Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
I am a stay-at-home mum and wife. I don’t define myself as an artist or designer, even if i create some ideas myself, i sell them to real, actual artists – to my customers, i sell supplies and they create. I am more an artist of my life, small business, shop and some of my patches.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
At the beginning when I just discovered an Etsy (someone mentioned it), I thought I would improve my drawing skills and I will sell my art, my drawings. I was going to learn the drawing by a famous artist in Riga but he saw my drawings and he said – there is nothing to teach you anymore, simply do it…I was very confused, I couldn’t draw anything at any time… it was a sign for me to do something else. I also noticed I can’t do it if there is a pressure on myself – if I must…So I simply jumped in a selling world. I wanted to be a seller since I was a child and to work with some kind of designs later as a school-age child. These both are involved now more and more in my life. I had experience working with floristic, beauty, and health products, so it was time for something new and the first time online. I love the process of selling and to follow the needs and desires of the people, I love handling my Etsy shop, and also to communicate with so many different people. At first, it was a bit challenging, I just knew I shall do it and just let’s see where it will take me (…and it still takes somewhere)
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 give a bit of sunshine and daisies in my shop 🙂 I sell embroidered patches and I make some of them by myself – sew-on, glue-on appliques. And I sell ribbons, for e.g. woven ribbons with Latvian signs, with patterns which symbolize fertility, prosperity, etc. I love symbolic meanings about them, it’s considered they bring luck, happiness, protection, or well-being. They were and are used in our folk costumes, in national belts, drawn and engraved in wood or metal, sewn-in clothing, accessories also I sell satin ribbons in beautiful colors, woven with a very thin gold thread to be shinier, it brings more gentle crystal brilliance in colors. I want to bring joy and love to people with my products, they are inducing positivity.
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 am self-taught, I have learned much from experience but I am still not satisfied enough and maybe that’s okay, it keeps me motivated and to go forward. I am getting stronger and stronger every year. I have noticed I am more open with customers, calmer in every process, and details. I am ending with experiments lately, arranging all that I have now, and now it;’s a time for my new coming patches of ribbon choices. I think my confidence comes with experience both together.
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?
The Idea of selling online came naturally, I just needed to be more at home, it was necessary to be with my daughter. She had very large health problems since she was born, it was a stressful and challenging time for us. It was getting better and better with every year but still, it needed to be near to her. We were warned by doctors, she will not be able to walk or about mental problems but she was the best in her studies/ at her class and still, she is and she brought diplomas several years with the best skills from school running competitions.
And I just needed something..my own, flexible schedule, freedom, I wanted to be independent financially and mentally busy with something else. Selling online was a new world for me. Now my Etsy shop is my full-time job, it’s also an income for pleasurable, joyful things, it’s more freedom to build joy, beauty, health, and positiveness around me and my family.
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?
The first step was the hardest, unknowns scared me, but I knew I should act/ do it anyway and I didn’t think too much. I fill in ideas as soon as I can.I just needed to prove to myself I can do it and I thought, if it will not work for you, you can close your shop at any time. The biggest helper for me was a Seller Handbook and Forum and then also a lot of research on the internet. It was hard for me at the beginning when I compared numbers of sales, reviews with other shops – I had a very small shop and I was worried about how it would look for my customers. But with every sale and review or thank-yous messages and notes by purchase or compliments from my customers I was more and more confident. The biggest nerve-wracking is only at the beginning.
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?
As I am the person who jumps first then thinks, I opened the shop as soon as it was technically possible. The first sale took maybe a month, also besides at the beginning I was experimenting with some other products, so it took a while to be and feel stable…I had worked with floristic supplies and handmade before in flower shops here in Riga and now, when online, I worked firstly with flowers and handmade I had already with me. It was a very slow start and I continued slowly with new products or with products that worked best for me and my customers. Only now, for the last two years, I have been more satisfied. I love my rhythm, financially it is stable, even if there are ups and downs, it’s okay and natural. If it’s more down in one week or month, it brings a financially large sale very soon or in the next one, everything always comes back to my average again. I see from year to year it’s even growing when I take care, time, and energy in it. (Improving my photos, adding items, or something else.)
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 morning starts with a large glass of lemon water, sometimes a cup of local plants tee, for e.g. chamomiles (Matricaria Chamomilla L.), some exercise, breakfast, coffee and then my priority is dispatching and messages firstly. I dispatch orders every day, and as soon as I can, I usually go to the post office by myself. Next hours are more creative hours, ideas of improving the shop, photo shooting, preparing products, new products, driving or walking to the warehouse if necessary, etc. Also hiking and walking, I do it a lot, I try to walk to the forest every day. And we often go to the seaside, or I go alone if I feel I need it. I have checked on my phone, it’s at least 10 km several times a week usually.Also, we cook a lot as we eat sugar, gluten-free food, and a vegetarian diet. It was a bit challenging to keep my days typical recently, during this pandemic time, but it’s back to normal rhythm now again.
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 create products ahead of the orders, I have some more patch ideas waiting to be made, I will work on them soon.I don’t offer custom patches anymore, it was not profitable for my shop, large expenses if it’s needed to make 1 or 2 as it was mostly always. I am not very friendly with technique, so I draw with a real pencil on the paper first and my friend – a graphic designer, makes a technical drawing. I am taking my ideas with me when we meet, we sit in a coffee shop or somewhere else and she creates them technically. It takes a couple of hours. I appreciate her help very much. I love handwriting more, drawing with a pencil. I am not even a selfie maker, I think I have only two or three selfies made. I photograph nature and my products usually.
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 impacts are economic growth, heavy postal traffic – usually it was periodically and very rarely, in one region or country and now, during this pandemic situation it’s global, all around the world. I am concentrating more on products which people use at home lately – I have added some new ribbons for sewing, some mini, little flowers and other patches for face masks decoration, clothing, accessories decoration, etc. I have a variety of products and the price and size range is wide, you may choose a single 1 Yard of the ribbon or bigger size as well if you like and necessary. Setting prices, trying to figure out costs is not my favorite thing to do, I am following up on Etsy suggestions in this and I am trying to add my husband’s mind here.
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?
Ideas come usually when I define myself what exactly I need and where I need to go, what is my goal, or what I would like to have. When I know what I would like to have, what I would like to experience, creativity comes by itself. The only thing I can do is to follow and to keep my positive, calm and sparkling mood on.
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 my products internationally. The shipping is partly included in the prices of items. I changed them recently, as Etsy recommended, We will see later how it works or if it works well for my products and customers. I offer free shipping at a fixed amount, it was also a suggestion from Etsy, I see it works well for me and my customers so I still use it. Usually, deliveries took some days to ~ week within Europe and 5 – 16 calendar days to U.S. addresses. Canada, Australia usually was ~ 15 days, during the global pandemic situation, all deliveries may take and mostly takes longer lately. At the hottest pandemic point it took up to 10 weeks to the United States addresses, thank goodness it’s at least half less lately.
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 think we all are different – if you love to do what you do, your products and you are the youngest you at your projects, it is a stand out for me and customers who will choose my products.My competitors are so many and the price differences are in a very large range. I believe it impacts my business much but still – it is always someone, somewhere who will find your exact product and it will be loved and more special for this person. The reasons why we choose exact products are endless for e.g. the attitude, shipping time, dispatching time, photo quality, appealingness or because of special color etc. If you do your best, you like your job, products or simply products are valued and loved by people, it will always bring you buyers.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I have never had a dispute, however, I have dealt with bad ratings – especially now, when it’s very slow postal traffic lately. I am communicating with buyers, I am warning them about possible postal delays and also possible delivery time frame is shown by the purchase. But still, delivery times vary so much lately. It’s just now a bit easier, in the last two or three weeks – it’s getting better with customers’ mood, as mostly all of my customers know it or have dealt with it already. When I saw the first low star medal, it was very mind-blowing painful, my first was a 4-star review (I considered it low anyway)…then came some positive 5 stars and you think, however, maybe I should continue – so after some more reviews, I got stronger and stronger. The Etsy Forum helped me much, I just read some discussions about reviews and I got emotionally better, I knew I am not alone in this and it’s normal, I can’t please anyone. Communication is one of the most important things for me, I am always replaying as soon as I can and looking for a solution with my customers if something or helping with tracking updates if necessary.
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?
The biggest nerve wracking was only at the beginning. If I had some new needs and questions, I always found them within Etsy, Etsy Forum and sometimes on the internet.
It was more as an experiment, a side job, and a hobby at the beginning. Now I can support myself financially, also I can set my own schedule if something happens. I think it has even changed my personality, I am more open. After dealing with quite a stressful life, with painful experiences in my family, tragic Dads death etc. I was very introverted. Now I communicate with so many different people from all around 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 am using social media, so I use Etsy ads to advertise my products. Also, it helps me to check the keywords occasionally. Excitement generates for e.g. at the pictures I create, I try to be original if possible. Sometimes I even communicate with my products, I say – smile! …and the ribbon replays with the best layout. :)If seriously, I take photography as a very important thing, especially when it’s about ribbons. It’s very important for me to show the real-life – true color as much as it is possible. I am using daylight lamps for it and I redo it many times if needed.
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?
My all orders are shipped with Registered Mail, I am always adding tracking numbers in an optional frame for it, but my customers never see it and there are never tracking updates connected. I know if it’s standard mail, sometimes not all countries and not always (even if they do) will provide tracking info. However, I would like them to be aware I am sending them with tracking. (During this COVID time, I am sending these tracking numbers in private Etsy messages and have always added this info in note in/to an Etsy email -which people read carefully rarely actually)It would be great if they would see it in Etsy site as well or even added/ synchronized with USPS or other tracking info/ sites.Also, I would love to see the info about the average dispatching time at each shop, it would help my shop a lot. I ship almost every day, however, I keep dispatching time technically bigger just in case for e.g. if larger order or anything else.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
My biggest success was when I had the courage to open the shop. I love to be a part of my customer projects. Definitely the best photos are selling better, I have seen many examples. I changed, improved the photo and it was found and bought by the next customer soon.I never sell anything which is in different colors in a photo than in real life. When I can’t make a true color of something, I will give it as a gift with some order when it suits someone. Even if I see them matching it can be challenging because of the techniques and monitors involved and unfortunately, it’s not up to me how it looks on the other side of the monitor when someone sees it. My hard lesson was also with dispatching. I noticed a very big difference in customer satisfaction and reviews when I took dispatching and messages as a 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?
For beginners… don’t think too much – you can close it at any time and open it again if you like later. Thinking too much is just taking your energy and time. Right now is always right on time. And when you have an idea – go for it. Don’t compare the numbers with other shops unless it positively helps and motivates you to move forward, but if it brings you, your mood down, simply don’t do it, everybody has their own rhythm, find yours. It’s always someone who has more or less sales or reviews etc than you. …meanwhile, do things which inspire you. Make and find your individual comfort, your goals, your rhythm. Be satisfied and enjoy the moment and go for your next goals. For established sellers… Enjoy it in every detail. Let flowering yourself and your projects.