Climate Change

Hopefully we all do as much as we can at home to preserve the environment – multiple kinds of recycling, donating things we’ve outgrown to the charity shop and repairing things instead of just binning them. This year I’ve started to think more about these issues and how they relate to my responsibility as a seller. Before I ramped up my Etsy this time last year, I always reused branded boxes for my orders as I didn’t need too many, but as demand became higher and I felt like I needed to up my game I bought some nice plain white ones for my shop, and as has as always been my business philosophy (until now) the cheaper the better – maximum profit is my goal otherwise what’s the point of having a business.

I closed my Illustration shop straight after EML for a wee while to rethink my overall strategy. Improving my shops environmental footprint and ethics is one of the key elements I want to address. My greetings cards have always been printed on white inkjet card bought in bulk cheaply, with non sustainable inks because vegetable ones are expensive, envelopes are not made of recycled paper and then they are put in non-biodegradable cellos and a board back envelope. That’s a huge amount of non-ethical things all going into the production of one tiny card. I have been toying about how to make my products more responsible and my timing couldn’t be better.

My studio buddy Lynne has started a Social Enterprise called Re:Craft. Re:Craft is an arts and crafts materials reuse and recycling shop based in our studio. Lynne accepts donations of second hand, part used arts and crafts materials. Re:Craft also takes dry recycling items such as wine corks, cardboard tubes, tin cans etc. they are then resold at reasonable prices. It’s a brilliant iniative that’s going so well and guess what Re:Craft also stocks? – used packaging materials. Re:Craft has made me think about my business, not only products which I’m working on but also how I wrap and present my orders.

It’s important that things from my vintage shop arrive unscathed but why can’t the packaging be reused. Can my customers begin to understand why things may not look so pretty, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I REALLY CARE. Surely I just have to let people know why I’m doing it and then they’ll understand. With that in mind I’ve designed some simple stickers to pop on my boxes letting people know why they are receiving an order in a reused box. Hopefully there will not be any reduction of satisfaction in the experience of buying from my shop and customers still feel their order is special and considered.

I’m not going to be able to totally ditch the packaging yet, we have a physical shop and things need some protection when displayed on the shelves but this year I’m going to work on not only order packing but also my actual products. I guess that’s happens when you grow up in business, money is not the sole thing that matters, being true to yourself is much more important. The caring aspect is a key thing that makes you different from all the big boys. Do things have to be more expensive, well yes unfortunately that is probably going to be true, but hopefully my customers will understand why and will support me in this transition.

Reusing old box rules

Find all old address labels, bar Codes etc on the box and use a permanent dark coloured marker to completely black out all bar codes and labels.

Check that the box is still solid and not torn or crumpled, check the packing tape is strong enough to hold.

Pack your items well and secure the box properly. Place your new shipping label over the old, blacked-out address.

Download the printable sticker sheet here to use on your own reused packages to let people know you are saving the earth by reusing a box.

Download to print sticker sheet here

And follow Re:Craft here to keep up to date 

PROFIT vs SANITY a lesson (hopefully) learned

 

These past couple of weeks have been extra arrgh in the world of my Etsy shop. There have been bad delays caused by a backlog of USPS postage over the Christmas period, I was pretty good at getting all my orders done daily so the majority of my December orders went out on the day they were purchased, which is no mean feat when you work fuller than full time. I went to the studio every day after work, worked late when all I really wanted to do was go to bed. Went to the post office on my lunchbreak or asked the men in our work mail room very nicely if they could pop my parcels into the outgoing mailbag. Everything seemed to be OK, a few grumbles about delays but orders seemed to arrive in time. As a seller you feel a great sense of relief when the last Xmas parcel is out of your hands and after a year where I fulfilled nearly 400 orders on top of everything else, I felt pretty proud of myself. There’s been one lost order, a couple of returns, one broken cat and one case opened against me by a lady that didn’t speak English and had put the wrong postal address on Etsy. I refunded and received the parcel back via “return to sender” – case closed within an hour, so no real harm done. That is until the last week where everything seems to have gone wrong and I’m wondering how (or if I want to) swing it back.

I think the problem lies in the fact that this year I never put my shop into vacation mode for the festivities. I just increased the shipping times, so I never really afforded myself a proper break. I had someone buy a huge order the night before my drive back to Kent for a week with my family and instead of taking the lead, cancelling and letting myself enjoy my holidays, I informed them that I would be away and could either refund or post on my return. They chose post on return but seemed to never remember this. This is my next lesson if my Etsy shop is to survive, that is how I deal with convo’s. I have to be stricter about not answering them at all hours, weekends and during holidays. I was answering convos to this person about their order on Boxing Day, New Years Eve (15 mins before the bells), during a posh meal for Kevin’s birthday and generally all throughout my week off. Sometimes money just isn’t worth the hassle and this is something I need to really learn if I am to carry on. This one order meant I had to go back into the studio earlier than I had wanted and has been nothing but stress ever since.

A case has been opened against me and this has made me really think “Can I do this and do I want to do this”? How do I get over this, the case will be hanging over me for at least the next few days, as the parcel can’t possibly physically be delivered before then, so my shop is essentially in lockdown anyway, no orders until I either cave in and refund or I can stick it out until the parcel arrives sometime later this week. I have provided my evidence, it has clearly been shipped, what more can I do but wait and worry. Do I put myself first and end the stress, my asthma is bad and I’m not sleeping properly, do I just get this off my plate and chalk it down to ( a very expensive) lesson learned. Sometimes I guess the worst experiences are the ones that make you review, change and grow.

Do I make a new resolution with myself and trust my gut, if don’t feel an order is right then I just cancel, no matter how profitable it may be. Ultimately if it’s going to kill me like this one is, it’s not really worth it. I had a bad feeling from the start and I really should have acted on it. Do I insist all large orders are sent tracked or put a limit on the number of items sent in a single order. I had a few very big orders last year and they always make you extra nervous, but customers are generally nice and understanding. Most people realise the items are coming from the UK and allow the time necessary for it to arrive.

This is traditionally a really busy time for me in my shop and today I would usually be getting back into serious work mode. It’s my first payday of the year so I budget and I knuckle down hard and start work on listing stuff. My boyfriends birthday is the 12th Jan, so for us, this is our New Year, it’s when we start our resolutions, go back to the gym, stop drinking, eat healthily. Normally for me this is a super exciting and optimistic time. This week I have to have a real hard think about my strategy for the future. I think the biggest lesson learnt will be to give myself a break from the shop. I’m constantly trying to get stuff posted, every day I have parcels on me, an ikea bag is always in my possession and I very rarely have a clear order list. I need to be stricter, post all orders on certain days, no inbetweens. Still being professional but not bend over backwards, work hard at my shop but not let it become all consuming, post orders on time but not be continuously carrying them around with me in the hope of filtering off a few here and there.

I’m going to take a wee break from the shop until this case is all sorted and to rethink how I make everything work for 2018. All open orders will be processed today and then I shall deactivate my listings for a while. Hopefully very soon I’ll feel ready to reactivate them again – confidence rebuilt, new attitude, reviewed policies and raring to go in 2018.

Catch you soon

 

 

 

2017 Etsy Shop Ramp Up

I’ve had an Etsy shop since 2010, I set it up when I was on maternity leave, but I had to go back to work when Marnie was only a few months old so never really did anything much with it. I’d get sales and occasionally add more stuff, it was a nice surprise to sell something but I never really considered that it could make a huge difference financially, as I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly.

This year I was threatened with potential redundancy (which btw never happened) and decided that I had to start really making my small business work, just incase. It’s been such a hard task and all consuming but I think I can say I’ve managed to turn things around, so I thought I’d just write a quick blog post on what I’ve ramped up in my store in 2017.

(Fingers crossed) next week, I shall hopefully reach in my Etsy shop, double the TOTAL amount of sales that I made in the whole of 2016, which is very exciting.

Obviously I don’t sell on Etsy full time, I don’t rely on the money, I have a monthly wage, so I know this makes my Etsy experience different from others who’s shops as their only source of income. With a full time job, child, house to keep (kind of) in order, Glasgow Etsy Team and then actually packing and sending the things I sell, there isn’t too much spare time left to work on the shop, so I’ve had to be clever and very organised with my time. Due to the unpredictability of my job, all of my work on my shop is done early in the morning or when I get back home, which is hard, it’s really difficult not to just give up when you’re tired and just watch telly instead. I have to be clear with myself about what I’m trying to achieve and setting a financial goal is the easiest way for me to keep focussed.I set myself a target of paying off a loan by the end of the year (which I have already done, hurrah).

So now the Etsy part…

To kickstart the makeover process in January I assessed all the things already in my shop. I retook some pictures, rejigged my shop sections to make more sense and completely started from scratch with my SEO, using Marmalead to help generate keywords, which when you’re selling one off vintage items can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to think of. If you haven’t used Marmalead before I would recommend it, I don’t have a lot of time to research search terms, so the £15 a month Marmalead costs, for me is a total no-brainer. I also removed items I didn’t feel were a good fit for my brand anymore in order to streamline my shop and make it make sense. This whole part of the process took about a month.

In February I set myself a goal of how many items I wanted to have in the shop, it needed to be manageable but enough to get myself noticed. I decided to increase from 200 to 600 items, meaning that I will tend to sell at least a couple of things a day. In the grand scale of things that isn’t a lot of sales, but is the right amount for me to be able to cope with and also continue to make a financial difference. I’ve been closely noting down my goals and “to do’s” and have had to be very organised. I have been working most nights until quite late, either to get parcels wrapped or to replenish the shop stock on Etsy, and by the end of February I had an inventory of 600 items.

I’ve been tracking my accounts this tax year in Quickbooks to make sure that tax return time is quick and painless, and have been fairly good at updating it every day. It’s really user friendly and although it does cost a monthly fee, it was by far the simplest app I stumbled upon and it is easy to update instantly using my phone.

Come March my sales had increased and were becoming quite regular, at least one sale a day and sometimes much more, that was one major goal achieved – being able to count on regular sales.

April, May June and July, my real work was very busy so I just carried on topping up the shop, keeping my items around the 600 mark and my sales remained steady and dependable. This is when I achieved goal one – paying off my loan. A new bigger goal was introduced – saving up for a new kitchen.

August I decided it was time to start thinking about the big Christmas push. I had to plan not only how to make the most of the holiday season but also how I was going to cope with a possible rush of orders on top of everything else. I have been furiously photographing, photoshopping and writing descriptions for items to add for the festive period and they are all sitting in my drafts ready to go, I’ve set myself a target of releasing 10 listings a day, and with any luck that will mean that not only do I surpass last years sales by a mile but that I will have by far my most successful period by a long shot since I joined Etsy. I have tried to be as organised as possible and have made sure all my packaging is bought and logically organised in the studio for Xmas, hopefully I won’t have to worry about stocktaking until well into the new year.

Throughout September I have been checking and organising my physical shop items, lugging heavy Ikea bags of stuff to the studio every day and putting them safely away in my storage boxes. This part of the process alone is very time consuming, making sure you have correctly noted which box an item is in so you can find it easily when it sells. I’ve failed at this a couple of times this year and had to search through 15 huge boxes for a tiny miniature china cat that looks pretty much the same as all the others in my shop, obviously I get quite angry with myself when this happens. I am very nearly done with this sorting part and my spare room is almost now back to normal and not an Etsy hellhole, I have an estimated few more days on this and then that’s the back broken on the truly hard work. I can’t wait, it’s been a slog and now it’s time to wait for the orders to come in and to move onto the next massive challenge (which will be the subject of my next blog post) – Etsy Made Local . It’s been a truly busy year but a satisfying one, and one where I can really feel proud of myself.

Have a good month and see you in the next post!

 

The Business Bakery -100 Day Goal

I started doing the Business Bakery’s 100 Day Goal on the 1st January this year. I don’t have a lot of time outside of my day time job, but really felt the need this year to ramp up my Etsy business to the next level, and this plan seemed perfect. You set out how to achieve your end goal by making a series of micro-actions, my aim to be getting to 800 items in my vintage shop and pay off a small loan I have with the profits. This to me seems achievable by the 7th April this year. Today is day 52, so pretty much halfway through and I’m sitting at just below 500 items in my shop with the rest sitting in my drafts ready for tagging and titling. I’ve increased my sales to 1 a day in my vintage shop which is pretty good going for me, especially for February, and I also have a clear plan in my head on how to keep up this momentum for the rest of the year.

For the next 48 days I will be sorting and stocking my other shop and getting it to work and yay, my loan is going down quite considerably. I’ve loved doing the 100 Day Goal so far and have found it totally achievable to keep up with, which is always the difficult part for me with these things. There are encouraging emails every day and an inspiring Facebook Group of motivating, fellow participants all trying to achieve different end goals. I would thoroughly recommend doing something like this to everyone out there, as long as you are honest with what level of achievement is possible for yourself from the outset. I shall report back at the end with how I got on but now it’s set in stone on my blog, I can’t possibly allow myself to not to achieve my goals.

Follow the Business Bakery on twitter here >> for handy business hints and tips, and join the 100 Day Goal here>> The next one starts on 1st May 2017.