I create typographic art on framed vintage book pages and sheet music. It started with an antique French dictionary and my grandfather’s set of water colours, and spiraled from there! The frames I use come from my brother’s company. It’s great to have the support of my family’s business; they have even given me a bench and shelving unit in their workshop. Not many suppliers would do that!
I spend a lot of time hunting through old bookshops looking for inspiration. I think that using old book pages creates a connection between my customers and my products that wouldn’t be there if I just printed quotes on paper. Most of my customers are book lovers and I love the reactions I get when someone spots their favorite book or quote.
Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
I spent ten happy years straight out of university working for a national record store chain here in the UK, before being made redundant in 2009. I was completely devastated, because I loved the job and the people I worked with so much. I was lucky to find employment very quickly, but having lost my “career,” I started searching for what was going to come next.
I had the idea for my product and came across Etsy when I was specifically searching for the best place to sell online. At the same time that I discovered Etsy, I started re-training in human resources — it really did feel like a race between my Etsy shop and my possible new HR career. I got a job in HR, and for a while I thought that would be it, but it turned out not to be my cup of tea.
What steps did you take to prepare for transitioning into full-time Etsy selling?
I was lucky that the point at which my business felt ready to take the next step coincided with my maternity leave for my son. I had a year off and I was able to give it a real go, and I never returned to my job. I did prepare a bit for the transition; my husband and I decided on what we wanted to get out of my business, and what the measures of success would be.
What is your favorite part in the process of designing art?
Collecting quotations is definitely my favorite part. I love words and what they mean to people.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I love the flexibility it gives me and my family. I can decide what to do when, and I get to spend most days hanging out with a pretty awesome 19-month-old boy!
What are your best marketing tips?
- Branding is key! Since I got my photographs up to a standard I am happy with (for now) and introduced a consistent look across my shop, people will tell me when they spot one of my pictures on a blog or in a magazine because it’s so obviously mine.
- Facebook is a great tool, although it can be very time consuming. I made a “strategy” for my page, and decided what I would post and share in general every day. It helps me to stay focused and concentrate on my page rather than getting distracted by everything else going on there. It also helps prevent those moments when you are staring at the screen wondering what on earth you have to say that’s interesting!
What tool or technique has been the most effective in getting buyers to your shop?
Etsy’s Search is by far the biggest driver of traffic to my shop. When relevancy was introduced, I studied the Seller Handbook and got to grips with titles, descriptions and tags. It has been really effective for me. By using the suggestions in the search box, I discovered terms that I didn’t know that are now major keywords for me.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Keeping the work/life balance is always a struggle, especially as it is the whole point of working for myself. Every so often, when I am printing at two in the morning, my husband gives me a reality check. “Did you take on too much again?!” I have turned down some fairly major opportunities this holiday season because I don’t want to grow faster than I can manage, and I would like to see my family sometimes!
What’s the most exciting thing that’s come of selling your designs on Etsy?
The fact that hundreds and hundreds of people have something I made in their house is so exciting. Some really interesting people have bought my work, too. One of my pieces sat somewhere in the HBO offices in New York, and with Etsy being a global marketplace, I have posted art all over the world. I really should start sticking pins in a map!
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?
Be commercial as early as you can. It’s great to love your craft, but think about prices, wholesale prices, and where you want your business to go, too. I love the entrepreneurial side of running my own business as much as I do the creative side, and I think this really helps. Make sure you have an idea of how you will know you have been successful. My husband and I agreed on this together, which meant I knew he was totally on board, and I wouldn’t be deluding myself if it wasn’t working. It’s easy to say “I’m sure next month will be better,” but at some point, you might have to admit that it won’t be. It sounds pessimistic, but I prefer to think of it as realistic. Setting yourself a clear target makes it more likely you will achieve it.
Anything else you would like to share?
I’d like to say hello and thank you to the UK Admin and fellow sellers over in the UK & Ireland Seller Support Team. It’s a great community to be part of and everyone is so supportive of each other.
Thanks for sharing your story, Louise. Check out her items below.