The Hidden Danger of The Internet Opportunity

the-hidden-danger-of-the-internet-opportunity

I’ve fallen into and clawed out of one of the most dangerous traps this new world of Internet opportunity we’re all living in has to offer.  I think my experience might help you avoid the danger and reach the goals you’re pursuing.  Let me explain…

It’s been over four months since I wrote a new blog post on Etsypreneur.com.  Between that post and the one prior to it… six months!  Two posts in ten months time.  This from a site that says “Daily” tips at the top! Do I need a refresher on the meaning of the word “daily” and how it differs from its sibling “yearly”?

The truth is that I fell into one of the greatest traps of the Internet opportunity and found myself completely ensnared, unable to move forward, unable to seize the potential that I knew was in front of me.

There is no shortage of opportunity for me here.  The Etsy community is growing a record pace that is increasing every day.  All of the driving forces behind that growth continue to intensify.  The team at Etsy, while maybe not always everyone’s best friend, is doing a fantastic job at improving the Etsy product and the image of Etsy in the public eye.  The growth of Etsy, and therefore Etsy sellers is a trend with no end in sight.

And here I sit, the original thinker-upper of the word Etsypreneur and the founder of the blog Etsypreneur.com.  At least some level of opportunity seems obvious just with that alone.  In addition to that, I actually know a lot about business in general, having owned multiple companies for a period of over twenty years.  In fact, other than a few years in my teens and twenties when I worked for my grandfather, I haven’t had an employer for the vast majority of my adult life.  I’ve always been an entrepreneur.

Most readers here also know that my wife Kim and I are long-time Etsy sellers and have been blogging about Etsy for almost half a decade at her awesome blog, EverythingEtsy.com.  Through that site, we have access to over 100K followers in various social media settings and over 20K people we can send an email to at a moment’s notice, though we rarely do.

In the process of all of this, we’ve become true experts in blogging, graphic design, advertising, photography, and much more. I’ve also been told I write a decent article, that I’m a good teacher of skills, and that Kim and I make a likeable team.

I’m not saying all this to toot our own horn, and I hope it doesn’t sound that way at all.  What I’m trying to point out here is that there really is no question as to the “opportunity” that I have sitting here 24/7 at Etsypreneur.com.  Yet I stopped.  Why?

More importantly, how does all of this apply to you?  How does this equate to the experience you might have been living through over the last months or years?

Here’s how…

Your opportunity is just as real as ours.

We started all of this a few years ago with no money, no experience, and no knowledge of what we were doing or where it might lead.  We just followed the path that felt right with faith that it was leading somewhere good for our family.

The reason this opportunity has grown around us is summed up in one word: Internet.

The internet did then, and does now, represent a huge and burgeoning unsettled territory of limitless opportunity.  The paths to success are innumerable (just as the definitions of success are innumerable).

You may sometimes feel that all the good opportunities have been taken; that you’re a day late and a dollar short. That’s just not true.  The opportunity has grown, not shrunk.  The tools are easier, cheaper, and more powerful.  The acceptance amongst the population that the Internet is a real and respectable venue for business is getting stronger, not weaker.

The opportunity is huge and it is now. So the first way our story equates to yours is that your opportunity is massive.  Just like mine is.

Your danger is just as real as ours.

Now we get to the debrief on what happened to me.  Why did I only write two posts in ten months?  Why not, in that same time frame, didn’t I publish two hundred posts, three ebooks, and a few dozen videos?

It’s not for lack of subject matter, there’s a gazillion things to talk about and teach on.  It’s not for lack of ability, I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of blog posts already.  I could say it was lack of time, but I think that really wouldn’t be true.  I certainly had time for more than a couple posts, of that there is no doubt whatsoever.

What happened is that I fell into what I think is the most dangerous and most common trap for Internet entrepreneurs (Etsypreneurs as the case may be).

The Information Overload Trap

We all know there is an overabundance of information, but not all information is created equal.  Some is helpful, some is benign, and some is dangerous.

For me, the most dangerous information is information about competition.  I’m a product of the eighties and nineties which is an age before all the “economy of abundance”, “Creative Commons”, and Web 2.0 open source love came happily onto the scene.  No matter how hard I try to convince my brain that their is room for everyone in this new frontier, on some subconscious level I must not really get it.  Because every time I see someone doing anything like what I’m doing, I feel threatened.

I probably should feel encouraged, justified, reinforced… but I don’t.  When I see someone else doing the thing I knew I needed to do but haven’t gotten around to yet I feel like I missed the boat. I feel like I’m a day late and a dollar short.  Someone beat me to it.

Such was the feeling when a book was published which I felt kind of stole “my” word… Etsypreneur.  Such was the feeling when Etsy business blogs popped up everywhere, with everyone claiming to be an expert, many of them younger and prettier than me (hard to believe, I know). The list of “they beat me to it” situations goes on and on.

In fact, I found, these types of feelings feed on themselves and that’s the real danger of the Information Overload trap because the ideas are out there.  Other people will see the same things you see and many will have similar ideas. Some of them will act on those ideas.  Your ideas!

I mean, how much of a stretch of the imagination is it really to think of the word “Etsypreneur” when talking about people in the Etsy business.  I might have been the first guy to try to buy the domain name, but I’m sure someone would have come along right quick to get it if I hadn’t.

The ideas are out there and if you’re tuned-in to your area of interest, you’re going to keep on hearing about people doing the thing you know you need to be doing.

The trap, once it grabs you, makes you want to just give up; do something else.  Preferably something not connected to the Internet so you don’t have to hear about everyone else “stealing” your ideas and eating “your” lunch.  And that’s the point where you turn your back on the giant, fertile, and wide-open unsettled territory and head back to a life you can better understand.

Either way is fine really… life goes on no matter what.  But what happens if we learn to keep moving forward?  What happens if we learn to ignore those bits of information, or better yet to take them as encouragement and reinforcement?  What happens if we let every single person who does the thing we know we should be doing fuel our own confidence in that path?

Luckily for me, a few things pulled me back in and helped me escape the trap.  Our Etsy business continues to grow in terms of sales, products, and profits.  It’s still “small” by some standards but it’s not the only thing we do.  Our blogs have continued to grow and Kim keeps building a wonderful community in social media, especially Pinterest and Facebook.

My writing has been encouraged by big names that I respect.  I was offered the chance to write a regular blog column on PopularMechanics.com in the area of remodeling and home-improvement (you may not know that my experience before all of this was as a remodeling contractor and my first blog was RemodelingGuy.net) and I’ve had positive feedback from editors much more experienced than myself.

I’ve also seen the same thing over, and over, and over again.  The people who persevere online, the ones who just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not quitting, are the ones who eventually become the “overnight success” everyone is talking about.

So, here I am, writing a new post for Etsypreneur.com and I’ve got at least a few more up my sleeve for the days ahead.  I hope you’ll stay with me and we can stick together as we grow and help each other avoid the Hidden Dangers of the Internet Opportunity.

Can I get an amen?

The Beautiful Mix of Business and Art

 

businessandart

A few days ago I wrote a post that departed from my normal tone. I was a little gruff; a little direct. Maybe even a little condescending. None of those are what I want to be and I thought about deleting my post before too many people saw it!

This quote from that article will give you an idea of the tone:

“Getting a Sale on Etsy Is Like Winning the Lottery”
No, it isn’t. It’s one sale and you should expect it to happen pretty darn quickly. If it doesn’t then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a talk with your staff.

That post is all business and not wrong. Not entirely.

Here’s where it fails: It neglects to talk about the deep non-business connection you have with your Etsy shop. It forgets that your reasons for doing this go far beyond earning some cash.

In short, I forgot I was talking to an artist. A creator. Someone who gets as much joy from the love of making (if not more) than she does from the cha-ching at sale time.

It’s Not All About The Money — Not Even Close

Less than 6 hours after I wrote that bit of greed-laden, heartless, soulless business advice, I was providentially shown the glaring error of my ways.

12 Bones Asheville

12 Bones = Happy

Kim and I were on a little husband/wife trip to the stunning, tree-covered mountains of North Carolina to celebrate her birthday. We visited Asheville, ate some amazing BBQ at 12 Bones, and then went to the River Arts District.

The River Arts District is sort of like a little “real life” model of Etsy. Building after colorful building is filled with “working artists studios” where you can not only buy the art, but you can meet the artist and, if the stars are aligned and your timing is right, you can watch the creation process happening before your very eyes.

It’s fun. It’s inspiring. And it is a real reminder that it’s not just about the money.

There are successful artists who will sell you a photograph for a few hundred bucks or a painting for a few thousand. But if you look closer you’ll find that everyone is represented. We found one area that had the work of a budding mixed-media artist, we presumed a teen, who had wonderful work on display priced at just a few dollars.

Jonas Gerard - Asheville River Arts District

Shown above is Jonas Gerard whose gallery was our favorite. Photo: RiverArtsDistrict.com

The most impressive thing is that no matter what, whether making $500 an hour or dreaming of making $5, the absolute passion for the art was clearly evident in every artist and every piece of work on display.

The focus on the art was so great at times that sometimes even the customers browsing through were somewhat of an annoyance!

The creation was the main pursuit. The money was secondary; an afterthought.

Etsy Mixes Business and Art

If you’re looking to be a starving artist then my writing probably won’t really be your favorite because, for the most part, I’m talking about how to make money.

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was about 14 years old when I sold my first house painting job. Before that I cut lawns. I’ve always loved it and the excitement I have about the opportunities online is so huge I hardly sleep at night.

So that’s what I write about here.

etsynotebay

But I’ll try to never again sinfully forget that Etsy isn’t eBay. It’s not about selling just to sell. It’s not about marketing for marketing’s sake and accounting as a cure to boredom. Etsy is a place to share your creations and your exciting vintage finds with the world.

It’s a magical and wonderful and inspiring place where you can mix your greatest love with your need to earn a living. You can create and you can sell.

It’s awesome and I hope I can always be helpful on the business side. I’ll leave the whole artsy fartsy thing to my wife, Kim@EverythingEtsy (blog) (pinterest) (facebook), who didn’t need to see a physical Arts District to be reminded… because it’s just who she is.

Me, I’m about the opportunity of it all. It’s just so huge.

Are You in Business or Just Playing Games?

inbusinessorplayinggames etsypreneur

Here’s a comment that came in recently on one of our “How-To” business blog posts:

Getting a sale on etsy is like winning the lottery. I’m thinking of closing my shop as its a waste of time and money. I just want one sale. Just to know that it works. Etsy should help with advertising. I don’t understand how to make a treasury. I even googled it and still don’t understand.

You know what… I don’t understand either.

Getting a Sale on Etsy Is Like Winning the Lottery

No, it isn’t. It’s one sale and you should expect it to happen pretty darn quickly. If it doesn’t then you need to go into the bathroom and look in the mirror and have a talk with your staff. Somebody in the room has goofed and it’s time to get it all out on the table (or counter as the case may be).

After your staff meeting it’s time to fix it, so figure out what’s broken.

  • Is your product up to snuff? Is anyone else selling something similar? Is it professional quality?
  • Is your photography good enough? In case you’re wondering, the answer is no.
  • Are your product descriptions helpful and clear and professionally written? All you have to do to understand what works is go find a few shops with sales and look at what they do!
  • Is your pricing right? Don’t assume it should be lower, maybe it should be higher if your product and photography and descriptions are great. Maybe your deal seems too good to be true.
  • What are YOU doing to market your shop?Nobody is going to do this for you. Etsy isn’t going to help you. It’s totally unrealistic to think that. You market it by:
    • Blogging, a lot, in your niche
    • Paying, a little, for advertising
    • Pounding the pavement – go out and find customers! Email people. Hand out cards. Go to craft shows. Sales offline today lead to sales online tomorrow. Hello.
    • Give away samples – send your items to friends, family, influencers, reporters, whatever.
    • Make a name for yourself – not in the Etsy forums. Elsewhere through guest blogging, commenting in outside forums and on blog posts with helpful tips, through press releases, etc.
  • Are you taking good care of the customers you do get? - Service, with a smile.
  • Rinse and Repeat – you keep doing this, and doing it, and doing it. You’re never done. This is business.

My Shop Is a Waste of Money

How much money? Seriously. What does it actually cost you to run an Etsy business? It’s so cheap that it’s almost free. Of course you can spend money on things but if you look back at the list above and ask yourself “is there a free way for me to do this?” on each item, you’re going to see that there is very little you have to spend money on.

My Shop is a Waste of Time

Only if you don’t do it right. Cooking a Turkey is a waste of time if you don’t prep it right and cook it properly. Washing the car is a waste of time if you don’t use anything but a dry rag. Going to school is a waste of time if you sleep on your desk all day and don’t listen to the teachers.

So, I guess, if you want it to be a waste of time it can be. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be the best time you’ve ever invested in any business or job. It’s really up to you.

I Don’t Know How to Make A Treasury

Who cares? Is that on my list? Do you see post after post here (or anywhere) about how to make a great treasury? Or how to be the most influential person in the Etsy Forums? You can get into treasuries later. They aren’t worthless. They do have business value for a well established shop and they have definite social and community building value.

But making treasuries as a strategy to get your first sales on Etsy is about as efficient as getting out from behind the wheel of your car and pushing it up the street. Uphill. In the snow. At night. Point is, there are easier ways to get where you want to go.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s a place for treasuries after you get all your ducks in a row. It does you very little good to get an item on the front page of Etsy if your whole shop isn’t up to snuff. Your item may get lots of views and you may even get a sale or two. But then what?

You aren’t looking for a “sale or two”. You need sustained sales. You get that by repeating the items in the bullet list above. When you get to that point, then getting featured in a great treasury is going to bring you actual customers. It’s going to get you noticed by people who can spread the word.

Why Am I Being So Direct?

When I read the comment first listed above I pretty much had this whole blog post flash in an instant in my mind. This is just how I think.

But I did have to stop and ask myself this question…

Do people just need someone to be nice to them and encourage them? Maybe the “direct” answer will do more harm than good.

I thought about that a little bit and decided, as you’ve seen, to go the direct route. I want this blog and the community of readers to be about real success. REAL SUCCESS.

I’m talking about Etsy shops that pay school tuitions, or car payments, or the grocery bill. Even more, I’m talking about Etsy shops that grow into businesses that support entire families both now and far into the future. I’m talking about real business.

What about you? Are you really in business or are you playing games?

PS - I almost deleted this post for being to grouchy… instead I wrote another that shared the rest of the story: The Beautiful Mix of Business and Art

Etsy as Your Door to a Connected Future

etsyDOORtoFUTURE Etsypreneur

This post is written to the dreamers and doers out there. If you get a little bit excited at the idea that the little Etsy shop you started could be just the beginning, then this is for you. If you’re young, or young at heart, and you love to imagine a wonderful future beyond your wildest dreams, then you and I are on the same wavelength right now.

What Does the Future Hold?

It’s no secret at this point that the Internet is changing the world. We are hyper-connected through smart phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and more. Even our newest cars and televisions are connected to the world, through the web.

While there seems no shortage of people warning of the dangers of all this, and there are certainly many of those, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the opportunities. Limitless, amazing, heart-pounding opportunities.

What will you do, five years hence, when your tv is seamlessly connected to an endless supply of quality video content about every conceivable subject? Will you still watch whatever happens to be on at the moment, or will you search for something of particular interest and relevance to your life?

Will you choose to listen to one of three or four offered voices for news and opinion, or will you find that voice which resonates most deeply with you as a person?

Will you feel limited in what new skills or knowledge you can gain? What about what kind of job you’ll have, or what you consider yourself to “be”?

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that these things and many more are in the process of changing, fast.

Etsy is Just the Beginning

Dreamers like you want to be more than a spectator to this future. You want to be in the game. You want to take the bull by the horns and go for it. I – heart – you.

Etsy is Internet. It is selling online. It is eCommerce. When you have an Etsy shop, you have a web page. You have an online business.

Just claiming a stake in the new frontier is a huge-mega-jumbo step in the right direction! You can’t help but learn when you do it. You expand your knowledge massively as you progress. With each item listed, you grow. With each sale, you become more confident.

Each sale. More confident.

Do the math… what happens if you keep going and don’t quit?

Ex1+1+1 Etsypreneurtreme confidence and utmost competence is what happens. If you keep going and DO NOT QUIT you will become an online professional. You will own a recognizable and tangible piece of theinternetisthefuture real estate.

And then you’ll keep going. Further still. Step by step, day by day.

You’ll start to see opportunities in areas you never expected. You’ll become one of those voices I mentioned that people listen to. You’ll produce one of those quality video programs. You’ll become something new, something more you. Something so beautiful it excites me just to write about it years in advance.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Road Ahead

Years ago I had a friend who mentored me in business. As with all mentors, some of what he said was right, and some was wrong. But one of the things he saw in me that needed to change was right on.

I tended (tend?) to look at what was happening directly in front of me. Right now. Today. I often failed to lift my eyes up and over the events of the day so that I could see further down the road. He urged me to look further and set my primary focus on that which was coming a year, two, or ten years ahead.

I find that advice even more relevant in today’s fast changing world.

How can you change your focus? Realize that every step is progress even if it doesn’t pay cash money today. If you’re late on the rent and your Etsy shop isn’t making money, then you probably need to divert your attention for long enough to earn a few bucks. But then come back. Keep taking steps. Make progress.

Try and learn something new each week. Learn a little about SEO, set yourself up with a WordPress website, get better at photography, learn what works for others in social media.

And stay motivated! I’ll do my best to help with that part.

~Tim

Image – Original source image by Frank Vincentz, Etsyfication by Tim Layton

Five Important Attitudes for Success on Etsy

Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.
Zig Ziglar

An aspiring Etsypreneur recently asked this question:

What advice do you have for newbies like me who are just starting out? I’m sure you have a ton, so maybe what are your top five?

She may have envisioned an answer that covered a number of topics such as product selection, photography, SEO, pricing, customer service, etc. Indeed all of those are very important and we’re going to touch on each one over the next three weeks .

But they aren’t the top five.

The top five “make-it or break-it” keys for success are all attitudes. Viewpoints. Perspectives. Mindsets. Beliefs. It doesn’t matter what you call them. All that matters is that you have them and that you understand them.

Here they are:

1. Business or Hobby -

The very first thing you have to decide is whether or not you want your Etsy shop to be a business or a hobby. You really can’t have it both ways.

I’ve heard disagreement on this. People love what they make and enjoy making it, so why can’t it be both? It’s fun to create things or go out and find great vintage treasures and sell them for a profit. Profit equals a business, right?

I don’t think it does. I think you can have a “profitable hobby” that’s not a business. The distinction is two-fold:

  1. How far do you want to go with it?
  2. How much are you willing to sacrifice for it?

You might be totally satisfied with a hobby that puts $100 a month in your pocket, but a business that only makes $1200 a year isn’t going to be pleasing for long. How much money do you want or need to make from your Etsy shop?

What about sacrifice? A hobby that “requires” you to burn the midnight oil or work for months with very little coin in your pocket to prove your success is quickly going to lose it’s luster. All the sudden it’s no fun and since you’re not committed, you quit.

A business, on the other hand, has an entirely different set of expectations tied to it. You expect it to feel like work. You expect building it to take a little time.

Sure, you can enjoy parts of it, but you know that there will be parts you don’t enjoy, such as shipping, or photo-editing. But since you know these are part of the business plan, you do them.

So the first thing you have to decide is this: Is my Etsy shop a hobby or a business?

The answer to that question is going to help you think through some realistic goals.

2. Goals

ImageDon’t worry, I’m not going to suggest you go grab some paper and a pen. But you can if you want to. Just make sure the pencil has an eraser, because if you’re going to work online, you need “adjustable” goals.

That may go against conventional goal-setting wisdom but I can tell you it’s darn near impossible to have “hard” goals in the online business world. The space is just too unpredictable, especially for those of us learning as we go, with no budget, and no established base of online followers/customers.

So why have goals at all then?

Goals for your online business, even though they must remain flexible, are very important because they help you establish a vision and guidelines for success. A vision, which we’ll talk about in just a second, is absolutely essential to success online.

Here are some good examples of goals for an Etsy seller.

Hobby seller: Fund my craft habit; pay for things like new digital cameras and daily fabric deliveries from the UPS man; all while earning enough money to buy a monthly dinner out so my husband gets some reward for being so sweet about my complete occupation of the home office.

Business seller goals might be more specific; and more expensive:

  • Pay for the car payment and insurance
  • Cover my tuition and books (or my kid’s tuition and books)
  • Establish a platform for my dream of writing
  • Provide an online extension of my existing “real world” business
  • Allow me to quit my regular job and be a full-time business owner

You get the idea. It’s different for everyone and you can probably tell me in about two seconds what you’d like your business to do for you. If not, you should think about it a little bit.

Because more important than goals, is…

3. Vision

I’m a major believer in the power of the brain to create opportunities as a result of vision. I’m not going to try and explain it, or give any fancy names for the process.

I’m just telling you that if you want to see real success in your life, in any arena, then you can give that success a major jump-start by seeing it first in your mind.

If your goal is to cover your tuition and books then you literally ought to visualize hitting the “pay with PayPal” button on your school’s payment page and paying with your Etsy funds. If your goal is to be able to have the customers who buy from you at a farmer’s market be able to buy again at 2:00am next Thursday from their computer, then you need to spell it out. Talk about it with your spouse or friends. SEE IT HAPPENING.

I’ll let you in on a little trick I use. I have this email list. Chances are that you’re reading this because you received one of those emails.

When I look at my list, I always think of the number of people on the list as ten times the actual number! So if it’s actually 100 people on the list, I think of it as 1000. If it’s 1000, I think of it as 10000, and so on. When I write an email or a post, I tell myself that it’s going out to that many people.

Call me crazy, but I know that this makes me do a better job. It keeps me focused on my goal, which is to help lots of people succeed in becoming successful online entrepreneurs.

When I hit “send”, I see ten times as many people getting the email as actually are. One day, there will actually be that many. Seeing it today is making that day come sooner.

I’m not trying to go all “Law of Attraction” on you here. I’m simply saying that you have three choices. No vision, a bad vision, or a good vision.

The original question is “What are your top five bits of advice for newbies?” A good vision is definitely on that list.

4. Etsy is a venue.

Here is a very important mindset. The Internet is a place more than a thing. The place has inhabitants. The inhabitants are people.

The most common misconception I see is sellers who think of Etsy as a business and them as a salesperson for that business. Or even less realistic they see Etsy as a salesperson for their business.

Neither of these are really true. Etsy is indeed a business, but it’s not a store. They don’t sell anything. They don’t make anything. They rent you space in the marketplace they’ve built over many years.

Etsy is a place to sell your stuff. It’s no different than a craft show, a farmer’s market, or a shopping mall. If you want to sell there, you pay the fee and set-up shop. It’s as simple as that.

What you don’t do is count on the market to do all the work for you. You know that it’s up to you to do the most important work:

  • Set-up your booth nicely
  • Present your products convincingly
  • Price your products competitively
  • Understand who else sells what you sell and how they do it
  • Understand what motivates your customers to buy
  • Be present in your booth and engage in conversations
  • Offer free samples or other incentives to try your products
  • Be creative about promotions, packaging, and bundle deals
  • Consider customer retention – get email addresses, tell them about your website.

The list goes on and on! Anyone who sells at markets knows full well just how much work it really is. It’s also not a one day a week kind of deal. Professional market sellers often sell at four or five markets a week!

Imagine Etsy as a giant building full of sellers and buyers. You can rent a room in this building for super-cheap. The only catch is, the door to your shop is usually closed. Some people will just happen to drop by, and every once in awhile you might get a little display table in the front lobby (akin to being on the front page), but for the most part it is up to you to get people into your shop. (excerpt from Mind Your Item Count on EverythingEtsy.com)

Think of Etsy as “a place” you sell your items. It doesn’t have to be the only place. It might just be the first place of many.

You might stand up one day a few years from now and tell a story that begins with “When we first started, we sold everything on Etsy.”

Etsy is a place. Etsy is a venue. Etsy is a community. You are the business owner who is trying to make it work starting there.

5. Who do you work for?

The fifth attitude I consider essentially important to success online is the understanding that you are a business owner. You work for yourself.

If you’ve never owned a business before, this can be an adjustment. It might even seem overwhelming at times when you think about all the various issues.

Taxes, incorporation, budgets, etc. can be overwhelming and often they are the things new business owners think they should be concerning themselves with.

They may think that because, when working for someone else, that’s what the boss said was important. They may think that because that’s like the unknown “dark continent” of owning your own business.

These aren’t the first things a successful business owner considers. Certainly, they are important, but they are a moot point without customers and profits. No customers, no profit. No profit, no taxes.

As a business owner the first thing you have to think about and look at in depth is your offering. What do you offer? What do you sell? Whom do you serve? What makes them buy? What makes them not buy? Who else do they like? Where do they hang out?

So maybe my top five list should have been more like this:

  1. What does the customer want?
  2. Why does the customer want that?
  3. What does the customer need?
  4. Why does the customer need that?
  5. Who is my customer and where is she right now?

Business owners know that the customer is the most important thing. Without a sale there is no business. You must know your customer and how you plan to serve them.

I’ve heard people say things like “If you make/sell something you’re passionate about, the customers will come.” I’m sorry, but that isn’t entirely true. At least not in any real-world predictable kind of way. You have to find the point where what you can make or acquire, what people want, and what you’re passionate about meet. See choosing the right products .

You have to think like a business owner. There has to be some analytical thought and number crunching going on if you want to succeed beyond the hobby level.

————–

Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude. – Zig Ziglar

The first five steps are all in your head and in your heart. You’ve got to know what you want, and have goals and a vision so you know where you’re going and when you’ve arrived. You have to understand what Etsy is and is not, and you have to think like a business owner.

After that, you can start looking at the practical matters of doing this! And that’s what we’ll be talking about for the next three weeks.

So, let me ask you, what other attitudes, mindsets, or beliefs do you think are important for selling on Etsy? I’m sure your feedback can help us all in the comments.

~ Tim

Why You Don’t Need To Feel Overwhelmed

ImageIt’s not uncommon for me to write a blog post and then just delete the whole thing.

Usually I do it because I can’t put my thoughts together in anything remotely resembling a coherent fashion. When even I can’t figure out what the heck I’m talking about, I know it’s time to throw in the towel on that one.

I just scrapped a post two seconds ago. However this time, it wasn’t because it wasn’t good or because it wasn’t making any sense. On the contrary, I think it was a helpful post and I’m sure I’ll hit on the subject again soon.

The reason I tossed this post out for today was more of a “feeling” that it might overwhelm somebody today. And I’d prefer to write about why you don’t need to feel overwhelmed.

It’s No Hurry

One of the dangers of working online is that you can’t easily control the information that comes at you. The best you can do is try and find sources and voices you identify with and follow them. Things like email subscriptions, RSS feeds, and social media help you fine-tune the information you receive a little bit.

But even with people you trust and know, you sometimes get more information than you can handle in a reasonable amount of time. Especially since you do have a life!

One of the things Kim and I have learned working online for a few years now is that the “to-do” list for an online business doesn’t behave like one in the real world. Online, it seems like for everything you mark off your list as completed, ten more things are added “to-do”.

That’s a really tough list to complete!

The fact is that if you listen to every bit of advice you get from everyone you’re listening to, you’ll never get finished. You’ll always feel behind.

Try not to let that happen to you.

The best cure I know for this is faith. A little faith in yourself. A little faith in your dreams. A little, or a lot, of faith in something (someone) much bigger than you and your little business.

Faith that somewhere beyond where you can see, beyond where you can control, things are working together for your good and toward the realization of your dreams. Right now!

Just keep a picture in your mind of what you want to accomplish and try to stay focused on that. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just take a step back and take a few deep breaths.

You don’t have to get it all right today. You’re surviving. You’re fine.

It’s no hurry.

Just a thought. I hope it helps.

What about you? How do you fight that overwhelmed feeling? We’d love to here your tips in the comments.

~ Tim

The First Fan is You Need in Your Circles is You!

Looking out the window, wondering.

So here you sit. Looking out the window of your computer screen. Looking out at the world. It’s really no different than if you were sitting and staring through the glass of a big city highrise. Looking out at the traffic, the people, and all the buildings.

ImageWondering.

What am I going to do?

This is the reality of where many of us are. We want to jump-in and do this. We want to create a life that unfolds as a great story. We want to live the dream.

So we look out the “window” and we try and figure out how to do that.

And therein lies the problem.

The answer isn’t out there. It’s not on this screen. It’s not found through a link or a web address. It’s not in a pin or a tweet or on anyone’s facebook page.

And don’t let anyone tell you different.

The answer is inside you. The answer is in your heart.

The world has changed. Not long ago, one of the most commonly accepted success strategies was this:

Find someone who has the life you want, and do what they do. Do the same things; get the same results.

I think that plan of action is running out of steam fast.

We live in a world that offers the most compelling rewards for authenticity, not replication.

You are unique.

That’s what makes you so stinkin’ awesome!

Inside you is a passion for something. Music, food, architecture, color, design, creativity, photography, computers, building, fixing things, making things, writing.

Whatever it is, that’s where you should immerse yourself.

We live in a world where you can start building a community of people who think like you right this very minute. Right now!

Just don’t try and build that community in something you don’t care about. Don’t do it because you think you can make money doing it.

Image

Do it because you love it or because you can’t not do it and people will see. Your energy will be contagious.

The first fan you need in your circles is you. You have to believe in your message before anyone else will.

My message is this: You can use this new world and the tools of the Internet to live a life worth telling about. You can live the dream. I believe it. Do you?

~ Tim

The “passion” image above was found on Pinterest, then traced back to the source. It can be purchased as a poster, here.

Plan For Growth. Imagine The Destination.

ImageWould you plant an oak tree two feet from the edge of the house?

When you have a baby, would you build her a room that’s only five feet by five feet?

Would you get a Great Dane puppy if you live in a one-room apartment?

Probably not.

You know all of these things are going to grow so you plan ahead. You put the tree out in the middle of the yard so it has room to grow and provide a wide canopy of luxurious shade one summer many years from now.

Think of your business where it’s headed, not where it is.

Life progresses and your business progresses with it. If you’re not constantly tweaking and improving your products, marketing, and business practices, you’re going to eventually get bored or frustrated and quit.

On the other hand, if you do put an effort into improving your business, no matter how small it is or how constrained your time is today, it’s going to grow. It’s really that simple.

Work it, try, persist = growth.

So you should plan for growth! It’s coming.

(The good news is that, unlike kids and dogs, you can control the speed of that growth.)

What does growth look like?

What if you’ve never raised a business before? What if you have no idea what you’re doing? What if you just thought it would be fun, but now you really want to see how far you can take it?

How can you envision your business grown if you have no idea what that looks like?

No problem. I’ll tell you.

Your grown business:

  • Has a community of loyal customers who follow you and talk about you
  • Is a recognized voice in your niche
  • Has a really strong understanding of who its customers are
  • Enjoys the luxury of large amounts of traffic every day
  • Has a system for marketing, advertising, packaging, shipping, etc.
  • Is stable, providing a consistent level of sales year after year
  • Is still growing!

Picture these things. I’m serious. You really need to picture these things in your mind.

imagineImagine the first line: Has a community of loyal customers who follow you and talk about you. If you start to see that, your amazing mind is going to start figuring out how to make that happen. It will start to tell you what you need next to get there.

Keep your heart and mind focused on the vision of your business growing stronger day after day, year after year, and you’ll soon be amazed at what you see!

~ Tim

Your Business Made To Order — What size would you like?

Tall, Grande, Venti, or Mega-Jumbo?

The list of amazing advantages to an online business is a long one, but the following fact is one of my very favorites:

You can make it whatever size you want.

Tall

We’ll gracefully ignore the language choice or word meanings for Starbucks sizes. Let’s just run with the analogy and consider this equal to “small”.

A small handmade business can be a total blast, a creative outlet, and a “spare-time” entrepreneurial endeavor that puts a little bit of money in your pocket.

Chances are, if you love what you’re doing and put any marketing effort forth at all, you’ll be able to buy yourself quite a few Caramel Macchiatos each month.

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 1 Dozen nice products that you love to make
  • A selection of good quality photographs of your products
  • An Etsy Shop to sell them from
  • Social Media outlets to share them in (Facebook & Etsy work great)
  • One hour daily working on promotions and sharing
  • One hour daily making your products
  • Takes about three months to get momentum

Grande

Not unlike the sales at Starbucks, Grande is a popular choice.

You want something you can really think of as a job, not a hobby with benefits. You need to do more than just buy yourself some beverage treats. Real bills need to be paid and you need to find a way to pay them!

Full-time isn’t an option due to another job or a house full of kids, or both! But you’ve got a great idea and you love to make something people will buy.

At this level you’ve got to step-up the marketing and you’re not going to get by with a dozen products. However, the benefits at this level can cover a car payment and even put some gas in the tank too.

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 4 Dozen nice products that you love to make
  • A selection of good quality photographs of your products
  • An Etsy Shop to sell them from
  • A topic-focused blog from where you can build a loyal following
  • Social Media outlets to share them in (Facebook & Etsy work great)
  • Two hours daily working on promotions and sharing
  • 1-2 hours daily making your products
  • Takes about six months of consistent effort to get to this level

Venti

Now we’re talking full-time job. This is taking your love of handmade, vintage, Etsy, online marketing, blogs, social media, and entrepreneurship to the next level.

This is FBO. (Facebook Official – Time to change your status!)

At this level, you’re a pro. Chances are you’ve found out some ways to diversify. You don’t have to earn every dollar just from sales on Etsy. There are lots of ways to diversify:

  • Make money from your blog by selling advertising
  • Create downloadable products such as eBooks, printables, audio and video
  • Add a few dollars to your flow through affiliate marketing products you use
  • Maybe offer services to others using the skills you’ve learned

And – sell – a ton – on Etsy!

At this level the rewards are pretty nice. You work from home at hours of your choosing. You can stop what you’re doing at 10 in the morning if the weather seems nice and you want to go for a walk. If the house is quiet at 10pm and you feel like putting a few hours in, go for it.

You are your own boss.

You can make a good living, depending on your standards. If you’re currently a cardiologist, you might want to think twice before going this route. But for most of us, the money is decent.

The catch? This doesn’t come easy. You have to want it bad.

Ingredients:

  • Minimum of 100 nice products that you love to make (or vintage)
  • A wide selection of professional quality photographs of your products
  • An Etsy Shop to sell them from
  • An advertising budget to bring in traffic
  • Attention to detail in Product Descriptions, tags, and SEO
  • An established topic-focused blog from where you have a loyal following
  • Five or more Social Media outlets to share in. All established.
  • Four hours daily working on promotions and sharing
  • Four hours daily making/finding/inventing/packing/shipping your products
  • Can take up to two years to get to this level, depending on time invested.

Mega-Jumbo

This is where I break from the Starbucks analogy. Because this is your own dream. Name it what you want. Invent it however you want to see it.

If you make it to the level of truly being full-time selling online, then the reality is this:

Nothing can stop you from going further. It’s your choice.

That’s the beauty of the Etsy centered business. You can make it whatever size you want it to be and there really is no upper limit.

Once you reach a certain level of skill and professionalism, and your brand is widely known, the options available to you open up beyond comprehension. You won’t even know how to choose which opportunity to pursue first.

So if Mega-Jumbo is your dream. All you need to do is look at the above ingredients and replace the last line with this one:

  • Cooking time varies. You’ll know when you get there. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.
——————————-

You can do this. At whatever level fits your life and your dream.

Isn’t that exciting!

The term "Etsy" is a trademark of Etsy, Inc. This site is not affiliated with Etsy, Inc.

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