Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
A woodworker. I enjoyed building things at a young age and it eventually leads to a high school woodshop and a job working for a furniture maker. At this job, we worked with wood in a more natural form than I was used to seeing and I’ve been a live edge fan ever since.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
My wife thought my cutting boards would sell on Etsy so I listed a bunch back in 2011. Before that, it was farmers’ markets and art/craft shows. I started selling online because I wanted to sell more work without all the travel involved with shows/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?
I make and sell all types of furniture. Tables, chairs, stools, beds, desks, the list goes on! I use solid wood for my furniture, mostly walnut. If I can utilize the live edge of the tree in the design I get excited! My business is sort of split between original designs and bespoke. On one hand, I enjoy creating originals that sell well like my stools, chairs, and beds. On the other, it’s great to be challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone by clients that trust. I think what helps my furniture stand out from mass-produced pieces is the care I put into aligning the grain and the joinery that adds strength while incorporated into the aesthetic.
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, fortunately, had a lot of on the job experience! My first job was as a woodworker that mostly made tables and bookcases. After that, I worked in high-end cabinetry for a few years which was a stark contrast, but I learned a lot about design and how to work with clients. My last job before taking the plunge into self-employment was in the Pacific Northwest making doors and windows with high-quality Douglas fir. I’m happy with all my work but I’m never 100% satisfied. I like it this way because I can always improve.
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?
When I first opened my Etsy shop it was just an experiment. However, when I realized how easy it was to reach out and market to the world from one simple platform I decided to stick with it. My online sales are the reason I’m in business. A brick and mortar location for a small studio furniture maker can cost prohibitive if you want the right kind of foot traffic.
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 was actually excited to use this platform to start dialing in my profits and experiment with marketing. I guess my one concern was shipping logistics, but that’s always a concern. Thanks
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 think it was about a week or two before my first sale. Honestly, I had no idea how many sales I’d make in the first year. I sell small and large ticket items so my sales are all over the place! I could go weeks without a sale and then make 4-5 large sales the week after.
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?
Appalachian Joinery is a beast that keeps me busy! Full time is an understatement! If I could ask for one thing in life it would be for days to be longer! My workday is basically wearing different hats all day long. I usually spend the first-hour planning and prepping projects for the day. If I’m lucky and the phone doesn’t ring I enjoy the sweet sounds of machinery and sometimes hand tools until lunch. After lunch, I usually pick up material if needed or make calls to clients. The remainder of the day is furniture making, invoicing, project sketches, cleaning, and a little daydreaming about the future!
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 rarely keep inventory. If I do it’s smalls or sample chairs for clients to try. Mostly everything is a custom order with many options. It makes it difficult to really streamline when you offer the moon and stars to clients. But ultimately that’s what I like doing! I work with just about everything! Hand tools, corded hand tools, small and large machines. It’s more about what gets the job done in a way I enjoy doing it. Hopefully, this shows through in the final product.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Time! For me, it’s all about time! With larger custom pieces I can sometimes become obsessed with getting it right or playing with different ideas. All of this takes time and estimating appropriately is essential. High-quality solid wood is also very expensive so it’s important to take the necessary time for planing each piece with what I have available. My pricing is simply based upon my overhead, salary, and future planning. I don’t try to compare too much with other makers.
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?
I can get inspired by any new process. This can usually spark an idea for a new design. This can happen often when clients are generously pushing me to create something new. My true source for inspiration really lies with the material, however. I’m always in awe of what a dirty, dusty slab of wood can help think up.
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?
I shop internationally from time to time upon request. It can be very cost-prohibitive sometimes and stressful though. I prefer to keep sales within the states if I can. I do not use free shipping. My clients seem to be happy with my rates and white-glove service. Most large pieces go freight, so a proper crating job is essential. However, if I’m able to deliver a piece it’s much more enjoyable and less stressful!
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?
Not really. I think constantly learning, evolving, and defining is what makes a person’s work 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’ve never had a bad review. I really try to satisfy! I’ve had one dispute in almost 10 years but it was a great dispute! I was a bit behind on orders and a customer reached out and wondered if I had planned on shipping the 1 stool they had ordered soon. At that time I had a 30-day eta and I was going to miss that deadline by a little bit. I notified the customer of the situation and offered a few solutions. I received an Etsy dispute shortly after. I felt terrible and offered a refund or an extra feature on the stool that was not in the original order. After a bit of back and forth, the customer asked for the extra feature on the stool free of charge for the inconvenience. I was happy to do this and shipped it out 2 weeks later than estimated. When the customer received the stool they were over the moon excited! Shortly after, this same customer ordered a large dining room table, two benches, three stools, and a desk. To me, this was a huge lesson in customer service and communication. I have a 5-star rating on Etsy and I work hard to keep it that way.
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 has definitely helped my business. It’s one of a few platforms that make it simple for me to reach clients looking for what I offer. I’m always stressed! I was born a people pleaser. If I get too stressed I’ll take a day and hang with the family or ride my mountain bike.
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?
I’m still learning how to best utilize social media for my shop. The one way I find it very useful is transparency. I work for people all over the country and I’ve been told it’s great they can watch projects come to fruition on Facebook or Instagram.
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?
Hmm. It pretty simple so I don’t have much to complain about. However, if I could talk to the CEO of Etsy that would be great! I’m sure they need some nice furniture made for the conference room. Right? 😂
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I’m not the best photographer, but I’ve found that good pictures are very important. Good light and editing help too. Shipping lessons are always ongoing. Just keep the customer happy!
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Value your time from the get-go and don’t be afraid to fail.