Thursday, October 13, 2016

Piddix Design Roundup 2015-2016

It’s time for my annual review of all the art I made this past year, and it is fascinating to compare it to the last time I did this. Designs below include artwork I created for class, products that have already been made such as calendars and wall art, and new printed collage sheets and digital designs. So fun to see it all in one place.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Brain Surgery Looks Like, Seven Months Later

Left to Right: 1 day after surgery, 1 week, 1 month, 7 months

Last March I went through the most difficult, frightening and painful process I’d ever experienced: a craniotomy to remove a 2.6-cm tumor hiding in the right side of my brain. After surgery I awoke in overwhelming darkness, every part of my body strangled by wires, tubes and compression sleeves. Nurses kept telling me not to touch my stitches. “What stitches?” I had no comprehension of the 54 new stitches that now framed my face, let alone the parade of physicians assistants, doctors, and nurses that came in and out of my room at all hours. I only knew that I was in pain. I had reoccurring hallucinations of iron giants crushing my head with their solid metal boots, or of being trapped in a nighttime car crash, waiting at the bottom of a canyon for help that would never arrive. The pain—paired with a complete and total confusion caused by both the anesthesiology and someone mucking around in my brain—led to a rough time in the hospital.

By day seven I was discharged. I remember being driven home—on a road I must have been on 100 times before—and not recognizing a thing. I had no sense of context. I could see a tree, or a human face, and recognize it as a tree or human, and yet have no understanding that the tree was on the corner of my street, or that the face was a friend I’d known for years. The best way I can describe it is that my brain was like a computer hard drive that had been completely wiped clean and was now slowly trying to rebuild itself.

I’d also developed superpowers (yes, seriously). My eyesight was incredible. I could see the texture of the wallpaper from across the room, and yet had no ability to focus on one thing, which meant I could take everything in all at once with absolute clarity. “Were those photos always up there on the top shelf? Do you see how the light streams in from the window like crystals?” Oh, and the hallucinations continued. This time I had no sense of perspective or sizes, so the door to my room appeared 14 feet wide. It was a trippy, trippy ride, and in the times where I felt well enough to sit and take it all in, I appreciated the amazing wonder that is our world. Weeks later (when I once again needed glasses), the physician’s assistant said I wasn’t the only one to have experienced these odd side effects.

Some day I’d love to write down all the good experiences I had that came along with the bad. There was the incredible support of friends and family, and especially my husband, who was with me every step of the way. About 10 days in I also had an absolute sense of clarity of everything important in life: why we’re here, what’s important, what really matters. I’ll have to save that for another time.

For now though, I’m focusing on my joy of living life seven months later. The recent post-op scan came back thankfully clean (knock on wood). And only now in the past week am I finally feeling well enough to routinely work and make art again (despite the big numb spot on the side of my head). Feeling normal has never felt better, and I am appreciating every moment.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17th: The Ups and Downs of Selling on Etsy

Oh etsy, you're suck a fickle, fickle beast. As soon as I decide "I'm outta here! No more!," I get a rush of sales. And of course the opposite happens as well. When it seems as though etsy sales will finally pick up: crickets. Just check out the stats above. There's three or four decent sales days and a whole lot of nothing.

There's a recent article that talks about Bushnell's law and how it relates to etsy. Basically, etsy will give you just enough sales to keep you around, but not enough for a full-time living. I'm not sure if I agree with that idea exactly, but the article is worth a skim (it's really, really long):

The Huge Etsy ‘Change’ You Probably Don’t Know About - And How to Beat it

There's some gems in there, along with a decent amount of fluffy math and quasi-logic. Its general conclusion is that it's up to us, the shop owners, to bring in our own traffic to etsy. I've heard this over and over from etsy as well. If someone with a handler complains to etsy about their sales and views dropping, they're told it's their own fault not bringing in their own shoppers. But honestly, if we're going to be bringing in our own customers anyway, shouldn't it be to our own sites?

Overall, etsy sales are higher than last month, but down from just about every other January I've had on etsy. Still plodding along at the moment.

Jan 1st-17th
2009: views not tracked, $2099.80 sales (in 17 days)
2015: 6443 views, $279.48 sales
2016: 3928 views, $222.23 sales

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12th: Selling Printed Collage Sheets

I've been selling printed collage sheets wholesale around the world for several years now (for example at Fire Mountain Gems, who are awesome by the way). It's going well, and recently I added the printed sheets to my shopify store. While I initially set it up as an easier way for wholesale customers to purchase the in-stock sheets, retail customers have been finding the site as well, and purchasing ever-more-frequently. With a bit of work and some advertising, retail sheets could definitely replace etsy income. Today was another day where my stand-alone site far outpaced my etsy sales.

Day 43 - January 12th
Etsy Sales $7.88
Etsy Views: 291

Sunday, January 3, 2016

January 3rd: Selling Places Other Than Etsy
It happened again. My ugly, unfinished stand-alone website sold way more than my etsy shop. And on a day where etsy sales were decent, too. Perhaps it's time to actually work on a better digital site, whether on instantcollagesheets or my main shopify store. Who knows, if you click on the instant link above years from now, maybe it won't be so bad?

Day 34 - January 3rd
Etsy sales: $55.62
Etsy views: 264

Saturday, January 2, 2016

January 2nd: Doing What You Love

By Lilla Rogers for Make Art That That Sells.
I watched an interesting video for artists today that suggested to start 2016 with a Venn diagram. In one circle, list your artists passions, what you love to do. In the other, put items that make money. Somewhere in the cross-over is the sweet spot. For me, I realized etsy no longer exists in either circle. I like making art. I like selling it. I especially love getting positive feedback from my customers. What don’t I like? SEO. Search terms. Playing a game where there are no clear rules, and as soon as you’ve figured something out, the rules change.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 31: One Month of Trying to Make a Full-Time Living on Etsy
It’s been a full month of trying to revitalize my etsy shop. So far I’ve:

* listed 13 new collage sheets
* sent out a newsletter
* created several new types of first images (showing images as pendants, longer, more pin-able images, etc.)
* added new tags and titles on 20+ and made over 5-10 new first images

On average, I’ve been spending 1-3 hours per day on etsy. Not much compared to the 10+ hours per day I used to spend, but a decent enough chunk of my time currently that it should be bringing in results.

I’ve also been tracking my views, sales, and search relevancy, along with that of 20 or so of my top competitors. Here’s the stats so far:

December 2015
Total sales: $261.08
Views: 6917

December 2014
(with no new listings, tagging or time spent)
Total sales: $377.08
Views: 9440

Tracking Similar Etsy Shops
In looking at the top 20+ similar etsy shops over the past month, their average net after paypal and etsy fees is $429.61, with numbers ranging from $123.19 to $1728.22 (only one shop is over $1000).

While I won’t say it’s impossible to make a full-time living on etsy with digital collage sheets these days, I’m coming to the conclusion that the amount of time I’d need to put into my shop to even break $1000 would end up paying me about half of minimum wage.

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28th: How Important Are Etsy Categories

If you've shopped or sold on etsy recently, you may have noticed the categories prominently listed on the top of every etsy page: Clothing & Accessories, Jewelry, etc. Clicking on the links brings up further subcategories, and overall it's not too bad of a way to shop on etsy.

For digital collage sheets, however, it's been a disaster. At the exact same time etsy began emphasizing categories, they did away with the category “digital collage sheet.” I recently wrote to etsy and asked what category collage sheets would fit into, and SEVEN days later they got back to me and said, essentially:

"Items go into categories based on materials, how it's made, who made it, or who it’s for."

In other words, there is no longer a category for digital collage sheets.

You can see the full list of categories on etsy here. There's football helmets (7000 of them), train cases (3000 items). Heck, there's an entire category devoted to golf bags (all 294 poorly tagged results). And yet the more than 100,000 items that are tagged "collage sheet" have no home.

A recent article on etsy search and SEO sums it up well: "I'm sure we've all noticed that invasive new drop-down menu that takes over half the screen whenever you mouse across it; these are the new Browse sections and many shoppers use them. If your item doesn't fit in these you got problems."

Well poop.

Day 28 - December 28
Etsy Sales $0
Etsy Views: 239

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18th-21st: Getting Positive Feedback

I love positive feedback. When I listed my first collage sheet eight or so years ago, it sold 20 minutes later and I knew I’d stumbled onto something good. That’s definitely not the case now. Hours spend on etsy yields very little feedback (so far). This morning I woke up to five incredible emails about licensing, printed collage sheets, and major graphic design projects … but not one etsy sale. At this point I’m proceeding on more stubbornness than hope. Perhaps a routine of an hour a day spent on the etsy site can help roust some sales?

Today I received more sales on my stand-alone, instant site than on etsy. To put that in perspective, take a look at the screen shot above. Do you see the categories on the left that just say “Custom Page 1…..Custom Page 2…..Custom Block 1….” Do you see the sign up at the top that says “We’re just getting set up here”? Do you see how UGLY the whole thing is in general? And the “newest” media is from 2009 I think. Basically, I uploaded my sheets to this site years ago and haven’t touched it. And yet, more sales there today than my whole etsy site. Okay, honestly, that wasn’t hard since I had zero sales on etsy. But still….

Dec 18-21st
views: 792 (198/day)
sales: $15.83 ($3.95/day)

December 17: How Much Money Can I Make Selling Printables on Etsy?

I was having my own little pity party on etsy today. I’d listed six new collage sheets and, after 13 hours, had a total of one view. ONE!

So I decided to check out the competition to see if it was just me. You may remember that back on December 2nd I’d gone through Craft Count and picked out about 20 of the top, comparable sellers of digital collage sheets. In an excel spreadsheet I wrote down their total sales up to that point. Now, 15 days later, I checked in to see how they were doing. I recorded total sales, average price, and subtracted estimated etsy fees. Guess what? It’s not just me. Out of 23 stores—the absolute best of the best selling collage sheets on etsy—only one is netting more than $1000 per month (around $1700). The average is just over $400. To put it in context, not one seller is making above the U.S. poverty level from etsy alone. By comparison, my average sales on etsy in 2011 were $3000-$4000/month.

I know that not every category is down on etsy. There’s even other types of printables (invitations, templates for photographers) that are doing quite well.

But my own niche of jewelry-specific digital downloads isn’t looking too great at the moment.

I’m not pulling the rip-cord yet on this experiment of mine. But it’s becoming more obvious that digital collage sheets on etsy alone will not pay the mortgage.

Day 17 - December 17th
Etsy Sales: $8.94
Etsy Views: 230/day
Total Etsy Items: 398
Updated Etsy Items: 12/398
Facebook Likes: 322 (up one)
Instagram Followers: 500

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Dec 16th: Do Sales Cause More Sales on Etsy?
Ha! Remember yesterday when I thought I’d have a sales bump after the piddix newsletter? Nope. $4 all day.

In theory, part of search relevancy is how much an item sells, so after sending out my newsletter yesterday (and thus getting several sales) piddix collage sheets were trending slightly better in search. Normally, I have two sheets in the first 50 pages of “collage sheets,” while for most of yesterday and today I’ve had 4-5. My eventual goal is to have at least one item on every page of that search.

But the small search bump definitely did not bring in more sales. Back to the drawing board.

Day 16 - December 16th
Etsy Sales: $4
Etsy Views: 352 (way up due to newsletter)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 15: Newsletter Time

For a long time, one of the benefits of etsy was that it could bring massive traffic to your shop, much more so than a stand-alone website where no one could find you. Lately, though, I think that situation has reversed: it’s much harder to be found on etsy now with the increased competition, whereas sending customers to your own shop means they not only “stay” in your shop, but there’s also less fees.

When friends of mine have asked their etsy handlers about their drop in sales or search relevancy, they’ve been told it’s their own fault; they need to promote etsy over their own personal sites, which is of course a bunch of malarky.

All that to say I’m of two minds when it comes to how to promote my digital collage sheets, and where to send potential customers. For the moment, I’m all about etsy. So when sending out my newsletter today all the links pointed to my etsy listings (thus a higher than average day sales-wise). And since sales often beget other sales, in theory there should be a snowball effect for the next couple of days. That said, it’s definitely time to re-vamp my personal site as well. Being beholden to a company that can make major changes on a whim is not a great long-term solution.

By the way, here's what my most recent newsletter looked like, in case you're curious.

Day 15 - December 15th
Etsy Sales: $36.78
Etsy Views: 608/day
Total Etsy Items: 392
Updated Etsy Items: 5/392
Facebook Likes: 321
Instagram Followers: 500 (finally!)

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14th: Promoting My Etsy Shop

Back in the saddle again: pinning and promoting the etsy shop. I even listed a new image. It seems to have helped. Views are up, and even had a sale. 

I looked at my promoted listings, though, and the numbers are not good (I spent more than I made so far in December). Definitely something to address.

Day 14 - December 14th
Etsy Sales: $11.15
Etsy Views: 272/day
Total Etsy Items: 392
Updated Etsy Items: 4/392
Facebook Likes: 321 (up one)
Instagram Followers: 498 (down one)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Days 10-13: Etsy vs Craft Shows

Setting up the Crafty Wonderland booth for Deck & Lock Rocks.
Things have been quiet here on the etsy re-vamp front. Instead, we spent the last three days at Crafty Wonderland, selling more in 2 days than I usually do in 7 months on etsy. Talking with another long-time etsy seller there, she said that this year etsy for her was down by 70%, while’s handmade was picking up. It definitely begs the question whether the time spent on etsy is worth it. Are there better (and easier) ways to make money with crafts? Definitely seems like it.

I’ve been with etsy long enough, though, and perhaps I’m just stubborn enough, that it seems fair to give it one last shot.

Over the last four days I’ve averaged $8/day, and that’s without any time spent on etsy or in making any improvements. For the most part, etsy is a fire that needs to be constantly stoked. In other words, ignoring it for 4 days isn’t doing my shop any favors, but I also really can’t complain too much about $30 with no effort.

Days 10-13 - December 10th - 13th

Etsy Sales: Average $7.78/day
Etsy Views: 174/day
Total Etsy Items: 392 (20 expired)
Updated Etsy Items: 3/392
Facebook Likes: 320
Instagram Followers: 499