Last November, I put my Etsy shop in Vacation Mode, essentially closing it temporarily. I’d been an Etsy seller for 4 ½ years at that point, and I was feeling worn out with the lack of sales, and unmotivated to put any more work into it. I didn't want to tackle the Christmas season with that kind of attitude.
After keeping it inactive these past months, I’ve decided to officially close the shop.
Etsy was a big learning experience for me. Going into it, I had no idea how to price my work, how to handle online customers, how to promote a business, even what to charge for tax. I put in hours and hours of research before opening the shop, and many, many more afterward.
Looking back, I know plenty of things I could and should have done to improve traffic and make sales, but for all my research beforehand, I was still jumping in pretty blind.
Some things I learned about business and about myself:
- I learned that I hate dealing with the post office, determining shipping costs, packaging and labeling items to ship, and dealing with items lost in the shipping void. Unlike certain shipping companies, I do not love logistics.
- I learned that the key to customer service is treating the customer the way I always want to be treated when I'm the customer. Going above the expectation, beyond what's "fair." I sincerely hope that my efforts to do so were received as such!
- I learned that all the little promotion materials like business cards are expensive… and I have a tendency to say things like “ooh, there's a sale, let’s get these really great personalized stickers to put on the ends of the mailing tubes! I’m investing in my business! No problem!" But it is a problem when profits are outweighed by the cost of those fun marketing materials.
- I learned that sometimes you’ve got an awesome custom order in the works, you’ve worked with the buyer to make sure the product is perfect, invested in the best materials, and nearly completed everything……… only to have the order fall through at the last minute. It happens, and you just have to cry about it for a few minutes and then figure out what to do with what you have left.
- Most importantly, I learned how hard it is to be true to the personal nature of my art when personal art isn’t what sells… and how hard it is not to “commercialize” and just make art that will sell.
That last point was the hardest lesson to handle. There were many times that I started a painting, drawing, or collage, only to feel a sharp twinge of guilt because I knew it would never sell in a forum like Etsy. Conversely, there were many times that I started a piece only to feel a sharp twinge of guilt over "selling out" and making something trendy and kitschy.
All that to say, running an Etsy shop is a lot of work and a lot of money. For some, it’s well worth the investment. Etsy definitely has its perks, and I have to admit that the company does everything it can to make the buying and selling experience a good one. But for me, the costs outweighed the rewards.
When I opened the shop I was a full-time college student, working 20+ hours a week, trying to make new art, keep a handle on my mental health, and still try to socialize once in a while. I didn’t have the time to devote to building the business. By the time I graduated and had a little more time (or rather, the illusion of time!) to put into my shop, I found myself burnt out.
So, that’s where things stand. I’m closing my Etsy shop after five years. I need to get back to my personal art, in my time, on my terms. I need to remove shipping and marketing from the equation.
I need to stop trying to be a “professional artist” for a minute and focus on trying to be an artist in the first place.
You: “But I love Tornado Girl and I want to buy a print!”
Me: "Well, you can always contact me about buying my art!"
Only this way, I won’t be paying Etsy any listing fees or commissions.
You can also still find my work on t-shirts, phone cases, coffee mugs, and lots of other household objects at Redbubble, where all I have to do is upload the art. They handle production, shipping, and customer service, and in my experience as both buyer and artist, they do a really great job at all of those things.
Finally, this will not affect my blogging - you’ll still hear from me here at See Cailey Color! There will just be fewer sales pitches, so you should thank me.
All kidding aside, thank you all for your support, my friends. I couldn’t have done any of it without you, and I still can’t, moving forward. I depend so much on my family, friends, and internet-friends for encouragement and inspiration.