etsy sales

Revolutionize Your Handmade Business With The 4 P’s

In the fall of 2017, it took 1000 hours for me to produce one handmade item. I revolutionized my handmade business and production went from 1000 hours per order to 11 minutes.

Ok, so it wasn’t really 1000 hours, but seriously, it felt like it.

While your process may not be the same as mine, the outcome potentially could be. Having 100 open orders and a bloated manufacturing process caused me to revolutionize my business and become more efficient.

I hit my breaking point and I decided something had to change.

My journey to improving my business lead me to the 4 P’s – Process, People, Profit, and Product.

Process

When I was in the beginning stages of starting my Etsy shop, I was pretty desperate for sales.

Any. Sales.

I’m sure many of you reading this can relate (and for those of you who can’t, congratulations on getting consistent sales so quickly. The rest of us hate you, wink wink). But seriously, it’s a normal part of a business lifecycle.

Because of that desperation, I wasn’t concerned with how long it took to make each item, let alone the inefficiency of custom orders.

When I wasn’t very busy, it seemed okay for items to take a decent amount of time to make. Back then, it didn’t seem like the process to make my products were taking that long anyway. But, I wasn’t actually timing anything.

Because I thought, some sales are better than no sales, right? I gotta start somewhere, don’t I?

Yes….and no.

This philosophy worked for the first year of my business, as it was only a part-time job during college. I was only getting a few orders a month and it was easy to keep up with demand. But, during the fall when my sales rate increased 9-fold in one month, my time-consuming items became a nightmare and I was quickly falling behind on orders.

I was falling behind because I didn’t have a process! Here’s how I use Trello to keep track of orders through their production process.

But did I care? Heck no!! I was breaking my personal records left and right. #goalachiever

My dreams of having my own business were finally coming true and I was ecstatic that all of my hard work was starting to pay off!

My excitement only lasted about a month working 80-100 hours a week. I rapidly burned out and I grew to resent my popular items that were selling like hotcakes and sucking up ALL of my time.

I stopped all of my important business development tactics. I quit updating listings. I quit taking photos. Worst of all, I quit making new products. I only worked on making orders. And I absolutely HATED doing production-only tasks for an entire day. But I’m stubborn and I simply told myself that this is just the way it is. I thought this what I always wanted. I made my life this way so I better get used to it.

My non-fixer mindset let this bitterness for my business continue during the entire Christmas season to the end of 2017.

Thankfully my mindset has changed and boy, how wrong I was. It’s crazy to look back and think about how different things are today.

Solution:

  • Storage:
    • Previously, my products were in a random order where ever I sat them down last. At one point they were spread across the entire house. I was constantly searching for an item or tool and was often frustrated, as I was wasting time I  didn’t have during the day. To fix this, I created storage solutions for each stage of the process. These one-time costs helped me to stay organized and know exactly where all of my orders were in production, greatly increasing efficiency. I also created storage bins for inventory and supplies.
  • Sign Production:
    • Wooden sign production went from a 22-step process (yes, I’m serious) for a 2-layered text sign to 6 freaking steps!!! This also lead to a drastic difference in the amount of time per sign: from 27 hours drying time (wood stain and paint) + 63.5 minutes production = 28 hours 3 minutes 30 seconds to 11 minutes per sign. That’s a 99% decrease in time per sign!!!
    • Why count drying time? After all, I wasn’t really “working.” Drying time matters because it determines the window I have for completing rush orders. Customers are more likely to buy when they don’t have to wait. Because of back-stock production and my insane increase in efficiency per sign, I am now able to rush orders and potentially get them shipped the same day they are ordered. Before my minimum rush production timeline was 3 days and I often couldn’t meet customers deadlines. Drying time also limits the amount of orders I can store in my location. The faster orders go out, the less space I need to store orders in production.
  • Packaging
    • I altered my packaging process for signs from brown paper to polybags. Polybags were slightly more expensive than brown paper, but the polybags were packaged 10x faster and gave me a more professional appearance. Remember, your time is important! Don’t save a couple pennies for an hour’s worth of work.

   

Questions to ask yourself for process improvement:

    1. Do you have materials scattered across a room that you can organize in a better way?
    2. Is every part of your production process necessary?
    3. Is there anything you could change without compromising the quality of the product?
    4. Can you find a better, easier way to achieve the same outcome in one area of production?

People

My husband ended up getting laid off from his job around the time my orders started going crazy, which ended up working out to our benefit. I know for a fact I would not have been able to finish all of my orders on time without my husband. He worked 8 hours a day and I worked 10-12 hours a day for 5 weeks straight to get all of my orders done. I was so bogged down in getting orders out on time with such a narrow focus that I couldn’t see how to improve what we were doing.

Solution:

We discovered just how much two brains are better than one. He was able to point out things I was doing that didn’t make sense. He asked me questions because he wanted to understand my process. When I tried to explain my logic, I realized things didn’t make sense. For example, I had sign templates stacked in piles all around the cutting machine. He was frustrated by the amount of time it took to find them so he started hanging them around the room. Why didn’t I think of that? I was too busy making things to stop and think about improvements.

Eventually, my husband found another job and I knew I didn’t want to keep working alone. I liked running the business, but I didn’t like making every item. This is the moment I transitioned from being self-employed to being a business owner. When you are self-employed you are the do-er, manager, and dreamer. I hired someone to help with the production so I could focus on the management, development, and growth of my business.

I only realized how inefficiently I was spending my time when I saw someone else doing that same task. Remember to take a step back in your business every few months and look for improvements for your employees and for yourself.

Questions to ask yourself for people improvement:

    1. Do you have a process someone else could repeat?
    2. Can you explain each step of your process to someone else?
    3. Do you know someone you could try to teach and ask for feedback?

Profit

The biggest issue in my profitability was the fact that I wasn’t timing my hours. The first year I didn’t realize how underpriced some of my items were for the amount of time they take. I was only thinking of material costs, not including labor. I fell into the trap of thinking that if my time doesn’t get written off then it doesn’t matter how long I take.

This was another mindset shift from seeing myself as self-employed to a business owner. My time did matter and eventually, I knew I was going to pay someone else to do these time-consuming tasks. I only changed my behavior once I realized how much it would cost me to pay someone else to produce my orders.

Solution:

Even if you don’t plan to hire someone, remember how valuable your time is. The less time it takes to produce orders, not only will you be more profitable, but you’ll also have more time to grow the business. This also frees up time to find better deals for your supplies.

Questions to ask yourself for profit improvement:

    1. Do you know exactly how long each item takes to make?
    2. Can you take a step back, assess the situation, and find a faster way to achieve the same outcome?
    3. Can you find better rates for your supplies for your business?

Product

When my husband and I finally finished our tasks for the day at around 11 pm, he would just sit and let me vent, cry, or whatever I needed to do to in order to keep working the next day. He finally asked me a series of questions that revolutionized the way in which my business was running. My husband asked me, “Why are your signs painted? Do your customers actually care that they’re hand painted? Would anyone notice if they weren’t?”

When I was getting started with signs, it seemed like all of the sellers on Etsy were hand painting them so I thought that I had to as well. I assumed this is what customers wanted without actually verifying it. I was using the mentality “If everyone is doing it, it must be right” and that mentality was really hurting the passion I had for my business. I didn’t have a good answer when my husband asked me those questions and all of a sudden I knew that was a really big problem.

This would be a huge turning point for my business; I just didn’t know it yet.

I finally realized that something had to change. As much as I hated change, I needed a change to happen.

Solution:

I made 2 identical copies of my signs (one painted and one vinyl) and took these to my friends and people I knew in my community. I wanted their opinion on which sign they preferred without telling them which sign was painted and which had vinyl. They ALL preferred the look the vinyl had. It was crisp, clean, and looked more professional than the painted sign that had imperfections. I asked them if they cared one was vinyl over hand painted; a few said they liked the idea of hand painted, but preferred the how vinyl sign looked in person.

YESSSSS!!!! This was exactly what I wanted to hear and I knew this would change how my business functioned for the future.

Because of the change in production in my signs from paint to vinyl, I was able to completely eliminate the use of painter’s tape and spray paint, increasing profitability. This doesn’t even include the insane amount of labor being saved as well.

I then began to question how I could decrease other expenses without compromising the integrity of my product. I changed to a more raw cut of wood. The cheaper wood actually looked better because of the uniqueness of the wood grains. I got rid of half of my wood stain options that were either too similar or the least popular choice of my customers. If it wasn’t selling I got rid of it. It’s also too much work to keep 10 wood stains in back stock; 5 was much easier to keep up with and store in my garage.

Questions to ask yourself for product improvement:

    1. Do you have your why for every component of your product? If not, question why that component might be important. If it isn’t important, consider a production change.
    2. Can you cut down on variations of any products that don’t sell often?

Conclusion

I began to implement all of these changes after over a year in business and with more than 800 orders under my belt. It’s never too late and there’s no better time than.

Right. Now.

Question every single aspect of your business including design, production, shipping, workspace, etc.

Be able to specifically answer, “Why?”, “Does this make sense?”, and “Does this matter for my customer?” for any part of your business. Don’t assume things you like are also aspects the customer will pay extra for.

My business was growing fast enough that I was just kind of throwing things together without thinking, especially my workspace and how my items were created.

With a growing business, you want everything to as efficient as possible. I was tired of running all over my house moving things back and forth and in and out.

In short, I needed a system. A system that made sense to me and so that an employee could step in and get to work right away with little training.

I guarantee there is some aspect of your business that could be more efficient or an area that could decrease some of your costs. These are 2 things that can greatly increase your profit margin, helping you to earn more money by working fewer hours. Isn’t that the dream?! Start questioning every aspect of your business and find ways to improve. And, remember, this is a continual process. Get started now to revolutionize your handmade business.

Related: How To Use Trello As An Order Management System For Handmade Business

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5 Things I learned After 100 Sales On Etsy

5 Things

It took me almost an entire YEAR to make 100 sales on Etsy while going to school full-time. That is really difficult for me to write and tell the world. I don’t like to admit it, but I’m a prideful person. The fact that I wasn’t an overnight success was a hard pill for me to swallow. I wanted to quit so many times, but apparently, I’m more stubborn than prideful. Instead of giving up, I continued to learn and get better at my business.

To say I learned a lot to make those first 100 sales on Etsy would be quite the understatement. Because I was a newly married college student, I was also extremely broke. I didn’t have any spare money to use for marketing, promoted ads (I didn’t even know they existed at the time anyway!), or really anything extra. All I had were my products and their photos, and my photos weren’t very good.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to show you that a business can grow and develop into something beautiful and profitable, even if you’ve only got blood, sweat, and tears to spend. It’s to show you that you can start a business in college or at any other time in your life. It’s never a bad time to start doing what you love and work for yourself!

  1. You’ve Got To START

You may be thinking, “Well, DUH!! This isn’t something you’ve learned from 100 sales on Etsy.” But it is. You can’t get 100 sales of something if you don’t start! It took me months to get the guts to officially open my shop and take the plunge. It was terrifying, putting myself out there knowing I could fail. If you’re anything like me and struggle with perfection, you may be waiting to open your shop because you know it’s not perfect.

Well, guess what? No shop is and it’s always a work in progress. You’ll never do enough research or read enough articles to feel ready. You’ve got to jump in and learn as you go. You’ll be more determined and passionate about working on your shop if it’s actually open and you can see it!

  1. Create More Products

There are 45 million products listed on Etsy. Let me say that again. 45,000,000 items! If your shop has 30 items, your shop represents 0.000067% of all listings on Etsy. That is such a microscopic amount. I am not saying there’s a magical number of items you need in your shop or that if you add 100 more items you will be successful. I am saying that Etsy is a very large marketplace and most likely the more products you have, the more views you get. And we all know that those views will hopefully turn into cha-chings, getting you closer to your goal of 100 sales on Etsy.

  1. Be Open To Custom Orders

In the beginning, most of my orders were custom order requests. The items I was selling in my shop, in particular, were easy to customize. My customizations were oftentimes altering the colors which simply meant I had to go buy more paint. If it is at all possible, say YES to these custom orders at the beginning.

This is a great way for you to expand your shop and create new items that are already paid for by the customer. I don’t have nearly the amount of custom order requests since my shop is large enough that 95% of people can find what they’re looking for already in my shop

One thing to be wary of is getting your hopes up every time someone asks a question about a product. I can’t count the numbers of times where people would inquire about customization, I replied, reassuring the customer that I could make it exactly as they want. Oftentimes, I never heard from them again! Sometimes we would converse back and forth 5-10 times before when everything was agreed upon and then the customer backed out.

It happens.

Just be aware that it does and eventually someone who contacts you will order your products. You can also choose to charge the buyer before you start putting your own time into their custom order.

  1. Customer Service Is Huge!

I cannot stress this enough. Customer service can make or break you in the Etsy business! Happy customers equal great reviews which leads to more sales and possible repeat purchases from those happy customers. I have learned that a quick response is a really good quality to have; I’ve had multiple inquirers/customers compliment the quick response I can give.

With the Sell on Etsy app, it makes contacting these people extremely easy and efficient. I have noticed that if I can’t reply right away I tend to lose the potential sale and never hear from the customer again.

Kellie was fantastic! The wood sign was perfect and exactly what we were looking for. We even asked for a small change to the original design we saw online and she was able to handle our request and was able to make the sign exactly how we wanted. I ordered it for a wedding gift and we will now order one of her signs for all future wedding gifts. We no longer have to spend time shopping for the perfect gift or dealing with a wedding registry. We will contact Kellie. She is awesome!! Darby.

Seeing a raving review like this when your shop is just starting out will really help reassure buyers. It will show buyers that your customer satisfaction is very important to you. This particular review also talks about becoming a repeat buyer. Repeat buyers are such an excellent way to get closer to those 100 sales on Etsy. Happy customers turn into repeat customers. It’s a win-win for both parties.

  1. You Get Out What You Put In.

Starting a business definitely isn’t easy and it for sure doesn’t happen when it’s not a top priority of your time and research. The first couple of months after opening shop I put my shop on the back burner to study for college finals. I’d had almost no sales on Etsy and I didn’t want to waste my time on something I wasn’t getting any return from.

It was only when I decided to put full-time hours into my shop that something changed.

I began creating products again and focusing on SEO, leading to more sales on Etsy in 2 weeks than I’d had the first 2 months. I know it’s hard to keep putting the effort in not knowing if it will pay off, but keep at it and do your absolute best. Put time into it even if you don’t feel like it. It will pay off!

 


 

Finally, getting the first 100 sales on Etsy was by far the most difficult sales goal to reach. My average sales rate for my first 100 sales was 0.32 sales per day. Including the incredibly slow January and February for my business, my sales per day from 100 to 800 orders is almost 3 per day. I can’t wait to see how much my business grows this year and you can get to 100 sales, too. You just have to DO IT and learn as you go.

5 fundamentals of business I wish I knew before my first 100 sales on Etsy copy

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5 Things To Stop Doing On Etsy That Are Killing Your Sales

Just like anything in life, becoming skilled at something takes time, practice, and especially patience. Etsy is no different. When I first opened my shop, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I just knew I had to start somewhere. Tony Gaskins Jr. once said, “If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.” I decided to bet on me and it was the best decision I made.

5 Things To Stop Doing On Etsy That Are Killing Your Sales

Over the course of 2 years, I’ve learned a lot about Etsy through research, but mostly by trial and error. During college, I’ve been able to turn my side hustle into a full-time business before I had even graduated. My next goal is to help people like you learn from my mistakes so that you can turn your dream of owning your own business into a reality.

Here Are 5 Things You Need To Stop Doing On Etsy

1. Stop Creating More Products Without A Strategy For Selling It To Your Target Market

I had read on Etsy forums where people were suggesting that having this magic number of items in your shop would lead to an instant increase in sales. I became obsessed with the idea that if I had 100 items, my orders would pile up faster than I could keep up.

Guess what? You guessed it. I hit 100 listings in my shop and nothing changed.

I needed to improve on the listings I had. Not create more of what wasn’t working for me. Aim for 50-100 items at the start, but if those don’t sell, creating more like it won’t help. You need to know the item you’re making is solving the problem your customer is trying to solve.

2. Stop Copying & Pasting Similar Items With The Exact Same Title And Tags

When using the same search terms across multiple listings, those listings are now competing against each other. Diversify your reach on Etsy. Brainstorm different search terms for your similar items. Aim to have 5 similar items rank on the first page on 5 different searches instead of all 5 competing for the same spot under one search. 

3. Stop Taking Bad Photos

Enough said…just kidding! Photos are your first impression for potential customers and most times, you won’t get a do-over if that first impression is only a meh. It must be a W-O-W WOW! This is probably what I’ve struggled with the most and I’m still not 100% satisfied with my listing photographs, but I have gotten a lot better over time.

4. Stop Making Items You Like And Make What Your Customers Want Instead

Now I don’t mean to create something you don’t like. I would never advise that. I mean to follow your sales trends. Do you have particular item/s that sell more than anything else in your shop? Pay attention to your top sellers and make more items in that genre. Click here for more info about creating items that sell.

5. Stop Treating This As A Hobby If You Want It To Be A Business

Putting in a few hours on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. If it did, everyone would be successful and have tens of thousands of sales. If all you want is a little extra spending cash every month then this doesn’t apply to you, but if you want to quit the job you hate (or even like) and work from home on your own terms, you need to take this seriously and get to work!

 


 

There you have it. 5 things I quit doing on Etsy that were hurting my sales. What’s currently frustrating you about your Etsy sales? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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June 2018 Income Report

Here’s my online income report for my handmade business, Obsidian Home Creations (TheOHC on Etsy), for June of 2018. As of right now, this is the highest income month for me this year and I only expect it to keep growing as we enter the fourth quarter.How I Made $4587.00 Online With Etsy & Handmade On Amazon

Why I Share Income Reports

Some people wouldn’t dream of sharing how much money they make and others simply don’t understand its relevance. For me personally, before I started selling on Etsy, I wanted to know that it was possible to make thousands of dollars a month online.

After all, 3 years ago I didn’t even know Etsy existed AT ALL. And now it, along with Handmade on Amazon (HOA), allow me to start this company and avoid working for someone else. I choose to work from home and I am the boss. This is something you can start with zero experience and doesn’t require a large initial investment.

Here are my 3 main reasons I share my online income reports:

1. My first goal is to inspire others.

I was absolutely terrified to start my own business and seeing others’ income reports helped push me to get over my fears. I want others to know that it is possible to make a full-time income working from home. It’s not easy, it doesn’t happen overnight, but it can become a reality.  

2. This is an excellent way for me to track my progress.

It helps me to see what’s working/what didn’t work. I’m always learning and trying new ideas. This will be a way to reflect on those decisions and make better business decisions in the future.

3. I want others to know that this is something anyone can start AT ANY TIME in their life.

I started this as a side hustle in college and I had a company with a part-time employee before I even finished my degrees.

What an Online Business Has Allowed Me To Do

My online business has allowed me to work from home, be my own boss, and be in charge of my future. I decide when I want to wake up, work, go to bed, when to take breaks, and a bunch of other benefits. 

I can decide on a Tuesday afternoon that I want to take my dog to the lake and relax for 2 hours. Do I have to work when I get home? Usually, but again, I get to decide how to structure my day.

MY 2018 JUNE INCOME

Etsy Income: $4257.00

Amazon Handmade Income: $330


Total Income: $4587.00


Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 6.24.19 PM
Handmade on Amazon Revenue
Screen Shot 2018-07-01 at 6.22.50 PM
Etsy Revenue

Etsy had 93 orders and Amazon Handmade had 8. I’ve been selling on Etsy for a little over 2 years. Compared to the same time last year, I’m up 350% in revenue.

This was my first full month on HOA and I’m only just beginning to learn the ropes. I have about a dozen items up (90% FBM and 10% FBA).

What I Plan To Work On For Next Month

I plan to really focus on growing on HOA. I’ve built my shop up on Etsy to the point that sales are fairly consistent. Amazon is so much bigger of a marketplace that I’m super excited to try to capitalize on a new platform. Everything about Amazon is different from Etsy so I’m spending a large chunk of my time researching how to sell on Amazon and get found in the search.

My goals for July 2018

Etsy – $5000. I’m currently on pace to hit this number and will continue to fulfill orders as they come in.

Amazon – $1000. In order to increase my revenue on Amazon, I need more listings. My goal is to reach 30 items by the end of July. I also want to design new products specifically for FBA to reach a wider audience. I plan to have another FBA shipment sent before the end of July.

Will I Share More Income Reports?

Absolutely.

I want to continue inspiring others in their journey, whether they haven’t started yet, they’re just beginning, or have already begun but are considering giving up hope on their business because it’s not going the way they planned.

As I said earlier, I want to use these reports to track my progress, make goals, and see if I accomplished those goals. It helps with accountability and to motivate me to always strive towards new and bigger goals.

The 3 Biggest Key to my Success Thus Far:

1. Starting

You’ll never make any money online with your own business without simply starting and trying. I’ve felt like a failure so many times over the past 2 years. I’ve lost count. It’s a reoccurring theme for me.

Learn to embrace failure.

As John C. Maxwell, an author, speaker, and pastor wrote in his book, Failing Forward, “Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.”

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I can’t even stress how important this is for your shop. SEO is my bread & butter. I honestly haven’t put very much time and effort into social media. Almost all of my sales come through the search on Etsy. I have multiple items that rank on page 1 and sell every single day.

3. Excellent Photos

Honestly, I’m still not satisfied with the photos I have for my products. They’re certainly much better than when I began, but could still be improved I think.

When you’re online, your customers can’t see or touch your product. You have to sell them with your photos. There are so many beautiful products on Etsy and Amazon that if your photos are lacking, it’s hard to get views, let alone sales, even if your SEO is spot on.

What I learned in June:

Selling on 2 platforms is rarely a bad idea. I’ve experienced having all of my eggs in one Etsy basket and it’s just not smart. Spreading your income across multiple platforms allows you to increase your revenue and stabilize your income.

I’m still frustrated by my income because I’ve had better months last fall-winter. But looking at my revenue increasing 350% from last year reminds me that this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. You can’t always compare things to the best you’ve ever had. It’s all about perspective. I’m frustrated because I could easily handle a lot more orders in a month, but I need to remember where I was at this point last year. At this time 1 year ago, I wasn’t even sure if Etsy would be able to pay all of my bills every month and now it consistently provides for me month after month. And I am incredibly grateful for that.

What did you learn this month? What are your goals for next month?

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