Lets start by saying that I have been selling on Etsy for seven years now. After few years I ended up in several discussion forums on that site and for a good while I was in mentor group mostly specializing in customer service counseling and photography. As a side note a lot of my jobs in my past have been deeply rooted in customer service. And I truly believe that the only way a business can flourish is by providing great service to customers and taking care of its employees.
What surprised me the most when I received the requests for mentoring or resolving the problem, how little did the shop owner valued their time and piece of mind. They were willing to exchange countless messages with the customer just not to issue a refund which often times was below twenty dollars. And when I advised issuing a refund, moving on and concentrating on customers that do like their products, they sometimes argued that the customer is wrong.
What can I say - being right is not going to get you a good review. And as we now, when it comes to business, online reviews carry a lot of weight. So at one point my responses became questions.
How much was your item?
How long did it take to make you?
How much time have you spent conversing to your customer? ( in my experience, when it comes to problem resolution - the quicker the process, the better the result. I have not come across problems that got better with time)
Is the refund worth your peace of mind?
I had come to realize that when someone answers these questions, the answers present themselves. What most small creative businesses failed to anticipate is - there will be unhappy customers.
While mentoring group dissolved, now and then I still get questions and mentoring requests, but lately they have been - so how can I get my shop to earn money quickly? Whats the secret? But there is no secret, there is no shortcut. The online business just like good old fashion brick and mortar business means hustle, means planning and taxes.
So here is my Etsy story. I started on Etsy by making every mistake there was to make. I came across a knit item and a light bulb came on - I can make it, I can make it cheaper, and I can make some extra money, and its a global market place so surely there are a lot of customers who will find me. Right?
Well …. at the end of that year when I was done with my taxes - the numbers hit me like the brick wall. There were few things I had not accounted for - the supplies, the listing fees, the commissions, the shipping, the shipping supplies....the taxes... well... the list goes on. But my lack of planning did not stop there I decided to keep on going - I had inventory of items I've made and it needed to me sold, so I made another year of mistakes and the income at the end of the year was less than that of a Chinese worker. What I had failed at the most was planning. In hindsight... this was business 101, but I was an artist and creative, and I didn't realize I was in business. But I kept on going. And what really changed things for me is education, my love for learning. I looked at the data, and I made a plan.
I still have an Etsy store, but it is digital items only. If something doesn’t sell, the item gets archived. If customer has a question it gets answered as soon as possible. Because the only way to stay in business is to have a plan and have great service. There is no shortcut