What I Learned about Running a Creative Business from Selling Jewelry on Etsy
Creative Business Lessons Learned
I’ve been a maker and entrepreneur my entire life. From that time I sold painted rocks around my neighborhood, I’ve been destined to make money being my own boss in some creative field.
Before I was a podcaster and a web designer, I spent about 2.5 years making jewelry and selling it online and in my local community. Jewelry-making is one of my favorite things, and that accidental business taught me a lot.
Creative Outlets Can Become Online Business Ideas
Back then I was wrapping up college and needed a creative outlet, and in true Emily-fashion, I monetized it. It all began when I discovered Etsy and I knew I had to be on this. So, I set up my first shop and started figuring out the nuts and bolts of running an online-based business.
What began as a let’s-see-what-happens experiment quickly turned into a full-time job, resulting in over a thousand online orders and a flourishing local business as well. I learned a lot by being thrown into that business, and here are some of the business lessons that I’ve taken with me all the way.
Top 7 Lessons for Creative Businesses
Marketplaces might not be the best place for your services or store.
Consistency breeds legitimacy
It was in those days that I discovered the biggest online not-so-secret of all: consistency breeds legitimacy.
In a realm where customers can’t touch your products or chat with you face-to-face, you have to use your brand’s look and feel and your words to communicate everything about your product. And if you’re not consistent with your messaging and look, then your customer recognizes a disconnect.
Customers Trust A Consistent Image
In online business, a consistent brand look consists of logo, type faces, and a color scheme that is used on everything your business produces. The feel is translated to your brand’s imagery and is reflected in the words you use.
Also, your brand’s experience on the front-end (what your online store looks like) has to carry over into the one-on-one interactions of customer and client support as well. If you’re all sweet and witty in your outward-facing content, but your customer service emails are short and cold, then your customer will see that disconnect, and you’ll lose credibility.
If all the things are in place—if your brand is consistent—then your customer will see you as a legitimate business person worthy of their money.
Consistency breeds legitimacy. And legitimacy makes you money.
Learn how to package your expertise consistently in your creative business
If you want to dive deeper into creating consistent marketing for your creative business, check out these podcast episodes and articles:
Episode #261: Planning a Successful Rebrand with Gabrielle Blades
You have to stand apart
If Etsy taught me anything, it’s that people will steal your shit. And it’s really easy to let inspiration turn into copying in a place like that, too. As a creative business owner, it’s important to always rely on your own creativity, not someone else’s. Sell your creativity, or go get a job.
Another side of this coin is to consistently be innovating and setting yourself apart from the crowd. Always go the extra mile. When you lean back in comfort, the crowd will catch up.
For a little bit of a deeper dive on this, check out the minisode, Jealousy and Competition.
Badass photos are your golden egg
I don’t care if you’re doing line sheets for wholesalers, putting your headshot on a guest post, or promoting products online, you have to have really badass photos. Online or off, unless your products are in a customer’s hand, your photos are what is telling the story of your brand, the quality of your product, and the care with which you run your business.
Usually, around Being Boss we talk about investing in branding first. But I believe that product businesses, in particular, should invest in product photography first. Throw some simple Helvetica text on top of a legit photo of your product and you have a brand. The photo speaks for itself.
And now that services are my bread and butter, I see the importance that badass photos for your brand still holds. It’s the same. Your imagery can make or break your brand and connect your to potential customers.
How to get great photos for your creative business
If you’re ready to step up your photo game for your business, here are a podcast and article for you:
Community = success
My jewelry business is where I first learned the importance of community for my business, online and off. I found success because I got to know people, and those people supported me.
It began with the Etsy chat rooms, talking about how to resize photos and discussing how to name products. It turned into collaborations and supporting each other for family birthday gifts. Online went offline when friends encouraged me to do arts and craft fairs, which turned into getting invited to shows, to throw jewelry parties (OMG, those were always the best), and picking up local wholesale accounts.
Even now community is a large part of what we encourage here at Being Boss. Community can make the difference for any business.
Creative Businesses & Entrepreneurs Need Community
If you’re a fan of Being Boss, you know how much we value community and talking about business. If you’re on the hunt for the right community space for you or just a great business bestie, we’ve got some articles and podcast episodes:
Join us in the Being Boss Community, fun, inclusive, and supportive space for creative business owners to get together, talk about business, help each other find solutions, and grow.
Episode #296: The Power of Community Over Competition with Erica Courdae & Tasha L. Harrison
Episode #317: How to Build Relationships as a Busy Entrepreneur with Autumn Witt Boyd
Systems are the difference between smooth sailing and lots of bad ratings
My first holiday season as a maker put me through my paces, and I quickly learned the importance of putting systems in place so that you’re working smarter, not harder. I developed a system that got orders from Etsy into my studio, products made, and shipping out quickly and efficiently.
I then took that understanding to systemize my web design business to grow and scale. Then I employed them to systemize Being Boss to create and launch lots of valuable content. I grew a team. And all of this was done because jewelry-making taught me to hustle smart.
The skills to systemize make you a good entrepreneur.
Your Creative Business Needs Systems
All creative businesses need systems to thrive. From how you treat your customers to your production processes, developing systems help you streamline your company so you have time for research, innovation, and growth. Check out these podcast episodes to learn more:
Episode #257: Project Management and Building Systems for Creatives and Freelancers with Mary Williams
How to Fix Your Business (6-Step Process for Improving Business Systems)
Marketplaces are there to serve themselves
I ultimately learned a big lesson from selling jewelry on Etsy that led me to my next career of being a web designer. Marketplaces like Etsy are a great place for you to find your footing, test your product and your market, and learn the ropes. But marketplaces are there to serve themselves, and a good entrepreneur knows when to move along and stand on their own two feet.
When doing business online, standing on your own two feet means owning and running your own website—a place where you’re not sharing marketing space with anyone else. It’s a place where you can make and sell on your own terms. It’s a place where you’re the boss, but you’re also the professional who’s investing time and energy into your own business.
If you want to run a legit online business where you’re the expert, you need your own website.
Check out Episode #7: Your Website is Your Most Valuable Employee to learn just how important owning your own online space is for your creative business.
You’re not locked in
It was moving from Etsy to my own site when I found that websites were just as fun to make as earrings, but with a much larger profit margin. It was then where I found a place where I could use my web skills to help other creatives also get off of Etsy and into their own online home.
And it was at the end of my career selling jewelry on Etsy that I found that as a creative, I get to make money doing what I love. And sometimes that means going in a new direction.
One Creative Business Informed Many Others
My years of jewelry sales on Etsy were formative for understanding how business works online. I learned a ton about myself, and about how I could help others build online businesses, too.
Every step you make on your creative path is important. Even if it feels it doesn’t make sense now, learn the lessons and continue to move forward. Be consistent, stand apart, lean on your community. And move forward.
Find Support and Learn from Other Creative Entrepreneurs
When you started your creative business, you knew it’d take a whole lot of work.
But what you weren’t prepared for… was this feeling of overwhelm you just can’t shake.
Nobody told you you’d have a never-ending task list that seems to multiply by the hour.
That you’d be the account manager, the admin assistant, the photographer, the social media manager, the designer, the marketer, the copywriter, the accountant and the CEO all at the same time.
Sometimes, when you’re paralyzed by the overwhelm, you just sit and stare at your screen thinking:“What the hell am I supposed to do first? Where do I go from here?”
The Being Boss Community is where you go from here.
Our Community is an online hub for creative business owners and entrepreneurs like you who are committed to making money doing work they love.
It’s for bosses who want to benefit from being part of a real, supportive community, instead of just another freakin’ Facebook group.
We are bosses who are breaking barriers, throwing out the rule books, creating new niches, new roles, and new markets around the things we feel most passionate about.
Our community membership is completely free and includes access to:
the community platform, to meet bosses, share updates, and ask questions
Monday Meet-Ups (virtual check-ins with fellow bosses)
Monday prompts to get the conversation started and help you reflection
the Classifieds section
additional resources like podcast playlists and our worksheet library
Our Clubhouse membership is for bosses looking for additional support.
Here’s a closer look at the exclusive events & resources you’ll have access to in the Clubhouse. Plus, You can join today with our 14-day free trial and then just $77 a month!
If you are a product-based business (physical or digital), we’ve got you covered with a monthly meet-up to dive into retail and product-specific obstacles, resources, and trends.
Do you offer graphic and web design services? Workshop obstacles, share ideas, and talk about all things related to your design-focused business in this monthly meet-up.
Check in with your fellow Clubhouse members each month on a live call that gives you the opportunity to dive deeper into your business strategy and struggles.
New Moon Circles + Intentions
Take part in the foundational Being Boss practice of new moon intention setting to center yourself and promote continual growth and evolution with your fellow bosses in a monthly prompt with journaling support and a live call on each new moon.
Quarterly Book Clubs
Expand your knowledge and nerd out on business books with our quarterly book club, complete with weekly prompts and a live call to discuss and implement together.
Making A Business Podcast
A monthly exclusive behind the scenes look at what it takes to run and grow Emily’s product business, Almanac Supply Co.
Workshops + Classes
Featuring experts on topics that resonate with challenges you are looking for help with.
The Being Boss Community is the space to share your wins, brainstorm your challenges, and support each other, so that you can be fulfilled, productive, and totally boss. We hope to see you there!