Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Hello! I’m Charlie. I design knitwear and knitting patterns. I started knitting with my Grandma when I was 7, and I’ve not stopped since. I got a BA in knitwear design and worked for 6 years in Hong Kong designing commercial knitwear for a range of different brands, everyone from high street brands like ASOS and Topshop to high-end labels like Hussein Chalayan. At the same time, I ran an Instagram account for fun, @theknitedit, posting pictures of knitwear inspiration I liked. I accidentally found myself with a big following after three years of slowly building up the account from nothing. When Corona hit and I was furloughed with nothing to do, I started knitting and sharing it with my followers. It snowballed from there and now making, selling, and designing patterns is my full-time job.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
Once I started sharing my knits, some of my followers were asking me to share the pattern so they could make their own. I’d never written a pattern so that was a steep learning curve! But once I figured it out and perfected it, I uploaded it as a digital download to purchase on Etsy. I like Etsy because it makes e-commerce really simple for people like me who are allergic to technology. I’d never sold anything before and Etsy makes it really easy to set up a shop.
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?
I want all my knits to be sustainable, so I only use odd ends of leftover yarns or thrift yarns. This means all my knits are really yarn lead because I don’t get a choice in what I use! I encourage anyone using my patterns to use up their old ends of yarn instead of leaving them in a cupboard somewhere! It’s a really fun way to be more sustainable and get creative with what is already there. I developed a signature technique to get a mixed-up color grading effect which I love and I use in nearly all of my knits. It’s really fun to knit and gives even the simplest jumper a really eye-catching look. Other than yarn and color, I try to keep my shapes really young and fun. I love statement sleeves, oversized bodies, and cropped lengths. There are not many designers making patterns that young people identify with and want to wear, so I really focused on only making jumpers I would wear myself.
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?
I’ve been knitting since I was 7, and even though I have a degree in knitwear design and years of experience, I think I’m always learning and growing and trying new things. I’m always happy with my creations! I’m always like, wow, I really made that with my own two hands! Magic.
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?
I thought I would sell like, maybe 20 patterns to the people who had been requesting them on my Instagram page and make a bit of pocket money. I thought it would be a cute little side gig. Now I’m closing in on 2000 sales and it’s my full-time job!
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?
Not really. I started so small, with one knitting pattern, my expectations were close to zero. I was just uploading it to see what happened! I don’t know if I should have thought things through and done my research a bit more, but I’ve just been learning on the job as I go. I’m a go with the flow type of girl.
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?
I had been hyping up the knitting pattern on my Instagram for a couple of weeks before I launched it so there was already a bit of interest. Did I sell about 10 or 12 on my first day? I can’t remember exactly. Right now I’m averaging around 80-100 sales per week.
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?
My typical day is waking up early, doing some yoga, then I’ll check my emails and messages while I eat my breakfast. I’m one of those annoyingly awake morning people. I’m currently studying for a Masters’s degree in fashion and cultural studies, so my morning might be classes or readings or essay writing. Or it might be working on developing new patterns, which could mean knitting up a sample or writing down and formatting the actual PDF for the pattern. I also freelance, so sometimes I’ll have projects with other companies and brands. Or I might have a commission piece to work on! There’s always a lot going on and no two days are the same. My Instagram page also takes up a lot of time, I get a lot of messages and I try to answer them all. I try to post every day if I can, but I’m also getting better about taking time away from my phone if I’m feeling burnt out. Balancing my time can be difficult because my days are so variable and I’m juggling lots of different things. I also love knitting so much I could just do it all day! But I know that’s not healthy, so I’m trying to be better at taking time out to just be, and do a nice self-care activity like cook a tasty dinner, read a book, or take a bubble bath. I always try to be done with work by 6 and limit my Instagram time at weekends so I can be more present.
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?
My best selling product is the pattern for the Saturn jumper, which was my first ever design. Having files uploaded as a PDF download makes things really easy because people can download it at any time and it doesn’t need any other action from 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?
I think pricing can be tricky because you have to remain realistic while also factoring in your time and materials. The only advice I would give is don’t sell yourself short, if someone loves what you are making they will pay what it’s worth. An artist’s hard work is always worth paying for, so have the confidence to demand the price you think you’re worth.
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?
Obviously, I adore the color. The brighter the better. I’ll be planning how to make colors and yarns work together. You have to be smart when you’re using scrap yarn because you’re just working with what you have, so a little bit of planning goes a long way. If I’m working on a new shape for a jumper, I’ll sketch out some rough ideas and draw up a pattern to try based on the shapes I’ve sketched. I’m a really decisive person and I know what I like when I see it. It’s all very intuitive and I trust my gut reactions.
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?
Again PDF downloads are perfect for selling to a global audience because anyone can access them instantly. If I do sell physical products, I will ship internationally and include shipping in the cost. I try to make my packaging look really premium but also sustainable, I use recyclable boxes and mailers.
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 stand out?
Honestly, no! Haha. I don’t even think about that. I think my products speak for themselves and I trust that people will recognize that.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I’ve had really positive feedback so far and haven’t had to deal with negativity.
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?
I never thought I would get this far. It’s kind of crazy. I’m really happy to be making a living out of what I love. I could never be stressed out when I’m knitting. It’s just really cool to be making a living doing what I love and seeing people creating things they love from my patterns.
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?
Social media drives more than half of my sales, so it definitely helps that I have a relatively big following. I promote my products through Instagram posts and stories mostly. I’ve tried Etsy ads but they don’t seem to drive very many sales for me!
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?
There’s nothing that springs to mind right now. Maybe ask them to reduce fees haha!
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Touchwood, everything has been successful so far! One thing I have tweaked a bit is making the labeling of my digital downloads super explicit and clear because people kept confusing them for actual jumpers!
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Definitely utilize social media to spread the word about your shop and your products, it can be a seriously helpful marketing tool. And if you can put together a PDF guide to make what you make and sell that, as I do with my knitting patterns, definitely do that!