In this episode, Rachel joins us from IndigoTangerine where she sells handmade personalized burlap and linen bags. She also has a shop named IndigoPress where she sells some really cool printables and planners. She shares her fantastic story of starting a shop during Etsy’s infancy, what happened to it, and how with her current shop she’s managed to gain SEVEN times more sales than she had in May of this year. Join us for some great tips from Rachel in this episode of Etsy Jam!
Back in 2008, I just had my 5th boy. For some reason I guess I needed something more to do and so I started sewing bags for my kids. I made a lot of bags as I taught myself how to sew and just got to the point where one day I was like “This is just a lot of bags. I gotta figure out how to sustain this habit.” But I really like crafting so I just started hanging my bags in my front yard, taking pictures, and sending it to friends. People started buying them which was awesome! But I also figured out really early on that I want to branch out of this. Then I stumbled upon Etsy.
It was the dawn of Etsy so people weren’t talking about it but it just clicked that this is the place to sell handmade stuffs. So I posted and listed a few of my bags just to see how it went. Took me about 6 months to get a sale and I’ll never forget that moment. I’ll never forget that, I was ready to give up. 6 months was a long time to wait.
Then it went from there. I found a niche really quick with the material called oilcloth. I realized early on that you really need to find a niche if you ever want to become successful on Etsy. Even at that time, when you do a search for ‘bags’, you’ll just get pages and pages of results. It was hard to get noticed. But I learned pretty quickly that people really liked oilcloth and that has been one of my stronger keywords in terms of what people are searching for.
For a while, I had this vision to start something new, I had this vision for IndigoTangerine but I realized quickly I couldn’t balance two shops without stretching myself too thin. So my assistant (Becky) eventually bought RBTbags from me. She runs it now and she really knows it well inside and out as she was working with me for so long and I couldn’t think of anyone better to run it – and so she still does. Then I launched IndigoTangerine; that is my line of burlap primarily and some linen personalized products. That was about a year ago and it’s doing great!
What are the changes you have seen on Etsy over the years?
I think that the things they improved upon the most is the efficiency. The ways that they help us Etsy sellers be more efficient. When we started, they were so hardcore in trying to eliminate any kind of mass production. They really made it difficult back in the day. You couldn’t just copy a listing. You literally had to start every single listing from scratch and that made sense – for what they were trying to do but there are things about it that made it really difficult to run a handmade business which is already in itself not as efficient as Amazon and other competitors.
From side hustle to full hustle
It was really back in January 2016 when I really started to come up with a full time income as I’ve been raising kids – which by the way I feel very blessed about because I have been able to stay home with my kids. So I started getting back into the job market but what I knew was; entrepreneurship, small businesses, how to market, and produce, and sell. So I just kept at it while I figure out if there is a way to take this and make it full time. It was in May that I felt like I was getting there. I can see the potential because I was getting consistent sales. I started doing some research and figuring out how to utilize all the tools that Etsy has to offer to maximize my exposure in Etsy. Then I stumbled across Marmalead via Merriweather council and that was really the key for me when I realized that I can actually stop guessing how to title my listings and I could do some research and apply some market data while also measuring my results. That was a turning moment for me.
From week 2 of May to week 3 I tripled my revenue. Then it just steadily increased since. At this point (August 2016), I’m up SEVEN times above of what I was in the beginning of May (in revenue).
"Going through all of your tutorials - a part of it was really a mental shift realizing that I'm not selling to Google. Stop creating listings for Google. If I list on Etsy and I happen to get Google traffic, that's great. But I realized that what I really should be focusing on right now is Etsy. Etsy and that's what Etsy exists for - Etsy customers."
I check on my SEO at least once a week!
I check on my SEO at least once a week. With SEO and trends; things change. Things are always changing and if you’re not on top of what keywords are working and helping you out – also add the new ones that are showing up as seasons change – it’s easy to fall behind on that sort of stuff. You can’t just spin through everything and set and be all done.
I had no way to know where I was landing in search!
When I think back to the “dark ages” of Etsy, I had no way to know where I was landing in search. I was just randomly renewing products. I didn’t know if it was doing anything or not. And that is until I’ve discovered Marmalead.
Can you give us a glimpse of what your process is?
For me, first of all was always photography. I’m always revisiting my photos. Another thing is with Marmalead. I like to be able to search my keyword and what I’m looking for is if it has a good variety of photos. So if someone is searching that keyword and I have multiple things pull up, I like to see that there is some variation in the photos.
I also go through and do lots of updates and changes on my descriptions because I tend to listen carefully and pay attention to the questions that come in from my customers. If I start noticing people are coming to me with the same set of questions, then usually that’s a good sign for me that I need to go back to my listings and figure out if there’s a way I could be communicating this better.
Then for the keyword research – for example, bags. Bags are an easy and fun thing to sell. But there’s so many ways to list them. Sometimes, something just pops into my head like keywords that people might use my bags for. It occurred to me one day like “I don’t have these listed as gym bags.” But I have people search for ‘gym bags’. So I went to Marmalead and started doing some research as I try to figure out if I am on to something there. I try to figure out too what photos to use because I have lots of photos to choose from. I actually do have around 50 different listings on Etsy of the exact same product! Based on what target keywords I’m trying to rank on, I might change the cover photo to something that I think would resonate better with someone who’s searching for a ‘gym bag’ vs. someone searching for a ‘beach bag’. I try to look into the big picture and make sure that from the photos to the descriptions it all captures the same mood.
How was the transition when you decided to take on Etsy full time?
It’s a tough one to answer because I’m not always sure I have that balanced well. One of the better things that happened to me was when my shop outgrew my house in terms of having the space for productions.
So I moved it into my parent’s basement and I think that has been good for me. There’s something to be said about when you’re working at home and it’s just so hard to clear your head of it. It’s always lingering in your mind and I think I would just always be working if it was in my house. But since it’s not, it’s good for me to have that sort of set hours. I know when I’m gonna be producing and I know when I’m not; and there is a good boundary there.
What are you looking forward to this holiday season?
I’m preparing myself already – hoping for some good sales this holiday season. I’m excited!