Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My name is Peter, and I am the owner of Pete’s Photography Shop on Etsy. I grew up traveling and have taken the passion into my adult life. As a result, I have accumulated a vast library of photos ranging from images of wildlife in my own backyard to the scenery in Iceland that is only accessible by 40 miles of dirt roads. I have tens of thousands of photos stored on my computer, and on countless hard drives. I decided that I wanted to take advantage of this asset – a library of photos to which I own the full rights. I opened Pete’s Photography Shop in 2014, and in recent months have developed my brand and expanded the shop significantly. My niche is selling wall prints in the mid-century modern style.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
I think that responsibilities are a strange word just because I enjoy every minute that I spend communicating with customers, creating new products, analyzing my site traffic, or performing SEO. While responsibilities certainly exist, I find that running the shop is anything but a chore. On a typical day, I spend time looking over the stats for my store to analyze traffic and which items are getting the most interest. I try to add new items to my shop as regularly as I can, so there is always a new photo staged in Photoshop and in the pipeline. I use tools like Photoshop in order to take a photo and apply a particular theme and style. I also handle the accounting for my store, and pretty much any task that is required to attract more customers.
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?
My best-selling product is by far my mountain wall art. I work with a printing and framing company to fulfill orders, and I have found that they are really the experts when it comes to printing, framing, and ensuring the quality of the products. I believe that by partnering with another company, I can focus on what I do best which is creating products and performing customer service tasks. Also, I am able to offer a wide variety of framing options and sizes, including from 8X10, all the way up to 24X36. I have a variety of high-quality wooden frames available, and all of my photos are printed on Kodak Endura professional photo paper. This material provides a really clear and sharp image and is designed to last a long time on the wall without fading. In addition, all of my framed photos are ready to hang right out of the box, making it really easy, especially for customers in an apartment who may not have the tools or space to frame themselves. For every order, I always send a personal message to the customer with a mockup showing the frame and any cropping to ensure that each and every order comes out perfectly. I believe that the style of my products truly makes them stand out. The photos are designed in a mid-century modern style and often stand out in search results against more traditional photographs and posters.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
While receiving payment for an order is always nice, I think that I most enjoy receiving a positive review for one of my products. I have also had someone send me a picture of the photo on their wall, which was an amazing feeling, because all of a sudden, that photo went from a file on my computer to a physical part of someone’s home. While making a profit is important for any business, I am really passionate about providing a product that is truly high quality, and that makes the customer happy when they open the box. The hardest part of maintaining the store is having patience. When creating a new listing, it can take over a month to get a sale or to see any significant traffic. I have learned that it is important for me to simply have perseverance, and to stick with it, even when it seems like forever since I have received a sale.
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 anyone on Etsy, including international customers. I mainly use Etsy ads to drive sales, but I have also begun to create a social media presence. I have a Facebook page where I post new products and coupons. I have also tried Pinterest ads to help drive sales and to reach my target audience. I am really happy with how my shop has grown over the last few months, but I have a lot of interest in expanding my presence on social media, and in learning more about paid online advertising to take the shop to the next level.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
When it comes to my Etsy business and many aspects of life, I believe in an iterative approach. It is important to take your time and do not be discouraged by failure. In fact, you should embrace failure. When I started my store in 2014, I barely received any sales; I had only a handful of sales between 2014 and 2019 (with some points here and there in which I did not have time to manage the store). When the winter of 2020 came around, I decided that I would invest some concerted effort into revamping my store and make is successful. I had a number of listings, but there was only one or two that ever made any sales. There was one listing, in particular, that seemed to do well, and I had made some edits to it in order to take on a minimalist and modern look. I decided to go with what worked and replicate this style with other photographs. This is how my style and brand were born. While the majority of my listings failed, which I had spent countless hours creating, the one successful listing became the basis for my store. Today, I often experiment with ads, new products, and other selling techniques. I think that as an entrepreneur, it is really important to try new things, experiment, and when things fail, iterate, and try something new.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The toughest part of running my store has been feeling that my time investment has been for nothing. When I started getting serious with selling on Etsy, I invested countless hours in creating new products, performing SEO, and researching selling practices. In the first month, I didn’t have a single sale and ended up losing money on Etsy ads. At the time, I was worried that I had invested so much time with nothing to show. Luckily, I continued to persevere, and eventually, I saw returns on my labor in the form of sales. With some hard work, my shop is now making consistent sales every month.
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 am most inspired when I receive new sales or new reviews. This motivates me to continue creating because I can see the fruits of my labor, and I can see that people are truly excited about what they order. I also receive inspiration from the places that I travel to. When looking for new product ideas, I search through hundreds of travel photos, and I remember many of the good times that I had while traveling to other states, or abroad. I often look on Pinterest and on other sites to get inspiration. I have even gone into furniture stores and other shops to get inspiration, and to understand which styles and colors are trending.
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 ship my products internationally and have sold to some great people in really interesting places. Luckily, Etsy calculates international shipping rates for me automatically; I do offer free shipping for domestic orders. Unfortunately, international shipping can be tricky, and delivery can take a few weeks, but I think that the wait is worth it! I don’t personally package the products myself because I work with a printer. My partner is extremely professional and uses incredible materials that are worthy of any home.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
I think that one of the most important contributors to success online is passion. I am passionate about photography and traveling, and therefore am motivated to put in the effort to make my hobbies into a business. Often times, people think that selling a product online will be easy money, but this is a myth. Today, the Internet is extremely crowded, and everyone is trying to sell you something. Finding a niche is really important. This is something that I have found simply by investing time and experimenting with different products and strategies.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
For any fellow online sellers, I would say that it is really important to first create a really high-quality product that people will enjoy, and the money will come later. Don’t focus just on the money, especially in the beginning, because you will not be able to create quality products and provide good customer service. If you have a good idea and determination, eventually you will be rewarded.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
I believe that business success involves making people happy and making the world a better place. When it comes to making a positive impact, this could involve simply providing an excellent service, which will delight your customers. You may also decide to be more focused, and to create sustainable products, or to donate some of your profits to a charity. I believe that true success goes beyond simply making money; in the world, today, helping others and being a responsible business owner is not only recommended, it is also necessary.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
While Etsy is not my full-time responsibility, I do try to accomplish at least one task at my shop every day. This could involve editing a photo, performing SEO, researching new marketing techniques, or anything to advance my shop. Every day, I will check my orders, fulfill any new orders, and respond to messages a promptly as possible.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
One way in which I plan on growing my business is through my marketing efforts. Right now, I only use Etsy ads to advertise, and I rely almost exclusively on Etsy search to drive sales. While this is an effective tool, I feel like there is a lot more that I could be doing. I plan to expand my efforts in the social media space and to increase spending on Facebook and other platforms as my sales continue to grow. I also plan to start my own website in the future and to create some original content and articles to help drive sales and to build a community around my brand. I continue to add more listings, and I plan to increase my product offerings in the future.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Attention to detail is something that I have always focused on in order to maintain success in my shop. When running an online store, there is a vast array of different things that you have to consider. This ranges from answering customer messages to determining which keywords to use in the tags on your listing. Also, ensuring that customers are satisfied and that you have accurately described your products in the description is really important. A negative review can ruin any online store, so make sure to have really high attention to detail with product quality, shipping times, and when in doubt, simply communicate with the customer. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t just throw a paid ad campaign together and expect it to earn you a lot of sales. Creating ads, whether it be on Facebook, Pinterest, or another site is truly a science. Every word, image, a hashtag that you include counts. Running social media ads takes a lot of work – leave and forget never works.