Do you take customer orders? Do you make it clear in your shop or on your website that you do?

I've made an extra $250 this month on custom orders. They can be a great way to bring in some extra revenue for your business. In particular you can usually a little charge more for a custom order because of the extra time them take out of your usual creating time. So for this vodka drinking cuttlefish I charged an extra $10 over the usual cost of one of my standard cuttlefish for the customization of adding the tiny bottle that I had to make.

This is pretty great news so I'm going to post it now instead of waiting for Monday so you Etsy sellers have the weekend to look it over and make changes.

In case you have been out of the loop or don't frequent the Etsy forums much they had a bit of a debacle earlier this year over their SEO changes. To basically sum it up, Etsy tried to do the SEO all by themselves without really knowing enough about it to do it right, they made changes without informing sellers, and the changes were less than successful. I'm of the opinion it was not as bad as some people who flipped out over it but it was a mess. In the wake of this Etsy did the smart thing and hired SEOmoz an experienced SEO company to consult with and make changes to the site. The first round of SEOmox suggested changes rolled out this week.

Here's the article describing the changes: Tech Update: Changes for Shop and Item Page SEO 

SEOmoz also put together a great guide to SEO specifically for Etsy sellers detailing the ways you can optimize your site. Download the guide (pdf)

Lovely natural spot to shoot photos. Nice contrast between the dark rough rocks and the bright cheery purse.

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This post itself is a bit of a risk. I'm sure plenty of people will disagree with the things I say and I welcome it. I've said before that I'm not an expert, I write this blog to chronicle the things I've learned and hopefully help other people but my advice isn't a substitute for your own research and experimentation.

Every business has to take risks. For many crafters that first leap into selling online is a risk, especially for those less comfortable with computers. The first craft show, the first wholesale order, etc. These are all risks but they're risks we expect to have to take and look forward too. While they may be intimidating in a way they're easy to decide to do. I'd like to talk about some harder risks.

Breaking the Rules
Sometimes you need to step outside what is conventional, what people say you should do. These are those pesky unwritten rules people tell you about. People said that you couldn't sell music online, people wouldn't pay for it, but iTunes is doing great. Before Starbucks $4 coffee was considered ridiculous, now they're everywhere. Sometimes conventional advice works for most businesses but might not for yours. This is particularly true when it comes to selling online, so much business advice is based on offline business and doesn't translate well to the web.

As an example, I've heard a lot about not being too personal on social networks that you are also using to promote your business, to keep you and your business separate. However I am my business so while I don't talk about personal stuff in my shop or on my business website I'm okay with talking about my family or atheism on Facebook and Twitter. That's where I let people learn who I am on a personal level and it's been successful for me, I enjoy social networking that way so it's become more than just a way to promote while still bringing me a lot of business.

By no means am I saying you should break the official rules for websites you are using and definitely don't break the law. This isn't what I mean at all, I don't want any of my readers shut down or thrown in jail.

Risks are often uncomfortable because there is always a chance it won't pan out. My favorite TV show Mythbusters puts this best "failure is always an option". You are going to fail sometimes, the question ishow you are going to react to the failure. Use it as a learning experience and disect what went wrong.

A healthy savings account for your business can also be a big help to cushioning the blow of failures. How much is hard to say, right now I'm shooting for a couple hundred dollars with the ultimate goal of an average months worth of sales.

Offending People
Let's face it, sooner or later you're goijng to offend someone. Even if you sell cute fluffy stuffed bunnies, there is a bunny hater out there who's going to be offended. You have to decide what level of this are you comfortable with. Are you willing to offend PETA supporters by selling leather goods? The NRA by selling "Ban Hunting" t-shirts? (Yes, I picked two totally politically opposite examples on purpose because this isn't about politics but your own values.)

I recently started making necklaces of little sculpted fetuses in jars. I know this is going to offend some people and I thought a lot about whether I was going to do it. The reason I decided to is that my target audience is people who like things that are wierd and biology related and I shouldn't be afraid of offending people who probably aren't in my target audience. I'm happy with my decision and that's important, there's a difference between being afraid of taking a risk and being uncomfortable with the content of what I'm doing.

I hope this rambling post was useful and get you to reevaluate what you're doign with your business. Even if you decide to change nothing, doing that reevaluation is a valuable exercise.

Some of the most popular online selling venues for handmade products have rolled out some new features lately. Bit late to the game on some of these but in case you haven't seen them:

Etsy Rearrange Shops - I've been looking forward to this one for quite a while so I can balance the way my items are viewed on the pages.
Artfire Coupon Codes - Great for doing sales or discounts for repeat customers. All the other venues need to roll out something like this, it's a great idea.
Artfire Facebook Kiosk - Display your shop on Facebook, this is great if you do a lot of facebook marketing. You can use your Etsy mini and the My Stuff app to do similar on Facebook for Etsy but it's not as simple.
1000 Markets Redesign - Looking much nicer now.

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Great use of a colored background.

Button Star Bracelet, originally uploaded by Dollipops2009.

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Me with Rebecca, she already had a necklace.
I went on a trip over the weekend to New York. It was for a conference on science and skepticism and was really great. I packed a small box that could fit in my purse with a few pieces of jewelry in case anyone wanted to see my work. It was a very good idea, I sold 3 necklaces after the conference when a bunch of attendees were hanging out at a bar. You never know where and when you might find a customer so be prepared, if not with products than at least with business cards.


A day early this week because I'm going to NYC tomorrow for a conference.

The gnome in the background just makes this.

mushroom die cut, originally uploaded by tiffzippy.

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I can't believe I've already written 100 posts for this blog. To celebrate here are the best of the first 100.

Photographing Your Work Part I
Photographing Your Work Part II
Creative Packaging Ideas - The Basics
Google Analytics for your Business
Why is SEO Important for my Shop?
Etsy Hacks Review
Quick Tip #10 - More Etsy Hacks
Packaging Large, Fragile, and Other Difficult Products
Ad Basics I: Creating Effective Online Ads
Skepticism and Business
I Create a Shipping Center
From Muse to Model (Guest Post by Jen Kiaba)
Two Very Easy To Make Displays

Some of you may already know this but somehow I missed this until now. You can download a .csv files of your Etsy fees by month. It's a little hidden so this is how you find it.
  1. Go to "Your Etsy" and click the "Etsy Bill" link.
  2. From there click on "View Full List" (under the payment button next to "Monthly Statements). 
  3. That link will lead you to a list of your monthly statements. 
  4. Click the month you want to get the .csv for and down at the bottom of the page under the itemized list of fees is a link to download the .csv that you can then use for your record keeping.

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Getting into the Halloween mood.

a haunting we will go, originally uploaded by She's Batty.

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Sorry for the lack of a Monday post, I was in the middle of getting a brand new blog going called the Culinary Cuttlefish which is my food blog. Don't worry it shouldn't affect this blog from now on, I plan to post to it on different days of the week (probably Tuesdays).

A couple weeks ago I posted a link roundup on using .csv files and inporting them into spreadsheets. Today I'm going to show you how I'm using spreadsheets to track how Noadi's Art is faring.

First a little about how I'm keeping track of these spreadsheets. In the screenshot you can see the folder where I have all the Etsy spreadsheets. I downloaded the .csv file for each month, renamed them with the month and year, and saved them in Open Office spreadsheet format which is the software I'm using. I also have folders for Paypal and Google Checkout files as well.

Using the data from all these spreadsheets I've compiled a simple spreadsheet that tracks my months sales for 2009 (I'll start a new one for 2010 when it rolls around). This spreadsheet lists by month the number of sales and their value for Etsy, eCrater, and Other venues (art shows, commissions, etc), and the total number and value of all sales for the month and year.

Using this spreadsheet I could make a couple charts to visualize how Noadi's Art is doing. Yes, these are my real sales figures, they aren't astronomically high by any means but I'm very happy the steady improvement I've had over the year. 
So now you see how I've organized and compiled a lot of my sales data, do you have any tips or tricks that you use?