How to Live Your Dream Life Making & Selling Handmade - Part 2: Making a Plan
This podcast episode is part of a 4 Part series, "How to Live Your Dream Life Making & Selling Handmade,” where we share our story as working creatives and describe the 4 things you need to do to live your best possible creative life as a maker or artist.
Now, onto the podcast episode...
In our experience, growing your business isn’t just about one thing. It’s about the perfect combination of multiple things, like making the perfect tasting lemonade. You need to know who YOU are as the maker, you need to have the skills, you need to have a plan, and finally, you need to have the mindset.
So, today, we’re going to share why you need a plan and how to make a plan that fits your personal work tendencies and your lifestyle.
When we first started our Etsy shop, we thought we were doing all the right things, but we’ve come so freaking far, it’s unbelievable. I look back on our first shop listings and I kind of cringe at the photos, the keyword tags, and the listing descriptions. There was just a lot missing.
And, actually, what you guys might not know is that Studio Sisters is not mine or Katie’s first etsy shop. Each of us has had previous Etsy shops in the past, but without any of the incredible results that we have now. Let me tell you about mine. So, I used to run a vintage Christmas ornament Etsy shop that was kind of a hobby for me. I collect - obsessed with really- vintage Christmas ornaments and I used to buy and re-sell ornaments that were vintage and cool but not my personal style. If you don’t know, and you probably don’t because it’s so random, I know but vintage Christmas is actually a huge niche on Etsy. So I listed and sold ornaments on Etsy and I did actually kind of okay at it, but the thing is, it was a very seasonal shop. I sold all of my products from October to January and that was pretty much it. And, I could have done so much more if I’d known more about keywords and search engine optimization. I would just use one word keywords like “vintage” or “ornament.” I thought my photos were pretty good but I could have done better with my product descriptions and I certainly didn’t have a clear idea of who my target customer was. If I knew then what I know now about Etsy’s algorithms and how to define a target customer, I could have gotten way more traffic and sales to my shop.
I also want to say that I started an instagram account for my shop because there are many, many vintage collectors hanging out on instagram but the account never took off because I had no idea how to engage with and grow my audience. I would just post ornaments with captions like “love this set of pink shiny brites, available now in my shop!” and I didn’t understand how to grow my following each day. All I did was try to sell to my audience, and I didn’t show the vintage collector, ME, behind the brand. Everything was so random. I’d list 10 new listings in one day and then not touch it for a week or two until there were sales. I’d post all my instagram posts on the same day with a few cute hashtags. There were so many missed opportunities in my old Etsy shop for growth because I didn’t have a plan.
So, let me talk about what has changed between the vintage Etsy shop I ran and Studio sisters:
We have a defined Dream Customer so we know exactly who we’re selling to
We have more than 100 listings in our shop
We know how to use keywords SEO to drive traffic to our shop
And we have an authentic social media presence with a rapidly growing following, a 35% growth rate month over month because we show up for our audience through our daily and weekly engagement workflows and our planned out instagram content.
And all of this is part of a long term growth plan for our business.
You need a plan for your business because without one, you’ll never truly get to see huge results. You want and need a plan that makes you excited, that motivates you to do the tasks in your handmade business that you hate doing like taking photos or SEO, and helps you evaluate how to be productive and focus each day.
This is why you need a plan, so you can get results in your business and not just throw stuff to the wall every day to see what sticks.
It’s also so, *so* important to create a plan that works for you. We are all so different. We told you guys on instagram lately that I’m an introvert and Taylor is an extrovert, for example. We have some very different personal tendencies when it comes to our work.
If you’ve never heard of it before, there’s a wonderful book called The 4 Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin, which describes 4 different types of people’s personalities and how they’re motivated. For example, some people are motivated by outside expectations from other people and society, while some people are motivated by their own personal inner expectations. Some people meet both outer and inner expectations, and some people, Rebels like Katie, tend to resist all expectations.
Knowing what your tendencies are can help you define what actually works for you as a business owner and help you make a plan you’ll actually stick to. For example, I like to use my planner while katie likes to just focus on 1-2 important priorities each day.
So, first, you need a plan, and second, the plan has to actually work for you. Don’t try to force yourself to stick to a crazy schedule or to do list if it’s not in line with your existing tendencies.
Next, how to figure out what goes in your plan, right?
Well, identify what your goal is for your business.
- ...expanding into T-Shirts in your shop
- ...learning how to get more traffic to your Etsy shop and making more sales
- ...starting a brand ambassador program for your business.
It could be anything, but now we need to define what investments are you willing to make to achieve that goal.
What do we mean by investments??
Well, you can invest in your business in two ways toward towards your goals: time and money.
These are both super important things so we want to use them in the smartest way possible to accelerate your progress but also to make sure you’re running your business in a way that feels right to you.
Let’s talk about time first.
You might be thinking yes, I have the time but I don’t have money to spend on growing my business. But time does have a cost. The more time you put into your business, that’s time you aren’t spending on anything else including time with your family, friends, and hobbies. So, you want to have a plan that has balance with your time.
It’s easy to get super excited about jumpstarting your business and say, “oh, I’m going to work 100% of the time on my etsy shop” and get burned out in just a couple weeks and disappointed because you didn’t see huge results. Small businesses take time to grow and if you want to be successful, you need to commit to 6 months to a year of building a brand at a minimum.
I’m not saying you have to work 40 hours per week for a year for $0 dollars to finally make money. That wouldn’t be worth it! I’m saying you need to be willing to be consistent in your time commitment, whether that’s 4 hours a week or 25 hours a week, for a year, even when the progress is slow.
So, we want you to finish this sentence: I could comfortably spend ____ number of hours each week in my business and not lose balance in my life right now to work towards my goal.
That’s a start. You can plan to dedicate more and more time later on or change that goal, but let’s just start with a time commitment that you can do.
The other part of your business plan is money. You need to make a plan for how much money you can invest in your business.
Okay so unlike time, I’m not going to ask you what you could spend right now from your budget and not feel it. Actually, we’re going to dream up the list of things you need to invest in to grow your business.
It might be equipment. You might want to buy a $400 vinyl cutter and a $200 t shirt press. You know you could make more sales with additional equipment. Or, maybe you want to invest $2,000 in a website.
Or, you want to pay someone to critique your existing Etsy shop or have them teach you how to get better and you’re thinking that will cost you around $4,000. You know you want to pay someone for their expertise because you don’t know where to start.
Whatever your thing is, you’ll need a plan for the money part.
If you’re thinking, I don’t really want to spend anything on my business, I just want to grow it organically and keep it small so I know what I’m doing 100% of the time, I used to think this too. I was so afraid to spend money on my business or myself as an artist because what if I “wasted it” right? Well, you have to spend money to make money and you can’t grow without investing.
Your dream list is a list of investments that you make now so that you get returns later.
So, let’s talk about taking a course for example, (Learn all about our online course, Dream, Create, Sell, which teaches you how to make more sales & grow your etsy shop, here.) Let’s say, just for example, however, it’s a $500 course you want to take because you want to improve your photography skills.
So, how can you plan to afford this? Here’s a couple ideas to break it down:
$500/6 months = $83/month or $20/week.
Could you afford to budget for $20/week for 6 months to save up to buy this course?
That seems pretty doable considering it’s the cost of a couple of trips to the coffee shop or one large pizza.
Or, if you say hey, I have $500 in reserves and so I could spend this money, but I’m on the fence about actually taking that money out of savings and spending it on my business. So, what would you need to make your money back from that course? Let’s say it takes you 2 months from the time you purchase to go through the course and start seeing an increase in your sales. So, we’re going to say for the first two months, you committed to the work but the return is $0. Then, you begin to see an additional $50/month and gradually $500/month in sales. So, those are really conservative estimates for sales, but you could make your money back from the course within 6 months and put that $500 back into your savings AND also have increased your skills and your sales, which is a huge win.
As you draft out a plan for your business you want to know:
I can spend _____ of hours each week on my business for 6 months.
My investment goal is _________ [the amount of money you want to spend] and I want to use that money for __________ [the things you want to pay for].
I can make that investment in myself and my business by doing ____________ [the actions you can take to make the investment].
My end goal is _________________[your business goal].
The end goal is so important. This is your big dream. You’ve got to have something you’re investing time and money towards. And these big dreams are so exciting, we want to hear about your dreams guys! Tell us what they are on instagram, send us a DM @shopstudiosisters.
That’s the second thing you need to do to live your creative dream life, make more sales, and do what you love. Make a plan for growth with your time and your money. Get clear on what you want. Next week on the podcast, we’re going to dive into part three, which is how to improve your skills to improve your business and grow as a maker or artist. We’ll talk about some of the most critical skills you need to make meaningful income online and how to identify where you need to improve and where to start.
We’re so excited to help other Etsy sellers reach their biggest possible goals, just like we have!
In Dream, Create, Sell, we’re going to teach you exactly how to:
-Stand Out in your Niche
-Identify Your Dream Customer
-Take Beautiful Product Photos
-Price Your Products to Make a Profit
-Increase Your Etsy Sales Conversion Rate
-Do Keyword Research that Actually Works
...and so. much. more.
Sign up for enrollment and you’ll get instant access to…
- Killer lessons on product photography & Etsy SEO
- Our daily & weekly workflows to save you time
- Our exact growth strategy for building your shop
- + EVERYTHING ELSE we use to grow our handmade business