Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Hi, My name is Sue Pearson. I have loved working with wood from being a small child, My Dad was a very good at D.I.Y We mover into a new build house when I was 8 years old, and he immediately set about building a new solid wood kitchen. As children do I wanted to help, and he encouraged me to learn simple things like measuring, marking out, and learning by watching. At school, I was not allowed to take the woodworking classes because girls were not allowed. But never one to be stopped by rules, I made each piece that the Lads did in class, at home under my Father’s watchful eye.
I love everything about wood, the smell the appearance, the feel. Every piece I make is different. It may be exactly the same style, but the features of each piece of wood are considered and placed to complement the item I am making. I consider myself very fortunate as I don’t consider what I do as work, I play, invent and create, I get to change a piece of wood into something that will be beautiful and functional for many years to come giving pleasure to its owners for generations to come.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I was shown Etsy by a friend who was suggesting that I may show my products to a greater number of people. I opened my shop but did very little with it for the first 3 years. I was busy doing craft fairs, not very successfully, After a particularly hard winter, loading my car with as much as I could get into it, traveling miles, unloading, setting up, and then reloading again to travel back home after a very long day. Eventually, he “penny dropped” and I realized that if I became an online seller I would have far more time to do what I loved, Making furniture. My more active presence on Etsy has been very much trial and error. Changing adverts, learning how to best advertise my products, and reading all the advice that Etsy freely provides.
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 solid wood furniture. I use traditional joints and fixings, and pay particular attention to what my customer wants, making sure that the final finish will stand up to the purpose that the piece has been made for. Every piece of furniture is hand made with care, It is not rushed, and I make natural stains to match other furniture the customer has. My latest commission has been to make a large desk and a set of office drawers. On either side of the desk, the customer had some tall bookcases. In order to color match the desk and drawers to the bookcases, made up several different shades of stain and sent them as samples to my customer. This way when the furniture was delivered I was told it was a perfect match.
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?
Learning never stops. At school, was not allowed to take the woodworking classes because girls were not allowed. But never one to be stopped by rules, I made each piece that the Lads did in class, at home under my Father’s watchful eye. My love of wood started when I was just 8 years old, I followed my Dad about our home, watching and “helping” as he made our kitchen, fitted wardrobes, loft conversion, and many other wood related jobs. As I watched he taught me, describing what he was doing and why he was doing things in a specific way. He showed me how to use his tools, and let me help in more active ways as I grew up. Life took a different route for many years, Marriage, children, jobs, businesses, and my love of wood was pushed to the side. Over time life events change and I was able to pick up my love of wood and creating, I have been very fortunate to now be mentored by a retired woodworking craftsman, Anytime I am stuck, or unsure I ring him and he gives advice and instructions. He also tries to come and stay on a regular basis to teach me his trade. You never stop learning when you are passionate about anything really, Every piece I make is done with attention to detail and love.
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 when I started my Etsy shop was to sell enough to allow me to keep investing in my business. It has become my fulltime job I now have a vast array of tools and equipment, my wood store is full and carpentry has become my full-time job, I say “job” loosely because how can do something you love to call a 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?
When I started my Etsy shop I was terrified by the very thought of it. Computers are not my friend. I had so much to learn and the biggest stumbling block for me was in creating the adverts. I had no idea how to price my delivery costs. I literally did not know how to start. I was lucky enough to be shown by another Etsy user on how to price my delivery for goods. I was amazed at how easy this could actually be, so the 1st hurdle was overcome. My next hurdle was understanding how Etsy worked, I am still learning this one. How do I get my adverts seen? I work on this with trial and error. I have learned not to gush in my adverts, but to keep the description factual and short.
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 honestly don’t remember what my 1st sale on Etsy was, It was at least 23 years since placing my 1st advert. I just remember the excitement and sudden belief that this could work for me. The sale encouraged me to start photographing for adverts and spending some time on actually making listings.
My aim is to have 5 sales per month at the moment, I would like to see this increase to 10 per month. My Desks are probably my best-seller at the moment. It is labor-intensive making these and I have to ensure that I have enough wood in stock that has dried to the correct moisture content. This often involves me having wood n my house under centrally heated conditions so that the wood is stable and will not cup or twist after the customer has taken delivery.
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?
Making furniture is my full-time job now. but this job also entails the boring stuff like doing my accounts. creating new adverts, checking my emails, and keeping my customers up to date with the progress of their piece. This means that my typical day starts with catching up with accounts and emails whilst I have breakfast. This usually takes about 2 hours. Then I am able to go out and work with my wood. After I finish in my workshops, I come back into my home and start my inside jobs, creating new adverts, and catching up on Etsy help articles. I typically spend around 2 hours doing this before preparing my meal and taking in an hour of relaxing TV.
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 by far my tables and desks. and mirrors. I have just added office chests of drawers to my portfolio as well.
The equipment I use making these items is considerable, and as I have been able to upgrade my equipment I find that making furniture becomes easier. Typical equipment used is my big panel table saw, a large cast-iron old thickness planer, and a new system of clamping called a Plano. then I will be seen hand planning and sanding before starting on the finishing stage using hand made stains, and finishing oils. All my pieces are signed with my initials and the date. I also put a label on with the name of my shop and telephone number, very handy for customer referrals. I sign my pieces because I am proud of them. I also feel that in generations to come the owners can see some details of when it was made and who made it.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The biggest impact on profit in my pieces is the delivery cost. My products are large and heavy. A lot of couriers will not take the order and I have to book delivery as freight. The cost of materials used is the second biggest impact on profit. Even using re-purposed wood has to be bought and often takes more labor to make a nice finish. My products are priced with the postage and materials 1st and the labor then taken into account. Wear and tear on equipment and also consumables used also has to be taken into account. I am often told that my worst fault is under-pricing.
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 start each new commission with great excitement. I love sorting through my wood store to find pieces of wood that will complement each other when put together as a whole. New product ideas often come from a customer request. An example of this is the office drawers that were recently requested. This has also given me the idea of making these in different sizes, drawers that are the same as filing cabinets, and of course bedside tables, Bedroom chest of drawers, and tallboys. I always start a piece with a design and cutting list. This may change though as I often tweak a design as I work. My mind is always busy and I have a list of new products simmering, just waiting for me to get the time to make this.
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 do post Internationally, I say in my adverts to contact me for a shipping price before purchase. International shipping pricing can be tricky, Wooden furniture is both heavy and large, at best I have to estimate and hope that the price does not change due to the time between a customer inquiry .and dispatch. All of my furniture is made to order and excluding Christmas orders, can be expected to take between 2-3 weeks to make. My products are carefully packaged within cardboard outer shell and protective wrapping such as bubble wrap. They are finally covered with shrink wrap, labeled fragile, and have 2 lots of address for sender details and destination. Furniture is excluded for insurance and is always a worry, Couriers are not careful with their packages, and knowing this I always hold my breath until they reach their destination. Fortunately, I have had few damages during transport.
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 do not worry about competitors, I know that my products are the finest quality and I have wonderful customer feedback. I make my furniture to last and take pride in producing goods that exceed customer expectations. I like many others have in the past looking for a better price for a similar item I want to purchase. Without exception, I have been disappointed and been reminded that cheaper is so for a reason.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
Fortunately, I have never yet received bad feedback or had any disputes with customers. I have had a couple of occasions when my product has arrived damaged. I always immediately offer a refund upon receiving a photo of the damage. Because all parcel delivery companies do not allow insurance for damage when transporting furniture, this comes out of my pocket, I hope that the customer will remember my good practice and buy from me again. I like to have good communication with customers from their first inquiry until the happy receipt of their order. Good communication is a large part of customer service and should never be overlooked. It is a good policy to regularly keep in touch so that no misunderstandings can arise.
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?
Selling on Etsy has changed my work regime. I now start my day by logging onto Etsy and checking the stats for my shop. I can see how many people have viewed my products and which adverts are getting the most views. The stats tell me a lot and I can make adjustments to an advert that is not being viewed as much as I would like. I can advertise the same product in different ways, changing keywords and tweaking descriptions. This can be time-consuming but is generally worth the effort. When I started my Etsy journey, I did not expect much to come from it. I did not understand the attention an online presence would have, I had worked mainly from customer referrals before this. Now I work smarter, I use my time differently, and have found that I sometimes have been stressed because I seem to spend a lot more time facing a computer screen rather than creating beautified things from wood. But now I have many more orders than i ever imagined, possible, I can see a future where my orders continue to increase and I fulfill my happiness, turning wood of all types into beautiful furniture for people all over the world.
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 use social media to share with friends and followers what I am making and to gently remind everybody of what I do, I find that by not being too pushy I have potential customers remember me when they want something special making. I probably could do more in this area, but I prefer to wave quietly from the side-line. I do feel that from my own experience I tend to back away when something is pushed at me, Sometimes less is best, I want to always have the personal touch, If something is being sold as made by me, that is exactly what it should be. I have no wish to be in a position where I have to expand by taking on staff, who probably take the same care and attention with the product or the customers.
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?
What do I not like about Etsy? personally that I have had to learn about SEO, keywords, and take a leap of faith in trusting that Etsy was the way to go. Am I glad that I took the chance? definitely. This was a rather frightening thing for me to do. I was not computer literate, I felt that Etsy was too hard. I am happy to say I was wrong. The fear went after the 1st sale, so did it work, yes. Was it worth the time learning how to use it, yes? Etsy is not as difficult as I imagined, there is a great deal of help readily available, there are sellers groups, forums, and Etsy staff ready with free advice. I think that maybe a new Etsy seller needs to know that it is not hard to set up a shop, it is not hard to write adverts and it is not hard to get going. I have found the regular updates from Etsy with short learning subjects do not take a lot of time to read or listen to and then put into action.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
The biggest lesson I learned was that it did not help me to sell by writing long flowery descriptions about my products. K.I.S Keep it simple, not only did it save me time, but it also did not bore my potential customers. Generally, a customer sees a picture likes it and after reading a short and relevant description will then buy or favorite the item for reference to find again in the future.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
The Etsy articles are valuable, read them, and use the suggestions where they are relevant to your goods The articles are based on knowledge, its being freely shared to help you. It is definitely worth taking the time, you are only going to get better by investing your time learning from others.