Jill of jill2day spent many years in corporate design departments until the economy’s downturn left her unemployed. She took her career change as a motivating opportunity to start her Etsy shop, learn more about the ins-and-outs of e-commerce and begin supporting herself through her artistic voice. She’s now successfully making her living through her Etsy business, loves making her own schedule, and if she could go back in time, she would have advised herself to do it sooner. Keep reading to find out how Jill uses customer service as one of her best marketing tools.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I can’t remember not making things. One of my prize possessions is a clay dog that I made in 2nd grade and I can remember making things even before that. I can honestly say I would not have graduated from high school if it weren’t for my art classes — and the fabulous teachers I had. They taught me that making things was of value.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
Ironically I left art school and entered the corporate world. I remember working as a bank teller and seeing an ad agency come in to pitch an idea. It was then that I realized that there were people who were actually making a living coming up with ideas and creating things. I went back to school for graphic design and spent the next many years in corporate and agency design departments. I also taught graphic design for a while. I liked the problem solving and customer service parts of these jobs almost as much as the creative part. However, the longer I was in the corporate environment the more I started to get the “been there done that” feeling during meetings.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
My day job quit me before I started selling on Etsy! I am one of the “recently unemployed” from this economic craziness. I spent a while looking for another position, but really wanted to see if the fiber art that I had been doing for myself could be a full-time endeavor — or at least keep me occupied until the economy picked up again. I also really wanted to increase my knowledge of the world of online commerce and advertising.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Yes. I bought a serger! I found one that I could buy on a no-interest one-year loan. My goal was to just make enough to pay this off before the one year ended and interest kicked in. I had my own B+M graphic design firm years ago, so I already knew about record-keeping, etc.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
- First and foremost: Join Etsy and use all the tools available to you. It was a great sort of “start-up franchise.” I read all the info on starting up, joined in the Forums, and generally just decided to focus, focus, focus.
- Secondly: Customer service. My background included a lot of both vendor and customer relationships, so I have just applied lessons learned previously to my Etsy shop. I always keep in mind that repeat customers are gold — and fun. So I really am trying to build relationships and listen to my customers’ ideas — not just sell them stuff! Consequently I am doing many custom items. I love to do these, because they are often for people who have had a hard time finding their size in “fun” clothes before, so they are so excited to have these items made, and we have so much fun planning the garment. They come up with some great ideas to challenge me!
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
So far so good. I have had success with the Showcases, Weekend Deals and renewing (a reasonable amount!). I will be in my first show in a couple weeks, and also am participating in the Etsy Pavilion at the Chicago One of a Kind Show — so ask me that question again in a month! I don’t tweet, and my Facebook is purely for family and connecting with friends: no business.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- I stumble downstairs and take the dog out — but first I turn on the computer so that when I come in it is all set to check in with my “positive thread” buddies in the Forums. (Hey, look guys: I’m in an article!)
- After my husband goes to work, I spend some more time on Etsy: check Convos, Forums, renew, etc.
- At 9 I turn off the computer (usually) and I head off to the studio (getting dressed first is optional).
- Then it is sewing until lunch.
- During lunch it is another check on my shop, Convos, Forums, etc.
- The afternoon is either photo time, post office time (I love going to my small town post office with a load of boxes), or back to the studio to plan, cut apart my found sweaters and adding the parts to my stash, or make “sweater bundles” — bundling together all the various parts for each sweater, or sew.
- Once a week I go material shopping and once a week I do some bookkeeping.
- I usually emerge from the studio when my husband gets home, and run another Convo and blog check while he is checking his computer.
- I resume hand sewing while watching the TV, but usually don‘t go back to the studio in the evening, as I am spoiled by the daytime daylight!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I love making my own schedule. In the corporate world I had to react to all the deadlines imposed on me. But on Etsy I can prioritize and pace myself to my life much better. I am also loving the solitude and the community! (And my local NPR station.) I have this quiet, productive life that is intermittently enhanced by my fellow Etsians and customers through their Convos and emails. It is so lovely to have these interactions, but because they are electronic they are so much easier to manage than the people popping into your cube or office all the time…and I do not miss meetings!
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
No back-up and, because I am new to this production mode, and am generally a complete optimist, judging how long things will take. I have occasionally bitten off a bit more than I should chew.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Myself: I would have done this earlier!
Others: Decide why you are here. If you want to make a living, then you have opened up a business and you must approach it as such — 100% x 24/7. If you are here to subsidize your hobby, great, but don’t expect to have the same results as those who are full-time businesses.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
Well, I have the money to pay off my serger, but have already decided I might need a commercial serger next year! Beyond that, I want to keep coming up with new designs and products that my customers will love to wear, and that will enable me to keep enjoying what I am doing. I will probably do more shows. Technically, I would love to get better at SEO and maybe open my own site as a hub for my blog, Etsy, shows, etc. Who knows, maybe I will even learn to tweet!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A big thank you to Etsy and my fellow Etsy sellers and buyers, and to my husband and friends. I am sure that this year of unemployment would have been very tough without all of you. In losing my job I have found out that Richie Havens was right when he said, “Backwards is not necessarily a negative direction!”
Thanks to Jill for sharing her story. You can see some of Jill‘s beautiful work in the Related Items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.