Mmm, the title of this post sounds pretty heavy and serious compared to my usual posts of cushions for sale and Wonder Woman Converse trainers but I’ve been thinking recently about my Fudge & Poppy business. I love making things, yeah it doesn’t always go right, yes sometimes I come very close to throwing my sewing machine out of the window sometimes when it decides that it wants to break the thread every time I back stitch but on the whole I love making things.
Selling the things you have made yourself to other people is a nerve racking thing. You are putting yourself out there, putting something YOU made yourself, into the hands of someone else who wants to part company with their hard earned cash to buy YOUR product. It means a lot when you are a small business, especially in the arts and crafts world.
In the early days I really doubted myself, I hardly knew how to thread a sewing machine let alone make a cushion cover. I had some great encouragement from my husband and a couple of close friends to get my stuff out there. Initially I created a Facebook group and sold some items through there, in preparation to see if it was worth opening an Etsy shop. I then created a Facebook page to link to the Etsy shop and spent some money in advertising it to help get it seen by more people than just my group of friends.
After doing this a few times I felt uneasy, I was buying ‘likes’ and not earning them how I wanted to. These days my Facebook page is ticking along with 195 likes, it’s not a lot and I’d like to get more, but only if people genuinely like my stuff, otherwise it just doesn’t feel right.
I am not the sort of person to fill up peoples news feeds with banal posts, I like to concentrate on posts to do with what I do, and I don’t always post something every day. But I can’t help but feel a little jealous sometimes when I see other craft related pages with hundreds if not thousands of likes, but they are posting little titbits about their day, what the kids are up to, how bad their day is. The question is – does that really get you more likes? Maybe. As a stepmother I don’t feel comfortable with posting much stuff about my stepson on my Facebook page. I feel like a pretend Mum and it makes me feel pretty uncomfortable so I tend to only do it rarely.
I’ve done the rounds of liking and sharing other craft and local businesses pages – getting involved with networking. Generally the etiquette is that if you like another business page, promote their page on yours, that they should do the same. But I’ve been disappointed that only one or two pages have done this, the rest come to my page – say thanks and ‘a new like from me’ but sometimes I don’t actually get a new like. When you only have 195 page likes you know when you get more or lose some, they don’t get lost in the mire of the hundreds and thousands. Sometimes you start to doubt whether your stuff is good enough and whether you should carry on, it’s not a nice feeling.
I’ve done give-aways, some have been good and others haven’t garnered so much as 1 more page like. I have a select group of followers who like and share things and sharing really is so important. Especially with the recent changes to Facebook’s news feed, if you don’t interact with a page very often you soon stop seeing their posts in your feed. Even though I have almost 200 likes, my posts are mainly only seen by about 30 people on average, but when someone shares something from my page – those views sky-rocket.
Below is an example of two posts from my page – one with no shares and the other with three shares – the numbers of views are pretty different.
I’ve done several craft fairs over the past couple of years and I’ve had some really great comments from people about my creations. People come over to the stall, they touch and feel and their eyes light up, some might even talk to me about how amazing they are, do I make them myself etc. And then they walk away because they’ve only brought a couple of pounds with them, expecting it to only be the sort of place they can maybe spend 10p on something. So I hand cards out so people can find my shop online and maybe make some sales that way instead.
After last Christmas I felt a bit disheartened, people would coo over my things and then turn around and spend their money on a more expensive thing like a log, covered in glitter with a candle in it and some naff fairy ornament on top. I polled some people as to my prices, wondering if I was perhaps charging too much, but in general the feedback was that it was just right or at times not enough for the quality. I’ve since decided not to do any more school based fairs, they just aren’t working for me. The table prices can be quite high and if you don’t do well you just end up out of pocket.
So what about feedback? Before I’d even heard of Etsy I was very familiar with eBay and the feedback system there. Buyers could leave feedback for sellers and vice versa. As both a buyer and a seller on eBay I knew the importance of a. being a good seller – being truthful about what I was selling (usually clothes) so that the buyer could make an informed decision and hopefully be happy with their purchase, b. leaving feedback for sellers so that other buyers had an idea of what it might be like to purchase something from that seller and c. leaving feedback for buyers – so that other sellers knew they paid quickly and had no problems.
When I joined Etsy I was pleased to see that a similar set up was in place. As things progressed and I started to make more sales I was pleased that I was getting good feedback. Then the set up changed, Etsy stopped allowing sellers to leave feedback for buyers and set a special time limit for buyers to leave feedback for sellers. This was to try and stop knee-jerk reactions when people weren’t happy – to give people a cooling off period or time to make contact with a seller if they weren’t 100% happy. That is great, but it meant that because people often couldn’t leave feedback the day they received their purchase, they forgot to come back and do it a few days later. After a certain period of time they then can’t leave feedback for their purchase at all.
So I went from getting feedback from about 8 out of every 10 transactions to more like 3 in every 10. That’s not so good.
Whenever I send a buyer a confirmation note to let them know I have dispatched their order I always ask them to let me know when it has arrived safe and sound. Perhaps 1 in every 10 does. I appreciate that people have busy lives and in the grand scheme of things I’m not so very important, I get that. But it doesn’t stop me sitting at home worrying, thinking they aren’t happy with the item I made because of their silence. It’s silly, of course if they weren’t happy they would be straight on to me to let me know. But it niggles and pokes at me – ‘they don’t like it, they’re not happy, if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all…’ It’s nonsense though. Every so often I send a follow up message to make sure it arrived and mostly this prompts them to leave feedback for the transaction or just reply to let me know it was all great and they love it. Phew.
I love getting sent photos of the things I have made taking up residence in their new homes. It really gives me such a great sense of satisfaction and validation that I am good at this.
Getting feedback is so important, not only to let the seller know that they are doing a good job and to keep it up, but also for other buyers to whom a sale might just hinge on how happy past customers have been. It is tough buying things online when you can’t touch and poke at things, you are buying based on a few photographs and hopefully a good description. We take feedback into account to help us to make that final decision before we press that button to purchase.
For a small business every bit of feedback counts as another little push up the ladder. For a small business every single ‘Like’ on a Facebook page means that one more person is interested. For a small business every ‘share’ and having someone spread their experience via word of mouth is priceless.
So if you’ve ever bought something from an artist or crafter who sits and works at home, amongst the ins and outs of a daily routine, between the household chores, the wiping of children’s faces, the cooking of family meals, take the time to let them know you got your order OK, leave them some feedback, share a photograph or a link from their Facebook page – it only takes a moment.
And for all those people who have already liked and shared my page, or favourited my items or shop on Etsy, left me feedback – thank you, thank you, thank you!