The Etsy Test


Swarovski Pearl Bar Necklaces


Since I opened my first shop on Etsy in 2014, I’ve been trying to figure out what the “secret” is. The secret to making sales and keep them coming in. After three and a half years I’ve finally come to the conclusion that there is no secret trick that will magically make my shop take off over night. There is only hard work.

Etsy is a huge marketplace for handmade and vintage goods and craft supplies. As of December 31, 2016, there were 1.7 million active sellers vying for the business of 26.6 million buyers, according to their annual report. As of July 2017, there are over 45 million items for sale on Etsy, nearly 9 million of them in the jewelry category alone.

Competition on Etsy is fierce, and if you are not actively making your shop stand out from the nearly 2 million others, you will be lost in the noise. But making your shop stand out is easier said than done and will no doubt require lots of hard work.

I came up with the Etsy Test to see just what a little elbow grease will do for my shop. I’ve made a plan to steadily add items to my shop through October before the holiday shopping really begins. And while I’m doing that, I’ll be updating my current listings from their photos to the titles, tags, and descriptions. I haven’t devised one yet, but I’m also planning on making some sort of promo campaign, most likely on Instagram and Facebook. But I think I’ll focus on that after I get 100 items in my shop in October.

I’ll be monitoring my shop’s progress and I’ll be posting updates on this blog for anyone interested. To be somewhat scientific with this test, we need to compare it to how my shop was before. I’ll be comparing July-October of this year to the first half of 2017 and November and December to the same months in 2016 to account for the holiday shopping season.

The first half of 2017, I sold only three items. I had roughly 30-60 items in my shop and had an average of about 75 visits and 120 views per month. During the 2016 holiday season (November and December), I sold five items, had about 220 visits and 380 views in total during the two months. I don’t remember exactly how many items were in my shop, but it was probably somewhere around 40-50 if I had to guess.

I’m curious to see how drastic the change will be, but I suspect it will not be that drastic. After all, 100 items will represent only about 0.001% of the jewelry market on Etsy. May the odds be ever in my favor.


Hobby, business, or somewhere in between?

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With creative entrepreneurialism on the rise, stories of people quitting their day jobs and turning their hobbies into successful full-time businesses are becoming more common. While these stories of triumph over the corporate cubicle lifestyle are refreshing and hopeful, I think they can lead to confusion as well. At least, it did for me, and I’m sure I can’t be the only one.

For the longest time, I’ve had the impression that my hobby needed to become a business. I figured that was the natural course of things and something I should prepare for after opening an Etsy shop. I thought that someday my “business” would outgrow Etsy and I’d get my own website. I’d have plenty of sales to pay for that website, my materials and other expenses, and even have some for myself to satiate my Starbucks addiction.

A couple weeks ago I discovered a podcast called Create and Thrive. Jess Van Den, the creator and handmade jewelry business owner, started the podcast to help other creative entrepreneurs succeed. I forget what episode she mentions it in, but she describes how she and her husband do not want to hire employees because they’re content with their current business model. It took me awhile to really grasp this, but once I did, it was a huge reality check.

If you are wondering whether you should grow your hobby into a business, be honest with yourself. Consider why you have this creative hobby in the first place. Ask yourself if you have the resources (time, money, energy) to become a business.

Given my current circumstances (read: engineering school), a full-time business run by only me is a pipe dream. I have every intention to graduate college, hopefully with decent grades, so that means I am a full-time student. I simply don’t have the time to transform Bejewel the Nation into a business.

So my next question was if having a hobby would be worthwhile. Even though a hobby will not make as many sales as a business, I realized this was okay for me. I have another part-time job on campus so I can afford it to be just a hobby. And given all my engineering and math classes, I need some sort of creative artsy outlet.

It’s okay to decide to keep it a hobby, or even somewhere in between. I’m content with Bejewel the Nation being a sort of hobby-business hybrid and I like to think of it as a side dish to my college education. I still learn something, and it provides a break from the entree so I don’t get tired of it. I consider it to be a hybrid because I’d still like to turn a profit from it, but I understand it probably won’t be a particularly large profit since I’m not investing enough in it for that, which is okay.

If you decide to continue your creative endeavor as a hobby, just remember to keep it in perspective. Read any articles on growing a creative business carefully and consider which pieces of advice truly apply to you. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to grow your hobby into a full-time business if it’s not practical for you to do so.


My Favorite 2017 Oscar Jewelry

I love the Oscars. I don’t really know why, but it’s especially fun to look at all the gorgeous jewels and gems and dresses. And then to cheer on your favorite actors, directors, screenwriters, songwriters, and movies. Anyway, since I have a jewelry blog, I like to blog about my favorite jewelry looks. Without further ado, here are my winners in no particular order:

Taraji P. Henson

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What a statement necklace of over 100 carats of diamonds! And a gorgeous emerald ring to top it all off. Both are made by NIRAV MODI. Taraji stars in Hidden Figures, which is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

Janelle Monae

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She wore a stunning choker necklace by Ellie Saab and Forevermark Diamonds earrings, ring, and headband. She really went all-out and she looks fantastic in her dress! She’s Taraji’s co-star in Hidden Figures and also starred in Moonlight.

Pharrell Williams

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Also a part of Hidden Figures, Pharrell wore some eye-catching bling with his bowtie and a Chanel brooch. (Yes, men can wear statement jewelry, too!)

Kirsten Dunst

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I love the shape of her necklace. Very simple and elegant and diamonds! Her necklace and earrings are by Niwaka. Kirsten also stars in Hidden Figures.

Chrissy Teigen

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Such beautiful long tassel earrings by Lorraine Schwartz. And you know what? When you gotta take a nap during the Oscars, you gotta take a nap during the Oscars.

Auli’i Cravalho

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I haven’t seen Moana yet, but Auli’i’s performance was fantastic, and her dress is gorgeous! I noticed her bracelet (Maxior) and she’s also wearing some Maxior earrings and a Kotiar ring.

Luz Towns-Miranda

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I’m gonna be honest – it was weird to see Lin without his hair pulled back. (He doesn’t normally dress as Hamilton?) His mom came to support him, and I noticed her Gemfields earrings, which appear to be large flowers. She’s also wearing a stunning emerald bracelet over her gloves.

Ruth Negga

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Well, I knew her as Raina from Agents of SHIELD, and now she’s an Oscar-nominated actress for Loving! She was adorned in rubies in her headband, earrings, and ring which were responsibly sourced from Gemfields and designed by Irene Neuwirth.

Charlize Theron

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If you remember last year’s Oscar’s, Charlize wore a stunning diamond necklace, and this year she wore stunning diamond earrings by Chopard.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few celebrities, but these stood out to me. If you watched the Oscars this year, who do you think wore the most stunning jewelry?

(PS: I’m still confused about this whole Best Picture bit.)

2015 Oscars
2016 Oscars


8 Things I Learned After a Year on Etsy

It’s been a little over a year since I opened Yellow Raspberry Jewelry, and I’ve learned a few things. You’ve probably heard some of these before, but they’re important enough to repeat. I hope you can use these tips to analyze your shop and improve it, or to avoid common mistakes before you set up shop. Most if not all of these are things that I need to work on. If you look up any successful Etsy shop, you’ll find they’re already doing a lot of these things well and that can’t be simple coincidence.


  1. Content is king.
    Make sure that what you sell is what people want to buy. You’ll have to do some market research for this, but doing your homework will pay off. And you’ll want to keep up with trends, because what’s in style today probably won’t be in a few months. Basically, you don’t want to spend your time and money making things that won’t sell. And don’t waste your time copying other designs. Buyers will pick up on it. Instead, develop your own style and set yourself apart from your competition by offering unique items.
  2. Photography is queen.
    I know you’ve heard this before, but seriously, if your photography is poor, your sales will be too. Get a good camera. It doesn’t have to be a DSLR, but do some homework on what you need. And please edit your photos to make your items look even better. There are many free online photo editing websites and apps, like PicMonkey. I use Photoshop which costs $10/month, but I think it’s worth it. Also, watermarks are annoying and distract from your item, so please don’t use them. Search for anything on Etsy and count the number of items with professional-quality photos on the first page; you’ll find that good photos are rare. So if your photos are good, this means you will automatically stand out from your competition.

    For jewelry, it’s recommended that you use a plain white background for your photos. I spent a lot of time getting this photo to have a nice white background, and it’s now my top-viewed item. 
  3. Extended vacations tend to halt your momentum.
    As you begin on Etsy, it may seem slow at first, but once you’ve built up some momentum, you’ll tend to start having more frequent sales. This is why it’s so important not to put your shop on vacation for long periods of time. If you’re going away for the weekend, there should be no need to put your shop on vacation. Simply extend the processing times for your items temporarily. I put YRJ on vacation for about two months and after I came back, despite it being the holiday shopping season, all my sales came to a halt. Similarly, try to spend time on your business every day, whether that’s improving your current listings, creating new things, taking photos, editing photos, etc. I noticed that when I consistently spent time on my business, I had more consistent sales.
  4. Social media is basically free advertising.
    Of course, your time spent marketing on social media is a cost, but places like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest are all free to use. This also helps you to build your brand and improve your SEO (search engine optimization). Experiment with as many social media platforms as you desire, and see which ones work best for you. Another thing you want to be aware of is where your target market is. By doing a little research, you can find out where the majority of your target market spends their time on social media.

  5. Know your target market.
    You need to know who your buyers are most likely going to be. Knowing your market will help you generate keywords for tags and titles, as well as help you figure out where they spend their time online so you can market to them better. Additionally, when you stock your shop with items for your market, someone will come along and quickly know if your store is right for them. It’s like when you walk into a store at the mall and you get that feeling “this store is for me” — you want that same feeling for your customers.
  6. If it’s not selling, fix it.
    Your four months are up, your listing is about to expire, but it still hasn’t sold. Even worse, it’s had very few views. What do you do? Etsy recommends that you analyze your tags, titles, photos, descriptions, pricing, etc., and fix anything that’s not working. These things are important, but what happens when you’ve done all that, and it’s still not selling? Unfortunately, this means it just may not be something people are interested in buying. You could try putting it on clearance, but in my experience that rarely works. Instead, see if you can make something new from it.


  7. Don’t wait around for the “right buyer.”
    I’ve seen comments in the Etsy forums of sellers continuing to renew items that don’t sell because they believe eventually the right buyer will come around. Sure, it’s possible. It’s probably also possible for pigs to fly, but it’d take tens of thousands of years of evolution. Renewing items on Etsy costs money and if you’re relisting things that aren’t making you money back, then it’s probably best to stop wasting your money.
  8. It’s not Etsy. It’s you.
    Sellers blaming Etsy for poor views and sales is a common topic in the Etsy forums. Even I’ve blamed Etsy at times. But something I’ve come to realize is that it’s not Etsy, it’s me. In fact, a lot of the tips in this post come from things I’ve realized I need to work on. After all, it’s not Etsy’s fault if you didn’t research your target market, or learn how to take good pictures. Your success will be determined by you, not Etsy.

A New Direction

After a lot of researching and pondering, I came to the conclusion that it’s time for a change for Yellow Raspberry Jewelry. This was back in early March, and I’ve slowly been making changes while I’ve been going to college. In fact, some of those changes have spilled over into this blog, but rest assured, the content will remain the same.

If you’ve noticed, minimalism is one of the latest rising jewelry trends. If you’ve also noticed, a lot of my items do not fit under the minimalist category. At first I thought about going into bead bar necklaces and gemstone wire wrapped hoop earrings, but there’s a lot of competition for that out there already. I’d need to come up with something else.

I read an article about a girl who opened her Etsy shop while she was in high school and over three years made about $100,000 in sales. After a week of her beaded macrame bracelets not selling, she switched to wire wrapping instead, and I think I’ll let the 100 grand tell the rest of that story.

Anyway, this is what inspired me to look into wire worked jewelry. I discovered that there wasn’t as much competition for wire worked necklaces, as in a wire bent into a simple shape, such as a zodiac sign. And it also works with the new minimalist trend, so it seemed like the perfect idea. But, in order to sell them, I knew they were going to need to be made with sterling and other precious metals. My plan is to branch out into gold filled in the future, but I started off with sterling because precious metals are not cheap. Also, if they end up not becoming the hit like I think they will, then I won’t have spent too much.


So far, they seem to be doing pretty well. I have ten out of twelve zodiac signs in my shop, and I’m hoping to have the rest up within a week or two. Plus, I’m trying to clear out my old inventory, so a lot of my items are on clearance for 40% off. Several clearance items have been featured in this blog, so if you’ve had your eye on something, the time has never been better. I’ve also been working on branding, and more changes will be coming soon. I even have an Instagram account for my store, which I recommend checking out: @yellowraspberryjewelry.

I guess the moral of this story is don’t be afraid to change directions with your business!


Two Variations on Bar Necklaces

Bar necklaces are a rising trend in jewelry. They’re minimalist, elegant, and versatile. So of course I wanted to have a go at them. I first made what I call a “mock bar necklace” because it’s really just a single strand beaded necklace. After I bought some new supplies, I made an actual bead bar necklace, and I’m planning to make more. (The new supplies are for the new direction I’m planning to take my shop, but that’s another post.)

Both of these designs are fairly simple and could be tackled by beginner/intermediate jewelry maker. Try out your own colors and beads, and you’ll find that the design possibilities for these are endless.

Mock Bar Necklace


If you don’t have any wire or necklace chain, and aren’t planning on buying any in the future, then I suggest trying out this design. Center your “bead bar” on the strand and fill in the rest with seed beads for the “chain.” Finish it off with some crimps and a clasp. It’s really easy, and would also be great if you’re just starting out with jewelry making. Click here for the Etsy listing.

Neon Bead Bar Necklace


If you’ve got some wire and chain hanging around, then try out this design, using whatever beads you want. Cut a length of wire a little over half an inch of the length of your beads. Make a simple loop on one end, string your beads on, and finish off with another simple loop. Make sure the beads have a little bit of wiggle room. Next, cut some chain to your desired length, and then cut it in half. With a jump ring, attach one half of the chain to one end of the bar, and repeat for the other end. Attach a clasp to the ends of the chain, and you’re ready to go! Click here for the Etsy listing.

Let me know in the comments how your bar necklaces turn out!


Studded Stars at the Oscars

Another exciting year in film has come and gone. And by exciting, I mean that Leo finally won an Oscar! The 88th Academy Awards was an event full of studded stars. It was difficult for me to choose my favorite pieces of jewelry because so many celebrities were wearing such beautiful pieces. In fact, I went over my original ten best pieces so that I could include two more. See below for my top 12 adornments, including a couple of the men!

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Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road actress and presenter, wore Harry Winston’s Secret Cluster Diamond Necklace, a long 48.8 carat diamond necklace set in platinum. All of her jewelry combined was worth $3.7 million. The necklace mimics the shape of her plunging neckline and looks stunning.

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Presenter Sofia Vergara had lovely Lorraine Schwartz earrings that complement her dress perfectly in both color and sparkle.

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Naomi Watts arrived wearing a beautiful Bulgari diamond necklace. It pairs well with the shimmer of her dark blue dress.

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Saoirse Ronan, nominated for best actress for her role in Brooklyn, rocked mismatched Chopard earrings of emerald, jadeite, diamond, and pearl. In her red carpet interview she said she was wearing emerald green for Ireland, and I bet that’s also why she went with white and green earrings.

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Olivia Wilde wore a Neil Lane choker adorned with pearls. It contrasts the vertical lines of her dress and makes for a gorgeous look.

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Presenter Olivia Munn wore a $1 million Forevermark Diamond Cuff Bracelet made of 12.06 carat round brilliant Exceptional Forevermark Diamonds.

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Presenter Whoopi Goldberg had a stunning octopus bracelet and ring accessory. The flowing lines of the piece complemented her shoulder tattoo which was only partially covered by her dress.

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Presenter Tina Fey wore a stunning Bulgari sapphire necklace to go with her violet dress.

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Brie Larson, who won best actress for her performance in Room, took a Niwaka brooch and made it into a stunning hair accessory. I love how her hair is wrapped around it and looks like it’s becoming one with the brooch.

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Presenter Jared Leto went with a non-traditional neck accessory in the form of a red chrysanthemum. It went perfect with his red-lined tux.

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Presenter Kevin Hart pulled off his black crystal studded tuxedo very well. It’s just enough to make a statement without overpowering the tux.

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C-3PO was shiny and polished by Luke Skywalker. The Oscar statue looked just him, both gleaming gold, as C-3PO frantically searched for all three droids’ seats. He complained at R2-D2 and BB-8 for misplacing their tickets.