When I originally started calligraphy (in 2015), I had no idea that I would eventually start an etsy shop, blog, or website. I actually started out by posting my practice on Instagram. When I got my first supplies, I wanted to post pictures of my calligraphy without my friends and family seeing it. I can be really shy about learning something new and I’m also kinda sensitive. I didn’t want anyone to tell me I wasn’t very good at it and I was fine with having a “secret hobby” anyway.
I started to post my practice and found out there were a lot of other people learning calligraphy online as well. I fell into a random community that I never knew existed. I started getting followers and #calligrafriends from all around. After a few months of practice, I decided to try and make some greeting cards. I downloaded a free trial of Adobe Illustrator and scanned some of my lettering. I made an ice cream cone that said “melt my heart”. A lot of my friends started to find my calligraphy instagram and multiple people told me they wanted a copy of the ice cream cone print. This is when I thought I might be able to open up an Etsy shop!
In my first year on Etsy, I sold a few things. I had a lot of different cards and prints. Ones that I made randomly and simply posted up there, hoping someone would magically find them and buy them. I continued to post on Instagram, but I also had no idea what I was doing. A friend of a friend asked me to calligraph addresses on her wedding envelopes. This was both terrifying and amazing to me. I was still in school at the time and it was just crazy to me that I might be able to make money just by writing on things!
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2016 that I started to learn and understand how to build up an Etsy store and how to market your work properly! I feel there is a fine balance between focusing on selling your artwork and continuing in your own creative process. Because I have experienced highs and lows on Etsy, I wanted to share some tips for those of you who may be thinking of starting your own shop in the future!
- Start with a narrow focus.
I think one of the biggest issues that people have starting out on Etsy is an unfocused product line. You may think that the more things you have on your Etsy, the more things you will sell. This is not necessarily true. Don’t overdo it. Pick a few things and start with those. I would not start with more than ten items in your shop. The more focused you are, the more you will be attract your ideal client.
If you are a beginning calligrapher, you can start with greeting cards, prints, or wedding calligraphy services. You might start out with specific listings – for example a basic print option with a set verse or phrase that you like. You can always set your Etsy shop to allow requests for custom orders. You may even add in your listing, “send me a message if you are interested in a similar style, but with a different word or phrase”. This allows you to make less items up front and still offer what your potential customer may be looking for.
You may think that the more things you have on your Etsy, the more things you will sell. This is not necessarily true.
The more focused you are, the more you will attract your ideal client.
- Build your following on other platforms.
It’s important to build up a following online before (or while) you start up your Etsy shop. There are many different places and ways to build up your following and it all depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. Here are some of my favorite platforms that I’ve been able to use the most to build up potential clients:Email List. An email list is a great way to keep people connected with your products and services. The most efficient way to get people to sign up for an email list is to offer something that would be valuable to a potential customer. For example, I offer a free alphabet practice sheet because the people that I help the most are those who want to learn brush lettering on their own.
I created my email list on MailChimp and 100% recommend it. Use this link to sign up for your MailChimp account and receive a $30 credit!
Instagram. Instagram is totally free and a very simple way to start finding others interested in what you’re making. It’s important to post regularly, authentically, and with the focus of your overall brand on your Instagram account. Focus less on finding new followers and more on showcasing who you are and what you want to sell. It can take a while to build up a following on Instagram, but don’t be discouraged. Connect yourself with other calligraphers on Instagram and put on a giveaway together. This is a great way to gain new followers, especially ones that are interested in what you are creating!
I’ve found that the more authentic, real, and consistent I am on Instagram, the more followers I gain. Don’t get greedy about followers- you can have thousands of followers and still make no sales. Remember that you are hoping to attract potential clients and you don’t need to have a million followers to do that.
There are two different ways to utilize Facebook.
Pages – Create a page for your business. This gives you a way to connect your followers with new products and sales. You can also run adds specifically toward potential clients easily through Facebook (though I personally am not a fan of these).
Groups – You can find groups to be a part of or create your own. I created a group for brush lettering beginners, which has been a great way to help others build up their calligraphy skills. It’s easy to connect with others and share ideas. I have also been a part of multiple other groups like ones for small business owners and calligraphers. These have really helped me to learn new tips and skills from other small business owners and formal calligraphers!
Another great way to gain momentum (especially for a blog or visually appealing small business) is Pinterest! Pinterest is all about beautiful images. You’ll need to create some pin-worthy content to hold your own out there.
I think it’s important for your pins to trigger some sort of a click – whether it takes the reader to a blog post, your email list, website, or a product. Your goal in using Pinterest is to bring people to your website – ideally your potential clients. You can also pin all of the images from your Instagram feed onto your Pinterest as well. This gives you even more content to share and will direct people to your Instagram feed.
- Give it time.
I’ll be the first to say: I understand that you might feel like your Etsy shop will never take off and you’re frustrated with the progress (or lack of) so far. You honestly just have to be patient and keep at it!
It takes consistency and diligence to build up a brand. It’s not going to happen over night.
- Don’t charge less than you deserve to attract customers.
It can be tempting while you’re starting up your Etsy shop to have low prices. You might feel as though you aren’t experienced enough to charge very much or you may feel like the low prices will draw in sales. Regardless of your reasoning, be very careful about your pricing!
Be sure that when you’re pricing a product you look at these factors:
– The average cost of similar products and services
– The cost of the materials used to create the product
– The amount of time it took (or takes) to create the product
– The cost of shipping + packaging materials
- Try new and different things – stick with the ones that work!
As you’re building your brand and starting an Etsy shop, don’t be afraid to try different products. You might start out with greeting cards or prints, but you may later offer envelope calligraphy, chalkboard signs, or custom mugs. Don’t be afraid to try something new! This will help you to find the products that do sell. (If this seems like it doesn’t go with #1, I simply mean to slowly add in and try different items. You don’t need to try them all at one time!)
I hope that these tips have been helpful for you as you’re starting out your creative business. This is not an exhaustive list of all the things you need to do to be sure that your Etsy shop will thrive, but these are five things that have worked for me. I would love to hear from you, please to leave a comment with your Etsy questions!