Mia of MiaBeads always dreamed of owning her own shop and making a living from her jewelry, but she never imagined that dream would become a reality so soon. (…While earning her college Business Administration degree, for instance!) Mia has a life long history of jewelry making and swears by her top-notch customer service. It’s her best marketing tip, among many! Keep reading to learn her tricks of the trade for selling on Etsy.
If you’d like to ask Mia questions of your own or listen in on her advice in real time, we invite you to join us in a follow-up Question and Answer session this Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009 in the Auditorium room of the Virtual Labs.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
I’ve always wanted to own my shop and to be able to make a living from my jewelry, but I had no idea that it would be possible so soon. I first signed up to sell on Etsy because I was doing a few local shows and wanted a way to showcase my jewelry for potential customers who were taking my cards — my original expectations were definitely exceeded!
How long had you been on Etsy before taking the plunge into selling full time? What made you decide to do so?
I began listing items in the summer of 2007 and towards the end of fall began putting a lot of time and effort into making and listing new pieces. My sales really picked up before Christmas and I was expecting things to cool down afterward, but that didn’t happen. Soon I was pulling all-nighters to get my Etsy orders shipped out while working a full time job. I cut back to part time, and then waited a few months until my sales were consistently steady. Toward the end of March 2008, I began “Etsy-ing” full time! I guess it just felt like the right thing to do, and I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted it for a second.
How did you originally get into working with jewelry?
I have seriously been making jewelry for as long as I can remember. Both my mom and grandma have always been very creative, so I grew up with constant “arts and crafts” time. My father owns his own business, and when I was in middle school he let me order (‘real’, not plastic!) jewelry supplies because he said he “supported the arts.” I made as many necklaces, earrings and anklets as I possibly could with those beads and did a few craft shows.
I continued to make jewelry on my own through high school and then got a job at a local bead shop while I was in college for my Business Administration degree. I learned a lot from the other women that worked there, as well as from our customers. Through working there and interacting with so many talented, creative people I began to develop my own unique style and learned as much as I possibly could about both business and jewelry making. I still do workshops there, and love helping others bring out their creative side; eventually I would like to own my own bead store, boutique or a combination of the two.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
I met with a lawyer who specializes in income tax and small business start-ups to make sure that I was doing everything correctly. I also did online research (www.SCORE.org and www.SBA.gov are helpful) regarding business plans, filing taxes, trademark/copyright law, retail and wholesale pricing; there are a ton of great blog posts and forum posts regarding these topics, too.
In addition to the legal end of starting my own business, I also made sure that my Etsy sales were consistent and that I had my work in other venues too. I consign locally and sell my jewelry to retailers throughout the U.S. and even in Europe. I also participate in a few of the local indie markets and art festivals. If you plan on selling your work wholesale at any point (and even if you don’t), it is important to do the research, add up all of your costs and make sure you are pricing correctly.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
Word of mouth has been my best advertising. In addition to the wonderful folks who have featured me on their blogs, I have a lot of customers who refer their friends and family to my shop. I also have a lot of repeat customers which I attribute to providing great customer service — I answer every convo I get and thank each and every customer as soon as possible. I spend a lot of time making my packages ‘pretty’ (without being wasteful!) and personalize things for each customer, ship everything promptly and send a handwritten “thank you” with each order. I often include a coupon for a future purchase or a small gift with my orders.
Branding is another important marketing tool — making sure that your banner, business cards, coupons, postcards, ads, displays, packaging and other promos all fit together. They don’t necessarily have to have a logo or even match, but everything should be cohesive. This goes for your photographs, too. Not only should they all tie in together, but they should complement your items and overall look. You know how there are certain sellers who have such a distinctive look that, when one of their items goes through the time machine, you already know who made it? They’ve accomplished this.
I also want to stress the importance of really loving what you make. If trendy is your thing, in order to have success in the long term you want to be setting the trends — making yourself stand out from the crowd. If you look at myself and ShySiren, we both use many of the same materials and even have a similar style, but through the way we photograph and add unique touches to our designs, we’ve each found a way to make it work. People can tell when you truly love your work; it just shows.
My best marketing tip (it’s free, too!)… If you have the choice between listing a new item or renewing something already in your shop: list new goodies! This is great for gaining repeat business and keeps your shop looking fresh. Also, if an item isn’t selling well or isn’t getting many views, try changing the title or retaking the photos. Sometimes even switching the first photo makes a huge difference!
I haven’t had much success with social networking sites like Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I also feel that the amount of time you have to spend on sites like that could be better spent working on your photographs and creating and listing new items. Another thing I probably won’t do again is participate in a promo sampler, although I do know of many people who have had great success with the above methods.
Walk us through what a typical workday might entail.
- I usually wake up somewhere in between 9:00 and 11:00 and go straight to the computer. I check my email, answer convos, purchase any supplies I need, relist sold items, type up invoices for my wholesale clients, and write out my orders to be shipped that day. This usually takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- Next I make the items to fill my orders; the majority of my items are made-to-order so that I can customize and make length adjustments for customers. During slower periods I use this time to build up my inventory.
- Around 3:30 or 4:00 I start packaging everything up and then print my shipping labels. I try to get to the local post office by 5:00 to drop everything off, but during the holidays or a really busy week you can often find me racing to the airport post office at 11:55pm… Luckily, they’re no longer open 24 hours…
- On the days that I don’t ship, I work on making, photographing and listing new items during the day. Otherwise, I spend a few hours in the evening for this. I also have a second Etsy shop, PaperPumpkin, where I sell paper goods that I make with my mom. She’ll come over in the evening or on the weekend to make and list things for that shop.
- Around 8:00 or 9:00, when my boyfriend gets home, we’ll make a late dinner together and watch a movie or TV show, or go out, or just spend time with each other and our puppy. I usually end up back on the computer, or working in some way, for a while afterward.
I love the freedom to make my own schedule, but at the same time I definitely need to work on my time management. I’m easily distracted and I’ll get sucked in by the computer (forums, shopping, chatting) or I’ll see some beads I forgot I ordered and drift off into a creative little dreamland… Before I know it three hours have gone by. Moving my workspace into the attic has helped with this because I’m more separated from the rest of the house and I won’t bring the laptop up when I know I really need to focus. I also miss the social part of working with a bunch of girls! Now you can find me chatting with my lovely “Etsy friends.” I’ve met so many wonderful, talented people here. One of my favorite things about Etsy is the community feeling; both customers and other sellers have all been so helpful and friendly.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
Don’t put so much emphasis on that sales number (look at the big picture, and the “P-word”… profit), and don’t freak out when you have a slow hour/day/week/month. Spend the slow time improving your shop and items, and don’t forget to relax once in a while. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you have to be at work 24 hours a day. I’m still working on that last one.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I would (of course!) love to gain more new business and keep my current customers returning again and again, but because of the economic situation right now, I would be happy if things just stayed steady in terms of online sales this year. I would also like to land more wholesale accounts and continue to add more variety to my shop. I’m hoping to introduce a line of jewelry specifically for bridal parties, as well as a limited edition “luxe” line and even some one-of-a-kind pieces throughout the next few months.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Yes, I want to thank my dad for building me that playhouse, and I want to thank Kevin for putting up with my creative mess! I am so thankful for the support of both my family and my boyfriend’s family… And thank you Etsy for giving me the opportunity to find such loving homes for my jewelry!
Thanks to Mia for sharing her story and business with us! Check out the related items below to see some of her work.
You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.