www.silverhillcreative.com will be coming soon! Until then, please enjoy my blog or visit my Etsy shop.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Etsy Challenges

Several weeks ago, I had the honor of participating in an online chat with the Academy of Handmade and two other milliners: When Your Business Doesn't "Fit" Etsy.

According to Etsy, is this a "bucket hat"
or a "formal hat"?
This was before Etsy made changes to categories, so some of our comments and links are out-dated now. But I think the main points are still relevant. Emily Moe posted her own blog piece today about her continuing thoughts on the subject, and I share the same views.

First and foremost, milliners — and hat-lovers — whether on Etsy or elsewhere have the same primary challenge: to promote hat-wearing as a way of life. To "bring back the hat." Show people that it's socially acceptable to wear hats. Help people who want to wear hats get over their fears.

The second challenge has more to do with Etsy, and that is how to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Sure, the hat-making field is not as over-saturated as the jewelry-making field. But if shoppers look for hats on Etsy, they find at least 10 times as many knitted and crocheted beanies as they do "real" millinery hats. And that doesn't really have anything to do with quality. I've seen gorgeous crocheted hats and disgustingly amateurish felt hats. Then there are the embellishers: people who buy a cheap, mass-produced hat and glue gears (steampunk!) or feathers or ribbon onto it and voilá! — it's all of a sudden "handmade."

The solution to the Etsy problem seems simple. But how to implement it and make it successful, that's the challenge.

Anyhow, my dream, my ideal alternative marketplace website would be:

  • 100% Handmade
  • Fashion and Accessories 
  • Juried
  • Successful
Handmade means no resellers, no supplies, no vintage and no assemblages. I think it could cut down on the clutter and overwhelming number of items by being limited to fashion and accessories. There's more than enough clothing, hats, shoes, bags, jewelry, etc. — and enough interest in them — to sustain a full site without also selling coffee mugs, stamped spoons and stationery.

As for the juried requirement, in my dream world that doesn't just weed out poorly made items. Do a search for "wrap bracelet" or "beaded bracelet" on Etsy. Then see how many of them — even ones that are nicely made and well-photographed — look exactly like one another. Or explore how much of Etsy "fashion" is "handmade" by someone with a stock of Hanes t-shirts and an embroidery machine.

And then there's "successful." One of the best things about Etsy — and the reason why I stay — is that it is successful, even if I am not. I know of other sellers who have tried other online selling venues, without getting even a fraction of the views as they get on Etsy. So that's the real trick. Creating an alternative that doesn't just launch, live and die unnoticed.

So that brings me full circle, whether I'm talking about Etsy, another online marketplace, Facebook posts, Instagram, Twitter, or my hats in the real world. ... How do I market myself? How do I get my work seen? How do I grow my business?

I'm starting to take some steps, but it can be intimidating and overwhelming. One of the first things on my list is to improve my display/photos.

Navy blue fedora with cockade
Until next time ... wear a hat!