<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=658263587654409&ev=PageView&noscript=1" /> Why I'm Not on Etsy: How to Market Your Creative or Stationery Biz 6 Other Ways | Blog from Ashlyn Carter | Launch Expert & Copywriter for Creatives


I've been called the OG of copywriters for creatives, wink—I hook up women with words as a launch copywriter & brand strategist. Even while raking in more than 7-figures since I've been at it, I believe working from a place of rest (not hustle) IS possible—and I want the same for you.
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May 2, 2017

Why I’m Not on Etsy: How to Market Your Creative or Stationery Biz 6 Other Ways

Reading time: 5 min.

There are a bazillion blogs you could read up on to leverage Etsy to market your business. I’m sure they’re great, I’m sure they could help.

*Interesting to note I had this planned to run the same week Etsy ousted its CEO & is laying off 8% of its staff … NOT planned, but so interesting to note.


You’re not on those blogs: you’re here–and if this is your question, know it crops up in my inbox weekly.

“I have an Etsy shop, but I still feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants! I feel like my Instagram & Facebook game are nowhere near strong–I’m the first to say that I am a horrible writer. Any tips that could help?”

Sister, I am SO glad you asked.

Jeeves! Bring out the soapbox, I got somethin’ somethin’ to say.

Why I'm not on Etsy: 8 other ways to market your creative, calligraphy, or stationery business. 

Why I’m Not on Etsy

Simply put, I couldn’t control the value proposition of my calligraphy.

I’d studied it for years, done thousands of envelopes, and my most flourish-y copperplate hand, centered and in a custom-mixed gouche ink, took me around 15 minutes per set.

I can’t make $8 an hour for that.

So, on Etsy, my $4 envelope is a commodity sized up against (by an increasingly untrained eye, but that’s a soapbox for another day ????) a $2 envelope.

And in that case, why WOULD they pick my envelope?

No doubt about it: Etsy’s a terribly powerful search engine. Your SEO game can skyrocket if you know what you’re doing, and you do have the opportunity to land in front of more eyes!

But to do that, you need to fill up your shop.

“I strongly recommend a minimum of 50 item/shop to start seeing consistent sales,” Morgan Nield says. “It’s when things really picked up for me a lot of other people I know.”

Simply put, I didn’t have 50 different designs to sell.

Also, you need to stay up on Etsy’s updates, which they publish often in the Etsy Seller Handbook, so you can optimize your shop around those. Tests roll out each holiday season, so just be prepared to change the course on the marketplace.

Again, TOTALLY may work–and clearly does!–for some …

… but didn’t work for me.

Consider Managing Your Brand with Your Own Website

But, taken off Etsy and housed in my own little bootstrapped Squarespace website, I got to communicate–through copy and imagery arranged how I want to arrange it–my own unique value, my story, my face, my Southern accent, my world, and why I’m head-over-heels for copperplate pointed pen calligraphy as a luxurious* addition to a wedding.

And that lead to sales.

*I think we need to remember that high-end paper products, and many Etsy crafts, are a luxury. It’s okay to be high-end. It’s okay to realize you probably couldn’t afford to pay $5.50 a set of envelopes if you got married again — I know I couldn’t. But there are 2,077,000  weddings a year according to The Knot, and no calligrapher can handle even just the high-end portion of those, so I can CERTAINLY go after the tiny number of clients I take on each year.

My marketing strategy becomes then to channel or funnel anyone interested to my little DIY’d website, and let them see for themselves if they like my message.

6 Ways to Market Your Creative Business Instead

Calligraphy or art in general can be tough to market: as mentioned, it’s a luxury (you can certainly have a wedding without it!) and you should be commanding a price worth the time you’ve put into studying.

One of my FAVORITE voices on this argument as an artist is Jessi Reesman of Design House of Moira. Catch her YouTube channel or dive into her Design House Prep School course’s pricing module … she’ll set you straight on this.

Before you dive into these tips, I think it’s really important to zero in on WHO you want to attract: are you looking for the brides who will pay $4.50/set of wedding invitation addresses? Or, is your style more informal and democratic, and you want to churn out calligraphy prints for $20 a pop?

Are you trying to sell art at $325 a canvas, or are you selling $25 hostess gift size pieces? Decide the who each piece is going after (something we talk about in my Copywriting for Creatives course when it comes to your services page). (Click to read a post I wrote about HOW to write to those clients on your website.

Feelin’ good about your target? K. Here are X marketing steps you could try, and I tried to write down out-of-the-box, non-social media ones that I acutally used in my first year of business.

1. 1-to-1 grassroots:

Go to your local Rising Tide Society meetup, a calligraphy guild meeting, or small Chamber of Commerce meeting (bet you’ll be the only artist there). Make connections. I can’t tell you how many orders I’ve gotten as a result of getting to know wedding stationers and planners in Atlanta.

The key is serving those relationships well: be an active encourager in the Facebook group, drop ’em an email just to say hi sometimes, and remembering names. Aim to be “the calligrapher” or “the invitation printer” or “the abstract painter” for 5-10 people.

2. Drop off sample kits

If you’re a hand-letterer or calligrapher, make a batch of envelopes, attach your business card, and drop off a set at your local wedding stationer or invitation shops. I did this around Paper Sources and the like in ATL, and definitely got business from that. Bring a bottle of champagne and some envelopes to wedding planners. Go to wedding dress shops.

3. Host a giveaway. 

But DO NOT DRIVE FOR MORE INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS … drive to build your email list. That’s where your money’s made.

4. Don’t wait for a styled shoot to come to you or be orchestrated.

Do it yourself if you’re a stationer. Make up names, create a suite, and pay a pro photographer to shoot it.

5. Did I say start your email list yet? 😉

6. Teach.

Seriously! As long as you’re sure you’re talented and comfortable instructing, teach a workshop for free a few times. Definitely study how to teach first, and truly, truly make sure you’re “good” enough to teach, but if you’re just not teaching because you’re shy, I’d definitely say it’s worth getting outside of your box. I can be shy, too, but I was asked to do a demo on our local CBS station one time, and it got posted to Facebook … which means I got tagged, and people all of a sudden saw me as “the calligrapher.”

Of course, all of these need–and your social media accounts you’re marketing on–need to come back to …

7. Create content.

Similarly, create good content. Blog regularly, blog your process, blog your work.

8. Have smart copy on your website.

Does this sound familiar?

You’ve got a full-time job and you’re itching to dive into small business ownership, or you’ve got kiddos running around and are short on time.

A website READY for visitors with strong copy is how I built my calligraphy & writing business. Why? Because I’m in the driver’s seat when it comes to the psychology of the website.

And psychology is the magic bullet of conversion optimization.

That is, in a nutshell, why I didn’t ever really get past just dabbling in Etsy. I hope this helped you out!

Are you an Etsy-seller, or do you find more ability to control your prices on your own website?


You may also be interested in …

Freshly sharpened pencil bouquet ready, I'm here to make sure your words sell. I help women like you steward your story well, so you can work from a place of rest—not hustle.

free mentoring? yes, please

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  1. Madeline Kelly

    September 30th, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Hey Ashlyn,

    I love your blog – so many super helpful things on here for an aspiring calligrapher like me. I started researching starting a small business (taxes, registration forms, and so much more!) about 3 weeks ago. It’s been a really fun experience and I can’t wait til I have my first customer. When did you start your company? What were the first months/year like for you?

  2. Ashlyn Carter

    September 30th, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Hey, Madeline! Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m excited for you and what’s coming! I had been working PR for a decade and doing calligraphy at night for about 4 years, but just bought my LLC and went full time in February. It’s been the best roller coaster ride of them all: I highly recommend it!

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