TT#024 - What you can learn from a $250k/yr Etsy business...Aug 16, 2022
My wife beat me to online solopreneurship.
10 years ago, she was generating more than $250k in sales making custom bedding for little girls on Etsy.
In fact, she had:
- Hundreds of 5-star reviews.
- A waiting list of prepaid orders 6 months long.
- And pictures of her work that went viral with no promotion.
The thing is, her business was successful for the same reasons most businesses are successful.
This week, I'll share 3 business lessons we can all learn from a wildly successful Etsy shop.
I'll also share one terrible piece of advice I gave her that you can also learn from.
Lesson 1: Do what you love
My wife loved what she was doing.
She'd get giddy brainstorming and testing how different fabrics looked together. She could lose track of time laying patterns out on the floor. And sewing was almost like meditation for her.
Her job gave her energy.
Custom bedding wasn't a "passion," or part of a mission she had in life. But she loved doing it, and that's why building this business was relatively easy for her.
There's a big difference between work you "can do" or work you're good at, and the work you love doing.
When you start building your business online, it's tempting to sell whatever you can. But if you don't sell a service you love delivering, it will almost certainly lead to burnout, resentment, and a lack of commitment.
Lesson 2: Riches in the niches
My wife's audience could be best described as mothers that had:
- Daughters that were less than 10-years-old
- Upper-middle-to-high household income
- A preference for bold designs & patterns
- A "premium buyer" mindset
Did everyone love her products? Nope.
But they weren't made for everyone. She made them for a specific segment of women that had to have them.
That's why they'd pay 5x what they'd pay elsewhere and wait 6 months to get their product! It's also why she still gets requests to do work a decade later.
If she'd tried making her products appeal to everyone, they would've lost the very essence of what made them a "must have" for her target market.
Finding the small market you are most aligned with (and can help most) is how you establish yourself as an expert. Experts get paid more. And the more you try to appeal to everyone, the less you appeal to who you want to work with most.
Lesson 3: Charge what you deserve
My wife ended up charging a significant premium for her products. And she deserved it. She was meticulous with details and didn't compromise quality on a single stitch.
She didn't always charge a premium, though. And her business nearly blew up because she didn't increase them quickly enough.
Starting out, she had no reviews or real proof of how good she was, so she underpriced her products. That made sense to get some initial sales and traction.
But as the sales and reviews stacked up, she only increased her prices a little here and there.
It wasn't long before she ended up buried with unprofitable work.
When her waitlist reached 6 months, she went on to increase her prices by more than 400%.
You know what happened to her waitlist?
Not a damn thing.
The number of people that didn't want to pay that much and wait that long got replaced by people that did. Plus, she found the latter group of customers far easier to work with.
You have an obligation to be profitable. Don't sell yourself short. Ignore the little voice in your head that talks you out of increasing prices when you know you should. And don't forget that as you increase your prices, you need fewer sales to create the same amount of revenue.
The worst advice I gave her...
While we weren't married yet, my soon-to-be-wife wasn't ashamed to ask for me help. And, as an opinionated entrepreneur, I'd offer my input... based on my biases.
The worst piece of advice I offered her?
To turn this solopreneur shop she enjoyed running into a business that could scale.
I figured, if people are willing to pay that much and wait that long for what you're selling... you need to systematize everything and scale things, right?
Hire a few employees, outsource the work, and start figuring out how to 100x this thing!
She did. And she learned that she didn't like managing people, liked doing the work, and didn't want to even 10x this thing.
Take a deep, honest look at what you're doing to identify the work that gives you energy, and the work that drains it. Be honest with yourself. Do you want to create a source of independent income? Or build a business? There's no "right answer." And don't let someone else's biases cloud what you know to be true. That's why I start every engagement now with a practice I call Vision Founder Fit.
There you have it: 4 lessons any entrepreneur can learn from building a business online.
Until next Tuesday, adios!
I’m on a mission to help 10,000 Solopreneurs & Executive Freelancers discover and enjoy a new lifestyle by creating income they deserve from wherever they choose doing work they love.
For a limited time, I'm offering a free audit of your client acquisition system and will personally help you clarify what’s working, what isn’t, and what to focus on right now to start winning your best clients - on demand.