Unsolicited Etsy advice.

Monday, February 20, 2012


Last May, I was feeling inspired. I owned a thrifted sewing machine and decided I wanted to make my first bag, zipper and all. I found a couple tutorials online, and used parts of both to create the bag I wanted. I like the end result so much that I took photos of it and put it on Etsy. I already had a shop that sold jewelry, but it hadn't been active in a while. So I listed this purse and it sold in less than 5 minutes. I was shocked. So I made another bag and put it on Etsy a couple days later. And it sold the same day. So maybe I was on to something? Since that time, Brighter Day has exploded in the best way. I was able to stop teaching painting classes because sewing was keeping me busy and helping put me through nursing school. I never expected it.

So in thinking about the last 8 months, I thought of some advice (and some pros and cons of running a handmade business)... take it or leave it, of course, but I thought it might be helpful to those who are thinking of opening up a handmade shop.

The advice:
Take good pictures. This is obvious, but good pictures sell. They really do.

Make what you love, and keep making what sells. Keep track of the items, colors, styles that are selling the most and make more of them. And make something you're really proud of. It makes a big difference. For example, I used to make jewelry for my shop and made a few hundred sales with it - but when I started making purses... for bridesmaids... the shop went crazy. So I still make jewelry, but I focus on what sells - the bags.

DON'T GIVE UP! I see this all the time... people complaining that nothing's selling, it's too hard, etc. Running a homemade business is not for pansies. (Haha did I just say that?!). It takes so much hard work, so much that you probably didn't realize all that goes into it (registering for a business license in your state? budgeting? staying up til 2am to finish an order?). Yeah. It's hard. But it can be worth it.


The cons:
It's a 24 hour business. Unless you've clearly stated in a very obvious spot in your shop that you won't be responding to messages within 24 hours, you have to respond to messages within 24 hours (at the very most). There are some laid back customers, but I've found they are few and far between (maybe that's because I work with brides?!). 

People can be suuuuper picky. I guess I've let this happen, though, because I offer custom bags. I'm happy to accommodate requests, but when people need me to match a color exactly that's called "fern oasis," that can be a problem. (What do you think fern oasis looks like? Beats me.) I've spent lots of my life driving all over town hunting for colors that don't exist. 


The pros: 
You get to work from home! For me, I couldn't be happier about this aspect. I get plenty of social interaction and outside world experience from going to nursing school, so coming home and drinking tea, listening to a sermon, and holing up in my sewing room is amazing. I can picture that for stay-at-home moms, this would also be a pretty ideal setup. Get work done during naps!

You get to be creative. And be paid for it. Always a plus in my book.

Repeat customers are fun. It's neat getting to know people somewhat through all the convos and orders. I have a few amazing customers who are so sweet and encouraging.


Any other Etsy sellers have input? I'd love to hear!

19 comments:

  1. A friend of mine recently told me about you blog... I'm subscribed & have really enjoyed "getting to know you". Reading your continuing love story was inspiring and a good reminder to wait for God's best! I absolutely thrive on creativity and DIY projects-- thanks for sharing your ideas & this blogpost esp. God bless :)

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  2. This is all great advice Whitney! Glad that your shop is so successful. We went out to dinner with our friends last week, and she was carrying one of your bags that I gave her for her birthday last fall!

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  3. I love this advice post.
    I started my own shop on etsy, house of bremma, back in may of last year. It took a couple weeks, but once I really started my blog, and advertising, I started getting orders on a regular basis. I loved it. I had my time after everyone went to sleep, and made my coasters. I started looking forward to that time every night. Then, the Christmas shoppers started coming out. I got multiple orders daily. It was a little tough some days. Bf all of my coasters are made to order. It is tough with picky customers, but the great ones make it all worth it! I bought almost all of our Christmas with the profits I made in just a few months. I recommend opening up a shop to anyone who has a passion for making and creating!

    Chrissy @ formamas.blogspot.com

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    1. That's so awesome Chrissy... love your shop!!!

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  4. Amen!

    This post reminded me that I've been meaning to tell you...about a year ago, I complimented a friend on a cute purse she had. She told me that she bought it from some girl on Etsy. I've been following your blog for about a year, but I never put 2 and 2 together until one random day last month when it dawned on me that I'd see the same fabric her purse was made out of in your shop. I peeked inside of her bag, and sure enough, it had a Brighter Day label on it!

    I just thought you'd enjoy knowing that one of your bags has made its way out to Southern California to a girl who is very happy to have it, and a friend who is...slightly envious of it :)

    ♥ Bethany

    www.happyhomemaker.me

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    1. That is a first... so fun! Thanks for letting me know!

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  5. Whitney, you are SO spot on with all of this. I love this post. As a busy Etsy shop owner, who started it on a whim over semester break over a year ago, I am so excited that it has worked well for you, too. Like you, it has been instrumental in putting me through nursing school and sending us on some vacations :) -- and while it will be time to give it up when I get a 'real' job as an RN this spring, I do think it was a blessing and provision from God during a stressful time of study and lack of creativity in school. I will definitely miss it. Thanks so much for sharing! (www.elizabethst.etsy.com)

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    1. I LOVE your Etsy shop... I've looked at it and admired for a while! I'm so glad it's been a blessing to you as well!!!

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  6. whit!!!! barn sale!!!! flipping out!!!

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  7. Wow, I so needed these words!
    Thank you so much!
    Like you said even the "obvious" part is good to be reminded of.
    By the way, love your work!

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  8. Thanks for this post! Right now I feel a bit frustrated 'cause I'm stuck in the beginnings dry period (I'm not on Etsy, but on DaWanda, which is quite the same, I guess). I am one of those stay at home mums and happy for the opportunity to work from home. I love the quite, concentrated hours on my own, but I also love it when my little daughter joins me in the atelier, trying to make her first creative steps... Your article reminded me of all the really goods things about doing this and why I choose this way... thank you, I nearly forgot...

    Oh, tonight I'm trying your bow bag-tutorial! Wanted to do that for about a week, but somehow didn't manage. I'm quite excited and can't wait to start :-) Good job, very helpful tutorial and a nice purse

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  9. Is etsy available to people from other countries?

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    1. Absolutely! I've purchased from sellers all over the world!

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  10. Great article, I also believe that good images sell quicker especially in ads.
    classified ads manila

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  11. I started sewing a while ago at Quilts of Compassion (a group based out of Ohio) and that's how I caught the sewing bug! Sadly I didn't have a lot of time to sew, but reading your posts has really inspired me to pursue sewing more often. And who knows, maybe a year or two from now I could have my own shop? In any case, I'm really glad I found your pictures on Pintrest!

    God Bless,

    Kayla

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