I get emails all the time from folks that want to start an on-line shop and have it be their sole source of income so they can quit their jobs. They want to know how I did it, can I give them advice, etc. For those that are new to Besotted it might read like all I do all day is design, write this here blog, practice my lettering, take photographs and move to random cities willy nilly. Although I love the idea of illusion, (I did after all start my career in advertising), I don’t like to be a phoney baloney (technical term). So, let’s dispel some myths here and then I can get into some specifics for you. Besotted Brand was not an overnight success, it has been more like a four year and counting success (‘success’ being subjective here). It took me a good two years just sourcing all my vendors which includes my packaging. That’s a lot of work to put into a project that I wasn’t even making a dime on. I worked a full-time job 95% of the time I ran Besotted Brand, which means I worked 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (and most nights longer) and then came home tested products, designed the branding, website, wrote copy for products and eventually started packing shipments into the wee hours of the night. The weekends were more of the same, meaning I was working 7 days a week over 15 hours a day just to get going. Granted most full-time jobs may not have been as stressful as mine (or demanding) so I think if I had a ‘normal’ job it would not have felt as taxing. Of course I wanted to make money, but this project is foremost a labor of love for me, I don’t think I could have kept up this schedule if I was doing this for any other primary motivation. While I was at my
soul sucking corporate job I was able to amass a nice savings, not Rockefeller status but enough to make me feel comfortable when we moved to the middle of nowhere and I was running Besotted Brand full-time. I used a lot of my savings to get me through over six months of not having a steady job. I hated dipping into my savings, just hated it but I am happy that I had it so I could continue trying to grow the business.
So the specifics: When should I quit my job to pursue my on-line shop full-time? This is a loaded question, because there are so many variables but I would suggest not quitting your job until your shop starts to turn over a regular profit, enough where you feel that if you quit your job and could spend more time with your shop that it would have a positive fiscal impact. I also suggest if you are leaving your job you consider having a savings too (at least six months worth of expenses would be ideal). Because of the timing of our move, I didn’t have the luxury of turning a profit yet thus the reason for perpetual savings dipping. You may not think it is possible to work a full-time job and run a shop, but it is, you will just have to give up things like the gym, friends, family and generally any other extracurricular activity. It’s a huge sacrifice, but not impossible. You will also have to set specific parameters for both you and your clients. In the very beginning I only shipped one day a week and eventually I moved it to three and so on. Know your limits, it’s great to be a go-getter but know what is feasible to be accomplished without sacrificing quality or customer service.
You will want to figure out how much you need to sell to survive, plus set goals over that amount (you don’t want to be working your tail off for the bare minimum, right?) Once I had that survival amount in hand (this is the amount that will keep me from going homeless + hungry) it helped me to have items in mind that I needed to sell to get to that amount. For example for me it was selling six custom stamps a day. This would not make me rich, but it would keep a roof over my head (remember to factor in your profit. I do not make the entire amount of my sale for each custom stamp–a portion goes to Etsy, a large portion towards manufacturing, cost of shipping from the manufacturer, and packaging, after all that is subtracted that is my profit). For you it could be selling 3 of your custom vases, or 2 custom 10″ x 10″ prints. It helped me to put products to this base number because it made it more accessible, ‘Sure, I could sell 6 custom stamps a day!’ Do I meet this goal? Not always, some days I have no sales, but I know I have my savings (for now) so I just keep plugging away. That is why I suggest you turn a profit before you take the plunge so you are in a better financial position than I found myself in. Do I get scared? Often! Do I love what I do? Absolutely!
I hope this answered some of your questions about taking the on-line shop plunge. Part II I will discuss a community like Etsy versus running your own e-commerce site, the pros & cons. If you have a specific question just send me an email and I will promise to try to address it in future posts. If you have anything to add to the above please leave it in the comments, this is just my experience but I would love to here yours as well!
P.S. A great small business resource is Megan Auman’s Designing an M.B.A. she has a very active newsletter that is free and she’s great at breaking down the most overwhelming business details into comprehensible bite size pieces.
Author / Miss Tristan B
Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She recently re-located to the country with her handsome husband and two pups and will be re-locating back to the city in the very near future.