  Or if you like to shop on Etsy, you might find it interesting to know what an independent artist goes through to sell online! No matter how organized you are, it is a lot of work! But by doing a bunch of work up front, you’ll save yourself a lot of time later.

Before I even think about listing anything, I make sure I have a good supply of boxes, bubble wrap and other shipping supplies.  More on that later.

  • I pick out work to list after a firing. Mostly limited to what ships easily and what photographs easily.
  • I measure work (HxWxD, plus volume when helpful) and write on note card; place with each piece.
  • Using my DIY photo booth, I photograph work in order that the pots are on my “Etsy shelves.” I aim for no fewer than 3 images, and up to 5.  Which can easily mean 10 or 15 photos of each pot.  I try to get as many angles as possible of a piece, use a ‘prop’ if it helps, and perhaps a group shot.

What is my Etsy Wall, you ask? They are a set of shelves that I keep almost all of the pots that are either listed, or about to be listed on Etsy.  These pots have been photographed, measured and are ready to go out into the world! It’s conveniently located next to my photography area and across from my desk.   
Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery - Etsy wall of pots

  • After photographing the work, I upload the photos to my computer and edit them in Picasa (free photo editing/ management software from Google). I crop into squares which work best on Etsy because nothing gets cut off when the photos are made into thumbnails on the site.

Editing photos in Picasa for Etsy
This next part is really important!

  • I write/ edit descriptions for each type of piece and keep in one (long) Google Drive doc that I aptly titled Etsy Descriptions. Descriptions are both personal, descriptive and specific. I include care instructions, measurements, key words, etc… A new description for each piece and its variations.
  • I then piece everything together to make an Etsy listing. Etsy has a great tutorial on making listings.
  • Once listed, I mark everything that is up on Etsy with a piece of blue masking tape to note that it is live. It’s an simple low tech way for me to keep track of what’s listed. I also want to be sure when I have customers in my studio to shop, that I double check anything that has blue tape on it to see if it has just sold if they want to buy it.
  • Then I post the new listings on social network sites- Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc… I don’t think you can really rely on Etsy alone for people to find your work, you really need to assume that you’ll only get traffic from your advertising via social networking and blogging.  That’s my approach. I use it as a shopping cart system for my website, blog and Facebook page.  Anything else is a bonus.
  • And again, I make sure I have everything I need to quickly ship before I post anything. I ship in 1-3 business days- but I try to ship the day I get the order whenever possible. I use the USPS and free Carrier Pickup to ship.

About a year ago I started using double walled corrugated boxes.  They are incredibly strong.  I don’t have to double box with them.  I don’t worry at all about pieces surviving the rough and tumble shipping journey anymore! Here is a photo of my pieces bundled up before going into their boxes. I’m going to do a separate post about packing for shipping another day.Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery Etsy2

So that is my process in a nutshell. The key, for me, has been keeping all the parts organized. My descriptions are very looong. I’d rather be too wordy than leave a customer with lots of questions.  I want to create a really full “image” of each piece for everyone viewing my work online. It’s hard to buy tactile, 3-D work from a 2-D computer…. but I try to make it as good of an experience as possible!

Emily Murphy Porcelain Pottery travel mugs

Do you have any tips to share about posting on Etsy? Or do you have any things that you particularly like to see/read when you’re shopping on Etsy? I’d love to hear from others!

14 thoughts on “Behind the scenes…

  1. Emily,

    Thank you for posting. I have been stuggling with Etsy. Mainly, on how to keep my Etsy items separate from my show work without it overflowing into my home. Looks like it’s time to clear off old work from the shelves and use it for storing Etsy work. Now the questions is … what to do with all the “ugly” stuff?

    1. Christine,

      For me, having Etsy Shelves have been great. I like having them visually accessible. I also have 2 rooms in my studio – a “clean room” and my work room. They are separated by a door. The work in my clean room stays fairly clean. But for others, dust can be an issue. I heard from another potter that she has bins for her Etsy work. Each bin has a different glaze in it. So when an order comes in for a specific glaze, she can go and find the piece in the correct bin. I’m sure everyone has their own way of organizing… and I always love reading about how different folks do it!

      As for “ugly” pieces… If you really don’t like them, I would destroy them so they don’t come back to haunt you ;) . But, I think usually it isn’t that they’re ugly, it’s just that we’ve “moved on” from our older work. And then we don’t showcase them well because we don’t love them. So they just sit on the shelves and don’t sell. I would say beyond destroying, these are your options: Give them away to friends and family. Donate them to a fundraiser (just did this!). Have a sale where you mark them down. My friend, Gary Jackson of Fire When Ready Pottery, has a “tired of schlepping” sale when he does a home sale. I have a bin of “samples and discontinued items” that are marked down in my studio. Or repurpose them in your studio and home. A cup as a brush holder, a deep bowl as a planter… Those are my ideas!

      1. Destroy or not: I have also found eventually they will sell. I market them as “adoptable”. My friends tease me when I say ‘this will never sell, its ugly, that is hideous’, etc, when it does sell I see that they are right. It takes the right customer. And don’t forget anything can be ‘garden art’. Many of my cracked or broken pieces find a home in the garden, half buried with plants. They are so happy!

  2. I can only wish to be that organized! I use the “copy” listing feature on Etsy whenever I can. I then go in and make edits if needed. I also make many items that I can reproduce, so I don’t photograph every pot. I sell a lot of piggy banks on Etsy. I have photographs of a few different pigs on a listing showing that the glazes and sizes can vary slightly. I do photograph “one of a kind” items individually.
    Most of my Etsy sales come through marketing on the site itself, a few from social media.
    Keeping up with what has sold through our own gallery or at a show can be tricky.

    1. Michèle,

      I always appreciate hearing about your approach to Etsy! Thanks for sharing! I think we should do a co-post some day that talks about increasing sales online. That really is its own post! I think it really helps if you find a niche. You have the piggy banks. I have found that it is honey pots for me. If you pay attention to your stats on Etsy, you can really increase your sales. What are people searching for when they find you? Paying attention to those things and responding to them can make a huge difference!

      I do find that the majority of my sales come from Etsy directly, but the “Etsy mini” on my website and blog, and clicks from Facebook are closely behind. I think the problem that most people have when starting off selling online (whether it’s on Etsy or somewhere else), is that people will magically find it if they put it up. I think having traffic coming from elsewhere is important, especially in the beginning. Then the more you respond to the stats, and participate in the community, the more you’ll get traffic from the site (Etsy) itself. You get much better at categorizing and tagging!

  3. Thanks for the tips! I struggle with organization so these will help me immensely I’m sure! Also, I very much like the metaphors that your Niches’ imply: “piggy banks” and “honey pots”!

  4. I simply must credit your “Etsy Shelf” idea for inspiring me to dedicate space in my studio for the same purpose. My plan was to photograph, pack, and box-up items for Etsy and place them on a shelf with a small image attached to the outside of the box to keep items organized…that simply hasn’t happened. Your idea is so much cleaner and easier to manage.

    I echo your double-thickness, box recommendation. I still add some additional bubble wrap and cardboard around mug handles, but bundling and shipping in boxes with adequate padding around the item is key.

    My “thirds” rarely see daylight beyond the studio doors…but “seconds” (badly warped porcelain mugs for the most part) make for great bargain-hunter fodder. I’ll price them at $15.00 each and mark them 50% off on a “Seconds Sale” table…’works like a charm!

    My best to you for the holiday season!!

  5. I love the behind the scenes posts! I really need to make a photo shoot setup like you have for my own work. Your shots looks so amazingly professional.

  6. I can’t wait for the second installation: Packing! I just had my first shipment mailed outside my area and it was a challenge. I also wrapped in balls as you show your photo, but not sure what you actually have inside. I would be interested in where you get some of the materials, they tend to be pricey. Are you going to do that second part soon? Great products and I am sure you are having a successful sale.

  7. Emily!
    Your post is a life-saver. I’m about to open my store on Etsy. Yes, it is very scary!!! The organization kills and your advise as to how to keep things in order is the best so far and I am off to trying it. The only thing that bothers me is that the items for Etsy are separate. and what if you go off to fairs at the same time. Such an aweful amount of work to be done!

  8. This is such a helpful post! It’s always nice to see how others have set up systems for keeping their online stores organized and making sure products arrive in good shape.

  9. Thanks for posting this! I am also in handmade ceramic. Few days back, I shipped my order to USA. I recieved it from Esty only. I was worrying about the safety of the product. That was my first order. I bubble wrapped it, put several pieces of thermocol at every edge and packed it with brown tape. It took lot of time, but was worth it.

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