My Etsy shop has been open for about two years, but this month marks my one year anniversary of quitting my day job to do hand lettering and run my shop full time. Last month was also my three year “calligraversary” of when I started practicing modern calligraphy and hand lettering. Clearly I like to take on new creative ventures in the fall, so I figured now would be the perfect time to share my journey over the past year.
If you’re new to my community, I recommend reading this post from a year ago, where I share my journey from hobby, to side hustle, to full-time hand lettering artist and Etsy shop owner. But, what I really want to do today is celebrate, reflect on the past year, and share the truth behind running an Etsy shop – the positives, the negatives, and everything in between.
The big wins
A year ago I had about 30 Etsy sales, had maybe a dozen prints listed in my shop, and was getting ready to officially launch my first self-published book, Romans: A Hand Lettered Devotional. A year later, a lot of prayer, hard work, the help of good friends, and crazy amounts of God’s grace later, I have about 900 Etsy sales, hundreds of sales from Creative Market and other local pop-ups, over 50 different products listed in my shop, and I’m getting ready to officially launch my second self-published book, Ephesians: A Hand Lettered Devotional on October 22, 2018!
Looking back, it has been an amazing year of growth. I am so thankful for all of it and I’ve achieved so much of what I set out to do this year. But, if I only celebrated those great accomplishments, I would be leaving out the whole story, which to me, is way more important than just sharing the outcome of this first year in business full-time.
If I didn’t share about the obstacles, I’m afraid I’d give the impression that everything just fell into place on its own and that with a little bit of hard work, I made it happen. I love my job and there is nothing I’d rather be doing than what I’m doing right now, but it was a lot more than a little hard work to get to where I am today.
The truth is, running an Etsy shop full-time has been a blast! Also the truth? Running an Etsy shop full-time has been more of a challenge than I ever thought possible.
You can go back and read wins from any of my past “Wins & Learns” blog posts, but I am going to focus on some of the obstacles I’ve come across running an Etsy shop for the rest of this post, not because I’m super negative about the Etsy life (quite the opposite!), but because I personally crave more honesty from other people I look up to in the creative business world and I want to be that honest voice for others.
I quit my day job a year ago knowing that growth would come slowly in my business, that not every month would be better than the last, that summers would be slow, and that I would need to be very mindful with my money to be able to pay myself each month. I knew that going into it, but it’s one thing to have multiple people tell you what to expect and it’s another to experience it all on your own for the first time.
In the past year, I’ve had more sales than I ever thought possible. As I shared above, I’ve experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Writing those numbers down is mind blowing, because lately I’ve been very discouraged with my growth and still don’t feel like I’ve achieved “success” even though I’m beyond most of the goals I had set for myself 12 months ago.
How could I have met so many of my goals and still feel discouraged? I’m realizing that a lot of it has to do with my personal circumstances. When I started working full-time on my own, I didn’t realize my husband would get so sick a few months later that he wouldn’t be able to work and go to school at the same time and that my lettering business would have to be the main source of income to support us. And truthfully, it doesn’t. Aside from the income from my hand lettering business, Luke and I both get paid to lead worship every Sunday and I even took on a small part-time job at a local shop recently. Running my Etsy shop is still my full-time, 40+ hour a week day job, but I spend another 8-10 hours a week leading worship and working at the local shop to make ends meet.
It’s been difficult and discouraging but I still love and enjoy running an Etsy shop and I am so fortunate to have a supportive husband who often believes in me more than I believe in myself. I still believe this is where God wants me right now and I will continue doing this as long as I know that’s true. I know life won’t always feel like an uphill climb and I am excited to see how my outlook on my business will change once Luke is done with school in May and (Lord willing) will have a fancy job in June. I truly believe I’ll be able to relax more when we aren’t relying so heavily on the income from my shop.
Numbers don’t lie… or do they?
I’ve heard it said, “Numbers don’t lie.” I think that’s true, but with this edit: “Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story.” Instagram followers and Etsy sales numbers are easy to look at and think, “Wow, that person’s got it all together.” But what you don’t know about is the car accident that totaled the shop owner’s car, the unexpected hospital trip and medical bills, the lost moving van, the emergency trips to the vet, a loss in the family, and the oh so real struggle to just get the bills paid from week to week.
So, if you are working on growing your Instagram account, online shop, or other type of business, don’t put all your happiness and worth in the numbers. Focus on the bigger things: Are you adding something beautiful to the world? Are you doing good in the lives of others? Are you making a positive impact? Are you cultivating a community of kind, honest, inspiring people? Those are the things that really make a difference in the long run. I know kindness doesn’t always get the bills paid, but keep being a positive presence in the lives of others, working hard on your business, and leaning on the Lord in everything you do. You will see fruit.
Happy one-year anniversary to me! And happy making-it-to-the-end-of-this-blog-post to you! 😉 I hope you are encouraged by the parts of my story I shared today. I would love to hear what you connected with most, so don’t be shy! Leave a comment!
I will continue to share the honest truth about my journey in my monthly “Wins & Learns” blog posts and in other posts throughout the year as I feel led. If you want to stay up to date on future blog posts and shop updates, please join my mailing list. I would love to stay connected with you!