Elizabeth of nelladesigns opened up shop on Etsy after the persistent urging of one of her close friends. Her sales started picking up and she began to rethink her Etsy shop as more than just a favorite pastime. After leaving her full time graphic design job, she’s been making a living through her shop sales and wishes now that she had taken the advice from her friend much sooner!
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
Growing up, I always loved to make things for friends and family in lieu of store-bought gifts. I enjoyed seeing their faces when they first laid eyes on whatever it was I had created for them. However, I would have to say that over the past decade or so I began to delve more into this pastime, as it became a great stress reliever from my 9 to 5 graphic design job.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Being my own boss and doing things on my own terms has ALWAYS been a dream of mine. I just never knew how to go about doing it. Joining Etsy and opening up my own store was a bit of a fluke, actually. One of my oldest friends kept mentioning over and over in passing how I needed to open a shop on Etsy. I kept blowing her off until one day on a whim I decided to take the plunge.
At first I had no idea what I would sell, but knew that I had always loved all things paper. I was the kid that got a stationery set with stickers, but would never use it because it was too pretty. Being a full time designer for a magazine, I really went into it as more of a hobby and had no idea that it would turn into what it has. I would have to say though that in the last 6 months or so I started to get serious about it and really had high hopes of quitting my design job and focusing full time on Nella. I had only been in business a little over a year when I took the plunge. Having been the latest victim of the recession and cutbacks, I was really forced into running Nella full time a smidge sooner than I had hoped, but I am a firm believer of the whole sink or swim mentality.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
As I said above, I really jumped into it feet first. It wasn’t until after I started making sales that I realized I should probably look into getting the proper licenses, etc. and start saving money for the following tax season. Luckily, I was able to get in contact with several wonderful fellow Etsians who gave me fantastic advice on how to go about doing things the right way and also sharing with me some of their mistakes. The Etsy blog articles were also a big help and vital resource for me. I also just recently sat down with my first ever CPA and it was a big eye opener for me. I highly recommend doing so if you think that having your own business is something you are really serious about. For me, this has really been a learn-as-you-go kind of experience, but so far so good.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
There are several things that have worked well for me. One is getting my name out there. Word of mouth is vital and can really help with sales in the long run. Blog features have also helped with sales a great deal. I recommend compiling a list of favorite blogs and contacting them. Introduce yourself and your product and they just might do a write up on you. One of the highlights of this past year was having the honor of being featured in Mary Englebreit’s Home Companion magazine! It was a case of sheer luck, as I was lucky enough to be spotted by their style editor. Nothing beats national exposure! I am still getting business from that feature months later.
My best marketing tip is something very, very simple. Posting items throughout the day will help you gain exposure and keep you at or near the top of each category. Experimenting with this has really helped me. After a while a pattern will emerge and you can begin to see what times are best to post.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
In the past I have had the opportunity to run ads in local publications. It really didn’t churn up any business for me.
Walk us through your typical workday.
One great perk of being your own boss is that every day is different! I generally separate my days into design days and shipping days.
- On an average design day I usually start out by checking emails and writing down any orders that I may have gotten overnight.
- I will then spend time emailing anyone that I received convos from.
- I usually do a glance over the Paper Goods category of Etsy to see what has posted and then determine which items I would like to re-post.
- After posting, I get down to designing either existing orders or a new design that might have been percolating overnight.
- Time for breakfast! After a quick bowl of cereal and a 10-minute visit with the ladies of The View, I am back to designing and printing.
- I usually take a break in the early afternoon to run any errands that I might need to do or even go for a quick run! (Ah, the joys of being your own boss.)
- More item posts!
- Then mid to late afternoon and evening usually have me prepping and packaging orders to go out the next shipping day.
- And if I can muster up any more creative flow after that, I will go over any new designs I have in the works.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
The freedom to do whatever, whenever I like. I am enjoying the thought that I can take off whenever I like and not have to run it by anyone! Go to the beach on a Tuesday? Sure! Not having to put up with corporate rules and regulations is nice too. I can wear jeans as much as I want! For me, the perks outweigh anything else. I don’t mind working alone; in fact, I find that I flourish in doing so and really produce better results. The only thing I somewhat miss are the events that I used to go to with my creative team.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
I would have listened to my friend’s urging and done it sooner! I am a person that likes to be prepared, so I think I really did everything the right way the first go round. Advice I would give to someone looking to take the leap is to plan, plan, plan. Try and start it out just as a side gig for a while to see if you can really make a go of it. And talk to people in the know. A CPA. Fellow Etsy shop owners, etc. Also, BE PATIENT…success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process, and one that cannot be rushed no matter how anxious you are! I am still learning this after a year!
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
GROW. GROW. GROW. I hope to continue to get my name out there and share my products with as many folks as I can. I want to stay positive and focused and to continue to dream big! After all, this one came true and maybe if I am lucky, I will even get one of my products featured on Oprah’s Favorite Things one day. Oprah, call me.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I would like to give a big thank you to the entire Etsy team for making dreams come true for lots of people during these tough economic times. Keep up the good work!
Please join Elizabeth for a follow-up Question and Answer session this Tuesday, March 31st, 2009 at 3pm EDT in the Auditorium room of the Virtual Labs (the VL schedule is magically in your local time). See you there!
You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.