Before finding Etsy, Sandy of MidnightCreations had a full time day job and was splitting up the household bills with her husband. She’s since had a baby, is approaching her second year selling full time on Etsy, and is almost turning enough profit to contribute as much to the household as she was before leaving her day job. Keep reading to find out how Sandy juggles running her own business and being a mom while keeping it all together!
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
When I found Etsy, I was getting ready to look for a day job; I had been at home with my daughter for just over a year and always imagined that returning to work full time would be a part of my future. I wanted an outlet to sew and make a little extra money for myself, while searching for a job. I figured if I sold 15 items a month I would be thrilled, and that this would also be manageable with a day job, so I could continue and have a fun outlet to sell items I create. It became a lot easier to sew and participate on Etsy then look for a job, so it sort of took over the job search. After a few months of selling regularly, building inventory in my shop and reviewing the numbers, I was pleased with how well I was doing and thought this could be a replacement for returning to work. I continued as I had, with a new goal of keeping Etsy as my day job.
What was the deciding factor resulting in pursuing Etsy as your full time job?
Eleven months into selling on Etsy, I knew I needed to prove that this was worth pursuing longer. I spent a lot of time plotting my sales and expenses. I could see where I had been, what was working, what was not and worked to develop a plan for the next year. I had accumulated enough materials that I could sew for a good long time and keep some expenses low for the coming year. After figuring much of this out — and with the input and support of my husband — we agreed to give it another year. Approaching my second Etsy-versary, it is wonderful and challenging to have sewing as a full time job.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Since I was already staying home after having my daughter, my goal was to cover some of the expenses from the household that I had helped with prior to having a child. My first big goal was to pay off my car, which I did over the summer. Saving some money every single month, this is challenging but an absolute for being able to continue. This is definitely where sacrificing things you want becomes more obvious and really is the most challenging part of selling an item that is not a necessity.
My husband has been self-employed for over 20 years, so he has been a great resource, and a lot of the start up to a business was already in place, which made that end of this a lot easier. He helps greatly with the business end of things, which frees my time to devote to our little one and the creative end of running the shop. It has really been a team effort to get the shop up and running as well as tasks around the house that also need our attention.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I wish I had some creative brilliance to share about how I’ve marketed my items. The reality is that for many months I told very few people that I was even selling online. I enjoy the anonymous nature of online selling because it takes the edge off of having to sell items I make. Currently I do not do shows and am not sure if I would be good in a face to face format. I have a limited amount of time while having a small child, so my focus has been on stocking my shop and planning future items to keep it current. I have a few basic principles that help me run my shop that I think have been the absolute keys to my success. So, in the absence of a significant marketing plan, this has been my strategy:
- Pricing — Balance materials and your time. For me, what I would reasonably pay for an item weighs into the price of each item. I really strive to keep my materials cost down; this is done by buying in bulk and utilizing all materials with little waste. This has been a key component of keeping my prices competitive in an always growing marketplace.
- Shipping — Accurate shipping rates and daily shipping. Getting items to their new homes as quickly as possible is always appreciated.
- Customer Service – I truly believe in my items and have no problem discussing any aspect of the items I have sold or have available in my shop. I try to answer all communications within 12 hours while staying on topic and professional in all communications.
- Functional Items that Are Well Made — My items are simple in design. I let the fabric do all the work. This is what catches my customers’ attention and makes them fun to have and enjoy.
I have been lucky enough to meet and work with amazing Etsians from all over the world. I know word of mouth has also been a great marketing tool for my shop. I am grateful for anyone who takes the time and interest to purchase my items and enjoys them enough to tell family and friends. I love getting conversations from a new member who signed up to purchase from my shop after seeing an item a friend or co-worker received.
I have had some success with local print ads; the trick is finding appropriate outlets for your specific items. I really do want to put more effort into marketing and have some plans I will be trying in the New Year. I am glad to still have marketing ideas and opportunities that I have not yet explored, as this will give me more opportunities to grow my shop and business even further.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I started online advertising in July of this year, I honestly do not think it has brought any significant traffic or sales into my shop. I do plan to analyze what I have done and see if I can improve upon this as a strategy.
- I’m up early daily. I get her settled then turn on the computer.
- I check in on my shop first thing and answer all conversations. I do a lot of custom orders, so these often take a lot of communication. I answer order inquiries and general questions about my items too.
- I review all orders to be shipped that day and compare addresses, check notes to seller and contact any buyer as necessary if I have questions about shipping. This is super helpful to get questions settled early in the day so that when I print labels I can just fly through and not be waiting on answers.
- Items are gathered and packaged for shipping, fabric items are ironed and lint rolled: sewing rooms have LOTS of threads.
- I label each package with the item and the weight and pile these by the computer for when I complete packaging. This task is done in between all the other things in the house that need to get done.
- During the day I plan my sewing for the night and will often do cutting in preparation for sewing during the daytime.
- Most of my photography is also done during daylight hours. I am able to check in frequently throughout the day, which is handy to list new items, answer convos and print labels for shipping.
- I live within walking distance to the post office and my daughter chants “box” a good part of the way and insists on putting each package into the bins. She actually gets quite upset if we drive past the post office and she is not going inside.
- I don’t get huge amounts of time to sew during the day, as most of my day really is spent with my daughter and tending the house. I do manage to squeeze 1-3 productive hours most days. My husband also works from home, so we do some trading off with child care. It’s great to have this available and I can be productive in short time frames.
- One of the most important parts of my day is a nap; even a 30 minute cat nap will help keep me going into the evening. Thankfully my daughter naps for a couple hours each day, so when she naps, I nap.
- Evenings are high gear. I will usually sew between 4-6 hours an evening, with many going late into the night. My husband lends a helping hand and has a few basic tasks that he does while relaxing, watching television or listening to books on tape. I have always enjoyed working late at night and as long as I don’t start any “new” projects after 10 pm I am very fast. I have many loopholes to the 10 o’clock rule, so there’s no slowing on the production. I also do a lot of Etsying at this time: listing new items, tweaking older listings, answering convos.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
When I really stop and think about why it is so great to work from home, there are so many things I enjoy — the flexibility my day allows, coming and going as I please, doing what I want and not being at a desk 8 hours a day —everyday really is a great feeling. I also enjoy the lack of deadlines, sewing what I want and letting my creativity set the deadline. Low pressure creativity is the best!
Things I miss: daily interaction with co-workers and being part of a group working towards a common goal. Having a variety of people to bounce ideas off of or coming up with new ideas or solutions for projects or work.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
- I wish I could have a more consistent schedule, at least on a weekly basis. This is a really challenging part of being a full time mom and running a shop. It has taken about a year or more to decide to give part time daycare a try. Had I done this earlier on, it would have helped balancing the shop and family life so that both get the attention they need. In the near future I will have full days that are for Etsy and full days that are for being a mom.
- Organization: I had to play catch up for many months. Having a good system for expenses, receipts, supplies, etc. really makes being creative and running a small home business so much easier. I admit that even now I am still trying to find a perfect system for all this, but it is getting easier.
- Give yourself a chance to succeed, because it your goals won’t be achieved in days, weeks or even months. It takes years to build any business and it will only be successful with constant work, attention, learning and improving. I am happy with my selling experiences so far and know there is so much more I want to do. Being able to continue to work from home, while spending as much time as possible with my daughter, motivates me and reminds me this is worth working so hard for every day.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year?
I would like to reach and maintain a shop that has 200 items available, and a backlog of 30-50 items ready to go. I am trying to talk myself into doing local shows and events and would love for Etsy to be my online presence to support that outlet. This will be challenging with a little one, but is definitely on my list of things to look into. I hope I am still improving and growing and excited to sew and work on my shop every day; as long as this remains fun and pays a few bills along the way, this is the job for me. Of course, in a year I still want Etsy to be “My Day Job”.
Thanks to Sandy 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.