Christine of BloomStudios knew from a young age her path in life should be in the arts, but opted for a job in the dentistry field where she eventually met her husband. After taking a metalsmithing class while staying at home with their children, she began selling her work on Etsy. She hasn’t regretted leaving the dentist office since. Keep reading to find out some of Christine’s best selling tips (including why she thinks item photography is key) and to catch a glimpse of her studio and lightbox set up.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I had to laugh when I really sat down and thought of the proverbial beginning for me. As a child I used to repackage pieces of gum, make little trinkets and draw numerous pictures. I ran around my neighborhood anonymously sticking these items in various mailboxes. I would attach an imaginative note that would sound like a sales pitch for my items — ultimately requesting the finder of my treasures to leave a little money in their mailbox in return. The next day I would run back to all the homes and search for my profits. Needless to say this was not very successful and I never saw a single dime. I can now see the subtle glimpses of how I was setting the tone for my future. Thankfully I learned from my mistakes and I definitely got sidetracked along the way, but here I am now!
When you first started selling on Etsy did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job and how long were you selling before deciding to take the plunge?
Although going to art school was my goal, at my mother’s urging I followed a more practical path and went to dental hygiene school. I knew deep down this wasn’t the career choice for me and I floundered in and out of the field. During my last jaunt back into dentistry I met my husband, a dentist, and we began a family. I ended up eventually staying home with the children, and during this time, I experienced a great deal of internal conflict. I was raised by a single mother who stressed in me the need to be able to take care of yourself financially, and it was very difficult for me to define myself as a “kept woman.” I felt a loss of identity which ultimately led me to sign up for metalsmithing class. This was something that I had always wanted to do. After the first class I was completely hooked and I had that strong sense of knowing that this is what I was meant to do. When our son, Athan, was about three, my husband began talking of having me come back into the office and work with him once Athan began kindergarten. By this time, I had begun selling my jewelry in a few local galleries. My fledgling business was financially in the deep red, but I genuinely felt sick inside every time he would bring up coming back to work at the office. At that point I knew I had to get moving and establish myself as an a profitable artist.
In the fall of 2007, I was dabbling in setting up an e-boutique to sell my items as well as feature other artists. During a search for potential artists, I found Etsy. I can’t explain the excitement I felt while sifting through the shops! I just kept muttering, “This is it! I can do this too!” I had a little over a year at this point to get my act together and prove to my husband that I could be successful and that’s exactly what I did. I payed off my business debt within six months of starting my own Etsy shop,BloomStudios, and quickly began bringing in a better income than I could have expected in dental hygiene. Most of all, my husband saw my success and genuine happiness, so he stopped pushing for me to come back.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time before taking the plunge?
I am pretty much a “plunger!” I did have a business license and separate checking account due to the gallery sales. I also had more inventory than I needed. I think though, the most beneficial thing I had done in preparation was having a clear vision and belief in my success. I knew, and I do mean absolutely knew, that this was right for me. I think having a clear vision of what you want it crucial. I also wrote down my goals as if I would attain them.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business and what’s your best marketing tip?
- I don’t know if it’s anything magical, but for me having a combination of marketing approaches has worked well. Customer service is crucial and I spend a lot of time personally connecting with my customers. I have many repeat customers and referred customers. I feel very fortunate to do what I love and I try to share this enthusiasm and gratitude with them.
- I also think joining a really good Etsy Team is so beneficial! I belong to the EtsyMetal Team: we do spend time promoting each other as a team, but also the information provided from this affiliation has been so very valuable to me in developing my own shop.
- In following my traffic with Google Analytics (also known as Etsy Web Analytics), I’ve found that I get a lot of traffic from flickr (Note: please follow flickr’s Terms or Use.), my Facebook business page, and specific tag words. I think Google Analytics is a valuable tool to see what’s working and what’s not.
- Finally relisting and renewing make a huge difference for me. If I get too busy or have a project to work on, I just don’t renew any items for a couple days. When I don’t have as many sales as I want, I renew a few times that day. (Note: find out more about how renewing works on Etsy.)
What have you found to be unsuccessful promotion or something that’s just not working for your shop?
I’ve done advertising on blogs along with one magazine ad and I didn’t have the results I expected to see. Twitter has been one of those things that hasn’t worked very well for me. I know some people swear by it, and though I continue to do it, I have yet to see its value in terms of sales and exposure.
Walk us through what a typical workday might entail being your own boss.
- I return home from taking the kids to school about 8:15 am.
- I have a ritual of sitting down with my coffee at the computer for the next hour or so.
- I write down my orders, send thank you Convos and answer any other Convos.
- I generally browse our team forum during this time and catch up with posts.
- Shortly after this I generally head into the studio and work until noon.
- I have some lunch, check the computer briefly, and package up orders to ship.
- I have been trying to turn over a new leaf in the afternoon and head to the gym for an hour or so, before I have to pick up my kids from school.
- Once we’re home, this is often the time I edit pictures for new work, post new listings to Etsy, flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.
- In the evening, I often do some of my stone setting and finish work that I can do while hanging out with my family.
- I almost always pop back on the computer before bed to again reply to Convos and futz around for a bit.
It’s a pretty simple life!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job and is there anything you miss?
I enjoy everything about not having a day job!!! I finally feel passionate about working. I wake up everyday, grateful to put my energy into doing what I love! The flexibility is perfect. If I want a day off, I take one! Today I have a very sick little boy, and I can take care of him without worrying about how I am going to juggle my life. I can do the laundry, work in my pj’s, tend to my children’s schedules, run errands and a business without batting an eye. Nope! I definitely don’t miss a thing!
If you could go back in time before you took the plunge, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now, and what advice would you give someone else thinking about taking the plunge?
Have a clear vision. I jumped into my shop before I stopped to think. I didn’t think about my username much and regret not using my personal name. Also, I started my shop with the idea that I could only sell at certain price points because of what I saw others selling their work at. I was used to making very involved and expensive pieces for galleries and tried to change my style to my perception of what would sell. It went okay, though I wasn’t happy with what I was making. One of the galleries that represented my work closed, and I listed those items as a test of sorts to see how they might do. I sold all the pieces (at the prices I wanted) within a couple days. Have good support! I can’t stress enough how valuable the right Etsy Team can be as a resource and support.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I started off the year with a few simple goals. One was financial and growth oriented. I already felt very lucky to be making a good living doing what I love, so this year I wanted to define a higher purpose for this. Philanthropy became my second goal for this year. We already give to others as a family, but this was my hard earned cash that I could give now. This first quarter was very successful and I was so excited to send $500 St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Finally, my last goal this year is to see a piece of my jewelry in a major fashion magazine. I came close with Lucky Magazine last year, but the article was canceled.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If there’s anything else I can offer it would be to really think about your image and who your target audience is. Get your shop in order, and think about what you look for during your buying experience. I also believe great photos are your best tool to bring people into your shop. I see so many talented artists who don’t have a good photos of their work and don’t “sell” their pieces well in the item descriptions.
Etsy has been absolutely amazing for me! I tell absolutely everyone about it. Etsy has helped me turn my habit into a career and my dream into a reality! I am grateful for all of the support I have received here.
Please join Christine for a follow-up Question and Answer session this Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 3pm EDT in the Auditorium room of the Virtual Labs (the VL schedule is magically in your local time). See you there!
You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here!
See items from the EtsyMetal Team. And take a look at some of Christine’s gorgeous jewelry below.