Sherry, aka sherrytruitt, is successfully selling her jewelry on Etsy. She thinks of quitting her day job not so much as “taking the plunge,” but as an evolution of previous experiences. Equipped with lots of coffee to fuel her day, Sherry is proud to call herself a full time jewelry designer, making a living doing what she loves. Keep reading to learn more about Sherry’s family and the path she’s taken to success.
How did you originally get into jewelry making?
When I was about 11, my sister and I made woven and macramé belts and sold them in our neighborhood. I think that planted the entrepreneurial seed. I can still remember the feeling of walking up and down that winding road practicing what we were going to say when someone answered the door. I fell in love with unusual jewelry when I was in high school. Thomas Mann, the famous metal smith, lived in the town next to where I grew up. He worked at a local jewelry store that I would go to every chance I got. It wasn’t until years later that I started working on my own techniques, mixing everyday objects with silver and brass. It was Thomas who taught me that it was important to think outside the box. While the jewelry looks fairly simple, it has taken considerable time to fit the objects and silver precisely together.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
For a long time I’ve had a dream of making a living with my craft. Most of the steps I’ve taken, consciously or not, have been towards the goal of working for myself. After college I worked full time for years, and my husband and I were able to pay off our mortgage early. Now that will be replaced with college tuition for our son. Then I worked part time for a research firm at home, while working part time on my jewelry business. In 2007, that firm was purchased by a European company and contract employees were no longer needed. The time was ripe for me to craft my jewelry full time.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Budgeting was difficult when I started, because if you cannot buy materials in bulk, especially silver, your costs are higher, percentage wise, for each piece. I also didn’t know how much I was going to sell, so I had to be prudent when spending for tools, as well as materials. I have a small inventory of my pieces, but some of my work is custom, so I produce when I get an order. I think it’s really important to understand the tax laws of your particular state and local municipality in addition to federal laws. I was able to read a lot on online before I started. My state also has a great website with information.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
My best tip is that every mistake you make is an opportunity to learn a better approach for the next time. I recommend that you have a business plan before you advertise. Don’t know how to write one? The library is full of help. I like to advertise on well-read blogs and websites, both written by Etsy sellers and other people in unusual fields. I also advertise in playbills from colleges and high schools. It’s not expensive, people tend to keep them around and it’s brought a lot of activity to my Etsy shop. I have been fortunate to have been reviewed on some great blogs and websites like Design Spotter, Craftzine, VenusZine and Brides.com that bring good press and business. One of my pieces was also picked by Cooper Hewitt as a design pick. My fellow sellers are also very generous and have featured me on their blogs.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I’ve thought a lot about this question. I am not a fan of social networking. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it is appropriate for every person or every business. I found it time consuming and uncomfortable. It just wasn’t for me.
Walk us through what a typical workday might entail.
- I get up about 7:30, pack lunches, get my husband off to work, and my son off to school.
- I have coffee, lots of coffee. I answer e-mails and convos about potential new work. I write each order I’ve gotten overnight on a giant chalk board.
- I belong to a group of 6 artists. Three of us are from the U.S., three from Australia. Early morning my time and late night AU time is when we chat. It’s great to have an international perspective about business. We have lots of fun too.
- I’ll stop in the Forums to see what’s happening, and by 9:00AM I’m packing my orders for the day’s mail.
- 9:00-11:30 is flexible. I might go to the gym or ride my bike to the post office if it’s nice. I’ll work in my garden or run with the dog. Sometimes I’ll place ads, read business journals or an article I’ve bookmarked. Other days, I’m on the hunt for new level sources and vintage atlases for my work… This is the time I take care of my books. I’ll spend a little time in Excel or my banking. I try not to get caught up in a lot of computer applications. For me it’s a tool to help me run my business, and I don’t want to spend more time in front of it than is necessary.
- From about 11:30-4:00 I take a lunch up to my studio and work steadily for about 4 hours. I’ve got 6 great windows in an attic studio, so I do daydream as well. My studio is currently under renovations — I’m getting heat installed — so while I do work up there, it’s currently not viewable.
- From 4:00 to 8:00 is family time. Sometimes my son has a swim meet we’ll attend; sometimes I’ll draw in my sketch book, read, chat with friends and make dinner. Then we’ll all hang out and watch a little TV.
- By 10:00 I’m back in my studio. Sometimes my husband will keep me company for awhile. This is my favorite time to work. I have a spot that I’ve designated for new work. One thing is certain; I’ll never run out of ideas.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I hope to never work for someone else again. I don’t miss running for the train in high heels or a freezing cold office with a window that didn’t open. I used to work on the 13th floor of the Suburban Station Building in Philadelphia. How many buildings do you know with a 13th floor? And while it was a rewarding job, I simply cannot imagine doing anything else than what I am doing now. I live in a small town on a quiet street. Some of my neighbors work at home; some are young mothers or retired people. There’s always someone to talk to. We live across the river from Philadelphia, so there is city life as well. I have the greatest customers from around the world who tell me amazing stories. So, no I miss nothing from my former life. One day I might write a book with all the stories that prompt people to purchase map jewelry. Anniversary and wedding celebrations, adoption and birth places, and travel adventures of a life time…
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
“The end is nothing. The road is all.” That’s a quote by author Willa Cather. It’s what I live by. Each experience you have prepares you for the next one. Anytime you wish to change the past, it diminishes who you are and what you’ve become. Quitting my day job was not so much a plunge, but an evolution. If you are thinking about doing it, you are already half way there.
How is it going so far?
As with each person profiled in this series, we measure success in different ways. Since I earn more than I did with a part time job and a part time jewelry business together, I‘d say I am supporting myself.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
It’s going to be an exciting year for me. My studio renovations will be done (please, dear) and I am hoping to hire a student as a part time assistant for administrative tasks. I’m going to introduce a small new line of work. I’m streamlining some of the production items that still will be created one at a time, but that will allow me to do some one-off work I’ve been dreaming of. I’d also like to expand my corporate base. My business has allowed me to support Kiva.org, which financially assists women in developing countries to run their own businesses and provide for their families. Every dollar I have loaned has been repaid, so that I can loan again.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I hope Mary doesn’t mind me sharing this…I remember writing in the fora that this had become my full time work. She convo’d me back saying she didn’t know that, and asked if I would be interested in doing the QYDJ series. I think that was the first time I said out loud, Yes, I am a jewelry designer and this is how I make my living! I am grateful indeed.
A big thanks to SherryTruitt 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.