Friday, September 10, 2010

EB Friday Hotlist: How Becoming a Joiner Can Improve Your Business

There are artists and artisans selling online who simply do not understand the allure of membership and what it can do for one's craft business.  If you're not a joiner, this article is for you.  Crafting communities are known as such because of the numerous benefits you experience when you are able to connect large groups of people around common interests and goals.  All of the major crafting sites and social networks for crafters have smaller communities within the larger community - on Etsy they are known as teams, on Zibbet they are called groups, on ArtFire they are dubbed guilds, and on 1000 Markets they are promoted as markets.  If you sell crafts or art online, I'm sure that you've seen some version of the mini-crafting community within a larger site.

View Image

I am currently a part of four Etsy teams: Queer Etsy Street Team, Boosting Etsy Shops Team, NC Triangle Street Team, and Handmade Artists Forum Team.  When I was on ArtFire I was on the Shops With Less Than 10 Sales Guild (I had no choice but to leave the guild when I closed my shop and downgraded to basic membership).  On Zibbet, I'm in the Zibbet Vintage, Zibbet Mentors, Zibbet Community on Facebook, and U.S. Zibbeters groups.  (Since I brought them up I feel like I should say - I discovered I wouldn't have time to actively promote a shop on 1000 Markets, so I didn't complete my application and therefore am not able to comment on their markets.  No slight to them intended.)

To be frank, I can honestly say I have gotten nothing out of the groups I haven't had time to participate in regularly.  The ones I have though have drastically improved my business.

NC Triangle Street Team on EtsyLet's first talk about the NC Triangle Street Team.  Although because of time constraints I am no longer active with the team and may have to resign membership for a while, I can honestly say being a part of a local team has been extremely beneficial.  The best resource this team has to offer is their forum.  Members can offer each other critiques, promote their treasuries, organize local meetups, and find out where and when craft shows are happening as well as how to apply.  Before joining this group I had a very difficult time finding craft fairs on my own.  Networking with the group not only allowed me to find smaller events I could actually afford to get into, but also helped me avoid some seemingly promising events that were duds in years past.  Joining a local group allows you to tap into the reservoir of knowledge the members have about your area and will help you find out how to best market your business to your real-life community.

Etsy Queer Street TeamThe Queer Etsy Street Team has been great for me on many levels.  Members promote each other through inclusion in treasuries and mentions on the team Twitter feed, Facebook page, and Tumblr blog.  There are activities such as the team shop and monthly item creation challenges that are completely optional.  (If you haven't heard about our efforts to raise money for the teen suicide prevention agency known as Trevor Project, check out my articles here and here to find out how you can help.)  The Trevor Project :: 866-4-U-TREVORThe best benefit of this group though is the social aspect.  Even though I'm not the greatest at remembering to attend our weekly chats, I am able to chat with other members and join in on discussions via the threads sent to my email by our Yahoo! Group.  Finding other queer people who are interested in the same things as me hasn't been easy but this team has helped to fill that void.  Maybe you as a mom, student, Christian, etc. would benefit from "hanging out" (online) with a group of similar people and enjoying the new friendships you make.  I can definitely say that QUEST membership has made me more invested in keeping my business on Etsy.  I do not want to be cut off from these quirky, intelligent, and super talented peeps!

The BEST!Since the Handmade Artists' Forum really deserves it's own full post, I'm going to talk last about the Boosting Etsy Shops Team.  Unlike the other teams I'm in which simply require monthly participation, BEST requires a solid weekly effort.  The sole purpose of the team is cross promotion.  Every week members are assigned another team member to feature.  The main focus is on blog features (you can check out mine here), but members who only have Twitter, Facebook, and/or other social networking accounts are also welcome to join and cross promote that way.  Each week I write a post about a team member that showcases their shop and (ideally) someone else in the team writes about me.  The benefit should be obvious - when someone else is talking about how great you are it carries more weight and credibility than when you are just talking about yourself.  You're also benefiting from reaching your team members' blog audiences, as chances are they are not all the exact same people reading your own blog.

I've tried to explain the benefits of joining groups (teams, guilds, markets, etc.) by showing some examples of how they've helped me.  As a rundown for those just skimming this article, some of the greatest advantages of group membership are:

1. Inclusion in team treasuries (Etsy) and guild collections (ArtFire)
2. Promotion of your shop by team members that reaches audiences who would otherwise never know about you
3. Social support and camaraderie (aka fun)
4. Information on craft fairs and networking events as well as info on how to run your business in your area
5. Business advice, technique tips, tutorials, etc. from those who have the same "crafty" interests as you
6. Providing you with something to talk about on your social networks and blogs other than yourself

Some groups have specific requirements for membership, so read everything before deciding to join.  Which group is right for you will depend on what your interests are, what you're able to invest time-wise, and whether or not the group's level of activity matches what you're looking for.  Some people are working on their businesses full time and may be able to participate actively in many different groups that meet their needs.  Many others are more like me and work at a separate job for the majority of the week, only to come home to more major responsibilities: school, family, religious activities, etc.  View ImageI have had to pick and choose lately which groups I want to spend my limited time on, since my focus really has to be on performing well at my day job and studying hard for the LSAT at night.  

Be advised, you will only ever get out of a group what you put into it.  

If you can only invest a couple of minutes per week on a team, limit the number you join to one or two and seriously consider groups that have a primary focus of cross promotion so that you're maximizing your time.  Don't be afraid to switch guilds if you don't like the one you're in.  If you contact the moderator for membership and don't receive a response of any kind, that usually means that the group (or its listed leader) just isn't active anymore.  Don't take their silence or even an outright rejection personally.  You're much better off knowing now that the group isn't right for you than after putting in the time and not seeing any results.

Are you in any crafting groups within major crafting communities?  Share your tips and warnings about joining groups in the comments!

Until next time,