Shelli has been successfully supporting herself through her Etsy business, dazeychic, after diving in head first. She runs a tight ship and puts in long hours, all the while caring for her son, Brayden. Shelli is just now learning how to balance and manage her time to keep from working 24/7, claims one of her best Etsy strategies is relisting all of the items in her shop daily, and wishes she had paid a tad more attention in math rather than doodling during class. Keep reading to get a peek into the life of Shelli and the story behind dazeychic.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
My lovely mom, neysasart, passed on her creative gene to me (thanks, Mom!) and encouraged me to explore every avenue in which I showed an interest. As silly as it sounds, I always loved to doodle and it often got me into trouble during school. I would make classmates cards with funny people on them, and I would write my teachers notes in the margins using bubble letters. I hated math and I LOVED art class. It was the only thing that ever felt just right.
I owe my humble digital illustration beginnings to the invention of blogs and Valentine’s Day. My boyfriend at the time, who is now my partner-in-crime and Etsy-guru husband, surprised me one Valentine’s Day with a little software program called Paint Shop Pro. Nothing fancy. I dove in that night and never looked back. I took a few online tutorial classes to teach me the basics and started posting my creations on my blog. I started getting requests for custom work almost instantly. It was amazing. It was the first time I was doing what I loved… but it certainly was not full-time.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Absolutely not. The very idea seemed dreamy and very very far away! At that time I still believed I was going to be a famous author like Carrie Bradshaw.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
I should probably say “yes” here… but I’m creative and not at all logical. I had the basics, but anything beyond that? Nothing. I learn best by jumping in and “doing” so that’s exactly what I did. Finances and taxes have been the hardest so far…which is ironic. I guess I should have paid attention in math!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
Blog, a lot. Blog about yourself. Your life. Your goals. Your fears. Everything. People want to know you, not just read about your new work. Connecting with your fan base is the best promotion there is! I honestly get this question quite frequently in Convos. I always tell people the same thing. Put out a great product, something you are proud of and would buy yourself. A happy client/customer/shopper will ALWAYS tell someone else. Always. That’s free promotion that you can feel crazy-good about. And a freebie in the package — with your shop’s address — is always a plus!
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I may be in the minority here, but I truly believe that there is no such thing as unsuccessful promotion! Anytime you put your name out there is brave and rewarding. Someone, somewhere will look at your work. Just yesterday I Googled a business name I saw on the bulletin board in my local coffee shop. You just never know… so do it all! What have you got to lose? Well, now that I said that… don’t go crazy. Be true to your business and stay within your means. Obviously larger magazines are ridiculously expensive and most of us cannot afford that unless pairing with Etsy and their fantastic Cooperative Advertising Program! Do not break the bank to promote yourself because there are never any guarantees. Unfortunately.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- 7 a.m. – 8 a.m.: I wake up to the sound of my little man (2.5 year-old Brayden) singing “Money money must be funny in a rich man’s world!” from the Mamma Mia soundtrack. He sings it as loud as he can which is pretty much the best alarm clock ever.
- 8:45 a.m.: I get Brayden a bowl of cereal and set him up in front of Nick Jr. to watch junk TV for an hour so I can get things done. However, anyone with a child over 2 knows that they do not do what you want… so he usually follows me into the studio to play with his cars while I check email and answer urgent messages. I begin to print orders and address shipping labels. I do this all by hand because it feels more personal to write address labels rather than printing them.
- 9:30 a.m.: I have my daily conference call with my best friend (my mom)… who lives a mile away. We talk about anything and everything. She keeps me sane.
- I relist everything in my Etsy shop periodically throughout the day. One of my smartest investments was getting the internet on my mobile phone which allows me to relist or answer emails from anywhere.
- 10:30 a.m.: Brayden and I get dressed. Or rather, I get him dressed and I *try* to get dressed while he is under my feet showing me the big engine on his Hot Wheel car. He is often found shooting cars off of Mommy and Daddy’s big bed right about now. I, thank goodness, get ten minutes to brush my teeth, flat iron my hair, apply a bit of makeup and find some flip flops.
- 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: This is officially Brayden & Mommy time. The business hat comes off and I focus on him. We take little trips to the store to do errands. We go to the library and play with the train set in the far back corner that no one else knows about. We giggle about silly things and make up songs. We build forts and meet Grandma for lunch. We go to the park or go for a walk. Every day is different. Every day I realize more and more how lucky I am to have quit working a day job and how it is making a direct impact on who my son is going to be. It’s just such a gift.
- 1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: This is when I jump into high gear. Brayden is usually taking a nap or my incredible family (whom I could not live without) takes him off my hands for a bit. I finish printing, I sign and number each print, I bag them in pristine plastic sleeves, I stuff envelopes with promo goodies and rush to get to the post office before it closes.
- 4:45 p.m.: After chatting with the adorable ladies at the post office (who know me by heart and know the entire drill without question), Brayden and I usually stop at Starbucks for a pick-me-up. I need my Vanilla Latte and he needs his Blackberry Scone.
- 5:30 p.m.: My AMAZING husband comes home from his day job and plays with Brayden. I always joke with him and say “The title of Mom ends at 6 p.m.” and it’s true. Ben feeds him and gets Brayden into bed by 7:30 p.m. while I work on new things in the studio and print more orders.
- 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.: Ben and I watch TV and eat dinner together. It’s the only time during the day I sit down with him and I LOVE it. I’m a huge movie-and-popcorn kinda girl so it’s no surprise that this is what I do to relax and unwind.
- 10 p.m. – 1 a.m.: It’s back up to the studio to work. I work best at night when it’s quiet and peaceful. I get the most done during these hours. I order supplies and sketch new designs… this is my favorite time of day.
- 1 a.m.: Bedtime. I read for a bit and fall asleep dreaming of a vacation in Mexico or Paris!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
What I enjoy most is not having a boss! Not that I ever had particularly difficult or nasty bosses in the past… it’s just such a freeing moment when you look around you and go WOW! I HAVE NO ONE TO ANSWER TO! You do things the way you want… when you want. There is nothing better than that. Although, I have to admit answering email in your pajamas is equally lovely! I am like every other work-at-home. I miss people. Interacting with coworkers, the chatting and constant friends. It’s the toughest part! If I didn’t have Facebook and email, I would be miserable… it’s my connection to the outside world.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part is turning it off. I’m always thinking about it. I’m always worried about something. It just doesn’t go away. There is not a time-clock telling me to go home so I tend to work 24/7 even if I’m not in front of the computer or over a canvas. It’s a constant job owning your own business; I was not prepared for that at all. I’m getting better at it, though!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
My advice for others is to not put pressure on yourself or your Etsy shop. Don’t put expectations so high that you can’t reach. Do it because you cannot imagine doing anything else. As for advice I would have given myself? “Pay attention in math class, Shelli! Believe it or not you really are going to use it someday!”
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I sincerely want to continue to make people smile! I really cannot ask for much more. A little secret? I am working on wall decals that are large scale prints which I hope to have available soon. Very cute!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
To anyone who has purchased something from me, THANK YOU. I don’t think you know how much you each mean to me. I sometimes wish I could find you all and give you a giant hug! And it’s not just me really, I mean, when you purchase something on Etsy you are honoring and supporting a real person. A REAL PERSON. Not a big giant money hungry company. That’s just amazing and oh-so-refreshing!
To Etsy, you own my whole heart for what you have done for me. And for those of you behind the scenes keeping this place tip-top and running smooth… I’d kiss you if I could.
Thanks to Shelli for sharing her story. You can see some of her product line in the related items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.