Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I always liked to create lovely things. When I was 9 years old I have made my first handmade skirt using old mother‘s Singer sewing machine. From that time I have tried various sewing techniques including cross-stitching. I have made lots of nice handmade things for myself and my friends. From 2012 I have discovered Etsy and started to sell my handmade products there. Currently, I consider myself a designer and small business owner. Recently I also started to sell some of the fabrics that I use in products since a lot of customers would like to sew by themself using my fabrics too. Linen is my favorite fabric for my crafts, so most of the fabric that I sell is also linen.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I can’t exactly remember how I found Etsy. At that moment (back in 2012) it was not so famous but I tried to list some of my things there and luckily never regretted about that. Selling online looked for me as an opportunity which does not require a huge initial investment. It also looked promising since a lot of businesses were switching to online selling at that time. Prior Etsy I have sold some of my crafts in local online shops, Facebook and some Christmas markets.
What products do you sell, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
My shop mainly contains products produced using linen fabric. I am passionate about sewing pouches and cases. However sometimes when I have more time I sew linen summer dresses. I also sell linen and some specific cotton fabric as sewing supplies. Create a new design takes some time. I combine different colors, designs, and fabrics until I get the desired result. When crafting, I pay attention to every small detail of the product. I guess this pays off well since thoroughness is mostly used word in my feedback received from customers.
How was your experience in learning to craft, are you self-taught or did you have a mentor, how long did it take for you to be satisfied with your creations
As mentioned before I started to sew from very young age. I was inspired by the idea that I can create things in my own way and in this way stand out from the crowd. I took some time to learn this. In case the craft did not satisfy me, I start it again and again until I make perfect quality craft. Currently most of my clothes are made by me. I also studied sewing in special part-time courses.
What was your original goal when you opened up an Etsy shop? What impacted your decision to start selling online? Do you consider online selling as a side-job, full-time job, or extra income to pay for your hobby?
As all crafters, I had a dread to share my crafts with all world. Of course to make some passive income from hobby that I love was also an argument. In my daily live I work as accountant. Selling on Etsy I consider as extra income to cover my hobby costs (courses, suppliers etc.)
Did you have any fears or reservations before opening up your Etsy shop? Were you worried about profitability or product competitiveness? What are some concerns and questions you had before you got started? How did you overcome them?
Selling online was never easy though it looks like it for beginners. There are a lot of competition around the corner since Etsy allows to sell everyone from all over the world. I guess the biggest minus of selling online is search cafeterias as they are changed throughout the time. It might be that you had a very successful year and next year incomes drops by half. On the other hand, through the internet you can reach millions of customers in the whole world. It is nothing to compare against the local shops. I read a lot of articles on how to get more traffic, analyzed a lot of different methods, etc. I came up to the conclusion that the way to succeed is to focus on the customer and its needs. You need to understand what customers are looking for as well as to provide the best customer service for them. Eventually, this pays off.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever think you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was the goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
First sale made me feel very excited. I think It took a couple of weeks to get it. I never thought that I will ever make almost 3000 sales. I didn’t have any goals at that time. Now I get constantly from 8-17 sales each week depending on the period of the year. I believe it is possible to make more sales however when I need to quick my full-time job and increase the variety of products in my shop.
Do you have a job outside Etsy? If not, are you able to commit full-time to online selling? How does your typical day look like? How do you manage time?
Accountant is my regular full time job outside Etsy. I think it is possible to fully commit to online selling but it seems too risky as traffic can drop quickly so I decided to keep it as extra income only. I usually sew and pack new orders at the evening or on weekends. I reply to my customers using the Etsy app and try to do that with minimum delay in order to provide the best customer experience.
How does your manufacturing process look like for e.g. your best selling product? Do you create products ahead of the orders? Do you customize your products, if so how? What are the tools that you are using in the manufacturing process?
I have a very cozy corner in my house where I make most of the things. Some of the products are already made. Some are produced once they are ordered. I do a lot of customized products since customers have their own preferences. Since I make linen products, product size is the most common feature that has been requested to be customized. My main tools are sewing machine, sewing table and tons of different fabrics all around me.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Profitability mostly is affected by fabric price. As you may know, linen is a quite expensive fabric, so I have to leverage between reasonable product price and still keep it worth to do it. My profit margin varies between 18-35% of the product price. There are a lot of components that should be considered: cost of suppliers, Etsy fees, Income taxes, provision for refunds if the package is lost, etc.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
Inspiration usually comes from a good mood and cup of a good cup of tea in the morning. I usually create things on weekends when I have plenty of time. Sometimes I receive my help from my husband too. He really knows to give a piece of good advice. I also read all of the articles, see what is trending, when also going to shop check on new fabrics, etc.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
Most of my sales are made to USA and EU countries. It takes from 1 week to 4 weeks (in the USA) to reach customers. Postage price depends on post fees+ 11 % (An average fee amount taken by Etsy). Since Etsy does not allow to create shipping rules based on weight I created an Excel table with different combinations for product weight and shipping price and based on that price the shipping on Etsy. I do not use Free shipping since it is very difficult to price items for large orders, there is a risk to be in a loss. All my orders are precisely packed in a nice recycled paper.
Are you worried about competitors? Does it impact your business in any way? If there are a lot of similar products, how do you make your own standout?
Yes, I am worried about them. However I try to use the right pricing, make professional photos as they play main role in online selling and use unique materials so that product can stand out.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I try to understand the customers and find the best solution for them. I consider bad ratings as the opportunity to improve things even it is out of my control like delays in shipping time. Customers do not like delays in replies so to be quick on that is essential. Honesty is also vital.
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever think you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed about dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Etsy gave me an opportunity to grow, realize my ideas, and convert a hobby to business which I am thankful for. I never thought I will make so many sales. Dealing with customers was never easy however if you learn valuable lessons it becomes less complicated and then you know how to control things, what actions should be done in order to avoid unpleasant situations. The main lesson for manufacturing- never take to many custom orders as they take much more time than regular items that you did it in the past.
How important is social media for your shop? What are some common tactics you use to promote your products? Do you spend money on ads outside of Etsy? How do you generate excitement/hype around your products?
Frankly, This part is not yet well organized in my shop. I see it as a big opportunity, but at the same time it will steal more time from me. This is still in planning phase.
What are some things you don’t like about Etsy? If you could talk to the CEO of Etsy what recommendations would you tell him to improve sellers and customer satisfaction?
Most frustrating things:
– Unpleasant commissions. I especially dislike the new promotion initiatives so-called offsite adds. If your annual turnover is more than 10 000 USD per year you are forced to pay for ads. Due to that items becomes more expensive and less competitive.
Unstable traffic. You never know when your traffic will drop due to changes made on Etsy search.
Free shipping guarantee. Currently, Etsy is promoting sellers to include free shipping for all items and get priority placement on US search. This is really hard to achieve if the shipping price significantly depends on package weight. I do not use this feature.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Right price – never price your items too much
Professional photos – look for professional or start learning this by your self. Customers cant see original thing they buy, so be sure you cover most of angles of your product in photo.
Detail product description – Dont miss important details, think about your products and describe them
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Always think from customer perspective. What drives you to buy certain item? Adapt this thinking to your products and shop. Always ask your friends opinion about your listings. They always have valuable advises as they see your product from customer perspective.