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Etsy, Facebook, now what?

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I am trying to start a new woodworking business. I started an Etsy store and a Facebook page, now what should I do? I know I can't just sit back and wait, so how do I get people interested in my stuff and visiting my sites? I've heard people say you get out what you put into these things, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes, I'm just not sure what to do. Any help is appreciated.

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Guest Screamer

I am trying to start a new woodworking business. I started an Etsy store and a Facebook page, now what should I do? I know I can't just sit back and wait, so how do I get people interested in my stuff and visiting my sites? I've heard people say you get out what you put into these things, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes, I'm just not sure what to do. Any help is appreciated.

Photo's....lot of photo's of your work on Facebook. And they must be good quality photo's. Place them on face book, and advertize them. The web is big. You will sooner or later get results.

People want to know what wood you used, etc.....

Good luck

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Do you have your own .com web site? If you're serious about going pro, you need one IMO.

Hosting is pretty cheap, but if you don't have much design experience, it will cost you to get it up and running. Either in cost via a designer or in time to learn the ropes yourself.

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I am not a pro wood worker but sell online. Photos are often what sells a product and the quality of the photos really matter - consider what you would want to see to spend the big bucks on something - clear images of from all sides that matter and of the details. Consider Flicker as another way to reach your audience but do not attempt that in a commercial only way (a total turn off) but more of and common interest way. If you are not super web savvy a free WordPress blog can help. Consider your own domain as mentioned if are are a bit more savvy (WordPress is free for that also) and for the long run. There is also Google Base if you ever get a cart setup (Zencart is free) and of course Ebay. What seems to matter is not just the product but the artist also.

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What seems to matter is not just the product but the artist also.

Realized how true that is today. The wife and I were at the Tennessee arts and crafts fair today. We were mostly looking at pottery. There were so many amazing pieces. We just wanted some mugs and a soap dish. Many of the pieces were pretty similar. We sat down and talked about which ones to buy and based our decisions on who was the nicest when the pieces were to similar to distinguish on form alone.

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Every business model is a bit different, so the answer to this question is "it depends". Looking at sort of the two big buckets, you can either sell higher volumes of lower priced products (boxes, accents, clocks, etc) or low volumes or one-offs of high end items. In my personal experience, online channels work much better for the first model, and not the second.

The challenge with the online channels is that they aren't particularly targeted. I've actually reduced my Facebook presence because I was spending more time explaining to friends and acquaintances that I couldn't build furniture cheaper than they could buy it in the store. If you are doing higher-end furniture, and want to make good margins, I have found that Facebook and Etsy are the wrong places to be. While I know Adam has been a big advocate of selling online, most of my best commissions have come from existing/repeat customers or people I've met through networking. Much like in the business world, once you get into the higher-priced transactions it requires an actual interactive sales process to seal the deal. Online can still work in this model, but it requires a well-established reputation or brand.

I think if you are selling smaller or less expensive items in the sub-$500 range, online can still work well. But that is a totally different business model built on scalability and repeatability. I personally don't like building the same thing twice (let alone a dozen times) so that's not the direction I have personally gone in. It requires more of a production-line approach where efficiency is key.

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A professional looking website with enough info and photo's is important. When it's good on the eyes and easy to navigate it will make the difference of people leaving after 5 seconds, or check what the site has to offer and maybe buy something. Your website should reflect your work. When it looks like an outdated website from 10 years ago, I don't want to buy there. :P

If you sell online, think about payment options and what kind of system is behind it. As a buyer I would not buy something as fast when I have to mail my creditcard number and wait for a response. An "add to cart" and "Pay with..." button is always nice.

Knowing what something costs is also a big plus.

You might also want to check out Google AdWords, for advertising.

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Realized how true that is today. The wife and I were at the Tennessee arts and crafts fair today. We were mostly looking at pottery. There were so many amazing pieces. We just wanted some mugs and a soap dish. Many of the pieces were pretty similar. We sat down and talked about which ones to buy and based our decisions on who was the nicest when the pieces were to similar to distinguish on form alone.

On Etsy and some other sites I think many items are sold because the people just plain like the artist. They like the vibe, they the like way they do things, not just in their craft, but in life also. They usually know the artist through Flicker, a blog or some other on-line way. A wood worker makes things, thus they are HAND MADE. Who's hands made them is a big part of that - depending on the type of product. But even more so than the type, repeat buys from repeat customers happen from people who like the person and thus what they make. You might buy something from Marc (TWW) because Marc made it. I "pre-ordered" his book because it was his book, for example. As a seller/artist one needs to be professional, but not so professional you are just non, a non-person a business.

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I had professional pics taken, so I think they are pretty decent, but how do I get people to look at them? And more importantly the right people, people who "get it"? Also how can I bring more personality to the pages, as I think they are pretty bland. I agree that personality has a lot to do with it.

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Actually, I'd love to know how many folks have had photos done professionally. I looked into this myself at one point, but found it to be prohibitively expensive. They wanted $200 for the photo session (which I thought was reasonable) but then $100 per photo for copyright release to use it on my web site. So just 10 photos was going to cost me $1200. Instead, I just invested in some lighting equipment and a backdrop so I could shoot the photos myself without even having to bring the furniture off site.

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I had professional pics taken, so I think they are pretty decent, but how do I get people to look at them? And more importantly the right people, people who "get it"? Also how can I bring more personality to the pages, as I think they are pretty bland. I agree that personality has a lot to do with it.

In ones store/shop there is the layout of the items and the total color balance the page brings. That creates an ambiance. Choosing the right overall style of the site or page can be important also. A super high tech looking web template might not match type of furniture you make but switching to an old world, art or different template might make all the difference. Taking your own photos (in time) can help, as photography has a style, even in product shots. CSS Cascading Style Sheets is the way to adjust the "style", fonts or colors of web pages on your own site or blog. Many people search for stuff on the web. Some search using a search engines IMAGES feature where, rather than seeing words, they see images related to their search. Having a lot of images and some large images can help with this type of search. Some people also add a stats program to their site so they can study what people are finding and looking at or finding and bouncing. What you name your product and how you describe things also matters as many things are found (or not found) on the net based upon the "key words" people type in while doing a search. So if you make chairs, for example, you would want to have the right words on the page for someone to be able to find that style, type, color and grade of chair - because as you know there are millions of chairs on the net, so do not be afraid to "state" the obvious so those key words are on the page. Beyond all the tech things though often it comes down to getting your work out in galleries, blogs, and just plain being social and circulating. Also consider your audience, if they pay you to make chairs, they most like do not make chairs themselves, so they might not be on chair building (wood working) web sites but elsewhere.

On the other hand, some people gain exposure by becoming the expert on something and offering free videos or articles. This would seem counter intuitive but very few people take a craft all the way to where they make high quality items but would love to learn. In the mean time they still need chairs.

Some people might sell out at a Blue Grass festival and not be able to sell a thing on line or just the opposite.

Thus, finding ones audience has everything to do with the artist just as it does with what the artist makes.

Some artists are best not to try to sell their art, they are far better off having others sell it, while for some the artist is the best person to sell it.

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I had 8 items(small tables and benches) done for $150. I had to bring everything to their studio, and got a cd with all the images, but it worked out quite well for me.

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This is sort of along the same lines, as it's online related. Anybody try Service Magic specifically for furniture making? Any feedback?

This is an interesting question. First, I had not even considered ServiceMagic for woodworking. However, I have noticed that a number of the leads coming in through CustomMade are starting to feel a bit more like the kind of jobs I had historically considered the realm of ServiceMagic (kitchen island installation, landscape staircase construction, etc.). So I wonder if there is going to be some kind of convergence between the two over time. After all, something like deck construction is a custom made item, it's just typically considered more of a service than a product.

That being said, to me, ServiceMagic is best for more commoditized services. You simply post a project, and professionals can then take the leads and get in touch with you - there is little differentiation of the professionals through the site aside from customer ratings. I don't know many furniture makers that want to be in the business of providing a commodity woodworking service. I don't think there are very good margins in that business model and it fails to attract the right kind of customers. CustomMade on the other hand at least allows you to tell your story, post your gallery, and differentiate more on design, methods, and materials. I'm still not convinced the broader public places unique values on those characteristics, but if nothing else it gives you a chance to "sell" yourself rather than just bid on leads. The only way to really make money in this business is to build an incredibly strong brand and reputation that will attract buyers who appreciate and will pay for your design talent or elite skills as a craftsman. Those things simply can't be conveyed (and in fact would likely be eroded) via something like ServiceMagic.

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Someone suggested to me that, once the website domain is purchased/ leased, a good place to look for web page design is with your local colleges. Posting a notice in the halls, speaking with the department head, making connections with the teachers, etc, for a part time or commission service for your new site can be more economical than hiring an established firm.

This does have drawbacks, however, as you are now dealing (usually, anyway) with younger crowds who do not have the experience and /or patience that your presumed target audience does. While it can help in keeping your site "up to date," in terms of style and trends, it can be detrimental to product display, as previously mentioned.

For an example about photos, consider the American Chopper series on the Discovery Channel. They occasionally show episodes when they take a particular bike to a studio for photographs. What they do not mention is that they do a lot of their own photography on site. Either by hiring a photographer in to their organization, or contracting with a photographer to come out to their place. In the design of their large facility they supposedly included a photo area, although I have not looked too deeply into this. And, while the website is slightly jarring and has an in-your-face feel, the website matches the product.

If you follow that show, you know about the split between father and sons there. Consider Junior's website, then. Having perused it several times, I am disappointed that there are virtually no photos of motorcycles on it at all. There are plenty of photos and links for clothing and accessories, but very little relating to the one product that the design team is known for.

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Ive been thinking alot about selling stuff on etsy, ebay, craigslist, my own website. The first to good for selling small items you can ship cheap, the second two good for big furniture items.

Anyways the reason I wanted to reply was to ask if have a link to your etsy acount. If you going to promote it you should plug it where ever you can! plus im sure we are all interested in seeing what you are building and how they are doing on etsy.

Good Luck

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IMO the internet is the worst possible way to do business unless its general retail. Your goods as a woodworker are yours alone, the minute you put them on the web they will be copied and if its a hit mass produced. Everybody and their dog is making Maloof type rockers including myself. This is just one example of where the internet has hurt the business, they can now shop for a lower price. If your doing one of a kind pieces then galleries and business are your friend. Businesses love free furniture. If your doing copies of the standards like mission stuff or Morris chairs then dont hold your breath the over seas competition is to strong to compete with. If cabinet work is your thing then contractors are your friend. Some but not many still use cabinet makers to do smaller odd jobs. Probably the biggest thing is women, they run the world in terms of purchases. You need to make every decision knowing that almost all your customers will be women.

Don

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I feel that exhibiting at shows and galleries is the best way to go for larger higher dollar items such as tables & cabinets. Etsy and the like is fantastic for smaller pieces, I use it myself here & there.

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Instead, I just invested in some lighting equipment and a backdrop so I could shoot the photos myself without even having to bring the furniture off site.

Agreed. With today's digital cameras, and Photoshop you can achieve some really professional results with little effort. Good photos make all the difference in the world when selling online.

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I see it first hand everyday, makers with lots of great pictures do more business and that's that. If you're in this to make a living take lots of great high resolution pictures to show off your work and then worry about getting those pictures in front of your customers.

If you haven't tried CustomMade's JobBoard yet you can signup with promotion code 'woodtalk' to get your first month for $1.

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 Probably the biggest thing is women, they run the world in terms of purchases. You need to make every decision knowing that almost all your customers will be women.

Don

 

Amen....

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