Adventures starting an Etsy store

I sometimes make cards for my boyfriend for different holidays, and one day in October 2016 I got the idea that maybe other people would want similar kinds of cards (funny and sarcastic). The more I thought about it, the more excited I got about making cards and selling them on Etsy. I think I liked the idea of putting out stuff into the world that would make other people laugh.

I hardly make any money from my store, and I’m pretty sure I haven’t broken even, but I’m completely fine with it because I think of it as a fun hobby that happens to create income. I also like seeing something I’ve created grow as the number of orders I get each month increase.

shop.png
My store

Production

For printing the cards, I just used VistaPrint, which is a company that creates flyers, mugs, marketing materials, etc. for businesses and personal use. (Note: this is not an ad). I didn’t want to invest in my own printer because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be producing enough volume to make it worth it.

I like VistaPrint’s card maker tool because they tell you the exact dimensions required for a custom design, you can upload a PSD (Photoshop file), and it tells you whether the resolution is good enough. They also often have promotions, so I get discounts on almost all my orders.

Packaging

Shipping wouldn’t be outrageous because cards are light and small, so I could just use normal letter postage and not really worry about needing styrofoam, bubblewrap, etc.

I wasn’t sure how to package cards “the right way”, but I did a Google search and found an Etsy forum discussion on how other sellers packaged them. The consensus was to use a photo mailer, which is basically a really thick envelope that can’t be bent easily, and to put the card in a plastic insert.

Selling

I took a bunch of pictures of each card and started setting up my store on Etsy and realized that because I was living in the US on a work visa, I wasn’t allowed to make any income aside from the job I had the visa for. Womp, womp!

A timeline of events

December

I moved out of the US and was spending the holidays in Canada in between moving to the UK. On December 5th, a few days before flying out of the US, I officially opened my shop. This was 2 months after I had the idea to open the shop in the first place.

I waited eagerly for a sale, but as the days went by still with no sales, I started to think maybe I would never get any business.

January

On January 21st, 53 days after opening up shop, I got my first sale. My first reaction was surprise, because I had forgotten about the store LOL. And then I was super happy and motivated to create more designs.

I had carried around my shipping materials from the US to Canada to the UK just in case, so I was able to fill the order right away. This was important because I have a 1-day shipping policy.

One thing that was funny is I actually forgot to include an envelope in that first order. Thankfully that customer lived in the UK as well, so she was able to tell me within 1 day of me shipping the card, and I was able to get an envelope to her right away.

February

I decided that I needed to up my packaging game and ordered some package inserts.

package inserts.jpg
Package inserts

They’re basically business cards but I add a hand-written message on the back thanking the customer for their order and also giving them a promo code for 20% off. I’ve purchased a lot of stuff on Etsy and find that stuff like this is not only good for branding but is also a tiny competitive advantage against big companies who are making hundreds or thousands of sales a day.

Another thing I did was paid to advertise my products using Etsy’s Promoted Listings and Google Shopping ads. I only budgeted $1 / day for the ads, considering how inexpensive greeting cards are.

Etsy Google Shopping ad performance
Google Shopping ad performance

The Google Shopping ads did poorly — I only got 2 clicks and made 0 sales.

Etsy promoted listings ad performance
Etsy Promoted Listings ad performance

I got 4 sales with the Etsy Promoted Listings, but made only $1.32 after paying for the ads, so I killed them after a few weeks.

The most exciting part about February was that I received my first review. The reviewer didn’t write anything, but it was 5 stars. I think having good ratings really helps build trust with the customer, so I was waiting a long time to get a review.

March

I get orders from random places, including a dairy farm in the UK. I got one that was to be shipped to a big investment bank in New York. I got curious and Googled the recipient and he turned out to be a billionaire (?!?!?) I think his assistant ordered the cards for him. So that was interesting.

I also experienced my first “lost in the mail” customer. I just apologized and sent him a new card for free, because that’s the kind of positive customer service I’ve experienced in the past with other companies.

Performance

Etsy performance

As I said earlier, I’m probably never going to be able to live off this store. Not even a little bit. But I definitely like seeing this line continue to go up, and I like knowing that there are people who want something I’ve created. AND they’ll even pay $2.50 in shipping to get it (those living outside of Europe), which is always the most surprising part for me.

map of orders
I love getting orders from different parts of the world

I’m hoping to sell candles next — I have some ideas for designs that would go with the theme of sarcasm in my store. I just still haven’t figured out how to make a good candle, aka one that “burns clean”.

I hope this post was interesting for anyone who is thinking about opening an Etsy store!

 

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