Trudy suggested I answer sample questions *waves at Trudy* and use them as proof that the world would be a better place with me advising it. So....whatcha got?
San asks: What would be the 3 most important things to check into before signing up for any online selling venue?
The first thing I would check for is whether or not they would give you a bag of money when you signed up. I' ve done this and the answer, so far is no. Aside from that, three things I've learned as a seller are:
1. Google is your new best friend. Google the site and revel in the many details it's Googly bounty offers up to you. Find out when the site was started and who holds the keys to the kingdom. This is very important if business practices are something you care about.
You want to know who you are going to be associated with because Google is forever. You want to know who the shareholders are, who the backer/s are. All of this information is right there. Don't buy into the shiny sell, look deeper and see if you still want to jump in.
2. Forum, forum, forum. While a sites Forum represents a fraction of it's active members, those are the members that are eager, riled up or just plain chatty. You can determine the general tone of the site, how pleased it's customers are with the function and the service and how business is conducted.
The Forum is by no means THE measure, but it is an important tool to gauge a site's health and general business conduct. Do you see Admin active in the Forums in a way that you feel is positive? Because should you go with a venue, those Admins are the venues representatives. Are they responsive or absent altogether? How many pages is a thread asking for Help before Help arrives?
3. Price point. Venues are different in payment programs, some are monthly, some have a listing fee, some have both a listing and a percentage of sale taken off. Do you have a lot of inventory with high turnover (if so, you rock!) then a monthly pay program might be your best option.
Just starting out? Look at listing fees and commission and make sure that leaves you with enough after sale to feel good about. Make sure there are no hidden fees, renewal fees, etc. Sites that have listing fees also have expiration periods for those listings. How long does a listing stay active before you need to pony up again?
Along with user friendliness and suitability for your product, you want to have the answers to these three questions before you hit that 'Sign me up!' button.
Speaking of site forums....
How would one go about getting answers to their questions when it calls said site into account?
Obviously, you would be bulldozed for it. So, how do you get what you need from a forum such as that? And walk away informed, and intact....lol
You should never be bulldozed or otherwise penalized for expressing your views in regard to your venues actions. Assuming you aren't standing on a mountain with a bull horn yelling 'You suck!!!' I don't recommend that as a form of communication.
If it is something in regard to another seller, transaction or something common sense would dictate discretion, email the support staff first. Then if you get no response, first start looking for another venue because that is unacceptable, and then ask another seller you trust. It is bad form and bad business to discuss a private dealing, period. The momentary satisfaction you get from venting will subside and you'll still be there, looking well, not so hot.
If it is concerning a site function, a promised upgrade or something of that nature you should be able to bring it up for discussion in the Forum. Respect begets respect so before you again, pick up the bullhorn, weigh your initial post and put aside your frustration to think of what is it you want resolved. Then, ask.
Communication on the part of the venue is key. If you feel ignored or intimidated, you may be better served investing elsewhere.
Artful Mosaic Supplies said... What do I need to do to make my shop visually appealing to buyers?
Venues have different ranges of options. So you may have more freedom to personalize one then the other. For example Artfire's Verified membership includes the ability to customize color and layout, add widgets and a banner while others may allow you to upload a template or restrict you to the sites layout.
Regardless of the venue there are some basic do's and don'ts.
Color: If you have the option to load color into your shop layout consider that ideally, your patron will be sitting, transfixed by your goods for hours on end. You want to make that visit appealing but easy on the eye. That hot pink and neon yellow combo may be eye catching, but is it eye friendly?
Color will cast a hue on your goods as the eye travels. Will that black and burgundy banner make your soap, for instance look sophisticated or dreary? Allow your eye to take in the whole page, not just the banner or box and you'll see (ha) what I mean.
Avoid insipid color. All pastel, not so much, throw a bit of contrast in there.
Banner: Get one. Lots of good sellers out there in a wide variety of choices. Forums are a good place for references. You can learn to do it, that's an option. My option was to support another seller and avoid any possible head explosion on this end as it is not as easy as cut and paste. The end marker of my tech ability.
Typos: Don't have any. Unless you are selling pixie dust you may also want to avoid swirly stars, hearts and other My Space page attributes. Show off your product, not how many little hearts you can fit into any given space. Avoid exclamation abuse, soap isn't that exciting!!!!! A sale is! But not this tote bag!!!! Try and keep descriptions short and sweet unless it's a piece with a story. Same with your shop announcement and avoid heaving bosom verbiage at all costs. I beg you.
Photos: You might as well sew this on a pillow. You need good pictures. Again, the forum can be a fantastic place to get help with this. Google is your friend here as well. Don't settle with pictures, people will not assume it 'looks better' in person. Take your pics to suit your product. You don't need your customer wondering why a bar of soap is on a tricycle being driven by a monkey wearing a cowl in a rainstorm. It's distracting. They can't buy if their eyes roll out of their heads.
I could go on, but I'm pretty sure I have a limited space in which to dispense my pearls of wisdom. Those are three good solid basics. Most forums have a Feedback or Critique sections. Wonderful resources with many different perspectives. People love to tell you their opinion, after all, here I am, right?
I want to do an art series on the Wizard of Oz. The tinman, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Lion and Toto. Can I legally do this?
Oh that's an easy one. I would assume that Warner Bros. is still guarding it's property like a mean Momma lioness. Unfortunately, other than suggesting you contact them directly, I can't offer specific copyright advice. I'm not familiar enough with it and I'd hate to see you have to go on the run to Mexico because you hit the big time, sold millions, and Warner want's to 'Just talk to you.'
Artful Mosaic Supplies said... I hear people talking about "branding" their online shops. What does branding mean and is it something I need to do?
Only if you want to be successful. Branding, not to be confused with that which involves a hot iron and a cowboy, is pretty much getting your name 'out there'. Out there being where others will buy things from you. It's a very good place to be.
This is why it's crucial to be sure to pick a store name you can live with. 'Nancy's Hot to Trot' may sound great at the time, but consider it ten years down the road and perhaps with a different product line. A good example of this is a seller who was offered a wholesale order but was asked to omit her shop name because it had a sorta naughty word in it. This is the time to decide who you want to market to and if you are OK with the limitations you may be putting on yourself.
Banner, avatar and business card. Get these professionally done or make sure you have the equipment to make them look as if they were. Again, ten years on. Can you live with it? Use your business avatar everywhere online. Even forums. While your kitty wearing a party hat avi is so very cute, what does it have to do with your business? (Unless you make kitty party hats and that's another discussion for another day.) Forums are great places to incidentally advertise, so represent, my people, represent.
Look into securing your name online and in the real world. Learn about securing your name from your local business support or simply by going online in your district and looking at what that entails. The fees are nominal and who knows, maybe someday you want a brick and mortar store. By then you'll have name recognition, be sure it's one you are legally entitled to use.
I Googled Goat Mountain Arts like a mad woman to insure there were none in existance. Even if a business shows up with your intended name, investigate and make sure they are, in fact, still in business and if they own the name. Please, do all of this before spending time and money on branding items because if the other 'Nancy's Hot to Trot' shows up with a cease and desist and the order to prove it, you are out of luck. That is not where I want you to be.
Good acts. It may seem a little contradictory to exploit a good act, but...donate goods with your brand and a little byline. School auctions, community center fundraisers, it's all free advertising. Do good and make money, who could ask for more?