I’m excited to bring you the next Quit Your Day Jobber who just so happens to have taken the plunge to focus full time on her success in selling vintage on Etsy. Allison of adVintagous started out listing a couple items from her closet in order to clear out some room and make a few extra dollars after realizing there was a Vintage Category on the site; she never imagined she’d soon be making a full-time living from it. Allison went from a recent graduate during a recession working full time as a character photographer at a theme park to being her own boss bringing new life to vintage finds. Her best marketing advice is keeping up a shop newsletter and taking photos in natural light with a simple background. Allison is most thankful that Etsy has allowed her to concentrate on her true passions in life including vintage and birds.
How did you originally get into the business of selling vintage?
I’ve always loved the different eras of vintage — mod 60s, glam evening dresses, big poofy 50s skirts, all of it! I’d been collecting vintage dresses at thrift stores and estate sales personally for years, as well as shopping on Etsy for handmade goods. One day last year, I noticed that Etsy had a vintage section and decided to put some pieces from my own closet up on the site, and things just went from there. It’s great because if I find something really amazing, I get to buy it, even if it doesn’t fit! I always hated to leave something wonderful behind because it was too small or too large.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
After I graduated from college, I found myself working as a character photographer at a theme park in Orlando. While the park was fun, and the people were great, it was not a career that I wanted, and graduating during a recession didn’t leave me many options.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
I knew that other people had been able to support themselves through Etsy, but it wasn’t something that I thought I would be able to do. My goal was to maybe find new homes for some of my dresses, and make a little bit of money to supplement my income. After spending a few months with just my toes in the water, I started selling vintage seriously this past March. I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a sale once in a while, but I was overwhelmed by the response to my finds, and was able to quit my day job this past summer. I’ve sold wedding gowns to brides, prom dresses, and even shimmery sequin pieces to bands for their photo shoots! I love the interaction with customers on Etsy, it’s very different from my experiences with other online selling venues, and everyone is so friendly and happy to communicate.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time, feel free to give us the nitty gritty business details?
At first, I cut my hours to part time, to make sure I wasn’t getting in over my head. Then, when I left the park for good, my husband and I made sure we had enough saved up to last a few months if things didn’t work out, sort of a safety net.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I’ve tried a ton of things — Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Flickr — but I think the most effective thing I’ve done as far as marketing is to have a newsletter. Once or twice a month, I’ll send an email to people who sign up, letting them know about sales, and things like that. I also had little business cards printed up for my shop. I’m always meeting people who ask what I do, and it usually starts a big conversation about selling online. It’s still a pretty novel idea to most people! It’s nice to have a card to hand out so they can see my site when they get home.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I’ve tried a few paid blog advertisements, and while I got some views, I didn’t really see any sales from them. In the end, I didn’t feel the money was worth it. I’m still experimenting with paid advertisements in different places.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- I wake up around 8 a.m., when my husband leaves for work.
- After he’s gone, I spend some time with our little bird, Peanut, eating breakfast and catching up on email and Convos.
- Three days a week I volunteer at a local bird of prey rehab center, so on those days, I head to the center and spend the day with the birds.
- Other days, I usually spend time visiting estate sales looking for those special vintage finds. In the afternoons, if the light is right I’ll take pictures, if not, I’ll process photos, and list items.
- I usually pack up the day’s orders at night, so they are ready to go out in the morning mail the next day!
- Afterwards, my husband and I will usually watch some junky TV or play video games to unwind.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
The best best best thing about not having a day job is that most of what I do on Etsy can be done in the evenings, or on the weekends. Having an “unconventional” job has left my days free for a different kind of work — volunteering! Animals, and birds especially, are one of my big passions in life, along with vintage and traveling. So three days a week I get to volunteer at a local bird rehabilitation center helping to care for sick and injured birds of prey, as well as educating the public about their importance. I love being able to devote so much of my time to something that means so much to me, and I would never have been able to do that without Etsy.
On a more selfish note, I also love not having a commute. Before, I was driving an hour to and from work each day, and usually getting up at 6 a.m. to do it. I’m a born night owl, so now I can wake up at a comfortable hour, and work into the night if I have to. I really miss having coworkers and friends that I see every day, though. Sometimes it gets a little lonely doing everything myself. I do make time to spend with friends and family, but it’s not the same as having people that you work with every day.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
One of the hardest things is having no one else to rely on. If I get sick, or have to go out of town, nothing gets done. Since I do everything myself, the photography, the listing, the buying, and the shipping, if something goes wrong, I know I have no one to blame but myself. I take it pretty hard when something like a lost package happens, even if there’s nothing I could have done about it. Also, it is frustrating when I tell people what I do, and they act like I told them I live on the moon.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
I would love to go back in time and change the way I was taking pictures in the beginning. I had been switching back and forth between trying to take photos outside and trying to bring light to a dark room. When I switched to a well lit room with natural light and a simple background, it was like a breath of fresh air. Now I have to move furniture every time I want to take pictures, but it’s a trade I’m more than willing to make. I think photos are the most important part of your listing, the best description in the world can’t help a blurry, underexposed photo.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
- Aside from, of course, more hearts and sales, I would really like to make a dedicated shipping area at home. Somewhere I can lay things out for packing, and not have to run around finding tape, tissue paper, the scale, and all that. I think it would make shipping so much faster.
- I also need to work on keeping up to date spreadsheets and records of expenses and sales. Not my favorite part, but something I would like to accomplish.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Having an online shop, and being your own boss is fantastic, but also a lot of hard work. I have so much respect now for others who do it full time! It’s not something that I ever expected to be doing, but I love it, and I’ve long since stopped wondering about the crazy places that life has taken me.
Thanks to Allison for sharing her story. You can see some of Allison‘s beautiful work in the Related Items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.