Guest post from Mandi of Most of the Mist
After reading Crystal’s new book, Money-Making Mom, I was reflecting on the reasons that one of my past money-making ventures had failed.
In early 2014, I had just quit my full-time job to stay home with my two girls. I was looking for ways to contribute to our household income from home. I decided to open an Etsy shop selling monogrammed and personalized gifts. In the six months my shop was open, I had plenty of sales but no profits.
So today, I wanted to share the lessons I learned for anyone who may be considering starting a business of their own:
1. My pricing was too low.
The competition was steep and I felt like I needed to have the lowest prices in order to give myself an edge. This was a mistake. While I did generate a number of orders, it was not profitable after factoring in the costs of commercial font licensing, materials and time.
The takeaway: Don’t aim to be the cheapest price out there. Focus on creating a quality product that will speak for itself.
2. My products were too varied.
I had no plan for what I was going to sell. I scoured local stores for products I wanted to offer. This resulted in random listings with limited inventory.
If something was popular (like personalized “Cookies for Santa” plates around Christmas), I did not have a way to restock before the demand had passed. I also had a negative experience ordering blanks from a company online that wound up being such poor quality that I could not sell them at all.
The takeaway: Know what you are going to offer and if possible, find a niche that you can specialize in.
3. I did not manage my time well.
At the time, my girls were four and one. There was little time to fill orders during the day, so I pushed myself to stay up until after midnight every night.
Instead of getting to work right away, I procrastinated by playing on social media or analyzing my shop stats. The lack of sleep eventually took its toll on me. I felt frazzled all the time.
The takeaway: Set “business hours” and stick to them. It may have to be in the early morning or during your child’s nap time. The important thing is to eliminate distractions and focus on the task at hand.
4. I was a perfectionist.
It has been said that perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. I agonized over every miniscule detail when filling orders. If something was a millimeter off-centered, I would scrap the whole thing and start again.
Likely, no one would have noticed but I felt so much pressure to get it exactly right. These were money-paying customers, after all! While striving for excellence is important, I lost a lot of time trying to achieve perfection.
The takeaway: Realize that no one is perfect, especially when it comes to creating handmade goods. Ensure that you are selling a quality product, but be realistic in your expectations.
5. It was not my passion.
As Crystal says in her book, “…only pick an idea that you have an enormous amount of passion for. Because there are going to be many days—especially in the early stages—when the work will feel exhausting, the hours will be long, and you will need to rely heavily on your passion to keep you going.”
While I was certainly capable of creating the products I sold, I did not enjoy it. Without the necessary passion to help me over the hurdles, I finally decided it was not worth the trouble.
The takeaway: Find something that ignites your passions and gives you the drive you’ll need to push forward when the going gets tough.
While I was not successful in that particular venture, I am thankful for the experience and the lessons learned from it.
If you are thinking of starting your own business, avoid these five mistakes and you will be well on your way to accomplishing your goals!
Mandi is a wife and homeschooling mom of two girls. She is passionate about simplifying life in order to make the most of the time we’re given. She shares encouragement and practical tips for purposeful living on her blog Most of the Mist.
Kim Walker says
Are those braided rag rugs you were making? If so, are you still selling them? Thanks! I’m sorry you had to close your business. It looked like pretty stuff in your pictures!
So many things are designed to get our attention when you get to your computer! The email lists that we are signed up for, auto alerts, etc. And checking stats “for fun” has been a time wasting trap for me as well. Thanks for calling it out! As a mom of two little girls and I have to get rid of all digital alerts if I want to get some results in that precious hour or two of personal project time. Wishing you better luck in other business endeavours!
Excellent article with some great points. I see a lot of places that I need to improve. Thank you for this eye-opener.
I loved your honest assessment of pitfalls to avoid. However, I have found (from experience) passion is an inadequate motivator. Do something! The passion will build, it might take on a new direction, but you’ll be learning and gaining valuable experience along the way. Over the years I’ve invested time in many things I didn’t initially feel passionate about; things that opened my awareness to new opportunities that did create passion. I’ve lived an enriched life, filled with wonderful family and friends and encourage my grandchildren to “just pick something and see where it takes you!” I am a blessed woman and I encourage other women to live in the present, putting forth honest effort, and phooy to being bound by passion! Passion will present itself and when it does you’ll be prepared to run with it! ???
These are great points. I have an etsy shop, and have made 55 sales in the past year. That may seem good at first, but I was pricing too low. I have made no profit off my etsy shop. Thanks for these pointers so now I can improve my shop. 🙂
Heather Turnbow says
Thanks for the great insight! You really do need to love what you do in order to have the self discipline required to generate profit consistently. Cheers, Heather Turnbow
Joan B says
This is a great article. It’s so helpful to see a candid look at pitfalls. Thanks!
Thank you for this article. I have begun to accumulate an inventory of hand sewn and hand knit items and am consider online sales. You’ve given me food for thought that is greatly appreciated!! ?
Thank you! I have been thinking of opening a shop for some extra income.
Does anyone have a site about or post about how to start one for selling digital photography?
Shia Simone says
In response to your inquiry about digital photography, I’ve seen on job sites for STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY.
Nothing like Hawaiian sunsets but images of ordinary things.
Hi Emilie, there are several sites for selling your photos online, but they normally need you to be at least semi professional and have a good camera. Here are some:
shutterstock, 123rf, dreamstime, istockphoto
you can google” buy photos online” then all of those sites will appear.
I wish you good luck 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing. I’ve struggled with my Etsy shop – only one sale, even tho’ my products were viewed often and favorited.
Looking back, I know I wasn’t giving it my all. Rather, I had adopted an ‘if you make it they will buy’ attitude.
Giving myself another six months and going to knuckle down with shop policies, developing my niche, etc.
How ironic! I had been considering starting an Etsy shop with similar items and after much prayer and discussion with my husband, I decided against it. I decided against it for many of the same reasons mentioned in the article. I am a perfectionist without a lot of self discipline (although I’m prayerfully working on that) and I enjoy making the things that I do as gifts for loved ones. I had to be completely honest with myself that all the joy would have been taken out of my creativity if my hobby was turned into a “job”! A few years ago, I would have plunged head first into an adventure like this and would have failed miserably. The older I get, I’m learning to be much more honest with myself and focus on things that I know highlight my strengths!
Niki Roberts says
Awesome points! I think a lot of smaller ETSY shop owners downplay their work because of the initial response that ETSY was nothing more than a home-spun, hobby enterprise when this could not be father from the truth. I had to learn early on that on ETSY you need to be able to know your worth, be exacting in writing your shop policies, and to stand by and enjoy work above all else. I operate three separate shops and could not agree with you more, if your heart is not in your work it will be evident in all you do. Thank you for the article!