Etsy Sellers: Spamming Blogs is a Waste of Your Time

Two and a half years ago (!) I wrote an article on how to improve your Etsy shop. It’s by far the most popular article on my blog, and as of this writing has 256* comments. I’ve noticed a particularly sad trend: Etsy sellers commenting with simply a link to their Etsy shop.

Photo credit freezelight


Comment spam is not at all unique to Etsy sellers, I get 20+ spam comments every day. Most of them are caught by the spam filters. But most of them are also from spambots – automated scripts that seek out popular blog platforms and spray comment spam wherever they can.

But the Etsy spam seems to come from mostly humans, which means that there are people who think that tediously copy-pasting their link onto blogs is the most effective use of their time to market their shop. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and the idea that someone is sinking hours of their life into this is just heartbreaking.

There are a number of reasons why comment linkspam isn’t an effective way to drive traffic to your shop. Frankly, no one is likely to see it. Very few people are going to click a link in a comment, and the chances of converting them into a sale is minimal. The return on the investment of your time just isn’t worth it.

A lot of people are under the mistaken assumption that planting links to their Etsy store all over the web will improve their positioning in search results. This is called Search Engine Optimization. But nearly all modern blog platforms are wise to this practice, and tag outgoing links in comments as “nofollow.” This tag tells search engines that they should not consider the link trusted, and not to give any SEO benefits to it.

I think part of the problem is that a number of sources, including Etsy itself, have promoted blogging as a means of driving marketing. And there are a lot of ways in which this is true. But comment spam isn’t one of them. A lot of marketing is about building a story behind your products. For the hour you spend copy/pasting your shop address all over the internet, you’d be much better off writing a story about your creative process or background and asking relevant blogs if they’d be interested in featuring it.

Comment spam feels “free” because there isn’t a cash investment involved, but ultimately your time is worth something. And for what you’re spending (time) versus what you’re getting back (nothing), comment spam is possibly one of the most expensive things you can do.

* Omg 256 comments! What a great number. That’s 2^8, which any nerd knows is a very important number!


Lased: Miniature Embroidery Hoops

I spent a decent portion of yesterday on the laser, prototyping a tiny embroidery hoop for (duh) tiny embroidery. I’m pretty happy with the results. So much in fact that I’ve decided to start offering tiny embroidery kits along side my tiny dinosaur kits.

The embroidery hoop is made from laser cut acrylic, and the rubber band provides tension to keep everything in place. The whole thing measures 1.5″ across, a standard sewing machine bobbin is show for scale in the picture above. I actually neglected to save the cut file (oops) but it’s pretty simple: two concentric rings (0.2″ wide), with the outside diameter of the smaller ring being 0.05″ smaller than the inside diameter of the larger ring. The large ring has a “nub” on the side for the rubber band, and is split down the middle on that side.

There’s about a 1″ diameter working area. I used 28 count aida fabric, which gave me approximately 28 “pixels” across to work with. Chris helped me design a cupcake chart for counted cross stitch. It uses 7 colors: white, red, light pink, dark pink, pink, grey, and light grey. It’s a nice portable project because it fits in your pocket. I’ve listed a kit for sale on Etsy and may bring a few down to Spring BadaBing in Richmond, VA this weekend.

Here’s the chart for your cross-stitch pleasure:


Rainy Day Crafts

Paper Terrarium
Today is gross and rainy. I’ve spent most of it working, which as you can imagine is tons of fun. While packing up some tiny glass jars for Tinysaurs I decided to take a break and make a tiny display of my own.

I had some tiny 1cm paper cranes left over from when I used to make crane earrings.  I covered the basswood stand in origami paper, and glued two of the cranes to straight pins. The whole thing is about an inch and a half tall.

Now I’m trying to decide what I should do with it. Should I just be happy with my crafty Saturday, or try to make it into a new product for Everything Tiny?


Oh look, jewelry!

Things have been quiet here because I haven’t been doing much hacking; mostly I’ve been shipping things. Hello, busy retail season.

Somehow in all this selling madness I found time to eek out a new line. A line of jewelry, none the less! For those of you who don’t know, I actually got my degree in metalsmithing / jewelrymaking. So in some ways it’s not surprising. Except to the cheep viagra uk people who heard me swear up and down I was done with production jewelry years ago. I think I swore off craft shows around the same time. That might explain why I have 2 scheduled for December.

The pendants are all laser cut acrylic. There are 10 different designs, and they can be theoretically put on any color background although I’ve found there are only a handful of colors which look particularly good. You can find them at Everything Tiny, or on Etsy, or at either of the craft shows I’ll be doing this month:

Squidfire Art Mart – Baltimore, MD on December 12
Brooklyn Lyceum – Brooklyn, NY on December 19th and 20th

Business, Etsy

Your Own Domain + Etsy

I’m slowly purging all references to my Etsy shop from my business cards, ads, etc because I want more control over by branding. Although I don’t have any short term plans to set up my own shopping cart I want to be a little more prepared if I do decide to.

I’ve set up as a redirect to and thought while I was at it I would write up instructions for how other folks can to – and on the super cheap. I’ve seen a bunch of places that charge a monthly or annual fee for domain forwarding. The cost of my setup is about $10/year including domain registration.

Tools You’ll Need

  • A membership with NearlyFreeSpeech.Net. If you know a little bit about what you’re doing you can use this setup on *any* host, but for the sake of simplicity all my examples are on how to do this with NFSN.
  • An FTP or SFTP client. I like to use FileZilla.
  • A text editor. Notepad will work just fine.

If you don’t already own a domain you can buy one through NearlyFreeSpeech.Net. It’s a little less than $9/year for domain registration and unlike GoDaddy they won’t spam you into getting a zillion of their other service. Deposit $10 into your NFSN account, purchase your domain name (it pulls from your account balance), and you’re good to go.

If you already have a domain name there will be a little extra configuration for you, but we’ll get to that later.

Setting up your site

Ok, there is a tiny cost to setting up the forwarding. While NFSN doesn’t charge any monthly fees for sites, they charge for storage (how big your site is) and bandwidth (how many gigabites of files your site sends to other people). Since you’re just forwarding your visitors on to Etsy, both of these will be very very low. Extermely low. But nonetheless you’ll need to make a small deposit into your NFSN account, $1 should be plenty.

Creating your .htaccess file

A .htaccess file is a special file that tells the server how to handle requests for your site. Open up a new file in your text editor and copy/paste the following:

RedirectTemp /

Save the file to your hard drive with the name “.htaccess”, making sure there is no file extension such as .txt.

Upload the File to Your Site

Open up your FTP client and connect to your site (the connection information can be found by logging into NFSN and clicking the ‘sites’ tab and then the name of your site.

When you connect you’ll likely see a number of folders such as “logs” “private” and “public”. Upload your .htaccess file into the public folder. If it has a file extension rename the file so it is just “.htaccess”

Add Your Domain as an Alias

To make your domain work with your site you need to add it as an alias. Go to the site information page and click “Add a New Alias” on the right. Enter the domain you wish to use. I.e. if you want “” to go to your Etsy shop enter “”.

If you purchased your domain name through NFSN you’re done! It may take 24 hours for everything to start working, so be patient if it doesn’t seem to be doing anything right away. You can test to see if your redirect is working by going to, where yoursite is the name of the site you created.

If you purchased your domain elsewhere

You’ll need to add a record to your DNS to get things working. Check your registrar’s documentation for “how to add a DNS record.” Once you’ve figured it out, you’ll want to add what’s called a CNAME record. It will look something like:
shop CNAME

Where “shop” is the subdomain you want to use (i.e. and yoursite is the name of your site at NFSN. The CNAME record may take a few hours to take effect.



6 Common Photo Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

There are some photo mistakes I see over and over and over on Etsy. The good news is they’re easy to fix, and can make a huge difference in your photos.

One thing you do need is a decent camera. I have both a digital SLR (a Canon Rebel XT) and a point and shoot (Canon SD1100, now defunct, try the 1200 which is the updated version of my camera), and to tell you the truth I use the point and shoot for 90% of my product photos because it’s handy and takes fantastic photos. I’m a big fan of Canon cameras, but any camera which will let you turn off the flash and has a macro mode (for smaller items) is perfectly fine.

As a side note, a big thank you to all the sellers who were gracious enough to let me nitpick at their photos for the purpose of this article. Visit their shops when you’re done reading!

Just say no to heavy shadows Dark shadows around your items are no one’s friend. They can make the photograph look cluttered and detract from the item itself, sometimes making it difficult to see properly. Moondogfarm has picked a great background for her necklace, but the shadow behind the pendant makes the photo feel uneven.

The trick to avoiding hard shadow lines is to diffuse the light hitting it. If you’re taking photos inside try shining your lights through a thin sheet of white tissue paper, or bouncing the light off a white card instead of aiming it directly at the object. If you take outdoor photos try to take your photos early in the day or later towards the evening rather than in the afternoon when the sun is directly overhead. A slightly overcast or cloudy day can be a great day to photograph.

Beware the crop

Almost every online marketplace will resize or crop your photos in some way. Make sure you take this into consideration with your photos! This can be especially difficult with larger items.

Bytheway‘s vintage maternity dress features some nice details in the sleeve and collar, but unfortunately Etsy’s center crop means all we see is a navy blue stomach and part of an arm. But as sellers, we don’t have any control over that, so we need to do our own cropping before we upload. By trimming off the bottom of the original photo the crop is pushed up, including the collar and sleeve. You can (and should!) still use the second through fifth images to show the whole item.

headless_dressCropping the image just below the chest changes the aspect ratio of the photo and gives us a much more favorable crop (shown right). Just be careful you don’t cut it too short or you’ll start to lose some of the sides of the photo.

A lot of sellers choose to chop off their model’s heads in photos. Showing your full model (head included) in a photo can be helpful for buyers to get a feel for how the item drapes and falls, and your model’s head buys you some space above the shirt/dress. So when the image is center-cropped you’ll still be able to see the collar and shoulders of the item. Confused? Check out TheVelvetVixen’s photos: here’s the original in the listing, and here’s the cropped version.

Avoid busy backgrounds

KnotOriginal has clearly put some time into her staging, and her photos are interesting and engaging as a result. She has a beautiful scarf on the left, and a mannequin to display it on… but it’s lost in the complicated background. The horizontal lines of the railing and vertical lines of the ships’ masts draw the eye away from the scarf. Busy backgrounds compete with your item for attention. You want people to see your item, not where you took it.

But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to a life of white backgrounds. In fact white backgrounds are best avoided. They can be hard to photograph because they throw off your camera’s metering, and generally aren’t very interesting. Look at the photo on the right (also by KnotOriginal). The leaves in the background add texture without taking away from the item, and the contrasting color help it stand out.

Don’t let your edges show

If your background is a flat surface or plane, such as a table top or floor, take care not to let your edges show. Like a busy background it can detract from the item, drawing the eye away. The example on the left by andtherainfell is pretty mild – just a corner of a the window peeking in – but it’s still best avoided. And I’ve seen some really painful examples of this browsing Etsy.

Try changing your angle or crop to get rid of any unsightly edges. If you don’t have the luxury of a huge surface, or have larger items to photograph, work with your edges instead of against them. Try propping an item up against the wall, or bring other objects to serve as a backdrop and create visual interest. Just don’t let it get too busy. Using a shallow depth of field can also soften changes in your background, like domestikate’s photo on the right.

Unbalanced White Balance

Do your natural light photos have a bluish tint to them? You may want to check your camera’s white balance setting. Most digital cameras have settings for daylight, tungsten (incandescent lights) and fluorescent lighting. Select the option that best fits where you’re taking your photos. If possible, shoot your photos in RAW format, this saves the raw data without assigning a white balance profile to it. Instead you’ll select the appropriate lighting option when you convert the photos on your computer. Check the software which came with your camera or use a program like Photoshop to manipulate RAW files.

color_correctedIf your camera doesn’t support changing the white balance,  you don’t want to mess around with RAW files, or you’ve already taken your photos, you can still tweak the levels a little bit in a photo editor such as Gimp (free) or Photoshop (not so free). On the right we have the same photo, but after using Photoshop’s “auto color” option. Note that “auto color” won’t work well on all photos, particularly ones without a lot of contrast. If you aren’t happy with “auto color,” hit undo and go to Image > Adjustments > Color Balance. Move the top and bottom sliders slightly away from cyan and blue to warm up your image.

Pass up the white background

On the subject of white… sometimes a white background is best avoided all together. White backgrounds can be extremely tricky because they cause your camera to think the scene is lighter than it is, which can result in an underexposed photo. It also accentuates any unevenness or “hot spots” in your lighting. Post-processing with programs like Photoshop make things a little easier, but even then it can be hard to get an image that has natural looking shadows and edges.

Colored backgrounds tend to be much more forgiving. Linen fabric makes a good backdrop, or lightly patterned cotton. Stay away from velvet unless you really know what you’re doing – it’ll look cheap if you don’t. And for heavens sake iron your fabrics before you photograph on them, everyone can tell when you just chucked an item onto the bed to photograph it.

Practice Makes Perfect

Taking good product photos is an iterative process. You just have to do it a lot to get good at it. Reading photography articles is great, but at the end of the day you just have to sit down and try a bunch of different things to see what works for you. Try not to get discouraged, it’ll come slowly but surely.


Send Me Your Awful Photos

edit: thanks everyone who submitted photos, the post is now up here!

I want to write an article on how to improve your photos, but I feel like it would be a little self serving to just throw up pictures of my own work, take better photographs, and tell you how great I am now.

So if you’re an Etsy seller (or any other online marketplace) drop me a comment with a link to your shop, and I will tell you what sucks about your photos, but in a constructive way! Because I’ll tell you how to fix it too. This is my way of appearing philanthropic while actually just telling other people what to do.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Kellbot, your shop photos look incredibly mediocre. Why should we listen to anything you say?” And before pointing out that Roger Ebert hasn’t made any good films lately, I will show you proof that at one point, when I was less lazy, I did in fact take good photos of my work:

Haiku Bracelet

Fred: Closed

Now, I was in art school at the time, so I went for the Official Art School Gradient Effect. I suggest you avoid this in your product photos unless you are in fact selling high end art. Frankly it just looks silly on Amy Butler fabric purses.

So leave a comment with a link to your shop, or email me at if you’re shy. C’mon, send me your bad photos! I promise I won’t be too mean to them.

Business, Crafting, Etsy

The Secret to Selling on Etsy

Every now and then I peek into the Etsy forums to gather information. It’s a good place to crowdsource… tons of people killing time on the internet who LOVE to share their opinion with you.

Invariably I see a thread asking about what the secret is to sell on Etsy, how people get so many sales, how much to relist in a day, etc. And I think I am fully qualified to answer these questions. I have an active Etsy shop, generally selling multiple items per day. I also used to work at Etsy, so I have an inside view of how the whole system works.

It turns out the secret to selling on Etsy is the same as selling anywhere: hard work and good products.

Ok, maybe that’s not the most helpful answer. So allow me to elaborate with a list of tips.

  • Take better photos.
    I don’t care how long you spent on your photos. They’re not good enough. Mine sure as heck aren’t. You need to do more than just snap an accurate picture of the product. You need to sell it. I’ve seen a lot of Etsy sellers complain that they shouldn’t have to be photographers. BS. You’re a salesman, and your photos are the biggest part of your sales pitch. If you aren’t willing to put serious and continuous effort into them then you’re not serious about selling online.
    For some quick tips, check out my article, Common Photo Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
  • Make something people want.
    Do market research. And no, posting a forum thread titled “do you think people want to buy ____” doesn’t count. Browse the sold items. What’s selling? Read blogs related to what you’re making. What are they featuring? Does your stuff fit in with that? Or are you still making stirrup pants? Stop. Stirrup pants hurt us all.
    Look at not just styles but also what people are selling. Where is there a void in the market? Fill it.
  • Make something other people aren’t.
    I hate to break it to you, but if you’re making snap bibs out of Amy Butler fabric you’re already at a disadvantage. Why? Because there are already 100 other people selling them. It’s like putting a Starbucks up on every corner and then wondering why you’re only getting 1/4 of the foot traffic.

    Do an Etsy search for your product. If you make bibs, search “bibs.” How many of the search results are the same as what you make? What makes yours different? It’s going to have to be something. Better photos, better prices, better selection, better construction, different style, whatever. But it’s got to be something or you’ll just be lost with the other 20,000 search results.

  • Build a cohesive line.
    Lets say you make pouches. Rectangular zippy pouches out of pretty fabrics. Great. So now you’re “that girl who makes pouches.” It’s pretty nondescript, and when I search for “pouch” on Etsy I’m going to get a ton of other people’s stuff, which I might like better.

    Pick a common theme and run with it. Make pouches in different shapes. Now you’re “that girl who makes round pouches,” and that already sets you apart from other people. Or maybe all of your fabric features skulls on it. Or flowers. Or math equations. Or your pouches all come with built in flashlights. Whatever. Transform yourself to “that person who makes generic” to “that person who makes specific.” You’ll stick in customers’ minds better, be easier to find, and sell more.

  • Give up.
    The flip side of building a line and putting all this effort into your products is you have to be able to let it go. If it’s not working out, you may just need to move on to something else. Not all of your ideas are going to be million dollar sell outs. That’s OK.

    A few years ago I had a line of jewelry that I liked, my friend liked, it went well together without being boring… and it didn’t sell. Anywhere. And for whatever reason I just kept trying to sell it other places instead of moving on or changing it. Needless to say it didn’t work, and I’ve still got a ton of stock for it lying around on a shelf. If you really want to sell, at some point you have to evaluate what you’re doing and change if it’s not working.

  • Take better photos.
    No really, it’s important. And yours still aren’t good enough.

Those are the big secrets. As far as relisting and other nonsense… I relist whenever things sell out, which is once a day or so. By selling something unique I find that even days later I’m still on the front page of search results

There’s also a lot of chatter about twittering/blogging, and whether those are good at driving sales. Yes and no. If you have something interesting to say, eventually people will read it, and if you’ve got your products showcased next to what you’re saying then it’s free advertising. But starting a blog and just posting when you list a new item isn’t interesting to anyone except you.

But it all comes back to your products. You can blog, twitter, and photograph all you want but it isn’t going to do a damned thing if you’re not selling an interesting product at the right price. So get off the Etsy forums and take a hard look at your products. Then fix them and try again.

Business, Crafting, Etsy

Quit My Day Job

Etsy has this series called Quit Your Day Job where they interview sellers who left the 9-5 world to craft full time. And yesterday they had a live Virtual Labs chat with one of the quitters.

As someone who has left the stable comfort of a regular paycheck  I’m really interested in talking with other people who’ve taken the plunge about the challenges, surprises, etc. Unfortunately the Storque articles are kind of cut-and dry… I think geared towards newer sellers, so they don’t really give me what I’m looking for.

In light of that, here’s my interview. With myself. Because I’m narcissistic like that. Half of these are questions I find interesting, the other half are things everyone seems to ask.

Tinysaur Assembly

What made you decide to go full-time with the crafting?

It was an accident. I quit my day job in November with the intent of finding another after the holidays and was selling Tinysaurs and other crafts to keep myself occupied. They got picked up by BoingBoing and suddenly I was so busy I had to recruit friends to help me pack and ship orders.

This is actually my second attempt to make a living doing craft shows and wholesale. When I got out of college I was selling jewelry at craft shows. My degree is in metalsmithing. For a number of reasons I wasn’t doing that well. When I got an opportunity to take a full-time job in New York I jumped at it, leaving my jewelry business behind. Which is why it’s a little surprising I’m back at it again; I swore up and down I was done with craft shows when I moved up here.

How do you keep up with demand?

Theoretically by being organized and working efficiently. Lets just say that organization is something I’m working on. Right now demand is at a point where I can get away with being a little scatterbrained, but I really need to sit down and work out a system for all this stuff. I do a lot of running back and forth, which is a time waster.

Are you worried about becoming too successful?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m worried. It’s something I keep an eye on, but I think I’m prepared to scale up if things hit the big time. I spent one day where I did nothing but make Tinysaurs, start to finish. I wanted to see how many I could crank out in a day. I use that as my baseline for when I’ll need to hire a part-time assistant to do some of the more menial stuff like folding instructions.

Do you think you’d have to raise your prices if you hired an assistant?

No, when I first set up my prices I made a spreadsheet with the cost of each product broken out. I estimated how much time I spend making each one and built a reasonable hourly rate ($15/hour for NYC) into the price of each Tinysaur. So if I ever have to hire anyone their cost is already built into the price, and in the meantime I’m getting to keep that hourly rate. So right now it’s sort of like I’m being double-paid. It’s nice.

How do you market and promote yourself?

So far it’s all been word-of-mouth and a few careful targets. I send links to blogs periodically and look for places where it would fit in. I mailed a few samples to some smaller magazines. For craft shows I have some samples I give out as promos. Not just business cards, but actual tiny samples of a dinosaur skull. Some products lend themselves better to sampling than others, but I think if you can come up with a good one it’s vastly more valuable than just a business card with your URL.

So if you’re not buying ads all over the place, what’s the secret to your success?

Having a unique and interesting product. Tinysaur himself does 90% of the work for me. If you’re having trouble getting a good groove going with your business, take a step back and look at your product. Do an Etsy search for it… how many of the results are almost identical to what you make? What would make your product stand out from those? Sometimes it can be as simple as taking engaging photographs. Sometimes you just need to move on and come up with a new design. Maybe even take the time to learn a new technique to put you ahead of the curve.

Good products take time to develop, the first thing you decide to make/sell probably won’t be a showstopper. But you get feedback from people, revise, see what the market’s into, and try again. Focusing on your marketing before you develop a good product is like putting fancy wheels on a car with a dud engine. You gotta get the basics down before you can polish.

The other bonus to continually working on your products is that new products bring repeat customers. And repeat customers tell their friends. And everyone lives happily ever after.

How much time per week do you spend on your business?

Most of it, but I try not to let it interfere with my personal life too much. The week before a craft show I probably work 10-12 hours a day, but most of the time I’m Tinysauring it up for a normal 8 hours.  Taking a break, relaxing, and playing video games is important to keep up the will to wake up in the morning and do it all over again. At a day job you usually have a hostile boss, and you’re motivated by wanting to avoid his/her wrath. But self-employed it’s just you. You’ve got to motivate yourself.

Do you have any other sources of income besides your business?

Yes, I have a part-time work-at-home job which I was really lucky to score. It’s flexible enough that it’s not a huge strain on my Tinysaur time, and gives me the peace of mind to have my rent covered no matter what happens to my business. It’s not a huge chunk of money, literally just enough to cover rent, but it’s nice to have one income stream that’s consistent. Even if Tinysaur gets huge I’ll probably keep it, it’s a nice job.

Is there anything you’ve had to sacrifice to start your business?

There are things I’ve given up, and changes in my lifestyle, but I wouldn’t go so far as calling them sacrifices. I don’t buy new clothes on a monthly basis anymore, and I go to the bar a lot less (which is probably a good thing), but those have been pretty easy to adjust to. And in return I get to spend more time with my friends and boyfriend, do my shopping during the week when the stores are quieter, sleep in when I’ve been out too late,  and generally lead a much less stressful life. I still stress out sometimes, because I am a worrier, and there are definitely many times when I’m not sure I can actually do this. But between those moments of self-doubt I’m really happy.

What are your plans for the near future?

Plans? I’m supposed to have plans? Uh..

Seriously though, I do have some tricks up my sleeve. A friend of mine is going to work with me to get Tinysaur in some local stores, so I’m working on getting all my wholesale stuff ready and organized (line sheets, catalogs, etc). So far I have my stuff in a couple places but I’m looking for world domination!

I’m doing a few craft shows this season, but not really making that my main focus. I’ve still kind of sworn them off, I’m just not outgoing enough to really get into enjoying them. And I have some exciting press features coming up, which will hopefully lead to more wholesale,  more press, etc.

Lastly I’m getting ready to launch my own website with it’s own shopping cart so I can have more hands-on control of my brand. It’s a lot of work, but I’m pretty stoked about it all.