I’ve always been a creative person, and over the past few years I’ve really gotten into making greeting cards. I give them to friends and family for birthdays and holidays, and I get so many compliments — everyone says I should sell them. I have never sold anything in my life. In fact, I am trying to figure out what to do professionally now that my kids are in middle and high school. It has become a priority for my husband and me to start saving for college and retirement — and this requires I go back to work. I left my career as an administrative assistant 15 years ago.
I’ve heard about people making a living by selling their crafts online through their own websites and Etsy. I love Etsy and think this sounds like so much fun! My husband is skeptical and thinks I should just get another administrative job. What do you think?
Letterpressing in Lubbock
Imagine that tomorrow you post some pictures of your cards on Etsy. The following day you get 1,000 orders for your adorable stationery. How would you fill those orders? Do you have the capacity to make 1,000 cards in time to meet your new customers’ expectations? How much profit did you make from each sale? How will you encourage those customers to refer you to their friends?
I imagine you are reading this, running your fingers through your hair and growling: “I don’t know! I don’t know! I don't know!”
Of course you don’t know. A successful business requires a great product, but also tons of research, resources (time, money, smarts, creativity) and resolve. There is so much you need to do before you even consider this venture.
Just to give you an idea of what you’re up against:
· There are more than 800,000 other Etsy sellers.
· The site has 31,388 letterpress listings alone. What makes your cards special?
· The few who make a living by selling their crafts say they do so by working absurd hours, often for several years before turning the slightest profit.
· Starting a business has less to do with your product than the business. You will need to learn about marketing, pricing, margins, accounting, advertising, web design and SEO, tax implications and countless other elements of making a go of it. Your life will be hard for a long time — no matter how much you love stationery. It will likely affect your relationships and even your health unless you are careful.
People start businesses each and every day. Most of them fail. Some succeed. I am not trying to discourage you. Instead, I encourage you to start. Hang out on Etsy’s fabulous forums. Find a few successful vendors and see how they operate. Reach out to them and ask for advice and support. Watch some of the many how-to videos there and on YouTube for how to build a successful online craft business. There is a cottage industry for helping people just like you get going and succeed. Take advantage of it.
In the meantime, get a job. Get your feet wet back in the marketplace and earn a paycheck. I suggest you find something related to your craft ambitions: a gift shop that sells the types of cards you make, or as an assistant to successful craft entrepreneur. This will relieve some of your anxiety about your financial contribution to your family and lend you some of the confidence you need to launch this new venture. Plus, you will be learning about business and crafts — essentially getting paid to research your own enterprise.
Meanwhile, explore whether entrepreneurship is right for you, and start taking steps to landing your first 1,000-card order.
Emma Johnson blogs at WealthySingleMommy. She is a freelance business and personal finance journalist, and mom of two. Send her your questions at email@example.com.