A little over five years ago I was coming to the end of my engagement and was about to become a bride. For nine months I planned my DIY wedding from the homemade wedding cake, hundreds of wine and kombucha bottles that were consumed by friends and family to be used as centerpiece vases, to the trail mix bar and hand sewn banners, bulk flowers that we arranged ourselves and the boutonnieres and flower crowns I made. I had so much fun planning my wedding and the closer my wedding got, I was pumped to marry my husband but I was sad to be done with all of the wedding crafting. Most brides talk about how stressful wedding planning is but I thought it was so much fun.
One of my college roommates said one day “why don’t you just open an Etsy shop?” I had thought about this before but didn’t know what I would sell or if it would be worth the effort because I was afraid of failure. Well it turns out all I needed was a friend to validate this thought I had for me to actually open an Etsy shop. Literally the next day I spent hours and hours making various boutonnières out of dried flowers I had but didn’t need for the wedding. I snapped some very poor quality photos of my boutonnières, picked out a name: Dearest Delight, figured out how to open my shop, listed my products on Etsy, and then I waited. I figured I would not get an order for a while but the next day I got my very first order! Being the type B, not really thinking about the details until I’m knee deep in it, person that I am I had not considered how I would ship fragile dried flower items to customers who were expecting intact products. So there I was pumped about my first order and then I thought to myself “well crap..how will I get this dainty little boutonnière safely in one piece to someone across the country..!?” Thankfully I figured out the details rather quickly but let’s say I should have taken a little more time to put some thought into the logistics of my Etsy shop.
Since that first order I have somehow managed to have almost 700 orders with little to no advertising. It has been a fun journey and thankfully there has been minimal drama. In five years I have only had two orders arrive damaged through the shipping process and only had two orders lost in the mail. Oh and only one nasty review. And yes, I still remember exactly what that review said because it made me sick to my stomach and almost throw in the towel. It’s sad how much we can let one mean comment from a total stranger rip apart our confidence. Managing my Etsy shop and making orders for people the last five years has been so much fun and has been very therapeutic for me. The highlight was when I received my biggest order which was 55 boutonnières for a special graduation ceremony for honor students. Thank you to whichever roommate it was (I don’t remember J) that told me I should start an Etsy shop because it has been one of my best decisions yet! It doesn’t make a ton of money and I limit the amount of orders I get because there is only one of me making tedious orders and now with a toddler running around but like I said, it has been so fun!
I am often asked advice about having an Etsy shop from people considering it, so here are eight questions to ask yourself if you think you want to open one.
- Is there actually a market for what you are selling?
Do your research. Ask around. Search on Etsy and other handmade marketplaces to see if anyone is making/buying what you want to sell. Is it something so unique and specific that there wouldn’t be many people interested? If so, sadly it might not be a great investment for you to open a shop as you wouldn’t have many people interested in buying. Do you really believe in your art or your product despite this fact? Then go ahead, it isn’t a big investment to at least try.
2. Is the market oversaturated for the product you want to sell?
Maybe you want to open an Etsy shop selling a super popular product like bows or printables or painted canvases. That is awesome and I am sure you do an amazing job with your work but you need to consider the fact that there are certain products on Etsy with a ridiculously saturated market already. For instance, I searched “printable wall art” and received 496,071 search results. Woah. That is stiff competition for all the people trying to sell printable wall art. Not saying you shouldn’t go for it but you just need to consider this fact. Maybe try selling at local craft fairs first to see if people are interested.
3. Are you able to easily acquire all the materials you need for your product?
This was something I did not consider before I opened my shop. I started getting orders in and I was still scrambling to source my materials. Some things I could get at Hobby Lobby, other things I ordered from various places online, some I could just get from my local grocery store. Again, I should have sorted this all out before I started selling and that would have eased a lot of stress.
4. Are you willing to offer competitive pricing?
I think this has been one of the biggest reasons why I have been successful. When I did my research to see who else was selling dried flower crowns and dried flower boutonnières I saw a few others were but their prices were outrageous. I did the math and saw that I could still make a great profit margin if I offered similar products for almost half the price. This is especially important when you are just starting out. I have been able to raise my prices a little bit over time with no repercussions now that I have built up years of great reviews.
5.Do you have a game plan for packaging and shipping?
I shared in my personal Etsy shop story above that I did not have a game plan for this. If you are selling something like t-shirts then you have it easy-fold them nicely and put them in a bubble mailer. If you are selling delicate dried flowers like me it’s just not that simple. Thankfully I was able to come up with a method that works great. Your packaging is so important too. I used to include a hand written note in each package, now I have printed thank you cards that are placed nicely atop the white tissue paper in each of my orders. I once ordered headbands on Etsy and when I opened the package they were stuffed in a small Ziploc bag. No business card, nothing. I was disappointed and it made the seller look kind of lazy. When you spend money on a special product it is always fun to receive it and see that there was thought and care put into the packaging.
6. Are you capable of managing the financial aspect of running a small business?
You need to be able to keep track of your expenses and to figure out your taxes each year. Numbers are totally not my thing so I hired a guy for that..my husband J. My part though is to keep all of my receipts or jot down each and every purchase for my shop. We have quarterly meetings to check how things are going and to make sure it is still a profitable endeavor.
7. Do you have time for it?
The goal with selling is to have orders and when you have orders you actually have to spend the time making these things for your customers. That might seem like a major duh. As I stated earlier though I had to start limiting the amount of things I list in my shop because I was initially working a full time hospital job as a recreation therapist and then we had a baby so I had to be realistic. If you don’t have time to put your heart and detail into your work you need to consider if you should open a shop at all or just how much you are willing to list in your shop.
8. Would you genuinely enjoy it?
This is the most important thing to ask yourself. In my opinion having an Etsy shop should be fun way to make an income or some extra money because you get to make something you are passionate about. Don’t just teach yourself how to sew bibs because you need some extra cash but dread each order because you don’t really like what you have gotten yourself into. There are other ways to make cash if that is your only reason for doing it. For me having an Etsy shop is a creative outlet that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It is a way to connect with brides, expectant moms, grooms, seniors taking their senior photographs, and people who just want to look pretty in a flower crown. It is a nice excuse to sit down and turn on Netflix as I work with my hands. It has been so much fun and I am so thankful for the opportunities and extra income it has provided.
So what do you think? Is that little idea you had for an Etsy shop worth it? I hope the answer is yes! If you’ve gone through these questions and maybe reconsidered then I hope it was helpful at least to think about it some more. Don’t give up though; maybe you will have another great idea soon! Or maybe it just isn’t the time yet. Happy dreaming, my people!