Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your shop.
Hi! My name is Ann-Marie and I am obsessed with all things paper and crafting! I worked for American Crafts for two years in Utah, but am now in the process of moving back to my home state of California. I run a little Etsy shop called "Ann-Marie Loves Paper" where I sell die-cut prints, custom stamps and other crafting supplies.
I read on your blog about turning your hobby as a scrapbooker into a job when you were hired by American Crafts! Congratulations! Was it difficult to transition from being creative on your own time to being creative for a living?
Working a creative job in addition to running a creative business on the side can be a little tricky, but definitely manageable if you are excited about what you are doing. I find that the hardest part is dealing with the strict schedule of a regular 8-5, Monday through Friday job. My dream would be to set my own hours and work from home. That way, I could get my work done when I feel most inspired (usually late at night!) and not have to adhere to anyone else's schedule.
What inspired you to take on another creative pursuit with the opening of your Etsy shop?
I have always been a huge fan of the Etsy community and inspired by the wide range of sellers and products available. A few years back I had an Etsy shop dedicated to handmade hair accessories, but I felt it had run it's course so I stopped listing. Then last year, I decided to give Etsy another try, but this time with my favorite medium: paper! Being able to create things that I personally love and use all the time has made it so much more exciting and fulfilling for me as a seller. I love dreaming up new product ideas and seeing them to fruition.
I really love the die cut prints in your shop. Each has a fun quote, and whatever color/pattern you place it on peaks through the letters. How do you choose which quotes to use? Do you pick spur of the moment, or have a book of favorites that you flip through?
When it comes to choosing quotes for my prints, it's actually very selfish. I only choose phrases that I personally want to display in my home. The quotes usually come to me randomly, be it a favorite line from the show "Arrested Development" or a general phrase like "You and Me." There's really no rhyme or reason to it! Haha!
I know you are a big fan of paper, like myself. What are you top three paper favorites right now - particular products, favorites shops or lines, trends, projects, creative people...
Paper is definitely my one true love when it comes to crafting. A few things that have caught my attention lately include:
- The Wanderlust run by Danni of Oh, Hello Friend. It takes every ounce of willpower for me to not buy one of everything in her shop!
- Anything hot pink, be it craft paint, twine, or washi tape, I can't get enough!
- Paper + Parcel on Etsy. Her simple photo styling, custom-designed invitations, and awesome selection of office and crafting supplies keeps me coming back for more!
Thank you, Ann-Marie! Please be sure to check out Ann-Marie's shop and blog. I purchased one of her die-cut prints a couple of weeks ago and couldn't be happier. The print itself is awesome, and Ann-Marie's packaging is equally fun. Two thumbs up from me!
Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your shop. How did you come up with the shop name Painted Fish Studio?
Hello! I’m Jen Shaffer and my Etsy shop is called Painted Fish Studio. I make handmade books and goods with paper and Polaroids.
In college, I became drawn to fish as a decorative element, and I’ve never been sure why. At that time I created a little business called “Painted Fish Art & Design” and I made greeting cards, and hoped to also use the name for graphic design work when I graduated from college. But when I graduated, I jumped into a career in IT and abandoned my creative work for about 6 years. When I realized I needed a creative outlet, “Painted Fish” came back but I changed the last part to “Studio” which felt more fluid.
Your shop is filled with lots of fun paper goods - handmade journals, jotters, and cards. Have you always been a fan of paper?
Yes! I grew up on a hobby farm without a TV, and we spent our indoor time drawing and reading books. When I was 10 I created cards and started a little store in one of our farm’s outbuildings. I even created catalogs that my gramma ordered from! Making paper goods for retail has always been in my blood.
Thanks! : ) When choosing Polaroids for cards, I first go to my favorites, and then from there I scrutinize my choices: Why would someone send this out? Is it because of a color or color combination? Is the subject matter interesting? Would I personally send it?
When choosing which Polaroids to use for the magnet sets, I usually have 10-15 Polaroids I’m selecting from, and my focus is on creating a collection that works together as a whole. The individual magnet needs to be compelling (example: it must be a recognizable landmark if it’s a set of city magnets) but all of them must look like they’re meant to be displayed together. Sometimes it takes days to narrow down the choices!
Where do you make most of your products for your shop? Do you have a little nook tucked away somewhere in your house / take over your dining room table / have a room dedicated to your crafts?
I do the majority of my work in my dining room, which has the best natural light and open space. I have a big table to spread my work out on, and I create little piles of projects. It’s steps away from the kitchen which is handy when I need running water when working with glue. I keep my tools on the table all the time, but everything is easy to sweep up if I want to eat or entertain on it.
Where do you seek inspiration for creating new designs and new products? How do you get yourself out of a dreaded creativity rut?
I try not to force new ideas to come, because when they don’t I get frustrated. Many of my ideas generate when I’m out walking my dogs: it’s the only time in my day when I am unplugged and my mind can wander freely.
When I’m in a creative rut, I ride it out. I try not to be hard on myself, and when I’m not coming up with new ideas I take that as a sign to step back and do other things: read, rest, relax.
If you are not already following Discover Paper, today is a good day to check it out! I am excited to be offering a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a Mixed Paper Journal, Scrap Pack, and Vintage Theater Tickets. All you need to add is some photos and you've got a complete scrapbook! Giveaway is open until Monday, March 12 at 11:59pm (PST). To enter, please see this post on Discover Paper. Good luck!
I'm excited to start up a new feature today - shop talk! For the next month or two, I'll be starting off each week with tips and tricks for running a successful Etsy business. I'm definitely not an expert and opinions will often vary, but I've been selling on Etsy since 2007 and can certainly share my own experiences. Hopefully those of you with Etsy shops will also jump in and share some of what you've learned along the way!
I am going to start with the basics today - setting up your shop. Opening an Etsy shop can be attractive to any artist / crafter / vintage lover looking to share their hobby with others, as well as those hoping to bring in some steady income from their talents. However, the process can sometimes be a little overwhelming or frustrating leading you to put it off for awhile. I've broken down the process into seven simple steps. If you are one of those putting off opening a shop, commit one day to each step and you'll have your shop up and running within a week or two!
Step #1: Pick your product. What are you going to fill your Etsy shop with? This might be a no brainer for you. If not, consider the following when making your decision. Obviously pick something you are passionate about. Make sure there is a market for your product, but also make sure that market isn't oversaturated. Think about the going rate for your product and whether this will cover your supplies and labor. You don't have to sell your product at the same price as other similar shops, especially if your supplies are more expensive or technique is more intensive, but there is a limit. It's really hard (although not impossible!) to sell a t-shirt at $100 when most others are in the $20 - 30 range, no matter how unique. There are some crafts I enjoy making, but don't list in my shop because the price I could charge just isn't enough to cover the supplies and time that goes into it. I think it's important to be realistic with yourself, especially if profitability is important to me.
Step #2: Name yourself. Choosing a shop name is important and incredibly hard. Unfortunately I don't have a quick solution to the naming game, but there are a few things you'll want to keep in mind. Your shop name must be available. Check on Etsy, but also do a Google search. Is www.yourpotentialshopname.com already being used? Pick something that is easy to remember and easy to spell. It can be beneficial for your shop name to directly relate to what you sell, but be careful not to limit yourself. You might only be interested in selling greeting cards right now. But, what if you want to add journals, calendars, and other paper goods later on? Are you still going to be happy with your Cards by Cathy shop name? (No offense if this is a real shop name!) Sometimes a shop name with room to grow will serve you better in the long run.
Step #3: Snatch up your accounts. As soon as you're ready to commit to a shop name, register with that shop name on Etsy but don't stop there. Also sign up for an email address with your shop name. I'm a big fan of Gmail, but there are others out there as well. Also consider signing up for a blog or website with your shop name, even if you're not ready to use them yet. It's a big bummer to get ready to jump into blogging and realize someone else already took your shop name.
Step #4: Register your shop. This is probably the least fun (and most intimidating) of all the steps. Most states, as well as many counties and cities, require that you register your small business. The regulations vary widely by location so I can't give specific advice, but do yourself a favor and do the research now. A few Google searches will usually lead you to the information you need. Read the paperwork, fill out the forms, and don't be afraid to call or visit if you have questions. Most of these departments are actually pretty friendly in my experience. If you still can't figure it out, consider contacting your local branch of a group like SCORE or Small Business Administration for free and knowledgeable advice. It's better to tackle all of this now and ensure you're in compliance before you start making sales.
Step #5: Make your shop pretty! Now you can get back to the fun work. You can start setting your shop apart from others with a professional and creative design. You'll need to design a shop banner and profile picture. You can either DIY or hire a graphic designer. If you decide to take on this task yourself, this Etsy article has all of the technical information you'll need. Be sure to follow the image size guidelines so your images don't appear pixelated and/or distorted. You can use any photo editing software you want, but I like Picasa (free from Google) and Photoshop Elements (came free with my laptop). If design isn't a strength of yours, don't be afraid to purchase some design services from someone else! You can search Etsy for many, many affordable design services. Spending $50 or less can get you a professional shop banner and profile picture that may end up contributing to much more in sales.
Step #6: Photograph your products. In my opinion, having strong photographs is essential for a successful Etsy business. Because you are selling online, aside from your written description, it is your photographs alone that need to both attract customers to your product and convince customers they want your product. Etsy has a long list of articles to improve your photography. Start by learning your camera. You don't need a fancy camera; you just need to know how to use yours to the best of its ability. You can read the owner's manual, but I am a visual/audio learner so I prefer to watch YouTube videos. Seriously, this quick video on DSLR basics really helped me understand my camera's basic features. Also focus on consistency. Whatever you choose for your photos (white backgrounds, wood table, etc.), stick with it for all of your products. Having similar photos adds a lot of cohesion and professionalism to your shop. Lastly, turn off your flash! Natural light can be in short supply during the winter and when you're at work all day, but is crucial for good photos (unless you have a good light box set up which I've never been able to figure out).
Step #7: Set your prices. Pricing can be a pretty personal aspect of opening a business. Finding the perfect price point is a little tricky. I try to find a price that is in line with what others are selling similar products for, but also adequately compensates me for my supplies and time. Many, many shops (myself included!) underprice their products when they first open, in part to make sales, even though too low of prices can make a customer leary of the quality. When determining my prices I consider all of the above. After I have a potential price in mind I think to myself, "Would I be happy to make 100 of these at that potential price?" If your goal is to run a successful shop, you are going to be striving to make multiple sales a day. You need to ensure you're happy selling multiples of your product at that price. If you realize the time it would take to make those 100 products is not worth the revenue you would be taking in, it probably isn't worthwhile to sell even one at that price.
That's it. You're ready to open up shop! If running an Etsy shop is something you've considered, I encourage you to give it a try! Unlike a brick and mortar shop or even a craft show booth, the start up costs are low. All you need is some time and a few dollars to list your first items.
If you've already gone through this process, do you have any other advice on starting out? What do you wish you would have known from the start? Any words of encouragement for those still a little apprehensive? Please share!
Hope you've enjoyed the first installment of this feature! If there is anything you would like covered, please don't hesitate to let me know and I'll do my best. If you've learned something from your own experiences that you would like to share, also let me know! I'd love to have others jump in on this discussion.
P.S. Shop update tomorrow morning at 8am Pacific!