Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My name is Megan and I am the owner of the Etsy shop Pannya Art. I have been drawing animals for as long as I can remember! I was always sketching and doodling and my favorite animals to draw were dogs. I had a little pocket book of dog breeds which fascinated me; how could one animal have so many variations? As I got older I would create fantasy animals which were often invented in the margins of my notebooks – I am not sure that my teachers approved! As well as drawings of real and fantasy animals, I would also draw fanart of my other hobby, video games.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I first started selling my art over ten years ago, on eBay. At that stage, it was mostly a small form of original art paintings and some pet portrait commissions. As I was studying at university at the time, selling online was a really convenient way to send small items, rather than having to go to craft fairs or stalls. I found Etsy in 2008 because other sellers were using it. It was the focus towards artists and crafters that attracted me to the platform.
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’ve now shifted from selling original paintings to selling stickers and magnets that I print from my own digital artwork. I tend to sketch and ink the designs traditionally, then I scan in and add color digitally. I like to make sets of items themed on certain animals or games. I think that this is attractive to buyers because they get a variety of designs. Plus, because I make each set to order, it means that buyers can mix and match designs or I can even edit them to customize even further. It’s such a lovely touch to be able to have something that looks like your own pets!
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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
Although I did art at secondary school, I would say the majority of my experience was self-taught and through trial and error. My parents always encouraged me to be creative so I got to experiment with lots of types of media. I posted to online art sites during my teenage years. Whilst the exposure to criticism and artists that were much more proficient than me could be disheartening at times, a lot of people were encouraging and constructive so I think it was a real positive driving force for me to continue with my art and keep creative. I am still practicing and trying out new techniques especially digitally.
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?
Once I graduated from university and got a full-time job, I stopped selling on eBay for several years, and art as a hobby fell on to the backburner. I made some stickers based on a game franchise for my friend as gifts. They encouraged me to make more and sell them because they were sure people would love them.
At the moment I consider online selling as extra income for my hobby, but it might expand into a side-job soon.
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 my friend suggested I sell my stickers, I was worried that no-one would really want to buy them. However, as I print the stickers to order, I didn’t have many expenses up-front, compared to if I had ordered sets of stickers from a printer. The listing fees on Etsy are very competitive and I hadn’t seen any products for sale like mine at the time, so I decided just to put them out there and see.
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 got my first sale pretty quickly, within a couple of weeks. I honestly didn’t think I would make a lot of sales at all, but I guess because they are fairly unique designs and small items, people were willing to give them a try! On average per week, I get between 10 and 20 orders. It gets a lot busier in the run-up to the winter holidays because my items make perfect stocking fillers!
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 still have a full time job outside of Etsy. Typically, I will walk my dogs first thing in the morning, go to work, then print and package my orders in the evenings or weekends. The most time-consuming part is cutting all of the stickers out by hand!
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 products are the chicken magnets and fancy rat stickers. They are small, cute designs that appeal to a lot of people. I tend to have some pre-made sets of stickers or magnets made ahead of orders for the best selling products, but most of them are made to order. I have a lot of customization options, ranging from choosing the designs through to re-coloring the designs digitally before printing. I use creative inkjet printer paper so that’s why for most designs, there is an option for vinyl stickers or magnetized paper for the decorative cling magnets.
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 is honestly the printer ink! Because I want my prints to be as lightfast as possible, I only use genuine branded printer ink. The magnetized paper is about twice as expensive as the vinyl sticker paper, so that’s why those products are priced higher in my shop. For larger sheets of stickers or magnets where I spend a long time cutting these out, if they have to be cut out closely, or embellished in any way, I price these a bit more. I also add on a small fee for the custom orders to reflect the extra time it takes to put together the designs or edit them before printing.
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 tend to make designs based on what I like or what I am finding fun at the time. So that’s why I have several designs of animals doing yoga! Sometimes friends or family will suggest things. I tend to just think “oh, that would be a good idea”, jot it down then sketch up a few things when I have more time.
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?
Most of my sales are international. Thankfully, as they can fit in an envelope and go as a standard letter, the postage isn’t too pricey. I usually dispatch within 1-2 days, but the biggest delay is in the postal system. On average it takes about 2 weeks for letters to get from the UK to the USA. I offer free UK shipping, so some of the shipping costs are within the listing price and I discount the international shipping. I think having free or cheaper shipping is attractive to buyers. I package the stickers or magnetic paper within a plastic or paper envelope, then use recycled sources of cardboard to reinforce before putting in an envelope. I have actually had positive comments from buyers about the use of recycled packaging!
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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 standout?
There are lots more people selling cute animal stickers on Etsy now. It might impact my business a bit, but at the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and whether people find the art appealing or not. I think having the option to customize orders really makes me stand out from other sellers that tend to sell a narrower range of stickers that need to be printed in bulk.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
The majority of issues I have had are down to shipping. I try to make it clear in the listing and the dispatch notification communication that letters will take longer internationally. Most customers are really good at messaging me first if an item is delayed and we can work something out, rather than opening a dispute.
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?
I think it has kept me creative. If I weren’t selling on Etsy, then I think all my sketchbooks would be gathering dust by now! Honestly, I never thought I would get this far with my shop and have reached 3000 sales. There have been lots of times when dealing with customers has been stressful and it’s usually over shipping. I’ve learned to make sure that information is displayed as much as possible throughout the buying process, to pre-empt any issues.
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?
Social media is something I don’t engage much with, although I do have a Facebook page and I will post new designs or sales on there. I definitely have some repeat customers that I recognise as followers on Facebook. It’s definitely something I could engage with more.
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?
The main thing is really to do with shipping – it gives an estimated delivery time for customers which is often not realistic. I wish we could edit 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 first started I had awful photographs that didn’t reflect the products at all. A lot of customers got mixed up and bought the wrong type of item (sticker or magnet). I started using a brighter, close up image with text to denote whether the listing was for stickers or magnets and that seems to have helped!
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Definitely look and see what is already on sale to determine if your products can fill a niche. Have a look at successful shops and their feedback – what is important to the customers? Ensure that you have nice photographs and include as many details about your items as you can to make sure that your products can be found. Use the seller tools provided by Etsy to optimize your listings and see where to improve!