I started papercutting as something to pass the time whilst my son napped. I found it super relaxing, fun and it stirred up some creative juices in me that had been lying dormant for years. I really enjoyed it and was so thankful to not have to sit through another 3 hours watching daytime tele and checking on Freddie every 3 minutes to see if he was awake.
I remember back then (jeez I’m talking as if it was 20 years ago, it wasn’t even a year ago…!) thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to sell these for a living.’ Everytime I mentioned my pie in the sky idea to someone they’d look at me and smile as if to say, ‘yeah good luck with that.’ I don’t blame then because it did seem like a bit of a dream at the time, I felt like a wannabe actress telling people she’d be famous one day whilst pouring them a flat white.
My confidence grew and grew with each person that asked me to design a papercut for them and after returning from a family holiday abroad I saw my designs with fresh eyes and thought, actually, they’re quite good! That was when I decided it was time to be brave and try Etsy. I had no idea what I was doing but I listed a few things and despite the pictures being shockingly bad (see previous post) and having absolutely no idea about SEO or how to promote, I started slowly selling!
My first sale came a few days after I opened and in the beginning I sold around 1 a month, which at the time was great! I had a 1 year old who was still very reliant on me and another small business I was running part time.
As the time went on and Freddie became more independent and started attending nursery I thought it would probably be nice to sell a few more. I made a New Years resolution this year that I would really concentrate on making it a business and hopefully to one day work on it full time.
I joined a few etsy seller groups on Facebook which are so great, I’ve got so many tips and great advice from other sellers from them. I also started listening to podcasts, webinars, read blogs etc and started making changes to my shop.
My hard work started to pay off pretty quickly and January was a great month for me, I doubled my sales from December – which I think is pretty unheard of – but then February hit and my sales were shocking…! I had 1 sale in 2 weeks and I was devastated! I honestly felt like a failure and I questioned everything. Was my stuff even good enough to sell?
I then went on holiday to South Africa for 2 weeks, I had to change my shipping times to say that nothing would be sent until after my holiday which probably had an impact on sales, but at the time I didn’t see it that way. I’d just released a Mother’s Day collection which had got a lot of love on Instagram and Facebook so I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t selling anything!
I wrote a blog post called ‘this thing called business,’ and after that decided I wasn’t going to keep refreshing my etsy stats every 5 minutes, I was going to enjoy my holiday.
After getting back (I did actually get a couple of sales by the way, and I managed to enjoy the holiday!) I gave myself a good telling off. I realised that February hadn’t been a total disaster and I also realised that the minute the papercutting changed from a hobby to a business in my head, my stress levels went through the roof. I thought that if I didn’t make sales then I was a failure. I started paying for adds on Facebook and Instagram to try and increase my reach which did nothing… actually my organic reach was much better than my paid reach but that’s another story… and I wanted to cry if my views were low. I was in such a rush to be a success that I forgot how far I’d already come.
I decided I’d had enough of stressing over it all and that I’d let the business grow organically like I’d been doing before. I’d still work hard on photos, SEO, making new designs and keeping in top of social media but I wouldn’t try and pay for sales through advertising or by practically begging for sales on social media, it wasn’t worth the money or the time. I thought back to the ‘me’ at the start of it all and realised that I’d be pretty happy back then to see how far I’d already come, I think when you want something to work you don’t ever stop wanting more and so it’s hard to live in the moment and be proud of your achievements.
My change in attitude really helped and I started enjoying papercutting again. I designed new products, kept up to date with my social media and worked hard on improving my shop. I was still thinking of it as a business which was important, just not one that had to be massively successful straight away.
When March hit, my sales started to increase and I had a fab month. I didn’t freak out if one day I had low views, I just enjoyed making and watching the sales come in. April has also been a very good month so far and I’ve even seen my conversion rate rise to over 1% which is a real achievement – apparently this is what you should be aiming for!
I’m loving watching my business grow organically and I’m going to keep it going that way. Facebook will receive no more money from me – because it doesn’t work for me anyway, I don’t believe that my customers hang out there – I’m just going to keep on going as I am, scalpal in one hand, coffee in the other and killing it like a boss… oh all whilst playing with dinosaurs, toy cars and watching paw patrol.
Till next time guys