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 Tracy of photoglassworks. Tracy lives and works in North Carolina and has been selling on Etsy for two and a half years, and she has just recently climbed above the 3,800 sales mark. Tracy developed her style of incorporating photos (rather than using solder) into glass work after finding out she was pregnant was searching for safer methods of working. Keep reading to find out how this mother and entrepreneur has become so successful.
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
I was first introduced to Etsy in 2005 by a friend, hotpinkzebra. I had been doing arts/craft shows for several years and I was looking for a place to sell between shows. I joined in the beginning months of Etsy when there were no listing or transaction fees until December, so I literally had nothing to lose. I made my first sale the day after I joined.
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
I would say having a quality product to start with is the most important. I’ve also never made anything that I wouldn’t wear myself, so staying true to my style and not worrying so much about what the trend is has helped me maintain a kind of common theme to my shop. I love packaging and really enjoy knowing that my customers are going to get something pretty and fun to open. Definitely, listing often is big. I look at it as advertising: listing is like buying an advertising spot on Etsy because you’re getting exposure and you need that to sell. (Especially in the jewelry category, because it’s so competitive, and it’s not long before you’re buried under pages of listings.) So if you think about it that way, you can get an ad spot on Etsy for the bargain price of 20 cents!
What are the best and most effective ways you have promoted your shop?
I rely pretty heavily on word of mouth. I wish I enjoyed writing more because I think blogging is a great marketing tool. I also collaborate with several very talented artists who I’ve been so fortunate to work with, and it’s turned out to be a great way to promote each others’ work. Other than that, I try to keep a healthy balance between family, Etsy, friends, a personal life and taking care of myself, which means I try to fit in a good amount of sleep and some exercise. That’s about all I can fit into my day right now.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
I couldn’t do it without my Dymo label printer. My system is very basic and pretty foolproof. Every morning I have my coffee and copy and paste all my addresses and print my shipping labels. After I print each one, I write on the back what they ordered and fill the order with either my in-stock inventory or I make it to order. That’s it…pretty high tech, right? The label writer is around $100 and you can get labels and the printer from Labelcity.com. (A roll of labels is only $15.00 for 300.) Also, the Dymo uses heat to print, so there’s no ink to replace.
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers? What do you do to gain repeat buyers?
I have a lot of repeat buyers, but would say a majority are new. I think the best way to get buyers to come back is to give them a product that’s maybe better than what they expected, as well as a great buying experience which includes shipping fast, good communication, nice packaging, etc. I’ve had so many people tell me that they needed to get another necklace because they decided to keep the first one for themselves.
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
Most days it comes pretty naturally. I love to get up, spend a couple hours with my boys before I get them off to school and start my work day. I’ve had my “off” days where I have to push myself to get all my work done, but those are the days I have to remind myself to be grateful. I love what I do, and I’m so fortunate to be doing what I love everyday; if I keep that perspective, it’s a lot easier to stay motivated. I get to set my own work schedule, be creative all day while singing along to my favorite music. To quote one my friends, I have a "pretty sweet gig," and I have to agree!
One thing that I sometimes battle with is feeling isolated because I’m working from home all the time, every day. That’s when I need to grab my laptop and do some work from a coffee shop.
Do you "Etsy" full time or do you have another job too?
My life has changed pretty drastically since 2006. I had people in my life that were not supportive of me making and selling my jewelry full time, because in their eyes it wasn’t a “real job.” It’s been great proving that I can make a living at this, and now I’m surrounded by supportive and encouraging people who believe in me and are proud of me. I also have entrepreneurial parents who have had their own successful business for almost 30 years, I’ve learned so much from them. So, yes! I Etsy full time and also travel around a little and do some arts and crafts shows. I’m also part of IndieNC.com, which is a co-op of emerging artists and designers from North Carolina.
If you "Etsy" full time, were you able to quit your day job due to your success selling on Etsy?
I was faced with the decision to go back to a 9-5 office job after my youngest started kindergarten. Etsy was the reason I didn’t have to do that.
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
My favorite feature is Time Machine 2: I’ve found some great artists through that feature. I also like Shop Local, as I’ve had several local event planners find me through Shop Local to see if I wanted to participate in their shows and handmade markets. I enjoy reading the Storque to stay up to date with what’s going on with the community and the site. I love to read about all the great press Etsy’s getting. It was so exciting to see Rob Kalin on Martha Stewart! It’s so great to see Etsy come this far and I’m proud to have been a part of it. Oh, and Alchemy…I missed it!
What features do you use most on Etsy?
I use re-list the most.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop one year from now?
I would like to make time to work with more artists. I would also like to take more of my own photos and use more of my work in my jewelry. I just took a metal class so I’ll be adding some sterling, hand-forged necklaces and earrings soon, so that’s exciting!
What piece of advice would you give to a new seller on Etsy who might be feeling discouraged? Do you have a quick tip or trick that you have learned over time you would be willing to share?
If you look back on my sales and the first things that I sold on Etsy, you’ll see that I didn’t start out selling jewelry. PhotoGlassworks was a name I chose to sell custom photographs using a framing technique I came up with. It turned out that doing the custom work took a lot of time and was difficult to ship, so I tried another medium. I started working with clay and images to make some fun pendants.
I had a great response to those, but it wasn’t long before a bunch of other Etsy shops started popping up selling very similar pendants. It’s really important that what I make be unique and original, so I started playing around with my initial idea with the glass and wire, but on a smaller scale, to make jewelry. So, my Etsy shop has evolved since 2005 and kind of morphed into what it is now. My point is, don’t give up and don’t get discouraged: setbacks could lead to opportunities. Not every great idea has been discovered already, so keep experimenting. If your heart is really in it and you’re working hard, people will notice eventually.
Thank you Etsy!
Read our previous Etsy Success Stories. See some of Tracy’s work and top picks on Etsy in the gallery below: