The Little Artist by Alisa Wilcher. Pastel Painting.
You work hard at your art and all the business stuff that goes along with it, including running your Etsy shop (or Art Fire or Big Cartel, etc). You’re not a web developer and you don’t have thousands of dollars to hire someone to create your website before you’ve sold anything.
Yes, you’re like millions of other artists who choose to sell their work through a host site like Etsy. And that’s a great idea! These places can give you the chance to start small and grow from there. They let you open a shop with virtually no start-up costs. It’s an intelligent decision.
But there’s some behind-the-scenes information you don’t have. There’s more you need to do to keep your artistic business safe and sound, no matter what.
I ran across this article (thanks for the link, Mom!) on Handmadeology today. It’s a couple months old, but the content is very juicy. If you get a chance, read the article. But I’ll go ahead and shorten it to what I think is most important and I’ll riff a little about what I think.
See, the author of the article (Lisa) was running a lucrative Etsy shop and found it deactivated out of nowhere, with no warning and no explanation. That can happen. When you have a shop hosted through another business, they have control over your well-being. They make the rules and you have to follow them or leave. And they can change the rules whenever they want. “I thought I owned my small business, but by having my only presence on Etsy, it turns out that I didn’t.” Lisa said.
If this happened to your shop, what would you do?
You can ease that panic of losing your listings, your feedback, your photos, the record of successful sales you’ve had, and all your financial records for your shop.
First, buy your domain name. I like Dynadot for finding and purchasing domains. Ideally, you get yourshopname.com since .com is the most widely trusted domain extension. Having a domain name means you have a place to call your own, a place only you have control over. It also means you have control over the .com version of your shop name! No one else can open up a shop or website with your name and mess with your google results or worse, your reputation.
If you choose to go ahead and set up a website, I recommend hosting with BlueHost and using WordPress.org to create your site. You can start for around $100 between buying your domain, hosting, and starting up with WordPress. Plus, it’s one of the easiest ways to start a website without a developer.
Second, go ahead and make backups of everything on your Etsy account. Copy all your feedback with links to the buyers’ accounts. Copy all your item descriptions, tagging, and pricing. This will save you hours and hours of work if you ever switch platforms or lose this data in your current shop. Keep a folder on your computer that has all of this and all the pictures of your items.
Third, have a backup plan. Something could happen… anything could happen. It might not even be the fault of your current selling platform. But have your next favorite picked out and go ahead and start an account if you can have an idle one without paying. There are many options out there, but I’ve seen good things from Big Cartel and Lisa recommended Retailr and Indiemade.
Also have an action plan. A backup plan and an action plan. 🙂 Your action plan is what you would do if you did get shut down and feel you were wronged. You can start with familiarizing yourself with the Better Business Bureau. They are there to help you if you are harmed by a business and they do it for free. If you feel you may need to take legal action (for instance if you are losing a large investment of time or money, you might have a case), go ahead and consult your lawyer or find one by word-of-mouth or googling for a local small business attorney.
And you should plan for the conversations you’ll have if things don’t get legal. You’ll have tense, stressful conversations with Etsy. You want to write what you think you want to say, walk away for an hour and then come back to it. Talking from experience, I know that Etsy (and the administration from other shop platforms) gets harsh the moment you get emotional. If you deal with them calmly and professionally, they’re more likely to be caring. But if you get emotional, they get cold and professional and stop thinking of you as a person.
Part of your action plan, of course, is implementing your backup plan. So go ahead and make a ay-by-day schedule for yourself that gets you back up and running in a few days. You’ll be glad to have that schedule to direct you when you’re stressed and frenetic.
Finally, stay calm. You are ultimately in control of your business. Things will go wrong (hopefully not too wrong!) and that’s just part of being in business. But with a calm head and a passionate heart for your work, you can overcome these issues. And when in doubt, my mantra is “Google it.”