This guy turned his hobby into a 5-figure side hustle

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Hey there! My name is Derek, and I run the website The Money Family. The site is all about making money on Etsy, with an emphasis on my shop specialty, which is woodworking. If you’ve ever been interested in how to start an Etsy shop, then you’re in the right place. I’ll walk you through exactly how I turned my woodworking hobby into a $2k per month side hustle on Etsy.

Woodworking has been a hobby of mine for a long time, and, like many crafters, I always had the idea to start selling some of my work. Unfortunately, I also suffered from pretty bad imposter syndrome and never felt like my work was good enough to sell.

In 2018 I started getting into sourdough baking. One of the tools used in bread baking is called a bowl scraper. It’s a half-round piece of plastic used to scrape the sticky, wet sourdough dough out of the proofing bowl.

Well, rather than buy some $1 plastic throw-away tool, I figured I would just make my own out of wood. After using it a few times, I decided to post a picture of it to a sourdough subreddit.

Well, the post kind of blew up! I suddenly had a ton of people asking if they could buy one.

I ended up selling a few through private messages on Reddit and shortly after that set up my Etsy shop.

Unfortunately, success was not instantaneous.

In my first six months on Etsy, I made a grand total of 1 sale totaling $30.

Over the next year, I made a few sales per month, but my shop was mostly a bust.

Marketing My Etsy Shop

In early November 2019, my shop had been in business for 16 months, and I had made a total of $470 worth of sales.

I decided to try posting to Reddit again as the holidays were right around the corner. Well, this time, I had my shop ready to go and ended up making over $1,000 in sales those last two months of the year.

Now that Etsy saw that my woodworking crafts were selling, a light switch seemed to flip.

I went from $1,400 in sales in 2019 to over $21,000 in 2020!

Suddenly my products were ranking well in Etsy’s search results, and those sales gave me the confidence to start doing more outreach and put more effort into the business.

  • I posted my work in a massive sourdough Facebook group that went mini-viral and ended up driving over $1,500 in sales in 3 days.
  • I started reaching out to sourdough bakers on Instagram to see if they would be interested in promoting my products or offering them in giveaways. All of them were more than happy to help!
  • I read up on Etsy SEO best practices and revamped all of my listings to ensure I was using the best keywords in my listing titles and descriptions.
  • The pandemic hit, which has been absolutely awful but was also a right place at the right time kind of thing for my shop. As suddenly, the entire country was interested in learning to bake sourdough.

All of this resulted in a few of my products reaching Best Seller status on Etsy, for which you get a fancy little tag on your listing and the top ranking in the search results for your niche.

Looking Forward to 2021

For this year, my goal is to put the shop more on autopilot. I’m cutting back how much I post to Instagram, cutting back my ads budget, and trying to keep my time fulfilling orders to two evenings per week.

After all, I am a stay-at-home dad to a 2-year-old and 4-year-old and run The Money Family. So my free time is somewhat limited!

With all that said, if you are interested in how to start an Etsy shop, then here are some things I would go back and do differently.

Learn Etsy SEO and Market My Products

So much of finding success on Etsy is selling a product that people are searching for and ultimately want to purchase. In my shop’s early days, I was selling dough scrapers with poorly worded titles and short descriptions. So it is no wonder virtually no one was finding my listings! Even though, at the time, I was really the only one on Etsy selling this product.

Etsy gives sellers a ton of data on how customers find their shop. The most important of which is their search terms.

I used this to my advantage to tweak my listings and create new listings that focused on popular keywords while trying to avoid overly saturated product niches.

I also learned that, for me, at least, one-off listings never sold well. For example, I might make a wooden bowl that I only have one of, versus my dough scrapers, of which I have sold hundreds of at this point. Etsy will look at those two listings and knows that the scrapers sell well. Thus they will rank them well in the search results. Once the bowl sells, it is gone!

I still do an occasional one-off product, but almost all of my sales now come from products that I can make and sell over and over.

Do More Outreach

Outreach has been tremendous for my growth over the past year. During my first 18 months in business, I was honestly too scared to reach out to other folks in the sourdough baking space. Even though I was starting to see some traction and get good reviews, I still worried that “real” sourdough bakers wouldn’t think my products were any good.

Finally, I chatted with a sourdough baker on Instagram who lived near me and was running a promotion. I reached out and asked if she wanted some of my products for the giveaway, and she happily accepted!

That first yes seemed to open the door to what was possible, and I started reaching out to more and bigger accounts. Almost all of them happily said yes, and their promotions were vital to driving sales and building my Instagram following with potential customers.

Use Etsy Ads

Etsy offers both on-site and off-site add options for new shops.

With on-site ads, you can set a daily budget, and you only pay when a potential customer clicks on one of your ads.

This ensures you are getting eyes on your listings every day, which should start driving sales.

I put off using Etsy’s on-site ads early on and regret it. Even a few dollars per day will bring in customers and start to build up that sales history that is so important for your products to start ranking in Etsy’s search results.

Off-site ads are a new feature on Etsy. They display ads for your products on external websites like Google or other search engines. If your shop is new and has no sales history, then you can choose to enroll in the program or opt-out.

Note that there is a 15% fee for any sale made from an off-site ad click with off-site ads.

Once you reach $10,000 in sales for the previous 12-months, the program becomes mandatory, and the fee drops to 12%.

I think if you price your products right, then this program can be beneficial for new shops. Many new shop owners are caught off guard by these sales, though, as they aren’t aware of the program and didn’t have enough margin on their products to make any money after the 15% ad fee.

Become Smarter with Social Media

This point plays in with the outreach section above.

When I first started my shop, I opened up an Instagram account to go with it. My account saw some decent growth at first, but, unfortunately, most of my followers were just other woodworkers.

Woodworkers are certainly entertaining to follow and interact with, but they don’t make for great customers.

Looking back, I wish I had been bolder with my outreach to other influencers in the sourdough baking space where my potential customers hung out.

Knowing your customer profile is huge for targeting them through ads, social media, outreach, etc. So take some time to think through who your ideal customer is and how you can build your social media campaigns to best get in front of them.

Look at promoting your listings on Pinterest for a quick boost. You can use templates for your pins and post directly from Canva using the templates below:

Focused my Shop

95% of my sales during my shop’s first 18 months were for one product. A dough scraper.

This meant that paying customers coming to my shop were mostly bakers who may be interested in buying other kitchen focused items.

Even though I very much should have known that, I still ended up treating my Etsy shop like a dumping ground for whatever I was in the mood to make at the time.

At various points throughout that year, I listed wood and metal wedding bands (a cool product but very much not within where my focus should have been), numerous wood bowls, wooden pendants, and other assorted art.

All that time, I should have focused on items that would compliment my best seller.

Since then, I have refocused the shop to list sourdough starter jars, pizza/bread peels, kitchen decor, etc. I would estimate that 25% of orders now are for multiple items. And some of these new items have even surpassed the dough scrapers in popularity!

Keeping your shop on brand is critical for making multi-item sales and pushing your listings higher in Etsy’s search results.

Final Thoughts on My Journey to Building a $2k per Month Etsy Shop

Etsy is a great way to build a side hustle, or even a full-time business, from home. If you’ve been thinking about selling your crafts on Etsy, then I say go for it! It has been a long road to get where I am today, but none of it would have happened if I hadn’t put myself out there and just started selling!

 

More side hustle ideas:

This article originally appeared on ILikeToDabble.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

Featured Image Credit: leszekglasner / iStock.

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