Hi! Mei here!
Our Creative Hive VIP Facebook Group has grown tremendously over the last few months. We have an amazing, supportive community and I love seeing people flourish in there!
We get a lot of questions coming in every day and while I would love to answer every one myself, I wouldn't have enough time in the day to do it! As you'll see in my responses below, I give extremely thorough and in-depth feedback.
So here's what I can do instead. I've compiled a list of frequently asked questions below along with my responses to them.
If you're reading this, you've most likely been linked to this post from within the group and your question has been answered here.
As I see more questions coming in that I want to address, I'll pop them back in here so keep checking back!
Question: I've been posting regularly on Facebook, Instagram or other social media and I'm so frustrated because I barely get any views, traffic or sales!
I understand the frustration. You are not alone as this is a very common mistake I see every creative business owner make!
First – understand that in order to get traffic and sales, you need to do outreach.
Posting photos of your products on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest is not outreach.
Outreach is pitching your products to magazines, blogs, TV shows, your local newspaper and social media influencers.
I teach all about this in my free three secrets workshop so sign up to watch that if you want a more in-depth explanation! Here's a quick version:
Social media is a slow burn way to building your handmade, physical product business that will take years to pay off.
Yes, I use social media in both Tiny Hands Jewelry and Creative Hive, but social media did not make or build my business to where it is today… and you can't compare your handmade business with Creative Hive because they are totally different business models!
You need to have followers on your social media in order for them to see your posts! And even so, you have to keep posting engaging content if you want to keep their attention, or the algorithm shows them other pages' posts and yours never see the light of day.
It takes time to build up your following.
So why not take the short cut?
You will find that every single successful online shop out there has done outreach and pitching.
Yet, I know multi-million dollar businesses who don't have a ton of social media followers.
You need to pitch yourself or your products to the media. This way, when you get a feature, you are getting your work in front of an existing audience that you did not have to spend years building, because someone else already took the time and effort.
Not sure how to do this? Read my Ultimate Guide: How to Pitch Magazines and Blogs
Question: Where should I set up my business online? Should I use Etsy or Shopify or…?
This is a two point question.
#1: You have to get clear on your expectations for how much YOU are able and willing to actively promote your shop
Do you want it to be relatively simple and get access to a built in source of traffic but risk the very high chance that your shop will be at the mercy of a greater entity you have absolutely no control over? Then a marketplace platform like Etsy is great for you. (Further reading: The Etsy Argument blog post)
You don't need your handmade products business to be your sole income. You don't need to depend on that to live on, because more likely than not, one day you will make great sales and then the next day you'll hear crickets. I've heard this story over and over again from countless Etsy shop owners.
Besides the fundamentals (like having great photos, product descriptions, etc.) you really only have to be excellent at SEO (search engine optimization) to get your Etsy listings found by potential customers.
You might be wondering, what's a marketplace platform?
A marketplace is like Etsy, Amazon and Ebay where it's one big website that hosts thousands of individual stores. There is a search box where customers can type in what they're looking for, and they are shown products from all the different stores that make or carry that item.
All marketplace sites are leveraged by their search engine. Get good at that, and you're pretty much set!
The alternative is your standalone website. There are many shop-website builders, the most common ones are Shopify, SquareSpace, Wix, BigCartel, BigCommerce, etc.
If you have every intention to make your business be your full time income (that doesn't necessarily mean full time work hours ;) and build a business that is consistent, reliable and that you have total control of over the years, then you absolutely want to start your own standalone website/shop.
What website builder should you use? This video in the Creative Hive VIP Facebook group will answer that question!
#2: Be clear on your expectations of your website/shop builder
At the end of the day, there is no perfect web-shop builder. As you will find out in the video linked above (spoiler alert!), I highly recommend Shopify a hundred times over any other platform and it comes very close to being perfect. It gives you all the tools to make it easy to get traffic and convert that at a high percentage into sales.
But don't confuse a web-shop builder with “built in traffic”. Using Shopify or its many alternatives does not give you traffic or sales.
You have to make that happen.
Whatever platform you choose is irrelevant to that. Your website is just a small little space on the internet and you have to bring people to your space.
It's just like hosting a party. You don't just set up the fancy dinnerware, come up with a menu of tasty foods and decorate your home and then sit around waiting for people to show up (this was how my first self-organized 7 year old birthday party went down hahaha). No! You have to make the effort to invite people to come – tell your friends, talk about it on social media, send out invitations. It works the exact same way.
Question: I closed down my Shopify site because it wasn't making any sales
If something that you know in theory is good but isn't working for you, you should always ask “how can I make it work for me?” instead of removing it from your life completely. Take exercising for example. If you need to get fit or live healthier, you might decide to get a gym membership. But you go a few times and eventually you stop going all together because it's no fun at all. I know, I've been there!
At this point, instead of cancelling your gym membership, try a few new things, like:
- Sign up for a group class
- Try out a 1:1 personal trainer session
- Find an accountability buddy
- Schedule it in your calendar as a repeat event
This is how to problem solve – you figure out the root cause of the problem (why is it so hard to go to the gym?!) get clear on that, and then come up with potential solutions to help. Sweeping the problem under the rug is not a solution!
Going back to your Shopify store. You know it's good for you. But it's merely just a way for you to showcase your work and make it easy for people to buy from you (instead of emailing or phone calling you with orders). You still have to do the work to send traffic to your shop.
If the traffic isn't coming, you have to reevaluate your marketing strategies until you find a way that works for you. I teach many forms of marketing in the A Sale A Day Business System if you need help with this!
Question: I don't want to use Shopify because it's expensive
Have you watched my video in the Creative Hive VIP Facebook group comparing the different Shopify alternatives? Shopify might seem like the most expensive, but you're splitting hairs because the difference isn't really that much in the grand scheme of things.
Yes, a $10/month difference might seem like A LOT to you now, but you need to make decisions for your business that are solving tomorrow's problems. Otherwise, you will never get out from the vicious cycle of forever trying to solve today's problems and that's where most people get stuck for all their lives.
In other words, Shopify is a long term solution your business can grow into. It's what micro teeny tiny businesses and multi-million dollar businesses use because it really is the shop builder to end all shop builders.
You need to start your business with the mentality that you are going to succeed and to do whatever it takes to get there. If you don't think you can do this, then Etsy or Amazon would be a better route for you.
You just need to make one sale every 4-8 weeks to cover the difference in cost to owning a Shopify site.
Using any other shop builder is just going to be shooting yourself in the foot. You're already paying $X for your shop, why not pay just a little bit more if it meant making or breaking your business?
I know this is a different way of thinking and it's uncomfortable. It's unconventional, just like how personal finance advisor and New York Times Besteller author Ramit Sethi advises people that instead of saving money, they should be focusing their energy on making more money.
A Shopify store goes so much further than anything else I've used (and I've done them all from having my own self-hosted site with WordPress, BigCommerce, SquareSpace, Wix, Prestashop and even blogging platforms like Blogger and LiveJournal!) This is from my 12 years of experience selling my jewelry online and managing clients' websites when I was moonlighting as a web designer back in the day.
Question: Can I please have feedback on my shop?
We get asked this A LOT in our Facebook group! Before you ask for a critique though, have you spent the time to learn about how to start your business, or about the specific topic you are looking for help with? There are a ton of free blog posts on the Creative Hive blog, as well as previous conversations/threads in the Facebook group that you can search!
Don't forget to Google your question! It takes a lot of resourcefulness to start and grow your own business, so it's a good habit to start practicing now!
If you are asking about this in our Facebook group, be careful about with the advice you've received. This is such a huge trap that can really trip up a lot of people. While I appreciate every well meaning comment and suggestion, Facebook groups are prone to causing overwhelm and information overload, which often leads to inaction or analysis paralysis. I say this because I've been in dozens of business Facebook groups and I know what it's like! And I get SO many emails from creatives saying they have no idea who to listen to! You are pulled in so many different directions as you get comments from other supportive shop owners (which is a very amazing and lovely thing that we have going in our community!)
Firstly, consider where the advice is coming from – is this a person who has been down the path you want to be on? Do they have a successful shop? Are they making lots of sales? These are just a few qualifiers to ask yourself on the validity of someone's suggestions to you. You wouldn't take cooking advice from someone who's never cooked before or who isn't very good at it, would you?
Secondly, if you are receiving the same piece of advice over and over again from multiple people, then that's a good indication that it's a solid piece of advice for you to follow through on. But if only one or two people say something, then say thank you, keep their notes in the back of your head but don't obsess over the issue! Having clarity in your head and heart is necessary to building a successful business, but it's a very difficult space to get to (and stay in!) because of other people's opinions of what or how they think you should be running your business. Protect that space, while still being open and willing to keep learning, even when you've become successful.
Need more help? Check these out!
Keep coming back to this post as we will update it when we see frequently asked questions in the Facebook group! Thank you for being a part of our amazing community!