After getting word that Nicole of lillyella recently quit her day job to sell on Etsy full time, I knew this was a story I wanted to share with you all. Nicole is a planner and her story is jam packed with helpful, honest, and realistic tips for gaining success when considering taking the plunge. Keep reading to find out about how she keeps it all together, the ultimate DIY project she’s got going on in her back yard, and the two indulgences she had to sacrifice for her business.
When you first started selling on Etsy did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
For the past five years I have dreamed of working for myself, but I never expected it to turn out how it has!
How long were you selling on Etsy before taking the plunge into selling full time?
About three months.
What was the deciding factor resulting in your pursuing Etsy as your full time job?
This may sound cheesy, but I swear it was fate! I had been working as a graphic designer for about 9 years, during 4 of which I was trying to start my own design business: building clients, etc. I was terrified to make the transition to working on my own, but kicking myself in the butt every day for not just trying. I became very unhappy with the job I was at and knew I had to make a change. I thought to myself, “This would probably be a great time to pursue my own business. If I am ever going to do it, now should be the time.” But still, I was too scared. So I started looking for a new job in graphic design.
In the meantime, a friend told me about Etsy, and soon after I opened my shop lillyella. My hope was to make enough “extra” cash to help me feel more comfortable in possibly taking the plunge and finally pursuing my design business. Not long after, while still job hunting and miserable at my current position, I heard of a job opening that I felt was made just for me — it was my dream job — and I applied. I told myself that if I did not get the position, it was a sign and I would quit my job and finally take the big leap. Well, I guess you could say I did get my dream job, but it wasn’t the one I expected. The position I applied for had been filled the same day that they received my application, but coincidentally enough, my Etsy sales really began to take off at the same time. So I listened to my gut and I quit my job a few short days later.
I remember being up really late that night, couldn’t sleep, nervous but excited, and I heard a song on the radio. One line said “I’m always sure until I doubt,” and that perfectly summed up how I felt. But my Etsy sales continued strong and I then had the time to really push forward, expand my shop and start to do some marketing. That was about two months ago and now I am always sure, but no longer doubting. I never thought I would be so happy about not getting what I thought was my dream job, and that in turn, I would end up finding my true dream job. Gosh, this is all making me tear up a bit!
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time before taking the plunge?
Oh yeah, I sure did:
- I first figured out how much money I would need to make each week.
- I also calculated how much I would need to put away for taxes and met with an attorney to ensure I was recording things properly from the start to avoid extra work later.
- I had already formed an LLC when I began thinking about my graphic design business, and then a couple of years ago I added a DBA name, Lillyella, when I began designing jewelry and doing shows, so that was taken care of.
- My biggest concern was health insurance, so I spent a good amount of time researching providers and small business organizations in my city, and then getting myself set up with good coverage.
- I also decided to stock up on as many supplies as I could while I still had a steady paycheck coming in and I also rearranged my workspace.
- I went through my monthly expenses and figured out where I could save some money. I called my cable company and just told them I felt my bill was too high, and they lowered it! I was on a roll after that: who else can I call to save money?! I called my car insurance company to tell them I would only be driving about 10 miles a week, as opposed to the 300 miles per week I was driving before, and my premium went down by about $75. That’s a great tip that some people may overlook.
- But lastly — and this is by far the most important — I enjoyed eating enchiladas at our favorite Mexican restaurant a few last times. I figured that the luxury of eating out would be one of the first things to go!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business and what’s you’re best marketing tip?
I have to credit three (or four) things that have been effective for me in marketing my shop:
- My Blog — I was slow in getting it started, and I did not have much traffic at first, but it really took off in a short amount of time. I promoted the blog in my Etsy shop announcement and I began having weekly specials on Wednesdays and Fridays and contests once a month. I received seven entries for the first contest I had, and one month later when it was time for the second contest, I received 88! Once people started to know when to look, the traffic really picked up. I now usually get about a couple hundred hits a day. I also use my blog to show new pieces of jewelry before I list them in my shop, highlight some of my favorite Etsy shops, or just give a glimpse into the rest of my life.
- Treasuries — I am so addicted to making treasuries! Not only is it a ton of fun and super rewarding to see a list you created make it to the front page, but it is the best networking area on Etsy! All of my Etsy “friends” I have met in the Treasuries. It is a great way to get exposure for your shop, even if your list or your item is not on the front page. One list could mean one hundred views on an item or your shop that you wouldn’t have had before and it’s also important to remember that other Etsy sellers are also Etsy buyers.
- Customer Service and packaging — Many people may not think of this as marketing — but it is. The best thing you can do is keep the customers you have happy. The amount of repeat business I have had so far is amazing. I make sure that my packages arrive safe and secure, but that they look beautiful while doing it. I also keep up good communication with my customers and include hand written thank you notes with my orders. I have received a lot of business through referrals as well, which is so important, and I attribute that to a quality product and great service.
- My best marketing tip — … is a little thing that can really raise the level of professionalism of your business. Even if you do not want to create a website for yourself, register a website domain name for your business and get a simple hosting plan so that you can set up an email address using that domain, rather than just using a Hotmail or Yahoo account, for example. It’s a small detail, but it shows you are serious about your venture and that you think about all the details.
What have you found to be unsuccessful promotion or something that’s just not working for your shop?
An email mailing list. I do think people would like to learn about special sales and promotions in advance, but it seems hard to get people to sign up. I have advertised it in my shop announcement, but I don’t know how many people actually read it! I think I will try to find an automated widget of some sort for my blog to make it easier for people to sign up and see how that goes.
Would you walk us through what a typical workday might entail being your own boss?
Luckily I do not like to sleep, because I don’t get much of it. I am very disciplined about getting up early and getting a jump on the day.
- I usually get up between 7 and 7:30 a.m. My fiance and I take turns cooking, but we always eat a good breakfast: it’s the key to a successful day!
- After cleaning up, I make my rounds feeding our cats, birds, and turtles. I kiss my fiance, Tyler, goodbye and get to work.
- I always get online first thing, checking if I had any sales during the night and to see how any newly listed items are doing. I also check my treasury lists to see if any items have sold and need updating, read new comments and check when they expire.
- Next I will check my blog for any new comments and usually create a new post.
- I then make a list of what items I will be listing in my shop that day and decide what times and in what order I will list them.
- After that I usually begin working on orders. During this time I get easily distracted! Checking for sales, listing and relisting, answering convos, etc!
- I also spend way too much time chatting with Noelle of Xenotees (whom I met here on Etsy) — discussing new shops we found on Pounce or how sales are going. Basically anything we can do to avoid real work!
- I generally work on orders until about 3 or 3:30 pm, at which point I stop to pack them up and get to the post office by 5pm.
- If I have any new items that I need to photograph, I do that next, as the light is best at that time. Otherwise I end up doing a few chores around the house and start making dinner.
- After eating and cleaning up, I get back to work! Some nights I am outside helping Tyler with workshop construction and some nights I am just too busy.
- I print and organize orders for the next day, create shipping labels and prepare envelopes. I also check my stock and make a list of anything I need to order.
- Then I either work on new items or get a start on orders for the next day.
- I usually end my night back on the computer surfing around on Etsy and preparing new treasury lists or ordering supplies. I also use this time to replenish my “shipping department” — cutting tissue paper, bubble wrap, stamping thank you cards, punching round corners. (One of my obsessions!) It’s kind of my wind down.
I’ve been trying to get to bed earlier — but I still need to work on it…
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job and is there anything you miss?
I love the cross-hallway commute. It’s great not wasting three hours of my day sitting in traffic, and not paying for gas. The freedom and flexibility is a given. I can do chores in between other things and then there is less to do on the weekends. I love not having to listen to someone else’s music and I really love having a stove accessible for lunch! No more microwave meals!! Oh, and windows. I really like having windows and not being a cubicle gopher anymore.
I do, however, miss the social interaction occasionally. Sometimes I get cabin fever and I find myself talking to my cats or the guy at the post office way more than he would like me to. It is also hard not having a steady paycheck and the constant uncertainty about what will happen the next day, but what’s life without a little risk?!
If you could go back in time before you took the plunge, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
I think I would have prepared myself to do some local summer art shows, now knowing that those months seem to be a slower time on Etsy with vacations, back to school, etc. I also would have invested in a dress form for modeling my pieces instead of modeling them myself. I finally broke down and bought one and I think it’s going to save me a ton of time. I’m also really excited to give it a name. I think it will be Lilly by day and Ella by night, or maybe I will just call her Lady L.
What advice would you give someone else thinking about taking the plunge to sell full time on Etsy?
Don’t be scared! I have to say it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but at the same time I was always thinking, what’s the worst thing that could happen? And really the answer is simply that you go out and find another job if it doesn’t work out. I believe that life has a way of working itself out as it is supposed to. If you are motivated, you will find a way to make it happen. But you have to be prepared. Even if it takes a few months, hold on until you have all your ducks in a row: business license, health insurance, savings, an accountant, etc. Getting yourself organized BEFORE you take the plunge can be the difference between make or break. Finally: if you don’t have a tripod, buy one! Trust me: it can make a world of difference for your photography.
How’s it going so far? Are you supporting yourself?
It’s going great! It is hard to not get down on yourself when you have a slow day, but I’m learning to take advantage of that time and use it productively to help grow my business. We have definitely made some changes in our lifestyle, but I am ok with that. Cutting back on shoe purchases and a few less enchiladas is definitely worth it.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
Expansion and relocation! Tyler and I decided that if we were really going to make this happen, the little extra space we had inside our house wasn’t going to cut it, so we decided to build a workshop in our backyard. It has been hard work, but I get more excited with every nail. It is finally starting to take shape. Downstairs will be the “messy” workshop for woodworking, hot glass and ceramics, while upstairs will be my jewelry studio. Once complete, we have plans on opening another Etsy shop (or two!) with the hopes that he, too, can also quit his day job!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I have to thank everyone at Etsy and all of my wonderful customers for getting me to where I am now. Every day I continue to be amazed by the awesome people I find here. But most importantly, I have to thank my mom and dad for being so supportive all those times when they didn’t know if I was making the right decisions. I can only hope that they are proud of where I am and what I have become.
Hmm, did that sound like a Grammy acceptance speech?! Oh, I’d also like to share my favorite quote and the words I live by, “Happiness is a moral obligation.” Never forget that. Thanks, Dennis Prager.
Thanks to Nicole for sharing her story and business with us! Check out the related items below to see some of her items. You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.