When I made the decision to start an online business I had no idea what I was doing how I was doing it, I just wanted a simple online business. I also just thought if you list it they will come….hmmm not so true.
I’m not here to talk you in or out. In fact, no matter what I am glad I did this and loved it. I have made the sad decision to close the shop in 2019. I will explain why later.
I started out on Shopify and really got very little page views and with in 3 months made the decision I could not keep going like that and researched Etsy and decided it was a good place to start and would consider Shopify if I could build the business. I also travel with my shop to quilt shows.
Etsy has reasonable fees, honestly better than my Shopify fees if I remember correctly. It has been over 2 years. It’s simple to list, Shipping is easy. Lots of traffic. For a hobby business this is a good place to start.
I put an incredible amount of time into the business for the amount of money I make. I can’t speak for everyone but when I travel pretty much everyone says the same thing.
Why? There is A LOT of competition! Let me say that again LOTS of competition.
Thats not to say you could not be successful doing this but if your expectations are to make 100,00- a year doing this hmmm I am doubtful, unless you are Missouri Star. Again theres a lot of competition and many shops have been on line for a while and have strong customer base that will spend the extra money and continue to buy from them vs finding new shops. Again when I travel I think everyone is making minimal on this business. WHY?
Quilters are aging! Time and Time again I hear I don’t need any more fabric, I’m using my stash. When you go to the shows really look at the age of people walking around.They are aging, on limited income. Speaking of limited income this is a hobby and therefore non essential. So even though the are some great things going on in our economy the reality is a lot of people are just barely making it. I live in New York state and rarely do I sell to anyone in my state, even the north east to tell you the truth. Fewer people getting into it as well.
- Do not buy existing lines that have been out- these have never done well for me unless you bought them at a last chance price and offer them as last chance price. If the line has been out 5 months and still at full price I can’t stress that enough not to buy it.
- Keep in mind when your buying if you love a particular line I promise you 100 other shops love it and are buying it. (lots of competition!)
- Look for different things. The things that are odd in my shop do well. At this time the shop is active and I won’t disclose exactly what is doing well. But think out of the box. Current trend is English Paper Piecing. I have done well with my page views with those products
- Keep current with popular designer. Going along with EPP, Jen Kingwell does well , especially live for me. Not everything though so don’t go crazy and purchase huge amounts,
- You need to know and use social media!!! I struggle with this big time, It’s hard for a 52 year old who really didn’t learn much computer stuff to do it. I do however love Pinterest and am spending all of my time figuring out Pinterest. I strongly suggest doing a blog along with your shop. My blog isn’t doing crazy great but I am always dumfounded as to how many page views it gets.
- In your blog, showcase new fabrics, people like bundles, even ones that I put together, kits and show the pattern done up. I will say people are complaining about the increase cost of patterns and very few do well. I sell the same ones over and over. I will not be purchasing any more patterns because I have seen a decrease in sales with them, even live.
- Always buy stuff that you love just in case your stuck with it! For everything that does amazing in the shop 10 things do not. That is honestly the root of the problem. A few things do amazing but the reality is a lot of the shop does mediocre to poor. A perfect example of that was Riley Blake Designs A little Sweetness by Tasha Noel. I thought that I would have no problems with that line, geesh I can’t remember how many listings were under that line, It has been painful getting rid of it because again so much competition.
- There’s mixed messages about having large inventory vs small. I have to tell you the more listed the better the shop did, more page views more sales. And that large inventory is about $25,000. I don’t even consider myself having a large inventory to tell you the truth, but the shop did do better with higher listings. At this time I have over 600 listings, so not crazy big by any means.
- Have a back up plan to get rid of this. Thats a lot of money in that inventory. I do travel with the shop which in and of its self its a boat load of work and very little reward. A good show is 10 x’s your booth fee. The last show I went to, my booth fee was $750.00, I promise you I did not even come close to my 10 x’s. And I did better than many. When I say I make about 11 cents an hour I’m not kidding, Its a lot of work, but the one benefit of traveling is getting rid of a large amount of inventory at one time. Sometimes that means more to me than anything!
- Shipping, ugh this one I struggle with. The reality is there is no great way of handling this. I see big changes coming too, every year the post office has raised rates. For me the post office is the cheapest way to ship. I am concerned that amazon is starting their own delivery and I see that raising the post office fees even more. In my shop I made the decision to do flat rate shipping. Sometimes I lose money sometimes I break even, once in a while I come out ahead. But it seems to be the simplest for me
- I reimburse extra shipping all the time, another reason why I like Etsy, its simple to do that! Make sure you establish an account with the post office and order all kinds of flat rate and priority boxes, my favorite way to ship is in a padded flat rate envelope for $7.10. A lot gets in there its super secure. I dread flat rate envelopes, they are flimsy at best and I tape the crap out of all of them. Learn to plug in different packaging when you making your shipping label, check out regional A shipping especially if your shipping close by, sometimes just plain priority shipping is cheaper than a flat rate box again especially if your shipping close to you! But order those supplies to have on hand.
- Find out which distributor offer free shipping and what the requirements are for the free shipping, By all means that free shipping is a lot of times my profit (remember things that don’t sell well, lower your price because you did not pay to ship that item to the shop!) Also it’s not just you looking at free shipping distributors, So those that do it again there are lots of listings for those companies.
- My philosophy is I would rather someone else have it then me, Holding out for your price doesn’t mean your going to get it. The fabric is getting older and less likely to sell because everyone who wanted it has bought it.
- I buy very little holiday fabric. Some sells great, Christmas Delivery from Riley Blake Designs sold out for a great price, however I still have Moda Vintage Holiday Bundle. I can’t predict the popularity of lines. Actually Moda put out something Similar to RBD Christmas Delivery and it has not done well.
- Try to give a little thank you. I give my thank you both to Etsy sales and live sales and all my live buyer love it and are grateful that I did it because they say no one else is doing it any more. It seems to have helped my sales.
- It takes a long time to see increased sales. I have definitely seen an increase in sales this year from last year and fairly consistently each month. That may change as I start selling out of the things that have done well and stop adding to my inventory. So if you decide to do this be patient.
My reasons for leaving really is that it is a lot of work and the real benefit was some tax benefits and I did get some amazing things at cost. I made some money, but not enough to say all the time and effort is worth it. I think it has affected to personal/and family life because it does require so much time, in a way that I never even considered. It’s been anxiety provoking because of the volume and cost. For me the time isn’t necessarily the day to day orders, its really trying to figure out whats selling, how many listings will I compete with if I purchase this item? How to get rid of things, constantly searching to see if I am competitive. Researching the designer and their popularity. researching shows and traveling is extremely time consuming, I usually start 6 weeks before I travel. I found it easier to bring the fabric cut. I usually bring 1 and 2 yard cuts and then 4 yard of a main type fabric. If I got something as a last chance I will bring that in 6 yards and offer for a great price and promote for a backing. That does do well live.
I would never talk you out of it but I would strongly encourage thinking really, really hard about this, Its a difficult decision for sure. It’s a lot of money and a lot of disappointment. If you choose to go this route I totally wish you all the best and great success and hopefully you’ve learned a couple things from me and that I helped your business with some positive changes.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Sewing day for sure! Colleen