A Day in the Life of an Etsy Shop Owner… or “Why my stuff is so ‘Expensive'”

Shameless plug for my shop here, because, well, I can because it’s my blog. I own a shop on Etsy – Bitty and Bear Creations. I’m also on Facebook here and on Instagram as @bittyandbearcreations. I mainly sell headbands, girls’ clothes, bow ties, and sometimes chunky necklaces. As a “crafter” I pay a lot of attention to detail, I don’t slap things together, and I try to craft each item as though my own kids would wear it.

Crafting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc for the sake of the craft is a totally different animal than doing it to sell. I’m going to walk you through the process for one of my pillowcase dresses. They are “simple” dresses to make but regardless of their simplicity in style, they still require effort and time.

Step one: Buy fabric – This requires a trip to the store. Picking out fabric, deciding yardage, having it cut, etc. Buying required thread and any other notions needed – in this case, ribbon for the sash.

Step Two: Wash and Dry Fabric – Anything worn needs to be washed prior to sewing to remove any coatings that are put on teh fabric as well as to preshrink.

Step Three: Initial Pressing – I hate this part. Even if you pull a cotton fabric directly from the dryer it will still require time to press all the wrinkles out.

Step Four: Cutting pattern pieces

Step Five: Sewing, Pressing, Top stitching – My pillowcase dresses (and pinafores) have contrasting bottom trims which require extra steps in the sewing and pressing process. Basically each seam I sew, I press. Pressing is different than ironing, by the way. Here is a little look at the differences. And this process isn’t quick. Sew a seam, press it. Sew a seam, press it. Pin panels together, sew the seam, press it. Because I don’t own a serger (yet) I zig-zag EVERY exposed edge (and even some edges that get tucked under. So that adds another step to the process but finishes the edges so they do not unravel when washed and dried.

Step Six: Ribbon Sash (or Fabric Sash): Most of my pillowcase dresses have a ribbon sash. Currently one of them has a fabric sash because it just looks better on that style. I charge more for the fabric sash because it takes more time and materials to create.

Step Seven: Photographing Dress – I don’t use my phone for listing photos. I might take initial pictures for my FB or IG pages but for Etsy, I use my “big” camera and then process the photo to be as true to color as possible as well as crisp and in focus.

Step Eight: Listing – Listing is not quick. For those that have never listed on Etsy, you have to upload pictures, select categories, price the item, price the shipping, describe the item, add tags (to help your items get found), etc. There is a serious art form to tagging your stuff which I am still trying to learn. Describing your item is really important too. Some people want basics, some want more info, but it’s important to give potential buyers as much info as they might need to make their decision. If there isn’t enough info some buyers will just pass you by. Others will message you, which brings me to…

Step Nine: Conversations – As a shop owner you have to be able to answer requests, questions, and general conversations from buyers and potential buyers. The faster you are at responding, the better. Some of these conversations will result in a sale, some won’t.

Now, once the item is listed, the next steps differ depending if the item is RTS (ready to sell/ship) or MTO (made to order). If it’s made to order then basically the steps to get your listing item all repeat themselves to get the product that will be sent to the customer.

Packaging and shipping is next. I ship with Etsy which is great because it automatically sends the buyer an email letting them know when their item shipping plus tracking info. I hand write a thank you note for all items I ship out because I want the people who buy my items to know I appreciate the sale. I don’t just shove stuff in an envelope – I take the time to package it so that it is protected and looks worthy of the work I do when they receive it. Again, this is something that is constantly evolving as I and trying out different packaging options and such. But it does add time to the process as a whole.

Now multiply all these steps for every dress that is listed/sold. The steps for my other items all vary, but the idea is the same. On top of the Etsy side, I also try to keep up with my Facebook page (although, admittedly, not as much because FB has changed its settings so my followers don’t often see as much as they should) and actively post on Instagram for advertising and increasing customer base. The price of an item isn’t just material costs. It’s equipment costs and upkeep, mileage, electricity, and time. My time is valuable, just like yours. I have to advertise, just like a big store. I have to pay for equipment and upkeep, just like a store. Buying handmade is paying for someone’s expertise and care. Their TIME and effort. You are paying them a wage so that they can meet expenses and beyond. You would not work for free or for minimum wage when you have a skill set everyone does not. For me this is not a hobby, this is a business. My goal is one day to be able to stay home full time with my kids and put away money for vacations and extras on top of paying bills. I am doing a job and selling a product that is made by hand right here in the USA. You are supporting a person and her family instead of a company that buys merchandise mass produced in China and is resold.

I enjoy this, for the most part. There are some days my creative juices run out and I feel like I will never again craft a respectable headband. Some days I feel defeated thinking it’s all for naught. Then I get a sale and am able to send off a piece made specifically for someone and I feel like it’s all worth it.

This is just food for thought, y’all. No disrespect, no calling anyone cheap. I simply wanted to give a little more insight into the world that is Handmade Goods. But I hope the next time you see something handmade and think “Wow, they think a lot of themselves,” just know that what you are seeing in front of you is so much more than one item. You are seeing the work of an artisan, someone who has worked on their skill and product and has put themselves and their time into it. Someone who loves what they do and enjoys when people buy their products not just for the money but for the knowledge that they personally are brightening the wardrobe, home, etc of someone else.

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