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On the Job

Local crafter takes her wares global

Dara Cheek sells the natural jewelry that she makes on a variety of websites. “It takes technological knowledge to make yourself visible in a very saturated space,” she said.

Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Dara Cheek sells the natural jewelry that she makes on a variety of websites. “It takes technological knowledge to make yourself visible in a very saturated space,” she said.

Dara Cheek, who makes natural jewelry and lives in Brighton, wants to encourage the “buy local” craft movement in the Boston area. Cheek is a new kind of artist curator who aims to bring online artisans into collaborative communities, including Etsy, a website for buying and selling goods, most of which are handmade.

What’s the learning curve for a craft-preneur such as yourself?

It’s definitely a new approach to first build an art or craft business online using e-commerce websites such as Etsy. It’s forcing artisans such as myself to be not just smart at artsy endeavors but also tech wizards who can master keywords. It takes technological knowledge to make yourself visible in a very saturated space. It took me two years to get up to speed and understand search engine optimization, tagging, titling, and other ways to display and categorize. I’ve also had to embrace blogging; promoting on Facebook and Myspace; tweeting products; participating in blog giveaways and charity donations; utilizing Pinterest, Flickr, and Tumblr; and most recently, making use of new crowd-sourced shopping/curating sites like The Fancy, Luvocracy, Svpply, and Polyvore.

What’s the Holy Grail for Etsy sellers?

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There are millions of items for sale, so to get on the website’s front page and be featured in the highlighted collections is one of the best ways to get found. I’m constantly trying to master their search algorithms, which is tricky because it changes all the time. It’s all optimized for how a buyer would search for an item, and not for the sellers.

What other online craft marketplaces are gaining traction?

I also sell on Scoutmob, another site for independent artists. They have a special focus on searching websites by locale, so it’s popular among the younger crowd and folks looking for deals. I also like the Daily Grommet, Handmade Artists’ Shop, and Fab.

After factoring all your Etsy fees, PayPal fees, materials, and time, do you make a profit?

It’s really difficult to say. I’m still in the process of building my business. All the fees do add up. Etsy recently changed the way they accessed fees; they take about 3 percent of the sale and it cost 20 cents to list an item and another 20 cents if you need to renew your listing. PayPal fees are similar; they charge for every sale as well. Of course, you have postage and shipping expenses and any ads for Facebook or Google advertising.

What do you do about shipping?

I sell small jewelry pieces so I try to keep them affordable and still provide shipping in a method consistent with my brand. Etsy encourages sellers to ship in a thoughtful way as opposed to just throwing something in a box. I ship everything in a silver foiled gift box and a bit of ribbon so recipients recognize they’re getting a handmade piece from an individual seller.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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