Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I actually only started my shop less than 2 weeks ago. I found a perfect pocket of time to begin my shop and figured out a way to market my product so that it would be seen by others easily. I created a digitalized portrait of my friend and me for part of her Christmas gift and upon completion, realized it was something my friends asked me to do for them as well. As I know the idea was one that would be popular, especially around the holidays, I started on Etsy and it just took off. For only being online a couple of days, the support and order numbers have shocked even me and I am excited for what the future has for me. I have already gotten inquiries about working with other brands and having my work shown to the masses, and I guess it’s really up to the future to see where this takes me.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
Each day, I try to tackle all of the previous day’s orders. Since I know as a consumer I would want fast arriving, but also quality portraits, I take my time on each while still making sure I am working fast and intelligently. After receiving an order, I have a one-on-one discussion with my customers to make sure I know details of what they envision the final product to be like and in what time-frame they need it. I want to make sure to hit all of their focus points so they are happy with the final product. While working on each photo, I am constantly checking back to what they asked for, to include each element. After that, I send them out as they are completed and make any revisions the customer asks for as needed. I have been working on a couple of social media platforms to spread the word about my shop and have been setting up coupons and deals to follow such endeavors.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
I currently only have one listing, which is a digital custom portrait. In these, most facial features are left out to give the work a more minimalist type of feel. Doing it this way gives me more flexibility to add multiple pictures together and not have any “Photoshop fails”. It also makes it easy to do the portraits without photos of all of the people together as I have added in children, babies, and even entire families that do not have a photo of all of them. I currently only sell digitalized copies which get sent to the customer via email but have been looking into print. I use my iPad and Procreate to physically make the art and I think that my eye for design really makes my pieces stand out. Although there are minimalistic pieces, I try to make all of the details come to life using shading and many different brushes to maintain the same feel of the original image.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I have enjoyed my experience so far. I do not really consider myself an “entrepreneur” yet as it has only been such a short time. It is definitely hard to keep up with all of my orders, especially being so new to this. It feels good at the end of the day to see a collection of what I have done and receive messages and emails about past customers referring friends or getting nice reactions from family when they are shown my work. I feel accomplished in such a short timeframe and I cannot envision where this could take me.
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
I sell to all. Those that are younger like to take the pieces and make them into stickers and post them on social media, especially Instagram and VSCO. I tend to see that those who are older, especially those with families, like to frame them and use them as decor or gifts. All of this is custom, so I ensure size formatting especially for what they want to use the photos for. I currently only use Etsy’s ads and have been looking into finding better ways to market my product. As it stands now, I am able to get plenty of orders in this way, but am trying to find more creative ideas to show people what I make.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I think it is all about chance. I stumbled into this and found it to not only inspire me but work well with my interests. I was able to make smart moves towards the start of my shop and it truly paid off in the long run (which again, isn’t that long!). It takes devotion to be an entrepreneur for sure and you also have to really care about what you are putting out. If I wanted, I could make my portraits in less than 10 minutes, but it also would show off what I love about them. Make sure what you are producing is something that you stand for, and it will make it that much easier to continue doing it each day. Work should be a passion, not a profession.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The biggest challenge for me, which is kind of crazy, is the number of orders I am receiving per day. As stupid as that sounds being my biggest challenge and complaint, it’s true. Getting 20-25 orders takes time and devotion, but I know that it is for the greater good and puts a smile on people’s faces.
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?
While creating, I get inspired by each photograph. Using the lighting or photos can control how I represent them in the portrait. I also like to add elements of movement into smaller details such as hair and clothing to give a little depth to my work and not have it just be a still, flat picture. My work is a moment that captures that sparks emotion and memories.
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 actually don’t ship at all right now! Part of what makes my work so fast is that I just email the final version. The customer then has this download to use for anything they might want, which leaves it up to them as to how they view my work. Some print, some use as phone wallpapers, laptop stickers, it all depends!
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
You have to stay on top of things. I try my best to respond to each person very quickly and ensure I have an open line of communication with those who are interested in or have already purchased from me. You have to work for it if you want it.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Develop a strategy before launching. Rather than waiting after you’ve launched for customers to come to you, launch when the time is just right that they will desire what you have to offer. Once you have those initial customers, there will be plenty more to follow. Make sure their impression of you is a positive one, as that will impact future sales.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Success to me is a combination of all of those listed. The greatest success I could have would be happy and that should be a goal that is worked for every day not matter the circumstances. Money should never be a driving force in your work, but at the end of a tough day, it does motivate you to work harder as you see success rewarded. Knowing that people love what I give them is success to me, not just happiness for myself but for those that I am impacting.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I really make up my schedule as orders come in. If I get a lot of orders one day, I make sure to get up early enough the next to fulfill each of them. Sometimes I have enough time to start the current day’s orders at night, and it makes customers very happy when they receive their piece in less than 24 hours. I love to work, so I will sit for hours working on art until my work is done. I am very laid back with my schedule and give myself the flexibility to do what I want in my social life because I know at the end of the day I can sit down and finish my orders for the day.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I’m so new to this, I haven’t been able to think that far in advance. I am considering expanding the products I offer, probably by basing other products off the initial custom portraits. If I print them, I can print them onto a wide variety of things such as stickers, vinyl, posters, etc. I find that the more view I get on my page, the more I make!
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I had to learn very quickly to fully talk to the customer about what they want. Many people want changes to their photos and envision them in a completely different way than I do. I never want someone to not be fully happy with what I give them, so it takes time to speak with them beforehand instead of wasting your time on what they do not ask for. I would tell anyone that is new to Etsy to do their research, as knowledge is power in this day and age. Make sure you know the ins and outs of what you’re selling because once you start selling, you don’t really have a moment to stop.