Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
Since I graduated from college in 2003, I’d been working in the jewelry industry as a bench jeweler. For a few years I worked in a dark room with no windows. I hated not seeing the sun or knowing what the weather was like outside, so I eventually decided that this wasn’t my ideal life. But during that time I learned as much as possible, expanding my skills and knowledge of different jewelry techniques and learning more about the industry itself. I knew that I wanted to work as a jeweler, but the idea of starting my own business was very scary.
My sister introduced me to Etsy. Seeing so many people selling their work, and some supporting themselves fully through their Etsy shops, was really inspiring. After lots of thinking, dreaming, and praying, I dove in head-first. I quit my job in May 2009 and opened my Etsy shop at the end of June.
How did you prepare to transition into full-time Etsy selling?
I quit my job before I had my shop up and running, so I needed extra money to pay the bills and buy supplies while I tried to get things rolling. I spent a lot of time researching different Etsy shops and reading articles on the Etsy Blog.
What is your favorite part of the process in jewelry making?
I really love designing new pieces. I think it’s fun to see the progression from sketch to finished work. I also love doing custom orders — I’ve received amazing requests and have heard a lot of wonderful stories from my customers. That’s another great thing about Etsy — customers can work directly with the artist. When people see my work, they think about animals and objects that have meaning to them (or to their loved ones), and they’ll convo me about making a custom piece. It’s really satisfying to make someone’s idea a reality.
What are your best marketing tips?
I think my best marketing has come through blog features. The most important key is to know your target audience. If you aren’t focused on the right group of people, it can be a waste of time and money. I also did a few giveaways on blogs that featured similar work, and the responses have been really great. Also, make social media your friend. I get a ton of exposure while learning what people like the most in my shop.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
The most popular pieces in my shop are definitely the sloths. They’re unique and cute, and people really seem to like them. Of all the sloth items, the Happy Sloth Necklace has been my best seller by far.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
To be honest, I actually don’t heavily promote my work. The little promotion I’ve done was pretty successful, but it’s hard to tell, and sales might not increase right away. As long as I’m getting my work out there for more people to see, I feel good about it.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Managing my time well can be so difficult, especially now that I have a six-month-old son. It’s hard to keep a schedule with a growing baby. Luckily, my husband also works from home, so he can help me with the business and the baby. Even so, keeping a good balance between work, me time (what’s that?), and family can be very difficult.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
When I started, I didn’t realize how much more there is to do beyond actually making jewelry. I knew I would need to do my own bookkeeping, packaging, shipping, ordering, etc., but I didn’t realize how much time that would take away from being in the studio. My work can be super scary at times, since it doesn’t provide a steady paycheck. Just dealing with the unknowns of the day-to-day can be very stressful.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I love the freedom that I have. If it’s a nice day, I can go outside and enjoy it with my husband and son. That personal freedom is invaluable.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
Take advantage of the information that’s out there. Learn as much as you can and look at other shops. Stay open and flexible and don’t be afraid of change. You don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Keep in mind that everybody’s story is going to be a little different. For me, quitting my day job first was my only option. I had to make it work. That’s not for everybody.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
I have lots of ideas for new pieces that I can’t wait to get into the shop. I also want to extend my line to include more unique pieces: earrings, rings, and bracelets for each animal/object.
Anything else you would like to share?
I just want to thank Etsy for this wonderful opportunity, and say thank you to all of my amazing customers! I’ve “met” some really great people through the Etsy community. I also have to say that the only reason for any of this is God, and to Him I am forever thankful.
Thanks for sharing your story, Mary. Check out her work in the Seller’s Items below.
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