10 Tips to Build a Successful Etsy Business

etsy business

Guest post from Lauren of Funky Monkey Children

Often times when someone asks the question of how they can bring in extra income while staying home with their children, people respond with “how about setting up an Etsy shop?” While I think that is a wonderful suggestion, and one that I did myself back in 2012, it isn’t really as simple as just building a shop and having customers flow in.

Over the past 2 years of having my Etsy shop, Funky Monkey Children, I have learned some invaluable lessons about running and business. Here are a few things I wish I had known when I started mine:

1. Start by Brainstorming Ideas

What is a skill you have or a product you make that has a wide market of desirability? Are you willing to learn a new skill or craft that could someday turn into a product for sales? Do you have a side hobby that friends keep telling you to sell?

Brainstorming for a product idea is the very first step in setting up an Etsy shop. This may seem obvious, but make sure it is something you like doing. It would be unfortunate to “hit it big” with a product you really have no interest in continuing to make!

It’s also helpful to think long-term with your ideas – are there items you could add for a coordinating set down the road or ways that you could expand that product into a bigger or more complex line in the future?

2. Manage Your Inventory

When I first started Funky Monkey Children, I was open to anything people asked of me. I had no problem driving around to different fabric shops (with my two toddlers!) looking for a certain pattern that someone requested, or running out to the store to pick up a single item to monogram for a specific customer.

I quickly learned, however, that this consumed a huge amount of my time and wasn’t very profitable. I ended up with so much inventory and so many supplies that I wasn’t able to use on a continuous basis.

In order to streamline my business I decided to focus on just a few items (burp cloths, bibs, and shirts) and not expand so wide that I was drowning in inventory (and spending all my profits on more inventory!)

3. Create Specific Goals

When you start a business, it’s important to make very specific goals for the future… as well as a path to achieve those goals.

When I first started, my goal was for this to be a self-sustaining hobby. If I got busy and didn’t have more time to work, I closed my shop for a few days and never thought twice about it. As long as I could make enough money to buy more fabric to play around with in my free time, I was happy.

As time progressed, however, my goals changed in a big way. The goals that I have set for the business now are allowing us to save a 20-30% down payment in the next year to buy a house, which is something I never could have dreamed of a few years ago!

4. Pinpoint Your Market

In order to appeal to your buyer, you must know exactly WHO your buyer is. Once you know who you are appealing to, you can figure out how best to reach them and where to find them.

It is helpful to think in very specific terms; knowing that “women” are your target customers doesn’t really help. Knowing that your target customer is a 25-35 married woman who works outside of the home and lives on the West Coast is substantially more helpful.

5. Make Prototypes

You have to have something to advertise in order to get started. One of the best ways to get more traffic to an Etsy shop is to increase the number of items you have listed.

When I was starting out, I made tons of gifts for friends. Since I primarily make baby items, and I have young children myself, I had no shortage of people around me with babies.

With each and every item I made, I took a picture and listed it as a listing for sale. Eventually customers would ask for variations of the same product (different colors, fabrics, applique, etc) and each time I would take a picture of that item and list it separately.

There is a rumor around Etsy that 75 listings is the “magic number” to really increase the traffic flow to your shop. I’m not sure if that is true, but I can say that the amount of traffic to and subsequent sales in my shop increased substantially with more listings.

6. Price Your Items Appropriately

Make sure you aren’t under-pricing your items! In addition to making people think the item is less valuable than it really is (or cheaply made), if you don’t add in a profit for yourself you are doing a lot of work for no reward.

Another thing to think about is the time involved in each item. When I first started, I priced each item the same. Every shirt had a certain price, every burp cloth, etc. Now when I price something I take into account the amount of time that particular item takes to make.

Since I can only do one item at a time, it doesn’t benefit me to sell an item that takes an hour and an item that takes twenty minutes for the same price.

7. Learn about Tags and Titles

Titles and tags are huge on Etsy. Learning about the basics of SEO (particularly as it relates to Etsy’s relevancy formula) will be extremely beneficial to your shop.

While Etsy brings in a lot of traffic on its own, there are millions of Etsy shops open today, so you need to set yourself apart to see success.

8. Take Good Photos

This is something that is incredibly hard to do when you are first beginning, and something that I continue to struggle with in my own shop. Since Etsy is a very visual platform, clear and bright photographs are a must for any successful shop.

Learning the basics of a good quality camera is helpful, as is finding a consistent light source (whether that is outside or a lightbox). Amazon has some inexpensive and decent quality lightboxes that can be very helpful if you don’t live in a particularly clear climate.

Having consistent product placement and the same background in every picture also helps to build your brand and have a cohesive image of your shop as a whole.

9. Provide Excellent Customer Service

Etsy customers expect top-notch customer service. Because Etsy started as a strictly “handmade” platform for selling (it has since evolved beyond that), a typical Etsy buyer is expecting a more personal interaction than they would get from a traditional store.

This means that often times, buyers will message you for more information, ask lots of questions, and generally expect a dialogue about the product or service as they go. Providing good customer service goes a long way in developing a loyal fan base.

10. Learn Your Limits

This has been one of the toughest lessons for me as my shop has grown and sales have increased. Because Etsy provides a more personal platform for interaction between sellers and buyers, there can be some unreasonable requests at times.

It isn’t totally unheard of for people to message asking for a discount, for overnight shipping at no extra charge, to make an item and ship it out by today, or even for totally free items just because.

As someone who very much wants to make the customer happy, it is hard for me to say no. However, I also have learned to value my time and recognize that the time that I am working is time that is taken away from my family.

Through the years of doing this I have had to find a balance between providing excellent customer service and also not being “on-call” to answer messages, send emails, and jump up and make an item for a customer at all hours of the day. Learning this limit will go a long way in keeping your family on board for your new Etsy venture!

Do you (or have you) run an Etsy business? If so, do you have any other tips to add to my list?

Lauren Keplinger is a part-time working mommy of 2 young children who bring joy and chaos to her life. Her hobbies include sewing, running, cooking and reading, but she spends most of her “free” time now working on her Etsy shop, Funky Monkey Children.

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Dumping Debt Takes Hustle

dumping debt

Guest post from Jessi of The Budget Mama

“How did I let this happen? I know better than this. I swore I would never end up here again, what happened?” That was my inner dialogue a few years ago when I realized that I had allowed my family to sink back into the depths of credit card debt.

Back when I was twenty-one years old, I was in such financial trouble that I was near bankruptcy due to credit cards. I truly knew better than to allow the “buy now, pay later” game to suck me, but it did, again.

I am still not sure how it happened; maybe it was out of fear that we would not be able to afford all those “must-haves” when we became parents for the first time. Maybe it was because we desperately “needed” that vacation to Mexico, or maybe I was just turning a blind eye because that was easier to deal with.

We were not only slowly sinking deep in credit card debt, but that fully-loaded Tahoe that we just had to have because we were now parents (and apparently you cannot drive anything other than a four-door SUV when baby arrives) was putting us even deeper in the hole.

Yep, we were deep in the red and the inner accountant in me was screaming bloody murder at the foolishness I had allowed to happen. Something had to be done because we were going to be broke soon if we did nothing.

I pulled up all our financial statements – credit cards, checking account, savings accounts, Tahoe loan information, and my student loan information. I spent hours tediously combing through them in order to figure out how long it would realistically take us to pay off these debts with my husband’s current income and our current budget.

When I presented my findings to my husband, he immediately pulled out his credit card, cut it up, and told me that struggling was out of the question and we were going to have to figure out how to get this debt monster wrangled back in his cage.

We did just that.

We have paid over $25,000 in debt in the two years since we made the commitment to get out of debt for the last time. We still have more to go but we are not struggling and by the grace of God, we will have my student loans completely paid for by the end of this year.

It takes serious hustle to defeat the debt monster. We have had to apply every well-deserved bonus check, tax refund check, savings bonds, and we even had to give up that fully loaded Tahoe in order to dumped $18,000 of debt in one day. Downgrading is not easy in our consumer-driven society that places our value in what we drive, what we wear, and where we live… but sometimes it is the only option in order to live the life you truly want.

Debt is not forever and if you are battling the debt monster, remember you are not alone. It is possible to defeat him. It will not always be easy, but you can and will do it if you hustle.

How have you hustled to defeat the debt monster?

Jessi Fearon is a wife, mom of two little boys, and writer behind The Budget Mama, a personal finance site where she shares her family’s real life on a budget. She is devoted to helping her readers thrive on a budget while becoming better money managers.

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Raising a Family on a Part-time Income… and Enjoying It

part time income

Guest post from Sarah of The Jelly Jars

We are in the middle of raising our family of four with two little girls and a third baby on the way. While I hold down the fort of raising and growing these littles, my husband works part-time and is pursuing his Masters degree part-time.

Needless to say, our finances are tight as we live on his part-time income.

But because of this process, I feel like our perspective on what is most important in this life has shifted in the very best of ways. I know how difficult it is to raise a family when money is so tight, so I wanted to share a few ways finances are handled in our home — in hopes that they might help others in a similar situation.

1. We talk about finances in our marriage.

A central value in our marriage is communication. Whether good or bad, confession or celebration, small talk or crisis, we talk.

And since that is a non-negotiable between the two of us, it naturally carries over into our financial health. We are in this together so we talk about stressors, financial plans and dreams, and where we stand each month.

2. We spend our money on things we value.

We guard against spending money on perceived wants, and instead spend it on what actually adds value to our life. That is a totally personal choice, one unique to you and your family.

Just think about what you love to do, eat, experience, etc. and then spend your money there rather than randomly spending money as your whims strike.

We value health, so we pay for good food and good running shoes, for example. If a purchase falls in line with a family value, it has a place in our budget.

3. We prioritize our emergency fund.

We unexpectedly had to pay for four new tires last Christmas season — a time of year with lots of money flying around. It was painful to pay an unexpected $800 bill, but it didn’t bankrupt us and we didn’t have to throw it on the credit card because we had savings set aside, saving us a lot of stress.

4. We live frugally.

This might sound obvious, but we don’t buy brand name. Instead, we opt for generic whether it be food, shampoo, you name it.

We shop at thrift stores, I go to garage sales, we buy furniture on Craigslist, and we don’t buy many new clothes. We might not be on-trend every season with the latest fashions, but we make it work.

If an item is something we want but don’t need, we don’t buy it. If we can’t pay for it outright without putting it on a credit card, we don’t buy it.

I have learned that finances are so much more than what is in your bank account, it is an indicator of how you live your life. And we have also seen that we can still enjoy life while living on a part-time income without going into debt.

Sarah is a mountain-loving, dark chocolate-eating, Frank Sinatra-listening, owie-kissing, truth-telling, freelance writer/blogger who seeks out a passionate life with her husband and two kiddos. She writes at The Jelly Jars.

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How I Feed My Family of 4 an Organic, Gluten-Free Diet for $125 Per Week

organic diet

Guest post from Anne of Anne’s Healthy Kitchen

A couple of years ago I wished my family could eat an organic diet, but I thought it would be too expensive.

Even so, I started to make changes one step at a time and I managed to replace rather costly (some of them not very healthy) food items with organic, gluten-free options, all for $125 per week.

Here is what I did… and how you can do it, too!

Breakfast

For me, breakfast foods must be “morning-rush approved” and take about 10 minutes or less to prepare.

I used to make quesadillas with wheat tortillas and cheese every single morning because it was convenient, but it wasn’t really healthy. Instead, I looked for healthier, gluten-free alternatives that the family would enjoy eating.

This is what we eat for breakfasts (we usually eat each recipe for 2 breakfasts each week:

  • oatmeal with cheese
  • brown rice with mushrooms and eggs
  • buckwheat pancakes with cheese and eggs
  • scrambled eggs with brown rice and spinach

Here is my breakfast shopping list for a week (all organic except spinach):

Oats — $0.50
Two dozen eggs — $8
Brown rice — $0.50
Spinach — $2
Cheese — $7
Mushrooms — $2.50
Buckwheat flour — $0.50

Total: $21 per week

If you’re used to eating bread with your eggs, try rice instead. Organic eggs are more expensive, but they’re also more nutritious and they often taste a lot better, too.

Lunch & dinner

We eat lots of vegetables; not all veggies and fruit are organic because it’s just not available where I live, but I buy produce as “clean” as possible.

Instead of bread and pasta, we eat rice, legumes, and rice noodles. These are great organic options and they are actually much cheaper than bread and pasta. I buy wild-caught fish and seafood as well as meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals.

Typically, I will cook the following meals:

  • legumes (with some seafood or meat) twice a week
  • chicken once a week
  • meat stews or roasts on weekends
  • fish with vegetables and/or rice three times a week
  • soup twice a week

Here is my lunch and dinner shopping list for a week:

Vegetables and fruit: $40
Fish and seafood: $30
Meat and poultry: $15
Legumes and rice: $4
Milk, butter, and cream: $10
Olive oil, vinegar, spices, coconut milk, seeds and nuts: $5

Total: $104 per week

For about $100 per week, we have improved our meals a lot. We also don’t need to go for seconds anymore, which means we don’t spend more than before. Our food is more nutritious, healthier, and definitely tastier.

I highly encourage you to go ahead and start making the changes you’d love to make to your diet. I’ll also be happy to help in the comments below if you have any question.

Anne Ricci is a multilingual mom of 2 boys and a nutritionist and weight loss coach living in Spain. Her mission with AnnesHealthyKitchen.com is to help women make healthy food choices and feel great in their body. Eat real food, get cooking confidence, and create a body you love with Anne’s 5-Step Healthy Weight Loss Checklist.

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5 Healthy Habits of Frugal People

5-Healthy-Habits-of-Frugal-People

Guest post from Missy of Graceful Little Honey Bee

Americans spend billions of dollars each year on weight loss and fitness products, but being healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Frugal and healthy aren’t words that are put together very often, but in a lot of ways, they go hand in hand.

Here are 5 habits healthy habits of frugal people that will help you stay fit and keep your wallet full at the same time:

1. Cook From Scratch

Cooking from scratch is almost always going to be healthier than buying convenience food or eating out. Fast food is filled with just the right combination of salt, fat, sugar and chemicals to make us feel happy, satisfied and completely addicted.

Even if you’re craving an unhealthy food such as fried chicken, it’s going to be better for you if you make it at home from scratch because you are in control of what what goes into it. Every time you choose to stay home and cook from scratch instead of eating out, your wallet and your waistline will be happy.

2. Go Outside for Entertainment

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather spend my time hiking, running, gardening, swimming, going to the park, than shopping or going to the movies. Besides, taking your dog for a walk is going to do you and your wallet more good than eating a bucket of popcorn while watching a movie.

3. Use Fewer Chemicals

The next time you run out of a product — whether it be window cleaner, cooking spray, or moisturizer — do some research and see if you can find a frugal and more natural alternative.

I basically clean my whole house with baking soda and vinegar — eliminating the need for harsh and expensive chemicals. I also use coconut oil for many things such as lip balm and lotion. I get to save money and feel at peace about the amount of toxins I use in my home.

4. Live Within Your Means

People who spend above their means are also stressed beyond their means. Living a simple and frugal life is not only smart, but also secure and peaceful.

There is a huge freedom in knowing you have enough (and then some) each month. Plus, your marriage and other relationships will be stronger because they aren’t strained by financial pressures. In turn, you will probably sleep better at night.

5. Practice Gratitude

Frugal people tend to appreciate what they have because they know they’ve worked hard and carefully thought through each purchase. Plus, frugal people are prone to focus more on the relational side of life rather than on the material side.

Practicing gratitude and contentment goes a long way in keeping a person healthy — we would all do well to remember that.

Do you agree with this list? What would you add?

Missy is a stay-at-home mom of two kids who is passionate about encouraging woman to live a simple and Godly life. She shares easy recipes, frugal living tips, and spiritual encouragement over at Graceful Little Honey Bee. Stop by and say hello!

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My 3 Go-To “Grocery Budget Rescue” Foods

grocery budget rescue

Guest post from Kristie of Table-Talk

We all have those weeks: Low on cash and high on unexpected bills. We pilfer around like “Old Mother Hubbard,” searching for enough food to keep the family happy until the next pay check comes in.

As a mom of six, I know about those Mother Hubbard days. Over the years, my strategy has come to include a few “rescue foods” that help us get through the lean times when a broken-down vehicle steals from the grocery cash, or when a prescription takes precedence over food.

Although some of these ideas may not work for every family (especially those with special dietary needs or allergies) I hope my suggestions can help some of you get through bill-paying-seasons without feeling deprived.

Here are my go-to “Grocery Budget Rescue” foods:

1. Beans.

Beans are a blessing to a lean budget. You remember the food pyramids from 4th grade Health Class? Well, beans manage to fill up three of the four tiers!

As a vegetable, they are also high in protein (able to sub in as a meat in your menu), carbs, and fiber. There is probably no food more versatile on the planet!

Dry beans make the most budget-friendly purchase of anything in your grocery cart, but remember: they do have to be pre-soaked. Once they are soaked and cooked, you can make them into hummus, soup, burritos, or a main meal.

Black beans are delicious and hearty — especially with some salt and a serving of rice. If you are fortunate enough to have sour cream or vegetables on hand, go for it.

My “cheat” recipe for hummus involves lentils and seasonings, since they do not require any soaking. It’s a great way to sneak in a vegetarian lunch on unsuspecting children. Use corn chips to go gluten-free. And best of all, they really are filling!

Just one word of caution: old beans don’t cook well. The outer shell remains hard while the inner bean cooks, resulting in a very unpleasant and barely edible mess. Eat beans within a few months of purchase, and be wary of dry beans from food banks where they may have been sitting too long.

2. Soup.

Unless you live in the Sahara, you can’t go wrong with a food whose first ingredient is “water.” Right now, my monthly dinner menu includes 20 different soups (all dinner meals). And soup made with beans? It’s a win-win for the budget, and your family’s health will be the biggest winner of all.

My strategy with soup is simple: Variety!

Soup recipes abound on the web, and I’ve surveyed my friends for their favorite recipes. Not every soup recipe will be a family favorite, but eating the same recipe once a month isn’t so bad.

Again, the flexibility of soup is that you can throw in whatever you have on hand. Canned veggies you got half off because they were dented; last year’s peppers from the freezer; and those beans we’ve just been raving about.

Most soup recipes are not “set in stone” like other recipes that must be followed to the letter. It’s even possible to swap out meats — lower-priced bulk sausage in place of that $4.49/lb. hamburger, for example.

3. Oats.

Whether they are steel-cut, old-fashioned, or rolled, oats are generally less expensive (and much more filling) than cereals, instant oatmeal, and all the sugary pop tarts that our kids would love to see us tossing into the grocery cart.

If you are fortunate enough (as I am) to live within driving distance of a store that sells oats in bulk, you are twice blessed. Our Mennonite shop sells them for $0.50 a pound! That’s about as close to “free” as it comes.

Oatmeal often has a reputation for being gooey and glumpy. Ick. Baked oatmeal can be made crispier (we like it “just this side” of burned), even without nuts.

For the weeks when the cash is low and the bills are high, there’s your menu. Soup, beans, and oats to the rescue! And a cheerful attitude to wash it all down.

What are your favorite “Grocery Budget Rescue” foods?

Kristie is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of 6, living in rural Carrollton, Illinois. She blogs at Table-Talk, a practical blog to encourage women.

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