Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
I grew up in homes where old things were cherished. Some of my favorite memories are in my grandmother’s home. She was a prolific collector of antiques. Her house (which was an old brick schoolhouse in Ohio) was filled with beautiful, unique vintage items. Her collection included furniture, books, crystal, and coins, knick-knacks, home decor, jewelry, and more. I spent many hours examining her collection and developing a love for these beautiful items. My Sister, Mom, and I love searching through shops and flea markets for one-of-a-kind treasures whenever we get together. I love the connection I make with a customer who finds a piece in my shop and knowing that a vintage item will be used and loved again. My shop is named HotAnnsCloset. Ann was my grandmother’s name and is a salute to her influence on my passion for vintage and antique goods.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I had been a full time studio potter since 1997. I traveled around the Midwest selling and exhibiting at juried art shows. It was hard work with stressful deadlines. The overhead which included jury and entry fees, hotels, and gas made it difficult to earn a comfortable income. I wanted a different lifestyle so decided to try selling online. Etsy was the best option for me. They had the lowest fees and seemed to value small businesses and artisans. I experienced only limited success even after spending many hours working on my shop, SEO, marketing, and photos. My sister and I had also been selling at vintage shows like Junk Bonanza. It was a natural to move to diversify my online sales and I opened a vintage shop on Etsy.
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 sell barware, jewelry and home decor on my vintage shop. I focus on the designs and era’s that speak to me. My rule is, if I wouldn’t have it in my own home, don’t sell it either. I have a passion for Art Deco and Mid Century Modern jewelry and barware and home decor. I’m attracted to high-quality materials like silverplate, sterling, gold, guilloche enamel, and brass. Form and function are a priority. I try to choose items that are well designed in style and use. My vintage shop is a carefully curated collection of items focused on lifestyle. I hope like-minded shoppers will enjoy and use purchases in their home for years.
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
When I first opened my vintage shop I was all over the place. It took some time to hone down my inventory to not only reflect my tastes but also turn into sales. I feel this is the best course for a successful shop. I’ve created an inventory that reflects my own sense of style and this is what will attract buyers and return buyers. Having and Etsy shop is a constant learning experience. There are always changes to the platform and new trends to keep up with. I am constantly researching and learning things every day, on the buying side as well as the selling side. I enjoy learning the history of new items I encounter and this also helps me find and choose items in a more timely manner.
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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?
My goal was to be able to continue to be self-employed, choose work that I had a passion for, and have a lifestyle that I enjoyed. I didn’t want to be stressed out by deadlines and wanted to be at home and enjoy my family in a relaxed manner. Etsy has allowed me to work at home, which I LOVE! I’ve continued to diversify which has worked well for me. My online sales are a full-time job but I combine this with other work as well.
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?
My biggest concern was investing money in inventory. I had no idea how quickly (or if) things would sell. There is quite a bit of competition on Etsy, but I find this is positive. It keeps me on my toes! I also wasn’t sure what would become good sellers. I’ve made mistakes and misjudged more than once and it will probably happen again. This is not a reason to give up by any means. Its another lesson I’ve learned to help me become a better seller.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever thought you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was a goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
My first sale happened within days, I was soooo excited! My goal has been to net $2000 a month from a combination of several stores. It has been a slow and steady upwards curve. I’m now in the 4th year of selling vintage on Etsy and am getting close to my goal. Between my several shops, I usually make 2-5 sales a 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?
I have lots of jobs, half are on Etsy. I spend mornings working on my Etsy shops and afternoons working on other jobs, then Etsy again in the evening. Mornings are for photographing inventory, looking for new inventory, and researching online. I then do at least one listing a night on Etsy. I usually am done working around 9:30PM. I rarely work on the weekends. In between all this, I have the time I need for my family. I do spend a lot of time working on Etsy but it is so enjoyable it doesn’t feel like work.
How does your manufacturing process looks 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 tools that you are using in manufacturing process?
I spend time looking for vintage and antique goods several ways. I spend time shopping at brick and mortars (usually a fun weekend with my sister) and online. The hunt is amazing! I never tire of it. Once I’ve purchased the item I spend time researching the history and best selling price. I then photograph the item in my lightbox, edit the pictures and add the listing.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The biggest impact on profit is the amount of sales. I only buy items that I can mark up at least 150%. I have to make sure to cover all the costs on Etsy. These include shipping (I offer free shipping so that cost is built into the price of the item), marketing (I spend about $60 a month in my vintage shop), Etsy transaction fee (5%), Etsy credit card processing fee (3% plus .25) and listing fees (.20 for 4 months per item).
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 get inspiration from lifestyle and design magazines, blogs, and things I see around me. My shop is eclectic to appeal to many shoppers but I try to keep a very loose theme. It is also based on chance. If I see an item that is priced right and appeals to me, I will list it in my shop even if I haven’t sold it before.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is 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 ship anywhere. I build the price of shipping into my products and offer free shipping. Etsy makes items with free shipping show higher in search results. I use all recycled packaging for shipping. I have a huge collection of boxes, bubble wrap, and packing paper. Friends and family save boxes and packing material for me. I spend very little on the packaging. I do buy end rolls from the local newspaper and wrap all items with that. I clearly state that I use all recycled packaging so I assume my customers appreciate that. Shipping itself is very expensive. To ship priority mail costs a minimum of $7.85 for the smallest and lightest boxes and over $30 for larger/heavier items. It’s expensive. I also assume my customers know that shipping is not free and built into the purchase price.
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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?
I enjoy the competition. I keep my eye on other shops who sell similar items and their prices. The competition allows me to set a good market price on items. I also try not to list items that are available on Etsy in high numbers.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I’ve not had disputes or bad feedback… yet. I offer returns on everything for any reason. If a customer is not happy with their purchase, for any reason, I will accept a return. I try to answer any questions within a couple of hours in a polite and friendly manner. Etsy has strict rules about contacting shoppers. You can only message people who have messaged you first. I have an auto-reply for purchases which includes a thank you and states how and when items will be shipped. I send another message when the item is shipped saying thank you, your item is on the way (with tracking info) and enjoy.
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever thought you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Owning an Etsy shop has been challenging. I’ve had to work harder on it than I thought I would. I usually spend close to three hours a day working on my shop. It’s also the least stressful job I’ve ever had. Sometimes it can be a little tedious listing items but the freedom it offers makes up for that. I really enjoy finding inventory and researching history and market prices. Taking photos and describing items are the tedious parts.
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 don’t spend a huge amount of time on social media. I’d say it was minimally important to my shop. To promote my products I focus on listing titles and tags. I do not spend anything on advertising outside of Etsy. I do share all listings on Pinterest and sometimes on 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 customers satisfaction?
Don’t force things, let the sellers choose which programs to use. The “free shipping” is a perfect example. It works for me but I don’t think it works well for all shops. Also, the recent change to offsite ads is pretty horrible. If you pass a $10,000 sale threshold you are forced into the offsite ad program which charges a ridiculous 12% per sale. No seller can afford that.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is not to skimp on the packaging! If I have a fragile item I pack it 3Xs better then is necessary. One of the worst experiences I’ve had is having an item arrived damaged. If I pack an item and feel iffy about it I will re-pack it in a larger box with more padding. A happy customer is my goal and top priority.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering to sell on Etsy? How can they avoid beginners mistakes?
Read the Etsy Sellers Handbook! Learn to take great photos and always use all 10. Do research on listing titles and tags and always use all tags available. Photos are one of the major things that impact a buyers decision to click that buy it now button.