After being let go from a day job she already hated (on a day when she was locked out of her house in the rain), Lori of ChaCha2 decided she had no other choice than to make her goal of being an independent bag designer a viable reality. Plunging feet-first into self employment has taught Lori the importance of creating a plan for her business, setting both short and long term goals. She now knows the significance of remembering that things take time. After all, few things happen over night. With these lessons in mind, Lori finds herself today running a sustainable business with the ability to take a two hour lunch whenever she pleases.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I think I have always made things. Even as a little kid my neighbor and I would would paint pictures and try and sell them to all the parents on our street from a stand we set up in my driveway. I have tried my hand in making all kinds of things: knitting, cooking, painting, sculpting, even paper mache. I started making handbags while I was in college and it stuck.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
I always wanted to be my own boss, but had no real plans or expectations. Everything in my career has really been a result of circumstance and experimenting. I was kind of forced into taking the plunge about a year into being on Etsy. I was fired from a job that I absolutely hated, the same afternoon I locked myself out of my apartment (in the rain, no less). While sitting on my front steps, waiting for my landlord, I wasn’t upset or worried, it just became clear to me that I had to make CHA CHA work.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Looking back, I wish I had been a little more prepared. I was really inexperienced, so I just started. I already had my business registered, but aside from that I would buy supplies when I had the money, make a piece, when it would sell I would buy more supplies to make something else.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
As a new business the marketing budget is small or non-existent. Not having a budget forces you to get creative with your marketing. Word of mouth has been great. I have had great support from bloggers all over the world writing about my stuff and sharing it with their readers. I always have cards on me and pass them out to anyone who I think may be interested. I have also found that having my own blog helps, as it gives your buyers a little look into what you do and who you are and keeps them coming back.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I have tried a little bit of paid advertising here and there and I really haven’t seen any return on it.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- Wake up around 8am, grab my computer, respond to emails and create my list for the day. I can’t live without lists, I have books full of them.
- Take my dog for a long walk and head to my studio.
- I package up any orders, then refer to my list of things to do. I usually work in an “assembly line” kind of style. One day I cut all the leather and lining, them the next day I sew, and the next day I put all the hardware on, and so on.
- Around 4pm I take my dog home (which is a 3 min. walk from my studio), feed us, sit on the couch for a bit, then head back to the studio.
- Finish up any orders and spend some time on the internet doing research, looking for new bloggers to contact, list a few new items on Etsy and take a few minutes to check the latest celebrity gossip.
- Depending on how many orders I have that day or how many new ideas I have, my day can be any where from 10-12 hours long. I really don’t feel like I work a lot though. I think loving what you do, combined with the freedom of creating your own schedule, makes long days feel normal.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I love not waking up to an alarm anymore. I love that I’m often excited to go to sleep at night just so I can hurry up and get into the studio in the morning. I love that I can meet a friend for a two hour lunch at two in the afternoon. I love seeing the direct result of my hard work. I really don’t miss anything.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
I feel like I would have seen more results faster if I had done a bit more research. I really just jumped and probably wasted quite a bit of time and money running in circles. Check out what other people in your field are doing and ask them questions; 99.5% of the time people are more then willing to help. I would also suggest creating a plan for your business and set both short term and long term goals: if you see it on paper it becomes much easier to accomplish. (There is something about crossing accomplished goals off my list that makes me happy, but maybe that’s just me.)
For people working specifically in leather, I suggest working out your new styles in a heavy fabric similar to leather, maybe canvas. When I first started I would get so excited about new ideas I would start a brand new style in leather. Mistakes or miscalculations are bound to happen when you are starting out and using leather the first time around can mean costly errors.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
Increasing sales is always a goal. I would also like to take advantage of more of the features that Etsy offers, such as the Virtual Labs. I have been so focused on my own shop that I haven’t taken the time to really explore all that Etsy has to offer. I have a few other ideas for my shop brewing, so you will have to stay tuned.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I guess if I could offer any advice or words of wisdom, it would be to really believe in what you love and work HARD for it. It is a LOT of work, it’s full of all kinds of highs and lows, but there something about seeing your passion become a reality that makes it all worth it. It’s also important to remember that things take time: everything doesn’t happen overnight. I am a very impatient person by nature, so this has been a tough one for me to learn, but if you are working hard and doing the best work you can, people will take notice and it will pay off eventually.
I also want to the thank the whole Etsy community, admin, buyers and sellers. The amount of support here is incredible. Every kind convo is great motivation and just as valuable as a sale. Keep an eye on my CHA CHA shop…every day my sewing gets stronger and ideas get crazier. I’m really excited about this next year and think great things are just around around the corner.
You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here! Take a look at some of Lori’s gorgeous bags below.