Custom Roman Shades|Sew Lovely By Kelly Sew Lovely By Kelly-Etsy|Sew Lovely By Kelly

My Etsy Experience. From Hobby To Business

By Kelly Rinik

Make money from home!  Turn your hobby into a business!  We've heard this before.  While it seems simple enough to do, it actually takes a lot of patience, dedication and hard work to turn it into a reality.  In the end, it really is a great way to make extra money, it makes you feel rewarded and it can be fun at times also.  You don't need to have the very best product out on the market or the most extraordinary skills to have your own Etsy shop, but you do need to have a quality product and a good shop image to get you recognized.  You need to find ways to get customers to click on your shop over someone else's.  If you have some sort of product, however small it may be, you too can make money from an Etsy shop.   

I always enjoyed making crafts growing up.  Never a great artist but I did always enjoy crafting, making dolls, costumes, decor etc.   For a long time, I tried to think of different ideas and inventions and come up with a good product that I could make and sell.  There were a few reasons why I was motivated to do this.  I was not very happy at my current job in television and wanted an exit, another job that would make me feel challenged and accomplished.  I also needed the extra money to buy a house.  I had gotten a headband for running and it had a gimicky marketing image.  It seemed to be such a simple headband but I noticed that the way it was marketed and the image of the company was what made people probably love it.  I thought to myself, "Such a simple thing.  Something I could easily make.  A piece of fabric with a backing and elastic and it's selling like crazy!"  I then tried to make my own and it came out exactly the same.  

I always wanted to be original, so I did not want to copy anyone else's ideas or make the same headband, so I thought of how I could put a twist on it and try to give people a reason to choose my headband over any other out there.  I think it's a great idea to take any simple product that you know people love, and just put your own twist on it.  My idea was to make fabric patterend headbands and sell interchangeable pieces that snap to the side of the headband.  It was one headband with a lot of different looks.  You would be able to personalize your own headband.  I got to work quickly, and started sitting at my sewing machine for hours and hours making and perfecting my headbands and taking photos of them.  I bought felt characters and ballet shoes and cute little dogs and cat felties and added snaps to all of them and a snap to the headband.  I sold the snap on accessories separately.  So you'd buy a headband and then choose your snappies to add on.  My shop, Be Snappy, was born!

Opening an Etsy shop is very simple and it's free to join.  You have to think of a name for your shop and it can't be one that is already taken.  You then have to give a description for your shop and start adding product listings.  I started by adding drafts of products before publishing them all and doing my "grand opening" just to be sure I had a lot of products on there for the big opening because I don't like to do anything half-assed.  I think a shop should have a good amount of products, over 20 is good.  Once you publish your listing you then need to provide a credit card to Etsy and pay for the listing.  Each listing is only about .20 cents to publish it.  You can edit the listing at any time.  There are, of course, a lot of fees that come with it.  Etsy charges a processing fee and a monthly fee.  You get about 3% deducted from a sale that goes to Etsy processing.  Then you get another 3% or so deducted and you're billed every month for those deductions.  I do feel it's still worth it bc Etsy is a great way to manage your shop and a great source of traffic comes through Etsy, compared to just directly on a website.  To give you an idea, I've had 30,000 views that came direct from Etsy shoppers searching for roman shades.  I've had 14,000 views from other sources.  It's very easy to manage your orders via Etsy and create custom listings.  Even though the fees stink, it is worth it to me because I've been very happy with Etsy as a selling outlet and company itself.  

I started selling headbands to mostly friends who were kind enough to buy them.  I got a lot of orders from sports teams and people doing races in a group.  It was so time consuming making the headbands.  I wasn't charging much and for the time it took me to make them, it wasn't seeming worth it.  My sewing machine sucked and kept jamming up and there were nights I would seriously want to throw it out the window and would curse a lot making them. lol I was determined, however, to make my shop somehow successful.  Part of the problem was that I didn't have any children models actually wearing the headbands to show the fun ways they can be interchanged.  

Headband sales were steady but seemed too time consuming for the money I was taking in for them.  It was then I started thinking of something else I could add to my shop that would be more profitable.  In the past, I had made a lot of home decor and soft goods, like pillows, curtains, swags, roman shades and more.  I decided to make a mock up roman shade and just take a photo of it and pop it onto my headband shop to see if anyone would buy it out of the blue!  I couldn't believe it, but someone actually did request a custom roman shade, even though I had zero reviews on them or good photos of my work (since I only made one).  But that's what you need... just someone to find trust in you and let you try it out.  One after another, more people started purchasing them.  I would make sure to always follow up with costomers afterward to ask them for photos of the shades I made them and kindly asked them to leave a review if they liked it.  Reviews are key!  The more you have, the more likely people will click on your shop.  Whenever I see a "you have a new review" notification on my phone, my heart still drops bc I'm hoping it's a nice one :)  Thankfully, I have 91 5 star reviews! :)  As I started to sell more and more shades, I decided to change the name of the shop and focus on the roman shades.  Sew Lovely By Kelly was born!  

Roman shades aren't an original idea and a lot of stores sell them.   However, I put my twist on them because I sell roman shades that are customized and people can use any fabric of their choice.  Also stores only sell certain standard sizes and mine can be made in any size.  Since they cost more, they are more profitable than a little headband.  People love choosing their own fabric.  It's so hard to find the right pattern or color in store bought items.  It's so simple.  People look online on or in the store at a place like Joann's, and then send along their fabric to me in the yardage I tell them to get.  One more key to a successful Etsy shop is to try to take nice photos and to keep them pretty consistent with your image.  

It hasn't been easy reaching the point I've come to with this side business.  I've never worked so hard at anything in my life.  I would dream about it and think about the shop night and day, determined to make my products sell like crazy and also improve my product and find ways to make them faster.  I'd spend hours and hours making the shades.  There came a time when I was so overwhelmed because I could not keep up with the orders in a timely manner.  I would put the shop on vacation mode so that I could catch up, but it would take me 2 months to catch up.  I've cried many times over the stress of the business.  I missed out on precious moments with my baby boy due to trying to make the business a success and get orders out.  I lost a lot of sleep over the shades, staying up until 2am sewing in my sewing room.  I was going to the post office on average of 3 times a week, causing me a lot of stress in the mornings having to package the shades and run around before work and dropping Owen off at daycare.  It wasn't easy but I knew it would get better so I pushed on.  I was determined to make it work.  

The stress of the shop lasted about 1 1/2 years but I finally am pretty much stress free and have it all down to a science!  I buy all of my supplies online, cutting back on time spent running around to stores.  I buy in bulk, saving myself money.  I use the same vendors all the time.  I bought a shipping scale and started shipping from home and creating my own shipping labels and having packages picked up right on my porch.  I bought cool, time saving gadgets to save time, like this cool thing you attach to your drill to screw in the screw eyes instead of having to manually screw them into the wood.  I also hired a wonderful and talented helper last December, Yolanda. She has years and years of professional sewing experience and has been a great help and so wonderful.  I'm so grateful to have found this woman.  Not only is she sweet, but she is always on time and her work is impeccable.  While I still make and construct the majority of the roman shade, she helps out with cutting the fabric and sewing the perimeter. These small steps really help me out!  

It's been about 3 years since I started my business. The road has not been easy but it has developed into something pretty wonderful and I have no regrets.  I don't think any start up business comes as easy as some may think.  And it does take some time to get it right.  I've gotten to the point where I could do this as my primary job, but I enjoy having a reliable and steady income from my day job and not having to deal with worrying about this being my only income.  For a while, I felt like I had two full time jobs.  That's how much time I felt like I was putting into it.  But it's gotten to the point where. time wise, it's more of a side business, but the orders are still flowing.  

It's possible to make a living from selling your craft on Etsy.  It just takes a lot of time, patience and dedication :)