Kristin, the jewelry designer and emerging business woman behind KristinFriesen, was able to quit her jobs working in cafes and nannying due to the growing success of her jewelry shop. She now juggles motherhood, jewelry making, and being her own boss — something Etsy has allowed her to do for almost two years. Keep reading to find out why Kristin has never paid for advertising and how she is learning more about being a business woman with each day that goes by — without ever setting foot in a business class.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I’ve been making things for fun since, well, forever… but I didn’t start making jewelry to sell until about three years ago. When I was almost 20, I got pregnant with my son. My husband Justin had a friend whose girlfriend was also pregnant and due around the same time as me. The guys got us together, and we became fast friends. She had dabbled in jewelry prior to that and convinced me that we should start making jewelry together since we would have nothing better to do after the babies were born (yeah, right). So we formed a little business together and did some markets and home parties. Over time our job situations changed, and we could no longer find the time to do jewelry together (though we are still great friends), so I turned to Etsy.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Absolutely! I’ve always hated following directions and doing as I’m told. I much prefer making up my own rules and dancing to my own beat. (Some call it stubborn, I call it independent) Since I never went to college, I honestly never thought I would ever be able to “be my own boss.” When I joined Etsy, my initial goal was to sell the jewelry I had left over from my previous endeavor, but it was definitely in the back of my mind to take it to the top. I joined right before the holidays and ended up doing better than I expected, so my dreams and aspirations quickly grew. At the time I was nannying and doing Etsy on the side, but after the holidays I somehow managed to convince my husband that I was making enough money to do Etsy full time (still not really sure how I managed that). Reluctantly, he agreed, and I quit my nanny job.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Not really; I’m more of a “do now, think later” kind of person. Not always the smartest approach, that’s just how I am. I did really wish I had a big chunk of money as start-up capital, but we just didn’t have that, so I did what I could. For the first several months, I wasn’t able to keep any of my profit because everything I made had to be reinvested. Looking back, it would have been wise to prepare in other ways: take a business class, learn more about selling online, or at least read a book about starting my own business. It has been a lot of trial and error, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I’ve tried just about everything. When I first started, I didn’t know ANYTHING about promoting or marketing myself on the Internet, so I tried everything I came across. I scoured The Storque, reading every success and tips article, spent hours in the Forums soaking up knowledge, and bookmarked about a million links. I’ve tried online social networking, Flickr, blogging, other handmade marketplaces, submitting myself for features and much more.
Ultimately, the things that have stuck are Twitter, blogging, Flickr, and now Facebook. I sponsor giveaways now and regularly submit myself to blogs. Another thing I’ve done recently is become friends with other Etsy sellers. Since using Twitter I have made so many friends (whom I love!) and they are very supportive of me and my shop and always help to spread the word, as I do with their shops. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth!
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
With all the things I’ve tried, there are too many unsuccessful methods to list. The biggest thing I learned was not to spread myself too thin. Originally, I figured the best thing I could do was to have presence in as many different places as I could find. I discovered very quickly that it takes a lot of work to maintain all those sites, and if I can’t maintain them, they’re useless and a complete waste of time. That was when I narrowed it down to the ones that seemed to be working (listed above) and ditched the rest. I’ve also never paid for ad space anywhere. I feel like there are so many free ways to promote yourself if you just look hard enough, why spend money on it?
Walk us through your typical workday.
Every day is a little different. I’m not much of a “routine” person, so I really don’t stick to a schedule (with the exception of Jack’s naptime).
- We usually wake up sometime between 7 and 9. I’ll get Jack changed and fed, get my husband out the door for work, then sit down with my coffee.
- Between breakfast and naptime anything can happen. Some days I’m really busy, and I’ll let Jack watch a show or play with his trains while I answer emails. Other days we run errands or go on little excursions to the beach, library, zoo, or park.
- Around noon we have lunch. Afterward we’ll read stories and have some quiet playtime before his nap.
- Around 1:30 is when Jack takes his nap. This is when the real work begins. While he sleeps I will pack up orders, take photos, make jewelry, etc. The time always flies by, and I never seem to finish everything I had hoped to.
- Jack usually takes fairly late naps so by the time he wakes up it’s time to start getting ready for dinner. He plays while I cook or clean up the house before Justin gets home from work. As soon as Justin gets home we sit down and eat dinner together.
- After dinner the three of us will spend time together before Jack goes to bed. We play trains, read books, and watch movies. Sometimes I sneak away to my office and work some more while Justin and Jack have some “father-son time.”
- Jack goes to bed between 7:30 and 8:30. As soon as he goes to bed Justin and I will clean up the dinner mess and sit down to watch our shows. We are really into Rescue Me, The Daily Show, The Big Bang Theory, and recently we’ve gotten into Cake Boss. We watch some TV together for a few hours, and I will sneak off every so often to blog, order materials, or make jewelry.
Every Tuesday Jack spends the day with my wonderful father-in-law so I can have a day off. Without my Tuesdays I couldn’t ever maintain sanity and do all that I do. Having this day free allows me to catch up on work, clean the house, and have some time to myself.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
There’s no way I could pick just one thing I enjoy most. I get to make my own schedule, spend time with my family, put my creativity to good use, not to mention I don’t have to work for anybody but myself! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the social aspect of working a day job, but the pros outweigh the cons a million to one. Before I got pregnant I worked in a café, and my job was nothing special. Now I’m doing something I am truly proud of, and I love every day that I do it.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Trying to manage my business with a two-year-old is hectic at best. It definitely has its ups and downs, and it’s the ups that keep me going when I’m down. I’ve seen my hard work pay off, so when the going gets tough, I’m that much more driven to succeed.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Advice for myself? THINK BEFORE YOU ACT. One of my biggest regrets is opening up shop under a generic username instead of taking the time to think of my business name before I started selling. I came up with my business name later and now they don’t match. Not the end of the world, but it bugs me… I wish my username were “sweeterthanme” since that’s the name of my business. [Click here for a post on this topic.]
Advice for someone else? Never give up! I know it’s a little cliché, but it must be said. I hear people complaining that they have no idea why their shop isn’t doing well. The list of things you can do to improve is endless, and until you’ve tried them all you can’t say that you have no idea why you’re not selling. Do everything you possibly can and never give up. Quitters never win and winners never quit.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
At the moment, my goal is to reach 2,000 sales by my second Etsy-versary on October 27. I just reached my goal of 1,000 by my birthday (May 15). It seems a little out of reach at the moment, but so did my last goal, and I achieved that one and then some. All I want right now is to continue to grow my business and be more and more successful than the year before. I’m very proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far and am trying not to be too hard on myself if I don’t reach exact goals.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
To anyone who’s ever purchased my jewelry, complimented my work, left a comment on my blog, chatted with me on Twitter, or sent me a friendly conversation: THANK YOU! You are the reason I get out of bed every morning, and you keep me going. I absolutely adore my customers and followers and appreciate every one of you! I truly love what I do, but without someone to share it with it wouldn’t be nearly as fun. I have the most amazing friends and family. They have encouraged me and been proud of me since day one (not to mention they LOVED all the jewelry I’ve created over the years). Thank you for the honest and helpful feedback and for always pushing me to achieve my goals.
Also, I am so grateful to have discovered Etsy, it has opened so many doors for me and completely changed my life. There’s no way I could have quit my day job to pursue my artistic ventures this quickly without Etsy. Thank you everyone for all that you do, it means the world to me!
Thanks to Kristin for sharing her story. Have your own questions to ask? Come on by and chat with her Tuesday, July 28 at 5 p.m. ET in Etsy’s Virtual Labs.
You can see some of Kristin’s beautiful work in the related items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.