For those in the audience who love shopping, quarantine has probably led you to the online shopping world (if you weren't already there). Our next guest is an experienced Etsy seller who transitioned from a teaching career to selling jewelry online. Let's learn from Melissa about what led her to pursue Etsy selling and what she's learning!
Melissa, tell us about yourself! What did you do before transitioning to Etsy selling?
I am 40 years old and from Phoenix, AZ. I am married to my best friend and am a mother to two rowdy boys. Before becoming an Etsy seller, I was a teacher. I taught at a few different levels before becoming a mother and when my first son was born I opened a small preschool out of my home, which I ran for 8 years.
What inspired you to open your Etsy shop?
My life had become so full between running my preschool, and taking care of my family, that I began neglecting self care. It was really taking a toll. Jewelry making was a former hobby that I had really enjoyed earlier in life, and I decided to place a small supply order and carve out some time for myself doing something I enjoyed. The style of my jewelry gradually evolved, and I began gifting items to friends. Soon, I started receiving requests from friend and friends of friends, and someone suggested I look into opening an Etsy shop. I had never heard of Etsy at that time, so I did some research and decided to go for it. I loved that there was very little risk involved with just listing what I had made and “seeing what happened”. So, I jumped in.
What does "a day in the life" look like for you?
A day in the life for me usually consists of getting my boys off to school, and then I settle in for some focused work time once I have the house to myself. My office is in my home, so I really do my best to work mostly while the boys are at school. It’s amazing how much I can get done with a few focused hours. Most of the year I schedule myself “work hours” in the morning M-Th. Although, that can vary a lot, and near the holidays all scheduling goes out the window…I just work, work, work (and I love it!). I am so grateful for the flexibility that being an Etsy seller affords me. When the kids are sick, or on a break, I can always shift my schedule accordingly and it doesn’t need to be a stressor for our family.
What's one thing you're learning at this stage in your business?
I am really working on balance. While I do schedule regular work hours, because my office is in my home, it can be tempting to just “finish that one last thing” or “return one message before I forget”. It’s easy to get sucked into work, and I’m learning that its best for our whole family if I can create work/home boundaries.
Etsy can seem intimidating at first glance. For people who may be interested in opening a shop but are concerned with competition, pricing, and / or making their shop stand out, what advice would you give them?
I consider myself very blessed to have known very little about Etsy when I first started. I may have been intimidated had I known exactly what I was jumping into. I’m a chronic overthinker, so for me…ignorance was bliss. That being said, there’s been so much to learn, and I have gained a TON of knowledge since that time. My pointers for a new Etsy seller would be:
(1) Have a unique product. People shop Etsy because they are looking for original items.
(2) Provide excellent customer service. It’ll lead to referrals and repeat customers.
(3) Price your items so you can profit fairly. Don’t price to beat your competition, unless you can do so and still profit. Your business won’t survive in the long term if you don’t price correctly.
(4) Just do it! There’s so little risk with Etsy so just give it a try and see where it leads. Also, don’t be discouraged if growth is slow. These things take time.
When you look back on your time in business, are there any specific moments that were really encouraging or inspiring?
Yes, absolutely. My first Etsy sale to a customer that I didn’t already know felt amazing! It was encouraging to sell to someone that saw my jewelry, liked it, and BOUGHT IT. Also, a lot of my pieces have inspiring messages or bible verses on them and from time to time a customer or a recipient of one of my pieces will reach out and explain to me what specifically the meaning of the piece was to them, and why it held meaning to their particular circumstance. Be it an illness or a tough season they are walking through. Those are always messages I treasure.
Any final thoughts?
It’s never too late to try a new thing. If someone told me 10 years ago that I’d be running a successful Etsy shop as my career, I would have thought they were nuts. I found something I love doing and am blessed that there’s an avenue to create income for our family out of it. Remain open to what can happen, and you might be surprised at what does.
As I (Emily) think about Melissa's words, I feel encouraged by her "just do it" mentality. She created a life for herself that gives her the ability to prioritize her family and do what she loves. I also think her point about having work/home boundaries when you have a home office is so important. These are good reminders and I hope this serves as a source of encouragement for you as well!