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For the last few years my wife and I have been selling our handmade décor and geeky stuff on Etsy, an online marketplace. What is the first thing people ask us when they find out that’s what we do for a living? Not “What’s the shop?” or “Ooh, what do you sell?” No, it’s almost invariably something like “I make things too… I should do that. How do I do that?” (Though sometimes it’s the variation – “I make things and would like you to sell them for me.”)
Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t offended by these questions, not at all. We feel incredibly fortunate to be able to make a living (mostly) from our arts and we want to do everything we can to help every person we know do the same. The only problem is the misconception about running your own business selling things you create yourself – it is INCREDIBLY TIME CONSUMING. Many people, when they hear you work from home for yourself assume you spend half the day surfing the net and the other half napping. In reality, the two of us spend well over 70-80 hours a week working on some aspect of our business and there’s constantly some little detail or project that is waiting impatiently for us to get to it. My average day starts with making a to-do list that usually runs to about 20-30 items, ranging from “Email about shipment” – a two minute job, to “Individually hand paint and heat treat the words Lumos and Nox on 150 switchplates” A job that can take 9 hours of constant work.
So in lieu of trying to help everyone that asks and not actually having the time to be much help, we decided a quick series of How-To blogs would be a great way to guide people down the path of creating their own online self-employed empire.
The plan is to post 4 blogs, each outlining a specific aspect of selling on Etsy and other online sources. However, I tend to babble and that may expand to a number of additional sub-blogs.
So if you don’t have the patience to read all of them and want to know the five most important things about selling on Etsy, here they are –
CREATE SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT
If you plan to make a living off of these products, you will end up making a ridiculous number of them and talking a lot about them with people. If you don’t like what you make or are just doing it because it will sell, not only will it become apparent that you aren’t passionate about it, but it won’t actually be any fun to do.
CREATING IS A VERY SMALL PORTION OF RUNNING AN ONLINE SHOP
Like, depressingly small. Most of your time will be spent writing, taking care of customers, dealing with problems, shipping things, taking photos and research.
80% OF A SUCCESSFUL ONLINE SHOP OWNER’S TIME WILL BE SPENT RESEARCHING
This is not an exaggeration at all, especially in the beginning. You will have to research everything – how to run the site, how to word the listing, what tags to use, what tags are, what others are selling, what they are selling for, etc, etc, etc. The second you get tired of researching and adapting, you stop being successful. The people that have asked for help from us immediately get a list of about a hundred things to go and research.
I’m not kidding here.
DO NOT ANTICIPATE SUCCESS.
It’s a waste of your time and will only lead to disappointment. There are currently over six hundred and forty thousand active shops on Etsy – that’s shops with items currently available for sale. There are more than a million registered shops and more than twenty five million items available for sale on Etsy right now. Even if you spend the time required to research every aspect of your shop, have a unique and innovative product and spend all the time you can to create an ideal shop and business, you may still never sell anything. It’s as simple as that. It took us two years and hundreds of items before we started building a following and found the right items for us. Some will find that faster, others never will. This is another reason why you need to make something you are passionate about. At least you will love what you make.