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.
I already had an Etsy username, so the option to open a storefront was pretty easy. I loaded in a handful of items, wrote out some descriptions, tagged and titled my listing, and pushed publish.
The next day (yes, it happened that quickly), I was sitting on my bed and my phone made the weirdest noise. It wasn’t something I’d ever heard before, but I had a notification that I received an Etsy sale. You can imagine my surprise! I checked my shop and someone, a stranger, a person who didn’t even know me, had bought two sets of personalized notecards. That cha-ching noise became all too familiar and I sold over $1,000 in my first month on Etsy.
You can imagine my surprise at the end of the month, when I had set a goal of selling two orders. The experience forced me to really jump in and I used the momentum to continue creating and selling. I was still working full time and managing my Etsy shop during any (and every) minute I had – including lunch breaks, late nights, and weekends. Somehow, I managed and kept expanding my designs. It wasn’t until I started offering wedding invitations that I really saw the potential in my Etsy shop.
Originally, I was super intimidated to dive into the wedding industry. After a sweet friend repeatedly asked told me she wanted me to create hers, my business really took off. I was selling on Etsy and working offline to grow my name. I paired with other wedding vendors and my word of mouth referrals began to expand. It was truly a ripple effect of a lot of hard work. With the workload, I began working part time at my “real” job. I wasn’t ready to fully work for myself and I am forever thankful I could somewhat slowly make the transition.
After less than a year of working 60+ hours a week (25 hours at my office job, 35+ managing my new business) I decided I needed to at least try to go all in on this gig. With a waiting list of clients I couldn’t handle, I knew it was getting close to time to quit my job. I prepared by putting money aside each month and creating a cushion in case things didn’t take off as quickly as I hoped.
Etsy was the platform I used to really launch my business. They really make it easy for you to promote and sell your products, organize your orders, and learn what works (and what to work on!) Opening an Etsy shop early on allowed me to see the potential of my business. It gives way to so many more opportunities by reaching buyers all across the county and even the world.
I was able to turn my Etsy shop from hobby to full time job by putting in the work, continually learning and adjusting, selling an excellent product, and maintaining high client expectations. I know that if I can do it, that anyone who is willing to do the work can too! Are you ready to get started or just curious to see what goes into opening an Etsy shop? I’ve created a guide to getting started on Etsy here and it’s totally free to download. Click below to get yours now!
Wow! $1000 in your first month!
I have just opened an Etsy shop as well, so far I have sold 10 items ( not even $50). I am working hard to heard the cashier noise.
Great post! Really inspiring, I would love to see your Etsy Shop.
Thanks Leti! I love hearing the cha-ching noise! : ) My Etsy shop is http://ohmydesignsbysteph.etsy.com and my next blog post will be about how I did $1k in my first month – come back and check it out next week!
This is awesome. I love reading stories like this. Inspires me to keep trying. I have thought about opening an etsy shop but I think I need to figure out what I want to do specifically first. I have so many ideas and interests but have to hone it down. Great job!
Thanks Nicholette! It makes me so happy to think that I might be inspiring someone : ) I totally know where you’re at, it can be difficult to choose which direction you want to go in! Consider what people (friends, family, even strangers) mention that you’re good at and use that as a starting point! I actually just wrote a post about finding a niche when have #alltheideas – http://zerotobiz.com/2016/12/how-to-find-niche-growing-business/
Keep me updated, I would love to be a cheerleader for you in opening your own Etsy shop!
Very inspiring! Now if I were only more creative… 😉
Thanks so much Rachel! You never know until you try! : ) I actually find myself to be more Type A than a creative, I think it takes both to be successful on Etsy!
Nice job! I think I would have fainted at the $1000 the first month thinking it couldn’t possibly be true! lol
Thanks Donna! I was surprised, but after all the work it took it wasn’t TOO much of a shock! I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond : )
Such an inspiring story!
Thank you, Erin!
I feel like the Etsy world of business has definitely expanded since 2012 and that it is a little harder now with such a high volume of shops. I’ve been looking at opening a shop specializing in calligraphy (addressing envelopes, creating wall art/home decor, wedding place cards/details, etc), but I have been reluctant because of the overwhelming competition. I don’t have much money to invest, and with the money I do have, I’m worried it won’t sell and that I’d have wasted my time. What can I do to help me stand out? How can I ensure my products will be found through the 50 pages of other shops selling similar products?
I’ve read your pdf on getting started on Etsy, and it has been a tremendous help, but I feel not everyone will be so lucky.
The number of Etsy shops has definitely expanded, but the customer base has grown as well! Luckily, the financial investment to setting up an Etsy shop is relatively low but I understand you’ll need to consider cost + time to make some starter products to display in your shop. My top tip for standing out is to have awesome photos – get creative and try to do something a little different than the majority when taking pictures of your work. That’s how you’ll get noticed when people are browsing through search pages. Once you’re up and running, work on your SEO so you will be on the first page and people won’t have to dig for you!
I also recommend thinking of your shop as more than just a collection of products and see it as an entire brand. People want to buy from people they like and trust. You can begin to establish a brand via social media (Instagram is great for this) and show people behind the scenes, your life and interests, etc! Then direct them to your Etsy shop. It doesn’t magically happen, there is some strategy behind it – but you can do it! : )
I am so inspired, even though I am in the learning phase of my jewelry designing. I am trying to get prepared for when I have several pieces of jewelry to offer. I know I may be jumping too far ahead of myself but I believe in having the future in mind today while I journey forward. I’m so glad I found you. Lots of inspiration and encouragement!
Hi Kimberly! It makes me so happy to hear that I’ve inspired you, that is my #1 goal here. You’re definitely not jumping too far ahead, it’s always important to keep the future in mind when getting started. However, I caution you in waiting until things are “perfect” or you feel like you have everything figured out – it rarely happens and you’ll learn SO much when you jump in! Sending you all the good luck on your new adventure!
Hi Steph. Great information! I’m eager to launch an Etsy shop for my handmade jewelry but what’s really holding me back is how to pay taxes for my sales. I live in Florida, do I only pay taxes for the sales in Florida?
Hi Michelle! I’m so gald you found it helpful! I totally get the overwhelm of sales tax – it can be confusing getting started but once you figure it out it isn’t too bad! I’m not sure of the specifics for Florida and can’t give advice since I’m not a CPA. A few resources for you – google “Etsy Florida sales tax” and you’ll be lead to some threads of Florida sellers who will explain what they’re doing. I highly recommend checking out my friend Janet (a CPA) and her site – paperandspark.com. This post specifically talks all about state sales tax and Etsy! She has some great information and content all related to this topic : )
I’m a ‘super mom’ I like to say that instead of homemaker lol – I really want to open a esty shop & I have read so many different things about how to start a at home shop I get kinda confused with everything I’ve read & feel completely overwhelmed. Mainly about how to start – do I need a website & how do you do that & logos & blogging & business cards . What do I really need to get started. Is the website,blogging,logo,business cards? I know what I want to name it
Hi Juley! Thanks for commenting! Love the super mom title 🙂 You’re right, it can be super overwhelming to get started. I definitely don’t think it’s 100% necessary to have a website/blog or biz cards to get started. I think you DO need a product idea, some great photos, and willingness to learn – I recommend downloading my Guide to Getting Started if you haven’t already: http://zerotobiz.com/etsy-guide-landing-page/ All the best!
Hi Steph, I am 68 years old and have just decided to simultaneously open an Etsy shop in which I will sell my one of a kind beaded jewelry pieces as well as starting a lifestyle blog show-casing recipes unique to my family and my husband’s family recipes. My nerves are shot and I will begin on Saturday, photographing some of my jewelry to post on Etsy. Tomorrow I will print out your planner and then will continue to name and describe each piece that I have completed. I still have so much left to do but I think if I don’t just jump in at some point I will never get anything going. Is there any bit of information I should have under my belt now. Oh, the largest fear I have is not having an email list under my belt. Where do you start with that? Any assistance will be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Merrill the Beaded Flamingo Shop
Hi Merrill! That is amazing, good for you! I’m sure you will do great – getting started can be the hardest part. You can always tweak and make adjustments once you’re up and running : )
Having an email list is a great way to make sales, but not totally necessary on Etsy. Etsy has a built in customer base, so as long as you’re using keywords in your titles and descriptions, people will be able to find your listings. It’s never a bad idea to start building an email list – a great way to do this on Etsy is mention a couple (maybe 10-15% off) and direct to a landing page to receive the code where they’ll have to input their email address. This way you can get their permission (since Etsy doesn’t allow you to email buyers) and promote to them in the future!
Hi Steph 🙂
I am an older teen crafter looking into creating an Etsy shop. I’ve had my handmade, unique jewelry business up and going for five years now, but this is the first time I’ve pushed to start selling online. Your guides and articles (yes, I read a few) are very–and I mean VERY–helpful to me in boosting my confidence and excitement for doing this.
One of the few things still confusing me is shipping costs with Etsy. Do shop owners have to pay for Etsy shipping labels? How much do you think they would be to ship jewelry? Its not very heavy, or anything.
Also, I can’t seem to find a full list of all the *exhausting* fees that Etsy has in place. If you can, could you maybe explain them easily?
I’m also curious about the Etsy Plus thing. Is it worth the $10/month they charge?
Thank you so much for creating the “setting-up-shop” guide, and posting these articles. They are very helpful to me. I hope to set up my own shop very soon!
Hi Liney! I’m so glad you found my posts helpful!
With shipping, the seller pays for the label, however you can charge the buyer for the cost of shipping. That being said, Etsy is currently recommending you offer “free shipping” and just building that cost into your product cost (it’s proven that buyers prefer this!) Your costs will depend on three things: the weight of your item, the speed you want it to arrive, and where it’s going. I recommend checking out this post for more details on shipping: http://zerotobiz.com/2017/01/tips-and-tricks-for-shipping-on-etsy/
Etsy takes a listing fee (20 cents and a transaction fee (5%). If you use Etsy payments (as opposed to Paypal), there’s a payment processing fee. This will depend on the country you’re in. I recommend this page for a list of all current fees: https://www.etsy.com/legal/fees/#etsy-payments
I think the $10 Etsy plus is worth it if you’re selling a few items a month – you get $5 in Etsy Ads and 15 free listings which is equivalent to $3. It allows for some extra customization with the shop banner, which I like! You can always start without it and then upgrade!
Good luck with your new adventure, cheering you on!