I made $181,000 in revenue last year from my Etsy store. I discovered what made my items sell and learned from 2 big mistakes.

  • Heather Johnson launched her Etsy shop while working as an MRI technician in a hospital.
  • She quit her job after her store began to outperform her day job.
  • She explained why she regrets prioritizing ads and how she scaled by listing 450 items in a year.

This essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Etsy seller Heather Johnson. Her job and income have been confirmed by Business Insider. The following has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

When I started my Etsy print-on-demand store, I was an MRI technologist working in a hospital. Though I enjoyed assisting others, I felt trapped in my job, and my work-life balance was poor.

When my Etsy shop began to take off, I felt like I had regained control of my life.

I needed a 2nd income to pay my bills

During the pandemic, my hours were reduced because the hospital was downsizing certain departments to help staff others. Some weeks, I only worked half of my previous hours.

The cash was not coming in. I’d recently purchased a home and needed to pay my bills.

I looked for a second job everywhere. I looked on Indeed and LinkedIn. I came across a YouTube video about print on demand and Etsy one night in 2020.

I was tired of trading my time for money

The creator of one video discussed how having an Etsy side hustle could mean no longer having to trade your time for money because growth can be exponential.

My understanding of earning a living was that you worked long hours and received an hourly wage or a salary.

When I realized there was another option, I didn’t hesitate to take it.

I closed my first Etsy shop after a few months

In April 2020, I opened a print-on-demand shop, but it was forced to close due to production delays caused by the pandemic.

I discovered that the print-on-demand platform I was using was not completing orders on time. Printing, packing, and shipping products to my customers took between two and four weeks. That frightened me.

My hours at the hospital resumed normalcy in June. In July, I decided to close my shop.

I decided to try again

I restarted in January 2021.

Initially, I created my designs using Canva and Adobe. I’ve also been using Kittl, a design platform, since last year.

Using a print-on-demand platform, I printed my designs on T-shirts.

I identified a trend and made it my own

On Etsy, I noticed a particular crewneck sweatshirt called the Gildan 18000 was selling extremely well. A color known as sports gray was especially popular.

On the Printify website, I discovered a color — “sand” — in that specific crewneck. It wasn’t yet popular. I ordered a sample and really enjoyed it. At the time, only a few Printify providers were selling the color.

I used Printify to transfer my existing T-shirt designs to the crewneck. My sales began to skyrocket. I’d discovered an underserved product category, and people adored the color.

I sold the same design with different themes

I repeated designs across multiple themes, such as various occupations or items for mothers.

I began to have days where I received up to 30 orders. That was more than I made in a day at my job, I realized.

All of the sand-colored sweatshirts were among my top five Etsy purchases.

I uploaded 450 listings

I was constantly adding listings to Etsy. The more listings you have, the more visitors you will receive. In addition, I launched a Shopify store.

In the year 2021, I uploaded 450 listings to Etsy. On top of my full-time job, I worked 30 to 40 hours per week on my store.

My Etsy store generated $250,000 in revenue that year. It was significantly higher than what I was earning as a healthcare worker.

I didn’t quit my job for a while

For the first year, I thought my Etsy earnings were a fluke.

My day job was enjoyable, and I had a fantastic boss. But I discovered that I was spending more time on my shop and fewer hours at work.

I’m leaving in May 2022.

I regret not listing more items in my store’s 2nd year

In January 2022, I launched a YouTube channel. I talked about what I was learning about Etsy. However, it meant that I wasn’t devoting as much time to listing new products.

In 2022, I planned to list between 50 and 100 items.

I spent money on Etsy advertisements to keep people coming to my store.

My shop generated $181,000 in revenue in my second year, which was less than in my first. I should have kept adding new products or hired a virtual assistant.

Even if their shop is long-term, I tell my YouTube audience that they should keep consistently listing new items.

I shouldn’t have focused solely on ads

I spent $5 per day on Etsy ads for a few weeks in 2021 before ceasing operations until 2022. I started gradually increasing ad spend to $50 by the end of 2022.

I was spending a lot of money on them, but they weren’t working.

Sellers should avoid spending money on ads until a listing has generated organic sales. Even spending $5 per day on advertisements can quickly add up. Knowing what sells and what doesn’t takes time and experience.

However, my store has become more passive. I spend about five to twenty hours per week on it, depending on how busy the season is — mostly on customer service.

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