Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Difference Between Customer Service and Mail Fraud ~ Important Tips from Leal

Many of us who sell on Etsy have had this experience, and I think it's something that should be addressed so that those that are new to the world of Etsy and selling have a reference.

When you sell Internationally, as many of us do, you occasionally run across the odd customer who wants you to help them circumvent their customs fees by marking "gift" on the customs forms or by claiming the item's value as less than the purchaser's paid price.

This seems harmless, and because most of us are focused on providing exemplary customer service, you might even feel tempted to agree to this request.  But, you might want to re-consider this decision because, contrary to your first instinct, this is not good customer service.

It's mail fraud.

Mail fraud of this type may seem harmless, but it's a felony. It carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to $250,000.

Are you willing to go to federal prison for a sale?

One way to ensure your customers are aware you're not willing to participate in this is to add a note into your shop policies under your Shipping information.  If you've had a request or two like this, or are concerned about getting these kind of requests, I encourage you to do this.

Here is an example from our shop - "INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING shipping is available at reasonable rates that are listed at the bottom of each item description. Please note that we are not responsible for any VAT/Customs fees that may be related to to your order nor will we help you in illegally circumventing these fees if they are applicable to you. Falsifying customs declarations or having an item marked as "gift" in order to avoid customs fees is classified as Mail Fraud and is a felony."

Although good customer service is everything in any type of business, please remember that stepping over the line from good customer service into fraud or illegal action is often a line that the unscrupulous can try to blur.

Be careful out there!

- Leal

This article was written by Leal Kim, a 21 year old full time college student and artisan that makes handcrafted jewelry and accessories. Coconspirator of Bits n' Beads by Gilliauna on Etsy ( ) and proud member of the Queer Etsy Street Team ( ).

Monday, February 15, 2010

Google Analytics For Your Etsy Shop by Leal

Google Analytics, if you haven't heard of it, is an excellent tool whenever you have a website or blog that you're trying to grow a following on.  It provides a great deal of information about your visitors including what times of day are your busiest times, how people come to find your site and much more. It's well worth the time it takes to install it on your site and learn the ropes of using this terrific, free service provided by Google.

For many, installing this tool on your site is confusing.  Especially so when you're working with a site that has it's own templates like Blogger/Blogspot.

I hope this will help you understand the process.  Once you have it down, you can then adapt the process to get "GA" (Google Analytics) installed on nearly any online page or site you have.

  • First, if you don't have an account, now's the time to sign up for one. You can do that here... 
  • From there, look on the right hand side. There should be a link that says " + Add New Profile " Click it. The page that comes up will be titled "Create New Website Profile"
  • On that page select "Add a Profile for a new domain" Then, put your blog's address in the box where it asks "Please provide the URL of the site you would like to track." ( example: Ours is )
  • Click "Finish"
  • The next page that comes up is titled "Tracking Code". Scroll down and under "What are you tracking?" Select... A single domain (default)
  • To the right of that, there's a window with some code in it. Copy this code and then open your blog in a separate window. Make sure you're logged into your blog if you aren't already.
  • Go to your blog's dashboard (there should be a link at the top of the page that takes you there). From the dashboard, choose the link named "layout".  

  • In the "Page Elements" tab, choose "add a gadget".
  • In the pop-up window that comes up, click the + button on the gadget entitled "HTML/JavaScript". It will open a box that asks for a title and content. Leave the title blank. Paste the code from Google Analytics into the "content" box then click Save.
  • Go back to the Google Analytics page you got the code from and click the "Save" button at the bottom.

It will take approx 24 hours (possibly 48 if they're bogged down) for the GA to start reading your site. Once it does, when you open your GA account, your blog will be listed and it will have a green checkmark under "status".

From there, you can click on "View Profile" to explore your site's statistics to your heart's content.

This article was written by Leal Kim, a 21 year old full time college student and artisan that makes handcrafted jewelry and accessories.  Coconspirator of Bits n' Beads by Gilliauna on Etsy ( ) and proud member of the Queer Etsy Street Team ( ).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Organizing A Giveaway

I have to say organizing a giveaway is one of my favorite things to do! The excitement of running a giveaway can be contagious!

If you are new to giveaways here are a few basic tips to get the wheels turning.....

First, what kind of giveaway do you want to have? Will it be through your blog, your Myspace, Facebook, or Twitter? There are so many ways to do it! Although it is not imperative that you use social media, these are by far the easiest and the most successful platforms. If people are following and interacting with you already, they will surely want to be a part of your giveaway!

Choose an item (or two!) you think many people would enjoy receiving and spend time on creating quality photos of it.

Some ideas if you want to work through your blog:
  • Your blog is great place to make your official announcement, reveal your start/end date and explain the rules to participate.
  • You will need to decide how they will participate. One suggestion would be to have them follow your blog to enter, or leave a comment on the post. A really fun interactive way to do it is to have a theme. For example, say you are having a Valentines Day giveaway. Have participants tell you how they fell in love with their significant other in their comment to enter. This way your followers get involved and enjoy being part of the process!
  • Don't forget to post numerous lovely photos of the giveaway item and explain what makes it so special!  If you can make more than one of the same item, post one for sale in your shop as well, and offer a discount during the giveaway period.
  • Don't have a blog of your own? Head to the forums and search for a blog looking to sponsor a giveaway. They sponsor it, promote it etc. and you are responsible for mailing the item. You can even post a thread in forum saying you are looking for a blog that will do this. It is great promotion for both parties!
Some ideas if you want to do a giveaway on twitter:
  • If you use twitter you have less space to explain the rules, so don't make too many!
  • One way to do it would be asking your followers to retweet a given text to win. For example, "Win this http://link_to_item, 500 to RT wins!"
  • You need to be careful and specify one RT per hour or other limitation. It is also some work to count them up in the end!
Some ideas if you want to do a giveaway on your facebook page:
  •  You can ask your fans to post something on your wall to enter. Their favorite item from your shop, their favorite color, a story, just about anything. There is room to get quite creative!
  • Another idea that works well is simply tell all of your facebook (or blog) followers that they are automatically entered if they are following you. It is a great way to show your appreciation for their support and no one has to do a thing! 
Other tips:
  • To be fair, use a random number generator to choose your winner or have a friend/family member pick the winners name from a hat.
  •  Remind participants to leave a way for you to contact them if they win.
  • Once you have winner, contact and congratulate them and don't forget to ask for their mailing address. Assure them their info will not be used for any other purpose.
  • Have a deadline for them to respond if they do win.
  • Include a discount code with the giveaway item. They may want to share with friends or be encouraged to visit your shop and make a purchase!

With so many options, it is really up to you to find the best strategy for your giveaway. It all depends on what you feel is beneficial for your shop and your customers. Do you do it for the love of it and enjoy interaction with your fans and followers? Do you want to boost your twitter and blog following? Need more facebook fans? Just get excited at giving stuff away? It is all up to you!

Once you have it all figured out, promote it! Get into the forums, blog about it, tweet about it, post in on your fanpage, tell your friends or mention it in your newsletter/mailing list if you have one.

Have fun and enjoy the ride! You will be surprised at how excited your fans will get when they have chance at winning a free item from your shop!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Screen Shots! - Quick Tutorial

Even wonder how some sellers make a screen shot of their awesome treasuries? Or a section of a blog that they have been featured on?

Wonder no more!

On a Mac:
  • If you want to capture your entire screen- hold the command key (little apple) + shift + 3. It will be automatically saved to your desktop.
  • If you want to capture a portion of your screen- hold the command key + shift + 4. A little icon that looks like a target will appear. Click and drag the area you want a snapshot of.  In both cases, the snapshot will appear on your desktop as a png file.

On a PC:

  • Use the [PrtScn] button on your keyboard then open an editing program and paste it in! 
  • Use the crop tool to select the portion that you want.

That's it!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Q&A with Valorie - Tax Basics For Your Shop!

Valorie, our resident tax specialist here on the blog, has offered some more great answers to very common questions sellers may have about filing with the IRS........just breathe and read further.

     Q.   I just started selling in June and didn't make $400.  Do I need to file?

  1. Ok, this one I researched because I really wanted to see the answer.  I have seen other websites and advice, forums etc mentioning a $600 filing requirement.  There is no minimum requirement if you own a business.  I think they confuse the magic number there with the 1099 issuing requirements (that’s a whole other ball of wax.  Just because you don’t receive a 1099, it does not mean you don’t have to declare the money.)

    According to IRS Publication 334, Chapter 5, “You must report on your tax return all income you receive from your business unless it is excluded by law. In most cases, your business income will be in the form of cash, checks, and credit card charges. But business income can be in other forms, such as property or services.” 

    I researched the databases I had access to and found no answer so I am assuming that you must indeed report all of it, even if it is just a little bit.  However, by claiming the income, you also get to claim any expenses you had.  If your expenses were more, then your business loss would be deductible from your income so it isn’t a bad thing!  Just remember that your business needs to make a profit at least three out of the last five years or the IRS can rule it a hobby (this limits your expense deductions dramatically.)
Q. What else do I need to run my shop legally? I don't need and EIN- no employees, yes?

A.  If you don’t have employees, you don’t need an EIN.  You can get one easily online if you choose to.   Some prefer to put an EIN on documents versus your social security number.  Realistically, unless you have an LLC, Corporation or Partnership, your business return is filed with your personal one so it doesn’t matter if your SSN is used.

Q.  If/when I file? Do I file under self-employed? Or is there another way I should be doing this?  What next?!   

A.     Your sole proprietorship tax return (Schedule C or C-EZ) is due the same time your personal tax return is due:  April 15.   Your business return is part of your personal return and it all goes together to the IRS.  Most Etsy jewelry makers will have to file the C because the C-EZ is not for use by those who have inventories, business losses, expenses over $5000, or business use of home deductions.

Q.  Do I need to register? Get a license or is that only state?

A. You do not need to register with the government as a business for federal tax purposes unless you are an entity other than a simple sole proprietorship (corporations, etc.).  You can register with your state Department of Revenue to file and pay sales taxes (all of which can be done online).  You can also obtain an occupational license if your city requires one.  Seriously, they are usually under $20 and worth it to just go get one for peace of mind.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is just to advise you that you should think about it before you act.  Your best course of action is always to consult your tax advisor or accountant.  I really hope this helps!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Waiting for Your Next Sale? Don't!

It is a helpless feeling.....putting all your love into creating and posting your items, only to find slow traffic to your shop, low views and no sales. But don't pout! Turn a negative into a positive!

Now is the time to get creative and revamp your shop!

  • Have photos that don't seem to fit? Blurry? Dark? Now is the time to retake and experiment with new backgrounds and lighting! Even just adjusting them a little more in photo editing software can give it that something extra to encourage more views.
  • Maybe your photos aren't so hot to begin with? This does take a lot of time and practice, but with so many blogs dedicated to offering photo tips (including this one!), you can't go wrong! Try researching more in the forums on how to improve them. The better your photos, the more views you are likely to have. 
  • Keep your shop looking fresh by arranging it every so often and featuring different items.
  • If you have an item that seems to get low views, try switching the photo with another one in your set of five. This can sometimes work magic!
  • Head to the forums for some critiques. Etsians are kind and will really help you! 
  • Why not try expanding on your descriptions? What makes the item special? Have you described the color, texture, size sufficiently? Who could use the item? Is there a story behind why you created it?
  • What about rechecking the spelling of your listings and shop announcement? Typos make your shop look less professional and are so easy to fix!
  • Are your policies clear? Maybe there is something else you would like to add to help your customer understand the checkout process? 
  • Always keep your shop announcement current. There is nothing worse than a sale announcement for last month there!
Avatars and Banners
  •  Try changing your avatar every so often. Choose your best photos of items that really stand out. You never know when a seller in the forums will get tempted to click!
  • What does your banner say about your shop? Are you using crisp photos and clear text? There is a great article on how to create your own banner on Etsy.  But if you don't have the time or the graphic design skills, don't worry. There are shops that sell branding packages with banners, avatars, and business cards rolled into one! Just do a search on Etsy!
Free Exposure
  • Search the forums for blogs looking to feature shops.
  • Have a Blog? Host a giveaway! Tweet about it, tell your friends, post a promo thread in the forums!
  • And I am sure you know all about social networking on Facebook. Myspace, and Twitter!
But most importantly......keep crafting! Keep adding new items to your shop and enjoying what you love to do!!

*What do you do while you wait for your next sale?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sold! Now What? - A Quick Walkthrough of an Etsy Sale

Your first sale on Etsy can be downright thrilling! It can also be bewildering...... Now that you have made your very first sale. What next?

Hopefully you have purchased on Etsy before. Knowing the process can be extremely useful to you as a seller so if you haven't yet, get going!

This is just a little post with very basic step by step guidelines on the selling process and is by no means definitive. Every seller has their own unique style when working with customers, shipping items etc. This article will hopefully give you a very basic place to start. Seasoned sellers- I hope you will chime in on your process too!

  • How do I know I even made a sale? 

Oddly enough, there is no "you made a sale!" announcement when you are signed into Etsy. (You will notice, however, when you log in after you made a sale, you will be asked for feedback.) The main indicator that you have made a sale will be an email from Etsy and an email from Paypal. Etsy tells you that you have an order and paypal notifies you of your payment from that order.

After you do your happy dance:

  • Contact Your Buyer
To me, this is the most important step of the process. Many sellers do not, but I think is a great thing to do and it only takes a moment! First, you are letting the buyer know that you have received their order. Second, by addressing them personally, you are showing them that their support of your shop (and of handmade) is appreciated!

When signed into Etsy,  head to "Your Etsy" and scroll down to "Sold(Orders)" on the left. Find the purchase and click on "View Receipt". Bask in your glory for the moment, then click on the buyer's profile and click contact if you would like to convo them on Etsy. Keep it brief. Thank them for their purchase and let them know when/how it will ship. If you want to email them directly, you can get that info from your Etsy receipt in your email inbox.

  •  Print a receipt
Next, go to the printer friendly version of the receipt and print one to include when you ship the item. You may also print a receipt through paypal as well. (If you wish to print a receipt through paypal, you will need to sign into your paypal account first and click details there.)
  • Ship it!
Pack your item carefully for shipping, double check the shipping address to see if paypal and Etsy match, and get yourself to the P.O.! (If the shipping addresses don't match, it is always a good idea to contact the buyer for clarification).
  • Feedback
Immediately after your sale you can leave feedback for the buyer. Some sellers leave feedback right away with a thank you etc.. Others will wait until they are assured the customer receives the item and is satisfied. It is entirely up to you when you leave feedback.

So that's it in a tiny nutshell! Happy sales!!