Source: Etsy Forums - Click here for original thread.
Written By: TheMidnightOrange

TheMidnightOrange says:
First a small admission. I don't quite have 1k sales yet, but I'm only 3 away and I do have a quiet morning and hazelnut coffee, so it's now or never!

More formally...hello. :) My name is D. Antonia and I'm a sculpture artist. I've been on Etsy about two and a half years and the first year was pretty quiet as I found my niche and narrowed my product. Took a while for me to stumble through and land in the right spot, and now I do everything I can to keep up with the momentum of a busy-for-me handmade shop. I've seen so many great success stories with excellent entrepreneurial advice, and have to chime in and share what I find has been the secret to my sauce.

Let's talk about Alchemy. No wait! Don't roll your eyes! This is not just any Alchemy and certainly not the Alchemy often vented about in the forums. I want to talk about my Alchemy, and more importantly... Your Alchemy. You know, the one in your shop which is launched when people click "Request Custom Item". That is a very special link right there and let me count the ways!

First things first, the reason this has been huge for me is because of exposure. I have no control over landing on Etsy's Front Page and those stars have only aligned once for me (but I am always hopeful!). Gift guides, same song. Do you know what I CAN control? My custom items showing up in the Recent Custom Creations over on Alchemy. Sealed deal, every time. And every time I am there I track my hearts and views, and sales as well. I have an increase in all, have had people blog about me and mention that is where they found me, and I usually get at least one new custom request each time.

The age old question people often write to me and ask: "HOW do you get your items to show up in Alchemy when you finish them?" The thing to have on your radar is that those items are all listed by Sold date. More importantly, the sale date is viewed as the agreement to purchase date, which means that after the buyer accepts the seller's bid and the seller clicks "I Will Make This", the cyber handshake happens and the sale is considered a done deal. Unfortunately for many, that is the very beginning of the creation process and without photos to upload pretty much right away, your item is not going to land in Recent Custom Creations. This is why whenever I do a custom order, once the seller accepts my bid I convo them back right away and thank them for accepting and let them know I will be making it. I DO NOT click that button for the life of me. Until my custom item is complete and my photos are shot and edited, I hold off on clicking "I Will Make This", but I keep open communication with my buyer throughout the duration so they know it is coming along. Once all of the above is ready, I move forward by clicking that button, uploading all of my photos right away, and completing the order. 5-ish minutes later, to the right of the Alchemy page, there is my item hanging out among good company with the other recent customs. And then it is there for as long as it takes to be bumped all the way down, usually about a day. Sometimes a little longer, sometimes a little less. But while it is there, lots of traffic coming my way and I am ready for it.

That being out of the way, how do you actually GET the custom orders if you prefer not to be subjected to public Alchemy? I have lots of advice for this bit. I adore bullets. Mind if I bullet? Or dash here, as the case may be?

- I never list Reserved orders in my shop. If someone asks me about a custom piece, I send them the link from my shop to Request a Custom Item (your link is in your shop under your Feedback). Believe me, I learned this the hard way. How many of us have taken pains to make something with care and then put the reserved item in our shop, only to have it hang looking hopeful while the "buyer" goes ghost? Or maybe your buyer snags it right away. Perfect! But how much exposure will you get from that sale? Maybe some in Pounce, etc, but trust me, you want that item to show in Recent Custom Creations.

- I always refer friends, family, Facebook inquiries, etc back into my Etsy shop to request a custom item. Sometimes they don't have an Etsy account yet. Even better, now they can sign up and they will love it here. When I look at my Etsy Referrals link, I have referred 29 people (lol - try hundreds! But 29 have used my name as a reference when they signed up). Yeah, making them buy from me on Etsy means I have to pay .20 cents plus 3.5%, but for me, that is how I pay for advertising. The advertising? My item floating around all day in the Recent Custom Creations. I do not have ads anywhere on the net that I pay for. I have a pretty robust facebook page, an itty bitty blog that never gets to see me, and I have my Etsy shop. I have also been very grateful for word of mouth, which has been helpful and wonderful in spreading my designs.

- I sometimes see items in the Recent Custom Creations that just show a graphic for a custom listing. I get it, but I don't really recommend this at all. My guess is that very few people click on this because they are more likely to be attracted to an image of an actual product and will be clicking on those instead. My recommendation - if you don't have a picture to list, you might consider using your avatar if it is catchy and then uploading a second image (after all, you get 5 images) and the second image could be your graphic for a reserved listing. Always keep in mind that when you are uploading Alchemy pictures, the FIFTH or LAST image is the one that will show as the main image, so make your final uploaded image the most attracting one.

- If people come into the shop and like an item but want to add anything that will alter the price of the original listing, I always write back and answer their questions and send them the link to submit the custom order if they want to move forward. AKA, for my products specifically, if they want to change the color or a minor tweak they can just purchase my item through check out and put the change in the notes to seller. If they want to change anything more drastic which would alter the price or the piece, I always send them the link to Request a Custom Item.

How do you make sure that they will actually request the item and not just give up to avoid taking the extra steps?
- First, some may not come back - I want to be up front about that. But experience from my first year on Etsy taught me that there are always some that don't come back, and I would rather get this out of the way up front instead of having made their item and listed it as a Reserved piece and have them never show up again. Yuck. Not a fan of that at all over here. Also, if I sense in our convos that someone is very interested and they go wayward for a few days with no custom request coming through after I provide the link, I check back in with them and see if they are still interested or if they need help with the form.
- Make it very easy for them. Don't tell them they can go to your shop under your feedback and choose Request Custom Item. Paste the link to it right into the convo so it is only a click away.
- Make sure your Alchemy is enabled (if it is not, the link is moot) and be sure your announcement tells them what they need, or they might get confused or discouraged. Peek at my Alchemy announcement, bearing in mind that these are my personal policies when taking on custom orders:
Whatever you need to specify that makes it easier for you and easier for them should be in there. For example, I personally collect full payment up front on all customs and me saying it in my link ensures that everyone who comes through means business and is ready to commit.

What if you don't care about your custom items showing on Recent Custom Creations? Well, in my usually humble opinion, I still think it is good to have people submit through your Alchemy because your custom items are all stored here for others to view. AKA, when people click this link, they not only have the opportunity to request a custom item, but they can see all the customs you have done in the past. For me, I have 257 previous custom orders which are diverse pieces all viewable when someone clicks my Request Custom Item link. I find this makes my customers very comfortable seeing how many times others have trusted me to create a custom piece for them, and seeing my custom orders all grouped together like that is rather a specialized portfolio for me.

"What if I don't have 257 previous custom orders?? What if I don't have any viewable in my Request Custom Item link at all?" Well, everyone's gotta start somewhere! See my ideas above and make it happen, Cap'n!

And lastly, advertisement aside, why do I feel very positively about the option for customers to special order a piece through your shop? Because it is one of the many, many reasons why Etsy and the handmade movement is so much more personal than going into a big box store. I once bought a pair of hand painted shoes on Etsy which had a little man and woman sitting on mountain tops. The seller customized for the hair to look like mine and my husband's and suddenly it was "us". How funny and unique it is to see the two of us on the tips of my toes and get to tell that to others when they compliment. There is something very, very special about being able to say "I got to design it with an artist and it was made on special order for me, so there is not another one like it in the world."

Update on my hazelnut coffee... it's cold! I had so much to say that I forgot my java. Off to the microwave, and in the meantime, happy sales to my fellow Etsians. I hope you've found some of this helpful to you and am looking forward to your thoughts and ideas!

With warmth,
D. Antonia
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