Boostrapping your Etsy shop: How to know WHEN it's time to invest in your business (or if you even should!)

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*bangs head against desk*

(It’s never a good sign when a post starts out like that, #amiright?!)

But OOOOH, we’re going to talk about a good one today-- and it involves busting the HECK out of the ever-popular MYTH that “You can build an online business for “free” as long as you hustle your buns off like crazy.”

Now, I’m not referring to inventory or equipment or envelopes or anything like that. You and I both know there’s no way around those sort of business costs. 

No, I’m talking about the market-y, business side of things. You know—the actual “business” part of your Etsy shop where your right-brain creative side tends to go into instant freeze mode :P 

So let’s talk about it and hopefully I can guide you through it :)

There’s this super-popular myth out there that floats around various Etsy conversation circles that as long as you’re willing to hustle SUPER hard, spend MONTHS researching your butt off, and test and tweak every single detail of your shop, you can become wildly profitable with $0 investment, because #hardwork and #googlesavestheday. 

Can I just be the first to say it? That is RIDICULOUS :P

Now, I’m not saying the hustle mentality is ridiculous-- seriously-- I admire the HECK out of all you hustlers out there-- I KNOW it’s not easy.

No, the ridiculous part is this teensy, tiny detail that everyone seems to forget when talking about how they built their businesses “for free.”

Searching for answers and strategy on Google (or the Etsy forums, heaven forbid) is NOT actually “free.”

(wait...what?!?!)

Now, I will fully acknowledge that it may not cost you MONEY to use Google as your business mentor...

It IS costing you something else. 

TIME.  

Yep, we’re going there today :)

The “time” investment myth

Now, initially, investing in time may seem to save you money. 

And it’s definitely the “safety net” option for a lot of us (myself included when I started!) because let’s face it: there’s this (however irrational) fear that if we invest real-deal MONEY into our business, we *might* not actually get it back. 

And when you’ve worked your buns off for that profit (and yes, I KNOW how many Instagram posts it took to make that sale!), it’s dang HARD to throw it back into your business for something that only “might” pay off. 

Over the years (and I’ve been at this “selling online” thing for over 8 years now!), I’ve come to realize just how backwards that way of thinking is. 

It’s time to stop looking at business investments as “risky” and instead look at it as the most straightforward way to GROW your business. 

Because guess what?

Investing time in your business? That’s risky, too.

You don’t know if the strategies that you spent HOURS researching for the past week will even pay off.

And you’re definitely NOT going to get that time back.

In my experience (below!), investing $$$ in my business has been the FASTEST and most STRAIGHTFORWARD way of growing my business.

My history in investing in my biz. 

If you’ve followed along with me at all, you know that one of my first “business” investments was a $500 60-minute business coaching call back in 2013. 

This call was the SCARIEST thing I had done in my business up to this point. 

Before this initial investment, I had boot-strapped my way through my first online shop-- picking up as many free “tips” and “tricks” as I could along the way and spending a ton of TIME (see-- there it pops up again!) in that “two steps forward, one step back” phase. 

Because I had NO clue what I was doing and was relying on a bunch of free articles from around the web to fashion a makeshift “strategy,” I’ll be the first to admit it was far from glamorous and definitely NOT smooth sailing. 

I like to think of it as my “smeared mascara” business phase ;)

So I invested a lot of TIME during this phase.

And yes, it was technically “free” in terms of money. I didn’t actually have to spend a dime figuring this stuff out via Google.

But it was costing me in other ways.

TIME.

PROFIT.

MY FREAKIN’ SANITY.

So in September 2013, I booked that business call and made a non-refundable $250. 

(and then proceeded to almost lose my lunch because $250!!!!!). 

That business call changed EVERYTHING for me. 

And no, I’m not just talking about the crystal clarity I got from actually being handed a STRATEGY and not just a bunch of random tips and tricks….

...I’m talking about the fact that instead of wasting 100+ hours (ps- that’s MONTHS in stay-at-home-mom standard time) like I did last time trying to hodge-podge together a makeshift “plan” on my own (that revolved around nearly 100% SEO if you’re wondering) ....

...I had one CUSTOMIZED and COMPLETED in just 60 minutes with an actual e-commerce marketing strategist (and not some random website ghostwriter). 

Now, that’s not to say that it didn’t take time to implement said plan. 

I still had to do the work. Yes, it was laid out for me, but I still had to IMPLEMENT it. 

But because I had already created and outlined my entire marketing system plan on that 60-minute $500 phone call, I was able to jump into that IMPLEMENTATION phase right away. 

(you know-- the part of the strategy where you actually make money. Aka, NOT the “research + development” phase that we all get so comfortable in but earns us $0 ;)

And here are the results of my FIRST month being open with shop #2 on Etsy:

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Now, just for fun, let’s just contrast that with month #1 over in my first shop:

(Real-life, unedited screenshot of my first shop. I’ve never shared this with anyone before, so you’re welcome.)

(Real-life, unedited screenshot of my first shop. I’ve never shared this with anyone before, so you’re welcome.)

[Also- if you’re wondering about the actual timeline because #detailsareawesome: I didn’t even have an Etsy shop opened yet when I scheduled this call (I had closed down my original shop, Highbury Place, in July 2013, scheduled this call for September 2013, and opened my new shop, Little Highbury, in late Nov/early Dec 2013). Proof that it’s NEVER too early to invest in your biz ;)]

Okay, back to the investment situation:

Now, up front, it seems glaringly obvious which one cost me more money…

The $500 marketing call, right?!

Actually, no. 

Because when you look at the cold, hard data, both of those options cost me something:

  • Shop #1: I invested $0 and earned $0, which resulted in…(wait for it).... $0. 

  • Shop #2: I invested $500 and earned $1252.40, which resulted in +$752.40 just in month one!

See where I’m going with this?!

Shop #1 breakdown:

Shop #1 cost me in TIME. I spent MONTHS researching the heck out of my SEO strategy and having nightmares about keywords. And that was BEFORE I even implemented them. Now, were those keywords “free” to implement in terms of money? But they cost me in lost revenue. 

How? Because there were shops in the same niche as me who were busy making sales and filling orders while I was too busy researching and re-researching keywords behind-the-scenes to have the time to ACTIVELY do something with my shop that would actually result in sales.

Shop #2 breakdown:

Now shop #2 cost me in MONEY. I spent $500 and 60 minutes with a business coach. Day one of opening my shop, I was in the negative by -$500. By day 30, I had made a gross profit of $752.40 (which actually netted around $675.00-- I had a high markup on my product ;)

So the bottom line?

Investing that $500 actually made me MORE money.

As counter-intuitive as it seems, investing MONEY in your business is the fastest way to grow your revenue. 

I need you to understand this: NOTHING in business is free. 

(dang it!)

You’re either going to have to invest TIME or MONEY in growing your Etsy shop. 

For me, I’ve always found money to be the better investment overall. Yes, there are definitely things I still Google to quickly figure out, and you can find a lot of incredible content out there for “free.”

But for other things (ie- like adding custom CSS to my site, designing promo graphics, or creating landing pages), spending the $1,000 to my graphic designer is MORE THAN WORTH THE COST of trying to figure it out on my own and losing valuable hours (let’s be honest: DAYS) that *could* be spent on strategies that actually make me money.

And give me more time with my family :)

(fun fact: at this point in 8+ years selling online, I’ve invested over $75,000 in business investments and I can count on one hand the number of times they DIDN’T pay off.)

So where do you recommend I invest money in my business first, Morgan?

Great question! There’s honestly no “one-size-fits-all” answer for everyone, because everyone is at different stages in their Etsy shop experience:

For the “I’m-just-getting-started-and-what-in-the-heck-am-I-doing?!” Etsy seller:

Right now, your main focus should be on FIGURING OUT YOUR MARKETING. 

Our goal is to make you profitable, but if you have NO idea what you’re doing with your marketing, it’s going to be a hard sell (ha!) to make that happen. Whether you like it or not, as a just-getting-started-Etsy-seller, you ARE the marketing expert of your shop (yes, you right-brain creative person!). So treat yourself like one!

Whether you decide to spend months down the rabbit hole piecing together your own strategy (again, costing you TIME), or joining us in my signature done-for-you marketing automation system program, Mastermind Your Marketing, you NEED to get your marketing figured out STAT-- before you invest in that fancy-schmany logo designer or throw tons of money (down the toilet) on ads.

Understanding your marketing is the FIRST step to a profitable Etsy shop-- it shouldn’t be something you “figure out later.”

For the “Alright-my-marketing-is-starting-to-work-and-I’m-doing-okay-for-myself” Etsy seller:

It’s time to introduce some additional AUTOMATING YOUR BUSINESS. 

Now if you joined us back in Mastermind Your Marketing, you’ve already got a system implemented that is almost entirely automated. So your marketing? It’s already automated #heckyes :) (and if you haven’t automated your marketing, what are you waiting for?!)

Your automation should include scheduling your social media strategy, automating your sales funnel sequences, importing canned responses for your customer service inquiries.

Basically anything that CAN be duplicated and repeated to save you time should be done-- because things are on their way to CRAZY anytime now-- so let’s get ahead of the curve :)

For the “I’ve-got-the-marketing-down-but-I-can’t-keep-up-with-orders” Etsy seller:

Right now, your main focus should be on GROWING YOUR TEAM. 

Up to this point, you’ve worked IN your business. When you get to this (insanely awesome) stage, it’s time to start working ON your business. 

And that means letting things go...to someone else, that is ;) 

It should come as no surprise that things take off QUICKLY with a marketing system in place (seriously-- I hit my first five-figure month [$11K] just 10 months after opening my shop and implementing one!), and you’re going to feel those growing pains something fierce-- so let’s tackle them head-on!

Now is the time where you look at hiring out contract workers and streamlining your systems. Hire your first VA to manage your bookkeeping and order your supplies. Contract out with a few local people (or even an order fulfillment center!) to help fulfill your orders. Hire a marketing VA on retainer so you don’t have to handle the scheduling yourself. You DON’T have to hire actual real-deal employees-- contracting is just fine for now-- but you DO need to get some help or you’re going to burnout in about 1 ½ weeks (not that I’m speaking from experience…)

You need HELP-- so don’t be afraid to take that leap and bring some support on board. 

Your family (and your sanity) will thank me later ;)


Whew-- and that is IT. That is my two cents (or 2 bajillion...I mean, who’s counting anyways?!) on investing in your business. 

Here’s what I need you to take away from this: NOTHING IN BUSINESS IS FREE. 

You’re either going to have to invest your TIME or your MONEY. 

It’s up to you which makes the most sense for your business and what is going to bring you the results that you want in the timeframe you’re looking for.

What do you think? Do you completely agree/disagree? Let me know in the comments below :)

xo, Morgan


Ready to get your hands on a done-for-you marketing system for YOUR Etsy shop (and save yourself some TIME ;)?

The doors to my signature program, Mastermind Your Marketing, are opening Friday, August 23.