December 31, 2009

The Critique Experience

With the new year beginning it seems that now is the time for change.  Ole Ignatts Kitty to the left must be contemplating the past year....

Some of us will change habits we have acquired, some of us will change the way in which we maintain our health and others will change their business tactics. 

I am going to change my business tactics.  The place that I have decided to start is with a good, honest, constructive shop critique.  Etsy offers several ways to obtain shop critiques. 

Team SASSY is available to help any seller and they have seasoned, well experienced members who can help in any area of selling or maintaining an online store that a seller might possibly need.  If you need their expertise you can contact them through this forum post:  Their spokesperson is TheHouseOfMouse.

The Forums have a section dedicated to shop critiques, oddly enough this section is called Critiques... go figure huh?  You can either read thru posts whose titles seem similar to your problem or post to the forum yourself.  I suggest that you sort of skim down the other posts and look through, you can always find something that will make you go hmmmmm... so the effort is worth it.

I chose the one on one approach and signed up for a critique partner from the Virtual Lab.  I have been selected to be in the "hot seat" for one of HeyMichelle's famous critiques and survived it well.  But I still like ongoing input so I put my name in the hat for a critique partner last week.

I am not going to tell you where my problems lie, nor the solutions offered for the problems but I will tell you what you might want to ask for when you need an overhaul critique.  My critique partner was truly helpful and a wonderful observer.

The following are questions that you might ask your critique partner to check on:

Start at the beginning:  Your Introduction page
     The first thing that anyone sees upon entering your store is your Banner - ask how your banner might be improved.

     Check your Introduction Title - that is the first line located just under the left side of your banner. -  Does it contain words that a Google search would pick up?  Does it tell the viewer what you have to offer?

     Your Shop Announcement - ask how it might be improved.  Does it also have key words in the opening portion that Google might pick up?  Is it a welcoming statement?  Does it give a good overview of what you are offering?  If you are having a sale, is that included here?  Is it possibly too long?  Short?  Does it make the buyer want to see more?

     Your Featured Photos - Do you have 3 items featured?  Would something else be better served by being one of your features?  This is your very own  "Mini Showcase"

     Your Shop Arrangement - How does it look in gallery form?  (Let's discuss pictures at a later date but do know that your photos are one of the most important parts of your shop!)  Do the pictures need to be rearranged?

     Your Sections - Does each section title reflect clearly what is in there?  Do the section titles contain words that Google will pick up?  Are there any sections with no contents?

     Your Photos - Someone is always gonna get you on this one so just grit your teeth and listen.  Are they too dark, are they fuzzy, are they interesting, are there 5 different photos for each item?  We all struggle with our photos and even though we think they might be just perfect there just might be a better idea from your critique partner.

     Your Item Descriptions - Does the item title contain descriptive words that Google will catch?  Does the description accurately explain the item?  Does it give enough description?  Including dimensions for the UK/Canada/Austrailia?  (These countries all use different measurement standards than the US... let's draw them in by talking their lingo!) Is the description too long?  Too short?
Here is a link to a forum post that is excellent to refer to when doing your item descriptions:

     Your Item Tags - Yes, the dreaded tags!  Do they accurately describe your item so that every search in the universe can pick you out?  ARE YOU USING ALL 14 TAGS on every item?  Each tag is an opportunity for someone to find you. 

     Your Profile - Do you allow the reader an insight as to who runs the shop?  Do they know why you make your items? Do they know how you create what your offer?  Do they realize that you truly know what you are doing in your shop?  Did you make them want to look further?

     Your Policies - Are you clear about what you will and will not do?  Are you firm but kind in your demeanor?  Can there be exceptions to the policy?  Did you cover custom orders?  Is your shipping policy clear?

Is your head spinning yet?  Yes there are a lot of questions but this is your store and you are proud of what you offer.  Why not be proud of the way in which you offer it?

I humbly suggest that you use this guideline to provide a critique for your critique partner, just remember word it kindly, be respectful, and show some humor - it takes the sting out of being criticized no matter how kindly the words are presented.  When you are the one doing the critique for someone else try to offer a suggestion about what needs improvement it shows that you aren't being harsh but that you are being caring.  When you are recieving a critique don't take the criticizm personally... yes it's your hard work that is being discussed but you are getting a different person's perspective.... it just might be the perspective of the buyers who didn't  buy from you - and now you might know why.

You never know, the one who gives you that critique might just become a great friend!  With all that said...........Have a wonderful new year!!

I would love it if you left a comment or suggestion!

Warmest Regards


December 22, 2009

Merriest Christmas!

Less than a week and Christmas will be here.  With all the last minute hustle and bustle don't forget to stop and just enjoy your surroundings.  I love to just sit and watch the shoppers in the mall.  You see such a wide range of emotion on the faces of fellow shoppers.

My favorite this year was the elderly couple slowly walking along the mall. They must have been in their 90's but were 30 in their hearts.  He carried the packages, such a gentleman, and she ooohed and ahhhed every storefront with childlike glee.  Her eyes just sparkled as she viewed each Christmas display.  She actually clapped her hands together at one window, her husband smiled in happiness to see her glee.

It makes you truly feel the spirit of Christmas when you watch them, the wonder of it all, the happiness and the love that shows with everymovement as they slowly wander along their way holding hands, of course.  They are so tender with one another, the kind of tenderness that obviously was shared for at least 60 years.  The part that brought me to tears was when he secretly guided his beautiful bride to stand just underneath the mistletoe.  He was a stealthy old guy!  He gently led her from window to window, casting a glance up to keep her on track to HIS destination.  When he finally got her standing perfectly beneath the mistletoe, he gently took her face in his hand and gave her such a loving, tender kiss!  Then with his eyes glittering he pointed up and laughed at the surprised gasp she gave and he kissed her again!

I am sure that their Christmas will be well celebrated and remembered because their obvious love for one another was so genuine!  It is worth taking the time to just watch.... you will see the magic of Christmas!

Merry Christmas my friends!

December 09, 2009

What on earth is VLab??

VLab??  What on earth is that?  Actually it is a truly terriffic place to learn about how to improve your Etsy shop.  If you have never been to a Virtual Lab (VLab) you are in for a treat!  It seems nearly overwhelming when you first join the room but sitting back and watching for just a few minutes you get pulled in to the foray with everyone else.

The group within the lab is comprised of a blend of sellers and buyers from the brand new Newbies to the seasoned Etsy seller.  It is moderated via video cam by amazing Etsy Administrators.  Anyone can submit questions to the queue and the Admin moderator (who truly IS expert) shows who is asking the question, what the question is and proceeds to answer.  Meanwhile everyone attending can add to the advice or critique.  This is always, ALWAYS done respectfully and thoroughly. 

Veteran labbers are so willing and helpful pointing out the "how to's" of chatting in the labs, submitting questions, posting URLs that are truly helpful.  If you come away from these labs without learning something..... you weren't even looking at your monitor!

Of course there are fun little things to do in VLab too!  Laughter abounds throughout the entire experience.  Gifts are thrown, hands are waved, applauses everywhere and of course spinning til you are dizzy!  It is truly the most fun way to learn on the internet!

Interested in trying one out?  Log in to your Etsy account and go to Community.  From there click Virtual labs and scroll down and see what labs are available.  The times posted are - for the most part- listed in your time zone.  (If not then it shows the time by Eastern Standard Time). They try to list some labs as late as 10 pm for overseas sellers too.

There are labs for critiques, labs for newbies, labs for shows and galleries, labs to show you how to create little goodies, the list goes on and on.  There is a lab for just about anything your heart desires!  Teams often meet in labs and their meetings are often open to the "public".  It's a great way to check out a team to see if you want to be included in their rosters.

When you find an interesting lab and you are within 30 minutes or so of it's start, click on the room that states the topic you are interested in.  You will be directed into that room.  One hint that will save you from frustration is don't click anything until you can see the seating area and probably listing cards and other avatars.  (If you click before that you get sent out to the little hamster who tells you the room isn't available - the little rat!)  When you see others in the room then you can send the Hello! and be part of the fun! (If you do get sent to the hamster just click the back arrow and try again.)

If you are already logged in to your Etsy account you can just click this url:

There are always others in the room who will guide you in how to ask questions, throw tomatoes or how to do just about anything that can be done in labs.  We are a friendly bunch!

CAUTION!!!!  Attending Vlabs can be habit forming!! 
But ohhhh what a great habit!

See you in the labs!!