MyFancySnailMail – Junk Journals, Ephemera Kits & Vintage Treasures

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Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…

I am a married mom of five. Four sons, and one spoiled little princess (she’s the youngest and has all “her boys” wrapped around her little finger). My journey to opening an Etsy shop started in the fall of 2018. First, I must confess, I have never thought of myself as “crafty” or “creative”. I can’t even draw a good stick figure. My mom won a bunch of awards throughout high school, and my only and youngest sister seemed to inherit that artistic ability. I was the sporty “Tom Boy”, playing volleyball and softball throughout high school, and after. During my mid 20’s I started having serious issues with joint pain and found I had several disks throughout my spine that was degenerating faster than what they should have been. Years of testing, MRI’s, scans, you name it I probably had it done, showed no reason for the cause of my degenerative disk disease, fibromyalgia and early onset osteoarthritis. Things I used to love doing, hobbies such as my garden, sports even playing or picking up my kids, became near impossible. This includes keeping a full-time job. I worked for years as a paralegal and loved it. The doctors started putting me on so many restrictions that I was unable to continue working. That, along with living with daily pain for years, with no rhyme or reason, caused me to become really depressed, and somehow made me feel as if I was a failure for my husband and children. Enter, by accident, a Facebook pen-pal group I found in September, 2018, while I was looking for something else. I joined, thinking heck, I’m home all day while my family is at work or school, I used to have pen-pals when I was in elementary school that I wrote to all the way through high school, but lost touch, and I missed that feeling of waiting for the next letter. I found so many wonderful pen-pals from all over the world, and they introduced me to the interesting and beautiful pieces of “Happy-Mail”. I could not believe the art and creative beauty that was put into decorating the envelopes, making flip-books, the little pockets stuffed with tiny goodies from other lands, but how was I supposed to do that when I had no creative bone in my body? I watched a few YouTube videos on making these awesome pen-pal pocket cards, and said what the heck, let me try this. Turns out I was pretty good at it, based on what I was being told by every person I wrote to. I started expanding into making junk journals, teaching myself how to make collages and decoupage. The responses I received from my Pen-Friends with their oohs and ahhhhs, boosted my spirit and most importantly my confidence. I was told over and over I should start an Etsy shop. Finally, in April of 2019, I started my Etsy adventure. I love being crafty and making my “Fancy Mail” as I called it, and now I could share that love and passion with so many others. I will always be grateful for my wonderful pen-pals from all over the world, as without their full support and confidence in me and what I can do, I would never have started a shop on my own. I may still be in pain every day, and healing from a recent fusion surgery on seven levels in my neck, but to know that I am making people smile, and enjoy receiving “Snailmail” again, makes each day brighter and less painful. I love what I do, and am glad I was able to discover my hidden creative talents and abilities, just because I started penpalling again😊

How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?

I knew about Etsy from overhearing others mention it. I had never actually shopped or even visited the website until I was finally pushed and convinced by many great friends from the USA and abroad to open my own shop. I debated from January, 2019 until finally opening my shop in early April of 2019. I will never forget my beautiful, sweet, Romanian pen-pal Veronica, who made the first purchase from my shop. I messaged her and told her I would have sent her things for nothing, that she didn’t have to do that. She told me “The first sale is the most important start to your shop becoming a successful little business, and I wanted to be the first to show my support and help kickstart your soon to be successful little shop”. After her purchase, and after figuring out the ins and outs a bit better, the customers and orders increased more and more. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be considered an artist, or creative, let alone have my own little company to share my creations, or vintage finds on.

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 ?

My main type of items I sell revolve around the world of snail-mailing, pen-pals and journals. I make hand made junk journals using old, vintage and antique book covers after I remove all the pages. I sell college or junk journal packs/kits which I put together myself. I use many vintage type items, but also modern paper, embellishments and other type things to put together themed Ephemera packs. I come up with an idea, say a nature pack. I then take several days and pull from my stash of tons of different crafting items, things, and pieces that would coordinate with what my theme is. My junk journals start on a whim for a theme. I am working on one right now that I decoupaged us and worldwide postage stamps on, now I’m doing the spine and am picking out the papers and other items that will make up the signatures(pages) that will be sewn in. I have vintage postage stamps, first day covers, and other philatelist items that can be used for a craft project or for a stamp collector. I also have my love of vintage items I have been lucky enough to have found at local estate auctions, such as German handmade jewelry, pins, and keychains to Christmas and Holiday handmade Scandinavian/German straw ornaments. Handmade tags, and burlap gift bags I decoupaged with different themes. I am always working on adding new junk journal kits, grab bags along with finding fun or interesting collectible vintage items.

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 a self taught crafter. I still feel that I learn new things, or find other ways to do things each day. I have never had the greatest confidence level in myself, and always worry if something is good enough. I am an OCD perfectionist, who is a Leo born on the 1st of August, so yeah, between the needing, or feeling the need to have everything perfect, to being quite stubborn, it took me and actually taught me to relax, believe in myself and my work, and things have always seemed to just fall into the right place. I would estimate that for the four months of being pushed by others to open up a shop, until the day I opened it was the amount of time it took for me to realize I was satisfied with my creations, and to not be so hard on myself. Though I still get that bit of worry for each and everything I sell and ship out because I never want a customer to be disappointed.

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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 original goal was to use Etsy as an outlet to express my new found creative ability, and share my creations or vintage treasures with those who love the same. I honestly never thought I’d have as many sales or customers as I have had in a little over a year. I thank each and every one of them, as they are also my inspiration to look deeper in myself and push myself to learn and create more.

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?

I was worried about not being able to compete. There are many shops on Etsy, and many sell the same types of items I do. With so many vendors you have to be able to stand out, without changing who you are. I overcome many fears by remembering that I didn’t start this to be rich, or even for the money. I also believe that in today’s world with the technology and fast pace life we all live, it’s nice to add extra personal touches to orders so when the customer receives it, they can tell right off the bat that a seller didn’t just shove their order in a shipping envelope, but took the extra time to personalize or decorate it. I decorate everything that goes out from the smallest order to the biggest because I want them to know how important they are to me as a customer, and it’s those little things that will make you stand out from other shops.

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?

I wasn’t expecting any sales honestly. I was still trying to figure things out, and less then a week later I got my first notification of purchase. Went to the shipping screen and realized it was my pen-friend from Romania and cried happy tears. She wanted to be the first sale because she felt that first sale was the most important one and would start new sales to follow. She was right, along with a few other wonderful pen-pals I met, who purchased items, they shared on social media and it just went up from there. I started my first sale mid-April 2019 and by December 2019 I was over 1000. My average per week sales last year were roughly 20 to 30, more certain times than others. This year with the COVID-19, it hasn’t been as much but still has been averaging about 10, which to some may sound bad, but as I said I never started this for the money, this is a hobby I found I was good at, and if I can earn a bit extra to help my family, then I’m grateful. I don’t get upset if I don’t get orders, as it gives me more time to get creative and get more things done. I’m happy just to see people favoriting my shop.

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 state it’s my “full-time” job, but it’s more my full-time hobby. Some days I’m in too much pain to craft anything, other days I can comfortably work on something for an extended period of time. My family also helps me package things, like themed ephemera packs after I have put the pieces together, so I really don’t have to manage time. I do what I can each day and take it one day at a time. No matter how I’m feeling, if an order comes through it takes precedence and gets wrapped, packaged and shipped ASAP.

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 and pre-package all my products to make it easier not only on me, but to be able to get the order out and to the customer fast. I have customized some products on request or special order if I’m able to.

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 probably the fees charged by Etsy. I don’t sell extremely high priced items, so after all the fees are taken I really have only made a little more than breaking even.

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 have been asked this by many people, and I honestly just get an idea that pops in my head, or many, haha, and it all just goes from there. Somehow I start whatever project, or crafting pack I’m wanting to put together and it all just ends up falling in place. Just like my journals. I start making a collage and one by one each piece just happens to fit and end up where they need to be. I have a garden, which is the first hobby I ever fell in love with and is my “zen”. My husband and family surprised me while I was in the hospital in early May 2020 recovering from a seven-level fusion in my neck. They rearranged our four seasons room and attached workshop to create a “craft room” for me and a place to store my product. This room looks right out into my garden so that in a way helps me to relax, and gather my thoughts and ideas. I also have some creative thinking children who come up with ideas that we have used.

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 internationally to anywhere, however, the pandemic right now has caused many countries to suspend their mail service, due to lack of staff, transportation, etc. Based on shipping before COVID-19, depending on the country you are shipping to I have had packages get to customers anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks. I do not do free shipping. The problem with free shipping is that you’re not really getting free shipping. A shop needs to recoup the costs they pay to ship your order free, and in order to do that they raise the price of the items they sell. If they didn’t they wouldn’t make any profit. To me, I couldn’t honestly do that to a customer who thinks they’re getting a deal because shipping is supposedly free. I also don’t charge shipping and handling fees, only exact shipping.

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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?

Standing out to me means providing outstanding customer service, while showing appreciation by taking the extra time to add a personal touch.

How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?

I have not had any disputes I had to deal with. I did however have one lower-rated feedback in which the customer complained about the small grab bag she received. She never contacted me prior or even after her feedback, which I feel is an area Etsy needs to work on, especially when it’s based off a customer not asking questions, or reading the full description of a listing, nor reviewing the pictures. I try to detail everything both in the listing and the pictures to avoid issues. I had one other one that the customer messaged me and was upset about a grab-bag, which was detailed and pictured exactly. She was expecting more of a certain thing than was listed so I told her I would send her more of the paper she was looking for at my cost. She was thrilled and left a 5-star review. Customers are not always right, but I’d rather listen to them and if it’s a small amount to refund them or a minor thing to send out extra stuff I’ll do it.

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?

I never thought I’d have as many sales, or customers within a year. This shop has not made me tons of money, but it has made me have tons more confidence in myself and has given me the opportunity to show my creativity and meet awesome customers, some which have become friends.

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 have used my Facebook and Instagram To post pictures of new products, coupons, updates, and the like. I have not paid for ads outside of Etsy. If I was a bigger Etsy shop making five and six figures I definitely would try some outside advertising. I’m happy with the way I have been doing it whether it brings one sale or ten. I have had a few YouTube accounts actually video the opening of my products, and one, in particular, has sent numerous people to my store and I’m so appreciative of her for doing that.

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?

I don’t like the forced advertising or the separate fee for so many things. The Etsy advertising used to be great, you had control over cost per clicks, and budget, now you don’t have that. I would say, remember who got Etsy to the level it’s at. If not for US shops, there would be no Etsy, and it’s time they start remembering that.

What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?

When I started my shop, I didn’t understand how the ads worked and put a budget on. Never realized it continued each day over and over, so by the end of the second month I was upside down over $1,000.00. Now I research, read, and verify before doing anything. Things I did to set up for success was to make sure I had a variety of things, themes, and great pictures.

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 up on everything. If there is something you don’t understand fully or seems confusing reach out to other Etsy shops, or visit the community section. I found many answers there and still check it. I also bought the Etsy for dummies book, lol.. obviously Etsy has been changing things over and over, but the basics about what to do and not do are the same and I wish I bought it before my advertising fiasco.


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