Getting out of the box: Etsy virtual labs recap #1

Jamie Shelman drew this picture of me while I was giving my talk!

In the beginning

When I was asked to talk at Etsy’s Virtual Labs last week, what came to mind was how to think outside the box when you’re marketing your stuff. But when I came up with the list of things I wanted to talk about, I realized that it wouldn’t be “thinking out of the box” anymore when all I’m doing is just rehashing some of the things you’re better off reading about elsewhere, from people far more knowledgeable than me.

So then I scrapped that and came up with something far more basic, but one that is in my opinion, ignored completely when you’re first starting out. I’ll liken this to a day job. One day you went for an interview, and you got that job – which you think will just tide you over until the day when you find out what you really want out of life. Well you slog and work at that job for a year, and then it morphs into 3 years, and then 5 years. Soon you snap out of your haze and realized that this was NEVER your dream job, and you just wasted 5 years into something that you’re not sure you even want. So now I’ll coin the talk as “getting out of the box”, as it’s never too late to start organizing your thoughts and to put your business back on track.

Starting a business takes a lot of work. You get caught up with the grind, and develop a reactionary workflow that eats up your time.

My talk was not based on giving out quick fixes for your business. I’m in the same boat as all of you – I’m building a brand, and so are you – whether or not you realize this right at this moment.

Etsy’s core sellers are a little different from normal businesses. Other businesses are set up to generate a profit. You are an artist. You sell NOT just for the profit, but you’re selling little pieces of yourself.

Some of you may be selling your works to earn some extra cash, some of you may be doing this just to fill up your time. But I know many others who are doing this because they love what they’re doing, and want to share it with the world while earning a decent living.

Building a brand and a business – not just a shop

Anyone can start a shop.

But here’s the thing.
Are you one step closer to bridging the gap between you and your dreams with your current business?

Setting up shop isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s photographs to be taken, copy to be written, and things to make. It’s okay if you’re not sure where this is taking you, or what you’re going to do ultimately. Experimenting is all good, and I’m all for it. But having a goal will make things go smoother because if what you’re doing doesn’t fit into your goals, it will be THAT much harder to build a reputation or your brand, much less to sustain it – because you don’t know what you want yet. Discovering creativity and also thinking about what you can offer to the marketplace is important.

I read an article by Sarah of thesmallobject about consumerism and about how the world has gone a little buying-crazy, and I do agree with her. And also she touches about the subject of artists, and that you’re actually investing in her – her creativity, her work and her potential when you purchase her items.

#1: A story

When you’re putting yourself out there in marketplaces in Etsy, what makes you different from other sellers?

I look for a story. A linkage. A connection. Feelings; emotions. And these are the elements that make a particular artist successful. They all have a story to tell. They challenge the norm and offer a twist to convention.

This is the reason why copycats won’t last long They do things for profit, and this they do by riding on other people’s coattails. Put them out there long enough and soon they will lose their ability to have an original thought. I love the quote “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” by Edgar Degas.

You can make your header image prettier, take better photographs, modify your text to make it more Google-friendly (and of course, increase your search engine optimization (SEO), but the truth of the matter is, is that NONE of it will help you if you don’t have a story or a passion for what you are doing.

< to be continued…>
Here’s Part 2 of the recap!


This is a little intro the the talk I did for Etsy’s Virtual Labs, and I’ll return to talk about Part 2 which is a continuation of the rest of the things you need to have when you are building your brand; perseverance, being focused and also knowing your own value.

If you’d like to know when the second part is coming out (any day now!), sign up for our mailing list.

21 Replies to “Getting out of the box: Etsy virtual labs recap #1”

  1. Ryan McGurl says:

    Great post, I look forward to reading part two.

  2. Aijung says:

    i unfortunately missed your talk, but i like reading your recap. i didn’t know there was a word for wasting your time on the internet – “reactionary workflow.” i’m trying to curb it but it’s literally addicting, especially when most of my business and communication takes place online. i like the idea of creating a “story” with your art and shop. that’s what i’m trying to actively do now, but i’m not sure if it’s coming through yet. thanks for your advice, i’m also looking forward to part two.

  3. paula erker says:

    I really appreciate your perspective. I think your main point is so true…if you don’t love/enjoy what you do and can’t tell a story about it what’s the point? I look forward to reading part 2.

  4. D R E W says:

    thank you for this series of posts. i’m excited to see where it’s going!

  5. Alexandre says:

    Thx a lot for doing this recap and for your advices 🙂

  6. Amy@AQ-V says:

    Yay, glad you are posting this and as a series! Very solid advice. Look forward to the next installment.

  7. EvenAndy says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I am new to Etsy and I think this is just what I needed to read. Thanks again for the good advice:)

  8. Love your tips and inspiration – such great, quality advice!

  9. Red Linc Art says:

    sorry that I missed the lab but so glad that you did a recap. Cant wait to read part 2!

  10. AntheaArt says:

    Yes, I like what you wrote about creating a story with your art and shop. There are so many shops on etsy that unless you have a strong voice and something to say then you won’t connect with anyone. Looking forward to your next post on this topic.

  11. Cloudery says:

    Really great, Amy. I await Part 2.

  12. Willow says:

    Thank you for your article! I agree about the story…until I had a “story” for my work, for my site…I didn’t have much success with sales on etsy. I think of my story as the glue that holds my collections together, makes it cohesive, makes it work with my shop. It’s the inspiration for new work and I use that “story” in my branding. I don’t know if it comes through to others, but I do know that my sales have picked up over the past months. I’m looking forward to part 2. Thanks again!

  13. Susanne says:

    Love what you said….“You are an artist. You sell NOT just for the profit, but you’re selling little pieces of yourself.” Exactly! When someone buys something I’ve made, now, that’s a compliment I can take to the bank.

  14. Amy says:

    Susanne: “…now that’s a compliment I can take to the bank.” — hilarious!

  15. relicbox says:

    Yes, the story makes sense, and I am trying to put mine into words, as I think I have great work, and great prices, but very few sales…
    Thanks for a succinct article!

  16. LISA says:


  17. Wonderful advice. Thank you. P.

  18. Jean says:

    I don’t have a website, can I be included too? pretty please.

  19. Linda says:

    Thanks for the insight I’m really new to this and very excited about experimenting with new ideas. Looking forward to the 2nd part.

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