In 2013, Morgan Nield started an Etsy shop on a whim selling newborn hats, baby headbands and crib sheets. Three years later, she’s close to 20,000 sales and has made over $400,000.
How in the world did she do it?
Morgan joined me in the last Ellechat webinar of 2016 to share her story along with some practical steps for taking sporadic sales and turning them into a sustainable, consistent income (the kind you can quit your day job with!).
Morgan and I discussed:
- How to gain traction on Etsy when you’re first getting started
- SEO tips for getting your products seen on Etsy and in search engines
- How to gain repeat customers
- Factors that attributed to a large spike in sales
- Advantages of running a shop as opposed to offering services
- 3 key pieces of advice to new shop owners who are trying to bring in a full-time income
- And more!
If you have dreams of taking your product-based business full-time, you won’t want to miss this one!
You can watch the replay by registering through the Crowdcast window below, or keep scrolling and take a look at the transcript.
Lauren: Hello, everyone and welcome to this week's Ellechat. I am so excited to have you guys tuning in today and really excited that Morgan is joining me. She has experience in running and growing a product-based business and has been extremely successful and I run a service-based business so I thought it'd be really helpful for those of you who have products and are getting ready to launch products to hear from her and gain her wisdom on this topic so I'm really excited to invite her on.
Morgan: Hey, I'm so excited to be here.
Lauren: Everyone, meet Morgan.
Morgan: Hey, guys!
Lauren: A lot of you already know Morgan so that is awesome, too. I'm so glad to have you here. I was just telling them that you reached out to me for coaching, but you had already grown this amazing Etsy shop.
Morgan: Yeah. I was feeling really confident in producing and promoting product because I sold baby headbands and I could make the sales and that wasn't a problem there, but I really wanted to dive into services because I was getting a lot of questions from people about like, "How can you make it successful in Etsy, and how do you get more sales, and how do you use Instagram for Etsy?" I love those questions so much and I was like I want to do this, like I want to teach but I had no idea where to start. I have been following Lauren forever and she started offering coaching services and I was like, "Yes, yes! Sign me up! Please." It has been so fun, it's been awesome.
Lauren: Yeah, I'm grateful. I was telling them, too, that you are awesome because you have grown this product-based business, where I have the most experience in services, so I'm really excited for you to share your wisdom because I get a lot of questions about products, especially shops and Etsy shops in particular, too. I'm really excited to have you joining in today. Thank you.
Morgan: Yeah, thank you so much for having me.
Lauren: Of course. Just to give people some background about your shop, let's start at the very beginning and what made you want to start a shop to begin with? How did Little Highbury start?
Morgan: Okay, Little Highbury is not the very beginning actually. I had two shops before this that were complete flops, complete flops. They were great learning experiences. I started back in 2011. I was working for a publishing company in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is where I live. We were publishing a book on starting your own business and I was one of the people that was pre-selected to read through the book. I was like, "Okay, whatever, I'll read through it." As I was looking through it, I was like, this is great stuff and I got so excited. I was like, "You know what? Let's start a business." Just like that, like that night, I was like, "I'm going to start an Etsy shop. Etsy's a good place to start."
I decided to start an Etsy shop. My husband was in grad school and working full time so I had a lot of free time on my hands, so I just decided I was going to start a shop and it flopped. I was losing money. For every order, I was probably losing like $1-$2. I was trying to sell super cheap because I was like, people will only buy it if I'm the lowest price on the market so I was selling super cheap and totally cutting myself short so I started another one. The name was Highbury Place, so I didn't switch names. I started another one creating wedding guest books and invitations. That one went okay, I got a sale here or there, but I really had no idea what I was doing. I was just listing product and sitting in front of the computer waiting for the sales to come flowing in.
I quit that because I got pregnant, which it was just overwhelming for whatever reason. I got pregnant and I had my baby. I had been working as an events manager for a company in Idaho Falls, we'd moved up to Idaho Falls. I was the breadwinner of our family. I didn't mind, it was something I loved to do. I loved to bring in the money. Suddenly, I went from being breadwinner, planning events, doing 4,000 things at once to sitting at home, holding a crying newborn. I was completely out of my element.
For some of the people that have been following around with me for a while with Little Highbury, they know that I suffered from extreme postpartum depression, like 18 months of I can't remember anything that happened there. It wasn't awesome, it was a horrible experience, but the way I got out of it was I decided I was going to try one more time to start an Etsy shop and I was going to try and find something that could distract me from the feelings I was having. Not necessarily distract me from motherhood, but distract me from feeling so lost, and isolated, and alone in this huge adjustment role.
I started Little Highbury. I did a lot of research while she was nursing or sleeping. I was constantly looking up ideas, and trying out strategies, and things like that. I launched in I think 2013, yeah, November 2013. We made $2,000 that month and then things just went exponential from there. It was crazy and so exciting.
Lauren: That is awesome.
Morgan: That was a long winded story about how Little Highbury got started.
Lauren: It's really neat to hear, too, and I'm glad that you said that you had two ideas before this that flopped. I think for a lot of people who tune into these Ellechats and hear people speaking on these topics, it's really easy to think that it was easy right from the start. For me, I started with planners, trying to sell planners, a product and it flopped terribly. Like you said, I was actually spending money trying to sell my planners. For each planner, I think I lost dollars and was going in the red. Thank you for sharing that. It's really neat to hear how Little Highbury got started. When you said you had two Etsy businesses prior to Little Highbury, why did you choose Etsy over other platforms? What drew you to Etsy?
Morgan: I had shopped on Etsy before. I kind of knew a little bit about how it worked. I didn't know the SEO and stuff like that, obviously because my first two shops did little things. It just seemed like the easiest option. I had seen a lot of Etsy success stories around and I was obsessed with their "Quit Your Day Job" series, like just for fun. I wasn't planning on starting a business, but I was like this is so cool that people are following their dream because I was following mine being an event manager at the time. I was like, this is awesome. Etsy seemed like the place to start when I was like okay, I'm going to do a business. Shopify overwhelmed me, Store Envy, anything else, it just overwhelmed me. I was like okay, Etsy is pretty straightforward, we can do this.
It was also great because Etsy drives so much traffic to your shop for you. You don't have to do anything. Those first few months that I was doing Little Highbury, because I had taken the time and gotten everything set up and all my ducks in a row, if you will, it was just driving traffic for me literally while I slept. I was making sales and I'd wake up to like five or six sales the next morning and I'd be like this is amazing. Etsy, to me, it just made sense. I wasn't sure how to promote a shop quite yet and I've gotten a lot better since then. Having Etsy drive that traffic gave me the courage to start and keep going because I was like, okay, I'm making sales, now I can focus on driving traffic instead of opening a Shopify site and being like, "Nobody likes my stuff. This sucks." That was why I chose Etsy.
Lauren: It's really hard when you're starting out. I feel like, especially with a product based business, and you don't have any audience. With Etsy, it gives you exposure to an audience right away, whereas if you just had a self-hosted shop, like on SquareSpace, or wherever else, it would be really, really hard to run it.
Morgan: It's hard to run an online business for sure and Etsy gives you that leg up and that jump start that you need to have the courage to keep going, especially if it's your first or second business and you're like, "I don't know if it's going to work. I don't know anybody else that's doing this." Etsy's just an awesome way to have that built in audience if you haven't already built one up. I absolutely agree.
Lauren: That's awesome. Tell me about what you think the key difference was between those first two shops and then when you started to gain traction with your third shop? Do you feel like it was your idea, what you were selling? What do you think was different?
Morgan: I honestly don't think it was my ideas. I'm not saying I have anything life changing, but they were all decent business ideas. Other people were making them work for them. It wasn't like I was creating this random product that I had to create a market for and everything and no one had ever heard of it. There was a market for the products and things like that.
My first two Etsy shops, I'll be honest and this is so embarrassing, but I thought you set up shop on Etsy and people just flooded in, you didn't have to worry about good pictures or SEO. People sold on eBay all the time with really crappy pictures, my mom was one of them. She'd just snap it with her phone and then just list it. I was like, "Yeah, you can do that on Etsy, that's fine, whatever." I was terrified of a camera anyway so I actually digitally mocked up my photos. I was doing stationary for the first business. I totally digitally mocked them up. I didn't even know that you could buy mock up photos. I just opened Adobe Illustrator and made them. It was so dumb, it was so bad. It's on the blog if you want to see how bad those photos were.
Lauren: I love it. Progress.
Morgan: That's what is, progress. The first two were completely eh, whatever. I pretended like I knew what I was doing and I thought you could set up or whatever. For this third one, I had so much time that I could sit, and research, and really understand the strategy because there is totally a strategy behind Etsy, and SEO, and getting found on there. For this next one, before I opened the doors, I was like okay, we're going to get the SEO ducks in a row. I'm going to have my brother come over and help me use this camera that I bought that I had no idea how to use and I'm going to do the best that I can, and work on my copy, and see how it goes. Everything was optimized from the get go and it was insane how crazy it took off and how fast.
Lauren: Awesome. You mentioned that photos make a huge difference in getting noticed on Etsy.
Morgan: Yes, oh my gosh.
Lauren: Copy and that too.
Morgan: Mm-hmm, absolutely! The photos I think is what's really hard for a lot of product sellers because to be a business owner you have to be good at so many things. If you're selling services, though, you don't have to be good at taking photos necessarily. You can buy stock photos for your blog, you can create graphics online, but if you're selling products, you have to have product photos. That's what sells your product. That was a huge thing for me. I initially hired it out. I learned a little bit from my brother and I was too overwhelmed with the postpartum that I was like, "I can't do this!" Whatever. I hired it out and that was an awful experience. I paid a lot of money, but the colors weren't right, the vibe wasn't what I was going for because it was her style, which is fine, but it wasn't what I was looking for. The biggest thing I did was really suck it up and decided I was going to learn how to use my camera, how to use Photoshop, and edit my own photos. That has been the best thing that I have done for my business by far. Anytime I need photos for Instagram or anything like that, just having those skills is huge to be able to snap it, and edit it and good to go.
Lauren: Absolutely. I've done a few Ellechats on photos too and it seems like every time, it is well worth spending a little bit of money, investing in a good camera. You don't have to have a DSLR, but it is awesome you know how to use one and learning how to take great photos for yourself. That's awesome.
Morgan: There is a blog post on that that actually has a cheat sheet of all the tools I use in case you're like, "I don't even know where to start!" I have a list of all my tools, exactly what I use to get the photos.
Lauren: That is awesome. I'll go and grab that link too to share. Morgan's blog is extremely helpful.
Morgan: Oh, you're so nice.
Lauren: Just putting that out there, too. She's been sharing a lot, just completely transparent about how she started and grew her Etsy shop, so definitely check that out. Too, you mentioned SEO. How did you optimize Little Highbury in the SEO department?
Morgan: I mentioned that I played around with the other Etsy shops in the past and hadn't really worried about SEO. I was more concerned about coming up with cute and clever names for my products. I can't even think of any examples, but I was determined that they were going to be boutique style, like Moon Light ... I don't even know, Moon Light Sparkle, just those names that people give things. I decided that I wanted to get found, that was the first priority. Yes, maybe I can come up with cutesy names later, but right now, I needed to get the word out and I needed to get found and SEO just made sense. That was the long term way to get found. I researched a ton and I A/B tested a ton. I created double listings of a lot of my products and just tried out different methods and saw which ones performed better, then if one was obviously not performing, I would deactivate that and then learn from that and try and make it better. I'm constantly testing and tweaking SEO.
The one thing I think about SEO is yeah, it's set it and forget it, but you have to check it like every four to six months because words change, seasons change, things people are searching for change. People were searching for baby headbands back in 2013 when I started, but then the knotted headband became super popular and the baby turban headband. This is so sad that I know this. Who knows this kind of stuff?
Lauren: It's a good thing that you know!
Morgan: Yeah, SEO, it's my number one tip for getting found on Etsy, absolutely. You can set it and forget it, but you have to remember in four to six months. You have to go in and update, especially with holidays and things to take into account like that. In terms of baby headbands in general keywords, baby headbands was this huge search and I still show up really well for that, but then baby turbans became a thing. That wasn't even a thing before 2013. People were buying these floofy headbands and calling it a day. Then, suddenly, everybody's searching for baby turbans and I was like, let's add that in. That brought in a whole bunch more views. A lot of it is really just about trying out new things and doing a lot of testing and constantly tweaking and working to improve it.
I use a tool called Marmalade and I mentioned that on the blog as well. You can find that on, I think it's my SEO hacks post on there. Marmalade is a great one for Etsy sellers. Google Keywords is great for any sellers, but if you're looking specifically to sell on Etsy, Marmalade is a great way to research keywords, find out what's going to hopefully perform well for you. You can keep track of how certain keywords are doing in your listings for SEO.
Lauren: That is awesome. So helpful. If you can't tell already guys, Morgan really does her research and works super hard on her business.
Morgan: You're so nice.
Lauren: Also, just fitting that in there, super, super hard worker. It goes to show too, that if you do your research, and SEO isn't necessarily the most fun thing to keep up with, but it definitely pays off and it can go a long way with your business.
Morgan: I want to add in, with SEO, when I first started I thought it was like you changed your SEO and you immediately got viewed better and SEO is a long term fix. That's something that I feel like a lot of Etsy sellers don't know. You can hop on the forums and everybody's like, "I changed my SEO and everything's not working again," and da da da.
It seriously, for established sellers, I found it takes like two to three weeks for your SEO changes to really be implemented back into the Etsy algorithm search. For newer shops, it takes a little bit longer, it can take up to six weeks to get found in search results and things like that. Just because you haven't seen an increase in sales overnight, you won't. Even if you've sold 20,000 items, you will not see an increase in sales overnight just from switching tags that day. You have to wait a little bit and just wait it out. I always record the numbers weekly, when I add a new listing to see how it's doing. If it's improving, then great and if it's stagnant and not doing much, then we switch it up. Remember it's long term but it's the best thing you can do for your business because it's constantly working for you.
Lauren: This is the question that I see very often and I've often wondered myself, does the number of items in your shop play a part in getting seen on Etsy and how many do you need to start off with?
Morgan: I've made my first sales with Little Highbury, I had 12 items in my shop. I was so excited when I made my first sale, I was jumping up and down and I still get so excited every time I make a sale. I just had 12 and I was making a sale here and there. I just kept adding more. I was trying to add at least ten a week, which is crazy, I had a newborn. I'm not even sure how I did it. It was divine intervention or something. I kept adding and adding and when I hit about 50, things started to really take off. I stood I think at about 80 something right now, I'm not entirely sure, it's been a while since. Once I hit 50, things started to take off because I was being seen on page one of search, and two, and three, and four, and five so people were seeing my product over, and over, and over again which is huge.
That's another thing. People aren't going to buy just because they see your product once, they're like, "Oh my gosh, I have to have that!" Sometimes yes, sometimes retail therapy is a real thing, but other times it's seeing it over and over again and then making sure people are stopping to take a look and be like, "Oh, okay, yeah. No, that is kind of cool." Just to think about it.
I shared this on my blog, too, but West Elm is so good at that. Lauren knows that my entire home was furnished in West Elm stuff. I love West Elm so much. Some of their stuff they come out with is weird. There was a bench and it had a lamp post that came off and a lamp that hung over the bench. It was all one piece of furniture, then it had a storage bin. I was like, "That is the ugliest piece of furniture I've ever seen." It followed me everywhere on the internet with ads, and on their homepage, and the emails I was getting. I thought that was a pretty cool piece of furniture by the time we were done. I was like, "I need this! It's a light and a storage thing and a bench!" Obviously your products are not that.
Lauren: It goes to show that the more they see it.
Morgan: Mm-hmm, it's that repetition. I think everybody says it's like seven times before someone's converted into buying your product. It really is just repetition, so if you're getting found on the search page for the term baby headbands or whatever on page one, and two, and three, and four, and five, they're going to see you over, and over, and over again and they're going to be like, "Okay, maybe I should take note. It looks like she's a real thing." That's something that really helps me.
Lauren: And people can favorite things and I know I go back into my favorites and look all the time, so the more they see it there, too. So helpful to know. You mentioned when your first sales started coming and getting so excited. When did sales really start to pick up and you thought, "Hmm, I might be able to really take this full time and have the full time income off of the shop?"
Morgan: It was crazy. I actually remember the exact day that I thought that. My husband, he was doing student teaching at the time and working full time in kind of a low-ish paying job. It wasn't meant to be his career, he was just trying to get into a career so we weren't making ends meet. It was so scary. I wasn't working, I had a new baby. That's another reason I started Little Highbury. I'm like we need to make money and I need a way to get out of this motherhood thing.
I sat down, it was like January 1st and we made 6,000 sales ... Like 5 or 6,000 sales between November and December of 2013 I think it was. It was like the first part of January, I think it was like January 4th. We were bringing in a few hundred dollars a day and I was like, "You know, we can really do this. If I set my mind to this, I know we can turn this into something." It seemed crazy because it was baby headbands.
I mention baby headbands all the time, obviously because I'm experienced with it. It's not a ridiculous product, but it's nothing brilliant, it's just on the baby's head. It's nothing life changing or oh my gosh, I have to have this. It's just a baby headband. Just to say that your product idea doesn't have to be ridiculously innovative and diverse, you can totally sell something that's already on the market and there already is a market for if you put your own spin on it. We started making a couple hundred dollars a day and I was like this is the real thing and so we started honing in, adding more designs, become involved on our social media, and really working to get ourselves out there. Things took off from that January, the month it jumped and every three months or so it would just jump crazy high. It'd slowly increase and then every three months or so we'd jump up a few more thousand dollars per month. It got crazy so it was super exciting.
Lauren: That's awesome. What are some things that you think ... You mentioned for SEO, and copy, and images, but was there anything else that really helped you spike during that time like November, December, January? Is there anything else you would attribute to the spike? Holidays?
Morgan: Yes, oh my gosh. If you're going to start a business, start in November because you'll feel so good about yourself. Seriously, I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is amazing!" Then things kept growing. It was really good. They could have tapered off then. I would definitely say that one of the things that I did, I know Lauren knows about this, The Purple Cow. It's called The Purple Cow Book. It's a book and it talks all about even if your product's not anything innovative, you need to make your product stand out and be different.
That's what we did with Little Highbury. I'd ordered headbands before for my baby girl from other companies and they always came in a cello bag or just in the envelope with a business card and I wasn't impressed. I was like, I'm paying $12 a headband, I don't know I feel like they can do something better as a boutique buying experience so I decided I was going to do that with Little Highbury. We invested a lot of money into boxes with gift ribbon and we have metallic foil business cards. We wanted when you open your package to feel like, "Hey, I'm getting a present. This is kind of fun to open up." Also, if you wanted to give it for a baby shower gift, you could just send it directly to a recipient and it'd be wrapped and ready to go. We made sure to hit that home. We included pictures of our packaging everywhere.
Lauren: I love that.
Morgan: We made sure that everybody knew that you could include a short note and we'd send it directly to the recipient. That became huge for us. We get so many baby shower orders all the time, like all the time. Christmas especially everybody's like, "Yeah, I'm sending this directly to the recipient. So glad that it's already packaged." It's so good, and it's fun, and everybody photographs their box on Instagram.
Lauren: I was about to say that.
Morgan: Yeah, exactly. It's perfect for word of mouth marketing because people are like, "Look, I got headbands but they came in this gift box and it was cute and there was a ribbon and a small note from Morgan and it was just awesome!" That's what we hear and that's what I hope I can provide for my customers.
Lauren: I bet it encourages people, if they have that great experience the first go around, for the next baby shower or for the next season, they're right back on your Etsy shop purchasing again. Statistics show it is so much easier to sell to existing clients, previous customers rather, than it is to find new customers.
Morgan: Yeah. One of the things I found that helps with getting those repeat customers, especially when you're starting out, it gets critical to get those repeat customers because it validates your product essentially and lets you know that, hey, yeah, my product is good. People are coming back after they've already seen it and like, "I want more." One of the things I found that was really helpful to validate the product idea ... I just lost my train of thought.
Lauren: You're all right. Return customers.
Morgan: Yes, okay. To return customers was to write them a short note. Etsy doesn't like you to email people. They recommend doing Etsy conversations which has its benefits and its faults. Every time I would get a sale, I would write them. I'd personalize it, I'd be like, "Hey, Melissa," or "Hey, Lauren," then I'd have a copy and paste thing that said, "Thank you so much for your order. You made my day. Here's the details of when it's going to ship. Here's average time of when you can expect to receive it." Then, I made sure and included like, "Be sure to share on Instagram. I'd love to see your little one wearing it." That became huge. We have so many people that hashtag Little Highbury or tag us in photos and then we get more customers from that. It's huge. Repeat customers, establishing that connection with them and then having them go and share it on social media. Whether they know it or not, they kind of formed a bond a little bit with your company. There's a back and forth thing there and they're going to think of you next time for your product.
Lauren: That is awesome. I know a lot of people who shop on Etsy want to support small businesses rather than going to Amazon or other places, that's why they go to Etsy so when you provide that personal touch, it allows them to connect with you. I love that you do that and that you create that connection there. That is awesome, awesome advice. When your business started to spike, I'm curious, how did you keep up with it? Having a little on and trying to fill orders, how did you keep up with the demand that started to come in?
Morgan: I cried a lot, but seriously, I did. My poor husband, he's studying mental health counseling and I think we can all say please to him, "Why?" I did, I spend a lot of time crying.
Lauren: I think it's normal for any business owner when it gets overwhelming.
Morgan: It's a blessing, but it's hard. It totally is. Actually, my mom is a brilliant seamstress, so I'm not so much a great seamstress. I can sew and I started a company sewing stuff so obviously I can sew. I just farmed it all out to her. I was terrified of hiring a company to do them for me. I'm pretty sure at this point, it's allowed on Etsy to have a small manufacturer, batch manufacturers do it. I wasn't at that point and I still wanted to keep it handmade, which we still do. I hired my mom on a contractual basis. I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to pay her for the work she did so I'm like, "Only do what I have orders for. Don't work ahead." That worked out really well. Then, I hired some more help, and some more help. Not every hire was awesome. I am awful at firing people. It was hard. It was one of those hard business lessons that you hope you never have to learn how to do, but you totally have to.
Lauren: One that you can't really be taught. You can get advice and wisdom on hiring, but it's one of those things that you just have to ...
Morgan: Yeah, exactly. I learned a lot that way, I made so many mistakes. If you're looking for an Etsy success story, yes, Little Highbury's a success story, but it's also a failure story like a million times over. I'm human, I'm ridiculously human.
Morgan: Yeah, we all are. That's the thing to remember. You see these people with all these sales, they have made so many mistakes. You're making mistakes, but they're making mistakes too. Even once you're established, I still do things that completely flopped and I'm like, "Well, that sucked. Let's try something else." It really is about picking yourself back up, and getting out there, and trying again. That's really what can make it or break it for successful business.
Lauren: Yeah. I heard a great quote. I'm terrible at quoting at verbatim, I just get the jest of things. It's one that good entrepreneurs or successful entrepreneurs fall down seven times and get up eight. I think it's really easy with social media to show what you want people to see, but they don't see your failures. It's easier to cover them up so it's really refreshing to hear that.
Morgan: I've got stories for days. We'll chat later.
Lauren: This is good though to show people that you've learned from experience and you're teaching people how to avoid those mistakes now. Some are unavoidable, you have to learn as you go, but to learn as much as you can at the outset so that you can try to avoid as many.
Morgan: Yeah, I absolutely agree with that. I call myself a solo-prenuer kind of because I do my own thing. Yeah, I contract out with work, but just because I'm a solo-prenuer, I don't have to do it solo. I think that's something that a lot of Etsy sellers, when they're starting out, they think they have to do absolutely everything by themselves. Like you said, it's so important to get the education, and learn, and ask, and follow blogs that have advice. I couldn't find anything when I was first starting on Etsy. I was like, I just want to know someone that sold successfully to share their secrets and everybody's pretty tight, closed lip and that's fine if that's what works for them. I created MorganNeild.com because I was like everybody needs help at some point and if I can help someone not make the same mistakes and shed the same tears that I did, let's do it.
Lauren: That's awesome.
Morgan: Yeah, I would highly recommend looking for all the resources you possibly can to help yourself to make fewer mistakes. You're still going to make mistakes, that's part of being in business and it's a good part actually because you can make some of your best successes out of those mistakes. If you can save yourself from mistakes that you don't have to make, totally do it.
Lauren: That's awesome advice. Speaking of challenges, what are some of the biggest challenges running a shop as opposed to service based businesses?
Morgan: First of, I want to say that a service-based business to me seems harder because there isn't a tangible product. Yes, there's a logo package, or yes, there's a PDF document with a report or something, but to me, a product-based business just made sense to start out with, especially because there is a tangible product. People are paying money because they want that tangible product, not because they're thinking, "Well, maybe I'll get something useful out of this." They want that product. With that, there comes a lot of challenges because for a service-based business owner, yes, you wear a ton of hats, but for a product based one, to some extent, I feel like you wear more hats because you have to figure out packaging, you have to figure out your product, you have to go through the prototypes, and the research and development, and sending it out to people to see if they think it's something good or not. Then you have to do photography which is huge. Then you have to list it and you still have to ship it once they buy.
I would not discourage anyone from running a product-based business, I love it, it's so good, but there's a lot of work that has to go into it for sure. It's things you don't have to think about with a service business, but with product, you kind of do. You can hire that out as you get bigger and you can get help, and you can automate, and streamline a lot of your processes, but at the end of the day, you still have a physical product that has to be photographed, and listed and you have to send it out. That's how it is.
There's a lot more work involved, but at the same time, it's really rewarding to send out products to customers all over the world. I remember my first international one was to Norway. I have a huge Norway fan base for Little Highbury. I don't know why, but there are so many people from Norway that buy my stuff which is awesome. I remember getting so excited about that that I was sending headbands over to Norway and there was a little Norwegian baby that was going to wear these headbands. I was so excited. That's one of the things I love about selling on Etsy is the diversity. We've shipped all over the world and it's been so fun to connect with customers from all over. It's been awesome. I love selling product, absolutely. If you're thinking about it, I would recommend it.
Lauren: One thing that I still run into is sending things out to my course participants and clients, is shipping. I know that can be a humongous hurdle for people in product based businesses. Where did you start with shipping and what advice would you give to people with shipping products?
Morgan: I was terrified when I first started out with shipping. I'm like, I don't know how to do this, there's no way I can do this. I was terrified of shipping. I lived in Saint Anthony, Idaho at the time I was selling the stationary, which is a cold place, don't live there. I decided I was going to go to the local post office and ask how to do it. It was so dumb. I didn't come with my own packaging, I just had this product and I was like, "Hey, can you help me ship this?" They showed me a few things and I got totally ripped off shipping wise. It cost a lot of money to ship just that little package of note cards. I was like, there's got to be a better way.
This is the part where the Etsy forums are awesome. Everybody has practical advice. Not all the advice on there is good, but in terms of shipping and things like that, people are more than happy to share their experiences and what's worked for them, and what companies to avoid, and things like that. I found that you could just do it on Etsy, which I'm sure everybody probably knows. I was probably really late to the ballgame.
It was so easy and it just became so easy and it was streamlined, the shipping costs. I didn't have to run to the post office, they could just pick them up at my house and things like that. It was great. Even though shipping seems scary, it's really not. If you do it through Etsy, they provide tracking, they can help you file claims if your package gets lost and things like that. It's not anything to worry about. We've had almost 20,000 sales and I would say under 100 maybe that we've had any sort of issues with. The Postal Service everybody says is unreliable, but it's totally reliable. You'll come up with those hurdles, but there's nothing you can't handle and you figure it out as you go and it's really not as big a hurdle. You can get anxious about it thinking about it, but once you do it, you're like, "Oh, that was really easy."
Lauren: That's awesome. Do you have a post on shipping?
Morgan: I don't yet. I need to.
Lauren: Write that one down.
Morgan: I will.
Lauren: Put that in your calendar.
Morgan: I will.
Lauren: I'm sure some people tuning in would love to see that, too, if you're willing.
Morgan: Yeah, where I get my supplies and all that stuff for sure. I will. That's a good idea.
Lauren: I know when I was selling products, that was always one of the biggest struggles for me was figuring out shipping. This Ellechat is flying by, this has been awesome, Morgan.
Lauren: Before we go over to the question section, what are, I'm curious to know three pieces of advice that you would give to shop owners who want to receive a full time income from their shop?
Morgan: I would say number one to treat your shop like a full-time business. Even if you're working that 9-5 or you've got a screaming newborn at home, that's me, you don't have to put in the full-time hours, but you do need to treat it like a full-time business. That means, essentially responding to conversations that you get within hours, letting your customers know if you take weekends off, that the turnaround time is not reflected in the weekends, little things like that make all the difference. Handling complaints with grace is huge. It's unavoidable you'll get the people that are so disappointed in your product, or the shipping speed, or stuff like that, things that you might not even have control over. The best thing to do with that is to treat your business like a real business, to not get personally involved. I usually step away and sometimes I would even have my husband write the response because I was so wound up over the whole ordeal.
Lauren: That's happened on my end, too. That's really good advice.
Morgan: Making sure that you treat it like a full-time business and you're treating your customers like they're customers, that they're not the last priority on your list, that they are paying customers and you fully intend to fulfill their order as quickly as possible. That's one that I would share. The second one was something that I learned with those growing pains was work smarter not harder. When I started growing fast, before I was doing everything the day of. I was cutting out the fabric the day of and I was sewing it, and I was making it into headbands, and packaging, and doing labels. I was doing all that stuff the exact day the item sold, which was fine when it was really, really small increments, but once things started to grow a little bit crazy and I started adding more products, taking one photo and then editing it by itself, and then posting it. It wasn't efficient. I was wasting so much time. Melyssa Griffin, who's a blogger, she actually introduced me to the concept of batching, which I'm sure everybody's heard of, too.
Morgan: Batching, yes. For whatever reason, I was completely late to the game and I was like oh, that makes sense. It's common sense and batching is just simply taking certain tasks that you have to do with your business like photography, listing product, filling orders, and things like that and batching them into different days or different increments of time depending on how your schedule is. I would take all my photographs for the month on this Monday and I would edit them on that Tuesday so I wouldn't be editing one single photo at a time. I did it all in one go that way everything looked a lot cleaner, a lot more streamlined, and reflective of my brand. Then, I wasn't worried about photography for the rest of the month which was awesome. I wasn't like, "Oh my gosh, I need to take a photo for tomorrow's Instagram." No, I was already done. That was huge.
Especially with adding products, it was a huge thing too, getting all the designs out there because I design my own fabrics for my products and sending out all the designs all at once, getting them back, sewing them up, photographing them in batches. That's the best advice I can give you, work smarter and handle everything you possibly can in giant batches of time and you will save yourself so much.
Lauren: I've even implemented batching into our personal life and do batch meals, so the beginning of the week prepping meals and it has saved me so much time during the work week. Batching is ...
Morgan: Is a life saver.
Lauren: Is genius.
Morgan: Absolutely. Then my third piece of advice would be to learn as much as you can. We kind of talked about this but I love learning. I miss school. I'm one of those people that I graduated college and I felt like I'd left part of my soul on campus. I love learning.
Lauren: Which is awesome as a business owner.
Morgan: Yeah, exactly. My husband was still in school and I was so jealous of him, which sounds ridiculous but I was so jealous that he was going to classes and he was talking with teachers and his peers. I was so jealous and I was like, you know what? I'm not going to stop learning, I'm going to learn online. I started taking workshops and signing up for classes.
Lauren's my coach, but I actually hired a coach to work with my Etsy shop way back in the day just to learn from her, a marketing expert on that, which was an amazing thing to do. I would say constantly keep learning. There are strategies that work today won't necessarily work a year from now. The online e-commerce industry is constantly changing and social media is constantly changing so just keep learning and get those new ideas and try them out. It's the biggest thing you can do. I love learning. I'm taking like three online classes right now. I just love it. It's a lot of stuff, but I just love learning and becoming the best version of myself I can be so that my business can be the best version it can be.
Lauren: Are you ready for Q&A?
Morgan: Yeah, I would love to.
Lauren: We'll get through as many of these as we can before the hour's up. We have 11 so we'll see how many we can get through.
What I was going to say about learning, I know where I was on this. I was going to throw this out there, the most successful people that you see online doing big things have a coach or they have someone they're learning from. I've had a coach, it was one of the best investments that I could have made in my business to have an outside opinion and have an expert opinion on things, too. I love that you mentioned continuing to learn. I think that's huge. My two cents on that.
Back to the Q&A. Samantha asks, "Can you talk about the best ways you promote your product online? Promoted listings, Facebook, Pinterest, etc." What else do you do other than Etsy doing the marketing for you?
Morgan: Instagram has been huge for us. I think for Etsy, whenever people are like, "Where should I spend my time?," because there seems to be so many social media platforms and I feel like a lot of experts out there are like, "Get on everything so nobody misses you ever!" No, you won't have time and you'll be mediocre at best on all of them. I recommend, and I what I do is I pick two that I focus on. Pinterest isn't really social media, I guess it's more search engine.
Lauren: I count it as.
Morgan: It's both. I put Pinterest in that category and Instagram are the best ones you can do for Etsy, hands down. They're both visual based and that's what Etsy is, you're trying to sell a product with photos essentially. I do a lot Instagram. I've been trying to do Morgan Nield stuff, it's crazy. Instagram has been like whenever I need a crazy spike in sales or things are slower, I'm introducing product, I can post it on Instagram and within an hour or two, the sales spike for that day. There are definitely people on Instagram looking to buy product and if they're not looking to buy product, they'll see your product and be like, "Yeah, now I'm looking to buy." There's totally people on there and you can totally make sales through Instagram on Etsy.
Pinterest is huge because it's a visual search engine. Pinterest is amazing. I love Pinterest because I don't have to do all the work, my customers do a lot of it, too. They pin my images and things like that. Direct through search is my biggest driver of traffic through my Etsy shop but Pinterest is hands down the second one, no competition. A lot of it is also making sure that your photos are optimized on Etsy. That's something I want to throw in, the photos they recommend are all horizontal ones, which is fine for Etsy, but for Pinterest it's not awesome, you want long vertical images. If you can upload those to Etsy, they'll still crop them to that horizontal shot for the thumbnail, but when people pin it, it will be the long vertical image which is huge for getting found on Pinterest.
Lauren: Absolutely, it shows up bigger in the feed.
Morgan: Yeah, more real estate space. Is that what they say?
Morgan: I don't know.
Lauren: The column width is set so if you have a horizontal image, it's not going to show up as big, but if you have a vertical image, the width isn't such a hang up. That's awesome advice. Do you ever do promoted listings? Do you ever pay for ads or anything?
Morgan: No. I have not paid for any ads ever. Actually, that's a lie. I did promoted pins when it first came out because I wanted to try it and that was actually a really big help. It was a huge sales boost and it's a great way to jump start your items on Pinterest to start getting the repins and things. When you stop promoting, it's still working for you which is why I chose Pinterest. It wasn't like okay, I've stopped doing it and now they've stopped working like Facebook ads or Etsy ads. I've never done Etsy promoted listings, I hear mixed reviews on that. You don't need to do it to make the money. If I can tell you nothing else. Pinterest promotion, that was good. That was something that I didn't have to invest a lot of money in and it still brought in a lot, a lot, a lot of traffic and a lot of sales with that.
Lauren: That's so helpful. I've done both Facebook ads and Pinterest promotions earlier this year and I would agree, Pinterest was by far, I got the biggest return on my investment. Facebook, not so much.
Morgan: It's the easiest to understand. Facebook is a little tricky. I'm taking a course on Facebook ads right now so I will be sharing all that stuff on the blog. You're like, "Why do I do Facebook ads?" I don't know yet so we're learning. Pinterest is pretty straightforward. If you're looking to do ads, I would highly recommend Pinterest for your ads.
Lauren: Yeah and like you said, you get a return on it when people have pinned, then it's just exponential from there.
Morgan: Yep, absolutely.
Lauren: Really good question, Samantha. Thank you for asking. Next question is from Mariah, she says, "Do you find it's better to group products together and sell them as a package or to sell individual items? How do you define when to do which?" That's a really good question.
Morgan: That is a great question. I actually have a lot of thoughts on this. I sell baby headbands, did we not know that yet? I sell baby headbands.
Lauren: And they're adorable.
Morgan: I started out selling them by singles and then I decided I was going to package some up in a set of three. It was honestly the smartest business decision I've ever made. People save I think like $2 on a set of three so it's not anything crazy, but I hands down will probably sell like eight out of ten will be for packages of three. It's a huge thing and instead of just earning that $10 for the headband, I'm earning the $28 for the package of three headbands.
I also, and this is something I'm going to be playing around with in the new year, but packaging things in bundles with similar items because I have baby hats in there, and blankets, and things like that, and doing a baby shower gift bundle. I know a lot of Etsy successful sellers that I talk with and things like that that do that and have found a lot of success with that, grouping things together and maybe you're offering a small discount, but making it seem like the ultimate no brainer package for you to purchase. I don't know I would recommend grouping them together. I still get a lot of requests for certain sales to be sold solo. I took them off for a while and people were like, "Wait, what if I want to just buy one?" It's obviously your choice, but I have both of them on there and I find that a lot of people look to just buy one and then they'll leave me a note and be like, "I was just going to buy one headband, but then I saw you had packages of three and this one was so cute."
A lot of it's about inspiring people, planting the idea in their head, not sleazy marketing, just planting the idea and then suddenly they're like, "Oh, well yeah, I can do with three headbands," or three of whatever product. I would totally recommend packaging and playing around with your pricing tiers to see where your sweet spot is. Definitely test it and see what's working and what's not. I think you should absolutely do that. It gives you more items in your shop without having to create more items which is huge for Etsy sellers because time is short for us.
Lauren: Absolutely. I think, too, you mentioned earlier with A/B testing, try it out and see how it works.
Lauren: You can't lose anything. That's really awesome advice. Great question, Mariah. Teresa asks, "Can you shed some light on how you name your products so they're easily found but also stand out?" These are all good questions.
Morgan: Yeah, they are. It really depends on what your goal is on Etsy. If you're planning on bringing a lot of your traffic in yourself, then it's really not a problem if you want to name it some cutesy name or some unique name, but if you're looking to primarily use SEO as your initial driving traffic factor if you will, there's no reason for you to try and stand out. That sounds like weird advice, but SEO is not about standing out. It's about coming up with the most commonly searched keyword phrases, long tail and short tail. I wrote a whole blog post on that, too. SEO is a heavy topic. It's about using your keywords smartly and naming your listings smartly so they're reflected in SEO.
Eventually, as you get established and you get those returning customers and that regular, consistent daily sales, then yeah, you can play around with naming your products a little bit unique and things like that. From what I've experienced and from what people have said, they don't ever get hung up on the listing title, they really just look at the photo and that's what makes them decide to click on it or not. It's not necessarily the listing title. The listing title on Etsy is all about getting found. That's my advice there, your photo is what's going to do the talking for you.
Lauren: That's exactly what I was about to say. I was going to say the search gets them to the page, but the photo is probably what stands out, not really the name. That's really good advice. Thank you, Teresa for that question. All right, Micaela. "I'd love more information on how to effectively use content marketing for a product based business." This is a good one. I mention content marketing in this week's email. Did you blog with Little Highbury?
Morgan: I did and it's not up anymore because I got overwhelmed because I'm trying to do this whole new thing. Let's just be honest, I don't have the blog anymore, but I did use it. I did it for like five or six months I think, just trying it out, seeing how it worked out for me. One of the best things I did with content marketing was I did roundup posts and yeah, they're kind of a dime a dozen.
One of my best pieces of advice is to go around Etsy, find a whole bunch of items all under one category and then create a roundup post for that and put it on your blog, but then send Etsy conversations to the owners of all the shops from the items you featured and give them graphics to promote it themselves, like an Instagram sized graphic and a Pinterest graphic, and things like that and encourage them to promote it and say, "It's a win-win for all of us however much traffic we drive." I've had shops with infinitely more sales than me that have been like, "Awesome thanks, I'll put it on Instagram!" Then there's a huge, huge rush in sales. It's awesome.
Lauren: That is really good advice. I sold planners but before that I had an Etsy shop selling prints and there was this one interior designer who featured me in a roundup post just like that and I got a ton of sales from it. I was more than happy to share it on my end too if they're featuring me in it. That is really, really good.
Morgan: I feel like a lot of people are scared to do things and ask for people to share stuff because they don't want to bother them or get the rejection, but the best thing that can happen is you're going to get a ton of sales, and a ton of new traffic, and fans, and customers and the worst thing that could happen is they say no and then you move onto the next person. I don't know, it really is, content marketing was something that I tried out and it was really effective for me.
Lauren: When you position it that way instead of, "Hey, just buy my products," it's a lot more organic. A lot of times, people need inspiration for things like that too, like a baby shower gift, headbands and a blanket, putting things together, they need help with that. If you are creating something like pillows for interior design, show it with prints and other things, put it in an environment in a blog post.
Morgan: Like a lifestyle.
Lauren: Yeah, exactly. Those are great ideas. Great question, Micaela. We have five more minutes. Let see if we can get through a couple more. Samantha says, “When you are referring to SEO, are you just talking about your Etsy tags and then just wording for your product name and description?”
Morgan: Etsy SEO is awesome in the sense that it's effective for Google too. The SEO on Etsy picks up and then Google will pick up those same parts, but then also different parts. When I say SEO, I'm talking mainly about Etsy ones. The listing title and your tags need to match exactly. It's not repetitive, you're not going to reach more people by choosing different words for your title and different words for your tags. You want them to match exactly so Etsy finds you more relevant and shows you higher.
Then, Google uses those words too in their search and they also use your product description, the first 60 characters, 90 characters, I can't remember exactly. Etsy doesn't read the description. If you're looking to appear higher on Google, and Bing, and things like that, I would make sure to put those keywords, sprinkle them throughout your description as well in those first few sentences because that will really help you get found on Google. Etsy doesn't look at it yet, but they might. Google also looks at shop sections, like the section names and things like that. If you're baby headbands, baby hats, baby blankets and things like that, so make sure and optimize those too because Google totally reads those as well. I've learned a lot about Google recently.
Lauren: I bet. That's awesome, super helpful. Even if Etsy doesn't recognize it, super helpful to show up quickly.
Morgan: They might at some point. They constantly change.
Lauren: Better to just do all of it right from the get go.
Morgan: Yeah, absolutely.
Lauren: All right. Selene asks, "How do you set up your ads on Facebook? Specifically, how do you choose what audience to target?" It sounds like you're still working on that, figuring that out.
Morgan: Just recently I ran an ad for some of my Little Highbury products, just a product ad, not anything fancy and did see an increase in sales from that. There is money, and cost, and time involved in creating a handmade product, it wasn't worth it for me. The ROI wasn't worth it, the return on investment so I didn't do that, but I definitely did see an increase in sales. With that, I would recommend taking a course. I'm taking one from Beth Anne from Brilliant Business Moms right now and I love it. It's been so helpful. I still haven't run my first ad, but just reading it from someone that's done it, it's the fastest way you can learn how to do that kind of stuff and really, you can learn from her mistakes and things like that. I don't have Facebook ad experience. I would love to, but I don't, but I will, just not yet.
Lauren: Follow along with Morgan's blog because once she figures it out, I'm sure she'll share it.
Morgan: Yeah, I will.
Lauren: Awesome. Okay, one more. Claire asks, "I would love to know if you think a brand is more successful if all its merchandise is a similar vibe and look targeted at a specific audience or if it's okay to have more variety?"
Morgan: Selling on Etsy, I'd absolutely 100% say you want it to have a similar vibe and feel. Your Etsy shop is not a garage sale. Ebay is kind of a garage sale site. Do people even use Ebay? I don't even know, or Craigslist or whatever, it's kind of a garage sale sort of thing, but Etsy is a boutique shopping experience and people look for that cohesion. If they're going to come into your shop, they want to come in to buy that specific item. They don't want to buy soap if you're also selling shirts and you're selling jewelry and you're selling erasers, I don't know. That's a really weird shop.
Lauren: Jewelry and erasers.
Morgan: That is weird. Nobody sells erasers. If you sell erasers, you're awesome. I used to collect them when I was in second grade, that is a true story. I have a huge pickle jar full of erasers. You want it to be that boutique shopping experience and have everything be cohesive, like the photos. Yes, variety is great and include them in your other four photos. That first photo though, it should be pretty streamline cohesive throughout your shop so that when people pop in they know what to expect, they know what you sell. They're not like, "Hey it looks like she sells this over here, but what's this over here?" You want it to be cohesive, easy to understand. That's what's going to get the customer to decide to buy from you because you look like an expert in the field. It's like automatic credibility. Like, "Hey I sell a lot of soap so I must know a lot about soap," instead of a whole bunch of little items and they're like, "Is she good at any of them or does she just kind of mediocre her way through them?"
Lauren: That way people start to recognize you too when you are popping up on a page of baby headbands from all the Etsy shops. I think because you're starting out doesn't mean that you have to look like you're starting out.
Morgan: No, absolutely. Fake it till you make it is such a cliché phrase and it's so true. Just act like you know what you're doing and at some point you will or maybe you won't ever like me.
Lauren: You don’t even feel like you have it all together, there is always something more. Well, that is the last question. I hope that was helpful for you guys and thank you Morgan for answering all of this. It was awesome having you on today. Thank you for being so transparent and sharing. Tell us, too about the marketing hacks for product sellers. There's a button right underneath here, one of Morgan's resources so tell us about that.
Morgan: I created a free download for everybody that tuned in for Ellechat. It's just 15 marketing strategies that I've tried out that I've found really great success with my Etsy shop. I know there's a ton of vague advice out there, like take better photos, get your products on Instagram or whatever. That's not advice. These are step by step tactics that I've used and had success with and have found to be the highest converting marketing things I've done for my Etsy shop. Not all of them will work for you probably, but some of them might. I think it's great because a lot of them aren't really online, they're just things I've found out from trial and error. It worked really well for me and for a lot of the people I've coached before. It's worth looking at and you'll probably see something that you hadn't even thought of that might be a perfect fit for your business.
Lauren: That's awesome. Morgan does offer coaching services, too. If you want to learn directly from her, go to her website too and be sure to follow along with her. At the very least, check out her blog because she has so many awesome resources there. I will be sure to add the link as soon as we get off of here so it's right of the bottom of this chat so you can find it. Thank you all so much for tuning in. The next Ellechats will be posted shortly for 2017. There aren't any upcoming so far, but this was an awesome chat to round out 2016. Thank you so much for joining me.
Morgan: Thanks for having me. It's been fun.
Lauren: It has been so fun. Best wishes with your shops, guys and I hope to see you in another Ellechat in 2017. See you later.
Morgan: See you guys.