Saturday, 21 December 2013

I'm Moving ...

Well not me but my blog.

A little while ago I posted about my new Indiemade website. Indiemade is a platform for people like me who want their own website with integrated blogs, shop, galleries and so on.  I'm still absolutely on etsy (and plan stay) but my Indiemade site (which uses my own domain) works in conjunction with my etsy shop and, bonus, is completely under my control so I don't have to worry so much about some of the issues etsy has been facing recently.

As most of you will have gathered I've been INCREDIBLY slack at posting on this blog so I've decided to use my Indiemade site to blog from which means less time mucking around with blogger, logging in and out etc etc.   

Whilst the Indiemade platform hasn't got quite as many bells and whistles as blogger you can leave comments and follow by RSS etc.

For those of you still hanging in there I am so sorry for the lack of posting but I hope you'll check out the new blog home which should be more regular.

My latest post is on my experiments with my new toy a microwave kiln.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Learning Curve ...

I know that there are a number of you who are thinking about setting up your own website and I thought it might be helpful if I shared my recent experience with you.

I'm using Indiemade.  I did a some research and this looked like it would be a good platform for independent artists who want a site with a simple CMS (content management system) and a range of functionality - integrated store,  order tracking, pages which you can adapt to your own needs (eg. blog, news, galleries, FAQ etc) without having to learn code.  

this is the backend of the pages interface where you can edit and add pages to your site

Indiemade is, like a lot of other platforms, completely template driven so you have very limited capacity to alter the layout of pages.  You don't need your own url to use Indiemade but if, like me, you've registered a domain (ie. there are really clear instructions for pointing it to your Indiemade site.  I absolutley recommend registering your own domain name (I used godaddy to purchase mine) as it belongs to me and is fully transportable so, in the event that I decide Indiemade isn't for me and I move to another platform, my customers will still find me and I don't have to inform them or promote a different  www.

this is my FAQ page - you can set what page people land-on  - mine is my store
There are a number of pricing packages available (you get the first 30 days free) all of which involve a monthly fee - I'm on the pro package at $14.95 a month which allows me to link to my etsy store so I don't have to switch back and forth to update sales and listings. 

One issue I haven't resolved is that all my individual etsy listings include links to other areas of my etsy shop. Because both stores are linked, this information also appears in my Indiemade listings (which means if people click on these links on Indiemade they will go to etsy which will be utterly confusing for them).  It seems the only solution will be to remove the links from the etsy listings which wouldn't be such a big deal but etsy's new page layout no longer has the shop navigation bar. 

Here's the front and backend of the product listing interface

I want to thank Patty, my first purchaser on the site, who took the time to provide incredibly helpful feedback on the checkout process and enabled me to tweak my FAQ copy to reflect her insights - it was unbelievably helpful and also took away all the stress associated with a first transaction.  From Patty's experience purchasing is quite straightforward (uses PayPal so neither I nor Indiemade hold any credit card details so no worries with security). You don't have to set up an account to checkout but it will automatically provide you with a password at the end of the process in the event you want to make purchases in the future.

Here's my FAQ which has information about  payment and how to checkout (thanks Patty)

From the seller end, processing and tracking orders is excellent.  When you create a product listing you allocate items an SKU (essentially an individual code for that item) which is great  for me as I can tie my own cataloging system to my Indiemade store,  something I can't easily do on etsy.   I got a notification that I had sold an item almost instantaneously (as did the buyer) along with all the relevant information.  It's then just a question of logging in and updating the order when it has shipped.  It looks like I've got a bunch of reports available to me (revenue, sales etc) but I haven't had a chance to really dig into these yet.  I've linked the site to my google analytics so I can track a range of useful data and compare it to my etsy store.

Bonnie asked a really good question about buyer feedback and this is another area I haven't found an answer to yet.  Indiemade isn't a market place like etsy;  it's a essentially a host for seller's individual shops so the platform doesn't have some of the centralized features that etsy has including, as far as I can  tell, feedback.  I'm planning to create a Testimonials page so I can share any comments, feedback etc I receive (quite a lot of my etsy customers send me lovely individual convos rather than leaving feedback - I expect this will be an increasing trend under the new star based system). Another advantage of using a platform like Indiemade is that you don't have the same issues around communicating with customers outside of specific transactions. Etsy has some very strict rules around this. 

The most important thing to consider if you are thinking about setting up your own site is, in my opinion, how you are going to get traffic to it ie your marketing strategy.  Most etsy sellers know that they have to do an enormous amount of work promoting their shops in order to get people to come visit them.  But, even if you do nothing, you are likely to get some views (even sales if you are lucky) on esty there's just that many users.  But, if you don't have a plan for promoting your own site you are pretty much dead in the water (of course you will some traffic, if the sites SEO is good).   

Another important consideration is that having your own website/domain  means you don't get the substantial benefit of brand association with an online marketplace.  Etsy, even with all the changes, packs a considerable punch when it comes to trusted brands.  There are of course alternative online marketplaces including (groan) eBay.  There has been a lot of chat about Zibbit which I had a quick look at and may have some potential.

I don't plan on leaving etsy - not just because it still delivers results but because it is a fantastic global community of people who provide support, advice and friendship.  So, one of the issues I am going to have to resolve is how do I promote both my website on Indiemade and my presence on esty without creating confusion - I'm still figuring this one out but what I do know is that there are lot of businesses out there who successfully manage a number of online channels so I know it's doable.

For me, whilst setting up and managing my site creates an additional workload it has also given me a new sense of control, energy and direction all of which, I hope, will be reflected in my jewelry which is what's important after all.

I hope some of this information has been helpful.  I know there are a lot of you out there who are thinking about setting up your own  site so please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

'Till Next Time (might even have some jewelry to show you ....)

Friday, 30 August 2013

Fair Warning ...

Thanks to everyone for being so gracious about the long gap between posts. Bonnie it's nice to see you here,  I love your comments on my facebook page.  Barbara,I agree with you about factoring in commission. My husband is a sculptor and sells mostly through galleries, we are talking 40% minimum!!!

Fair warning – I am going to go on a little bit of a rant (measured but still a bit ranty) which will probably be of no interest to anyone except etsy sellers later in this post.  But first there’s this…

I’ve realised that the reason I don’t make earrings that often is that I don’t make earrings that often. This does make sense, promise. Earrings are on such a different scale than my usual work that when I sit down to make a pair it takes me way longer than it should to get something I like.  Once I’ve got a couple of pairs under my belt it all starts getting much easier as I get into a rhythm.

see the boar hair tassels - wasn't sure if these would be a turn-off
note the artfully placed dried leaves from my garden!!
I still think feathers have a meaningful role to play!!

My latest obsession however is with leather cuffs. It started with a fabulous belt I found in a thrift/op shop – dark brown, a little bit distressed, with an embossed tribal pattern.  It’s been sitting in my stash whilst I figured out a way to attach things to it and what kind of fastening I should use (I wanted to avoid snap fasteners).  Eventually I came up with this focal wrapping technique – basically a long piece of copper wire, balled on the end which goes down through the leather and up the other side of the focal and then wraps and around itself to form a spiral.  I’m sure I’m not the first to think of it but I was pretty happy to find a solution that suited my work. Another advantage is you only get a little bit of wire on the backside of the cuff so it’s not uncomfortable to wear.

This piece uses exactly the same technique.  I’ve got another one in the making which has a much smaller focal so only needs one piece of copper to keep it secure.

I decided simple was best for the fastening so it’s literally just punching a hole in each end of the cuff and threading recycled sari silk ribbon through. The added benefit is that the cuff is fully adjustable – larger wrists simply need to loosen the ribbon.  I’ll supply each cuff with extra lengths of ribbon so people can change-up the look or replace the ribbon really easily.

Talking  about recycled silk and leather, I thought I’d team them up in a wrap using another, much thinner, thrifted belt.   I’ve knotted the sunstones, beads and other bits on with waxed linen which is super strong and will ensure the silk (which is glued to the leather) stays on.

Now for a bit of measured ranting

I’ve been selling my work on etsy for a couple of years or so now and I love it.  It’s a fabulous community with some really wonderful supportive people, but there have been a number of changes to etsy recently and not all of them,  in my opinion, good.  Anyone who has been to etsy in the past few days will notice they’ve changed feedback to a review based system.   

Whilst the previous system was flawed I have some real concerns about this new system which I consider to be incredibly pedestrian and reductive.  I hate the idea of rating my purchases with stars, it’s just so … eBay - Moreover, the star rating is very item-centric.  I know evaluating the actual thing you buy is pretty damn important but there are other aspects to a transaction including communication and customer service, these are part of the reason we shop on venues like etsy after all. But, by far the worse aspect of the new system is the removal of buyer feedback all together.  There is no longer an option for sellers to provide buyer feedback at all! I’m a buyer and a seller and my original feedback rating incorporated both – I was proud of my feedback as a buyer as, amongst other things, it demonstrated my strong commitment to a handmade aesthetic.  I know there are lots of  other buyers out there who are really really dismayed to have lost all their feedback literally overnight.

Of course the reality is that etsy is a vast marketplace and, whilst there has been a huge negative reaction to the reviews, I suspect there may be just as many in favour/don’t care.   The point is that I really don’t have any control over this or any other aspect of the way etsy is managed – I don’t resent this at all, it is what it is.  But, from a ‘risk management’ perspective this is a real issue for Quisnam.  Right now etsy is a wonderful forum for artists like me, but if they choose to grow in a way that doesn’t suit or even disadvantages my business then there’s really nothing much I can do about it.   What I can do is make sure that I don’t have all my eggs in the etsy basket so to speak. So, one of the things I’ve done this week is set up my own website with an integrated store at  

I don’t plan on leaving etsy so my new site will operate alongside my etsy store.  The new site also gives me a place to add additional content including photo galleries, news, even my blog, but most importantly it gives me a sense of control.