Seller Handbook

Advice and inspiration for successfully running your Etsy shop

Seller Handbook

Quit Your Day Job: Polarity

"This isn't a race — what's truly yours will be there when you're ready."—Cat Ivins

By Amy Schroeder Dec 11, 2012
Photo by [Polarity](https://www.etsy.com/shop/polarity)

Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.

I've been operating my Etsy shop, Polarity, for five years. I fabricate magnetic, interchangeable lid lockets from recycled steel car parts. I have another Etsy shop called Uncorked, and my studio name is Olive Bites.

Photo by Polarity

The intention behind my studio has always been doing more with less and using upcycled and recycled materials in new and beautiful ways. I created Polarity when I found a drawer of blackened steel car parts in my husband's truck repair shop. I found some small metal pieces and started thinking about jewelry. I could picture the Polarity Locket within minutes, but only in my head because I couldn't weld and had no metalworking experience. It took me a couple months to develop the skills I needed and get the locket just the way I wanted it. My locket looks simple, but clean lines leave no room for error.

Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.

I left college soon after having my daughter and then took a job as a bank teller. I was good at banking and was promoted over the years to vice president. After about 10 years, I was burned out and left to do something more creative and authentic, with no clear idea of what that was — then I panicked and took another banking job, which I quit in a month.

I got stressed. I got depressed. Finally I got quiet. I meditated. I cleaned out my house, my car, and my life. I gave a lot of stuff away. I made space for something new to find me. During this same time, my mom had become ill and come to live with us — it turned out to be her last year and a total gift that I got to have this time with her even though it was crazy stressful.

Photo by Polarity

I started a business selling from mall carts during the holidays — I also sold things I made at craft shows during the year. After a while, I thought it was time to go back to school, when my niece showed me Etsy and I just fell in love with it. People making things with their own hands and making a living by sharing those makings with other people — it was exactly the way the world was evolving and I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

What steps did you take to prepare for transitioning into full-time Etsy selling?

When I opened on Etsy in 2007, my goal was to make $400 a month, which was what I needed to go back to school. By the time I had the money, I no longer had time to go to school, which was okay, because I had already found what I was looking for. My ex-banker "start a business advice" for people is to start out part time while still employed. Once you're making about 50% of the income you need to make the leap, then leap. You can almost surely double your income with another 40 hours. It took me two Etsy shops and doing shows and wholesale to have a sustainable income.

What's your favorite part in the process of designing jewelry?

My favorite is creating something new, especially since I do so much production work, though I have grown to appreciate production work as a kind of meditation. You can't be thinking of anything else when you are working with fire, so it's totally centering!

Photo by Polarity

What's been your most popular item or line to date?

My artist collaboration lockets. It's been a great way for me to take a niche product and market it to a wider audience. I now collaborate with about 75 artists from around the world.

Photo by Polarity

What are your best marketing tips?

I'm certain that one of the ways my business has grown is from creative tithing. From the beginning, I've tithed (given away) 10% of my profits back to the creative community. I do it through Etsy, Kickstarter, Kiva, and other ways. In the beginning I was mostly tithing my time by mentoring, but I think at some point you have to work with money — it shows gratitude for what we have been given and faith that there's more out there for us.

Photo by Polarity

What tool or technique has been most effective in getting buyers to your shop?

  • I definitely depend on word of mouth and have a lot of repeat buyers and many people searching for my product by name.
  • I have "send a friend discounts."
  • I have a monthly free lid on my blog, and I always ship an extra free lid with every order — I believe in the power of free and think it helps people to become emotionally attached to my stuff.

What’s the hardest part about running your own business?

Balancing everything. Working until we collapse, get sick, or burn out is maybe okay for occasional short-term projects, but not over the long haul. I want to make a life as well as a business — it's a challenge.

Photo by Polarity

What's the most exciting thing that's come of selling your designs on Etsy?

I've been in catalogs and magazines and am in dozens of stores and museum gift shops. I'm shipping an order to the Smithsonian Institute today, but the most life-changing stuff that's happened to me are the friendships I've made with other sellers. Some of the most amazing people on the planet sell on Etsy!

What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?

  • You have to love what you do, and I mean the process of making your craft, not just the idea of having your own business. The best maker businesses are probably created by people who love both.
  • Make space in your life for something unique and totally your own to find you and put the necessary time into your skill set and branding. This isn't a race — what's truly yours will be there when you're ready.
  • Don't seek perfection with your work.
  • You need other people — you can't do this alone. Working alone is the fastest way to failure, I think. Life just isn't going to support you in this. You need to put energy into others and receive energy back. I think of this as water-cooler time — you need some or you go nuts.
  • Know your intention — why you do what you do — and let it guide your decisions.
Photo by Polarity

Anything else you would like to share?

Do the work you're passionate about. Maybe you don't know what this is yet, and that's okay. Life is a process — just start doing whatever it is you're already doing with passion and your right work will be magnetically drawn to you. I'm a magnet expert, so trust me on this.

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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