Use Etsy as a springboard for your fashion business
Lizzie Norris of BettyBeth Handmade on Etsy let us know her secrets to getting started selling online with a fashion business. Lizzie has a background that lends itself to running her own fashion shop. She graduated from college with a degree in Costume Design with Textiles, then she worked for a number of small businesses including a role for an online Fancy Dress shop in their customer services department.
When she was ready to start off on her own, she researched her available options and chose Etsy as her initial sales platform. It may seem like common sense, but I’d bet that the majority of sellers on Etsy have never read the seller’s handbook, yet this is precisely where Lizzie started.
There is a wealth of information in the handbook: https://www.etsy.com/seller-handbook. Topics include product photography, productivity, getting found (tagging, keyword research, paid advertising), marketing (social media, sending newsletters, writing an about section), and seasonal tips.
[I learned to run my small business through] Lots of research! You can never research too much; I am constantly keeping an eye out to see if there is something that I could be doing to make my business better. I have worked for a number of small businesses in the past, clothing and non clothing, knowing for a long time that I one day wanted to have my own business. So I made sure I paid attention to the little details and tried to soak up as much information as possible from those businesses.
As my main selling platform is Etsy, I used their seller’s handbook a lot to help me with marketing my items and setting up my online shop. I also worked for an online fancy dress shop in Customer Services, which helped me learn what information you need to provide when selling online.
There are two things critical to owning a business: the product that you offer and making sure that people find that product. When we asked Lizzie what some of her biggest challenges were, she responded:
I’ve come across many challenges so far and I’m sure there are many more hiding around the corner. One of the biggest challenges I find in having my own business is self publicising. I find it hard to say “look at me and look at what I’ve made”, but I have great friends who are better at this and share my posts on social media; one friend so much so that some people think that it’s a joint business!
The Etsy handbook covers the topic of how to talk confidently about your business (https://www.etsy.com/seller-handbook/article/how-to-talk-confidently-about-your/64319293306). Don’t be embarrassed to tell people what you do, or dance around the topic. Be direct and straightforward, For example, don’t say “I do a little of this and that” or “I run an import-export business”.
Etsy recommends developing an elevator pitch – a 30 second or less statement that is direct and to the point. Something like, “I sell my work online at Etsy. I design and make knitted hats, scarves, and clothing”.
Be direct and keep it short, then give the other person an opportunity to follow up with questions of their own. You can give them more information if they show interest. If you talk for too long you run the risk of boring them and losing a potential customer.
Lizzie’s other challenge is staying on top of the books:
Finances are another struggle; it’s the boring bit at the end of the week, collecting the receipts and writing it all down. It’s not as fun as making and designing but I try to make sure that this is done on a regular basis so I can keep on top of it and keep track of progress; I find that having a massive mug of tea helps though.
It’s a struggle for anyone, but especially creative types, to stay on top of the paperwork that goes into owning a small business. Etsy has advice on everything from pricing your products, to staying organized for taxes. We recommend the following two articles:
We agree with Lizzie that one of the best things you can do is to make paperwork a habit. Set aside a specific day and time to document and review your finances. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you can use Excel or Google Spreadsheets and use a few columns to track income and expenses.
Your spreadsheeting might include the following:
- Sewing supplies
- Shipping supplies
- Etsy Charges
- Item sold
You can find a couple small business Google Spreadsheet templates here:
Lastly, we asked Lizzie what she would recommend to others who wanted to design and sell their own fashions:
There is so much to learn but the best piece of advice to give is to just go for it, it’s going to be scary and hard and emotionally draining, but it is amazingly rewarding. There will always be set backs and things that don’t always go to plan but don’t take these too much to heart, learn from what goes wrong and implement changes.
Ask for advice from your friends and from other creative people, it is true that two heads are better than one. You may think something isn’t good but then you show someone else and they love it and it turns out to be a best seller! I didn’t like my headbands when I first made them and gave them to my friend, she loved them and everyone who saw them loved them so I started making them and now sell loads.
Love your product and love your customers, giving amazing customer service is crucial.
Lizzie currently still works part time as a Textiles Technician at a Secondary School and is actively pursuing turning BettyBeth into a full-time job. Her goals for 2017 are to grow the business and get her fashions into a few small boutiques. So far she is off to a great start, and with hard work and perseverance, she will get to the point where she can focus her energies full time on her business.
Checkout her Etsy shop where you can find fabric bracelets, headbands, tote bags made from unique prints, and more:
http://www.bettybethhandmade.etsy.com http://facebook.com/bettybethhandmade http://instagram.com/bettybethhandmade https://twitter.com/bettybethhndmde https://uk.pinterest.com/bettybethhndmde