Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Critique--More on Photography

Tonight's we will be checking out WoolAndMore's Etsy shop.
Like CatheavenCrafts,WoolAndMore has more than one product in her shop.However,it is a litte easier for us to figure out what "WoolAndMore" sells from her shop name.We see gloves,crochet bookmarks and bracelet, yarn, stitch markers..etc.

The shop section was divided into the following--

body
bags,etc
home
fibers spun and not
paper





While I was able to locate most items from the shop sections,more detailed sections will help shoppers to locate items easily.For example:under which section would you look for earrings? "body" or "bags,etc"? I associate earrings with accessories, so I looked for them under "bags,etc".

Since we can have up to 10 sections on Etsy, it will help if each product receives its dedicated section, especially your signature products.
For example, these hand warmers are the first thing that attracted my attention, and there also seem to be quite a few of them in the shop.I would definitely give them a dedicated section.




I would like to take a few minutes on photography again.Some of WoolAndMore's pictures are absolutely amazing.Here are a few examples--

1.close up of a bag, with a nice solid background,great lighting and contrast

2.these socks are nicely arranged in the photo.The subtle texture of the background adds interest to the photo.
3.All yarns in WoolAndMore's shop are nicely photographed.This white yarn looks almost like ice cream, so soft and tasty.Although the background is a little dark (it is supposed to be white), the general contrast of the photo makes this a very stylish photo.



Unfortunately,since this is a critique, I also have to include some pictures that are not so great...
1.This picture was taken under harsh sunlight, and the texture of the pendant is not seen because the over-exposure.In addition,there is not enough contrast between the necklace and the background.You can increase the contrast using Picasa.

2.these stitch markers look randomly thrown on a surface.In addition, they are too small in the pictures that very few details can be seen.You can crop the picture to give them more details.
3.The harsh sun light in the background is distracting because it almost gives the background a "stripy" feel.Since the hand warmer is colorful and features stripes, a solid and gentle background will enhance it more.


A little tip for taking photos outdoors:

Avoid lunchtime and direct sunlight.Too much light will add harsh shadows to your pictures, and it does not help you with the details of your items either.

The best time to take photos outdoors is morning and late afternoon.This seems a little vague, and it has to be, because it requires a little experience and a lot of practice to find the right timing, and the timing changes with seasons as well.

When I first started selling online, I used to take photos outdoors. Now I do it indoors near a window to avoid harsh sunlight.I take photos every week, so I know that the best time for me to take photos around this time of the year is 10-11am and 4-5pm. I know that since I do not use a light box,I can only take photos whenever the lighting is just right (this is one down side about not using a light box).I know if it's cloudy then I need to wait for the next sunny day to take photos.

I adjust the angle of the blind to control my lighting. If it is too bright, I can usually close the blind and get a more balanced lighting.

hope this helps!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wire Wrapping -- Behind the Scene Part 1

The other day, while working on orders, I decided to record my work process so customers can see how their jewery is made.I have never recorded myself,so it took me quite a while to set up my tripod and camera to the correct angle to record myself.I apologize for the parts where my hand moved away from the focus.It will be better next time :)
There is no music in the background.I always work in silence, so this video is pretty truthful.The little noise in the background was the rain..
This clip is NOT meant to be a tutorial. It's just something to help my customers see how your rings are made.

Enjoy:)

Critique--Improving Your Pictures Using Picasa

gigglinggoldfish is a very cute shop that sells colorful felt items and children's accessories(I'm not sure how to categorize her items. If I have to I'd just call them "cute stuff"..). Everything in her shop, from the shop announcement,shop sections, profile to listing descriptions, is about fun and color.She says she has been struggling with pictures, so I will focus on photography for this critique.

Before we start, we need to download Picasa(it's free!)
I cannot emphasize enough how easy and effective Picasa is.This is the photo editing software I use for my pictures.Let's try to edit one of gigglinggoldfish's stock photo using Picasa.Below is one of her original photo.



The background, which is supposed to be white, looks a little yellow, so we will use the "auto color"(under "Basic Fixes"tab) feature in Picasa.Simply click auto color, and you will see the color change--


After the background is adjusted, we will proceed to the "tuning" tab.Adjust fill light,highlights and shadows until the result is satisfactory(if you are using white background, this means we want to try to make the background as white as possible without hurting the color and contrast of the product)

There is one thing many sellers fail to realize--Etsy uses square gallery photos, so if your photo is not square,your item may not be centered in the photo.To fix this, we need to crop the photo.Below is the final result--



Let's try another example.Here's the original picture.It's nice and clean, but seems a little dark--

We will use the "tuning" features to adjust the lighting("Fill lights" and "Highlights") and contrast("shadows").Don't be afraid, you can always start over if you make mistakes(that happens to me all the time)--

The next thing really is optional.I like my jewelry to be seen, so I always crop my pictures to enlarge the view of my jewelry in the gallery pictures.I do realize that when doing so I lose a little bit of romantic feel in the picture--in this case, we can't see the earrings hanging from the beautiful cup.



You can read more about photography in my blog.I also found a very useful video clips on youtube about Picasa--



Have fun with photo editing!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Critique--Having more than one product in your shop

Free critique is back! The first shop we will look at is CatheavenCrafts.

Catheaven, you have a shop with a variety of products. At first glimpse it is a little difficult to tell the "theme" of your shop.It took me a few minutes to categorize your items into two major groups--1.crochet/knit items and 3.paper goods 3.beaded items. While it is possible to manage a store with different types of products, I would encourage you to try and focus on only one or two of your strongest crafts to give your shop a more professional look and increase your sales

For a creative person like you, it may not be so easy to decide which one or two items you should focus on.You like doing crochet, and you also like making jewelry or cards. However, from the business point of view, your shop will look more like a professional business if you "specialize" on something.

Here are a few things you can try --
1. ask yourself which craft you are the most passionate about
2. observe what your customers buy from you
3. it is always a good idea to sell in a less competitive category
4. if you have a blog, do a poll (or a "giveaway" contest) to get opinions from other people what they like the most from your shop.

Here's my favorite item from your shop--
Another thing you can work on when you have some spare energy is to improve the style of your photography.

This is a great thumnail photo for scarves, because it is zoomed in and we can see the details of the scarf very well.I would recommend using this style for all of your scarves--

The ittle girl in the folowing picture is cute, and I must admit I sometimes click when I see childrens' pictures on Etsy. However, since the consistency of your photography will make your shop look more professional, you should try to go with either the previous "zoomed in" style or "a smile and a scarf" for all of your scarf listings. --


I'll stop here for now.Good luck!

1700 sales

The economy has been down and with the holidays approaching my shop seems especially slow.But things seem to be picking up since yesterday--at least I hope so.
Here's to 1700 sales :)

recovering..

After more than a week of medication and rest,I'm finally coming back to myself graduatlly.The doctor didn't seem to know what caused my illness.It appeared to her that my skin "somehow" broke out and got infected and the infection caused the fever.The fever went away with the steroid shot I was given, but my skin infection didn't go away so easily.I had scabs all over my face and neck and couldn't shower for a week.I could only eat very bland food, and I had to eat very slowly.I felt tired all the time for no apparent reason and my head ached day and night for over a week.
The whole illness was like a mystery to me, but throughout this time I felt amazingly peaceful and grateful inside.It was like being in a deep dark hole but knowing I would be out of it very soon at the same time.I couldn't do much because I was physically still very tired,so I just let myself rest like nothing matters anymore(my Etsy shop was also very slow so I did get to complete orders in time).I am very glad this was the most serious illness I have ever experienced in my life, and it only lasted less than two weeks.I am very glad that even though I looked like a "snake girl"(darn -- my whole face was like a huge scab) for a while, it is not permanant.
Anyway, I'm recovering now, and I am very grateful.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

fever...

hello Guys,sorry for the zero movenement on my blog in the past two days.I was sick unexpectedly and literally slept for the past 48 hours..
I should have thought about it on Thursday,when I felt cold under 80 degrees temperature,that something was not right.I felt very much unsettled without any apparent reason, and I thought it was some kind of pre-menstrual syndrome. I finished most of my orders, had dinner, and went to bed at 7pm. The next morning I noticed my whole body dry and sore -- I had a fever.
I checked my Etsy shop(yes,I did!), made sure no one needed me urgently, took some medicine and went back to bed.I had 3 doses of niquel before my fever finally went down at 3 am this morning--I had sweated all over the blanket.

I haven't had a fever for many years. In fact, I don't usually get sick. I wonder if I got the flu from someone on the airplane.

Anyway,please bear with me,I have not forgot about the critiques!But for now I may need to go back to sleep...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My First Paid Ad

After much consideration and being given a special offer,I decided to purchase my first paid ad on the Poshavenue. So far I have done very little promotion outside Etsy, because I was not sure where to promote. A few months ago, my jewelry was featured on Poshmama, a site I had never heard of at the time.I thought that was going to be it--another website featured me, and I would move on. But last week, I received an email from the founder of Poshmama, offering me a special price to advertise with them -- gosh, without that offer there is no way I can do the ad.(Even though with that deal I still had to pay quite a bit)
I didn't know if this will work for me, but I decided to try.It was another scary thing I had to do owning my business -- taking a risk. It felt like I just handed someone my precious money for free, and I don't know if I will get my money back.But I did it anyway.
Then, I had to submit a banner for the ad, which meant I had to make a banner with my crappy photos and graphic design skills.I spent a few hours this afternoon picking out a picture and editing it.Fortunately, the result wasn't too bad.
Check out this page.Can you find me here? ---






.....I'm that red dot there, it's like shouting "Merry X'mas!" :)

Renewing When Selling Lower Priced Items

Question from Kittyanydots,a card shop:
The one thing i don't do in your tips is relist often. my items are mostly $3 each, and i don't see how i'd make much profit by relisting so often.i have considered packs of cards; would you think that's a good idea?


Kitty apparently read my blog and noticed the first thing I tell sellers to do to increase sales is to list new items/renew/relist often (even though what she meant “renew” instead of “relisting” by my definition). And when I say this, I mean it. It does not matter whether you sell higher or lower priced items. Unless you have great off-Etsy traffic (through advertisements or your own existing connections), the easiest and fastest way to give you more exposure on Etsy is to list frequently. You need to treat the renewing fees as part of your expenses for your whole shop, not just the expense for that single item you renewed.

Here’s what I would do if my shop mainly sold lower priced items—

1. If I have a big inventory, I would list new items as often as possible.If I have 10 items to list, I would spread them out and list one new item a day, instead of listing all 10 in one day
2. If I sold something, I would relist it.
3. If there is no way (i.e. no time) I can build up my inventory, and I am not making any sales either, I would renew an item a day, or AT LEAST once a week if I didn’t have the budget — This is the most expensive way, but also the fastest way to gain exposure. It’s expensive because you are charged a fee without having sold anything.
4. Alternatively, a sold item can be relisted more than once (remember to do it on different days), that way you will have duplicate listings of the same item. But that is perfectly ok! See below for an example from my pearl ring section—my pearl ring trio set is listed twice in my shop (and if you have a popular item, you can list it for more than twice!)
5. If your creative juice is running low, another way to build your inventory faster is to make your popular designs in different colors. You can also see this from the same picture below, where I have three designs listed in many different colors. Think like an entrepreneur—remember going to those big clothing stores? Every season, they have a few hot designs, and they sell just those few designs in many different colors. Now, how do you know if something is, or may be a popular design? If you have sold something a few times, or if people always convo you about a certain item, then it may be worth duplicating.






Kitty’s other thought is to list card packs, which I think is a GREAT idea and I always encourage card sellers to do so. What I like as a card buyer is to purchase card sets—it not only makes me feel like I am getting a deal, but I also have a complete collection of a series.

If I am correct, Paypal offers a different commission rate for sellers whose avarage transaction amount is less than $12.I do not know many details about it, but it is something you can look into.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How to Increase Sales on Etsy-- Your Questions Answered

Since I posted in the forum yesterday, I have received quite a few responses.I worked on them for more than two hours last night but only finished a few.For those of you who are still waiting for my critique, please be patient--I will get to your shop whenever time is permitted! I will also keep checking my last blog post to see if more people need help.

I will also start to move my critiques to actual posts on my blog, which means the posts will have links to your shop and I may use a few of your pictures if they are relevant to the critiques. If you are too shy to do this, please don't sign up!
I spend an average of 30 minutes on critiques to each shop.What I hope to do is to give you a greater picture of your shop directions and a few things I feel you can and need to do to increase your sales. After having sold over 1500 items, sales on Etsy still feel like a mystery to me sometimes.It has more to do than a just proper shop set up or great products alone, and I hope to provide you with a little insight from my personal experience..

A few people asked some questions thich I feel the answers may benefit more than their own shops, so I will start to post the answers on my blog under "tips for Etsy sellers". If you have specific questions in mind, you can comment under this post, and I will get to them whenever I can.

English is not my first language so I do write slowly...and sometimes unclearly..If you don't understand me, please let me know. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008

free critique to your Etsy shop

hello all dear Etsy sellers,

As a full time Etsy seller and the founder of Full Time Etsy Crafter Team, I am here to offer free critique to your Etsy shop. Please comment below with your Etsy ID(or shop URL) if you need some quick suggestions from me. I will try to limit my response to 100 words, and only the most urgent thing or two I feel you need to improve to increase your sales on Etsy. I will only give you a direction; for technical details please refer to other sources.
Even though this is not required, I would recommend that you check out my etsy shop and my blog posts on tips for Etsy sellers before posting a comment, this way you will have a better idea whether you can benefit from me, and it also saves me some time, which I can use to help more Etsy sellers.

best wishes,
mollie

Please read the update for this post here

more pictures of Taiwan--trip to my uncle's house

Now that I had too much caffine during the day, I am awake again when I should be sleeping!Oh well..thought I'd share my trip to Taiwan with you.

View from the airplane window... Did I mention I LOOOOOOVE flying?

Seriously--I love flying; so I had to take a self portrait on the plane... it's cropped again, as usual

(My first stop in Asia was the gemshow in Hong Kong, so we are going to skip a few days and go straight to Taiwan)

So, I arrived home close to midnight.I rested for one night in my home town in HsinChu, and then went down to the south to see my uncle, who just recently built a huge house near PingTong.

Their yard is super huge.They have three ponds but my camera can only take pictures of one pond at once, so here you go--pond one... this is,like, 1/50 of their yard?I've no idea how big it is, but it's VERY big...


Here's another picture of pond one plus part of the house.The house is very big...In the very back of the picture you can kinda see pond 2 and a rest area among lots of trees..I think maybe this picture covered like 1/10 of the yard...


See?I kid you not.This house is huge.The car looks so small in front of it.They have 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms in the house plus a huge living room,kitchen, loft and back porch....and my uncle designed the whole house!My goodness!I regret not having taken any pictures of the inside of the house, but trust me, it was so cool!
"Say VEGGIE!"...excuse my mom..her nickname is Happy Buddha.She's my first artistic inspiration and I got all my creativity from her.Now you cannot blame me for my silly smiles--must have got those from her too.

Sweet potato leaves grown in my aunt's yard...this is one of my farorite green-leaf veggies and it's very "Taiwanese".They say Taiwan is shaped like a sweet potato. Sweet potatos grow everywhere in Taiwan...It's still the only plant that I can grow since I was a kid...


After a great weekend being stuffed with home grown veggies, I am on the train back to HsinChu--Did I mention I love trains?...Oh well, I love being moved in all kinds of transportations, as long as I am not the one operating them.


Not sure why rivers always look grey-ish in Taiwan.. is it the weather or just my photography?..
More to come later!...when I am insomnic again..

Sunday, October 5, 2008

back to work




After coming back from my trip to Asia on Wednesday after midnight(theoratically Thursday early morning), I had a short sleep and went straight back to work in the morning.It is when I suffered from jet lag that I realized I was no longer a 20 year old! For a few days I have been feeling sleepy when I should be awake and waking up when I should be sleeping, but hopefully after some caffine everything should be back to normal starting tomorrow. :)
I bought a lot of pearls in Hong Kong and they are of much better quality than most of the pearls I have been using so far. I was excited and eager to go back to create new designs with my new pearls. My studio is again in a herendous mess because I kept digging my old pearls out to compare with my new pearls, and before long I noticed I was bothered by the same problem I had experienced more than once in my life -- I constantly outgrew myself and became unhappy with my creations, and now I am unhappy with the old pearl stock I have.I wonder why I can never be satisfied with what I have and be happy.I always seem to have a "need" to improve my art, and this need makes me struggle, pushes me to work more and create differently.After a long struggle, my understanding towards the media I work on would deepen, and I would come to a "rest point" where I would stop and and look at my work with this unspeakable gratification, but not before long I would start struggling again with the materials,forms,tools,vocabulary and everything that is used to, needed for or related to my art.
And even though I know this is a never ending journey -- which I have travelled multiple times as a fine artist, writer and musician -- I still failed to escape it as a jewelry designer.I suppose the way I approach my creations has more to do with who I am than the medium I work on.I can't help but wonder if my customers see it in my work..

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Taiwan






It must have been three years since I went home last time.I spent most of the time with my family and friends this time.Taipei has gotten so much hotter than before.I'm glad everyone is doing well and I have really enjoyed the food there.

Hong Kong

Just got back from my first trip to Hong Kong,where I attended a big jewellery fair and connected with the pearl vendors.

view from my hotel window--a tall building combing a shopping mall and residential condos
view from my hotel window again--a pathetic park in front of the shopping mall
view from the HK exhibition center --the harbor
entrance to the Peak Tram
view from the summit of the little island

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