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National Stationery Week picks from UK Etsy sellers!

National Stationery Week 2017 - 10 handpicked stationery finds from EtsyUK shops

10 handpicked stationery finds in pretty pastels from Etsy UK shops

I've curated a collection of gorg stationery items from EtsyUK shops for National Stationery Week!
As an illustrator, I'm seriously excited about stationery. I don't just use any pencils, I use special pencils. My pencil cases are one of a kind, my pencil pot has a cat face on it. There are so many awesome ideas being imagined by small business owners like the ones I've featured below. Click on the images to view the shop listings:

Are you a stationery addict too? Which is your favourite item? Feel free to pin and share items from this post!

This post contains wee affiliate links so I can keep my tea jar topped up at no extra cost to you. You can read my affiliate policy here.

Etsy attributes for item listings - what are Etsy attributes and how do they affect search relevancy?

What are Etsy Attributes and how do they affect search relevancy?

What are Etsy Attributes?

Etsy has developed 'attributes', an additional listing tool for sellers that will help shoppers find relevant results in search. When listing an item, you can now select extra details such as colours, dimensions, an occasion, and/or a celebration from dropdown menus that are used along with keywords in item tags and titles. Etsy says: "Adding this specific information will make your items more relevant in search results, so buyers can find them more easily."

There are a variety of ways to shop on Etsy. Shoppers can browse the categories, the suggested listings/shops on their home page, utilise the search bar, and/or filter by location, price, or colour in the sidebar. Soon there will also be filters to narrow down searches by way of attributes.

Etsy suggests you "use a combination of item tags and attributes to help show your items in a variety of searches."

How do I add attributes?

When listing an item, simply select as many relevant attributes as possible to maximise your item’s reach in search results.

Etsy attributes - Etsy seo tips - get found in search

Use the 'add attributes' tool in your Listings Manager to edit your listing attributes consecutively without having to open and edit each listing in full. It also keeps track of listings that haven't been edited for attributes yet. See screenshot below:

Etsy attributes tool in shop manager

How will using Etsy's Attributes impact the discovery of my items in search? 

From an Etsy admin discussion post recently: "Think of your attribute as an additional keyword. In the future, the attributes will help you appear in filtered results. But starting March 27, they'll act as keywords in text searches."

If you select an attribute, you don't need that keyword as a listing tag as well. "If you simply use "birthday" as a tag, you can definitely remove it if you have selected the matching attribute. Because exact-phrase matches perform best, I recommend keeping complex phrases like "birthday soap set" should you have them.(Source.) 

In my opinion it's important to add attributes to your listings now to stay ahead of the game in search. Attributes provide extra opportunities for your listings to be found - as every tag helps! Once the attribute filters are ready, even more opportunities will open up - provided that shoppers actually use the filters.

Admin quote from a discussion: "In the future, we will build search filter options based on information provided through attributes. At that time, selecting an attribute option will ensure that your item appears in at least one filtered set of results for that attribute (or filter set)."

If you haven't added attributes when the search filters are live, your listings won't be found when shoppers filter their searches. Your listings will still appear in general text searches as previously.

Will shoppers use the forthcoming attribute filters? The popularity of the filters cannot be known until the feature is launched. When I worked at Etsy a few years ago, many people were using the search term 'uk' when there was a perfectly functional location filter in the sidebar, so I guess the impact of new filters will depend on how obvious they are to shoppers, and how well they work, etc.

Custom variations will also be considered in search. "Each option you offer in your item variations is an individual attribute that will be factored into search in the future. For example, if you offer 5 different necklace lengths, your listing will appear in results for each individual search of those measurements, assuming you have stock for each. However, adding these variations won't create additional listings so the listing will only appear once in results for relevant searches." (Source.)

Some sellers are disappointed by the lack of attribute options relevant to their items. Hopefully this shortfall in options will be remedied in future:
"Over time, we’ll introduce more and more relevant attributes to each item category to help you describe your item and connect it to buyers looking for it." Quote from a recent Etsy admin announcement.

Want more Etsy tips? Grab a cuppa and read my other posts here.

Further reading:
Etsy Help article explaining attributes

Small Business Spotlight Interview: The Kat & Monocle

IN THE SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: KAT FROM THE KAT & MONOCLE - AN INDEPENDENT BUSINESS BASED IN LONDON, PROVIDING HAND DRAWN DESIGN CONCEPTS FOR FASHION, HOME, AND GIFTWARE.

Tell us a bit about yourself

My name’s Kat – (short for Katrina), and I live and work in Hackney, London. I’m originally from North Yorkshire but left in September 2000 to study a Foundation Course in Art and Design, and a degree in Embroidered Textiles. I studied at The Manchester Metropolitan University and have always been interested in drawing. I have a love of pattern and print, and music is right up there on my list of interests too. I enjoy walking and being outdoors, plus I run regularly but can’t say I love it - it definitely makes me feel good after though. 

Katrina from The Kat and Monocle

I like cooking and travelling and one of my biggest interests is providing help in the community. I’m part of a group who provide amenities and conversation for the homeless and I definitely want to get involved in therapy-based artwork in future. My studio space is in Dalston – very close to where I live, and I love having that shared space to separate work from home, whilst working alongside others in the creative field. I have a small but close family, all dotted around the country, and I’m currently living with my boyfriend plus two other lovely housemates and my cat Grace!

Describe your business

‘The Kat & Monocle’, is a small independent business which I set up towards the end of 2012. I came to a point where I wanted a change from working for a company – something I had been doing 5-6 years prior, and gain the opportunity to work in an environment where quality and design come first. Basically I wanted to be as in-depth and creative as possible in my design endeavours.

I create detailed, hand drawings, in pencil, of dogs and cats in gentrified costume, giving them plenty of character and an eccentrically British sense of humour. My subjects are not necessarily just dogs and cats and I’ve created ‘people’ and cityscape illustrations too. The essence of the brand is in the intricate style of my drawing, which is time consuming to produce. Furthermore I add my own patterns into the mix, in order to complement and add to the signature style of my illustrations.

All of my designs are printed ethically in the UK onto various gift-based products such as t-shirts, greetings cards and dinnerware. The principal aim of my business is to provide goods with a conscience that bring cheer and enhancement to peoples’ lives. I always seek to use recycled or environmentally sustainable materials, and take commissions including bespoke wedding invitations, stationery, pet portraits and illustrative prints.

What inspires you?

My Dad is a retired vet and I grew up in a very beautiful part of North Yorkshire, surrounded by pets! This definitely has some bearing on the inspiration of my subjects, as I know how much pets enhance our lives. Perhaps (not consciously), I wish to share this love and belief, and have done so through illustration and design. I also find that a lot of my designs originate from portrait commissions requested by customers so I can certainly say that my customers inspire me too.

My inspiration is also triggered spontaneously by what surrounds me. I love geometric prints and wallpaper design, which influence my patterns heavily. I might find marks or shapes in the environment around me, which influence these patterns too.

I’m a huge fan of doing things the old school way, such as hands-on drawing, collage, and making etc. rather than always relying on digital methods of producing my goods. I’ve always admired independent designer/makers such as Donna Wilson because her products have so much character and are completely unique to her. She definitely hasn’t lost her identity and brand ethos amidst her growing success and I really believe she deserves the credit she has earned today.

Why did you decide to start a business?

I felt the need to branch out on my own and move away from working for a company. I couldn’t find an opportunity to stretch my design work to its full potential because of time constraints, concerns that the design wouldn’t be commercial enough, or costs constraints of putting it into production. I wanted to see how I could get on if I were to set up on my own accord and see how designs under my own direction would work.

Recycling also plays a large role in inspiring my work and I have a borderline obsession with avoiding waste and being resourceful. The textures and colours within my repeat patterns come from an ongoing theme I’ve been working on - looking at different ways in which I can reuse business envelopes.

The business was therefore consciously planned, despite my initial efforts to achieve the above goals through freelancing and/or finding a smaller company that was more in tune with my aspirations. I found that the business built itself off the back of a wallpaper design I created for an American company, which involved various hand-drawn dog breeds scattered over a background of large white spots. There is no doubt this inspired me to come up with the subject matter for my own designs and having tested out these illustrations on some Christmas cards at a market, I realised there was scope for them to sell.

Has the direction of your business changed over time?

The essence of my business, such as the hand drawn style and the use of pattern hasn't really changed. My product offering is continually expanding though, and I offer a lot more bespoke products too. I like the idea of creating products, (such as wedding invitations and groomsmen’s ties/bow ties), on a supply and demand basis and would like to focus on this type of work in future. It is a lot more resourceful materials-wise and involves less hoarding of surplus stock.

My freelance work tends to differ in style to the goods I produce under my brand. I have a regular client who asks me to create their company Christmas cards each year with a cartoon look, and I am happy to deliver what is requested, which varies my business greatly.

What challenges have you faced as a small business owner?

I’ve found there are many challenges as a small business owner.

The challenges differ from person to person - I don’t mind doing the accounts for instance, which is something most creative professionals hate! I do struggle with the marketing though because informing people continually of what I am up to does not come naturally and I find that quite relentless.

It's easy to lose your work-life balance as a small business owner but I strongly believe you should be aware not to. The enthusiasm you have in the early stages is great and it’s good to put a lot of time and energy into your work. The pitfall however, is that if you don’t take a break at good intervals, you risk ‘burning out’ and losing that wonderful enthusiasm you had in the first place.

I find it hard to work on projects that seem never-ending. I like to commit all my attention to one project at a time, give it my full attention, then go on to the next one. As a small business owner you can't really do this, as there are many things to juggle at once, plus your business is ongoing, so things can seem like they’re never ‘finished’.

The best way of coping is to break down all the tasks into ‘mini’ projects and tick them off the list when they’re complete! You also have to be very organised to do these tasks at the right time and in the right order to make optimum use of your time and meet any deadlines you have set for yourself.

What's the most rewarding aspect to running your own business?

Having mentioned the pitfalls above, working for yourself is still a very rewarding experience. There is nothing better than creating something you are passionate about, which others appreciate too. The positive feedback from customers is what keeps me going and it is re-affirming to know that there are people out there who get what I do and want me to make more of it! It’s also very nice to have no one else to answer to, apart from myself of course, plus having the opportunity to direct my business in whichever way I choose can be very liberating.

Another thing I love about having my own business is that I can pick and choose where I work and what kind of environment this is. My studio space, (described above), is to me, far more inspiring than working in an office and I can also work at the times of day I choose, which I love!

What advice would you give to new businesses that are just starting out?

You certainly have to be very self-motivated and passionate about what you do. Without that, it would be hard to find the drive to keep going. You need to really believe in your business’ practice and what it stands for. Being your own boss, as good as it is, can be hard to sustain so it can be easy to lose direction and stray off the beaten track.

Katrina Wight from The Kat and Monocle working on a drawing

Having business mentors and going to regular workshops which offer skills and advice is a good way of keeping on track. You also have to be very organised. I find a good list is what keeps me in check and I tend to make these continually. Also working out your ultimate deadlines and creating a time line to work back from is an excellent way of organising your time. I don’t think I’ve ever used a calendar/diary as much as I have since I started my business!

You need to take a holiday! You are likely to burn out about two or three years later if you don’t. Also if you expect to have plenty of time to allocate to your actual business practice, you will feel disappointed. There are so many other tasks in running a business that will take up your time.

Finally, I think you need a clear, succinct idea of what your business actually does. I feel I’ve stumbled with this at times and still think I could be spreading myself across too many different products. I personally think that the most successful businesses have a very clear purpose, which is unique to them and is something they do very well.

What's next for your business?

I have a few options at this stage. As I’d touched upon before, I think I’d prefer to provide more custom-made products on a one-off or supply and demand basis. I like the idea of reducing waste and that way, I can take orders and work on separate projects, as and when they come in.

I would also like to cater more for weddings or one-off events/projects. I have enjoyed working on the commissions I’ve gained in this area so far, and it’s been exciting having to have a whole project to manage and deliver.

I’ve also been doing a lot of voluntary social work aside from my business, which involves helping the homeless and catering for their needs. I’d like to work more in this way and am considering a qualification in Art Therapy in order to apply my art with a more healing-based purpose. I know how much the arts can aid those who are undergoing difficult periods in their lives, both physically and emotionally, and I feel quite strongly about being a part of this practice.

Please feel free to watch this space as I’m sure any further activities will be posted on my social media feeds. My products will be available at The Hackney Shop with the wonderfully talented members of the London Local Team, from the 2nd to the 14th August!

Website: www.thekatandmonocle.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thekatandmonocle

Twitter page: https://twitter.com/KatandMonocle

Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/the_kat_and_monocle

How to Make the Most of the Slow Season by Optimising Your Etsy Shop and Rethinking Your Products:

Etsy makeover ideas for your shop during the slow season

The spring and summer months can be quite slow for views and sales on Etsy unless you market towards popular seasonal trends such as weddings or festivals, or you have a niche product, or a devoted following!

Don't put your feet up just yet though, there's still plenty of work to do! Then you can bask in your organisational aura while everyone else is running around juggling tasks in November!

Refresh & rethink your shop

  • Editors' Picks are your friend. Not solely beneficial for Etsy shoppers, these gems are a useful resource for merchandising your own products too. Find Editors' Picks sections on the Home page of your Etsy account. Are your products relevant to any of Etsy's merchandising themes? If yes, then make sure you're tagging your listings to suit.

TOP SECRET ETSY SEO TIPS (SHHH!)

  • Here's a super trick I figured out when working with merchandising at Etsy that takes it a step further. On your Etsy home page, pick a category from the Editors' Picks sections, preferably one that is relevant to your own items. For this example, choose 'Summer fashion accessories' as seen on the screenshot below.

This will take you to sub-categories such as the ones below:

If you then click on the 'Printed headwraps' section, you will see a page of printed headwraps as expected. Just above the first row of products (see screenshot below), you will notice that Etsy admin have filtered the listings that show under their category heading with the specific search term 'printed turban'.

See where it says "All categories > “printed turban" in the screenshot above?  This means that any listings with the title/tags 'printed turban' will show under that category list of Editors' Picks.

  • Tagging and titling your own relevant listings with those specific filtered terms brings those items of yours to the top of that search (if your listings & shop are up to par and you double tag/title listings). Do this for all relevant categories for your best chance of showing in Editors' Picks!Etsy promotes their handpicked collections in their other merchandising e.g. newsletters as well, so the top ranking listings in that search would gain even more exposure.

CHECK YOUR LISTINGS

  • Go through your listings with a fine-tooth comb and weed out irrelevant titles, tags, and don't forget the bits about Easter or Mother's Day in your descriptions. For your shop to appear fresh and current, it needs to be well maintained (like a bricks and mortar shop!)
  • Is a fresh photoshoot needed? Either work on your own photographs or consider hiring a professional. The latter can be fantastic value, especially if you sell the same items again and again. I recommend Diana Stainton Photography. You can post items to her to be photographed, and she has already worked with many a maker, along with professionally photographing Etsy events. 

Depending on the type of products you make, mock-up designs like these can look amazing, without even having to pick up a camera! You can digitally add an image into a frame in an already-styled professional photograph.

Example of product mockup for your print design -  by White Hart Design Co.

Example of product mockup for your print design - by White Hart Design Co.

  • Branding can make or break your shop aesthetic. Have you uploaded a cover image? Check that it's not pixellated, stretched, or blurry, and looks professional. It needs to be consistent with your branding across all social media platforms, business cards, etc. If it doesn't look great, it's better to have none at all. The same goes for your About section.
Etsy cover photo branding
  • Is your shop title (the sentence under your shop username) packed with relevant keywords? This is important for SEO and shows up as a title in search engine listings, so make it flow like a sentence, not just a bunch of keywords.
What to write as your Etsy shop title - Etsy shop SEO
  • Same as above for your Shop Announcement. Important keywords in the first sentence, as this will show in search engine results as a shop description ("meta description").
Etsy SEO shop description in Google search results
  • Edit your Shop Section titles with strong keywords. These titles not only help shoppers navigate within your shop, but also boost SEO for search engines.
  • The first 160 characters of your item description contribute towards your product's meta description i.e. text that shows under your listing in search engine results. Use rich keywords in the first paragraph to describe your product. I think you get the idea - strong, relevant keywords all over your shop!
  • Link to your shop from everywhere: social media platforms, word of mouth, email signature, car bumper sticker, business cards, tote bag (nothing like a walking advertisement!)
  • Get all your admin out of the way. Don't leave all your tax return paperwork until January, this can be a busy time for sales - do what you can now, and get all the boring filing down while you're at it! (Then pat yourself on the back and have a nice cuppa.)

 

Refresh and rethink your Products

  • Could your products be adapted to fit a trending theme? If not - could you design something new that would? I'm not talking about jumping on the sloth/pug/beards bandwagon, more of the general themes such as boho chic or gifting for weddings, etc.
  • If your products do not, and will never be relevant to popular summer themes - could you still market them as such? E.g. if you sell zines about gothic architecture, could you photograph someone reading one while draped over a sun lounger by a swimming pool with a cocktail? Would using summer-themed props work for your photos?
  • Are your wares purely aesthetic? If you sell e.g. art prints - perhaps print the artwork onto functional *giftable* products such as notebooks and mugs as well.
  • Think ahead to later in the year and start creating designs and making stock in advance for the Christmas rush. Christmas items are often promoted to long-lead press as early as June or July! It pays to get in early, though don't turn your whole shop into Santa's grotto just yet - move your Christmas items to the bottom/last page of your shop, away from the sunglasses, mojitos and pineapples. Don't tag the tinsel out of them right this minute, just a few carefully considered festive tags should do the trick for now!

What do you do when sales are slow? Share your suggestions in the comments below.