At the end of August, I opened up my Etsy shop: The Bitter Lemon Shop. I have always thought about opening up an Etsy store, not because I have an abundance of things to sell, but because there are times when I really enjoy creating things and I always get really excited when they turn out as I’d planned.
For years, I’ve kept a Pinterest board with DIY projects that I hoped to get to “someday”, and in August, I finally had a window of time and started making earrings. They turned out cute, so I decided to put them on Etsy and see what happened.
Like most people starting an online adventure, it seems like when you publish your first blog or post that fist item to sell, the world is going to shift. And then… there’s silence.
I’d heard about this happening with lots of Etsy sellers – that you work so hard to create an inventory of products and take pictures, write thoughtful descriptions… and then you never make a sale.
But it didn’t take long before I made a few sales, mostly from people I knew. But hey, a sale is a sale, and it was good practice on simply using Etsy to see how things work.
Before I knew it, I had several orders, and then I had a slight frenzy when shoppers caught sight of one item: my Holly Golightly sleep mask – a popular Halloween costume accessory, especially now thanks to “Big Little Lies”.
I sold 30+ of the handmade sleep masks, staying up very late (one night i stayed up until 4 am) to hand-sew each item.
I’m proud to say I’ve made it through my first “Holiday rush”, and I didn’t even mess up any of the shipments, which is a MIRACLE.
So, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned about Etsy so far – I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this side hustle, business-venture of mine.
Use the Etsy app. The app is easy to use, but most importantly, I get an alert on my phone when someone makes a purchase (it sounds like a cash register), and when someone messages me. This is super important and I know I won’t go online and check my store every day.
Respond to customers. Quickly. A few weeks after I opened my shop, I heard a radio host talking about how she once had an Etsy shop and she hated it because she didn’t make any money and it was more about customer service. Hmm… well, yeah, most businesses – especially small businesses – ARE all about customer service.
We are at the mercy of our customers, because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have a reason for a shop. As for not making money, I would venture to say she didn’t have a good enough product, because my revenue has surpassed $500. It’s nothing to quit my day job over, but it sure isn’t “nothing”, especially for a side gig.
Most of the time, customers don’t message me. If they do, they just have a question about the product or arrival. 9/10 times, they are really nice and DO want to make a purchase – so I do try and respond within the hour. You never know what other products they are looking at in order to make their decision.
I’ve found that this is what helps me make sales and get 5-star reviews. I’ve had customers tell me how grateful they are that I simply replied and did so with kindness. What’s up Etsy sellers? Respond to your customers!
I do have a professional background in marketing and I know how the average person shops – they do a lot of research, and making contact is one of the last things people do before pulling out their credit card. So reply!
Price it right. A lot of items on Etsy are expensive. Which is okay – if you’re using fine materials. I disagree with adding in a bunch of labor costs to your item. I figure out my prices by looking at materials and shipping costs (I offer free domestic shipping), and also how much I would pay for a similar item. I ask around, too, or look in stores to see what they are charging for similar items. I’m not going to charge someone double just because it takes me a day to make it – people will move right on over to Amazon. Now, don’t make things cheap – price them at what they’re worth; a price you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to give things away, but don’t rob the customer either.
Be honest with yourself. I have a 3-day window from the time a customer places the order until I have to ship it. I make items to order – I do not have a shop or a place to store ready-made items. So, be honest – don’t put 1-day turnaround if it really takes 4. People will understand, and they don’t want to be tricked.
Create a system for shipping. I don’t have a room, or really even much space, to dedicate to shipping. But, I do have a method to how I create labels and pack my items so nothing gets mixed up. It probably isn’t an issue when you have one or two orders, but trying packing 14 boxes for shipment – it’s a process!
Give customers a reason to come back. I know customers do NOT have to shop on Etsy – in fact, it’s been years since I’ve purchased anything on Etsy. But I know I need to get sales – not for money, but because Etsy displays the number of sales you’ve made – and if it’s a low number, people aren’t going to have confidence in your shop. So, I’ve been giving each customer a coupon for a percentage off their next order. I want them to come back – whether to shop, or to see what new items I’ve got in the store.
There you have it! Etsy has additional resources for succeeding in your shop – a message board, tools, and even a podcast, but I have yet to tap into any of these resources. I’m going to try a few new things over the holidays and will also continue to post new items and sales on my Instagram account (@Orangejulius7), but so far I’ve found that sticking to traditional business and marketing tactics has worked quite well!
Instead of it being a “Woman You Should Know”, today it’s more about a Women’s Brand You Should Know, because I sat down with Ashley Stewart, just one of the founders behind The Patent Pump, an all-female powerhouse for branding (located in Baton Rouge, LA) that just reached its two-year anniversary. Very cool. So, here’s the scoop:
1. How did you get the idea to start The Patent Pump?
The idea for The Patent Pump is a manifestation of the saying “Do What You Love”. Krystal (my good girlfriend and business partner) and I both were in situations where we weren’t exactly exercising our creativity or using our superpowers in a lane that we felt fiery about. After dissolving a blog we both authored for, the idea sort of came naturally to put our strengths together. Her strength is digital marketing & strategy, while mine is visual communication & creative direction.
2. What makes it different from other branding businesses?
There are a couple of obvious reasons The Patent Pump is different from other branding services. Firstly it’s an all female powerhouse, each member of our team is a woman. That in itself is out-of-this-world. Secondly, The Patent Pump marries brand consultative services with creative services in order to produce tangible and intangible results. We’re able to not only develop strategies but also creatively execute them in-house.
3. What is the best part about working for yourself? The worst part?
The best part of working for yourself is the freedom. To truly be free – in that other aspects of life don’t enslave you – you have to go through a lot of self development. The journey to realizing and really knowing yourself is beautiful and unmatched.
The worst part? Is rightfully, that same journey of self development. Most days you experience a range of emotions, because stability is a fleeting concept when you first begin to work for yourself. As you grow and the more wisdom you acquire the more encouraged to manifest the vision.
4. How has Baton Rouge shaped your business?
Baton Rouge has been a fan to the flame. In a small town where tradition is a pillar, it challenges The Patent Pump to really shake things up, to think in and out of the box.
5. How do you stay creative?
I stay creative by communicating and consuming. I’m a big talker, I love to listen to stories, and I will be spend hours scrolling the internet just for general purposes. Krystal is pretty much the same. She’s a music-lover and she loves to talk! She is also a daily news consumer; so her list of daily online visits is just as diverse as her musical taste.
6. What’s next for The Patent Pump?
The Patent Pump turned 2 on Feb 14th! As we head into our toddler years, the need to be tenacious but tedious presents itself. Our goal is to really push to accomplish our mission, which is to rid the world of “superficiality without cleverness”. We understand the importance of face-value but we also present the challenge to be more than skin-deep and live with purpose.