Episode 9: Selling on Etsy, An Interview with Ijeoma Eleazu from the Etsy Conversations Podcast

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Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show - selling on Etsy, interview with Ijeoma Eleazu

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This Week’s Episode

I’m excited to share an interview with a fellow podcaster this week. Ijeoma Eleazu is a calligrapher who is also the host of the Etsy Conversations Podcast. You can also find Ijeoma on FacebookTwitter, and BlogLovin. I discovered Ijeoma when she spoke on a panel at the Podcast Movement conference in August, and I invited her on the show to talk about selling on Etsy.

After the interview, I share my experience selling crochet and knitting patterns as instant downloads on Craftsy, Crochetville, Etsy, Kollabora, and Ravelry.

Ijeoma’s Tips for Etsy Success

  1. Read the Etsy Seller Handbook
  2. Join Etsy Teams
  3. Set goals based on your motivations for selling on Etsy
  4. Brand your shop and optimize your listings
  5. Engage with the Etsy community

Why Etsy?

Etsy is an online marketplace focused on handmade and vintage goods, along with supplies for making handmade projects. Etsy currently has over 1 million active shops that collectively sold $1.35 billion in merchandise in 2013. An Etsy “weather report” from November, 2013 reported that over 7.4 million items sold during the month ($147.5 million of goods sold) and there were 2.15 billion page views.

In addition to being a great marketplace for crochet/knitting/weaving makers, yarnies, and sellers of supplies and notions, when Etsy introduced instant downloads in spring, 2013, it became more interesting to authors and designers who want to sell PDFs. And, Etsy now curates a separate wholesale marketplace.

About Ijeoma Eleazu

Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show - selling on Etsy, interview with Ijeoma Eleazu
Ijeoma Eleazu, host of the Etsy Conversations Podcast.

Ijeoma Eleazu is the current (and third) host of the Etsy Conversations Podcast. I first heard about the show when I attended Ijeoma’s panel at the Podcast Movement conference.

About eight years ago, Ijeoma learned calligraphy through a friend who is a wedding coordinator when she was tasked with helping out with wedding invitations. Ijeoma later took additional classes and now has a part-time calligraphy business (primarily focused on weddings) in addition to her full-time job.

Ijeoma first became an Etsy seller to destash vintage sewing patterns she bought at an estate sale. Occasionally, she sells her calligraphy services through Etsy, too. In 2013, Ijeoma discovered podcasts through the Podcasts app on her iPhone. She soon became a heavy listener of both the Etsy by Etsy podcast and the Etsy Conversations Podcast. She listened to a whole year of episodes in the Etsy Conversations Podcast, but realized it had stopped airing new episodes.

In the meantime, Ijeoma took the Podcasting A to Z online coaching course with Cliff Ravenscraft, host of the Podcast Answer Man. She contacted the Etsy Conversations Podcast show host, and then the show founder, and eventually became the host in September, 2013. (You can hear more details in Episode 21 of the Etsy Conversation Podcast, where Ijeoma interviews show founder, Angela J. Holden.)

In my interview with Ijeoma, she shared several tips for Etsy sellers.

1. Read the Etsy Seller Handbook

The Etsy Seller Handbook is a frequently updated category on the Etsy blog, and the posts walk you through every aspect of setting yourself up for success on Etsy. Ijeoma recommends reading the Handbook first so you can understand the way the platform works. In particular, she thinks their tips on branding, naming your shop, setting up listings, and optimizing keywords for their search engine are helpful for new shops. (You can find an indexed version of the Handbook archives from 2013 here and the wholesale guide for Etsy sellers here.)

2. Join Etsy Teams

Etsy has literally hundreds of teams, organized by region, product type, and function (e.g., marketing). Ijeoma recommends listening to Episode 35 of the Etsy Conversations Podcast, where she interviews the owner of the Laughing Cabin Etsy shop, who is also the co-captain of the North Georgia Etsy Team, for more information about Etsy teams.

An active team can help an Etsy seller in several ways, including

  • Clarifying updates to Etsy policy, search, or site functionality,
  • Providing shop critiques to members to help sellers optimize listings to increase views,
  • Taking a critical look at product presentation and sharing feedback to help convert more visitors to buyers, and
  • Engaging in collaborative marketing efforts.

 3. Set goals based on your motivations for selling on Etsy

Consider your goals in opening (or maintaining) an Etsy shop. Understanding your motivations can help you to gauge your success. Is your shop there to provide side income, cover the costs of a cherished hobby, replace a full time income, and/or to support a charity?

If you understand why you are getting onto the platform and know your goals, you can work towards achieving them more easily. Additionally, knowing your goal for your shop helps you to clarify your time commitment which is important because finding success on Etsy usually requires a substantial investment in time. You need to make your handmade goods or instant downloads, take shop photography, understand the platform so you can optimize your listings and tags, and market your shop.

 4. Brand your shop and optimize your listings

Branding can help you get noticed in Etsy’s crowded marketplace. You want to ensure that when people browse a category, they recognize your brand through your listings for future purchases. Decide who you are marketing your Etsy products to and speak their language to help them find your items. (Etsy shares 6 Tips for Defining Your Target Customer here.)

Other important elements for optimizing your Etsy listings include photography, proper use of tagging, and descriptions. Tagging with keywords is critical on Etsy. Ijeoma recommends searching for similar items in another tab on your browser so you can use common and relevant keywords.

Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Show - selling on Etsy, interview with Ijeoma Eleazu
Ijeoma recommends scanning the autofill to find relevant keywords for tags on Etsy.

There are many great articles about branding and optimizing your listings on the Etsy blog, and teams and the Etsy forum discussions are also a resource.

Etsy sellers also have the option of opening multiple shops, which may be helpful if you have different target audiences. Ijeoma mentioned that it is always possible to correct your course on Etsy and to start over with your acquired wisdom.

5. Engage with the Etsy community

Etsy has a supportive community environment that is different from other online marketplaces where Ijeoma has sold her crafts. Sellers often work together collaboratively rather than in competition. Many Etsy sellers are also Etsy buyers with an interest in “shopping handmade,” but for various reasons. Some may be supporting local businesses or cottage industries, others aim to move the handmade movement forward, while still others may be seeking eco-friendly products.

Ijeoma interviews Etsy shop owners in every episode of the Etsy Conversations Podcast. Here are four that I found particularly relevant to yarn-related business owners:

Ijeoma also invites Etsy shop owners to contact her if you are interested in being interviewed on her show.

 Marie’s feedback on marketplaces selling instant pattern downloads

In response to questions that Beth Graham, a (mostly) crochet designer and teacher, shared with me, I talk about my experience selling crochet and knitting patterns as instant downloads on Craftsy, Crochetville, Etsy, Kollabora, and Ravelry after the interview.

I’ve found that easier patterns that would appeal to general crafters are more likely to sell on Craftsy or Etsy than on Ravelry. Patterns for women’s fashion accessories or garments with an easy difficulty rating seem better tailored for the Kollabora audience. And, obviously, Crochetville is specifically for crochet patterns, but I don’t think most of their users exclusively use the Crochetville marketplace for buying patterns. I find Ravelry to be the best marketplace for “die hard” crocheters and knitters, although I don’t have experience with Patternfish.

Thanks for joining us for an interview, and for sharing what you’ve learned, Ijeoma!

You can find a growing list of links on my Etsy Selling Pinterest board!

Follow Creative Yarn Entrepreneur’s board Etsy Selling: How to and Tips on Pinterest.

What suggestions do you have for success on Etsy? What questions do you have? Leave a comment below, Tweet me at @cyeshow, or leave a message at 646-713-8973. (You can call me for free through the Contact page.)

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