December 12, 2010

Running an Etsy Business:

I have really enjoyed having an etsy store and have had so many people ask me how to get started and questions about how to increase sales. So I've decided to do a write up about my experience with etsy and some things I've learned along the way. My best advice would be to make what you love- especially since your goal is to be successful, and with a lot of sales comes a lot of work!
I'm gonna skip the information on how to actually set up a store, since it is all here on etsy's "getting started" help page. My advice is from personal experience, how to successfully run a business while being a SAHM.

1. utilize your time wisely: As a Stay-At-Home-Mom, I have many responsibilities. Sometimes, the daily household chores, and keeping the children feed, dressed and happy can consume my entire day. Other days they play peacefully and I'm able to get a couple hours of work done even when they are awake! I make to-do lists both weekly and daily and my favorite part is crossing a task off my list! When I begin to do a task, I ask myself, "Can I do this while they are awake? or Can I only do this when they are asleep?" Some days I am so exhausted that resting while my children rest is the best answer. Other days it's sewing because the other items on my list, like run to the post office or do dishes I can do while they are awake -and pulling on my legs :)
I also set up a schedule with my husband so he knows Tuesday and Thursday evenings when the kids are in bed (for example) is my work time. Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights are usually nights dedicated to family, church or date night. Another thing I have learned is that sometimes it's ok to hire help. It makes perfect sense to hire a babysitter for $5 an hour while I get projects finished and my kids can be playing with a youthful teenager! It would cost more to miss my deadline than to hire for help.

2. Charge what you are worth: This has been the hardest thing for me to realize, and I definitely learned it the hard way! I began by providing my products for little more than the cost of supplies and paid myself nothing for my time. I was so excited to be receiving so many sales (and why wouldn't I when I was charging next-to-nothing) but then when I got so busy I couldn't keep up, I started to cringe with each sale. Slowly I raised prices until I realized that the money I made was worth the time spent to create the items. A common calculation is cost of supplies X3 + labor. I still end up selling most items for less than that, but it's a great rule to gauge if you are charging enough or not. I do believe though especially with etsy, it's best to start out lower and raise prices as you go. This way you still have sales on your list of sold items and buyers see that you are a successful store.

3. Smart advertising: I have advertised my business in 3 ways- word of mouth, etsy showcase, and in the blog world.
-word of mouth- I believe that every business would say word of mouth is their best method of advertisement. An ad can be pushy and deceiving, but a happy buyer will tell the truth. Be good to your customers and they will be good to you in return. Also, advertise with your gifts. Sometimes I feel embarrassed to give friends a gift that I also sell. But in reality, everyone loves handmade gifts especially when it's made with love. I always include a sewn in tag and business card so they can pass along the information to a friend who might see them using my items and ask where they can get one too.
-etsy showcase- Etsy has an entire promotion program set aside for different categories of products. Basically, you book a spot (usually a $7 fee) to be featured for 24 hours. I have only done this once, and I made my money's worth (plus some!). Here is more information on Etsy Showcase.
-blog world- having a blog parallel to your etsy store is an absolute must! Blogs are great ways to promote your items for free and get extra excitement and followers as you go. I've done numerous giveaways, and although I'm giving away my products for free, I am exposing people to my goodies that wouldn't have seen me otherwise. I think it is so fun to host giveaways, and it's also great to have another popular blog feature your products- although this usually is not free to do.

4. Custom orders: My best advice for a developing etsy business is to be willing to do custom orders. Alchemy is a great way to find people who are looking for a specific product you may be able to create. Not only are you providing your items at the cost they'd like (some bidding may be necessary) but you may be able to create new products while you customize an item to their needs. Seven of my first ten sales were from custom orders and once the ball started rolling with my first 10 sales, I felt like an established online store. I would suggest that at the bottom of every listing to include a line about how you would love to customize this product to a buyer's needs or use their choice of fabric, and please convo for requests. This not only shows a buyer you are willing to work with their needs, but for some reason people love to pick out their favorite fabric or colors and personalize items in someway. And usually, they will pay a little more for that option.

5. Hire help when help is needed: Don't be afraid to pay someone when you need help! My biggest example of this is when I made the transition from selling my handmade items to selling my patterns. My husband encouraged me to do this around the time that my youngest started crawling and I just couldn't keep up with orders anymore. All of my patterns were sketched out on drawing paper, but let's just say digital designing is NOT a talent or strength of mine. After months of fiddling around and getting discouraged, I put in an alchemy request for someone to design my patterns and I found someone amazing! Yes, I had to pay to get them done, but they are done well and that's what sells a pattern; A professional design with easy to follow layout and digital images.

Well, that's all the advice I can muster out of my brain right now, but I can feel much more bubbling up to the surface! With over 2 years of etsy experience, I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to give. Let me know if this has been helpful and I can share more advice in another post. I'm willing to share where I get my supplies and sales aids; like the sew-in labels I use and a great deal on business cards. I'd also love to create a post on etsy selling strategies (like how to get your items viewed more often, favorite-ing to your advantage and getting positive feedback)- hopefully coming soon!


Tiffany said...

Great little write up. Thank you. I think the hardest part for me is charging what I'm worth - then I will feel that it's too expensive, and not list it. *sigh*
After reading your list, I am determined to get my butt in gear. Nothing wrong with charging a higher price for a quality product. :D

Danesa said...

Great advice! Thanks for sharing.