I come across a lot of handmade businesses and love to challenge my ideas and theories to see if they match up with how handmade businesses, aside from mine, have found success.
It’s funny because there really are just a few basic business practices that must be in place for success. But business owners, myself included, tend to think it must be more complicated.
Of course, lots of little details do add up to big success but in general, the business basics I constantly teach (step-by-step in HOW TO SELL HANDMADE BEYOND FRIENDS & FAMILY) are the foundation success is built on.
I won’t go over every business basic in this article but wanted to point out how this handmade business is crushing when it comes to them.
1 – CREATE
2 – MARKET
3 – SELL
Each of these must be a part of a repeatable system to find success (I explain that system in detail in THE SUCCESS PLANNER)
So let’s take a closer look at some best business practices and how they’re implemented in a successful handmade business.
FEATURE BUSINESS: CaitlynMinimalist
ETSY SHOP: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CaitlynMinimalist
WHAT THEY SELL: “Dainty Personalized Jewelry”
ON ETSY SINCE: 2014
SALES: 293050 (as of April 2019)
We can’t assume sales have been consistent each year; they’ve likely grown as the business has become more popular. However, based on these numbers, they’re making approximately:
58,610 sales per year
4884 sales per month
WHY I CHOSE THIS BUSINESS
They’ve consistently been on the top 10 list of top-selling Etsy shops.
*UPDATE: BEFORE A DEBATE IS STARTED IN THE COMMENTS…
I want to point out the purpose of this article. It’s to celebrate BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES and explain how they can be applied to ANY business.
Price or “how much of their product has been handmade” has nothing to do with the principles I’m covering. Someone can price their products for pennies or only sell mass-produced products, not touching a single element of them; that doesn’t mean they’ll find success.
There’s a ton of work required, before and after a product is made, to grow a successful business, THAT’S the work this article is focused on.
Whether you make every single aspect of your products or purchase pre-made materials and put them together, you can apply the lessons in this article. Every business has varying levels of “handmade”.
There are businesses selling signs, but they don’t hand-cut the vinyl lettering or make the wood or surface the letters are applied to.
Other businesses sell photos; some develop their own film but most are having machines print their images and are putting them on items they didn’t hand-make or in frames they didn’t build.
Others mix a variety of essential oils they’ve purchased and pour them into pre-made bottles and apply labels printed by machines.
One business is not better than or more valid than the other because of how much of the end product they actually made with their two hands. Please look for the positives and lessons in this article; and not reasons to discredit the work others are putting out to the world.
Here’s what I think they’re doing really well, based on each step of business; create market, sell:
STEP 1: BEST PRACTICES WHEN CREATING
The create step relates to anything that goes into creating products to sell; designing product lines, production, packaging, etc.
A best practice they’re implementing really well is in this step is:
They do have a lot of listings (over 200 right now) in their Etsy shop, however, the types of products are limited. The bulk of their items fall under:
They offer very few earrings and other accessories.
Everything is metal; either silver, gold, or rose gold. And only a couple of pieces incorporate gemstones.
Every piece has a modern, minimalistic style and can be personalized, which creates their SIGNATURE STYLE; a must for every handmade business.
They add selection and variation by offering different options in their pieces. Another great business practice.
It doesn’t appear, based on their social media timelines, that they launch product lines.
It could be beneficial to launch lines based on gift-giving holidays (e.g. Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, etc.) or even just predominantly showcase products appropriate for the holiday, at the top of their shop, in its own section, or on social media.
For example, leading up to Mother’s Day, a “Mother’s Day” line of jewelry could be created to offer gift ideas. Or, existing products could simply be renamed to suit the occasion (e.g. “Mother’s Day Charm Necklace”).
This could also impact other areas of the business such as marketing (share several Mother’s Day gift ideas on social media in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day) and selling (create a “Mother’s Day Gifts” shop section, or even multiple sections, e.g. “Mother’s Day Gifts $20 and under”, “Mother’s Day gifts $50 and under, and showcase products appropriate for gifting on Mother’s Day at the top of the shop).
STEP 2: BEST PRACTICES WHEN MARKETING
If you have an Etsy shop or a website, you know that traffic and sales don’t just happen once you post products for sale. CaitlynMinimalist isn’t listing products on Etsy and waiting for Etsy to bring them customers; they’re doing their part to attract their own traffic.
To have a successful business, you must spend a lot of time on step 2; marketing.
The marketing step relates to:
- where you get the word out about your business and products (marketing channels)
- how you get the word out on those channels (marketing methods)
Marketing channels would be social media platforms, email, search engines, etc. while marketing methods would be sharing videos on Facebook, sending a weekly newsletter through email, paid ads on search engines, etc.
They have accounts on several social media platforms but put most of their efforts into Instagram.
They currently have 21K people following their Instagram account and they’re doing a great job with their branding.
They’ve kept the modern, minimalistic style going in their Instagram account through:
- Photos – all photos have a similar look and feel
- Descriptions – every post points out the unique way they can personalize a piece
- Hashtags – they use #minimalstyle #minimalistic #dainty etc. in each post
Based on their past Instagram posts, it seems their growth has stemmed from a couple best practices:
- Consistently posting each day
- Regularly running giveaways – to enter, one must follow, like, comment and tag a friend, which would help grow their Instagram account
1. They may benefit from giving more detailed descriptions of how their product may be purchased/gifted/worn and try to evoke emotion in their captions (as explained here: 5 STEPS TO VIRAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS FOR YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS).
For example, instead of captioning photos as: “great gift” or “for any occasion” or “for each loved one”, they may be more specific.
The caption for this Instagram post may change to:
This necklace is perfect to personalize with the names of each of your siblings and give to mom for Mother’s Day so she can prove; there are no favorites.
The caption for this Instagram post may change to:
Dog is a man’s best friend. Keep the memory of your favorite pup close to your heart, wherever you go. It’s the perfect way to shift a mood and put a smile on your face. Each time you adjust the necklace or tuck it under your collar, you’ll feel the imprint of the paw and be reminded of your furry friend.
Or it may point out that it’s the perfect gift to show your sympathy when someone you love has lost their furry companion.
2. Their Instagram posts sharing personalized jewelry using customers’ handwriting, children’s art, custom written messages, etc. on rings, necklaces or bracelets, consistently get more likes and comments. Posting more of these types of products could help them further carve out their niche, give followers more of what they like, and help them expand their reach.
3. They’re doing an amazing job sharing promotional and non-promotional content (not sure of the difference and why it’s crucial to post a mix on social media? Read this post). They may find they receive more engagement on non-promotional posts if they relate them back to their product.
Currently, they share inspirational quotes and home décor shots for non-promotional content, which fit their brand esthetically, but not their brand’s purpose (accessorizing with and gifting minimalistic, personalized jewelry).
Instead of a quote like the one in this Instagram post, they may share:
- Quotes related to loved ones (e.g. staying in touch, keeping memories alive, making them feel special, etc.). For example, post the quote: “Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a Mother”. The image of the quote would add variety to their feed but still connect back to their products. The caption may point out their best selling product commonly purchased as a gift for mom.
- Inspirational messages that would be perfect for stamping onto their bracelets. For example, if the photo reads “It’s a new day”, the caption may read: “I love this message for our Stacking Inspiration Cuff to remind you that every day creates a fresh start.”
Instead of this type of non-promotional Instagram post, they may share a beautiful minimalistic photo of jewelry storage.
Based on search results, it looks like they’ve marketed through product giveaways to influencers (e.g. gifting a product to a blogger in exchange for a feature).
Their products make such great gifts, they may find it helpful to reach out to wedding bloggers or magazines, or try to make it onto “best gifts for _________ (dad, mom, Christmas, etc.)” lists that influential bloggers create.
SEO (search engine optimization)
When it comes to CaitlynMinimalist, it appears people commonly search the following keywords and phrases on Google:
- “Caitlynminimalist handwriting bracelet”
- “Caitlyn minimalist ring”
- “Caitlyn minimalist name necklace”
- “Caitlyn minimalist city ring”
- “Caitlyn minimalist website”
Some of their items do appear on Google in the form of sponsored posts when you search keywords related to their products (e.g. “handwriting necklace”, “caitlynminimalist”, etc.). Etsy does invest in Google Shopping ads on behalf of their sellers, and they also allow sellers to promote their own listings through Google Shopping Ads, so it’s unclear whether Etsy or CaitlynMinimalist paid for the ads.
They also pay to promote their listings so they appear at the top of Etsy’s search results.
They would also organically (not by paying) attract shoppers because their listings appear within the first few spots on both Google and Etsy when you search terms such as:
- “handwriting bracelet”
- “city ring”
This is a result of their clever work to ensure their product listings use the keywords people are searching for. They’ve even created shop sections using those keywords. For example, they have a “Handwriting Bracelet” section, as well as several listings using “handwriting” and “bracelet”.
1. They may consider always featuring their “city ring”, “handwriting bracelet”, and “name necklace” at the top of their shop, since those are most commonly searched.
2. They may also consider having a website, in addition to their Etsy shop, since several people search “Caitlyn minimalist website”. This can be beneficial for improving SEO (i.e. how often and where their brand shows up in Google searches, without the use of paid ads).
Shoppers may be searching for a website, instead of an Etsy shop, for a few reasons:
- They may be looking for more information on the business.
- They may want to quickly contact the business (Etsy requires registration before contacting a seller or buying, which may be too many steps for some. A website usually lists an email address or has a contact form that doesn’t require registration. A website should NOT require registration to buy…in most cases…I share why under step 3 in this article.)
- They may be looking for a newsletter signup form. Which brings me to the next point…
3. I don’t see a newsletter for CaitlynMinimalist, and this would be such a great way to stay in touch with the 200,000+ customers they already have. Gift-giving holidays would be a good time to send promotional emails, sharing personalized gift ideas, or inspiration for purchases (e.g. sharing their favorite way a product was customized for a gift, or their favorite quote or message request).
It only takes 10 minutes to start a newsletter, for free (following the steps here) and here are 5 great ideas for what to send to subscribers to make a sale today.
STEP 3: BEST PRACTICES WHEN SELLING
The sell step refers to where you sell your products (sales channels) and how you sell them (sales methods).
It seems CaitlynMinimalist may have had a website at one time, but now it redirects to their Etsy shop. It also appears they started a shop with Amazon. Based on rough calculations provided by each platform, Etsy seems to be the better sales channel.
As far as I can tell, they only sell online, directly to the consumer. It would be hard to sell their products wholesale to retailers and require a new, non-customizable line of products. Probably not worth the effort.
They could sell at craft shows (using these techniques for selling customized pieces at events) however, I think they’ve made a smart decision to focus completely online. It’s what works for their business model and allows them to gain lots of momentum online, instead of trying to do too many things and getting little momentum on each platform.
They often run flash sales, marking everything down by a certain percent.
This is an effective method, especially with the “sale” features Etsy has. They have a sale countdown showing on each listing, which creates urgency.
You’re also able to add sale details to appear before the product description, which helps catch the buyer’s attention.
They have great product reviews, most mentioning positive aspects of the quality of their product and their customer service. Customers also love how easy it is for them to further customize the already customizable pieces. It sounds like the seller makes it very easy for the buyer to incorporate their ideas.
Most reviewers were very happy with the shipping times but the very few reviews that gave less than 5 stars were usually due to longer shipping times. That’s typically out of the seller’s control but there could be an opportunity to add a “contact us with any shipping questions or issues” in the notes to buyer if that’s the most common inquiry/complaint they receive. They could even offer a discount code to customers who had to wait longer than expected, which may help avoid any negative reviews due to shipping.
Their descriptions are very thorough and you can find everything you need to know. They start with a brief description that explains the benefit (e.g. perfect gift). I also like how they have a “WHY YOU’LL LOVE IT” section on many of their descriptions; it clearly tells buyers what’s in it for them.
If your product descriptions could use some work, check out: PRODUCT DESCRIPTION TEMPLATE, SAMPLE & EXAMPLES.
There may be an opportunity to be more unique with each product description (which helps with SEO), and paint a detailed picture of who the shopper might buy the product for as a gift, offer quote or word ideas customers might customize the necklace, ring, or bracelet with, etc.
For example, instead of “makes the perfect gift” they could describe who the product is typically gifted to.
“The perfect gift for mom when she tells you she doesn’t need anything for Mother’s Day, just to spend it with you. This thoughtful gift will be exactly what she didn’t know she wanted. Grab 2; one for you and one for mom so she feels even more connected to you.”
Many people also comment in the review section that they purchased their item as a gift, so product titles, shop sections, descriptions, tagline, etc. could implement “gift” and other related keywords.
All photos are bright, minimalistic, and modern. They give a clear indication of product size by showing pieces worn on the body, which lets the shopper know exactly what to expect. This helps with getting high ratings and repeat customers (customers are unlikely to buy again if the product is much smaller than they expected).
If your product photos could use a little improving, check out: TOP PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FOR HANDMADE CRAFTS.
As suggested under SEO, it may be beneficial to showcase images of their most popular items (handwritten bracelets & rings, city ring, etc.) at the top of their shop.
Because many of their products make good gifts, there are great opportunities to upsell. Based on the reviews, many customers purchase one item as a gift for mom, best friend, spouse, etc. and a matching one for themselves. Or multiple items for each member of the family.
They may find it beneficial to bundle items together that are commonly purchased in multiples. For example, a listing may be created for two customizable rings, which are commonly purchased by couples. Or 2 necklaces that are commonly purchased by best friends or mother and daughter.
There are some other ideas to make your products more gift-giving worthy, in this article. Also check out:
LESSONS YOU CAN APPLY TO YOUR HANDMADE BUSINESS
Even if you don’t sell jewelry, you can apply each lesson to your business to see a boost in sales:
See if there’s an opportunity to refine your line. CaitlynMinimalist is a great example of how limiting what you offer doesn’t mean you have to limit your creativity or that you’ll have a lack of products to sell.
Make sure you have a signature style and that it applies to ALL of your products. This article will help:
You should also plan your products to ensure each has a purpose. Don’t simply create for the sake of creating. Think about your customers, the time of year, and what they may be looking for when it comes to products like yours’. When you plan product collections, you can also plan product launches, which creates a marketing opportunity. Check out:
Consider if you can run a giveaway to help grow your following and expand your reach. Be sure to follow rules when it comes to contests, giveaways and draws and what you can and cannot do on each social media platform.
Let CaitlynMinimalist also be proof that you don’t need to do it all. Most of their effort goes towards growing their Instagram account, which is likely the main driver of traffic to their Etsy shop.
Try to implement the 5 steps in this article to increase your chances of your social media posts getting high engagement and potentially going viral:
And always, always, always use email marketing. It’s the most effective marketing channel and method. These will help:
- HOW TO START, SEND & GROW A SUCCESSFUL NEWSLETTER (for a start to finish guide)
Make sure each of your listings has a similar look and feel and is on-brand. Product descriptions should share the benefits (as the customer views them; being “handmade” or “one of a kind” isn’t necessarily a benefit to the customer…instead, share how the products help improve their lives). This article may help:
Don’t forget to up-sell and add-on when you can. Check out this article, which shares how you can easily implement a powerful upselling technique:
If the concept of breaking your business into 3 steps (create, market, sell) was helpful, you’ll find more tasks that fall under each section, ways to organize them, and how to create a system for your handmade business in THE SUCCESS PLANNER.
Share in the comments…which best business practices will apply to your business?