Monday, March 22, 2021

I Started Selling on Etsy When In Law School and Never Looked Back!

How I Went From Law School To Making Money On Etsy

Let me be honest.  Law school was not my best part of life.  Granted, I got excellent grades during my first year, transferred to a more prestigious law school, and impressed many of my professors with my exams.  However, my heart was not in the law.  It was during this period of life that I decided that I wanted to do something more creative to offset the oft-mundane study of law.

I saw a segment on Etsy and was immediately intrigued.  I imagined making something super cool and getting a ton of sales, but then reality hit me and I realized that I was never really a crafty type.  I had long seen myself as a writer, not an artisan, and I had no clue at all that I should sell on Etsy.

As the days passed, I thought a lot about Etsy.  Law school wasn't cheap, and living in New York City was very expensive.  The legal career was taking a dive at this point and many of my fellow students were literally scared to death that they would not be able to graduate with a job.  I must admit that I felt the same way.  Even graduates from the top schools were having a hard time finding work.

How I Started An Etsy Pinback Button Business

I decided that I needed to find something to sell on Etsy.  I needed something that I would be passionate about and enjoy doing.  I couldn't just throw something random on and hope to sell it.  It needed to be something fun.  What was it though?

After experimenting with many different ideas, my wife and I came to the conclusion that Pinback Buttons would be a great thing for us to sell.  I had always loved inspirational quotes and thought that they would sell well on buttons.  When I started researching pinback buttons, most of the pinback buttons were based on pop culture or television shows and movies.  I wanted to stand out in some way.  

Getting started on Etsy was slow at first.  But it didn't take me long until I got our first sale.  What a rush it was to actually sell something!  Now for the fun part: figuring out how to ship it to the customer in a cost-effective manner.  We didn't really try sending anything out and wish we had, because we were shocked that sending a little 1.25" button was a parcel.  You couldn't just throw a couple of stamps on an envelope and send it.  No, sending a pinback button would cost close to $3!  This would become a thorn in our side for a while until we started to figure out free volume shipping, which our store now offers for orders over $15.

After figuring out shipping, we were starting to see some orders coming in.  As we added new products to our shop, the sales continued to rise!  A few days after creating a new design, someone would come along and purchase one and sometimes more.  We were thrilled when we had our first big sale, of close to $50 in buttons!  Wow!

We made a cross-country move from New York to Seattle and took our shop with us.  We started doing well in Seattle and sold a big $200 order to an event at the Google headquarters and it was a big turning point for our shop.  I never imagined that big companies would notice us or order a lot at once.  It was super exciting! 

After a year of living in Seattle and growing our shop, I decided that my heart was not in law.  I was let go of a legal assistant job and decided that I wanted some more adventure in life.  We had a young child and I had often thought about going overseas to teach English.  However, I knew that would mean a big change to our Etsy shop.  I found a job in Ukraine and decided that we would ask my wife's sister to take care of the shop for us while we were out of the country.  She was excited to do so and we left.  

How Our Etsy Shop Began to Flourish

In Ukraine, I spent most of my time teaching, and the Etsy shop kind of stagnated.  We didn't really add anything to our store and sales were mostly level.  Around Christmas, sales would go up a bit, and then the rest of the year, everything kind of went on.  A big change happened when we decided to return to the United States.  I began to add a ton of new products, and our shop really started to bloom.  

Upon returning to the US, I was seeing a lot of extra income on Etsy and many people were interested in our products.  I had started adding a lot of new themes, such as travel, hiking, and more vegan/vegetarian style pins.  People were loving them!  Sales were through the roof as we moved into a small converted travel trailer and turned it into our office.  

I loved that office.  It was so full of light and had a very long table to work on.  I had a mini-fridge behind me and a comfortable bed that I could go read on when I was done with orders.  But, things changed once again as we moved to the Washington coast and we changed offices.  This was the biggest period of expansion, as we began to add many social justice pins that sold like crazy during the 2016 election.  We had shops, cafes, bookstores, museums and comic book stores asking to buy from us and we were making triple of what we normally did.  It was one heck of a ride!  Sometimes we would get an order for a wedding, funeral, or something else and it was always exciting to see people buy these huge lots of buttons.  

Many of my former classmates and people I talked to online during law school never understood why I left the world of law.  But, Etsy replaced that.  I spent a ton of time building my store.  It took years of fine-tuning listings and staying up to date on Etsy SEO.  Even to this day I am constantly redoing listings and adding links into my listings or updating titles and tags.  It is a neverending job.  I have found that when I tweak Etsy, sales increase--so I keep doing it!  

Now, I can't imagine working in the legal field.  Selling on Etsy has been a blast, and it has helped me to learn a ton about starting and creating a business.  At one point we were in the top 500 Etsy stores out of close to 2 million shops!  That was a huge milestone for me.  When I started, all I had hoped for was a way to supplement my income and pay part of our rent.  Now, the sky's the limit!  


About our shop: ""

We sell pinback buttons, magnets, bookmarks, keychains, stickers, shirts, digital downloads, and Etsy SEO services at  We started selling in 2012.  Since then we have sold hundreds of thousands of individual pins on Etsy, Amazon, and in person.  We love to supply companies, bookstores, birthday parties, and other events with fun pins and other items.  

Do you have an Etsy shop?  Let me take a look at it and show you how you can take your shop to the next level!  Check out our Etsy Shop Critique listing.  

Want me to take a look at your Etsy titles and tags?  Check out my listing for title and tag help.

Want to get exposure through Pinterest groups?  Check out my Etsy Pinterest Page:  The Best Etsy Finds.

Follow our new Instagram page!  

Why Your Etsy Shop is Not Getting the Traffic It Deserves

So, your Etsy store is about as popular as a fly at a buffet, eh?
We’ve been there, and well… it stinks!  There's no other way to say it.
And worst of all, you probably have no idea why it's happening.
You have tried literally everything you could think of to make sales!
It's not like you're making bad products.  It's not like you're breaking copyright and intellectual property rules left and right (right?).  It's not like you are not motivated.  You care about your store, your products, your customers, and you try to create products that will sell and be loved by the whole world!
You’re probably also on social media.  You're trying to build a little buzz through Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  It might not be every day, but you drop by when you can, and post something about what you made.  
But nobody really cares.

It's not about what you make.  It's not about your social media posts.  It's not about you.
And now you’re starting to wonder…
What is wrong?
The truth is:
Probably a lot.
Beginners make mistakes.  It's just a part of life.
So, what's the good news?
You know that fog you are caught in?  Well, I'm going to help you clear it.
Nobody has the power to make all their obstacles disappear.  We all make mistakes.  We all miss something.  But I can help you.  Some of the mistakes you're making may actually surprise you.  
If your store is not getting the traffic you think you should be getting, or if you are not getting the sales you would expect, the following are some of the most common reasons why:

1. You’re not focused on your marketing strategy.

You have been posting your link around the internet haphazardly.  You have been posting here and there on social media.  Sometimes you may buy advertising.  Yet, you really have no clue of what you are doing.
That's okay.  It's hard to create a strategy.  Yet, you need to create one.  
There was once a time when you could post on social media and people would see what you posted.  Now, there are more posts with the #Etsyseller tag than ever before.

Now, you have to keep in mind the times when people are most likely to be on social media, the times people are shopping the most, the most popular tags, what social media sites are best for getting views, and what you are good at.  You almost have to take a class to figure all this out, and you could.  If you wanted to.
There was also a time you could just post over and over again and be seen.  That's not the case now.  To get real likes, you have to post quality posts.  High-quality images with enough text to captivate.  You can't look too spammy, but you want to be noticed with enough tags.  It's like juggling elephants!
As a result, quantity no longer wins. Quality does.
When you publish a post, it needs to be, in its own right, a work of art.  It has to shine.  It has to give the viewer a reason to like it and to click the link.  
And that takes time.
But, if you never sit down and write a strategy, you will never win the promotion game.  And the promotion game is a part of selling.  
What are some ways you can promote your product?

•Create a blog (like this one) for your store.
•Be active on at least one social media site.  I recommend Instagram and Pinterest, as they are both very visual (those are the two sites that I get the most traffic from).
•Make your posts tell a story.  Don't just post about your products, but tell the world about your workspace, your creative process, and your life.  People want to feel like they are a part of something.
•Support a cause, give things away, post coupons, reviews, anything that generates buzz.

2. You’re spending less time promoting your items than making them.

Here’s a rule of thumb for you:
Until you get to 10,000 sales, you should spend just as much time promoting your products as you do making them. Or even more, if you can.
So, if you take 10 hours to create a product, you should spend at least 10 hours on promoting your shop.  Wow, right?
Here’s why:
In the beginning, no one is paying any attention to your store. You could have the most beautiful products ever designed.  But, what good are they if nobody is seeing them?
The solution?
Advertise.  Write posts, share on Pinterest, interact with other sellers, interact with blogs, get people to notice your product.  Find influencers if necessary.  Hand out business cards.  Sell at local markets.  Make yourself known.  You are running a business just like any other.  
Of course, you might wonder, “How do I know if my products are truly good?”
Well, let’s talk about that next…

3. You are not comparing your shop to others.

You are most likely not the only person on Etsy selling the thing that you sell.  And if so, great.  But even if so, you have to compare your products to others.

There are a hundred trillion sticker shops on Etsy.  There are billions of t-shirt shops on Etsy.  There are bazillions of button shops on Etsy.  But some are good at what they do and others, well, they have the potential to get there.  
Look at the top shops.  Look at them OFTEN.

Create a spreadsheet with a few of the shops you admire but have similar products/items as you.

Write down:  What those shops charge for shipping.  How much their products cost.  How many items they have in their store.  What is their theme/feel?  What do the people who review them like?  
Look at the product descriptions and tags that others use.  Could they help your products?

Then, apply those things to your shop.

Compare your products to similar products on other shops.  What makes their items better?  Higher quality?  How can you increase your quality?  Does your price reflect that increase?

Much of the work in Etsy is creating the listing.  It's the most important task.  Your listing is what sells the product.  Speaking of which...

4. You’re spending too little time on your listings.

Your listing is the bread and butter of your shop.  It's where the customer goes to buy each item.  
How long are you spending on each listing?  A few minutes?  Twenty minutes?  Longer?
A good listing will have some serious time go into it.  You have thirteen tags.  Use them.  Think about what your customers will search for to reach your shop.

What about your product description.  Are you just copying every other product?  How do you think that will look in a search.  Even if each of your items is stickers, write something about the particular sticker design.  Don't just say "it's a sticker."  They know that.
Get your listings to tell a story.  You don't have to publish a novel here, but say something about the item.  Google picks up your listings.  And many of my buyers come from Google.

5.  You don't have faith in your products.

If you don't have faith in your products, you are not going to do well in the business.

If you don't have faith in what you make, you are not going to love what you do.

Are you just copying Disney?  Do you think that one day you are going to get shut down because of copyright infringement?  If so, you need to change course.
Many shops on Etsy ride on the coattails of a big company's products.  Harry Potter.  Walt Disney.  Others.  Don't.  It's a huge temptation, and it brings in sales.  But, for how long?

You were given a mind.  Be creative on your own.  There are ideas out there that are free for the taking.  Right now Mickey Mouse is not free to take.  Neither is Star Wars or Spongebob.  If it belongs to someone else, leave it alone.  It's not worth getting your shop shut down by Etsy. 
Don't even be tempted to use their names in your tags or product descriptions.  Their owners comb through Etsy constantly and shut down listings that use the words. 
If you have faith in your products and love what you do, the sales will come.  Faith is powerful.  Believe in yourself.

6. You give up before your shop takes off.

It took over a year for to take off.

Creating a good Etsy shop can take a long time.


More than a year, even.  
If you think you are going to walk in and open a killer store, beware.  You may be in for a huge disappointment.  
A good shop evolves over time.  Mistakes are made, blunders happen, sometimes a bad review or two is posted, tags are lacking, product descriptions and titles have some mistakes, but time allows you to fix your mistakes.

Even if you get no sales, treat your shop as if it is getting loads of sales.  Show that faith in how you run your store.  Make your shop look legitimate.  Post images of your process.  Put a picture of yourself making the product.  Find a way to make some sales to family and friends and get some good reviews to start out.  Have a list of policies.  
Tweak your listings if they are getting little to no views.  And don't be afraid to pay to advertise a little here, a little there.  
There are a lot of stores on Etsy that sit there, dormant, with no sales.  They could have been something great, but their owners gave up on them way too soon.  Don't do that.  Please.

7. You’re underestimating just how difficult this is.

Opening up an Etsy store is hard work.  It's a real business, and the top dogs understand that.
For many, it's their main job.  Their top source of income.  And it's the biggest time sink they have in the professional world.
It's not easy to get traffic to your shop.  It's not easy to get continuous sales.  Did you think it would be?
We are still learning how to create great products.
I’m not blaming you if you did. The web is full of people whose bank account balances depend on making you believe anyone and everyone can do this.
But the truth?
It's not.  It takes hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours.  
I’m not trying to scare you away from it. Really, I think it’s a phenomenal opportunity for those who are really serious about building a shop and doing well with it.
But that’s the key:
Being serious about it. You have to see it as a career.  You have to expect it will be difficult.  You have to expect to learn new things.  You have to expect to grow, year after year.  
The truth is, selling on Etsy is like anything else. You get out what you put in.
If you really want lots of traffic, here’s how to do it:

The Real Secret to Getting Serious Traffic and Sales

For the next 2 - 3 years, dedicate 10-15 hours a week to learning and practicing traffic generation and sales.
Do that, and you’ll get all the traffic you want.  Don't just trust anyone to help you.   There are no quick fixes.  This is all you.  Either that, or hire a social media manager with some serious skills (but I would still admonish you to learn it yourself).
Because, then you will understand what it takes to get traffic and drive sales.
But this whole idea of starting an Etsy store, picking up a few tips, tinkering around for 30 minutes on the weekend, and suddenly having a popular store?
It's not that easy.  Not if you want to rise above the rest.
I don't say it to be mean, but to motivate and tell you the honest truth.
If you want greatness, commit yourself to mastery.
Then you will have the Etsy store you can be proud of.

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