This week I’m bringing you an incredible twist on our regular Quit Your Day Job feature. The story below not only outlines the success Etsy helped bring Suzanne, the Scottish artist behind gorjuss, but it also focuses on the story of her husband, Grant. He was recently able to leave his day job to help with the growing success and management of Suzanne’s newfound business. I think you’ll be as touched as I was to read this inspiring story of a husband and wife team working together and finding success.
In Grant’s words:
On October 6th, 2005 Suzanne followed a link from another artist’s website that led her to Etsy, a chance discovery that made a huge difference in the marketing of her artwork. At the time, I had no idea that it would have any bearing on MY life or working day. I was a hardworking husband of an artist. I worked all hours to support her and our family to be able to live the life we wanted. Etsy was a step for Suzanne to change all our lives forever.
Etsy was new, exciting, and more importantly, the community was warm and welcoming. Suzanne’s original artworks, prints and products sold quicker than she could make them, and it was clear that it deserved a lot more attention than we had the time to give.
We made changes to our way of working by getting a professional printer to produce the highest quality prints and products we could, and we have never settled for the cheapest options since. I became more involved in the printing and production process with my experience in IT from my day job. Yet I still had a lot of new skills to learn, as trimming is not as easy as it looks. Through hard work and necessity, I consider myself accomplished at what I do, which complements Suzanne’s artwork. It grew until I had no choice but to make that leap of faith. Yes, I quit my day job!
At first, I was only really helping out when required, but due to some health issues with Suzanne, it was clear that I needed to be able to run the shop fully at a moment’s notice. This was a great thing, as it meant we could share the running of the shop and I thought of it like a way to earn some extra funds for fun things. Fortunately, it did far more than that and things have changed so much since then.
How long had you been on Etsy before taking the plunge into selling full time? What made you decide to do so?
We had been on Etsy for a year, and things were getting busier and busier, but all the time my day job was getting more and more demanding. I would often find myself and Suzanne up past midnight printing and packaging the previous day’s orders and getting ready for my next day’s work. It was clear that something had to give or I would end up in hospital with exhaustion. With my day job becoming less and less enjoyable, I made the decision to quit while in a hotel in Ireland doing a thankless job for the company. It was the scariest moment. Once the letter was sent, the relief was unimaginable.
How did you originally get into making prints?
Quite simply put, we ordered batches of prints from all kinds of places. Some were good, others not so good. The end result was a pile of boxes, which held prints that never sold. We took the bold move to print to order, or as I like to say, we make all prints fresh and seal them at the time of printing so they reach you in their freshest form. (Not quite foil wrapped, but you get my meaning.) This meant we could send orders out within 24 hours and didn’t have to worry about stock levels, and the quality was fully under our control.
I leave the design and arty bits to Suzanne, but I am developing an eye for her talent… I rather simplistically state that Suzanne does the coloring in, and I do the cutting out.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
To be honest, this was the biggest sticking point of quitting the day job. We had no safety net at all, but all it takes is a leap of faith and the dedication to put the effort in. If you sit back, the sales drop and the panic begins, but when you put the hours in, the rewards are huge. The only guarantee you have is the one you make to yourself to work hard. “Self employed” does mean “self distracted” — as in, three months perfecting Guitar Hero — but it is also important to re-arrange the way you work so that you do have fun. The more you put in, the more you get back, but having fun is key.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
The biggest marketing skill is to talk to people and show them what you have. If you believe in your products and are enthusiastic about them, people feel the same about you and your items. The more people that talk about you, the more potential sales you have. We also decided that quality and, what I call, “LOW RISK” purchases were the key to success. A LOW RISK purchase is the way that your customers can be sure than even when the worst situations arise (delivery issues or damages) that their investment is safe and that they are always guaranteed a replacement or refund. Also never be squeamish about promotional items…
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
Paid advertising in magazines: it only seems to generate other magazines offering you more advertising, but frankly it gets your name out there to the public.
Walk us through what a typical workday might entail.
- For me, it’s gather the printed orders, head off to the printer.
- Set it all and print them all off, they print on the roll, so they need trimming too!
- Then I take them back to Suzanne for her to title and sign them.
- I then bag them up, then package them, and print the stamps online (we use Royal Mail’s Smartstamp, which is brilliant).
- Then all the packages head off to the post office (it’s on the same street as us … so it’s walking distance) and back to check on more orders.
- I don’t usually answer convo’s/emails unless Suzanne is having a really bad day (she suffered a spine injury last year!).
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
My day job was very much a field based role. I had very little contact with other work colleagues other than special occasions, so I don’t miss much about the job. Now, I enjoy being able to do the RIGHT thing, rather than meeting some procedure. I love being in charge of my customers’ experience.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
We have lots of possible changes coming up, like becoming a ltd company. I hope to expand our product range further; the more choice, the better it is for customers.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
If you’re thinking about quitting your day job in these times of economic chaos, just remember: unless you really upset yourself, you are guaranteed not to be made redundant. It’s a pretty secure job. The harder you work, and the harder you focus on success, the sooner you realize that your living is very much within your own reach. My father always said, “Work to Live… Don’t live to work.”
Please join Grant for his follow-up Question and Answer session this Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 at 2:30pm EST 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.