This article was originally published on August 11, 2008. We are reviving it as part of the Best of the Storque series. Enjoy!
Rachel of rachelaustin was able to quit her day job after a year and a half of selling on Etsy. She and her husband made the decision together, and not long after, her husband was able to quit his job to help Rachel run her Etsy shop full time. They are now expecting their first baby any day (the due date is TODAY) and have been able to make a living from selling Rachel’s paintings. Let’s hope her husband is ready to take the reins in the coming weeks and months as the baby arrives! Please help me in congratulating them on their Etsy success, as well as the new addition to the family. Keep reading to find out how they do it and what Rachel wished she’d known when she first took the plunge.
When you first started selling on Etsy did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
No, I actually never thought I would want to do painting as my full source of income. I thought there would be too much pressure and stress to make ends meet and didn’t want to lose the happiness I felt painting. My goal was to paint part time in addition to a steady part time job, but things ended up a bit different. Happily different.
How long were you selling on Etsy before taking the plunge into selling full time?
About a year and a half.
What was the deciding factor resulting in your pursuing Etsy as your full time job?
I was working part time in an office and part time painting for about a year. After a while I started selling more and more paintings. Eventually I was working my office job 20 hours, but coming home and putting another 40 hours a week painting and doing all the business things that go along with running your own business. I couldn’t keep up — I was getting pretty stressed out and not sleeping very well. I was also making more money painting compared to the income in my ‘steady’ job. My husband, Jon, and I sat down and decided it was kind of silly for me to not be doing painting full time. And the fears of the unsteady income went away when I was able to devote all my time to painting and growing my business.
Things are going so well that my husband quit his job to come work for me part time last December. This has been such a gift to be able to work with my favorite person! He helps with the shipping, bookkeeping, and marketing, which frees me up to paint more. Sometimes we dress up and go out for breakfast to hold ‘business meetings.’ We have fun brainstorming ideas for our business and drinking lots of coffee.
I’m now pregnant and having a little girl (due August 11th!) and feel very blessed to be able to work at home and hang out with her.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time before taking the plunge?
By the time I committed to painting full time, I pretty much had all that in place. I did start setting aside more time for promoting myself — most everything before that was word of mouth or people finding me.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business and what’s your best marketing tip?
I think being patient when building up the shop/business has been key. I don’t think there is any quick way to make a sale (though being in a Treasury on the front page of Etsy usually brings a couple sales!). Some things I regularly do is post and renew items throughout the day to try and reach new people — often between 4-10 times a day. We also advertise on different design blogs like Modish and sfgirlbybay. I have links all over my website and blog to refer people to my Etsy shop. In addition to Etsy, I have shops and galleries that sell my paintings and usually do a solo or group show once a month. Another little marketing tool we’ve done is to print postcards with my paintings, website and Etsy address shown on the front. I always keep a stack in my purse so when I’m at a coffee shop or traveling I can leave them for people to find. I also try to make lovely packages when I ship and usually include a hand-written note as well as a little freebie (magnets, buttons, etc). We do end up getting a lot of repeat customers, which is so nice to see people return because they like my paintings.
What have you found to be unsuccessful promotion or something that’s just not working for your shop?
When I first started on Etsy I thought it would be a place where I could only sell smaller and cheaper work, but soon found that my larger pieces could sell successfully on Etsy — having the variety made my whole shop more appealing, too. I also found it is really important to put on work that I love, instead of just putting on what I think others would buy.
Another promotion that didn’t work so well for me was when I bought some spendy print ads and didn’t seem to get much of a response. I’ve found internet ads definitely steer more folks to my Etsy shop and are more affordable.
Would you walk us through what a typical workday might entail being your own boss?
- I usually start off with a latte, a homemade muffin and checking my e-mail.
- I check my week’s to-do list and add any new items for the day.
- Some days Jon and I devote exclusively to chopping wood and building the panels I paint on and their frames.
- For the map paintings, after the panels are cut, we glue on the maps, then we add a clear gel for the texture. That dries for 2-3 days, then I buff on a thin layer of oil that needs to dry another couple days.
- After that, I draw my designs and then, finally I paint!
- Most days are spent working on a little of each activity to keep the momentum going.
- All day long, I’m checking e-mail and posting or renewing throughout the day.
- I try to go to the post office 2-3 times a week, so some mornings or afternoons require a couple hours of framing and packaging.
- In the evening, I try to do a blog post, check out other blogs and Etsy Forums and usually work on painting some more.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job and is there anything you miss?
I like the limitless possibilities of being my own boss and being able to explore new ideas. I love the craft community and love talking with other artists and art-fans. It’s definitely an exciting time to be involved in DIY culture. Over the last nine months, while I’ve been pregnant, it’s been awfully nice to rest whenever morning sickness comes or tiredness sweeps in.
I sometimes miss being in a workplace where I was always around people — I turn into a bit of a hermit when left too long with my paintings.
If you could go back in time before you took the plunge, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
I didn’t really understand the importance of marketing. It would have helped to have a good marketing plan in place when I first took the plunge. And I didn’t have any smaller items when I started out either, but I now complement my paintings with map pendants, note cards and prints, magnets and mirrors. I think it is important to have different items at lower price points for those who like my paintings but can’t afford the originals.
What advice would you give someone else thinking about taking the plunge to sell full time on Etsy?
I wish I would have taken the plunge sooner. If it is a possibility for you, it is worth taking a look at what you need and then working hard to make it happen. I’ve encouraged lots of folks to start Etsy shops and those that stick with it and stay active tend to be successful. Pay attention to the feedback you’re getting from people around you — if that is consistently positive, that’s a great sign!
How’s it going so far? Are you supporting yourself?
Yes, supporting myself and our growing family. Hooray!
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I would like to add some new designs and series this year — I actually have one new series (seed paintings) that I plan to post soon. I also want to expand my line of note cards and offer larger sets with better packaging. And I plan to paint more large works this year.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Thanks to all the Etsy staff and all my Etsy buyers. The site is wonderful!
Thanks to Rachel 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.