april 26th 2010, it's my etsy anniversary! one year ago today i decided that it was time to stop dreaming about it, and time to start doing it! today i wanted to share with you a look back at my first year and also share some of my etsy photos from the day i opened and how they've progressed to today...
i was working two jobs last year at this time, one at a dog rescue and the other as an artists assistant, and got word that both jobs would be ending in a few months. i had a decision to make, i could look for another job knowing that it probably wouldn't be as fulfilling or enjoyable as my previous two, or i could take a chance, open an etsy shop, and see if i could make a living as a full time artist. i had been a shopper on etsy for a few years, and even opened one shop previously that just didn't work out (i was neither serious about it then, nor ready for the amount of work that goes into a successful shop). i thought quite a bit about it, and the decision didn't take me very long at all. i had a few months to play around with it, where i would still have the two jobs and be able to see how the etsying would pay off. evan and i also didn't have any large expenses, or any kids, so we could definitely afford to be a little risky at this point. it was now or never, so i jumped into it head first. for me, opening up an etsy shop didn't take a huge amount of investment. i had quite a collection of goodies just waiting to be turned into treasures, and the rest would come here and there. every single one of those first earnings was invested right back into monkey & squirrel.
my shop ended up doing fairly well right from the get go. i know that i was really lucky in that respect. i hadn't realized until after i started up my shop, that i didn't see anything else exactly like my items on etsy. i would love to say that i planned that out and researched to find an unfilled niche, but that just wasn't the case. it was dumb luck and i'm not afraid to say it! with that said, i also know that that was just what helped me at the beginning. what has continued to keep me going is the intense amount of work i put into it on a daily basis. the amount of times i've taken and retaken photos is enough to be a full time job in itself.
so after about 5 months of doing all three jobs simultaneously, it was time for my first two to end. i was officially a full time, self employed, artist/designer. it was scary and exciting and also somewhat unbelievable. even still, i wake up in the morning and can't believe that i get to be my own boss. luckily i'm a pretty tough boss and i keep myself in line, but also a great boss who treats myself to ice cream every now and again!
i work more hours, work harder, have more stress, and wake up in a panic more then ever before, but the rewards come ten fold. i get to give myself days off as needed and not have to request them from a higher up (though it's definitely hard to take a day away and not feel guilty), i can sleep in and work late if i'm feeling groggy in the morning, i can take my business in any direction that i see fit for it, basically i can live a better life in general.
here are some of the things that i've learned in my first year...
*this is always everyones first tip. take great photos! i know that mine are not the greatest out there, but i am always trying to improve on them. never be content with your pictures. when selling online, that's all the customer has to go by, so they need to sell themselves. get different angles and make sure your first one is an eye catcher, because it needs to stand out when shoppers are scrolling through a list of thousands of other items.
*read the etsy blog regularly. the articles are full of tips and tricks to help your shop be successful. i never would have known what SEO, or analytics were without it. they also help me stay on top of what etsy will be highlighting in the coming months, thus increasing my chances of being featured somewhere.
*speaking of features... work those tags! when etsy tells you in their blog that they will be highlighting things in the coming month, be sure to tag your items accordingly (only if they fit that description of course! nobody enjoys a mistagged item) this increases your chances of landing in treasuries, and possibly even the coveted front page! it also helps to look over your tags every few months to fine tune them and make the best use of all 14 spots given.
*when i was first starting out, i hung out in the forums quite a bit. mostly just reading what other folks were asking and chatting about. if i had questions, that was where i went to get them answered. i don't hang out there quite as often as i used to because i found that along with the wealth of information, there tends to be quite a bit of negativity in there. i like to keep a positive mind and i find that i get a bit debbie downer if i read some of the threads. you can certainly connect with some fantastic, really helpful folks there though, so if you're a newbie definitely browse around a bit.
*when things are slow, work on your shop. don't freak out (which i still admittedly sometimes do), the shoppers will return, and when they do it would be wonderful to have a nice cohesive shop with fabulous new goodies in it!
*have a strong online presence. my facebook fan page and twitter are two places where i get most of the traffic to my shop. keep in mind though that being spammy on either of these is a quick way to turn people off to your shop. keep it really genuine and don't just post links to your items to get views. in addition to those, i also read TONS of blogs! i've been so very lucky to have had my shop featured on some great blogs, and it often happens just by being a great honest follower. leave thoughtful comments on an article if you've found it interesting, and don't leave a link to your shop at the end of a comment. it's like trying to sell something to someone who has invited you over to dinner. tacky tacky! if someone finds you're comment interesting they will click on the automatic link back to your blog (as long as you have a blog that is) and that is where you should have your shop link.
*this might seem like an obvious one to many folks, but print your shipping labels through paypal. at first i was doing them through the usps site and it took 3 times longer. paypal makes it so simple, just make sure that your etsy and paypal addresses match up and you're good to go! i wasted quite a few months not doing this and it still bothers me...
*get organized! having a system for everything helps. i used to not enjoy the packing and shipping end of things, and thought it a necessary evil. then i got a system! i set up all of my tools for shipping (scissors, tape, tags, twine, boxes, packing material) in one area, and now i can easily grab for thing, and they are always where i last left them. i find it really enjoyable now, making the packages as cute as possible, and imagining the excitement someone gets when it arrives perfectly packed at their house. i find it to be a relaxing part of my day to day.
*one great tip i received was to add some more pricey items to my shop. in general my goodies are not that expensive, but i was told that if i added a few higher ticket items i would probably see the average amount spent in my shop go up. at first it didn't make much sense to me, it seemed like people would just ignore the higher priced item and go for the less expensive things, simply because bargain hunting seems to be pretty prevalent these days. however, the logic behind it is that even if those higher ticket items don't sell as often, your now mid-range priced items won't look as high in comparison. then if you happen to get someone who is looking for a higher priced item, you've also got something to offer them. it's hard to track a direct result of this, simply because my shop was still very new when i got this tip, but i think
it's a great one to share!
*last bit of the day, be sure to step away from it all every now and again. my days used to be totally all about my business. i even felt like i never had enough hours in the day. though i still believe i could use an eighth day in the week, i've realized that etsy, and monkey & squirrel, aren't going anywhere. i've started going back to the gym (thankfully) after feeling like i just didn't have the time for so long, and i've found that my days are actually more productive. i can, and do, fit more things into a single day then i thought possible, and i'm in a much better mind set after getting a good work out in.
well i hope some of you have found a bit of this helpful, or at least to be an enjoyable read. i'm still learning and am really excited about working on expanding my business this year. if you've got any great tips that you've learned from etsying, please feel free to share them in a comment.
side note... one thing i noticed when looking back on my past year was that i can track the evolution of my hair thanks to etsy. ahhh, this site is great for so many reasons!
current hair, dark brown and growing out the front...
happy monday folks and i hope great weekends were had by all!