Hello, lovely darlings.
Well, I’ve had a couple of friends ask me about how to start-up on Etsy. It made me think back to when I first had a dream about selling handmade stuff, and how exciting, but daunting it was at the same time. I still think it is mind-blowing and so cool that there is a platform for creative people to turn their hobbies into ca$h money. I mean seriously, what is better than that?! But it comes with a lot of hard work, research, and hours wanting to rip your hair out by the follicle. Just keepin’ it real….
There’s gotta be like millions of tutorials and how-to articles that you can google about this subject, but I thought I would put in my 2 cents about what I’ve learned in the past few years, what’s worked, and what didn’t.
#1: What is your ultimate goal?
I ask you this so you can really ponder and answer truthfully. Are you that person that has endless amounts of free time to spend making elaborate projects for those who go “ooohhh” and “ahhhh” every time you post a picture on Instagram? Do you find joy in the process of creation, and think, eh, why not make a few extra bucks making something you love? You’re making it anyway! You are looking for a way to get rid of the abundance of crafty things you have made over the years, and continue to make, for fun.
Are you looking for a way to make a consistent source of income as efficiently and effectively as possible, with the perk of having a creative outlet sprinkled on top? Do you love being crafty, but are interested in leaving your day job someday and still need to support a family while doing it?
If your answer was the first response, great! Selling your creations on Etsy, or to your friends on the side is a great way to make some side cash. Just be careful, Etsy shops with only a few listed items are generally not very successful. If you are just directing your friends & family to purchase your items, that’s fine. Beware, Etsy does charge a listing fee, and a sold item fee. You may be better off just asking for cash. If you are trying to market to the masses, and internationally,prepare to amp up your production, and spend some time learning about online traffic if you really want to turn your hobby into a side income.
If your answer is the second response, I have good and not-so-shiny news for you. The good is you are smart! Yay! You have an entrepreneurial drive, and are dedicated to doing what it takes to be successful.The not-so-shiny news is that this option also comes with some sacrifice. What? Huh? Keep reading…
#2 Find a niche.
So, you want to make money. Great!
Your next step, without going to Joann’s and Michaels and spending your entire paycheck buying supplies to make candle holders is to brainstorm. You may be really damn good making those candleholders, and they also may be the prettiest, chicest candle holders anyone has ever seen, but is that really a niche that is in high-demand and profitable?
I will give you an example (I like examples – and this one is actually my own).
Let’s say you work a normal 40 hour a week job. On the weekends you love to knit. In fact, you love it so much that your entire house is full of yarn and thread to make fingerless gloves (guilty). You get so excited about every project you finish, you of course have to post an Instagram pic for the world to see. They are so cool that all of your friends and family are commenting, “Wow! So awesome, I would totally pay you to make some for me!” You wear your gloves to work, and your coworkers want a pair, too. You think, hey why not? You love knitting, so you might as well make some extra money pleasing your friends at the same time. So you charge $40/pair of gloves. Pretty reasonable, considering you are making them by hand, even though they could easily pick up a pair at Target for $18. So you get to work. The first pair takes you 8 hours to make (because they are the fancy, intricate ones everyone likes, not the basic chunky knits). After the first pair, you need a break. You put on some Grey’s Anatomy. Eh, you’re tired. One pair down. Nine to go. Soon you find your weekends piling up with allllll of this knitting for everyone who has paid you to make these gloves. At one pair a day, you are making a measly $5.00/hour ($40/8 hours = $5.00 + cost of materials = less than $5/hour) with no spare time on your hands. Plus, you have now sacrificed your glorious two free weekend days, plus you are beginning to lose your sanity!!! Your days have turned into the following: Work at the day job, come home, knit a little, eat dinner, go to bed. On the weekends you gotta catch up, so you knit knit knit – and go to bed. Happy hour after work? Can’t, gotta knit. Date night? Can’t, gotta knit. Wine tasting on Sunday? Awww man…. I REALLY need a glass of wine. But I can’t, gotta knit.
Don’t be that person.
Your life is valuable. So is your free time. Try to stop thinking in terms of what you love, and what is fun for you, and instead direct your attention to what sells, and what items are profitable.
A good way of figuring out whether or not an item will be profitable is calculating the amount of time it will take you to make that item, and subtracting the cost of supplies to make it.
So, let’s say you want to sell screen-printed T-shirts. It takes you 30 minutes to make one t-shirt, and the cost of supplies to make just one (because you buy the supplies in bulk) is roughly $5.00. Let’s say you’ve decided that it’s only worth selling if you are making $15/hour. A good way to figure out how much to charge is to mark up either the price for your time, or adding more onto the cost for supplies, or both.
We already know you’ve spent $5 on supplies. $30-5 = $25 gross profit. Then subtract whatever you are paying yourself for labor ($15/hour = $7.50/30 minutes to make the t-shirt). That is $17.50 gross profit to reinvest in your business, after you’ve paid yourself the $7.50 for 30 minutes worth of work. Not bad. You are still making your goal of $15/hr plus extra. And your price point isn’t bad either. Your customer (probably) won’t mind paying $30 for a custom-made T-shirt.
So that’s not exactly the most scientific formula, but I like to think in more overall terms.
When you are brainstorming, ask yourself the following:
How long will it take me to make this item?
How much are the costs of supplies to make this item?
Can I get a bulk discount if I order a large quantity of supplies?
How much will people pay for this item?
Can I make multiples of the same item at once, to be more efficient? (Think factory line) Or are they custom-made and personalized to order? (Pre-making items can keep you prepared and takes less time; Making each time to order is going to take you more time.)
Does my item appeal to a mass market? Or is the customer more specific? (Finding something with a large audience = buko bucks vs appealing to a smaller one… well, you get it.)
#3 Don’t Get Ahead Of Yourself
I totally get it. You have an idea, and you go off running for the hills, and soon your brain starts to fill with a million things you want to do, and need to get done. Start with baby steps. Stop wasting your time clicking on the home page of Etsy and reading all of the amazing descriptions and photographs and wondering how the heck to even use Photoshop. Those shops are great for inspiration, but wondering what color scheme to use for your shop banner isn’t a really effective use of time when you should be researching different suppliers for the best deals, or heck – what you’re even going to sell!
You will get there eventually.
If it helps, write out your ideas. If you can’t stay away from all of the tangents, create a ‘random thoughts’ page or folder on your browser to reference back to those links when you need them. But for now, find an item. And once you find that item, stick to it and diversify it. You want your shop to have 50+ items within the same theme, whether it varies by color choices, design choices, add-on items, related items, etc. If you’re going to sell coffee cups, consider tea cups, coasters, coffee cozies, etc.
Selling on Etsy can be a great place for you to make money, as long as you approach it smartly. You may have to sacrifice the idea of spending all of your time doing what you love, in exchange for higher profits. Don’t worry, if you choose this approach you should have extra time eventually to continue to indulge in what you love! That is the whole point after all 🙂 Opening an Etsy shop takes a lot of hard work and preparation. Think about your plan and strategy before you register and start listing items. Put as much research and dedication into your Etsy shop as you do in other areas of your life. Yes, this can be fun, but it is not only for fun. This is your business, your reputation, and your brand.
What else would you like to read about?
Welp, hopefully I didn’t scare you off. I’m no entrepreneurial expert or anything, just putting my two cents into the conversation. You can give me the finger if you want and do your own thing. I would love your feedback in regards to whether you found this information useful, and what else you would be interested in reading about here on my blog.
Some ideas for future Etsy-related posts:
How-To Take Quality Photographs & Use Photoshop for Etsy Listings
How-To Write Professional Listing Descriptions & Shipping/Policy Guidelines
Separating Your Business & Personal Finances
Re-selling 101: How To Buy Cheap, And Sell High
Anywho… Thanks for reading! Stay posted as I think I’m now addicted to blogging, and more will be coming soon! 🙂
Visit my Etsy Shop: The Petite Package – Weddings & Crafts