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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Finding Your Niche

I've been thinking a lot about this, as I have yet to make the first sale. Two things happened yesterday that have spurred me on to write more about my own niche and about doing business on etsy in general.

The first was a comment by a fellow etsian who was making a critique about my shop. It was basically (and I'm paraphrasing here) to think about one genre of sewing... he liked my aprons. More on this later. The second was a thread dedicated to the idea that before you open a shop on etsy, you should be able to answer 8 specific questions. These were put forth by the phenomenally successful littleputbooks, so she knows a thing or two about doing business. And they are great questions... here they are:

1. Can I create something unique, well made and marketable?
2. Can I make that item affordably and sell it within a competitive price range?
3. Do I know my target market and is it here on Etsy?
4. Do I take good photos and write good descriptions?
5. Do I have an avatar, a banner, a profile?
6. Do I offer decent shipping rates?
7. Do I know how to mail items efficiently and quickly?
8. Is my business & product ready to show off?

So, what about me? I can answer yes to all of them except the second part of #3. At least I think I can. Now, like many fellow crafters I'm certain, I did not major in business in college. In fact, the only other time I tried to start my own business, it ended in failure. Mostly, due to the fact that my partner and I did not know how to market ourselves, and she, in particular, was not willing to spend the money that was necessary to do any marketing anyway.

So... again, what about me? and what does this have to do with finding your niche, and why does that matter. Well, of course, I sew. And I sew pretty well, and can do a number of specialized techniques, i.e., clothes making, quilting, smocking, home dec. I'm not trained to tailor. OK, that's fine, but let's say I'm a painter... again, in a number of techniques, but I've looked around, and right now dog paintings are hot. I paint a bunch of dogs... price them competitively... market, advertise, participate in forums, etc. ... and then nothing. OK, what do I need to do to improve. I take better pictures, change my banner and avatar, advertise off etsy, and still nothing. Maybe the dog lovers aren't buying right now. So I second guess, and start painting cats, and then I draw a few illustrations and make some cards because maybe that would work.

Do you see where I'm going here? Sometimes you can answer yes to all the questions, and you still are not successful. Maybe it really is the economy. Your product is beautiful, but the market is saturated, or has dried up. Maybe the day you opened your shop, 200 other dog painters also opened up, all having done their homework too.

There is another aspect to all of this as well, and that has to do with littleput's question #1. Can I create something unique? Well, I think I can, and I love what I do. I'm not going to look around and see what sells, and try to make that, too. Because there are lots of things I can do, like many other creative people that have dabbled in other genres. The bottom line for me... I'm going to keep plugging away, learning day by day what works and what doesn't, and in the end, by happy that I have tried.

"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."
--George Burns (1896-1996)

So, thank you to littleputbooks and unlesssomeonelikeyou for inspiring this post. As I continue with this business of selling on the internet and on etsy in particular there will be more and more fellow artisans that I will have to thank, and more and more that inspire me in many ways.

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