How I used Etsy to turn my hobby into my full time job

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!