Saturday, March 15, 2014

Shop Talk: Etsy & The Stay at Home Mom

Shop Talk Etsy and the Stay at Home Mom @ Made it On Monday

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been massively promoting my shop through my Instagram and Facebook feeds, or just because I’m friends with a lot of stay at home moms who wouldn’t mind making some extra money, but I’ve found myself having a lot of Etsy-oriented conversations lately. And I find myself repeating the same things over and over again and wishing I had a blog post to refer people to. I’d also like to share some of the stories behind my items, or even walk you through how to make your own. After all—if you’re able and willing to follow one of my tutorials, you probably won’t be shopping from me in the first place. So I’m going to have an on-going series that will happen on Saturdays (when I actually post for it) called Shop Talk. I’ll cover anything from do you have the time to run an Etsy shop, to how I made something, to where I shop, to how I price. Hopefully, if you’re wanting to sell as well, grow your shop, or are just curious, you’ll find this inspirational (or maybe the reality check you were needing???). Check out my previous Etsy post, Six Etsy Tips. And the next post in this series on developing your product can be found HERE.

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A Little Back Story…
I first opened my shop in October of 2010. I just hit the 500 sales mark this week (woohoo!) and have been through several different seasons in my shop. Reaching my first 10, 20, 50, 100 sales took a lot of work. I got into a groove of selling jersey knit infinity scarves and did really well through the Christmas season for two years. But as styles changed and I found myself bored with making the same thing over and over again, I closed my shop for 6 months and then reopened it with a new purpose. I’ve essentially had to re-brand myself and find a new customer base as my product options have changed. Over the years I have had different motivations behind selling on Etsy—supporting my crafting habit, paying for a new laptop, paying for Christmas two years in a row, and now paying for a new laptop again. My hope for the shop is to have it be able to fund family vacations.

If you’re thinking of opening an Etsy shop, my first suggestion is to buy this book, How to Start a Home Based Etsy Business. Gina, who blogs at The Shabby Creek Cottage, wrote it and it is the best guide to keep by your side as you begin your business. I read the book a month ago and felt like it gave me the guidance I needed to take my shop to the next level. I even revisited all the goals and notes I wrote in it a few days ago and checked off several met goals, and make plans for the next step.


Four Keys to Consider…
The thing I felt like was missing in the book, though, is the reality check you might need if you’re wanting to start a business. Which is where this post stems from. Keep in mind, this post is written for the already stay at home mom, or the mom who is hoping to get to that point. I have four things for you to think through as you contemplate taking the step from dreaming to doing: What is my goal? Do I have the time? Do I have the space? Do I have the money?

What is My Goal? Where do you hope your shop will take you? Are you like me, and just want to have some extra income to boost the family budget and pay for extras? Then starting a shop has the potential to be a lot of fun and, in time, financially rewarding. Or are you needing a steady income that will help pay the bills and buy necessities? If you are a stay at home mom and you are in a place where additional income is necessary now, or you need it by a certain date and need it to be steady, then starting an Etsy business is not going to meet that need. At least, not right away. It takes time to build a shop and customer base. While there are wildly successful shops that provide a full time, livable wage (or more!), you aren’t going to get to that place over night. I enjoy looking through the sold orders sections of sellers I know, find, or admire, and one of the things I see over and over again is that there are major cycles in their sales. Some might have 5 sales in one day and then nothing for 2 weeks. Or they might have one sale a day. Or they have a bunch at Christmas time and then it peters out once February hits. I can guarantee you that these sellers are not depending on the income from their shops.


Do I Have the Time? I think the major factor in distinguishing the shop that has thousands of sales from the one with hundreds (or less) is time. If you are a stay at home mom because you don’t want to work outside the home or have your kids in childcare, and want to have the time in your day to do mom things like play dates, clean the house, go shopping, and then relax and spend time with your spouse in the evenings, then you are not a working mom for a reason. An intentionally at-home mom with the goal of doing mom things does not have the time to be a wildly successful, high selling Etsy shop owner. In order to have the business that makes the steady income, you will have to pour time into it. And the kind of time you need in order to make thousands of items, market them, handle customer service for them, package them and mail them, will require you to be a working mom. And being a working mom means hiring people to watch your kids or having them in school all day, or scheduling your business hours to be after they go to bed. Right now, my available work hours are while Reese naps and after the kids are in bed. But they aren’t set hours, so if Jace needs me during the nap time, I’m not working. Or if we have a social thing planned, I’m not working. Or if my husband is tired of not having much attention from me, I’m not working. I’m able to fit quite a few hours in during the week, but it has been a very slow process to build the inventory I have, and I wouldn’t be able to sustain much more business than a couple of sales a day. Not without making changes to our lives like hiring a babysitter or a housekeeper. And neither of those are going to happen since being an at-home mom really is my first priority.

On the other side of “do I have the time” is “do I have the time to wait for the income?” While I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, it’s going to take time to build a shop to a sustainable income. Do you need the money right now and if you don’t get it you’ll be in a crisis? Then you need to find another job that provides a steady income from the start. If not, and you have the time to build your business, then go for it!


Do I Have the Space? One of my biggest suggestions for moms who want to have an Etsy business is to make your products in advance. I know there are plenty of people who do great in the made to order department, but I have found that the times I list something as made to order, it’s a guarantee that when the order comes in the kids will be sick or in bad moods, I will have too many other things happening in my week (after all, I’m doing this business as a side thing, not an established work thing), or life just makes it really hard and stressful to get the item made in the time I promised. There is risk involved in building inventory—not everything is guaranteed to sell. I’ll do another post on how to build inventory with less risk. And there is space involved. Do you have the space to store finished products? materials? to do the work? to have packaging materials on hand? If you don’t, can you make the space? Is your family going to be ok with craft supplies around the house or do they need to be in a designated spot? I have found that having my set work space in MY CRAFT CLOSET where everything is conveniently accessible and easy to clean up has majorly upped my productivity.

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Do I Have the Money? It takes an investment to start a business, no matter how small. You need to buy the materials to make your items (even if you are doing made to order you still need to have an original prototype to photograph for the listings). It costs $0.20 per listing of your items. And just listing them once does not get you sales. I relist at least one item a day to help keep them fresh in the Etsy search engine. It can take a long time to get that first sale (often times buyers want to see previous sales and feedback in order to trust a seller), so that could be a lot of relisting fees. Granted, it’s only $0.20/time, but if you’re renewing one a day, that’s $6 spent just on renewing over the course of a month. And that doesn’t take into account all your initial first time listings (30 items would be $6. So you’ve just spent $12 with the possibility of absolutely no income). Is your partner ok with you putting money into the business? Are they ok with it taking time to see an actual profit?

I did a craft show in December where I had spent $90 on materials. There was a mediocre turn out for the show, and I sold $120 in items. Which meant that after I paid back our family bank account, and the $15 entry fee, I only saw $15 for all that time. I was able to then sell most of the items I had left over on Etsy for a straight profit since I’d already paid back the investment cost, but it took over a month to get them sold, and I do still have quite a few Christmas goodies in storage until next year. Before I even finished the Christmas season I had to be looking ahead to the next season for my shop, so I was reinvesting what I could into materials for Valentine projects. And once that was done I needed to create for spring. And then there was the cost of wanting to get to 100 listings in my shop in order to attract more customers, which meant more supplies. So now I’m at a great point with inventory, and have seen steady sales, and am almost to the point of averaging a sale each day. But what you see according to Etsy—that I have had $220 in sales in the past 30 days—is not reflected in my shop bank account.


Having an Etsy shop can be a lot of fun and very rewarding! It’s a cool community to be a part of and really thrilling to receive that email that says you’ve had an order. I have loved being able to contribute our finances by saving for Christmas and buying my own equipment. I have lot of fun thinking up new product ideas, bringing them to life, and then hearing about how much my customers love their purchase. If people know what they’re getting into, or are at least willing to ride out the bumps along the way without getting discouraged and quitting, I say go for it, jump in and have fun!

Are you an Etsy seller? What tips do you have for stay at home moms who are wanting to open a shop? Has your experience/perspective been different than mine? What topics would you like to see me address in this series?

Thanks for stopping by!

10 comments:

  1. Thank you! This was a very helpful post. I've already invested in the materials I need to sell one type of inventory, but haven't actually made anything yet, or re-opened my shop yet.

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    1. That's great you have what you need for when you're ready! I'm sure your items will be so nice since you pay such close attention to details!

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  2. How timely this is for me. Just yesterday I blogged that I just opened my own ETSY shop! I so look forward to your series, and I will definitely get the book you recommended. I have been a long time Top Rated Seller on Ebay, and have 3 Ebay stores. However I am learning that ETSY is a whole differnt world. And thank you for the reality check that I don't need to feel like a failure if sales just dribble in, especially at first. I do make good part time income on Ebay, but I really wanted a beautiful outlet for my own handmade creations, and I don't want to sell them on Ebay. But I am looking forward to having a beautiful place to put my designs out there for the world. I love your blog. Thank you, I know how much effort you put into it.

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    1. Linda that's great! I had fun checking out your shop. Your items are beautiful and you do really good photography of them! I'm sure once you're discovered you'll see the sales coming in! Good job on venturing into a new marketplace!

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  3. I'd love to know about how selling on Etsy compares to other options. I have recently created I gallery on my blog's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.237598716403703.1073741827.145729112257331&type=1). I have made one sale through it, but since I don't have a lot of followers, I haven't had much of a response. I plan to do more blog posts and google+ posts to promote it. For now, I want to avoid the fees of Etsy, and sounds like I don't have time to invest in keeping it up since I work full time during the school year. So, other options are my focus now.

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    1. Joey, I'm curious about that too. In her book that I mentioned, Gina did say she prefers etsy over other market places, but I don't think Facebook was mentioned at all. I don't mind the fees since in build them into my price, and I figure they're worth it since etsy attracts so many customers for me. But I have heard of very successful Facebook sellers as well.

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  4. I have had an Etsy shop that has been officially open since November. Sales have not been good, so I have been regrouping. This is an excellent post that really does line up what I need to do and poses some very good questions that I think will help me be successful. Thanks!

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    1. I'm glad this helps! Your shop is beautiful! I'm sure once the right clientele finds you you'll do really well. The book I mentioned in this post would be really helpful- she spends a lot of it talking about how to title your listings/write the descriptions and do the tagging to get the best results from search engines. I'm still working on improving that in my shop and have already seen a difference in my traffic because of it.

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  5. I sell on the Australian version of Etsy (called Madeit) and want to advise that one of the most important considerations is, do your products have a point of difference? This is crucial to obtain sales in a saturated market, you will struggle to make sales if your items look like 100 other sellers

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  6. Thank you for this great post. I've yet to sell at a craft fair and am playing out the pros and cons. Tell me, do you carryover the dollar amount you've invested each year? Or do you start each year clean?

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I appreciate comments so much! I'll do my best to reply to you here in the comments section, especially if there is a question so future readers can see the answer.