Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I'm closing my Etsy shop

I've been operating my Etsy storefront for about four years now, and I've never been over the moon about its performance but I always assumed that was because I didn't do enough work to promote it. Last August I met a woman whose year-old Etsy shop was doing hundreds of sales, and it made me realize that just hoping that my shop would magically get noticed was, well, magical thinking. In our conversation she was super enthusiastic and encouraging, and passed on a few great ideas for improving my traffic. I started putting those ideas into practice. I started relisting items frequently; I posted on my FaceBook page for the shop about various items; I bought ad space on FB for my shop page (and later for my other project); I cross-linked between this and my other project; and I offered free shipping for "likes" on FB page. I worked on improving my photography. I read articles on succeeding with an Etsy store and tried to put their ideas into practice. And my sales did improve, but only a small amount. From a few a year to one a month or a little less.

The turning point came at my tax preparation appointment this year. My accountant gave me the usual speech about how I'm not making much money from my business and if I don't start making a profit it could be a problem. I said, "Okay, if I don't do better this year I'll call it a day," and she said "Fine, but we had this exact conversation last year," and I realized she was right. It was a moment when I woke up a little bit, and I decided to redouble my efforts to bring in more sales, and also to spend less on raw materials and instead just use up what I have on hand. I've done well at spending less and using what's in stock, but there's been no improvement in sales.

I have been mulling over this in earnest for a few months, and I have started to come to terms with it. Last week I said to my husband, "I think I'm going to close my Etsy shop," and the very next morning I checked my email and had gotten another sale, and I thought, well, that's ironic! Maybe it's a sign? I sent out the fiber to the buyer.

Two days later she emailed me on Etsy to say that she was "very disappointed" because the fiber was "very felted," she couldn't use it, and how did I propose to rectify the situation? Naturally, I realized there was no point in arguing with her. I didn't agree on the condition of the fiber (and will be spinning it up as soon as it arrives back to prove it), but there is nothing to be gained by arguing, and possibly she would give me a poor rating as a result, which I would like to avoid. I told her to send it back to me and I would refund her the purchase price plus the return postage. She put it in the mail and I gave her the refund.

And I thought, that's it! The last straw. I realized that this is just a complete waste of my time and money, I'm making NOTHING from it, losing money in fact, and I don't see a need to give the owners of Etsy another dime. (Unfortunately I then had to pay my fees for the last month, but there wasn't much I could do about that.)

Finally I went into Etsy and put my store "on vacation." I don't know that I am ready to Close it but I can and did take an action to take it out of circulation, from Etsy but more importantly from my mental processes. I realized how every time I look at my yahoo mail account, I'm scanning first of all for emails from Etsy in hopes of a sale. Every time I buy something via Paypal I hope to see a balance in there. How much energy that takes! I can stop doing that now. I have started to feel a weight off my shoulders.

I don't have to feel guilty that I haven't done any dyeing in a while or that I haven't relisted my products lately. I don't have to feel lame that I am not making any sales. Well, I feel like I failed at this endeavor, and that feels lame, and I feel disappointed. But I also feel like I finally admitted defeat and I can take this energy and put it in some new direction.

The one remaining issue that I'm not sure about is whether to continue the dyeing workshop project as well. Because the truth is, I don't feel like dyeing fiber very often. After interviewing a bunch of dyers, and reading about their processes, and how much time and energy they devote to their work, I also realized that I'm just not as interested in doing it as the pros are. (Or even as much as the serious amateurs are.) I like it … okay. Not a lot.

What I still really love is looking at pictures of beautiful colorways. And maybe that is where I will stay - a devotee of color and fiber who loves to look (and occasionally buy). Maybe I'll keep experimenting in my dye lab in the basement, but without any pressure to have it Be Something More.

So that's what's been going on. I'm closing down the Etsy shop. As to the inventory: I took a bunch of skeins of yarn over to Stix 'n' Stitches in Montclair, and they are always so complimentary to me about them and happy to sell them on consignment in the shop. Which amazes me in itself! And the fiber? I can spin it! I made a bunch of colors that I like!

I'm going to keep posting here, by the way. Lately I've been doing some sewing and have posted about some of it, and now that I don't have to be all professional about the shop I can just post what I like and that will be that.


Rebecca said...

I completely agree. I decided to close my store after 1.5 years, when I hadn't sold enough yarn to make up for what I'd spent on listing prices. I didn't do near as much as you to promote it, but I knew that I wouldn't become a big online seller unless I became big enough to sell on reputation alone, which I'm not even really that interested in. I want to do it for fun!

So I looked into building a store for myself, on my website, using paypal buttons. It was a bit of a pain to set up, but using the lowest paypal option it's essentially free. I can promote however I want, keep traffic on my own site, and now that things are set up, the system is extremely streamlined. Most of my business comes through personal contacts, networking, and shows anyway, but I'd like to maintain an online presence, and that's the best way I found to do it.

Barclay said...

Thanks for your comment, Rebecca. I know, there are people who have these super trafficked shops and when they post their stuff it sells out within hours. Meanwhile, my stuff languishes on there for weeks, months, or more. Sadly. I knew they did it through reputation, but what I couldn't and still can't figure out is how they got that rep. What happened to make them known by so many? In some cases I know it's being mentioned on a well-read blog, but I couldn't figure out how to get even that.

Anyway, I might look into the self-run store. Thanks for the suggestion!