Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

7 Signs Your Business Is Ready to Grow

Full-Time Etsy sellers share wisdom about knowing when to take your shop to the next level.

By Amy Schroeder Jul 25, 2013
Photo by GollyBard

Have you grown your Etsy shop from the bud of an idea into a booming machine? Congrats to you! If you’re at the stage where you’re wearing at least five caps and constantly burning the rope at both ends, you’re not alone.

Maybe you’re in a position to take your business to the next level. But what exactly is the “next level” for your shop, and how do you know if you’re ready to take action — whether it involves treating your hobby like a “for-real” business, quitting your day job, or expanding your solo act into a multi-person operation?

For many Etsy sellers (and many creative small businesses, for that matter), growth is a constant, evolutionary process that occurs at different rates. Gregory Morris’ definition of scaling is based on his desire to progressively build his business into “something more.” His Slippin' Southern shop started as an experimental hobby in 2011 that took up only a couple of rooms in his house. “A year later, my whole home was consumed by it in some capacity,” he says. “That's when you know you're at the next level.”

Diane-Marie Brache-Smith of MissBrache outgrew her 600 square–foot apartment and now has an office space in Miami for her one-woman custom dresses operation. She’s personally made more than 3,000 dresses in the last five years, and her goal for growth is to find an even larger office space and to hire an assistant or apprentice to help with sewing.

Are you thinking about growing your business, but not sure when to make your move? Take a moment to step back, reflect on where you’ve been and where you’d like to be in the future. Then, review these seven signs that may indicate you’re ready to grow your business.

1. Your Heart’s in the Right Place

You’ve got a roaring entrepreneurial fire burning in your belly. You love a number of elements of your creative process — whether it’s, say, brainstorming innovative product ideas or masterminding clever marketing strategies. You’re psyched that you’ve turned your passion into a business, and leading a successful business is your definition of a dream job.

Joe Livorsi of JL Metalsmith says he works a lot of hours on his jewelry shop but always jokes that he’s retired because he spends every day doing what he loves. “Being a one-man-show requires me to wear a lot of hats, but it doesn't feel like work to me,” he says. “I've learned that you get out what you put in. If you sit back and expect success to happen, you will see your views and sales decrease. Being proactive is important to growing your business.”

Pictured clockwise from top left: Gregory Morris, Diane-Marie Brache-Smith, and Joe Livorsi each run drastically different Etsy shops, but share a kindred entrepreneurial spirit that has enabled their success.

2. You Totally Know Your Strengths

You can learn a lot about running a business when you wear multiple caps, right? Because you’re the unofficial President of Product Development, Chief of Customer Service, and Master of Marketing, after a while, you’ve developed a pretty keen understanding of what you’re darn good at (and what you’re not so hot at). That said, do you know which tasks you’d delegate in the case that you’re interested in hiring employees?

Because Diane-Marie wants devote most of her time to her strengths, which includes creating new designs and patterns, her goal is to delegate light sewing, packing, and organizational tasks to a part-timer.

Amy Borrell

3. You’re Efficient, but Time Is Not on Your Side

You’ve streamlined your production process to an art or science in that you know precisely how long it takes to make an item, process an order, package it up with a thank-you note...repeat. Because you’ve got every step down pat, you’re confident that you could teach the process to someone else. Now, if there were only more hours in the day.

In Gregory’s case, he found that the best way to grow his business was to make items that he could easily replicate. “It was too time-consuming for me to make original items over and over,” says the New Orleans seller. “You want to be able to make and sell the same item time after time if you want to turn this into a full-time job.”

4. You Know Your Brand Like the Back of Your Hand

And not only that, you know your target market like nobody’s business.

If you’re not 100% sure who your target audience is just yet, it’s okay — building a brand is a journey, not an overnight achievement. For advice, read How to Find Your Target Market by full-time Etsy seller Brenda Lavell of Phydeaux Designs and Branding 101: How to Build a Memorable Etsy Shop.

5. You Feel Excited and Scared at the Same Time

Are you exhilarated and nervous about what’s going to happen next? If so, you’re experiencing what most small business owners frequently feel.

Shortly after opening Home Studio in 2008, Stefani and Mark McCune were approached about wholesale possibilities and by magazines for press opportunities, which opened more doors. “It was a little scary at first, but with our retail background, we understood some of the terminology and what was usually expected through wholesale,” explain the California jewelry sellers, who have more than 36,000 Etsy sales. “We then found sales reps, which again increased our knowledge about wholesale, and we’ve also done trade shows that introduced us to mentors that we could ask questions and advice.”

When asked about their work schedule, Stefani and Mark McCune of Home Studio say they invest anywhere from 40 to 80 hours per week, depending on the time of year. “We spread the work out so we can raise a family,” they say. “Most of the day we work in two different rooms, which makes for a happy marriage and work partnership."

6. You’re Earning Enough Profit to Pay Your Bills

Plain and simple, it’s not smart to quit your day job until your business profits cover your living expenses. As a microentrepreneur, consistent income is not 100% guaranteed, so weighing financial necessity against sales and the time investment required to meet those sales is important.

7. You Can Visualize Your Future

Whatever your growth entails, it feels like the next logical step. You can visualize your professional path because you spend time thinking about it. For example, Gregory’s vision for Slippin’ Southern’s rate of growth is a series of attainably ambitious goals. “For 2012, I planned for a wholesale growth year, and I've achieved that pretty well,” he says. “You have to have a vision for what you want your business to become. Whether or not you write it down, you have to check yourself from time to time and ask, ‘Am I achieving the goals I wanted to achieve?’”

For more tips about setting goals, read 3 Easy Steps for Managing Time and Reaching Your Goals.

Are you ready to take your Etsy business to the next level? If so, we’d love to hear all about it — share your story in comments. Also, stay tuned to the Seller Handbook blog for more insights about growing an Etsy business. In the coming months, we’ll share advice from full-time Etsy sellers along with strategies and tools for business development.

Author

Amy Schroeder

Amy Schroeder started her first business, a women’s arts and DIY magazine called Venus Zine, in her dorm room at age 19 and later sold the company. Her goal is to help creative people develop their dream jobs. Follow her on Twitter @amyschroeder and on Instagram at Instagram.com/TheVenusLady.

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