Thursday, February 23, 2012

Things I've Learned From Running an Indie Biz: Part 1

I opened up my Etsy shop over a year ago and I went from knowing basically nothing to sharing my "biz know how" and such within the Etsy teams, Etsy Hearts Beads, I captain and the one I'm a leader of, New and Not So New to Etsy.  I'm not saying I'm some kind of selling pro, that's just not true, but I've learned a great deal over the first year of selling my handmade jewelry and art pendants.  I've stumbled, I've fallen,  I've even been so frustrated I wanted to give up.  But I didn't, I brushed myself off and kept going.  Now my hard work is starting to pay off and it's becoming easier to increase sales and heck I'm even famous (within a small community, lol).

I wanted to share with you some of the valuable lessons I've learned and I hope you can gain some insight as well or avoid some mistakes I've made.  This is just part one and there's oodles of valuable information that I've learned so stay tuned for more posts, however many that may be!

  • Know the legalities of running an indie biz.  I'm one of those "do it now and figure it out later" kind of people.  Oh boy.  I hit the ground running and just went for it not having a single clue that I was supposed to register my business with the county and oh apply for this little thing called a sales tax permit.  Thankfully I got my head out of the sand and did all that before I got in trouble but it's best to have all that information up front.  Check with your CPA, if you see one, about things you can claim and what you can't, and other things you need to know for your state and federal regarding taxes.  They should be able to tell you where to apply for sales tax permits and your tax ID number (your state's official website should also have info on small business permits/tax permits etc).  Some states let you file with your personal taxes, some don't and you probably have to collect sales tax too.  Also call your local city hall or county clerk's office to see if you need to register your business or purchase a license even if you don't have a brick and mortar store. 
  • Keep track of your accounting.  Again, I decided to shove this off to the side.  I waited almost half the year before I thought "hey maybe I should know how to get my tax stuff ready".  BAD!  I have a craft show buddy who took pity on me and showed how to do my spreadsheets and to inventory and all that jazz.  I was smart enough to keep receipts and invoices for everything but do you know how long it takes to catalog the cost of each and every individual bead and finding for over 6 months worth of start up supplies?  Yeah basically forever plus a visit to the doctor for carpal tunnel (at least it's tax deductible, lol).  I now keep up with my cost of materials sheets, sales, fees, expenses, travel, etc every week or two.  I even know exactly how much each item I have for sale cost me make so I'm not scrambling to figure it out when it sells.  That's a huge chunk of stress off my chest.  Here's link to snag yourself some free accounting worksheets to keep track of your sales and fees from Megan's Creative Blog.
  • No matter how awesome your stuff is, it won't sell itself.  This should be obvious, and I did know that much upon opening shop.  What I didn't know was how much work it was.  There's blogging, Facebook pages, email signatures, Etsy teams, and more.  Each one of these comes with their own set of do's and don'ts.  I started out promoting my Facebook page by posting it on various beading site's Facebook pages and tried to sound as un-spammy as possible.  This was before I joined my first Etsy team (which I now captain).  Most importantly, SEO is your best friend and can work for you if you use it right.  If you're unsure of it check out this Etsy blog.  I'll get into more about getting your shop seen in a later post.
  • Don't be an annoying self promoter.  We've all done it before and the hardest part is finding the right balance of promoting your work.  If all you ever do is plop your listing's url all over it's just plain annoying.  Do it too little and everyone will forget about you.  "Oh she has an Etsy store? When did that happen?"  On my Facebook page I've found it's better to post new items once a week, maybe twice.  I also make sure my "likers" know I'm a human being as well.  I share what I'm doing, I share treasuries, I post interesting quotes, I ask what they're doing this weekend.  I apply the same idea with my blog.  I used to promote myself waaaaaay too much.  Now I tend to forget to mention a new listing, which reminds me I need to do just that! Lol!  It's way more interesting to share DIY crafts you've done, a fun day you had or a trip you took, advice, etc.  The same goes with Etsy teams.  If you just post your new items and nothing else people are bound to ignore you.  Even in the teams I'm not terribly active in I at least favorite somebody's item, post a comment or play a quick game/contest if I post a new listing.  Nobody likes a person who "posts and runs".
  •   Take yourself seriously even when others don't.  This is a really tough one and it's something I will have to deal with probably forever.  You are bound to come across at least one person who regards your business as if you're a kid selling lemonade even if you have big kid business cards and everything.  Unfortunately for me this came fist as a few nameless people I know closely.  It hurt.  It was very discouraging.  I wanted to slap someone.  But I didn't.  I'm an artist and I don't have a "payroll" job and it's the most rewarding thing I've ever done even if it doesn't quite pay the bills right now (that's what hubby is for).  I'm proud to tell others what I do and I do not care what they think of it anymore.  I get just as much scrutiny over being a stay at home mom (why is it so weird to not work a "regular" job? It's not like I sit around all day drinking margaritas) so I just chalk it up to "they're jealous" to make myself feel better if I need a little boost.  What really matters to me is that the most important people in my life don't think I'm a kid selling lemonade :)
Big girl biz card from

Before this gets too long I'll stop it here for now.  I have lots more to share so stay tuned for part 2!
Check out all of these lovely treasuries I've had the honor of being in recently!  Thanks!


  1. I completely agree with all of these, especially about self-promotion. A huge part of growing my shops and quitting my day job was trying a zillion different methods of promotion. The more people who see your items, the better!

  2. Excellent advice Heather! Especially about taking yourself seriously.

    No, I'm not just making cute little handmade gifts for my friends. Yes, I want to make money off of this. Yes, I am an ARTIST, dammit.



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