Some days I wake up and it feels like I’ve been living in a blackout.
Five years ago, I was suffering through a job I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and this morning I woke up and I was running my own business.
While it definitely didn’t go down *THAT QUICKLY*, and there were times that I was pulling my HAIR OUT just trying to make a sale…
Most of my success on Etsy happened as a DIRECT RESULT of what I did in my first Six Months.
Last time I checked, I was still trying to wriggle my way out of a job that made me physically ill.
My shop kind of slapped me in the face one day and I’ve pretty much been fulfilling orders ever since.
I haven’t had much time to stop and think.
SOOO…This morning I decided to do a review. And to my complete and utter shock I realized: Between Etsy and Amazon, I made over 3000 sales my first year in business.
I’m not telling you this to brag…I’m hoping you can learn from my experience and make your first year EVEN BETTER than mine.
So you can grow your Etsy business successfully without wondering, “what do I do NEXT??’
Alrighty then, let’s rewind for a moment:
Other than the complete shock of waking up and remembering you’re jobless in a GOOD way, there’s nothing about my success that was an accident.
Yes, it happened MUCH faster than I ever planned, but the point is that it was INDEED planned.
So I’m bringing you my complete (100% planned) guide to success, one step at a time. I’ll take you through each phase of my business up until now.
While I was growing I really struggled with every little decision, but now it’s like clockwork.
I’m hoping this guide will give you some direction just when you need it most!
How to Grow Your Etsy Business More Than Ever in the Next 6 Months…
Phase One: Launch that Etsy Shop!
Ok! You’ve got your shop up and running and you’re so excited! You’ve DIY’d everything: your product photos, your shop branding, your packaging, and a product you love!
It’s time for the orders to start rolling in!
At this phase, you’re sure you’re going to be filthy rich. You are a genius and you know it. You can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and see all the orders you’ve gotten!
What I learned: During this time, RIDE THE WAVE of frenetic energy. Whenever you create something new, you’ll be so excited about it you feel like you could burst. Use this energy to fuel your initial launch and creativity. Create everything, write about it, talk about it, try it yourself.
What I would’ve done differently: I spent a lot of time worried about things that didn’t matter yet. For example: social media. Important, yes, but I could’ve saved some time by waiting a month or two to set it up. Unless you’re already social media famous, it’s just not going to be a game changer at this phase.
Phase Two: What Am I Doing Wrong??
Why aren’t you famous yet? You were sure that you were going to take the world by storm! What happened?
This is the place where a lot of people give up.
Don’t be like everyone else. This phase is completely normal. It’s your reality check that YES, this will be hard work. YES you will have to put in more time and energy. YES you are probably doing a few things wrong, but don’t worry, everyone does.
It took a month before I made my first sale.
I was completely dumbfounded that it would take that long.
What I didn’t realize was that customers need to see your product 7-10 times before they buy. You need to push them over the hump, and give them a reason to part with their hard-earned cash.
What I learned: Making the sale is not as simple as uploading a photo, throwing a description together, and clicking publish.
What I would’ve done differently: At this phase, I just wanted to be seen. I thought that if people saw my product, they’d buy it. So I tried to create as many listings as possible (well over 500 in a month). I knew that more products meant more people would see my shop. More products = more exposure, and that was all I cared about.
It’s not that simple. Online buyers are less likely to purchase because they can’t touch your product. They need to feel like you put time and energy into your product and your business. This is the part where you should start spending all your spare time ensuring your images, descriptions, tags, titles, and shop branding is picture perfect.
Ultimately, you want people to spend money on you, so they need to feel like you’ve spent your time on them. This plays a huge factor in helping you grow your Etsy business!
Phase Three: Oh Crap, People are Buying Stuff!
In the space of three short months, I went from making my first sale to making multiple sales every day. This was partially because I’d put effort into making my shop as seamless as I could. But it ALSO was because I opened a second shop.
For reference: having other storefronts made all the difference for me in my first year. This is something you may want to think about if you’re seeing some success, but not quite making the income you’re looking for. Learn more about how to do it here. When I say I made 3000+ sales, most were from Etsy. But my other storefronts contributed a lot too!
For the first time, I started to get feedback from customers and I was shocked that it was consistently positive. I’d been looking at my products all day, every day, and they just didn’t seem that exciting to me anymore. Why people would like them was beyond me.
But once in a rare while, I’d get some negative feedback. This was completely soul-crushing and usually played right into my insecurities. My entire day would be ruined.
What I learned: Diversify. Don’t expect one platform to give you everything. And never expect a platform to just send you customers. That’s your job.
What I would’ve done differently: Instead of crying over negative feedback, take it as constructive criticism. Negative feedback is a sign something isn’t right. Identify whether it’s with your listing, the materials you use, your packaging, or something that just isn’t clear. Then spend your time fixing it rather than worrying about it. You’ll be confident your next customer will give you positive reviews at the end of the day.
A note on negative feedback: If you have one bad comment in a sea of 5-star reviews, this may be an isolated incident. I’ve had people give me bad reviews for the strangest reasons. I usually contact these customers (politely), and express my concern over their happiness, and we tend to work it out. It’s usually a miscommunication. But that is a signal to me that I need to change my listing to make it clearer.
And don’t worry…when customers read reviews and they see all 5-star reviews and one 2-star review, they know better. They’ll read that bad review and usually think, “Oh this customer is just crazy. This is still a great product”.
Phase Four: Excuse Me While I Go Every Direction at Once
At this phase you’re finally starting to see some success! It’s exciting, and you realize that if you can make $100, what’s to stop you from making $200…or $2000.. or even grow your Etsy business beyond?
At this point I thought, well if people like art prints, I bet I could make mugs too. And tote bags. And anything else that I can print on…
I reinvested almost all of my profits back into the business.
At the beginning of this phase, my business took up a small space in my home office. Within two months, I had an entire fucking house of boxes.
I was selling five or six types of products, all of which required a different piece of equipment. My shop went from the thing I did before work to an all-day task.
What I learned: Whoa there, crazy. Yes, I expanded quickly. Yes, it was the right thing to do at the time. But I wasted a lot of money in this phase. Do your research. Make sure things are easy (and fast) to create. Make sure you can repair equipment yourself. And most importantly…don’t just buy inventory! Make sure that item is going to sell before you invest in it!
What I would’ve done differently: I would’ve created an expansion plan. I needed time to research what items sold, and how many I could make in one sitting. I needed to introduce one or two new things at a time instead of 50. And I needed to be patient. At this phase I was dangerously close to quitting my (horrible bastard of a) day job. And it was driving me to create as much success as I could in rapid succession. I didn’t understand the value of “sustainable growth”.
Phase Five: Crap I’m Drowning (aka Christmas)
Just as I was settling into a routine, Christmas rolled around.
I didn’t think anything would really change. To be honest, I was pretty shocked that people wanted to buy my products in the first place. So it seemed unlikely to me that much would change. I’d make a few extra sales each day and that would be it.
That was NOT IT.
Nothing shows you where the holes in your business are like a ton of orders.
I worked 14-18 hours per day, everyday, 7 days a week, for 28 days straight. I cried at least twice.
If I thought my house was full of boxes before, it got about 200 times worse real fast. My home turned into a factory. Except I was the only one working in it. My family lives over the Atlantic ocean, and my husband basically said “Well, this was what you wanted,” and walked away. (I swear he’s not as mean as I make him sound).
What I learned: I put a cap on my business by not taking full advantage of all the orders I was getting over Christmas. Several items went out of stock while I was waiting for more supplies to arrive, and I had to put the shop on vacation once to catch up with orders. I should’ve been prepared well in advance. If I pre-made stock, I could’ve made more money and had more time for myself each day.
What I would’ve done differently: I would’ve ordered 3x more stock than usual. And I would’ve listened to the internet, which told me to start preparing for Christmas in August. If your intention is to grow your Etsy business, then be prepared!
Phase Six: The Controlled Burn
Christmas wore on me, and the orders didn’t really calm down until the middle of January.
At this point I realized that I was doing everything wrong and it was time to make some changes.
First of all, I needed to free up more time each day. I was spending all day fulfilling orders and talking to customers. But I also needed time for social media, email marketing, product development, shop updates, and blogging.
So I sat down and began streamlining my process. I stated making products in big batches. This meant I didn’t have to make something every day. I started ordering the promotional bits (that were wasting my time). Items like business cards, coupons, packaging, and care instructions.
I bought extra printers to speed up my workflow, and I began deleting products from my storefront. Items that never got ordered, took too long to make, etc.
I used my downtime in February and March to focus on the blog and rebrand all my online shops. I’ve only been in business a year, but I suspect it will be normal to update branding once a year. The re-brand also inspired a bunch of new products. I started to plan for upcoming holidays and sales events by creating those products in advance.
What I learned: This was a strange time for me. I was in limbo. I was making enough money to have a successful business, but I wasn’t making enough to hire help. So I had to find the time in my own schedule. Making time isn’t always simple, but I made it my priority and it was worth it.
What I would’ve done differently: I would’ve taken time off after Christmas. I needed to decompress and plan the year ahead, but I didn’t. So I’m stuck doing it now, when I’m busier and further through the year. Not ideal.
Phase Seven: The Mindful Business
After what seems like a year of running around with my head on fire, I’ve finally settled into a place of sustainable growth.
I’m consciously planning what I want to do next. I research how I want to do it. I ask questions. I’m a patient business owner despite the fact that I’m not a patient human being. I know what’s coming and I know what I need to do to prepare for it.
I’ve started to treat my business like it’s here to stay. I invested in professional photos of all my products. I began developing some amazing Etsy tutorials for my crazy awesome blog readers (that’s you!).
What I learned: You should feel comfortable in your business. There’s more to an online shop than just making money. Think about what will create stability for your business. Plan your path, then make an effort to stay focused on growing your Etsy business. There will always be distractions. Sometimes they’re necessary. Just make sure you always find your way back.
What I would’ve done differently: I’m pretty happy with this phase. Maybe I’ll have more insight for you in a few months. This seems like the most stable I’ve been from the beginning, and I feel good about it.
Get the Traffic Your Shop Deserves
Hey Guess What? Before I quit my job to sell on Etsy, I was an SEO Consultant for a Fortune 500 Company. I used Etsy tags to get my first 500 sales in less than 6 months. Wanna steal my tricks? Try SEO Bootcamp:
Thanks for Reading!
Hi there, my name is Jenni. You’re reading about the Etsy shop that freed me from the worst job I’ve ever had (and a lifetime of working for somebody else).
Find out what went down here.
Hey guess what? The exact tricks that got me 6-figures sales are waiting for you in the Ultimate Guide to Etsy. This is a 40-page, step-by-step MEGA tutorial that will help you strategize your way to more sales.