How Origami Paper Saved My Etsy Store

I have been a bit quieter on May and September lately because I have been absorbed in setting up an Etsy Store to sell my greeting cards online. There has been a lot to learn and a lot to decide, but the store is now up and running and I can take a breath and relax.

One of the challenges in selling photographic greeting cards online is conveying the image to advantage. The Etsy store has a variety of views of the primary image most of which are a landscape view, or square tiles. Since many of my cards are in portrait layout (tall rather than wide) I needed to make sure that the images worked in a variety of modes. I came to the conclusion that the majority of images needed to be in landscape layout, but with the main part of the picture in the central square. This meant working out what to do on the sides, which may or may not be cut off. It took me a couple of photoshoots to get this right. Fortunately the subjects didn’t get restless, although I did.

The other visual challenge was how to show a photo of a photo to advantage. One of the biggest selling points of the cards is their colour and tactile quality.  How do I convey the appeal of a colourful glossy photo on a glossy white card in a shiny packet? I tried taking photos of cards on a white background but they didn’t look very interesting. Then I stumbled across the origami paper.  I did some sample shots using a brightly coloured background and was happier with the results. You can really see the card and envelope, and the coloured paper adds interest.

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The Etsy webite is exclusively for handmade and vintage items, and the dominant visual aesthetic favours subtle and subdued backgrounds. Most items are pictured on white or faun, with the occasional pastel pattern. My cards certainly stand out amongst the other images! Always the rebel. I just can’t help it. I hope they look bright and appealing, rather that over the top and garish. We’ll see how it goes.

The other tricky aspect of setting up and Etsy store is working out pricing and postage. I spent a few days hype-focussing over the different options. With greeting cards there could potentially be a wide variation in the number purchased – one, six or twenty. I needed to accommodate that variation in the prices. Postage costs start on a low plateau, but leap to a new level when the quantity changes from a letter to a parcel at around 8 cards. Postage rates vary widely within Australia and between different destinations around the world.

I was explaining all this to a friend and realised I sounded just like I did when was working as business process analyst on student fees, my head spinning with the complexity of it all. I was making the options too complicated for myself to understand, let alone anyone else. I decided to drop some variables and tolerate some inconsistencies and fluctuations. Happily as I am the boss, I didn’t need to prepare a submission to a committee in order to do this.

The variable I dropped was trying to sell sets as well as single cards. Single cards have the option “free secondary postage” which means you only pay postage on the first card you buy. Effectively the more you buy, the more the card price subsidises the postage costs. I was also working on 6 packs and 8 packs with discounted prices for bulk and realistic postage. This was doing my head in as it was too complicated to work out the relative costs and profits for the different combinations of pack sizes and postage rates.  Selling only singles makes the maths easier and gives the customer full control of which images they want to choose and how many they want to buy.

Well thats possibly more than you need to know about selling greeting cards! These “behind the scenes” issues are what has been absorbing most of my thoughts this week and perhaps some of you can relate to these dilemmas. I have started regular posts on my ImageChest Photography website which give background on the pictures on the cards, plus other photographic adventures. That website also has nice clear pictures of the full range of images on the cards which can be accessed from the Greeting Cards Page. The cards can be purchased from the ImageChest Etsy Store. I am looking forward to getting some views that aren’t me!

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