What I Would Do Different if I Started Selling on Etsy Today

Woodwards_building_Vancouver_demolition_2Have you ever wondered why the most creative ideas come while you dozing off to sleep, or when you’re taking a shower? Someone once told me to keep a notebook by my bed so I could write these ideas down, but I’m usually so far gone at that point, I’m too tired to grab it and write. The shower is a problem too, because water and paper don’t mix. It’s a conundrum.

I found out the reason these good ideas come in those moments is because our brain is in autopilot mode. We’re working on muscle memory in the shower, doing things without thinking, and so the conscious mind says, “Hey subconscious. Come up here and man the helm for a bit. I’m gonna take a break.”

In those moments, the crazy and wildly creative subconscious kicks in, spitting out idea after idea, and if you’re lucky, the conscious mind is back there paying attention. It holds onto that idea until you get out of the shower (sometimes), or wake up in the morning (rarely), but I digress…

Recently, in one of my shower moments, I was thinking of an Etsy seller that I knew, someone I had given lots of advice to, but she rarely pursued my advice to the fullest. Her sales on Etsy are infrequent, but picking up a little bit now that she has more items in her shop. Still, she is a long way from being self-sufficient. She wants the shop to be a full time employment for her, but at best, she is a hobbyist, and pains me to think she might not make the jump to the next level of handmade entrepreneurship.

Like a brick through a window, one of these ideas hit me, and I knew right away I needed to pursue it. If she was willing to hand over control of the business and marketing of her business, and concentrate on her art, I would revamp the business from the bottom up based on all the lessons I had learned about selling, marketing, branding and service.

Full disclosure, the shop owner is my mother, a talented artist and designer that made me the creative individual I am today. I am, of course, emotionally tied to her success. I want only the best from her, and I believe by taking over these aspects of the business, temporarily, I can show her the path to a point where she can then walk it herself.

Knocking it Down to Build it Back Up

Silk-Escape-Before-LogoI brought the idea to her and she agreed. We are still working through the details about what will change and what will stay, leaving the bones and some of the meat, but stripping all the fat away.

If you visit her shop, Silk Escape, you will see where we started, but the transitions will start happening quick, and what you see might already reflect some of the change. Here’s a screenshot of her shop as it is right now.

Silk-Escape-Before-MainChanging up the aesthetics of the shop is only the beginning. Not only will we change the look of how the work is presented on Etsy, but we are changing the product offering completely. Instead of selling several types of products, we are limiting what we sell in order to build up a name and brand toward one specific product — hand painted scarves.

We’re changing the brand to be more elegant overall, and showcasing the work as hand painted wearable art, going for a more high end clientele. Instead of being Target, we’ll be Bloomingdales. Instead of Zales, we’ll be Tiffany. I’ll go into why we made this decision more in a future post, but I believe this is the correct positioning for her product.

Everything we do gets an upgrade. The time spent on a piece is greater, as is the energy to make it awesome. Branding collateral goes up in quality, as does packaging. Is a box from Tiffany actually more valuable than a box from Zales? No, but in our minds that blue box means something.

The most difficult part about this transition is the stigma that many people feel Etsy brings to handmade goods; things sold on Etsy cannot be high end, because they were made in someone’s garage. It won’t be easy, and we may end up taking the business to another environment, but we start with Etsy because that is where Silk Escape exists right now.

Watch the Action Live

Over the next several months (or longer), I will report about all the changes we have in mind. I will break it down in extreme detail to what plans we plan to implement, what works and what didn’t, and how we plan to grow beyond the walls of Etsy.

All the updates will be posted here for everyone to check out, but I may go deeper on the details in the newsletter. It’s ironic, just when I got done saying I would be blogging less often, this massive idea hits me. Perhaps that is the whack I needed to get the motor turning again. Regardless, you get to bear witness to the results.

Stay tuned, Campers!

To follow along on this post, you can subscribe to our newsletter and get updates direct to your inbox, or you can use the Etsy Makeover tag. 
Recommended Posts
Showing 39 comments
  • Amantha

    Wow, Dave. This is amazing and going to be so helpful.
    I am going to follow along closely and I’m looking forward to watching the shop blossom.
    And I’ll take furious notes (and action) as it goes.
    Love it.

    • Dave Conrey

      It’s going to be an adventure for sure.

  • Geri

    Perfect timing Dave! I just opened my Etsy shop this month and I know that things have to change (already!) but this is new territory and I need someone solid to follow – thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    Here’s a solution to your “ideas in the shower” conundrum, Aqua Notes (http://www.myaquanotes.com/) or if your son has bathtub crayons, use ’em on the tiles or the bathroom mirror (mirror works better but you end up soaking the rug) to capture those great ideas.

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks for the tip, Geri. I was thinking grease paint pen for the tile, but I was worried it would absorb in

      • Beja

        My pastor said in a leadership meeting that if your best ideas come to you in the shower or on the toilet, it’s probably because you have crowded out time to think and these are the only moments when the mind comes to relaxation.

        I tested this. I am scheduling more time to just relax so the ideas come.

        • Dave Conrey

          Aside from the obvious water waste, I would gladly take more showers.

  • Kenneth Morris

    Dave- This is great stuff. I want to see where this goes. What’s the best way to follow this?

  • Brett

    Totally excited to watch this unfold!

  • Andrew

    All the best Dave and Dave’s mum! They say never go into business with friends or family. But it’s such a tired cliche. Working closely with those that you love and respect can only bring positives to an enterprise. It won’t all be smooth sailing, but they’ll be meaning and soul poured into your enterprise, which are values that will be reflected in your products and service. With your mum’s artistic skills and your creative business brain Dave, I believe you can build a something which will deliver more than just a healthy bottom line. I look forward to watching and learning how it all works out.

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks Andrew. I definitely know the pitfalls of going into business with my Mom. We love each other, of course, but we also know how to push each other’s buttons. This could also be an exercise in patience on both our parts. I have every intention of handing back control as soon as she’s comfortable taking over the business side the way we have set up.

      • Andrew

        True, but you know how to push each others buttons the right way as well as the wrong way. You sound like you’re going in to this venture with your eyes wide open. You’ll be able to get to the meaning of the business quicker IMO.

        • Dave Conrey

          Indeed. Putting aside differences for the greater good is what we’re good at.

  • Mary

    Dave ,

    Better to make it 2 things to start.
    Double your audience.
    Plus visuals on her page are really confusing.
    Take a look at Megan Auman’s website. More products but very clear. Simple presentation. I found her site then saw her leggings on the street. Totally recognizeable.

    Ps I was in the textile design biz. Hand painted textiles and clothing. Wholesale and retail.

    • Dave Conrey

      Mary, I firmly believe in doing one thing, and doing it better than anyone else. I think we can make in impact with the scarves first, and then adding more as we go. We’l just make sure to craft a unique experience for the buyers.

  • liz@lifedreaming

    Hi Dave
    Firstly, kudos to your Mum for being creative and then kudos to you for loving her and being entrepreneurial.

    I have gone onto Etsy specifically to look for high end personally crafted items rather than a specific luxury brand – why?

    1. I know there will be a delicious diversity of offerings on Etsy

    2. I’ve seen really amazing design that can stand proudly anywhere [and yup – there’s crap stuff as well but I filter by price – even if it doesn’t always give me quality]

    3. I will filter by price because [in the main] a hand crafted luxury item will be priced accordingly

    I tend to be looking for handcrafted contemporary jewellery but the principles translate across products.

    Really looking forward to reading your series and sending you and your Mum big wishes for success – and a delightful working relationship.


    • Dave Conrey

      This is good insight, Liz. Thanks.

  • Shannon

    Very cool, Dave. :) Looking forward to watching this develop. Your mother’s work is gorgeous!

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks. I’ll make sure she knows about it.

  • Natalie

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. My Etsy shop has been empty for about 6 months while I think about direction. I’ve been trying to sell my vintage and reclaimed wood designs at flea markets instead, but I’m quickly realizing that the people looking at my products in person also want an online option. I plan on taking new photos this week and starting to re-list items to give my buyers those options.

    • Dave Conrey

      I’m glad to be of service, Natalie. This is going to be a long process, but if you stick around maybe you’ll pick up some nuggets of wisdom from our experience. Or at least avoid the pitfalls that we found.

  • Karen

    Hi Dave! Wow! A shop/business revamp is a huge undertaking and it’s going to be so interesting to have a birdseye view as you and your mom work on this. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I’m sure I’m going to learn a thing or two…or three or four. Just checked out the shop and her scarves are amazing. Definitely wearable works of art. Good luck to you both!

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks Karen. I’m sure there will be lots of lessons learned.

  • Emi

    Hey Dave, I am really excited about this project. I am looking into joining Etsy and it will be so great to be able to follow along, be part of this journey and learn a lot along the way!

    On a side note, I totally love your podcasts! You fresh no-nonsense approach is just what I have been looking for, so keep up the fantastic work!

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks Emi. I hope this gives you the appropriate motivation to pursue your path.

  • michele

    Thanks everyone for all the great thoughts and wishes! We are going to have some fun in the process!

    • Naomi (Lanikaigal)

      Hi, Michele!! I just ordered one of your scarves. I followed the link to this on your FB page and am SO impressed by your son’s ideas and easy communication style (so simple, easily readable and interesting), so I’m now one of the new subscribers to his newsletter and eagerly looking forward to the updates and watching the transition of your business … it’ll skyrocket! Now you just have to make sure you don’t have TOO much work in front of you! Love, Naomi x

      • Dave Conrey

        Oh, I’m sure we’ll install sweat shop conditions soon, Naomi. 😉

        We will work our butts off to make this happen, but then that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. I’ll take good care of her though.

      • Michele

        I always told my son he was a great writer from the time he was a very young boy. He could also illustrate the coolest stories and he didn’t know what he had at that time. Do we ever know what we really have.
        I guess it’s time for me to understand that I do have some talent too!

        Thank you so much for your support with your kind words and purchase!
        Love, Love!


  • Ania

    Dave, this is genius idea. It will help many of us to get out there and improve. I can’t wait to follow this journey.

    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks, Ania. The response has been encouraging. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Jamie

    Awesome post, excited to follow. I used to do a little etsy, but eventually found that my quilts sold so much better on my own website. Especially since they are high end and custom. I felt like so many customers on etsy would question pricing, while at the same time I was booked up solid 4- 6 months in advance on my actual website. So eventually I dropped the etsy outpost & am happy to say I make a full time living from my quilts and am booked up until January! So I’m curious to see if what I found is true for you as well (its been a few years)… If so, and for everyone else with higher price points, remember “place” in the marketing mix!

    • Dave Conrey

      And this will definitely be something we tackle, Jamie. Ideally, I’d like to get to a point where we can operate exclusive of Etsy, become a true independent brand, but I acknowledge that Etsy will be a vehicle to drive attention to the brand even if we sell more items offsite. In fact, that will be an epic lesson for some, that Etsy can be a gateway to bigger things, but not the end-all-be-all answer to selling online.

  • Lynda | Homelea Lass

    I’m looking forward to following your progress because it sounds like an interesting jouney.


    • Dave Conrey

      Thanks. I’m sure it will be quite the journey.

  • Dana

    Wow- this will be interesting for sure, because I have an Etsy shop, and because I really value your advice.

    I have been selling on Etsy for years, and let me tell you things have changed. Not only is Etsy saturated now with re-sellers and copyright infringement, but there are other aspects of handmade that people don’t think about in the beginning.

    Etsy has a built-in social aspect that makes your shop grow in relevance as you make more sales and acquire followers and customers. Most people who make their own artful items to sell are blind-sighted by this phenomenon, and as the sales numbers multiply you get hit over the head with the fact that you don’t have capacity to fill orders. When this happens, you freak out, your customers get anxious, you are always out of stock, and it’s nearly impossible to find cheap labor to help fill orders. Then, all of your competition swoops in and offers the same exact thing that you are making, for less money, and off go your customers.

    I have been unable to take the next step and outsource my manufacturing for a few reasons; one, my husband wants me to keep working at my stable day job because he hates Etsy, two, I would need thousands of dollars to buy materials and pay for production and then have to stock it, three, I don’t have faith in my own sense of forecasting. Although I know what will sell well in my Etsy shop, sometimes a fad will just die with no explanation. It happens all the time on Etsy.

    Another thing to keep in mind is; if you have a storefront on Etsy you do not control your own branding completely. You are just a plain storefront in a sea of other painted silk scarf makers. In my case its retro aprons, but let me tell you when I started making a lot of sales, there were a lot more retro apron makers copying my designs exactly to the T! Because anyone can go look at your sold items, count up your best sellers, and copy them.

    I will be interested to see how you handle establishing a brand in a shop where the banners are being taken away, so you have to brand using your actual items only. Etsy is running tests right now to do away with shop banners.

    I have started moving my entire inventory to my own website, although you can’t beat the traffic that Etsy pulls. I used to be able to get tons of sales just by posting on Facebook. I literally had to delete my Facebook page and start over because the number of followers was too large and I could not keep up with demand and it stressed me out.

    Thanks- this will be awesome!

    • Dave Conrey

      Good insight, Dana. We will definitely be tackling all these issues in one way or another. We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on Etsy’s redesign, so I’m definitely not banking on how Etsy looks for our branding. We will be backing up our efforts in little ways to make sure the experience gets us from Etsy to our own shop environment in as smooth a transition as possible.

pingbacks / trackbacks