“If you’re really as “successful” as you say you are/were, why don’t you run your Etsy shop anymore? Why would you stop actively marketing it if it was supposedly “working” out for you. Something’s fishy and doesn’t add up…”
It’s an email that I’ve gotten more than once (although occasionally with more colorful language that I’ll choose not to repeat on my G-rated blog ;)
One of the wonderful things about running a business online is all of the amazing people you meet across the world. People that write kind emails and let you know how much even your free content has helped them to grow their Etsy businesses. I love those emails.
Unfortunately, you also get those who attempt to understand your choices better than you do and criticize you every step along the way.
Since selling my Etsy shop to my sister in July 2018, I’ve had more than one comment thrown my way about how I must be a “fraud” or “not as successful as I claim to be” when it comes to running an Etsy shop.
I realized I've never openly addressed the "WHY" of doing this (short of a few quick statements mixed into livestreams), so if you are one of those many people who are genuinely wondering why the heck someone would give up a multiple six-figure Etsy shop to work on ANOTHER completely different business model (this MorganNield.com one, here!), this post is for you :)
It all started in year 3 of selling on Etsy.
It’s no secret-- I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2011 (with a shop called “Highbury Place” that specialized in notecards and wedding guest book prints-- *this shop is currently closed*) and then more recently (2013 - 2018) with “Little Highbury,” an Etsy shop that utilized custom-designed fabrics to create unique baby products. You can check it out here :)
I like to think of “Highbury Place” as my Etsy experiment. This is where I first learned about the platform (and boy was it overwhelming at the time!), where I first learned how to print off postage in my home (a novel concept!), and where I learned that spending $2.50 for an envelope at the local post office was NOT going to be profitable long-term.
I made a lot of mistakes. Like, A LOT.
(My biggest one being that SEO is the make-it-or-break-it strategy of Etsy).
But that’s not to say that my mistakes didn’t pay off-- they did.
And when I opened Little Highbury in 2013 (after learning A LOT through trial + error, and investing in a business coach + online courses-- yes, I actually PAID money to learn how to make money-- best decision I ever made :), LittleHighbury opened its doors “officially” in November 2013 to the tune of $1,789.
And that was--literally-- just the beginning.
Armed with a new strategy in hand (hello, marketing system!) and experience under my belt, to an outsider it looked like LittleHighbury was an instant hit and that things almost came “too easy” for me (I’ve had more than one person accuse me of that).
On the surface, it looked, well, effortless.
Within a year I was making 600-700 sales/MONTH and averaging around $700 - $1,000 in gross revenue PER DAY.
And when the holidays hit?
That number easily DOUBLED.
(and if I was running a sales promotion, that number went through the roof).
On paper it looked AH-MAZING:
- I had a 70% profit margin
- My items (literally) took less than 5 minutes to make, and...
- I had mastered my marketing system to the point that I didn’t have to worry about finding traffic for my Etsy shop-- it was finding ME (thank you, marketing system!)
But behind-the-scenes was a completely different story.
There were MANY tears.
MANY sleepless nights.
And a whole lotta grunt-work (those orders don’t fill themselves, yo!).
(note- I am not complaining about selling and making money. I realize this is genuinely the best possible problem to have with an online business and I am forever grateful for the opportunities it gave me and the doors that have opened because of it. I am merely sharing how it emotionally felt to me at the time).
The turning point
After managing the business 100% solely by myself for over a year (well, my husband was recruited to package and wrap orders for me-- thanks, hun!)...
...and hitting over $11K in monthly sales…
I knew something had to change.
Because while it was AWESOME to pour all of those (insane!) profits back into the business/into our bank account…
...I was DYING.
Because here's the deal: Besides being the owner of LittleHighbury, I was also a stay-at-home-mother (to a VERY busy toddler!), wife, active church volunteer, and chief "errand runner" in our home.
Add that to 25-30 DAILY orders from the Etsy shop and it's basically a recipe for disaster for those of us who aren't super-woman material ;)
A couple of things I learned during this phase of the business:
- Try to work AND tend my child at the same time was beyond frustrating. I needed separate time to focus on each.
- There is no way to succeed at all of those things all at the same time. Balance is great in theory, but not practical (or possible!) in execution.
- I am basically absolute RUBBISH after 10 pm. None of my work was ever that great after that point, ha ha, and I found myself redoing a lot of it the next day! #funfact
These "realizations" led me to hire my first “employee” (and I use that term VERY informally ;).
This "employee" was actually just a local high school girl that needed a part-time job to work around student-council obligations and she didn’t actually “work for me” because she was contractual (meaning she wasn’t technically an employee so I didn’t have to pay taxes or provide benefits-- so don't come asking me about those details because I don't know them!).
She started by taking up the menial labor tasks like cutting fabric and sewing headbands and I felt like I could FINALLY breathe again.
My mom was hired shortly after that.
And a couple of local stay-at-home mom friends right after that.
Within a year I had gone from a one-woman show to 5 people running an Etsy business that consistently maintained five-figures/month.
It wasn’t easy to keep on top of everything (especially during the holidays!)...
But with help? It was manageable.
It was around this time (we had just had our first $20K month) that I got my first “How do you do it?!” question on Etsy.
And that’s when everything changed.
A mindset shift
I received probably about 10-15 conversations/day on Etsy asking questions about my products/ordering/wholesale/etc.
I had a canned set of responses (definitely something to consider doing if you aren’t already!) that saved me OODLES of time with these questions. My goal was to spend less than 15 min/day in my Etsy inbox.
But when I received my first “How do you do it?” question about running an Etsy shop I couldn’t believe it.
Someone was asking me (ME!) about how to run a successful business on Etsy.
And I took 45 minutes answering that question in so much detail that the poor Etsy shop owner probably had to split the reading into a two-part session.
And I had FUN answering it (wha?!)!
That question was--literally-- just the beginning.
The more LittleHighbury sold, the more the questions seemed to flow in from ready-to-hustle entrepreneurs that were willing to do the work (MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE EQUATION!) but just didn’t know what “work” to do.
(a question I address + solve for you inside Mastermind Your Marketing!)
I answered probably about 15-20 of these questions via Etsy convos super in-depth before I saw an ad on my Facebook home feed for a FREE Etsy training from a couple who averaged 125 orders/month selling on Etsy.
And people were FREAKING OUT in the comments at how awesome it would be to make that amount of sales.
Note: At this point in my business I was hitting 600-700 sales/month.
And that’s when I realized that THIS could be a business, too.
Now, at this point I certainly didn’t want to give up my Etsy shop (it was so profitable and it’s not easy to walk away from that kind of income!), but I realized that since I had extra help with the labor of creating product for my Etsy shop, I could totally do this “Etsy coaching” thing as a side-hustle. (<-- serial entrepreneur right here, folks!)
Within a few days (and even without a website!) I booked my first one-on-one call and charged $247 for a 60-minute one-on-one coaching session with a client (which included a 60-minute Skype call, 2 weeks of email support, and a personalized marketing plan).
She left THRILLED with the direction and guidance that I offered (and is making BANK now with her shop!) and I couldn’t believe that I had--figuratively-- sold my knowledge and experience-- and made a decent chunk of change doing it.
Also? I didn’t have to ship out a product at the end. (<-- I’ll admit, this was a big one for me, ha!).
Things quickly took off from there.
While I was still running my Etsy shop full-time, I was booking more and more one-on-one clients (and having the time of my life chatting with other business owners!).
But there was a major problem.
And while I'll be the first to admit that I didn't spend a lot of time "searching" for these clients-- they seemed to find me on their own (<-- huge blessing, I realize that), there was still a MAJOR issue I ran into:
The 60-minute phone call sessions? They took up TIME (truth: you can’t rush a 60-minute call-- it’s ALWAYS going to be 60-minutes [and usually turned into 75 minutes because I can’t stop talking about marketing!]).
Time I didn’t *really* have if I was being honest because LittleHighbury was still so. dang. busy.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not super-woman, nor do I ever pretend to moonlight as her or profess to have ANYTHING in common with her.
I’m seriously just your average human being.
And being average with that kind of schedule?
Well, something had to give.
(lest you thought it was the baby, know that even on her worst tantrum-filled days, we decided she was worth keeping in the mix ;)
I wasn’t working IN my Etsy shop much nowadays (thank you, employees!), but I definitely was actively working to drive traffic to it (following the system I outline in Mastermind Your Marketing).
And even with a streamlined marketing system, it still takes a bit of time to stay on top of things.
And so I gave up marketing my Etsy shop.
...I stopped adjusting my SEO every 4-6 months.
...I stopped posting on Instagram every day.
...I stopped creating new blog posts and actively growing my email list.
(cue the audible gasps).
Now I bet I know what you're thinking right now...
Why on earth would someone choose to stop doing what was working?!?!?
(the infamous question I get asked all. the. time.)
Today I'm going to answer it for you as honestly and openly as I can :) (Note- I'm not going to justify my answer to you or debate my decision in the comments (it's already been made!), but just explain MY reasoning why I did what I did)
Actually, there were a couple of reasons:
I was making serious money OFF of Etsy.
My Etsy shop wasn’t the ONLY thing that was working for me.
With VERY little effort on my part, I was booking one-on-one clients to chat marketing and making $497/hour doing it (yes, I raised my prices early on and people STILL kept booking with me).
Also? I didn’t have to ship a physical product. I didn’t have to buy inventory. I didn’t have to spend HOURS/day in my sewing room fulfilling orders and crossing my fingers that USPS would hurry and deliver that “I waited to purchase until the last minute!” order that was placed by a frazzled customer (I absolutely HATE stressing out about people's last-minute rush orders, but I always do! Drives me crazy!)
I had lost my passion for my target market.
Now this is a seemingly trivial piece of the puzzle that a lot of people don’t understand.
What does “passion” have to do with making money? If you’re making six figures and doing it consistently, why does “passion” even matter? You’re making money! Enjoy it!
I felt that way at first, too :)
I was SO thankful that this Etsy business had taken off. We were the definition of poor church mice when I started (I had to take a $300 loan from my mom to buy inventory because we--literally-- couldn’t afford to buy supplies), and without it?
I’d hate to think where we would have ended up...
But was I passionate about my “dream customer” or “target market”?
I’ve always been fairly transparent about my journey into motherhood-- it’s not something that came easy to me and it’s still a challenge almost every day. I’m not what you’d call a “natural fit” for the role-- and even though I was making baby products, I didn’t enjoy conversing with other mothers about sleep training, swapping debates about homeschooling vs. public education, or talking about the divine blessing that being a SAHM is. (truth- I get so much social anxiety going to play groups because motherhood and kiddos is ALL anyone ever talks about at those places).
So even though I tended to avoid those conversations in "real-life," having a baby accessories business means you are surrounded by those types of conversation all day every day (no brainer, I know!).
From 2013 - 2016, I was of the “fake it til you make it” mindset when interacting with my customers and fans. I swooned over their baby photos, offered tips on parenting that I had learned from raising my own daughter, and obsessed over the latest baby trends because #socute #amiright.
But it didn’t feel natural and I didn’t enjoy it. There was absolutely nothing wrong with those who could talk 24/7 about #allthingsbaby (I admire you so much!), but in the words of Amy Poehler- “Good for her, NOT for me."
But with business questions? Marketing?
I could (and would, if I wasn’t careful!) talk about those things all day.
That’s when I came to the realization that I could adapt my business to better fit MY needs and dreams-- and that was OKAY.
A mental breakdown
Even though I started plugging away at MorganNield.com back in late 2016, I still kept my Etsy shop. No, I wasn’t actively marketing it (which was a relief in so many ways!), but it was still making daily sales (average about 10-15/day with residual marketing from all the efforts I’d put in over the years).
And because those Etsy sales had--literally-- given us a roof over our head and food in our bellies-- I was more than a *little* queasy at the idea of closing the shop. After all, we had lived off this income for YEARS. Would it be possible to make do without it?
I couldn't convince myself that it was, so I kept working on both ;)
Truth bomb: Building MorganNield.com while managing LittleHighbury was not the walk in the park you’d expect.
It took a lot out of me.
When I wasn’t fulfilling orders, I was writing blog posts.
When I wasn’t answering customer convo’s on Etsy, I was juggling one-on-one client coaching calls.
Oh, and I had that thing called “family” that I enjoyed hanging around with (although by this point I'd almost forgotten what they looked like...kidding).
I’d like to say that juggling two businesses helped me master “balance” with things, but I’m going to be straight up honest with you--
It caused me to have a mental breakdown in February 2018.
As in curled-in-a-fetal-position, hunched over sobbing in our bathroom with the fan on for hours at a time not being able to physically move.
And that’s when the doors to Little Highbury closed for an “indefinite vacation”.
Now you may be asking "What went down in February that changed things?"
Here's a quick synopsis:
I was in the “pre-launch” phase of my third round of Mastermind Your Marketing.
Lest you think launching an online course is easy (hahaha!), let me clear that up for your right now: It’s not.
Is it rewarding? Yes. Profitable? Yes. Amazing? Yes.
Here's a list of tasks I was working on just during pre-launch:
- I was recording livestreams and on a weekly (and sometimes daily!) basis
- I was creating 1-2 pieces of new content for my blog each week
- I was networking with others in my niche to build relationships with them and--ultimately-- pitch my product
- I was answering the never-ending questions of people interested in learning more about the program and if it would be a good fit for THEIR business (probably about 10 questions/day in the pre-launch phase-- more during the actual "open-cart" launch)
- I was reworking the course to be even better than it was. This essentially meant starting from scratch again and adding SO much more to it to make it as done-for-you-marketing as possible.
Now take alllllllllllllll of those things and add:
- Managing 10-15 daily orders with Little Highbury.
- A (surprise) positive pregnancy test and almost immediate puking non-stop.
(yep, apparently I’m one of those “lucky ones” that gets hyperemesis gravidarum like Princess Kate Middleton and spends the next 2-3 months working out of the upstairs bathroom in-between puke sessions).
Oh, and tries to take care of an incredibly active 4-year-old while doing it because, you know, the whole “SAHM” thing I signed up for :)
So we’ve established that by this point in my businesses (February 2018), I was still running Little Highbury AND MorganNield.com.
I thought I could keep doing both.
After all, they were both INCREDIBLY profitable (Little Highbury was still hitting $100K even without the heavy marketing [or any marketing at all, if I'm being honest], and MorganNield.com was WAY past that already).
From a financial standpoint (and logically, as well), it made sense to keep both businesses going.
And whenever I casually mentioned “killing off Little Highbury,” people looked at me like I was CRAZY. Like, why would you ever get rid of something that made you money like that?!?!
(And from an outsider’s perspective, I TOTALLY get that. I remember wondering the same thing when Melyssa Griffin stopped offering graphic design services and focused solely on online courses. I thought she was CRAZY for giving up a six-figure design business at the time. Now I understand a bit better ;)
But when my husband found me on the bathroom floor after an especially grueling toilet session, bawling my eyes out, it became ridiculously apparent that I couldn’t balance both anymore. #tmi
I’ll spare you the details of my pros and cons lists for both (yes, I’m a little Rory Gilmore sometimes) and assume that after reading through this post you’ll know which one was the obvious choice.
And just like that, Little Highbury became a part of my past.
- Yes, I GAVE UP a six-figure business.
- Yes, I WALKED AWAY from something that was already working.
- Yes, I WENT AGAINST every logical and financial bone in my body and put my shop in “permanent” vacation mode (for the first time ever!).
And instead? I went ALL IN with MorganNield.com.
(and--literally-- doubled my annual revenue with that next Mastermind Your Marketing launch (which I basically executed from my bathroom floor-- now how's that for a happy ending!?).
Giving up my Etsy shop after 4+ years of selling?
It was the BEST business decision I have EVER made.
And I don't regret it for a minute.
Now you may appreciate my decision, or you may violently disagree with it. That is totally up to you. I give you 100% permission to over-analyze my story above and come to your own conclusions about my decision and whether or not you think I'm a "fraud" for walking away from Etsy.
(know, however, that during the time you’re analyzing MY business, you’re wasting valuable time that you could be using to actually grow yours ;).
Choosing to sell Little Highbury
And for one final FAQ: What did I do with Little Highbury?
For those of you who know my story, you know that I created Little Highbury at an EXTREMELY vulnerable time in my life (it was my main coping mechanism that I used to deal with my post-partum depression after my daughter was born), and it didn’t seem right to “sell it” to someone that most likely wouldn’t have understood the backbone of why I was doing what I had done.
Also, there was the whole “I design my own fabrics!” thing to consider (a lot harder to hand off to someone than you’d think, haha) ;)
That's why when most people asked about me selling, I always told them, "Nope-- I'm letting it die a slow death."
And truthfully? I had every intention of keeping that “vacation mode” on for the remainder of the year and eventually closing out the shop by the end of 2018.
And then my sister came to me with a business proposition (fun fact: I’m from a whole family of entrepreneurs) and presented an agreement to “buy out” Little Highbury because she was in need of a project to keep her busy (Ha! Joke's on her!).
***Edited for clarification: I did not "sell" her the shop (yes, I am aware that is against Etsy's TOU's!) -- I am still "unofficially" overseeing things with LittleHighbury, however, she is the COO. She is in the process of setting up her OWN shop on Etsy and has purchased the inventory/equipment/marketing that I have used with LittleHighbury in the past to create her "new" shop.
Now before you come to me asking for help on drafting contracts and negotiating terms for selling a business, know that my sister is one of the most Christ-like people I know and doesn’t have an advantage-taking bone in her body. Seriously. (it gets really annoying sometimes because she’s always so...good :P) Yes, our agreement is written down, but it’s not your typical “legal” document and there wasn’t a notary present and all that jazz.
But for now?
It feels good.
She’s LOVING running the business and getting her hands wet with entrepreneurship, and I’m LOVING being able to focus 100% on MorganNield.com without balancing inventory/customer service/marketing/etc. (you know, all those bazillion hats we Etsy shop owners seem to wear at all times ;)
Will I go back to Etsy one day?
But I can promise you this: It will NOT be with a physical product, ha ha! Once you go digital, you never go back, my friend ;)
And if you made it to the end of this post, thank you. Thank you for hearing me out and taking a minute (or 60) to understand where I am coming from and to learn more of the "why" behind my business decisions.
I feel like people always gloss over the less-than-glamorous details of business evolutions, and I want you to know that it's okay if your business is currently a hot mess and you're overwhelmed.
Life is messy
Business is messy.
And business evolution is a TOTALLY normal (and good!) thing.
Don't ever feel like you have to stick with something that doesn't bring you joy.
Consider this permission to go after your dreams and make them happen no matter what anyone says-- because I'm right behind you, cheering you on :)