|Me vending, photo by Imelda Jimenez-LaMar
Yo yo yo yo (Stretch Armstrong voice), I just crossed the 1000 sales mark on Etsy which I’m very proud of. I know sellers who have less than 100 sales and folks with upwards of 20k. But, I plan to make more. Here’s some tips and things I did to make it this far. If you’re new to selling on Etsy, Shopify, Big Cartel, We Buy Black, or any online commerce site these might be helpful. Got suggestions? Questions? Leave a comment! Shout out to my wife who gave me so much energy, ideas, and feedback on how to make my work pop! If you have ever purchased a book or a sticker from me, THANK YOU.
via GIPHY (Fresh prince of Bel Air)
1. Get Specific
I like when I see sellers on Etsy create a niche. It doesn’t mean you sell something that no one has ever seen or made before only. It means you and your products have focus. If shoppers can see your story not only from your bio and product descriptions, but your over all store; it will help. Why? You want to get to specific people who like what you like. Not every single person. There are going to be a lot of people who don’t rock w/you because its not their thing and that’s ok. Trust me, if you LOVE it there are others out there who will. And your passion, expertise, and knowledge is infectious! So nail it down, and pivot if necessary.
|Reverie performing, photo via
2. Flow/ Rhythm
I’ve found that if there’s a regularity to my posts about my merch (merchandise) people not only come to expect whats new from me, the awareness that I make products grows. When I wasn’t making very many sales it was because I posted a product once here and there. Once I sat down and made a schedule each year including multiple series of products I began to see much more traction. Create a rhythm of when you release products. Could be 4 times a year, or 12. Create a schedule and try to stick to it.
|Doc OG Lowrider painter (RIP)
One way to set yourself apart from the crowd in terms of sales is to make custom items. The challenge with these is that they are time consuming and require skill to make them. As a result they will cost more, but if folks get to know you and they think what you make is unique and special they will buy them because they mean something. So, how can you flip what you’re making now to have a flair, color, tone, or message that is custom (your style) or customized for the individual. This way, folks can’t get it anywhere else but from you.
via GIPHY (In the heights)
4. Build Community
A great way to gain more knowledge and eventually more sales is to build community. How do you do that? Join an Etsy team if you’re on the platform. Make friends with other sellers like you. Reach out to people and ask for help, offer help, etc. By building friendships in this area of life you not only earn more money, but you can help your community of sellers by sharing what you know and you all grow together. This community can be virtual or in person. The point is to get out there and make genuine friendships, give, and receive. Support other sellers by buying stuff from them that you like, and they will do the same. Shout out to SF Etsy (Etsy Team), The Black Owned Etsy Shops, and my local community for having my back!
|Vendor at Unique Markets via Forbes
5. Do events
Before Covid and after events in person will always be a great way to market your work, meet new people, to product test, and to drive future traffic to your shop. Events are not just for selling your stuff that day, sometimes retailers or shoppers will take note of your stuff and hit you up at a later date. If your immediate family already has everything you make its good to go to the other side of town and show em what you got. If you can talk about and share your products with people who stop by your table/booth you’ll be able to see real quick what people gravitate to and what they don’t. Test! If folks buy from you once make sure to leave them with a way to follow you, see more, or to share what they got with their friends. Business or postcards are great for this and you can also ask them to sign up for an email newsletter….
|Tony Leung/ In the mood for love
6. Email newsletter
I started doing email newsletters seriously over 3 years ago and it has done wonders for my regular sales and for connecting to my folks! Why? I can reach people at their personal emails and the majority of them actually see it and open my message. With social media it can be difficult to reach people because of algorithms, or the latest features a platform is highlighting. I started with one email a month, thats it. I do not spam people because that gets annoying. I make the newsletter short, to the point, and balanced with image, text, and sometimes video. If you have one consider making a website of your work with a pop up and having an actual paper form that people can fill out at events to get new sign ups. I use Mail Chimp but there are many such as Mad Mini, Constant Contact, Substack, etc.
via GIPHY (Marshawn Lynch)
Both paid and earned press is key. You sell at events, you post on social media, you email everyone. You tell all your family and friends. Folks support and then the sales slow down or stop. Don’t quit. It just means folks have bought all you have or they’re financially tapped out. You gotta reach new folks. How do you do that? Get eyes on your products who don’t know you at all. Maybe they support Black owned businesses, maybe they’re Queer friendly, maybe they’re a teacher, entertainer. Whatever it is, they’re looking for folks like you. Which blogs do they follow? What podcast do they listen to? Do they read newspapers? Make a note of these places (especially the ones you know your audience would love) and reach out. Sometimes you will have to pay, but I’ve heard its best to reach folks who write about work like yours and get it for free. You’re helping journalists and they’re helping you. This takes a lot of time, years even. But the more you prepare your information, links, and photos so it is easy to share with journalists the easier it will be to cover you and your work. You can see some press I’ve gotten for books or merch here. Shout out Papalodown who helped me tremendously with this.
|Aaliyah / Romeo must die
8. Trial & Error
Some shit will pop and some will not get any traction at all. That is just how it is. Sometimes it takes awhile for things to gain traction too. There have been times where I made something and got it reproduced. It never really sold, and I was left with tons of products. A few times I just followed my gut and made something that sold really well! This to me means making what you want and thinking of what would best serve your audience and or supporters. There have been times where customers have told me what they liked, didn’t like, or what they wish I would make. If it made sense, I’d try it out. Sometimes they were right, sometimes not. Try new things related to your core passion. And take your time, because it takes time.
via GIPHY (Maitreyi/ Never have I ever)
|Me and my youngest
Peace fam, my name is Robert Liu-Trujillo. I’m an artist from the Bay Area and I work in several fields (Kids books, Murals, Merchandise, Licensing, Illustration, Creative writing, etc). If you’re new to my blog, welcome. I share my personal and professional work here. Freelance chronicles is a series of blog posts about what has helped me succeed and the many experiences I’ve had along the way. I’ve been working as a freelance artist since 2006 officially. I have not worked a “day job” since 2014. If you found this helpful you can support me by copping something from my shop or subscribing to my email newsletter! Feel free to share.
Improve your merch table LINK
Business podcasts LINK
LAST NOTE: I started my Etsy shop in 2009/ 2010. I didn’t really start making full use of it until the past 5 years (I’m writing this in 2021). It takes time, be patient with yourself. Wherever you are in the process be open to growing.