I had the privilege of interviewing Irene from Is Photography and asking her a few questions about successfully selling photography on Etsy. Irene is the top selling photographer currently on Etsy. I have included a few of photos in the interviews, so please take the time to check out her amazing work and learn from what she has to say.
1. When and how did you become interested in photography?
I first became interested in photography in the mid 1990s. I started traveling and wanted to learn about photography so that I could take decent photographs on my trips. I took a night course at a college to learn how to use my camera. I became much more serious about photography in 2005 when I purchased my first digital SLR and found flickr.
2. How did you find Etsy, and why did you start selling on Etsy?
I noticed that a couple of my flickr contacts were selling prints on a site with a weird name: Etsy. I wasn’t even thinking about selling prints at that time, but a seed must have been planted and the idea began slowly percolating in the back of my mind. About a year later, in early 2007, I opened a shop. Initially it was simply a means to make a little extra money to pay for all the photography gear I was coveting.
3. When I first started selling on Etsy I was afraid of failing, did you ever encounter that fear? If so how did you overcome that fear?
I wasn’t afraid at the start. I didn’t have many expectations at first and I had a full-time day job. The start-up costs were minimal, the risk was low, and at that time there was no thought of doing it full-time. I decided to quit my day job in May of 2008. Then in September the economy crashed. Then, hello fear. The way I live with it is to have a Plan B and a Plan C. Last year I started photographing weddings to diversify myself and to develop a new skill set. If sales ever seriously slump, I can seek more wedding and portrait work. My Plan C is to go back to what I was doing before (technical writing), at least on a part-time basis. So far I have been blessed and feel so fortunate to be making a living doing what I love in this tough economy.
4. Do you remember your first sale on Etsy? How has your product changed since then?
Yes! I sold my first print the day after I opened my shop. It was so exciting!
At first I only offered photographic prints. Over time, I have added other products such as greeting cards, calendars, and photo jewelry (in collaboration with another Etsy seller). I also offer a matting service and I work with a local professional framer to offer framed prints at a reasonable price. My style has evolved over time as well. My color palette has shifted from darker colors to lighter hues. I feel it has gotten more impressionistic and abstract over time too.
5. Do you still get that “feeling” when you see your sold item number go up?
Oh yes! I feel that little jolt in the heart region every time.
6. What is one thing you love about Etsy and one thing you would like to see changed?
I love that Etsy allows me to making a living doing what I love. It provides the infrastructure that supports the handmade and DIY ethos. I wasn’t trained as an artist or a photographer and I don’t think I could have gone the route that artists traditionally have gone: the gallery system and agents. It doesn’t suit my personality. I love dealing with people directly. I also love the support that sellers get through the Storque blog and forums. It’s really quite phenomenal.
I would like to see a better-functioning search. I realize that improvements are being made, but searching through the gazillions of items on Etsy is still a harrowing experience.
7. Run through your typical day .
• I usually wake up at around 7:30 and have a leisurely breakfast over the previous night’s Colbert Report.
• I then log onto Etsy to check for sales and convos.
• I respond to convos and emails and visit some of my favorite blogs to ease into the day.
• I go for a walk or a jog mid-morning.
• I like combining my shipping days with other errands to free up time on other days. On these days, I pick up prints at my lab in the morning, take prints that need framing to my framer, sometimes drop off prints at the gallery in Old Montreal where some of my prints are sold, and then spend the afternoon packing up orders and going to the post office.
• My creative days are spent sifting through my archive of photographs to identify those that I want to work on, processing photographs in Photoshop, experimenting with techniques in Photoshop, looking at books or websites for inspiration, visualizing photographs that I want to take, and daydreaming about places I want to travel to. If the weather is nice or interesting, I’ll get out for a couple of hours to shoot some new photographs. I love the flexibility that I have to do what I want when it’s my creative time.
• I blog a couple of times a week and try to update my Facebook status once a day, though I don’t always succeed.
• I’m trying harder these days to not work so much during the evenings, though if my boyfriend is out, I’ll usually drift over to the computer. Otherwise, I’ll do a bit of reading or, if my boyfriend is in, we’ll catch up on our favorite shows.
To read more from this interview and find out what Irene has to say about social media, product photography, and time management check out the Rest of the Interview. To view this post you will have to be registered… which is free and easy! (registering info)
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