With the start of new year, most Etsy shop owners begin taking action on their BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious, Goals). I’m definitely not the exception. Over the past year, I decided that I wanted to slowly grow my Etsy business and move it out obscurity and into the light. I’ve done this other businesses I owned in the past and they all seemed to outgrow me very quickly because I was not properly prepared. And in what felt like a mad dash, I turned around and sold. Thus my goal of SLOWLY.
I always try to find ways to mitigate the risk of this thing spiraling out of control. So my goal it to share some lessons learned. This post is the first in my series of “Taking Your Etsy Shop to the Next Level” where I will share not only some ideas to help your prepare to take your Etsy shop to the next level but also some resources for taking action once you’re ready. So let’s get started with Part 1 – Preparing for Growth.
Preparing for Growth
There are a many factors that you have to consider if you really, truly want to take your Etsy shop to the next level. You need to really figure out first and foremost, if you have the the funds/budget necessary to secure the resources you need to grow. We’re talking $$$$$ (dollars and cents). Do you have an advertising budget? Do you have funds to purchase bulk materials? Do you have funds to pay for help? These are just a few of the expenses you need to be able to cover.
I start off with the topic of money because I feel it’s important. You can start a business on a shoestring, but you can’t grow it on a shoestring. I don’t care what anyone tells you or tries to sell you on – you need cold hard cash (your own or someone else’s) to grow your business. The are ways to raise money for your planned growth, are are just a few:
2.Apply for a small business grant/loan through the SBA.
3. Secure investors locally (through friends and family).
- How much product can you produce in a day/week/month?
When you are looking to grow you need to know what your production capabilities are. Most business owners who look to grow will outsource their products in order to produce the quantities that they would need in order to fulfill orders. This isn’t a bad thing – it actually gives the business owner time back to focus on other important areas of their business, such as networking, marketing and hitting the pavement. Other business owners will hire staff to help with production, this may require a move to a larger space and training several individuals on various task. This also becomes a matter of letting go and delegating. I’m a bit of a control freak so letting go is always a bit harder for me as I know it is for many of you out there – but there is freedom in letting go. Trust me
- Have you protected yourself and your product?
I’m talking about business insurance, product liability insurance, trademarks, patents and copyrights. These are important and can be kind of hard to understand but there is free help out there, start with the Small Business Administration (SBA) in your local area. This is also one area you shouldn’t skip – most retailers will require you to provide proof of insurances for your product. And, although you may not need a patent for your item, getting a trademark and/or copyright can provide an additional layer of protection from potential knock-offs.
Branding is one of those things that I personally seem to always be working on. For the longest time, I didn’t even have a logo for my Etsy shop. Your brand is your name – it’s how people will recognize you. Have you ever played the Logo game where you need to figure out which logo belongs to which company? Those are brands that have been built from the floor up and started much like you and I; now you can recognize them just by looking at their logo.
However, a brand is not just a logo.
- It’s your visual identity – how customers identify you in a crowd of products. It’s your logo, your product packaging, your shipping materials, it’s the quality of your product.
- It’s your business promise/mission – what you stand for (we all stand for something), your mission, your quality promise to your customers.
- It’s your customer service – how well you interact with your customers. It’s how long you take to reply to customer questions, how you handle customer issues, how long it take for you to ship out your orders. Setting customer expectations is part of your overall customer service and brand.
Let me give you an example. I’m not only an Etsy shop owner, I’m also an Etsy Shopper, I tend to buy on impulse not because I need something but because I found something that I absolutely fell in love with or suddenly realize I need ( always seem to need washi tape and zippers – don’t ask). I gauge a shop by the product that I receive from them. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve anticipated getting my package in the mail to only be highly disappointed with the quality and the conditions in which the order was shipped. I’ve received packages that smell like they sat in a smoking lounge for years or products that are just absolute pieces of cr@p – things that fall apart or that were created with cheap materials. Packaging that is non-distinctive and or just in horrible shape (through no fault of the post office). This is the individual shop’s brand which in many ways is sad.
Your brand and your customer’s perception of your brand can make or break you. Your brand can mean the different between increased traffic to your shop and word of mouth referrals. Take some time to evaluate your brand – where do you want to go with it, what is your message, how do you want to be perceived. Then take even more time evaluating the quality of your products, have others provide their honest opinions. Create test groups and get feedback on your products and branding – this can done for free using the resources you already have available.
Most Etsy shop owners are one man/woman shows – we do it all becoming jack of all trades, masters of none – except our craft. Knowing when we need to get help is important and being able to secure quality help is even more important. You need to know who you can turn to in a pinch. Friends and family are always a good start. Figure out who are your biggest advocates? Identify them and put them to work (for free).
For example, I can get free help from friends and family for things like applying labels to product, putting boxes together, pulling and packing when I have a ton of little orders or one large order. However, if I needed someone daily – I would need to hire help (which requires funds/budget).
When you hire help you need to check with our local State Government to make sure you meet all their requirements and avoid a slap on the hand and/or hefty fines. You will need to do things like :
- an Employer Identification Number (This federal and can be done online or over the phone in just minutes.
- Worker’s Compensation Insurance
- Setup payroll and record keeping
- Verify employment eligibility of anyone you hire
These are only some of the important tasks you need to consider before you embark on taking action to grow your business. However, don’t think that you need a whole year to do these tasks. If you buckle down and are committed to growing your business, you can complete most of these tasks in a matter of a few week and while doing so, you can also put a plan of attach together.
Your plan of attach should include those things you will do to grow your business – things like introducing new products, establishing a new communication program for customers, deciding whether you want to expand from within or branch your product out to be offered by others.
So you have some work to do for now. In Part 2, I’ll cover Marketing and will also provide some killer resources. Until then, happy planning.