Thursday, July 15, 2010

Member Story- Erin MacMahon

Here is Erin MacMahon's story:
My Etsy shop,, is a jewelry store with necklaces and earrings designed and created by me! I never intended to sell jewelry; I only started making my own when I realized how grossly overpriced most costume jewelry actually is – gemstone beads, plate metal chain and findings do not often add up to $200 – and that it wouldn't be too hard to replicate some of the designs I liked. My first attempt, about 6 months ago, came out pretty decently (or so I thought at the time – I recently found it and re-made it more professionally :). So I started making necklaces to give as gifts for birthdays, Mother's Day, etc – something personal and unique for my friends and relatives. Later, I made a Twilight-inspired necklace for myself, and then tried (unsuccessfully) to sell copies of it on eBay.

I am a business student now, but I'd always been in the interior design field. For years, I was in the sales department at different furniture stores and loved the design aspect, but hated being a salesperson – it really does change your personality over time, and not in the best way. Earlier this year, I finally had enough; I could not continue in sales any longer. I started looking for another job, but guess what? Employer see “salesperson” on your resume and want to give you yet another sales job – and believe me, they are all the same. So … the truth? I quit my job.

I know it's a crazy thing to do in this economy, but I had a plan. I gave one month notice and began to set up a home-based business: interior design, home staging for resale, personal chef, and housekeeping are just a few of the services I planned to offer. Fast forward two months, and I had gotten nowhere. Zero calls, emails, and clients. My savings were gone and, to be honest, it was a miracle they'd lasted me that long.

That was when I stumbled onto Etsy, looking for a unique gift, and realized what an amazing concept the site has: an open community for artisans, sellers of vintage items, and suppliers, with minimal operating costs. After some thought, I decided to just go for it!

That was about 2 months ago, and I've already learned a lot since then. I've redone my photographs (multiple times), tweaked the listings a million times, added more items, re-listed items (haven't seen any benefit there), remade all my graphics, tried out Showcase (not worth it, in my opinion), and fell in love with the Treasury feature. I have a Facebook page, thoughtfully created for me by my best friend, through which I post interesting little tidbits to draw people to my Etsy shop, and I'm trying out Facebook ads right now (inexpensive, but not yet sure whether it's worth it). The one thing I have found to be effective at gaining exposure has not been any type of paid advertising, or really any kind of advertising at all: it's the Treasury feature on Etsy. I started to put together lovely collections, just for my own entertainment; a seller found her item in one of my treasuries; she made her own treasury and featured me in it; that treasury made the front page; my item gained 600 views in one day.

That's my best advice for any seller: promote other people's work. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it absolutely works; the more you help other sellers, the more they will help you. I haven't seen as dramatic results from any other experiment I've tried. Still, I have yet to make my first sale – any advice anyone has there is welcome! - but I'm not as worried anymore; I know I'm slowly gaining more exposure in the huge marketplace of Etsy, and the sales will come for me as they have for other people. Teams, like this one, are another great opportunity from Etsy – I've joined several and am trying to stay active in all of them. I hope to eventually be able to pay my bills from Etsy profits, then take metalworking classes to improve my skills, and some day have a gorgeous inventory of unique items and a devoted fan base. For now, I'm still learning – I'm definitely no expert yet, but I'm having fun with it on a daily basis, and hoping that the money will follow!