I remember the first time I heard the obnoxious, awful single #SELFIE. Like, it’s seriously the worst, but hella memorable. After Shazam-ing it, I thought to myself, “Chainsmokers”? What is this song, who are these people, this has got to be a joke.
Fast forward three years later. It’s 2017 and The Chainsmokers are everywhere. They are insanely successful, breaking records, and dominating the radio. Even my mom knows their music. The chance of hearing one of their songs on at least one radio station at any time is pretty likely. As soon as you’ve learned all the words to their latest tune, they put out something new. Their songs are catchy and full of energy. We can learn a few lessons in our own businesses, blogs, and online shops from these guys.
You’ve Gotta Start Somewhere
After some research, I learned #SELFIE isn’t The Chainsmokers’ first single, however it is the song who got their name out there. It made an impression and went viral. It was bad and people loved to hate it.
Less than four years ago I was launching my Etsy shop while working full time as a receptionist at an insurance company. I knew my side hustle had the potential to become my full time job, but also knew it would take a lot of work and sacrifice to get to that point. For almost two years I had to manage both, before going part time at my receptionist job. Eventually I did turn the side hustle into the full time hustle, but the road to getting there wasn’t easy.
Everyone has a different risk tolerance and there are people who are ready to jump into their solopreneur jobs earlier than others. My Etsy shop started as a hobby and it made sense to keep my full time job until it grew more. I learned a lot while working full time and managing my side hustle, mostly how important time is and ways to maximize it by prioritizing.
Let’s face it, we could all use a couple extra hours in our days. Time is something many people struggle with. We all get the same amount. It’s ever fleeting and we can’t buy it or make more, no matter how hard we try.
When you’re working full time, it can be really, really hard to start or grow your business. Your paying job comes first and that’s totally understandable. I’m going to be completely honest – it’s not easy to do both. There is a factor of planning and a good bit of sacrifice. (I’m talking goodbye TV shows, at least for the time being). However, you have to keep in mind it’s a temporary time of sacrifice in order to get to the point where you can leave your job and do this thing full time.
There are so many things that need to be done in the beginning. When starting your business or opening your Etsy shop you’ve got to choose a name, think about your target market, find your niche, set up a shipping strategy, and that’s just a few of those start up to-dos. Although those are all important, my experience has taught me there’s another key thing to do immediately when you get going and it might even be considered the most crucial.
As soon as you can, open a separate bank account. It’s the number one thing I recommend when people ask questions about starting a business. A lot of the tasks in starting a business can be learned, figured out, or caught up on. Blending your finances is really hard to undo and is even frowned upon by the IRS.
Accounting is probably the least of your worries when starting your Etsy shop and definitely one of the least glamourous parts of being an entrepreneur. Business finances can be confusing (and stressful) enough, make it a little easier on yourself by opening a separate bank account from the very beginning. Luckily, getting a new bank account specifically for your business or Etsy shop is easy to do.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click and purchase one of the product links I will receive a small compensation. Please note I only suggest products I truly love and would recommend to a friend.
One of the most intimidating things about opening an Etsy shop is figuring out how to handle shipping. If you are anything like me, I barely even sent mail prior to selling on Etsy. I knew I had products I wanted to share, but knowing all the logistics of shipping and handling almost kept me from getting started. Before I set up my shop selling stationery, I had done all the work in figuring out how to produce my product without putting together a shipping plan.
When I got my first order, my immediate thought was “how the heck am I going to ship this?” Slightly frazzled, I went to the nearest office supply store, bought a box, some bubble wrap, and figured it out!
Luckily, Etsy makes it easy with their labels so after printing it off I used Google maps to find my local post office (yes, I didn’t even know where it was – now I’m there a few times a week) and dropped it off. After fulfilling several orders, I learned a few tricks, time and money savers, and the keys to figuring out shipping on Etsy.
Like many people, I opened my Etsy shop without many expectations. In 2013 I started creating custom, printed invitations and announcements. That year, in April, I officially opened my Etsy shop and set a goal of making two sales for the month. Much to my surprise, I made my first sale within 24 hours (cha ching!). The sales kept on rolling in and by the end of April I had sold over $1,300 on Etsy. There were a few things that led to my early success.
Four years ago, I was working at an office job to pay the bills after losing my teaching position due to budget cuts. I had only been there a few months, but was lucky enough to receive a Christmas bonus (first bonus, ever) in the form of a $600 check. This was 2012 and I was struggling to find my purpose at the time, even though I didn’t realize it. I did know that I needed to find some type of hobby to occupy my free time after some negative events in my life. I took that bonus check and purchased the Adobe Creative Suite software and an online class to learn how to use it.
My first invitation designs were so, so embarrassing. Like ug-ly. Think lots of chevron (I swear it was totally in at the time) and beginner typography. I can’t believe how supportive my family and friends were, even when I was making things that wouldn’t ever be described as pretty.
I posted up a Facebook page, announced my new hobby to everyone I knew, and waited for a response. It was March 2013 and I literally had zero idea what I was doing. My sister mentioned that I should open an Etsy shop, which was a long term goal, not an immediate one. I was familiar with Etsy, had purchased a few items before, but unaware how to manage said shop and ship items. The idea of opening at Etsy shop was very intimidating.
Anyone established in the world of online business, blogging, or selling will tell you that it’s of upmost important to “find your niche”. So what the heck is a niche and how do you find yours? Think of a niche as a business’ specialty or what they’re best known for offering. By focusing on a specific market, product, or service you are able to really hone in on finding quality clients. Although it might feel limiting (I’ve been there and often struggle with it still) finding the true heart of your offerings will allow you to market as an authority figure on that subject or product.
Many claim that “getting started is the hardest part” which, let’s be honest, isn’t entirely true. With ideas swirling in your head, it can be difficult to know where to even begin.
If you search “how to start a business” online, I can guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed with the amount of information being shared. Before running out and registering your business, building a brand, or worrying about taxes, I recommend starting simple. If the business is something you want to pursue after that, then you can later take the steps to make it legit.
I can’t claim to be an expert, but can share my experiences on building my own business from just an idea into a full time reality. I’m talking to the creatives, the makers, the bloggers, and the Etsy shop owners. Y’all are my people and although I would love to say this advice fits any business model, it may not.
Dreaming of opening a tanning salon or a landscape company? What I’m about to reveal is likely not going to be your best bet – there are liabilities associated with many businesses and my advice shouldn’t apply in these cases. Imagining starting your own photography business, Etsy shop, or social media management company? This advice is for you. Read on, friends.
Naming your business is a big decision and there are a few things to consider before choosing. I’m such a proponent of just getting started before tackling all the biz stuff (more to come on that later), but unfortunately it’s hard to really get things rolling without a business name. It’s totally fine to begin offering your service or product via your personal social media channels, but to be taken seriously and get clients other than your friends and family, you gotta name your biz!
So, where to start? The first thing to do when naming your business is to brainstorm. If you’re into spreadsheets, start a sheet with words related to your business. If you’re tactile, like me, pull out a piece of paper and start jotting some ideas down. I’ve created a printable download to use for brainstorming with a checklist included. Picking a name isn’t something that happens in a day; I like to stew on several ideas for a while until I really feel clear about the direction I want to go with.
People’s perspectives of the self-employed differ greatly. Some think my solopreneur lifestyle is glamorous and I spend all day creating beautiful things and hanging out on Pinterest. Some have visions of me waking up “whenever I want”, working in my pajamas all day, and not bringing home a “real” paycheck. I’m here to tell you it’s not either, break the myths, and share what I’ve learned in the past year working for myself.
1. Others will question what you do.
From the haters to those who just truly don’t get it, there will be people who don’t see what you do as a “real job”. Either because you get to do what you love all day (and of course, that can’t be considered working) or because they imagine you hanging out at home in yoga pants eating bon-bons.