Give It To Me Straight
In art and in life, we often don’t want to hear honest criticism. However, when you are investing so much time and money in your craft, you want to get the most out of it. Learning to be objective with your work is an important step in transitioning your business from so-so to spectacular.
Maybe this scenario sounds familiar: a friend of a friend hears you are selling on Etsy and asks you for advice about how to get sales. You take a look at his/her shop and the pictures and graphic design could be a lot better. How do we politely suggest that they retake photos and hire someone to design a new banner? This is sticky stuff. Our work and our shops are very personal, and I often hesitate to come between someone and what they love. I usually suggest taking photos with natural light if they are using a flash, and maybe using a program like Photoshop elements to improve their photos and design. This is my honest opinion of how they can get more sales, put as delicately as possible. However, I almost always find that people weren’t expecting any criticism of the way their shop looks at all. They were looking for a magic bullet that would allow them to do the same thing they’ve been doing and have instant success. This led me to do a lot of self-evaluation. Am I truly aware of how my own shop looks? Am I being lazy or cutting corners? Am I telling myself the truth?
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
Making your product the best it can be starts with self-awareness. If you strive for perfection in your craft, why shouldn’t you do the same with the face of your business? I spend at least 50% of my time working on photographs, design, networking and advertising for my business. I would love to spend all my time making things, but then I would be working in a vacuum. Like it or not, business (even the business of craftin’) is about competition. Learning to truly and honestly evaluate how your shop stacks up against similar businesses is a great first step to improving sales.
Here are a few questions to start with:
What do I avoid working on in my shop? This is often the place we need to start, and it may not be just photography and design. For a long time, my answer was record keeping and evaluating my sales for the year. Once I did this, I found many areas I needed to work on and some valuable statistics that helped me improve pricing and marketing.
How does my shop appear to a set of fresh eyes? I feel like I keep a clean house, but when I’m going to have company over and I start cleaning, I suddenly notice things I missed in my day to day routine. A house I thought was immaculate moments ago suddenly has dust bunnies on the ceiling fan, pet hair on the pillows and water stains on the floor. Eek! Try to approach your shop with the same fresh perspective. How will your shop look to guests who may scrutinize every detail?
When was the last time I put my product out there to be critiqued? Participate in Etsy’s critiques, open yourself up on the forums, listen to your customers at a craft show, or just ask someone you respect to evaluate your work and shop appearance. If your friend or spouse is brave enough to give you some truthful constructive criticism about your work, be a good sport! My husband is also an artist and I value his opinion greatly. Having someone in your life that can give you the honest truth is invaluable.
Strive to tell yourself the truth about your business.