It’s no secret that I sell my yarny things. You guys all know about my Etsy shop; heaven knows I talk about it enough. And I’ve talked about the struggles of making it successful, the struggles of pricing and marketing and what to make. I’m always trying to find the ONE THING that will make it click.
Yesterday I saw an Instagram post from a newer Etsy seller, photos of orders she was mailing out. Orders, plural. That rarely happens for me. Of course I went to her shop, and she has beautiful things and lovely photos. Her prices were a tiny bit lower than mine. I was immediately filled with an urge to do what she was doing. I needed to take new photos with a plain background, knit simple things in neutral colors, lower my prices, and I needed to do it NOW!
Then I took a deep breath and returned to normal. I looked at her descriptions, and discovered she’s using a wool/acrylic blend. That can be great yarn; I’ve used it too. But I primarily use high-end all-natural fibers when possible, and those are more expensive. I use patterns that have more detail to them, and those take more time. I often use yarns that aren’t super bulky, and it takes more yarn and more time.
I looked again: her pieces were ivory, gray, white, black, navy. My shop is full of color. Lots of color. Color in the yarn, color in the backgrounds. Rainbow, variegated, stripes–I use a lot of color. It makes me happy. It’s what attracts me to a yarn.
Please understand, none of this is to say that my things are superior in any way. Quite the opposite: most of the time I feel like I’m an amateur on a website full of professionals. Truly, her items were lovely and I’d love to make some similar ones. But it is to say that mine are DIFFERENT, and I have to realize that that’s OKAY. (I’m sorry, I’m capitalizing a lot because these are important ideas for me.)
I need to be a unicorn.
Recently, I was browsing through Etsy’s how-to articles for sellers, and one of them was about how to stand out, and the thing that jumped out at me was “Be a Unicorn”. Be the thing that you don’t see everywhere. Be something unusual and beautiful and interesting. Be yourself. You hear that a lot in a lot of different contexts, but it works well here too.
People buy handmade for a variety of reasons, and one of the biggest is the story. Customers like to be involved, they like the interaction to feel more personal than just a sale, they like to support interesting, passionate makers. If I try to do something just because it works for someone else, I will fail every time. It won’t be authentic. My pieces won’t stand out because they won’t be a product of passion. I cannot copy someone else.
I need to be a unicorn.
So I will continue to use bright, colorful yarns and make bright, colorful pieces that are typically one of a kind. I will continue to make things that spark my creativity rather than things that are “likely to sell” (although I will also continue to hope that someday those two things will be one and the same). I will continue to photograph them on my beautiful daughter outside where you can see a hint of the natural world.
My shop is little, but it’s growing. I’ve gotten glowing reviews and had return customers, and that has to mean something. It means a lot to me as a maker, that’s for sure. Maybe my Etsy shop will never bring me riches. That’s okay. If it allows me to do what I love, if it supports itself, surely that’s enough. After all, success isn’t money. Success is happiness. By that token, I’m successful already.
What about you? Have you embraced your unicorn self?