Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lessons in Etsy Sales

I learned a lot of lessons last week about selling on Etsy. One of those lessons is: don't sell things that don't exist. It's pretty clear that you don't want to be deceitful about your listings, and obviously if you're selling an item, make sure you have the item. In my case I had the item, but only theoretically. I had all the supplies to make 10 gift bags, but for the listing I had only painted one pre-made craft paper gift bag that I got at the store.

It was actually a very nice holiday pattern. Here's the main photo from the Etsy listing:

Thanks, I like it too.

So I posted my listing and basically forgot about it. A few weeks after posting the listing I decided that I wanted to save on costs (a common theme over here at The Hungry Hobbyist) for the store by making my own paper bags. Paper bags at the store are usually about a dollar apiece, you might be able to find bags for $0.50 (like I did today) if you are lucky. The best online bulk I could find was $0.60 apiece. You get the idea. If I made the bags I figured out they would cost me about $0.06 a bag. So I bought the supplies for the bags.

It turns out, making these bags was maybe over 30 minutes a bag, probably more like 45 minutes per bag in the end when you factor in painting. The worst part of all this is I was charging $0.50 per finished bag. This is lesson two, guys: don't grossly under charge for your work. It was easy for me to think $0.50 was appropriate because it's a paper bag and I wanted to be competitive with my pricing, but $0.50 for an hour of work is... questionable.

Anyway, you might have guessed that the reason I have been inspired to write this whole post is because someone bought the bags. They bought all 10 I had listed. Luckily when listing I did two things right. First, I only posted that 10 bags were available. Can you imagine if I had posted that 100 were available? I had all the stuff to make that many but not the sanity. I also listed 2-3 days of handing time before shipping.

That night I went home and set out to make some craft paper bags from scratch. Good thing I like being crafty because I worked all night folding, gluing, and painting the bags, then did some work on the bags during lunch break the next day, and then painted the finishing touches on the bags that night. They shipped the next day, within the promised amount of handling time.

So I put all this work in and I got paid $5.50 for the 10 bags. It wasn't great but I was ready to take it all as a learning experience and move on from it. Then I had to ship the bags. Here's the third lesson I learned: don't screw yourself on shipping. This was one of the first listings I had ever created on Etsy, and at the time I was trying to just get any stock in the store. I really had no clue about shipping. Somehow I only charged $0.50 to ship the entire order. I vaguely remember my original thought was that these bags could go into an envelope, and envelopes get sent with stamps on them. How much could shipping really be? I wouldn't have even called it shipping, it would be mailing... Like a letter. I know I was thinking $0.50 per each bag but ended up charging only $0.50 total. Big bummer, because 10 gift bags in a padded envelope apparently weighs more than a set of wooden ornaments in a 6x6x6 box with bubble wrap. Who would have guessed? After all of this, shipping cost me $4.30 and I got paid $1.20 for an entire evening-and-a-half's worth of work.

I'm not so much complaining about all of this as I am sharing my amazement that this combination of events even happened in the first place. Excluding my time, I actually made a 50% profit on materials. What more can I do but vow to never let this happen again? Like I said earlier, it's a good thing I like crafts

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