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The third workshop focused on product photography. This was a more interactive workshop in which we were presented with lots of pictures and talked about what we saw and why we thought the pictures were good or bad. This part was a little less relevant to me since I either scan in my artwork or it’s already a digital file. Still many good points were brought up and I learned some new things. This summary will be a big mix of my own thoughts and the things we were taught in the workshop. I’ve structured it in a way that seems most cohesive and logical to me. I will illustrate with examples from Etsy shops.

Part 2 : Product photography

The workshop was lead by Liesbeth Verhart and she sells silkscreen printed designs in her Etsy shop Pinipiru. It’s filled with adorable designs printed on organic cotton, but also offers prints and notebooks. So make sure to stop by and take a look at her lovely wares. The day was filled with mottos and I managed to find one in this workshop as well.

“Tell a story”

This is pretty much what separates the good pictures from the great pictures. Potential customers should be able to come into your online store and immediately get taken away by the atmosphere. By telling a story you are persuading your visitor to stay a little longer and really take good look at what you’re selling.

WoolWench makes wool look interesting in her product pics

Suzy makes wool look interesting in her product pictures. The props tie in to the product in both colour as atmosphere.

This first example shows pictures from Suzy and her shop WoolWench. It’s one of the first shops on Etsy that really struck me with its amazing photography. So why is this so special? The reason I find her photography so great is that she’s managed to transform something you’d normally associate with old fashioned, ordinary or even boring to something completely fresh! She has other kinds of pictures in her shop, but these are her strongest in my opinion. A good picture of wool shows its colours and texture, but a great one makes you wonder what you’re going to make with it. The pink wool seems even sweeter and cuter because of the candies surrounding it. I can almost smell the oranges and summer in the second picture. The key is also to not make the picture look too crowded. The third and fourth pictures also avoid this by including objects in the same colour. The props can also function as a great inspirational starting point.

Ama uses playful composition to make her product look more fun

Ama uses playful composition to make her product look more fun and set itself apart from different shops.

I only found out about this store during the workshop, but it’s an instant favourite. The second example shows Ama de Jong’s creations from her shop MissMinoes. The reason why I immediately fell in love with these pictures is because they are very playful and the composition is just amazing! Don’t you immediately get very happy when you see great pictures like these? Don’t you just WANT to own these items? Don’t you just want to feel like a kid again? I sure do! And the playfulness just goes really well with the kind of items she’s selling, so obviously it’s not for everyone. But for her and her wares it works and it looks fantastic!

Macky's use of quirky angles makes her vintage products stand out

Macky’s use of quirky angles makes her vintage products stand out and look hip and modern while still retaining their antique feel.

Another tricky kind of products to photograph well is vintage items. You either end up with pretty decent pictures, but with a plain background, or with crowded and cramped pictures. Macky however did an amazing job in taking her product to a next level in her shop Moonstation. Pretty much all the items in her shop are pictured upside down and it makes for an interesting view! It really makes me curious and invites me to click on the pictures to find out more about the items. Just going through all her products make for a great browsing and shopping experience. Also note the first picture: Only the clear glass wine decanter is for sale, but by photographing it in a series it stands out more. This of course only works with items of the same kind and shape; otherwise the photograph might look too crowded.

FunFatale brings a bit of joy into your life

FunFatale brings a bit of joy into your life with the vibrant movement in their composition.

This last example is included simply because the whole shop makes me feel so excited. The shop’s name is FunFatale and boy it sure is FUN! Pretty much all the products are photographed in this way. I love them because there’s just so much energy and movement visible. The examples I chose from this shop are all pretty different, but the store still looks very cohesive. This is because 1) the model always wears a plain white shirt, 2) the background is the same and 3) there’s always a sense of fun and movement captured. The products aren’t always captured in the most representative way, but that doesn’t matter. That’s what pictures 2/3/4/5 are for.

So now you’ve seen these examples and read why I think they’re great, but how can you improve the photography in your shop? Well first of all there’s nothing wrong with a plain white/light background. During the Success Symposium it was said that these kinds of pictures are popular for treasuries because they make the product pop. On a site with a clean design and white background this is a pretty logical evolution. If you make a treasury you have 16 thumbnails standing quite closely to each other; if they all have different kinds of backgrounds this can make the treasury look very crowded, cramped and unattractive really. However, if you don’t want to resort to plain white and you don’t know if you can pull something experimental, like the previous examples show, off then you just have to take the motto “Tell a story” and execute it in a simple way. You can add props that make the picture self-referential. I have chosen the following examples to illustrate this idea.

Examples of ways you can make a composition with your product and props

Examples of ways you can make a composition with your product and props while not destracting the viewer and giving emphasis on a certain quality your product possesses.

1) On her shop announcement of Ylleanna the seller Anna Nuvoloni writes that she likes to combine wool and yarn with natural and rustic materials such as ceramics and wood. What we see in the picture is one of her necklaces with a wooden button. The fact that it’s draped on a branch enhances the statement she has made in her shop announcement. With a simple addition she enhanced her message.

2) Miranda van Dijk has such an amazing product in her shop PuurAnders. She makes necklaces, brooches and recently notebooks and little artworks out of old pictures. She does custom orders as well! It’s just an amazing way to preserve memories and the products look fantastic. Here she’s paired one of her necklaces with an old picture and to me it’s one of the strongest product photography in her store. Can’t you just imagine what kind of treasure you could receive if you order from her store?

3) Eva Vercauteren makes cute little purses with delicate embroidery in her shop TheBlueRabbitHouse. She uses some very simple props with her purses, but the imagery is strong. The dried flowers and plants really put an emphasis to her fine needlework. And that’s ultimately what you want, to show why your product is so special.

4) You might wonder why I think this photograph is special. Joana Pedroso uses yarn and thread for her beautiful jewellery in her shop TrincarUvas. Some of the yarn specially dyed, but she also uses regular yarn that is used for cross stitching and embroidery! And that is exactly the reason why I think it’s such a great idea to display her jewellery on an embroidery hoop. She also has the most clever business card design, but that’s for another day.

What did I learn from this workshop? Actually, some things that I haven’t yet mentioned. One of the things Liesbeth told us is that the average person won’t be able to determine the size from just a size description. Use at least one picture to give an estimate of the size of your product and props are great for this. You have 5 picture spots to fill so use them well. The first picture also doesn’t necessarily need to be the most representative. It can also be a detail shot to draw a visitor in. Also while this is not immediately relevant to me: use a live model if you can. It makes all the difference to make your shop come alive. She also showed us this neat photography cheat sheet by Miguel Yatko to help you with the manual settings on your camera.

Read Part 1 : Media and Marketing

Read Part 2 : All the legal stuff

The second workshop was focused on the law and what legal rights and obligations you have as a web shop keeper. Naturally this workshop was focused on the Dutch law. This means that this summary will be cutting out some detailed information that is only important for Dutch residents and instead keep the information that is applicable to sellers all over Europe. The information I have left out can be found on the website of the Belastingdienst and Kamer van Koophandel. The information which I have here should be useful for European based web shop keepers.

Part 2 : All the legal stuff

This workshop was given by Monique Rhuggenaath, a former lawyer and current Etsy seller. She sells bags, purses and passport covers in her main shop BagsByTravelHer. In her second shop SilksByUmf she sells beautiful Indian silks. I’ve actually bought two of her passport covers, one for me and one for as a gift for my mom, and I have to say they are stunning! Most of all I was amazed by the great quality of the product. So please check her shops out! Monique also had a motto for her workshop:

“Start at the beginning!”

She ensured us that while we don’t have to take advantage of all the possibilities available to us; we do need to have at least thought about it. So start looking at what you want to achieve and sell. What legal steps do you need to consider for this endeavour?

– Look at what legal description applies to your shop. Is it a one-person-business? Are there other people or even employees involved? What implications does this have for taxes and registration? You should also investigate if the place you have your work space is even allowed to be used as such. If you rent a home you might not be allowed to make commercial products there.

– Do you want to register your brand name? Do you want to register a domain for your brand? Maybe you don’t want to make a website for your brand right now (outside of Etsy), but you might somewhere in the future and you might want the insurance that the domain name will be available. You could start looking at places where you could register and what prices they have.

– What insurances could be relevant for you and your shop? If your home is your workplace, your products may not be covered by the regular home insurance. Also you might want to consider a liability insurance to protect yourself from getting sued by a customer. This might be expensive or not relevant for you right now, but at least give it a thought.

Victoriana mask in gold leather by TomBanwell

The maker has clear instructions in his policies that the mask may not get in touch with water as this might ruin the design, so buyers should be aware of this. Find more gorgeous masks in Tom’s shop: www.TomBanwell.etsy.com

Governmental institutions

– Check your local Chamber of Commerce at what they can offer you. Actually, the moment you open your web shop you’ve started a business. You might want to consider registering it. Registration comes with both upsides and downsides. Investigate if it’s beneficial for you. The downsides of course are the fees and guidelines and laws you need to follow. However, the upsides might include loads of interesting information for your shop, workshops, being recognised as an official store and legal support. Ask for a brochure or check out their website for more information. Also make sure when you’re registering that you don’t describe your endeavour too wide or too narrow. Both can have their own implications.

– Be mindful of the Tax Agency and find out what taxes you need to pay and what benefits or tax cuts you could gain. On this point you basically have to find all the information for yourself as what goes for one country might be completely different for another.

– There are other institutions that might help you or could demand money from you. Check your Chamber of Commerce for more information.

Jellyfish Air Plant by PetitBeast

Because the shop sells live plants Cathy has chosen not to sell outside the United States. This is the only way she can ensure her product to keep well during shipping. Find more gorgeous air plants in her shop: www.PetitBeast.etsy.com

Contact with your customers

– In the Netherlands there are a few laws you should pay attention to with your web shop. There’s the “wet verkoop op afstand” which deals with the rights customers have as pertaining to returns. Your country might also have some regulations you should be aware of.

– If you live in the EU your identity should be clear on the website of your shop. Your name, location and email address are the minimum of information that needs to be there. It should be clear to which individual the web shop is linked to.

– Make it clear if taxes are included in your prices, if there are additional costs (shipping and handling for example) and what the conditions are. As soon as a customer has bought your product (and paid for it) you are committed to a contract with this customer.

– Be absolutely clear in your description what the product is that you’re selling so the customer won’t be confronted with (unpleasant) surprises.

– Indicate your privacy policy concerning customer information. Write this down in your shop policies.

– Consider what liabilities your products might be subject to and inform your (potential) customers about them. Is there a chance that great bag you made might stain on white clothing? Be honest about it in your description. If you’re honest about it you have an insurance if a client comes back to complain about your product.

Cherry Blossom Eye Shadow by MadisonStreetBeauty

In the description of the make up from the shop www.MadisonStreetBeauty.etsy.com the buyer can find thorough information on the ingredients and even offers testimonials of previous customers.

What did I learn from this? A lot to be honest! And there is still so much to learn. To start I’m going to order some brochures and some books about subject. I am going to get myself informed. And more importantly: I’m going to inform my customers. I also learned that in a conflict the laws of the country where the customer lives are the ones that are valid. So firstly it really pays off to be absolutely clear in your item descriptions and shop policies. Secondly you might want to consider offering more customer service than you would ever demand yourself. Gaining a satisfied customer can have a lot more implications than winning a dispute.

Read Part 1 : Media and Marketing

Read Part 3 : Product Photography

A while ago, I went to the starter day offered by Etsy NL for starting web shop owners on Etsy. It was a day filled with workshops in a shared space with the Echt Waar Bazaar Etsy edition in the In De Ruimte in Utrecht. I went in expecting learn a few things, but mainly meet new people. However, I was completely amazed by the amount of information I gained. Some other things I knew already, but maybe didn’t yet give it the attention it deserved. I want to give a summary of the workshops not just for myself, but others out there to share information and thoughts and ideas.

The day was divided into 4 parts, however I will only give a summary of the first three. The last part was about bookkeeping and I simply do not feel confident enough to make any claims about it. Furthermore, every country will have it’s own rules and regulations on the matter so get yourself informed on what is necessary. As a start you should definitely have a folder of some kind in which you can collect receipts of the materials and supplies you’ve bought and order receipts you’ve printed out. You can keep track of your income and spending in a simple Excel file.

Part 1 : Media and Marketing

This workshop was lead by two members of MamaMarketing, Diana van Ewijk and Laura van den Brink. It’s a Dutch marketing agency that mainly focuses on mothers with a web shop. Their main motto was:

“Start fishing in a small pond”

This motto has several implications.

First, choose your niche. Make sure that the thing you sell is unique in some way or another and make sure you know who your target audience is. Try to imagine the kind of person that would buy what you’re selling and focus your marketing on people just like that. You have to realise you can never compete with big brands and companies on prices alone. It’s just near impossible and you would only sell yourself and your product short. One way to compete is by offering a personal experience to your customers. The other is to make something recognisable, which takes us to the next point.

A unique and recognizable product

An example of something unique and recognizable. By using cross stitch on a different medium creates a special and original product. Find more treasures like this in Elena’s shop: www.stedi.etsy.com

Second, make yourself visible. Make a recognisable brand product and house style that reflects you and your product. Next, get that product out there! Start blogging, messaging and see what social medium fits you best. If Twitter isn’t for you, don’t fret! There are many other ways to express you. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger/Wordpress, your own website with regular updates, a YouTube channel and whatever medium that could become a hype in the future.

Third, form your own community. Find your own voice and write blog posts, twitter messages, Facebook status updates etc. in a way that suits you. If you feel uncomfortable with writing formal, then don’t! When you’ve done all this, start contacting other blogs or magazines with your product and explain why they should like and feature your product. This is all free publicity. Once you’ve gotten yourself out there and gotten a group of followers it’s important to stay in touch. Keep it personal and respond to messages on your blog or retweets. Keep in contact so you’re always somewhere in the back of their minds.

A fun recognizable product that ties in with the shop name.

A fun recognizable product that ties in with the shop name. Everything clicks together in a quirky fashion. Look up more of Sally’s illustrated goodies on www.fromMyBearHands.etsy.com

Fourth, get busy! Make a strategy: What fits your product and what you’re doing? Make a content calendar and write down what you want to write about and when. Do this at fixed time. (For example at the beginning of a quartile) It’s very important that you do this well in advance. You might find yourself in a busy period. It’s even more important to keep writing blog posts at that time and if you already have a subject half the work is already done. Also you might find yourself browsing Etsy or Pinterest or sites like those and come across something that fits one of the subjects you’ve already planned. You can save the link right away and then when you’re finally writing you don’t have to do a search anymore. Another important point to remember is that if you want to contact the press you have to do so at least 3-4 months in advance! So if you have an amazing Christmas product your deadline is August to send those press releases out. And it might be a bit of a transition to think about this when it’s still summer. They also gave a great Twitter guideline. Every day try to make 3 mentions, 2 retweets and 1 commercial message of your own product. Of course you can deviate from this, but it’s a good guideline.

What did I learn from this? Well I did know that social media was an important factor of getting your store out there. What I maybe didn’t realise so much is how much work you should put in marketing. You have your product, your web shop and you’ve made clear that this is something you want to do and want to focus on. So don’t just write a cute blog piece now and again, but really put some work into it. I was also reminded of my own A-grade procrastination and I hope that this is the push I needed to get organised. I had the plans to start blogging, but know I realise I can’t just jump in half-heartedly and hope for the best. I need to make a good planning and a clear structure of what I want to achieve and how I want to achieve it.

Read Part 2 : All the legal stuff

Read Part 3 : Product Photography