A few questions to ponder PRIOR to opening a shop online… a very good post.

Recently, Artfire announced it was changing it’s business model somewhat and discontinuing the free basic shops. I’ll not go into the details here, but you can read all about it in this post:

Basic Accounts: Start your Pro free trial before 8/15

As is the usual at Artfire, after making the announcement, the Admin team created a post for comments in the seller forum (UNLIKE some other sites I’ve frequented, which may create a post, but quickly closes it down and censures any negative opinions. )

As you might imagine, there was quite a bit of teeth gnashing. (Wait, didn’t I use the teeth gnashing term previously with an Artfire change?  Yep. Sure did. Welcome to open forums. LOL) The thread generated more than 200 pages, a great deal of it from outraged basic sellers that had been getting AF services for free, and now, to stay, they’d have to evaluate their shops and decide whether or not to pay to be Pro. And this simply classic post from an experienced vintage seller named “The Lives of Maggie the Cat”  I thought it was so good, I’m sharing with you. :-) It’s long, but VERY much worth the read.

Maggie the Cat said:

This is my experience with basic and pro shops here.

I joined as basic a year ago. I did nothing with the shop. Didn’t list anything just looked around debating whether I wanted to risk $15 (I think that’s what it was then) a month to be pro. I know from experience that it takes time to get shops set up and the links out there so you can make money. I emailed a few sellers both basic and pro and asked for their off the record input. Some didn’t respond but the pro sellers who did believed they were on to a good thing. None were satisfied with sales but all were making a profit.

Then while I was still debating the basic/pro or go decision, the $5.95 a month lifetime fee was announced. I decided I could gamble $72 for a year to get up and going, and a year is the time frame I allow myself to see results on a site. So I signed up and began listing items, automatically turning pro when admin pushed the start button. It took 2 months for me to have my first sale. That was Thanksgiving weekend 2010. By the end of January I had made enough to cover my fees for the next few years. Sales have ebbed since then but I still make a good profit each month with just a handful of sales.

Granted some of you are selling bits and bobs for very little money and it takes a lot more sales to cover a $10 fee, but I encourage those of you who are sincerely working at selling on AF to look at your items and decide:

1. Is it truly something someone would buy or should it be put out in the .25 box at a yard sale.

2. If it is something someone would want, are you asking a fair price for it? Some of you are asking true artisan prices for jewelry that is nothing more than cheap strung beads. Others evidently don’t have confidence in their creativity and are practically giving away items that are worth many times the asking prices. Buyers can’t pick up your items and examine them so if they see a pretty item at a bargain price they will assume it is made of cheap stuff and pass on it.

3. Do you have a key-word crammed title? Are your descriptions filled with information as to size, material, and a little bit of a buying hook to make people want it?

4. Have you put the best photo possible in your #1 spot and added additional photos of details, backs, etc.?

5. Is your shipping realistic or are you guessing or blatently overcharging a la eBay sellers trying to avoid fvfs?

6. If you are a vintage seller do you truly know the details and value of your items? The other day I clicked on an item and found it listed as from the 1970s and I know without doubt that it was more than 100 years old. I really don’t like the provenance box because it causes people who don’t know to make up stuff to fill in the boxes but this thread is not about that. People use the words gold and silver when they mean gold tone or silver tone, fail to mention what the vintage dress is made of, if the pattern is used or uncut.

You can’t blame AF for not doing their part when you haven’t given them anything to work with.

Here are my suggestions for basic sellers who feel betrayed and angry at AF:

1. If you opened a store and put a couple things in it to see if they would sell…Leave. With that kind of attitude you will not succeed anywhere.

2. If you created a slap-up kind of store with the kind of problems I outined above, fix it this month, ask for your trial month in August. Start checking in daily so your items get good exposure on AF. List a new item at least once a week. Act like you care about your store. Make your store something you are proud of. If you don’t know what a great store should look like, spend an hour just looking at AF stores. There are some true beauties here.

3. Taking advantage of the August free month, will take you to mid September when the summer sales slump is usually over. People are getting serious about life, doing early Christmas shopping, etc. Gamble $10 a month till Christmas to see if your efforts pay off. The autumn and xmas shopping months are the true test unless you sell beach rafts and swimsuits.

4. To those of you who say you need that $10 for food….you are in the wrong business. Online sales fluctuate wildly. Unless you sell essentials, this is not insured income. Take up baby-sitting, dog-walking, burger flipping, or any other minimum wage job if that is all you are qualified for.

On-line selling requires work and daily supervision of the site. If you aren’t willing to make that commitment, this isn’t the place for you. In fact there is no place online for you to pretend to sell. Online selling is not a lazyman’s way to make a living. You either have to make what you sell or go out and locate it, fix/clean it, photograph it, brush up on your English skills so you can write about it, and monitor the site to see how it is doing.

I understand that the US is in serious economic crisis and that many of the basic stores may be owned by people who have lost their jobs or are in desperate straits. However these same economic conditions effect buyers. Sales are in general down unless you sell Picasso originals, diamonds and platinum jewelry. The rich have disposable income. The rest of the population doesn’t.

But the days of everything sells online are long over. My sales are 10% of what they were during the early days of eBay when you sat and watched your item prices go up every time you refreshed your computer screen. It will probably not recover fully in my lifetime. This means you have to have realistic expectations. You also have to work harder.

One thing I will have to add here is the idea of AF charging basic stores a commission when something sold. THAT WON’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM. It won’t get rid of deadbeat, abandoned or low quality stores. They will still be taking up space and cost AF money that should be spent on improving the site for paying stores.

I keep remembering JFK’s famous quote. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” The concept can be applied to the workplace just as easily.


Good stuff huh?

Posted by Kristy of Simply Shiny

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  1. good thoughts. i’m probably going to check out other venues instead, anyway, but some good points.

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