In this episode we have the pleasure of chatting with Rebecca, from Aegean Drawn. Rebecca has been on Etsy since 2015 and recently found her niche selling some awesome crochet dog costumes and hats. Rebecca shares some Yoda inspired life changing advice she received, and how it helped her get her shop on track for success. Join us for a conversation about customer communication, selling original art on Etsy, international shipping strikes, and more.
Rebecca was originally born in Illinois and from there went to California and then Germany. It was in Germany that she got her lovely dog, whose original name was Kara Van Winkle, but was renamed Lola. Lola has inspired much of Rebecca’s current costume and hat designs! Rebecca’s husband was in the military and they were stationed in Germany four and a half years. After her husband finished with the military, they moved back to Illinois, and then on to Turkey, where they currently reside.
Getting Started Story
In 2015, after being in Izmir, Turkey for a little while, Rebecca realized that the options she had for work were “teaching English and teaching English,” which she gave a shot, but quickly realized it was not her passion. She had always been interested in art and crafts (if you can name a craft, she probably gave it a try), and she decided to try and sell some of her stuff online. She started off doing a basic google search that said something like “How to sell your art online” and one of the first things to come up was Etsy. A friend had recently bought all of their wedding supplies from Etsy, so Rebecca decided to give it a shot! So, in March 2015, Rebecca opened her shop, Aegean Drawn.
How did she pick what to list?
Basically, she listed everything. She had a back log of work that she’d been doing for a while such as, paintings and local jewelry…and it didn’t go very well at first. After about three months of trying out different Facebook groups she was starting to get pretty frustrated. She hadn’t had a single sale, even though she was getting lots views and favorites. The turning point was when the admin of one of the groups she was asking for help finally gave her the “Yoda” speech she needed, which was basically this: If it’s something you love, DO it. Go after it! But, if it’s something you don’t care that much about, just don’t. You either have to commit to it or walk away, it’s your choice. If you want it, then go get it.
After hearing that, she committed to really trying her best for a year, and then if needed, she’d reevaluate everything. Obviously, that year proved to be a fantastic decision.
International Shipping Observations
After a few weeks, Rebecca started to think that maybe some of the “international seller stigma” might be getting in her way. What she’s talking about is assuming that just because something is coming from China makes that item automatically cheap, which may not be the case at all. Or maybe the shipping cost just seems to be too high to some buyers when purchasing internationally. So, after reviewing what her audience viewed, liked, and favorited, she started looking into what she could offer digitally, to get around this whole assumption, and at this point she got into crocheted patterns. This was actually her first sale, which then lead to her first “real” sale for a crocheted product. This all happened around months 4-6.
Finding Her Niche
One day, she was on one of the Facebook groups she had joined, and someone posted a photo of a chihuahua in a crocheted hat, and she realized: Hey! She could do that! And as they say, the rest is history:) (Definitely go check out her shop! The pictures of Lola modeling the hats are pretty spectacular!)
Using Social Media To Your Advantage
Rebecca has put a different spin on the normal social media give-aways, which engages her audience and prospective buyers more fully. Instead of doing give-aways that ask you to “like and follow my page/shop for a chance to win” Rebecca got far more creative. She asked that people would tell her what pattern/idea for a costume they wanted to see her make, and the catch was, they also had to send in measurements of their pets. This way, she received valuable information in return for giving away one of her hats! This also helped her to better understand what people were interested in seeing listed in her shop. It also helped her engage with her audience by not just having them click a button, but actually getting them involved. And not only dogs are involved in the process, the last winner of her giveaway was a sheep!
What’s The Craziest Thing She’s Made?!
Santa hats…for rats! Seriously. But, the crazy requests are just an opportunity to help her learn. There really are no inquiries that you can’t learn something from, she says. It definitely can be an adventure as a seller on Etsy!
Key Things That Worked
- Working hard and not stopping, making improvements and changing things up on her shop regularly.
- Working on SEO, which is something she NEVER stops doing.
- Changing the pictures up and redoing them regularly, which helps WAY more than you’d believe.
What Does She Use To Get Good Photos?
A DSLR is what she primarily uses to get her photos, and then she really waits until the lighting is right. This can be a bit difficult as she lives on the coast, and the lighting at her home really requires that she wait until it’s just perfect in order to get a good photo. She does do some editing afterwards as well, but not too much, as she doesn’t want to lose any of her colors. Lastly, she crops them down so they look good for an Etsy preview, and then lists them up!
Doing What People Like
For a while, Rebecca tried selling her artwork on Etsy, and she found that even though she got a lot of likes, nothing was selling that she listed. Her custom pieces, however, would sell faster than something she just painted on her own. This got her thinking about what people actually liked as opposed to what she was inspired by and wanted to do all the time. Being able to custom make things has been a big thing for Rebecca, and still is, even though her crocheted work sells faster than her artwork ever did. Sometimes, you have to capitalize on the commerce you see in front of you, as opposed to ONLY doing what you want, she says.
Breaking Down Etsy Admin
For Rebecca, these are the details of running her own Etsy shop:
In the off season, she spends 30% of her time fulfilling orders, 30% designing new products and 30% doing promotions and social media.
During peak season, she spends 90% of her time fulfilling orders. Her peak season is around Halloween and Christmas.
What Didn’t Work
The one thing that’s been a huge struggle for Rebecca, is shipping internationally. Though the cost of living in Turkey is very low and shipping rates are low as well, it’s the shipping time that has been a struggle. Even though it only takes about 1-2 days to complete an order, shipping from Turkey to the U.S. takes on average, about two weeks. Rebecca says the best way around this is customer communication, and just being upfront with her buyers.
This is also the advice she offers for not only international sellers, but any Etsy shop owner. Provide good communication, keep your buyers aware of the process and that line of communication open, which will defuse more tension than not. Rebecca herself got a good lesson in communication with her buyers a couple years ago, when there was an international shipping strike! However, despite the initial panic, she just kept communicating the best she could. She even bought a tracking app so she could update and then follow up with her customers. This created trust between her and her buyers, and earned her 5 star reviews during this stressful time.
Passion vs. Reality
Rebecca is definitely still very passionate about her artwork, and she says it was a bit of a struggle to let it go where her shop is concerned. The reality of her situation is that, despite being passionate about art, she’s truly found her niche and what works for her, and for now, this is where she wants to put her passion and energy. She says it’s hard, finding the balance between doing what works and what you’re passionate about. Carving out a niche for yourself when you want so badly for others to catch your current vision can be daunting.
However, being open to new possibilities, maybe something you’ve never thought seriously about before, can only help you! And as for Rebecca, we might see her one day with a new Etsy shop with custom artwork available. But for now, however, you’ll find her crocheting away in her little home by the sea!
We wish you all the best, Rebecca! Thank you so much for sharing what you’ve learned with everyone.
Where To Find Rebecca
You’re definitely going to want to check out Rebecca’s fantastic shop (along with her model, Lola) especially if you have pets of your own! Find her at: