You’ve seen those big sellers on Etsy who seem to be making sales left and right. You have to wonder how they’ve made it to where they are: can they actually be FOR REAL? What’s their recipe for success? And just how do they do it?
This week’s installment of our Etsy Success Stories series features Alicia of AliciaBock. Alicia is a photographer living between Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan who has made an astounding 1,800 sales in little under 2 1/2 years selling on Etsy! She is a completely self taught photographer who is often times inspired by her children and her surroundings. Keep reading to dive into the magical world that is AliciaBock.
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
I discovered Etsy over two years ago while up late reading some "work at home mom" forum. Someone brought up Etsy as a new site to sell handmade, so I clicked right over to check things out. I was immediately drawn to the clean, crisp design of the site. There were already some artists here that I really admired. Plus, I opened my shop for about $5. That’s just about the best deal I ever heard of. And, probably one of the best business decisions I’ve made.
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
Great quality, word of mouth, and flexibility have been the most help to me. I am always happy to work with my customers to get them what they want, like different sizes for photographs, or adding a special note for orders that are gifts.
My packaging will not win me any awards for beauty, but I do feel it is so important to use recycled packaging, and would feel guilty if I didn’t. Plus, it keeps my shipping prices low. I also stay true to myself with my body of work, meaning that I only sell photographs of places and things that I really love. They are all a reflection of me.
How do you promote your shop?
I try to update my blog several times a week, as well as sharing all of my new images on Flickr. I have also been really lucky to have been supported by wonderful sites like Decor8, and Oh Joy. And, in publications like People Magazine. A few times a year I advertise online, and participate in events like the PoppyTalk Handmade Market.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
Handling my orders hasn’t been a problem, but handling my kids while I try to ship them can be a challenge as they are so eager to help. I use the Paypal MultiOrder shipping tool, and print labels after each photograph is packaged. I have a nice mail carrier who is used to taking my packages when she brings my mail, so this cuts down on time spent in line at the post office.
My orders with matting I usually do once or twice a week because I don’t like the kids around while I am matting, so I make a little assembly line while my husband takes them out for pizza. When I am out taking photographs it is a whole family affair, and we plan vacations or weekend camping trips around places I want to photograph.
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers? What do you do to gain repeat buyers?
Most are new, but I do have quite a few repeat buyers, especially during the holidays. I think having photographs that work well as sets, or collections is my best asset, as well as using only the highest quality paper and ink. You can feel that it is a well-made product that will last a lifetime.
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
I have so many more ideas than I have time right now, and thousands of photographs I have taken but never looked at yet. The world around me really inspires me, and when I am with my kids I get to see everything new again through their eyes. Also, I know I have customers who are looking to see what is fresh in my shop. I want them to stop by and be excited by new images.
Do you "Etsy" full time or do you have another job too?
I am a photographer full time, so between maintaining my Etsy shop and other websites, and galleries I sell in, it is a full time job. Occasionally, I will take on a portrait session too, just to push myself out of my comfort zone. But, selling my photographs as fine art is really my first love, and I am always happiest when it is keeping me busy.
If you "Etsy" full time, were you able to quit your day job due to your success selling on Etsy?
I quit my job years ago when my first child was born, but Etsy has been a big factor in allowing me to stay at home with my kids, and for that I am extremely grateful.
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
I love the ever-changing front page. I discover most of my new favorite items that way. I also like the Shop Local feature because running a business on your own can be lonely, but I am always encouraged to see what lovely items can be found right around me from people working at home, just like me.
What features do you use most on Etsy?
I like to drop in on the Forums a few times a day, and always read the new Storque articles.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop one year from now?
I am very hopeful for the next year, and have plans for lots of new photographs, and a book of my work.
What piece of advice would you give to a new seller on Etsy who might be feeling discouraged?
I do get a lot of emails and comments regarding this question. Most people say "it looks like you are doing so well here, what’s your secret?" I think a positive attitude goes a long way. If this is your dream don’t give up. Yes, I am thrilled with my sales on Etsy, but they didn’t just magically appear. This is my fourth year selling my work. It seems common for new shops (especially in the forums) to compare themselves to other new shops, but it really isn’t fair to yourself. You don’t know their backgrounds, maybe they have been selling elsewhere for years, and have a built in client base from previous experiences. We don’t all come into this at equal places, but we can all do our best to make sure we are successful.
My best and really all encompassing advice is work hard. I work harder at this than I have ever worked on any job where I worked for someone else, and I think most people who are self-employed will tell you the same. And, though it may be slow to start, you will see your efforts pay off. Make a business plan, read books about running a business. Treat your Etsy shop just as you would a brick and mortar shop. Know who your target market is, so that you can effectively advertise.
And, when you have done all of those things that a business is supposed to do…do them again, and again, and again, and never stop. It seems like a lot, but really this has been the most fun I have ever had.
Anything else you want to add?
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I think Etsy is filling a void that existed for artists for a long time.