Nan of NanLawson set up shop on Etsy as a creative outlet while temping at a large television company. She never dreamed of the possibility of Etsy becoming a full-time venture, but it wasn’t even a year and a half after opening her shop that she was able to quit her 9-to-5 job due to the success she was seeing on her new shop. She now enjoys being her own boss and the freedom it lends, including the ability to do things at her own pace. If Nan could go back in time, she would tell herself to stop holding back and try new things outside of her comfort zone. Keep reading to learn why making new art and drinking loads of coffee lend to her Etsy success.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I’ve been drawing my entire life but I never thought it would be a career. I studied filmmaking in college and never took drawing classes, it was always just something I was good at and loved to do. I started my Etsy shop as a hobby and used it as an excuse to start drawing again. To my surprise I almost instantly started making sales. I must say it was addictive! I decided to take my shop seriously and treat it as a second job instead of a hobby and within a year and a half it became my full time job.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
When I first moved out to Los Angeles, I was very lucky to get a full-time editing position at a small entertainment news company within my first week of living here. It wasn’t a dream job but it was a relaxed and fun environment. Unfortunately because it was a small company they didn’t make much money and after 2 years of working in the same position I was laid off. I was unemployed for a month and really used all that free time to stock my shop and create a cohesive drawing style. After that I got another 9-to-5 job as a temp at a large television company. The job was quite mind numbing and I knew that my position wasn’t going to get me a full-time job there. After six months I was ready to leave, and luckily Etsy sales and commissions had picked up to the point where I actually had to quit my job to keep up with it all.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
When I first started my Etsy shop I didn’t even believe it was possible to earn a living from it. I didn’t start dreaming of selling art full time until I started to get daily Etsy sales and thought “If I just had 10 sales a day I could do this full time.” Of course now I know that’s not exactly how it works, but I did often dream about it.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time? Feel free to give us the nitty gritty business details.
Not necessarily. Everything that needed to be done was already done. I had been selling on Etsy for over a year and had learned things along the way such as getting a DBA and a seller’s permit, paying taxes (you mean I get to write off art supplies as a deduction?!), also having a separate bank account for my business made tracking my business expenses super easy!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business?
- My most successful promotion has been making new art! Every time I add a new illustration to my shop It is seen by new Etsy shoppers.
- I also have a strong online presence; I use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and blogging to talk about what’s new in my shop. I think it also has given people a chance to get to know me as not just an artist but as a person.
- Giveaways are a great way to get your name out there. I have been lucky enough to be approached by a few popular blogs to participate in a giveaway and it has brought so many new customers!
- I also have an ad on a blog about illustration and that brings new traffic to my shop every day.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I don’t have any major regrets, but I have made the mistake of purchasing unnecessary things, like pretty and pricey packaging supplies. While I do believe in good presentation, I don’t believe you should spend extra money on something that is just going to end up in the trash.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- 8 a.m.: My cat Milhouse meows in my face, or my boyfriend Michael tells me he’s about to leave for work and that is my cue to get up.
- 8 a.m. – 9 a.m.: Drink coffee, read and answer emails, drink more coffee, read blogs for some daily inspiration, continue drinking coffee.
- 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.: If it is a shipping day (I ship things 2-3 days a week, depending on the number of orders I have) I print and pack all of my orders and take them to the post office. This takes a lot longer than one might think! If it is not a shipping day I draw all morning. Usually I draw commissions (I always have quite a few!) for couples and family portraits.
- 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.: I eat some lunch, answer more emails and read more blogs.
- 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: More drawing and painting on the computer. I usually have music, a radio show, or a movie on in the background so I don’t get stir crazy.
- 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.: This is my “have dinner and relax with boyfriend” time.
- 8 p.m. to bedtime: This is usually the time I work on my own personal art projects. I spend most of my day making drawings for others, so if I am not too exhausted I like to use this time to come up with new ideas for illustrations to put in my shop.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I enjoy so much about not having a day job! I enjoy waking up when I please, wearing whatever I want, doing things at my own pace, being able to run errands during the day, and being my own boss is the best. I don’t miss anything about my day jobs. I really mean that.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Doing everything on my own. I don’t like spending three hours packing orders, but it has to be done. Also I am always on the clock, as I am constantly answering e-mails and working on drafts for clients.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
If I could go back in time I would tell myself to stop holding back. Don’t be afraid to try something new and outside of my comfort zone. I am lucky to have a boyfriend who has been so supportive and really pushes me to try new things (like having an art show at an industry party) that I would normally be terrified to do.
My advice to others is to invest in your business. Spend money on supplies and promotions. You might not make a profit for a while (I sure didn’t for the first six months of business!) but It really helps get your name and product out there, and if you spend money on quality supplies it shows in your work.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
My goal is to get more work in my shop. I really want to experiment with different styles and subject matter, while still staying true to the “Nan Lawson” look I have created. I would also love to branch out and make more wearable art such as jewelry and clothing with my work on it.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would just like to say thank you to everyone at Etsy for creating such a wonderful opportunity for artists. I know that without Etsy I would not have been as successful as I am today and I am truly grateful for it. I also want to say thank you to anyone who ever bought something from me, referred someone to me, or blogged about me; the amount of support I have gotten from strangers has completely humbled me. Thank you.
Thanks to Nan for sharing her story. You can see some of Nan‘s art in the Related Items.
Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.