Keep on improving… and evolving

Keeping things achievable is vital to running a micro business, burning out serves no one, so having systems in place like setting up a ready to shoot area which was the topic of my last post in this Selling on Etsy Series, makes it possible to keep up with the many and varied aspects of running a business.  Equally important is to keep growing and developing as an artisan, not just for own your sake but also for your customer’s.

Keep on improving… and evolving!

Keeping an existing customer happy and engaged is far easier than trying to constantly find new ones. So it is extremely important to continue to improve your products, sometimes it’s just about tweaking things a little. I recently sold a third instrument case to an existing customer who had bought one for almost each of her children and her feedback this last purchase was; “The rivets on the labels work really well now!” (paraphrased) This simple little change of using mini rivets rather than hand stitching labels on not only upped the quality of the finish on my product, it also impressed an existing customer who was already sold on my work.

Riveted labels

By adding new designs to your product range you’ll also find that existing customers who already trust you and the quality of your work will keep coming back for more, not just for them but they’ll make purchases to gift to family and friends and will become your best form of advertising. Beyond just improving existing products though, there is always more to learn… I am always out to refine my skills or learn new ones. In the last couple of years I have attended workshops on leather work, sandal making, silver smithing, business development etc… every time I do a workshop it not only teaches me something new, it triggers ideas for improvement within my product range or ignites an idea for a new product all together. Expanding on my artisanal skill set keeps me thinking and my customers engaged.



Working with full kangaroo skins (has been a part of my evolution process) to create my own offcuts in colours that I find work well with blankets and colours that I find difficult to obtain reliably as an off cut. By increasing my skills in leather work I have also been able to expand my range even further, introducing full skin leather satchels, sometimes you just need a neutral tone bag to compliment your outfit, while other times the comfort of a blanket bag is what you need… using the two side by side gives you the complete by marie-nicole experience. Recently, I started working with hair on hide creating an adjustable vest perfect for a marketeer, artisan or even a musso, where you’re often exposed to the elements, need to maintain a comfortable level of warmth without feeling bulky and restricted in movement. This vest will soon become a part of the WILD HIDE RANGE which was born as a complimentary range to the RESCUED AND REPURPOSED RANGE… the two ranges now sit comfortably side by side in my Etsy store (and on my market stall).12901104_10154076223584133_1981474172251766016_o

As artisans we are not mass producers, we are not manufacturers, we are artists expressing our creativity with a practical application, shoppers who visit Etsy are not after something they can easily obtain in the mainstream, much like shoppers who attend artisan markets, evolving keeps things exciting for you and them alike. So don’t be afraid to expand on your skills and introduce something new.

Selling on Etsy allows you to have both “roots and wings”…in my case, trading from the serenity of our farmlet, even while I sleep, play with my kidlets, furry and feathered friends, or while we venture off to explore our region and beyond. Not being restricted to the opening hours of a bricks and mortar store suits the lifestyle we lead at the moment. Which I am sure is not dissimilar to yours, as the research has shown, most Etsy sellers are female, mothers working within the constraints of a family, or people with careers outside their craft, so juggling varied tasks at once is inevitable. The ability to reach customers across the globe who value your work while fulfilling the needs of those within your care is invaluable. Which is why I encourage anyone with a desire to do something different, something truly unique to them, but are unsure of how to get it out there in front of the buyers without drastically changing their current lifestyle, to start with an Etsy store, grow it organically and enjoy the journey it will take you on!

As I said earlier in this series of posts, selling through Etsy is easy, but it does take effort and should be treated like any other business venture to reap the rewards… of which there are many.

<<= by marie-nicole =>>


Ps. Transforming your dreams into reality is possible… you have it within you… and there are many tools easily accessible that can help you achieve that.






Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

Writing listings that help tell your story was the topic of my last post in my Selling on Etsy series. As well as keeping the process of writing those listing simple, equally as important  is keeping the process of photographing your products for your listings.

Set up a ‘ready to shoot area’

The photographing of products is such a crucial component in enticing shoppers into your online store, especially since they can’t draw from the atmosphere of your space, the reception they received and how they were made to feel while they were there, as is the case in a bricks and mortar store. Ensuring the feel of your images are consistent and making the process of capturing them simple for yourself to achieve will keep your shop looking and feeling professional while telling an overall story representing the ethos of your business.

Running a micro business often means you cover most, if not all roles, in every step of the process yourself, so it is important to have systems in place that allow you to complete each step efficiently. Especially since most of us Etsy sellers are women with children (as per the finding in the recent report shared on the EtsyAU blog) meaning we are restricted to working around the needs of our families and sometimes with them right under our feet, so the simpler we can make the process the more enjoyable it will be and the outcome will in turn be much more rewarding. Although I love to be able to venture off into farmland or down into the village for a shoot, sometimes the weather at the time of a scheduled shoot does not allow for me to do so, or my window of opportunity may be narrow due to a hectic production schedule or family commitments, prohibiting me from achieving this in the timeframe that I wish to capture and then list my products…  so I like to have a back up!

For me that has meant finding an area in my studio with the most consistent natural light and setting up a display that can easily be tweaked to capture a product in a snapshot as well as rearranged and adapted for a more complicated shooting session.

Here are some examples of how I use my ready to shoot area:

I like to use props that are sourced from nature, or rescued items such as vintage suitcases, wooden bobbins, ladders & doors… as these all fit in with the feel of my studio and the ethos of my business. It also represents how I set up my market & festival stalls, no matter whether people see my products in person on online the style and feel is recognisable… keeping the ‘branding’ consistent.

Allowing these processes to be simple and manageable will also mean allow to have time to try new things, learn new skills and keep on growing as an artisan and business owner, which I will talk more about in my final post in this Selling on Etsy series.

<< == by marie-nicole ==>>



Story telling continues in listing descriptions

In Selling on Etsy: Part 2 I talked about ‘telling your story‘ and how social media allows you to connect all those dots, for online shoppers and even those who may have seen you briefly at an event and then looked you up online. But what about those who find you simply through doing a search within in Etsy itself? This is where you have a chance to share the philosophy behind your work as well as the specifications of the products.

Listing descriptions

When I write a listing I like to give shoppers as much information as possible, not just about the product’s materials and it uses, but also the inspiration behind the design, where the materials are sourced and even details about the photographs, including the props and/or the location I was shooting at. This is all a part of the story and the enjoyment of every step of the process. To keep writing each listing description simple, I set up a template of sorts with separate sub headings breaking up the information into blocks, so if a shopper wishes to get straight to the point about the measurements they can or if they’re someone who loves the little details they too are catered for.

Listing descriptions

Repurposed Blanket Guitar Case shot in the leafy main street of our village in autumn…

My subheadings go something a like this:

~ The inspiration

~ The photos

~ About the [product name]

~ Size

This is especially helpful when you have a large variety of products for sale in your shop, some of which are of similar design just made out of a different materials like my Repurposed Blankets Guitar Case Range, I keep a stock of stand classical sizes available as well as offer a Bespoke Order for larger and different shaped guitars. Each standard classical is still a one of a kind as I don’t often get the same blankets in. So when I have made a few stock items but want to list each one individually (a few days apart), it is simply a matter of copying an existing listing to changing the specific details for the each product.

In much the same way that I do this for my listings, I also have a ‘ready to shoot area’ to simplify the process of photographing products. Which I will talk about in my next post!

<<= by marie-nicole =>>



Large companies create story boards, artisan’s live those stories…

In my first post of this Selling on Etsy series, I talked about how I’ve used Markets and Events as a promotional tool, taking the opportunity to trade in person and promote my online store. In the lead up to such events, during them and afterwards, I share the story of my journey which brings me to this post. Selling on Etsy: Part 2

Telling your story…

Social Media has been a fantastic way of building further credibility online, where shoppers can’t talk to you face to face, especially when it comes to demonstrating the authenticity of what my family and I are about, and how that relates directly to what my work is about. Sharing the process of creating my products and the environment they are created in is a part of this story telling.

Part of the reason for me changing direction in my creative career was to be able to include my family in my adventures. So I also share snapshots of our travels, especially when we head off on a weekend adventure together to trade at a market or festival. The flexibility of running an Etsy store means that my shop is still working for me while we’re exploring and I do not have to physically be in one place all the time.

During these events I do place my Etsy store on vacation mode, with most of my products being one of a kind, I don’t want to risk double selling an item.  I also state in my vacation notice exactly where I’ll be trading, during that period, to give online shoppers living nearby the opportunity to visit my stall in person.

Cécile - Millthorpe

The evening before Millthorpe Markets, enjoying a local drop that we picked up during our exploration that day… finishing off some work outside Cécile 1965 Franklin (our home away from home).

Aside from sharing my production process and traveling trader adventures I also like to share images that validate (for want of a better word) my use of recourses especially since this relates directly to the way we live, our waste not want not approach to living means everything is viewed as a valuable resource with potential, so it is not discarded unless it’s truly deemed useless. That may sound like we’re hoarders, but I can assure you we are not… keeping our surroundings both beautiful and comfortable is just as important in my workspace as it is in our home and garden. Sharing snippets of what we as a family engage in to create and sustain the lifestyle we choose to live, based on what we truly believe in, only stands to strengthen what I speak about in my listing descriptions.

Larder Love

Our larder is right in the centre of our home, which represents our lifestyle perfectly… growing, tending, preserving & appreciating every step of the process of living off our little piece of land is central to our existence.

I believe its possible to be both personable and professional in your approach to social media, being yourself takes a lot less effort than pretending to be someone you are not… Etsy shoppers support authenticity. So as a sole trader, artisan, artist, designer or micro business, giving customers a true sense of what you stand for through your story telling is far more beneficial than trying to keep up the appearance of being a large company when you are not! Keep in mind that large companies (if not selling on a cheap price) try to create story boards for their promotions that capture the imagination of their customers… while artisans live those stories! Don’t be afraid to share the story you are living, as it can both inspire others to work on living their own dream as well as providing your buyers the confidence to support your work.

“Large companies create story boards, artisans live those stories!”

My next post in this series will be about listing descriptions, your descriptions are a part of your story telling opportunity! Selling on Etsy: Part 3 will expand on this further.

<<= by marie-nicole =>>




Using markets as a promotional tool…

I am often asked if it is easy to set up an Etsy shop?

Usually followed by the statement; “Etsy works for you doesn’t it?!” …and then… “Is it easy to sell through Etsy? ”

The simple answer to all those questions is, YES!

In saying that though, it is not without effort that the result of having an Etsy shop is positive, just like any other business venture there is a lot of thought, time and energy that goes into making it work. The first place I direct people to who wish to open an Etsy shop is the Etsy seller handbook, something that Etsy does so well is support and assist sellers in understanding how to make their shops work! The next place I send them is to the Etsy forums… as there are many other people out there setting up shops or new to Etsy with the same questions and numerous experienced sellers who are more than happy to answer them.

When I first opened my shop I did so as more of an online catalogue that I could direct retail store owners to, to see my range of products. But I also kept in mind the added advantage of it being an e-commerce site without the high costs of setting one up (back then) along with it’s inbuilt search facility allowing you to reach a targeted customer base without having to try and stand out in the greater expanse of the entire internet. Once sales started to flow in from across the globe I started to realise just how powerful this selling portal was and began to take my Etsy shop a lot more seriously. At that point I referred to the Sellers Handbook a lot and read the forum threads just as much. There is a lot of technical support and advice on setting up and maintaining an Etsy shop, but it can never hurt to hear another perspective as we are all unique in our own right with varying experiences to share. So in my next few posts ‘Selling on Etsy Series’ I’d like to share with you some of the little things I have done to grow my business, with my Etsy store being a big part of that, tying my online presence in with my in-person trading, simplifying processes to keep it manageable! Starting out with how I use markets as a promotional tool.


Markets ~ Promotion

It would be easy to be misled into believing that opening up an Etsy store would automatically mean you reach your market and that just being within the Etsy web is enough to sell your work and a lot of it. I choose to treat my Etsy store much like I would a commercial space in a retail hub, although there may be many passers-by, you still need to build your own following and customer base that are willing to travel across the city to loose themselves in your little oasis. So rather than just put an open sign up in the window and hope that your target market will enter your store and shop, I believe you need to actively seek them out and let them know where they can find you and invite them to join you in this amazing little piece of inspiration you have established.

The way I have done this is through attending markets, festivals and events that reach people who value handcrafted, one of a kind, unique products and set up my market stall in a way that makes shoppers feel a little like they’re stepping into a snippet of what my bricks and mortar retail store would feel like, if I had one. Trading in person at such events enables me to talk to shoppers directly and give them even greater insight into what I do and what my work is all about. As well as hear directly from them what captivates them and inspires them to part with their hard earned income and spend it on my products. Market goers are not always out to get a bargain as some people may think, there are shoppers who are truly looking for well crafted unique products and enjoy shopping small, supporting makers and creators. And if you believe in your own work and its value then you should have not have to sell your goods based on bargain prices, but quality and uniqueness instead.

Indoor market stall set up 2

Indoor market stall set up… my little shop set up!

I always make sure I take some work with me to complete on the stall, hand stitching, braiding, anything that is easy to do while chatting to shoppers… and captures their attention as they walk past, intriguing them enough to ask; “What are you doing there?” That way even though they’re not visiting me in my studio space they get the opportunity to see what goes into creating my products… and ask any questions that this interaction may trigger in their minds. It also demonstrates to them that the items on my stall are truly handcrafted, artisan crafted!

Market Stall

Working on my market stall gives shoppers a little insight into what goes into creating my products.

At a market or event, I also keep a stash of business cards on hand to be able to direct interested shoppers to my online store, if they are not ready to make a purchase there and then… especially important for higher priced items and bespoke orders. Shoppers will often ask: “Are you here every week?” if it’s a weekly market that I have a casual stall at OR “Do you sell anywhere else?” Being able to direct them to my Etsy store, with its simple shopping process often means they keep coming back to shop with me even if I am not trading at the market they met me at in the first place. Also, the fact that I make my own business cards is yet another thing that keeps them chatting, in turn developing a personal connection with me (the maker). I did not start making my own business cards for this reason, but soon discovered that the respect it gained me, adding authenticity to what I am about, being a ‘handcrafted’ business, made these cards invaluable. So while I could easily click a few buttons and have a 1000 printed I have chosen to continue making small batches of handcrafted cards just in the same way that I make small batches of handcrafted products.

Business Cards in the Making

Everything is handcrafted… including my business cards.

Treating a market or event as a promotional tool takes the pressure off the ‘need’ to sell on the spot, by making it an adventure and an enjoyable experience for myself, my family and shoppers alike, I find that I leave an event inspired by the interactions I had the people, with both fellow stall holders and shoppers alike… and because I track where all my leads/sales come from I know for a fact that even if sales on the day were lower than usual, the after sales still make attending the event worth while. After trying out (trading at) numerous different markets and events I have learnt the type of markets & events that work for me, and now only do a select few over the course of the year, enough to keep life interesting for us as a family, allowing us to explore and enjoy little getaways while ‘promoting’ my work. But the key there is trial, error, recording and analysing the results, keeping clear records allow you to make considered decisions based on fact. Along with the beneficial also after sales there are the sales that occur in the lead up to the event through the sharing of the journey on social media. Which takes me to my next post ‘Telling your story”.

Don’t hold off on doing what you love to earn your living based on the fact that it’s not as simple as 1, 2, 3. Remember… ‘anything truly worth having is not easily obtained!’

<<= by marie-nicole =>>