Success Stories: Myra of Twigs and Honey

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Myra of Twigs and Honey (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

I’ve had a crush on Twigs and Honey for years now.  Whenever I’m in need of a mental break, or just a little pick-me-up, I head to this Etsy shop to soak in the gorgeous photographs.  Myra, the force behind the wedding accessories company, is not only an amazingly successful woman but a very generous one too because she agreed to share the story of how she went from a research analyst for forecasting to Etsy star.  Get out your notepads because she gives out a lot of advice in her interview.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I started the business as a hobby after planning my wedding to my husband, Matt, back in 2007.  What started as a creative outlet to offset my government research job, has evolved into my full-time occupation. I had always been an anxious, busybody while I was growing up, taking up many artistic hobbies from sewing to painting to clay figurines. I loved to make tangible art but didn’t know how it could sustain the livelihood I envisioned so I got degrees in science and set off to save the environment.

When I became woefully unsatisfied, my creative interests really saved me and for the past 5 years, I really haven’t looked back. From modest beginnings as a little adornments shop on Etsy, I’ve grown the company into a full-fledged brand not limited to accessories but also including a how-to book, fragrance, cover-ups and bridal gowns. I have bigger goals for the future and additional lines in the works, so the creative career path continues and I just have to say that I’m thrilled to be doing what I love.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

One of the biggest challenges has been to stay one step ahead. I feel like when I started, there were very few that did exactly what I was doing. Etsy was relatively new and we were about to head into a handmade revival. Since then, I feel like there has been an endless stream of copycats and competition.  Everyone and their second cousin seems to make hair accessories now.

Staying ahead of the curve by setting myself apart through innovative designs, identifiable branding and pushing myself each season to top myself from the last have been the constant challenges to overcome. I try to overcome the challenges by reminding myself to stay the course and look forward.

Throughout the years, I’ve focused on remaining true to my beliefs and morals (i.e. don’t cheat, “steal”, or take advantage of others), not taking shortcuts and working hard overall. It doesn’t get easier so when things get tough, you have to work harder and wiser.

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Bridal Bird Cage (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

One of my biggest ‘fist-pump’ moments is actually a bit of a secret! It’s really under wraps but involves television. Have I got you excited?

Less cryptic, I’ve been really proud of having the opportunity to write a book, Adornments, and have my dear friend, Elizabeth Messina, photograph it.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

I try to make good decisions so as to minimize doubt. I already worry enough, so by focusing on making the smartest business decisions, I don’t have too much in the way of doubts for my future creative direction.

There are some additional lines I’ve already designed that I’ve had to put on the backburner due to time constraints but, hopefully, I’ll be able to revisit those in the coming years.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

For some reason, I have the exact opposite. It probably sounds crazy, but I can’t turn it off – that is, the constant creative drive. It’s a problem! I’m continually thinking of new designs and am perpetually inspired by the world around me. I eat, sleep and think about designing. Like I said above, I’m an anxious person and always have been.

Doesn’t it seem like some of the greatest talents in the world (art, music, writing, etc.) seem a little bonkers? Call it OCD or an addictive personality, but since I was young, anything I did, I had to be obsessive about it. I don’t just do things. I have to master whatever it is I’m doing and I’ll keep working on it until I do. I’m incredibly competitive (to a fault?) – so since I chose to make a living in the creative field, and since it is always evolving, I’m a bit maniacal about it and am never short on inspiration.

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Bridal rhinestone headpiece (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

This is a constant area I’m working on. In the first 2-3 years of the business, I would work an insane amount of hours. Over a hundred hours a week! Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I would either not sleep for 3-4 days at a time, or sleep maybe 1-4 hours a night maximum if I was lucky. I solidly did this. Isn’t that nuts?

A huge help was to finally relinquish a little control and delegate some of the work out to others. Of course, that could only happen when I had enough revenue to afford it. Nowadays, I’m still overworked, but I do get much more sleep. My typical day starts out by waking up early and checking/answering emails and other correspondence. I usually do this even before the sleep is out of my eyes. I then make my daily cup of tea, take the dog out, tend to the birds (all 3 of them!) and get back to work by about 8:30am.

Every day is a little different after this point. I do check inventory most days and restock supplies as needed. Many days, I will spend the rest of the day until about 9:00pm working on customer orders or wholesale orders, which includes producing, packing and shipping. Other days will be broken up with some time spent on social media, working with my contract workers, designing new styles and working on special projects. There isn’t an exact schedule I adhere to since it’s always changing. After finishing up for the day, I eat dinner with the better half and we curl up on the couch and watch a movie or tv show.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

Building a marketing plan and reinvesting into that plan.

I am very conservative about spending and for the business, I’ve been completely self-financed. So to bring myself to spend money on marketing has been a challenge! What I can say is that I always reinvest into the business. The profits I make from sales are first earmarked for operating costs, taxes, supplies and my marketing budget. My marketing budget includes ads, photo shoots, bridal shows and any other fee for having an internet presence.

By always setting aside funds for marketing, I ensure that my hard work is seen and seen in a way that best represents the brand. There isn’t one exact marketing choice that stands out as the best move… it is more about the marketing strategy on the whole and making sure that a good portion of the profits from the business are reinvested to ensure the ongoing success of the business and continued growth.

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Myra at work (photo by Elizabeth Messina)

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Align yourself with good, honest people. One of the best things I have done for myself and the business has been to build relationships with amazing, talented and inspiring individuals. Network intelligently. To be honest, I didn’t choose my friends to benefit from them but what happens when you befriend wonderful persons? They lift you up and help you in ways that cannot be measured or “bought”. They inspire you to be better. They grow with you.

If you surround yourself with bad influences, eventually, those people will have an effect on you. Whether my cherished friends help in life or business, it doesn’t matter – it trickles into every aspect of my life. As I spread the good word about them, they do of me. When one friend has a success, we all celebrate! When one needs help, we all pitch in. Positive in is positive out. Sometimes, we can’t do it alone so make sure you have a great support system that you can call on when you need that extra something.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Farming with my husband. Haha! What I mean is that I’d love to move onto a larger property out of the city, build our dream home and do some subsistence farming. In 5 years, I hope to be spending more time with my husband.

You can find more of Myra’s work in her Etsy shop: Twigs and Honey

On her Facebook page: Twigs and Honey

And on Twitter: @twigsandhoney

Welcome to Create & Thrive!!

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Well hey there!

I’m Jess, the editor of C&T and the gal on the other side of the screen. I’m so damn excited to be here, kicking off a brand new place for professional makers – and soon-to-be professional makers – to share advice, tips, thoughts and information to grow our businesses.

I’ve been running my own handmade business – Epheriell – since I started it as a hobby in 2008. I went full-time in 2010, and never been happier with my work or my life!

But I won’t lie – I’ve also NEVER worked harder or longer hours than I do in this business. I know first-hand how hard it is to build up a teeny-tiny micro-biz into something that actually sustains me and my husband (who works for me, too).

I believe in handmade. I believe in the power and the goodness of the micro-economy. I buy handmade and vintage wherever I can. I believe that the more of us who succeed, the better our world and our lives will be.

There’s a lot of motivational stuff out there that encourages you to ‘live your dreams’ – which, I want to say, I support wholeheartedly – but there are also a LOT of people out there who are struggling to turn a profit in their handmade businesses – let alone make a full-time living out of it.

I’ve been teaching and helping people learn and work their way to success for a few years now (mostly via my lifestyle/design blog, Epheriell Designs), but I saw that there was a gap in the blogosphere – I couldn’t find a place where I could learn directly from those who actually DO this – who have a full-time craft/creative business.

A place where they would share their hard-learnt knowledge and skills with me and others. Where they would be honest and real about how much time and work is involved. Where they would give me the dirt, baby! The nitty-gritty details!

So, I decided to create that place myself – and Create & Thrive was born.

Does that all sound a bit heavy? I hope not.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to be a downer, but I DO want to be realistic with you – having a successful handmade business ain’t gonna happen overnight. But with time, persistence, the right information, determination and a GOOD PRODUCT, it WILL happen for you, too! That’s what I’m here to help you achieve, and I’m betting that’s why you’re here, too!

 

Our Writers

Coming along with me on this journey are four fantastic, super-smart, and inspiring creative entrepreneurs.

Each of them has grown their own handmade hobby into a successful business, and they’ve agreed to share their knowledge here with you each week.

 

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Katia Donohoe is designer and maker behind Plushka’s Craft brand.  Being of Russian heritage she treasures handmade crafts and love spending time creating things by hand.

She cannot live without hand-stitching, hot chocolate and Mr. Plushkin, bright tights and suede shoes.

She blogs at Plushka’s Craft where she writes about Plushka’s handmade creations, inspirations as well as her main craft passions – cross-stitch and crochet.

blog facebook | twitter {@plushkacraft}

 

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Megan Eckman is a quirky pen and ink illustrator who never outgrew her overactive imagination.  Her work merges the style of old fairy tale illustrations with modern fantasies.

When she’s not drawing (and giggling all the while), she can be found pacing her apartment writing more stories to go with her artwork.

website facebook twitter {@studiomme}

 

Liana Kabel -

 With a Tupperware Lady for a Mother and a Jeweller Father, what else was I going to be but a jeweller obsessed with plastic.

As a self-employed arts practitioner and business coach, I’m keen to share these aspects of my knowledge to help build strong creative communities.

Liana Kabel

website facebook pinterest

 

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Danielle Spurge is the CEO, crafter in residence and stitch engineer at The Merriweather Council. Since 2010 she has been specializing in custom hand embroidery – working with a signature color palette of bright solids and incorporating vintage fabrics whenever possible!

Danielle’s work has been featured in People Style Watch and on The Today Show.

website blog twitter {@merriweatherc}

 

I hope Create & Thrive helps you to turn your dreams for a successful handmade business into a reality. To make sure you don’t miss a post, register for our weekly update, sent straight to your inbox.

 

There will be three new posts here each week – Tuesday, Thursday + I will answer a reader question each Friday. If you have a question to ask me, just click on the Feedback tab on left of screen and send it in!

Behind the Business ~ An April Idea

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I love to read in-depth interviews with creative business owners – finding out what drives them, what has worked for their businesses, and what they do when they face inevitable hurdles.

So, I decided to start a new interview series here on the blog where I find amazing people and pick their brain about all these things. Today, we’re hearing from Jess from An April Idea – a gorgeous line of stationery and paper goods that caught my eye immediately when I was browsing Etsy one day.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

Although I had already completed a degree in Interior Design, I feel that my creative journey didn’t really start until I began my Graphic Design degree. Although they are quite similar fields, I didn’t really sense that I had found my passion until I started Graphic Design. It felt so easy and fun and just seemed to fit. When I thought about the future I didn’t get scared & overwhelmed about working in the industry, I got excited. I was incredibly fortunate to have a design job before completing my degree, as a Graphic Designer at a boutique stationery store, and was also offered a job at a small design studio upon graduation. Working both these jobs allowed me to see various different areas within the industry and helped me to decide which direction I wanted to take my career.

Then there came a time when I had to decide between each job, as I was working part time at both. One was more corporate/ client work such as websites, branding etc, and at the other place I was given a chance to create my own stationery brand. It was an unknown, but incredibly tempting to have total creative control. There was nothing in place and I would have to learn on my own and start from the beginning. I really wanted to take the chance and was very lucky that it has worked out.

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What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

I would probably say getting my brand name out there. You may have an amazing product, but without the right marketing to go with it, it’s almost useless. Getting to know the industry was, and still is, a big challenge. A lot of people think that making a card range is so easy, but it’s more than just putting pretty images onto paper. It’s knowing the gap in the market that needs to be filled and being smart about it.  Coming from a stationery shop background, we knew where the holes were and what sold the most. It didn’t always match up with my favourite designs, but it’s still a business and it’s still about sales.

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Definitely! For example it’s quite tough at the moment as the retail markets is very quiet. Which of course gives me doubts about my creative future, and I often think this is too good to be true.  You know, I am doing what I love and getting paid for it, I assume the bubble has to burst eventually. But I think that’s why you have to be smart about it and think of it as a business as well as a passion.

There are lots of things I want to do for sure, like illustrate books and I would love to get into textile design, but my brand is only young and hopefully there will be plenty of time left to chase those dreams.

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Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

Absolutely! I find the best thing to do is to just walk away and leave it. You can’t force it. Sometimes my illustrations come to me so easily and quickly, they just flow. But if they aren’t coming, I don’t like to force them, as I usually don’t like the final product I end up with. The best thing I can do is something I find quite dull like updating spreadsheets or cleaning out my email inbox. And after a few hours of that I’m feeling like I have a bit more creativity yearning to break free.

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’ moment for you so far?

Probably when I first launched my brand. It was at the Melbourne Trade Show in 2011. We only got a few sample products printed and sort of wanted to just test the water to see if there would be any interest. I think we got about 40 orders from different stores across Australia, so it was quite exciting to get so much interest so quickly!

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How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I feel that I’m fortunate in that I have a separate office to go to each day. If I worked from home I would find it a lot harder to differentiate between the two. I would end up sleeping in (as I am not a morning person  ) and working until midnight and never really having any separate work and home time. As it is, I work regular hours and when it’s home time I put down my pencil or mouse or whatever and let it go, knowing there is nothing I can do about it until the next day. I like to go home and have a life. As fun as my job is, I like to do other things too. My husband and I are renovating our first home and I also like to paint for relaxation. I haven’t done any art for fun since I started An April Idea, and I would like to get back into that. I find it so free and relaxing, but I don’t often have the time or much creativity left at the end of the day, so I still need to work on that.

A usual day for me will start with checking Email, Etsy, Facebook and any other sites that I receive orders from. Pack any orders for customers and stores. Update stockist info, update websites, I am currently re photographing some of my new ranges; so styling and photographing my products, dealing with wholesale customers, custom orders, stock levels, packing, shipping, ordering, magazines and press requests, looking for new stockists and just getting the name out there more. I have not spent much time designing new ranges or designs recently, but that comes and goes.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

Out of everything that we do, Trade fairs, magazines, websites, direct mail outs, on-line, the Trade Fair has by far given us the biggest amount of awareness and orders. But it is very expensive and a lot of work. I would say the next best thing would be direct mail outs. They don’t cost a lot and you can focus them on people that share a similar passion for the products.

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What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Listen to the advice from store owners. They talk to customers every day and they know what will sell.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

As An April Idea is not yet a full time job for me, I would love to see it big enough to take up all of my time  And ultimately have the brand internationally.

In the future I would also love to branch into textile design, custom typography, and illustration for surf brands. I would also love to be using a combination of my graphic design and interior design/styling skills, working with someone like Home Beautiful or Real Living.

See more of An April IdeaWebsite | Etsy | Facebook

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If you run a successful online creative business, and would like to be interviewed for this series, please get in touch!

How do you realise your creative dreams AND stay sane?

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I am super-excited to bring you this interview today! I got the chance to chat with the beautiful Jena and Jen of the Maven Circle, and ask them how they have both developed a way of living that keeps them centred in their ever-busy creative lives.

I’ve known Jena for quite a while now online (you might know her better as the lady behind the blog Modish) and so when I heard about her and Jen’s new project – and ecourse – I wanted to corral them up and find out more.

Hello ladies! First of all, would you mind giving just a little background on who you are and what you do?

I’m Jen Neitzel. I’m a long time crafter, designer, business person, lover of creative ideas and a generally helpful person. In my former life I was a social worker. I have a degree in Psychology and Sociology and can’t get enough of learning about people. What makes us tick. What inspires us. How to live the best life for myself and ignite others to have the same.

And I’m Jena Coray (aka Miss Modish), self-employed blogger turned marketing guru who has been helping promote indie businesses, artists and designers for the last 6 years. I am an over-analytical super nerd who has, since I was a kid, been fascinated with discovering why I’m here and what I’m meant to do in this world, and I think I finally figured it out- it has a lot to do with helping others find their place too.

We created The Maven Circle together with a different project in mind, but we’d meet and start talkin’ and through our chats, we discovered that we were both on this path of self-discovery, both making our own wellness a priority in our lives again and seeing all the benefits. We realized that thru the years we’ve learned a whole heckuva lot on how to control our own stress, how to face our fears, how to get past the blocks that tend to hold people back, and we thought- hey, we should do an e-course on that! And The Catalyst course was born.

So, you’re both long-term creatives who’ve done some pretty awesome things… and you’ve both reached the point where it all seemed just a bit overwhelming. How did that realisation come about?

Jena – I was swimmin a sea of stress and could not see the beach, couldn’t find a rock to climb up on – I felt lonely and tired and scared from feeling so overwhelmed. It got to the point that I was having anxiety attacks before I even got out of bed in the morning, just paralyzed by all the to-dos running around in my brain.

I just was sinking and finally realized I needed to change things NOW before it started affecting my health and life even more. I dedicated myself to taking my life back and getting out of my fraught-with-crazy brain!

Jen – When you’re involved with awesome creative projects there are two large pieces to puzzle. First, excitement, because you’re doing something that really matters and you’re making it happen, often times by yourself. And secondly, FEAR, because there’s no right or wrong way to do most things – you’re trail blazing.

This can be very overwhelming! I know I’ve had days in the past where I have been so overwhelmed by work that I’d dread working. I’d spend my time worrying rather than getting the job done. Then I’d feel more worried and get even less done. It’s a vicious circle really.

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Did you feel like you were ‘stuck’ and held back from achieving the dreams you knew were possible?

Jen – Yes! The best example I think of is when I was learning video editing (or what I like to refer to as “exorcising demons”.) I would spend hours learning some aspect of video – I’d be moving clips around and realize later that I’d deleted info that I’d just finished! I’d lose content regularly, I’d save things in the wrong place and not be able to find them again, on and on and on.

The thing I kept saying to myself, which may not have been the best thing to say, but it worked was – “This is impossible and I’m terrible at it, but I’m doing it anyway.” I just didn’t let myself quit. And now, I really enjoy video editing! But it took a number of exorcisms to get there.

Jena – The most stuck place I’ve ever felt was within my own brain, really – caught between a seemingly endless list of to-dos and nagging self-criticism is not a good place to be- it’s impossible to get anything done there! I found myself sabotaging things, dreading things, I was getting kinda sloppy in my work and not meeting deadlines…

I lost my motivation because I was too wrapped up inside my own head, worrying too much, letting my fears take hold of me, perpetuating badness with more badness. But somewhere I knew that wasn’t really ME, and so I had to find me again- and once I started working on that, that’s when I found my flame, my spark, my motivation again.

How long did it take you to discover the tools to overcome the feeling of overwhelm and gain back a sense of calm in your lives?

Jen – If I’m being honest I still feel overwhelmed from time to time. I feel that it happens much less than it used to and I don’t get stuck in the same ways, but I know now that it’s just a feeling and that it will pass. The major difference is that now I have the tools to deal with those feelings when they come up. Now, when I’m feeling overwhelmed I try to go on a walk in nature.

For me, the the movement of walking helps catch my body up and slow my mind down. Also, when you walk outdoors you will find that looking, listening and feeling nature is very calming. Having a regular routine of self-care helps you deal with feeling stressed out.

Jena – self care was my turning point as well, the thing that once I started to see the effects of it my life I knew it was the answer I had been looking for. I tried to meditate everyday for 15 days straight for, oh 6 months, until I could actually do it! But somewhere along the way of trying over and over again, of getting into the practice of it, I started to notice the effects it was creating in my life.

I found myself reacting differently, my mind felt clearer, I wasn’t waking up with anxiousness any longer- it felt like I was coming back to myself. And so that propelled me to continue meditating and to add, little by little, more self-care to my routine, like exercise (kundalini yoga is my favorite), drinking water, eating healthier. And as my energy and sense of fulfillment grow with every self-care step, it motivates me to keep going.

What difference has this shift in perspective and lifestyle had on your sense of well-being… and on your businesses?

Jen – I think I’m a better business person and I’m more fun to be around because I feel better now that I have more sense of balance in my life. I really want to use my life and the work I do as a story of inspiration. I want to inspire people to make the changes they need to access their best life possible. I think in general I’m a happier and calmer person now and that it influences all areas of my life.

Jena – I am a way better person to be around too! I feel calmer, more engaged, less reactive. Those things really aid me in my business too, in everything from being able to deal with stress to marketing my business more authentically. I feel like I can focus easier because my mind is clearer and I get more done in a day than I used to. My bones don’t creak, I feel healthy and for the first time in a long time, I feel whole! Now all I want is to help others feel that way too- if I can help them make a positive change in their lives, it fulfills me to no end!

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Could you each share one thing that you would recommend anyone do RIGHT NOW that will help them to start finding that centre in their own lives?

Jena – Meditate. Do a breathing exercise. It all starts with the breath – connect to it, and you connect to right here, right now, and that’s where your center lies – in the present moment.

Jen – Start a routine of self-care. Make sure you’re feeding your mind, body and spirit daily!

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Find out more about Jen and Jena – visit the Maven Circle.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Selling Successfully on Etsy

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Today I’ve got a fantastic guest post for you from my friend and fellow Aussie Etsy seller Cath of My Bearded Pigeon. She has an amazing Etsy success story – hitting over 1,000 sales in her first year – but that was on her second time round! Find out the principles she followed to reach that success in today’s post…

Hello Everyone, and thank you for having me Jess.

Those of you who visit my blog chunky chooky may be familiar with what I have to say about Etsy. I am always happy to help people with their Etsy shops as I had lots of help when I started my first shop on Etsy in March 2008.

Like many of you I found the creative juices started to flow after I had a baby. I was looking for toys for my little that I liked and I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t hideously expensive and made overseas so to cut a very long story short I started sewing and one step lead to another and I opened chunkychooky on etsy.

I made these……

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Sales were slow at first of course but as I researched and read and tweaked and re-took photos again and again and I spent hours in the etsy forums watching and learning and reading everything I could get my hands on and I eventually starting to see a few sales. More importantly I learnt a lot and made a lot of mistakes…

Fast forward two years and I decide to launch My Bearded Pigeon. So it was December 2010, I had this great idea and have found a way to make it work, but this time I knew so much more, this time I was going to be far more organized and this time I knew where to focus my energy.

So in the spirit of what Etsy is all about – sharing and community- I thought I would share some of what I have learnt since I started selling on Etsy 3 years ago. Late last year I hit my 1000th sale on Etsy. It was a massive milestone for me and came at a time our little family really needed some good news.

Many people who have bought from me have returned again and again and told their friends.

So here is by no means a comprehensive list but a good start…

DO Answer convos’ politely and promptly, I think it is great to add a bit of humour be yourself … even if it is the tenth person that week asking if you would like to giveaway a cushion on their blog. You can say “No thank you” nicely. This includes being polite even when people ask you questions you have answered numerous times in your policies, listings and shop intro. For example “can I get the cushion without the insert?” I probably get asked this at least once a week despite it saying on every listing that they come without the insert.

DO Respond to treasuries– when someone puts you in one – go over to the treasury and at the very least say thank you! That is all you have to say- sometimes you can say more, but it is nice to acknowledge that some one has taken the time. This is how you get on the front page remember – by being in treasuries.

DO Say thank you when someone orders something from your shop. As soon as I get an order I respond with a thank you and let them know when I plan to post – usually within a couple of days. I respond to the email from paypal as people new to Etsy may not check etsy convos. I find it quite bad manners when people do not acknowledge your order. I am shocked at how often I get no response when I buy something.

DO Be an active team member, I am in quite a few teams and I try to participate when I can, but of course I am not perfect and cannot participate in everything.

DO Always have your shop looking tip top! You never know when you will be featured in an Etsy finds email or on the front page or maybe even on a popular blog. So if people are coming for the first time it may be the difference of them giving you a heart and returning later or not.

DO Always have high res images ready (if you load pictures onto flickr that will help as you can download any sizes) for magazine editors or bloggers who may be interested in featuring you.

DO Remember the customer is almost always usually mostly sometimes right!

DO Follow Etsy’s rules.

DO price accordingly. Include Etsy fees, paypal fees, packaging and stationary, plus the time it takes to list the item, take photos etc, package it all up, take it to the post office plus the actual making of the item, material costs, time taken to get these materials, time taken to actually make it… what are you prepared to work for?

Be realisitic. Don’t worry so much about what other people are selling items in your category for. What do you need to make a profit? To make it worthwhile for you? I see people selling cushions for $12 and wonder how they can be making any money at all.

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DO think about how to market your product. What makes it unique? Why would someone buy it? When people buy from you what are they buying? For example when someone buys a cushion from me they are buying a souvenir. They are buying the memory of a lovely holiday, the place they went on their honeymoon, the town they grew up in, the place they met their partner. They are buying something eco friendly, so I make sure I tell them this. They are buying something unique they cannot get anywhere else in the world – (I get the fabric printed myself) so I tell them that. This is fabric no one else has, you cannot buy it online – this is what I am selling (and this is why they are priced as they are) explain to them why they want to buy it and why they should buy it.

DO look at your product critically. Is it original? do people get excited when they see it? Is it unique? Can you get it anywhere else? Does it appeal to a wide range of people? I am lucky that my products appeal to women and men and people also buy them for kids too – know who you are selling too and market accordingly.

DO offer a discount for customers who buy several items. I have had many people buy over 5 cushions from me, in some instances 10+. Reward their loyalty with free postage and/or a % discount. You can make your own coupons on Etsy and people love a discount.

DO have postage listed to lots of different places, and make sure it is accurate. Do not make money out of postage, put your prices up if you need to. There is nothing worse than receiving something that cost you $10 in postage to have it say $2.20 on the envelope. Take the items to the post office and get them weighed.

Do have all your shop policies filled out. How long will you reserve items for? What about returns? what about if an item doesn’t show up? What are the postage times?

DO check your convos regularly. I have heard people say “I have a life I don’t want to be chained to the computer all day.” You don’t have to be, but you do have to check your emails at least 2 times a day I think. You have to allow for time differences. I still have most of my traffic from the US so I need to be up early answering convos and emails and also checking in again at night for responses or new convos. I think it is a huge part of an online business to be able to respond to people quickly.

DO take a really good look at your shop. Look at it from a customers perspective. Does it look neat and tidy with all the sections filled out and all the photos looking nice? Really, does it? Is it full of lots of items so you show up in searches a lot. Are you items in sections so people can easily find what they want? have you used every tag for every item?

DO BRAND EVERYTHING: when someone buys a cushion this is what they get:

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There will be no confusion as it to where it came from, so people can tell their friends about you too. Put your logo on shop name on everything!

DO have your shop announcement filled out: it doesn’t have to be a huge amount of writing just a little bit about the products, same with your profile, just a little bio about yourself, why you started making what you make, what materials you use.

DO have lots of detail in your listings and your item title. Who would this be a good present for? On what occasion would you buy it for someone? How can it be used? How is it packaged – say if you are selling artwork people want to know it is going to arrive safely. How big is it? Put the size in cms and inches. It drives me mental how many people put a coin next to the item to show size? how would I know how big a coin from another country is? Are all the tags filled out – every single one?

DO have a good read and think about Etsy ads and about renewing? The thing with renewing is you need to have a bit of a budget in mind and think about when peak times are for you. I seem to get a lot of sales on Thursday and Friday night Australia times – so I renew a lot then. I seem to get less sales and traffic on the weekend so I don’t renew as much. Maybe invest in some Etsy ads? See how it works for you after a week or so…

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Now, for the flipside…

DON’T Tell the customer that you think something is a bad idea. For example I contacted a necklace seller, and when I asked if I could have the chain longer I was told ” the chain is long enough”. Long enough for whom I thought? I have had people suggest things to me that I think are not great ideas but I am polite and talk my way around it.

DON’T Spam your customers… don’t send them loads for convos/emails one to say you received the order and have posted it is suffice.

DON’T Feel like you need to have a facebook twitter blog and flickr account before you can sell anything. All of these things can be very useful but they do take a bit of time to get the hang of and can be done as you go along.

DON’T Put a bad photo on Etsy, you may be tempted to quickly list something but it may be the difference between a heart and a future sale or nothing. Are you photos looking tip top – with the help of some free photo editing like picnik? Just changing the colour contrast and brightness will make a huge difference you want your pictures to really pop off the page. I use a white background for everything and I don’t put my products in a styled way. For example having the cushions on a chair etc but others swear by this so you will have to decide what works best for you.

DON’T Leave bad feedback without discussing it with the shop owner first. Be reasonable, this is someone’s business. If someone does leave you bad feedback you can use the Etsy kiss and make up feature. I have used it when someone left bad feedback because an item had not arrived – in a week from Australia to Brazil! I politely explained how huge bad feedback was for me and my business and she was happy to change it using the kiss and make up feature.

DON’T COPY!! I see people blatantly copying the work of sellers who do really well – orginal is best. Always. And people will know you have copied and think that is not very good.

DON’T obsess about the number of sales. Yes there are shops that have sold 10 000 items +++ but why worry about them? You cannot compare your shop with other shops that sell different products to yours, so don’t.

Most of all have fun! Working at home running an online business can be very difficult. Being part of a blogging community or other online groups does offer great support for you as it can feel overwhelming at times and you can feel quite isolated.

Don’t stay on the computer all day, step way for large periods and stop playing with your phone – it will do you the world of good.

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Cath Young is a  crafter, blogger, mother and wife living an eco friendly life in a tiny town on the mid north coast of NSW. Cath likes taking photos and going for walks in the forest with her dog.

All photos by Cath. First image edited by me to add title.
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