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 features the success of Hiromi, the one woman wonder behind Soap. Hiromi has been selling her soaps on Etsy for just under two and a half years and has made well over 2,700 sales in that brief time. She dwells in San Francisco and has a rich personal history in the creative field; since she was young, Hiromi has always had a passion for making. Her soap business was born due to a desire to create products for those with sensitive skin (like hers!), and the rest is history! Keep reading to find out just how she does it:
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
I heard from another artist about Etsy shortly after it launched. A few months later I had a little more time, took a look around, fell in love with the sellers and features and signed up.
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
Other than my engaging personality? Probably a combination of factors. First, my customers! Also, I’d like to think my confidence in and enthusiasm for my creations is infectious. I try to make quality products that reflect my tastes and focus on their positive aspects without resorting to hyperbole when marketing (unless I use a winky to denote I’m just joking). I try to provide as much detail as possible via photographs and descriptions, because a possible customer can’t touch, see or smell my items in person. Give people a good idea of what they should expect. Having a consistent record of happy customers probably further instills confidence in me as a professional seller. Ultimately I try to keep my customers happy with my products and my service so they come back or refer others. I also list frequently and am active in the Etsy community.
How do you promote your shop? Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers? What do you do to gain repeat buyers?
I get orders from both new and repeat customers. I’d like to think customers return to my shop because they like my products and get a sense I am obsessive about providing consistently nice products and customer service. At various times, I’ve paid for advertising on Etsy, beauty sites, blogs, and participated in goody boxes. I’ve joined a few groups like Ning, We Love Etsy and the Green and Clean Guild (EGCG) and participate in an occasional show. While I wait for Etsy’s launch of a Scent-O-Matic-Magic-Button for the site, I continue to hand out lots of business cards and send samples with orders and rely a lot on referrals from happy customers and Etsy.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
Something I carried over from real life: I write a list of tasks I need to do and try to establish a routine for more mundane tasks as much as possible. For Etsy orders, I set up my email to route orders automatically to their own files, I try to print daily orders and labels at one sitting and put them in a huge box so I don’t accidentally lose them, affix shipping labels to the envelopes/boxes at one sitting, check address labels against Etsy order addresses, make one daily run to the post office, leave feedback in batches, etc. I use the USPS notification system to receive an automated email when any label is scanned. During the holiday season, it helped that I was conditioned at some point to work long stretches with little sleep. Caffeine, sugar and lots of breaks also help.
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
My Etsy customers! I have *met* some of the nicest people here. How can I not be motivated when one of my customers bakes and sends me cookies? Or when someone tells me showering is the best part of the day? Or when someone tells me her child loves to take a bath now? It also helps that I love what I do and tend to be obsessive about everything I enjoy. Besides, I’m a workaholic by nature. I’m enthused as long as I’m entertained and I’m capable of almost endless self-entertainment, so it all works out. I’m more likely to completely work myself to exhaustion than losing motivation.
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature? What features do you use most on Etsy?
As a seller, my fave features are the "shipped" check-box on my sold page and the shopping cart that was rolled out in v2. I also like the relist function, especially with the new "last" button, the shipping profiles and the "sold page." My fave feature for buying is the scrolling Time Machine 2 showing newly-listed items. I also like Favorites. I used to view and create Treasury lists more often — some of the curators make the Treasury lists look like works of art. I’ve bought a few things from those lists.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop one year from now?
My business is at the stage where I have to consider more seriously moving it into larger space and maybe delegating some mundane aspects such as ordering and receiving supplies, shipping and administration so I can free up more time to create. I plan to grow my wholesale business even more this year. I also plan to introduce some new product lines, formulations and scent blends I’ve been working on for a while. Super YAY! And watch for a revamp in packaging. Otherwise, I try to take it day by day, remain flexible and do occasional mental yoga.
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?
Do not get discouraged easily! It’s not an easy balance, but I think honest, objective self-evaluation, developing your own unique "voice" (style and products), hard work and maintaining your integrity are keys. Quick tips? As clichéd as it sounds, a business usually doesn’t pop out of the Etsy ground, fully-grown, overnight, so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t sell right away, especially if you’re in a huge category like jewelry. Take ownership, deal/correct and learn from mistakes, but don’t dwell. Move on and try not to repeat. Everyone makes mistakes, the difference is how they are handled. Gain exposure by listing as often as you can afford, participating in contests, donating pieces for giveaways, go to in-person shows to the extent you can. Work on improving photographs and descriptions (think about what makes you want to buy something when you see it in a catalog). Participate in the Etsy community on the Forum threads (Saturday Night Specials, Teams, etc), in groups like WeLoveEtsy.com and Ning.
Anything else you want to add?
Buy Soap. I’ve heard it can be a chick/guy attractant. Soap loves being in the shower with you! Thanks for featuring me – sorry for the length!
See all posts in our Etsy Success Stories Series. Check out some of Hiromi’s favorites on Etsy in the gallery below: