How my Etsy shop became what it is today and the joy that came with it.
As a creative entrepreneur, I’ve come across many challenges. For instance, spelling entrepreneur. God bless spell check because real talk, I spelled it wrong at least 70% of the time. I’m a professional graphic designer working 40 hours a week at a full time gig doing real estate marketing. I love graphic design and 9 times out of 10 I enjoy being at work. I call that pretty great. But when the clock strikes 5:00 pm I switch hats to a side hustler who has been working on financial freedom for just about 3 years now.
My side hustle has seen varying degrees of evolution and self-discovery. Hell, I’m still figuring out what I want to do and how to make money doing it. When I first opened my Etsy shop in 2016, I was selling physical invitations. I had a few designs up my sleeve from doing projects for friends and family and I began selling them. Very quickly I realized that printing invitations and shipping them wasn’t my jam. I found the profit at the end of the sale to not be worth the effort it took to print and ship. Sure, I could’ve been charging more, but I didn’t find that to be fair to my customers. I wouldn’t pay that amount and therefore didn’t want to do that to my buyers. Not to mention the large amount of buyers who would pass on my invitations because they were too spendy.
My first few months as a entrepreneur were bumpy to say the least. I had my Etsy shop and I was making a few sales here and there. I also had clients I was working with. There is on in particular that I will never forget. I was making a wedding invitation suite for this woman and I was trying to hard to give her her dream. Being a newlywed myself, I understood the importance of those silly pieces of paper that inevitably end up in the trash. But I got it. I understood how much invitations mean to a bride. Through various edits and confirmations of colors and papers I sent her her invites and I was so excited for her. I had slaved cutting and gluing and getting them ready for her. And then the worst happened. She emailed me upon receiving her invitations and told me she was deeply disappointed. She said the colors, which we had discussed thoroughly prior, were all wrong. Her postcard RSVPs were not on thick enough card stock and I chalked this up to my own ignorance and refunded her for that portion. But for everything else, I was devastated. I had poured my heart into this wedding suite and she inevitably hated it. I almost gave up completely. I know I cried, multiple times.
As a starting business I had spent most of the money she paid just to create the invitation suite so I was only able to really refund her partially and I sent her a gift card that I paid for with a credit card. After I changed the colors (again) on the invites for her, I sent her all the digital files so she could print them somewhere locally. Needless to say, she did not refer any friends or family to me and I fully understand and don’t blame her. It’s been over 3 years and I still think about it.
This is when my business took a pivot. I no longer could afford to be printing and shipping and my husband and I were in the middle of buying our first home. I stopped offering physical items. There were plenty of times, frankly, that I wanted to stop altogether. I didn’t think anyone would want anything I could offer. I was so shook from that ONE disappointed customer that I had to take a break. I reevaluated what direction I wanted to go and started selling digital files.
I started selling customized invitations and wedding programs that were sent as finalized digital files that my customers could print themselves or at a local print shop. This has been and still is my overall business model. I’ve gone back and forth and tried to offer physical products, but shit I’ll be real, I hate it. Digital files all the way for this girl. Digital files were the answer to all my problems at the time. I could do graphic design for people and I didn’t have to worry or fret with any of the shipping or printing. This was where I really started to find my joy in design and side hustling again. I was making sales and hearing that AMAZING cha-ching sound from my phone every time I sale came through. If you’re an Etsy seller, you know what I mean.
One thing I found to be the most interesting thing about my Etsy shop was contrary to my 50 or so listings, I was consistently selling two. Two listing were making 90% of my income. This income wasn’t enough to live on but it sure was enough to buy a new Mac desktop as well as many, MANY happy hours with my besties. I was happy.
Then…. Burnout happened. I don’t know how many people can legit relate to this, but if you edit the information of the SAME two designs over 100 times, you get sick of it. Real quick. I was beginning to resent the wedding program orders. I was tired of all the customers who never read the descriptions and tried to fit 30 bridal silhouettes on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. Yes it happened. I mean who even has that many friends? Asking for a friend…
Here comes pivot number two! Really this would probably be pivot 47 but this is the abridged version. I knew I needed passive income. I wanted to create. I never wanted to stop creating. But I no longer wanted to edit and customize. Enter, The Everything Planner. I worked for almost 4 months on creating a printable planner and calendar that people could use to their leisure and build their own custom planner. This product was going to be the answer to all my Etsy dreams. I was going to be one of those sellers that makes a living on Etsy. Someone who could afford things like waterproofing their basement when July brings too much rain. One of those adults with a savings account. Don’t judge me. So I made the planner, I put it out there, and all that money came rolling in. JOKES. It didn’t. I’ve had my Everything Planner available now for a little over a year and I’ve sold it a handful of times. I still call that a success as I have plenty of listings that straight up have not sold once. But man was I bummed. I am still to this day tweaking and researching trying to get my Everything Planner in front of buyers. You can find my latest and greatest Everything Planner here!
It was in early 2018 that I started feeling like I didn’t want to have an Etsy shop anymore. But how could I say no to those extra dolla dolla billz? My husband and I were planning to start a family and we could use all the money we could get. I kept trucking, no matter how annoyed I got. Now if you check my Etsy shop you would never know I was so miserable. I have reviews for days about how great I am to work with and communicative and accommodating. I never let my customers know I was so miserable. That wasn’t fair to them. I had to figure out what I was dealing with on my own terms.
Another contributing factor to my Etsy woes was that my business was NOT growing. It was declining in fact. I think this could be attributed simply to wedding trends changing as well as my prices had increased slightly as you do with popular items. So not only was I SO SICK of doing the same two orders over and over, I was also NOT seeing an increase. I felt like I was failing. I tried to put new listings up hoping something would gain traction but alas, no luck.
I started exploring different options for selling my designs. I was on a mission for passive income, something that didn’t require my attention 24/7. I started looking at different templated options. I first started with Canva, and girl did I struggle. Canva is a great product for making graphics, social media images, or anything you need but it is NOT a good place for selling a template you expect other people to edit. The biggest issue really is that you have to share the original design and hope the customer does a Save As. I’ll tell you this right now, most customers don’t. I knew this wasn’t going to be a sustainable option. Inevitably, I ended up taking down the silhouette wedding program listing. That’s right, my cash cow was officially unavailable for purchase. I was so relieved. I was so sick of that wedding program, man I could start that on fire if I ever printed it haha. Did my finances take a hit? You betcha. Did I care? You betcha. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.) I struggled a lot with whether or not I should relist my cash cow product. I was so unbearably unhappy doing my side hustle at this point that I made the decision that it was just better for me to no longer offer that product. I did eventually find a software option that is a true winner. I am a user of Templett and it is the greatest, easiest way to sell editable templates to buyers so they can edit their own invitations, wedding programs, and more. My two cash cow listings are now available on my shop (SEE MY ETSY SHOP HERE) and though they are not bringing in the majority of my income they are still top sellers and more importantly I am happy to have them listed.
LONG story short, my Etsy shop is nothing like it used to be. You can read how I pivoted my business and found the joy as a creative entrepreneur again here. What once was invitations and physical items is now digital files, templates and printables. I am always working to evolve my shop into something that works better for me and keeps me in my happy place. After this latest change to my shop I know I’m going in the right direction, even if the money hasn’t started flowing quite yet. I am loving my full time job again, I find making invitations for my friends and family to be fun and rewarding and I’m overall much happier. If you are a struggling side hustler like me my biggest piece of advice has to be that if you aren’t happy doing your side gig, for the love of all things run away. I’ve heard from countless entrepreneurs and coaches that if you’re in this for the money, girl get out because you are on a one-way road to burn out. Find the passion, find the joy, and those dolla billz will find you.
With love and nachos,