Sidehustle log 08: 2019 Q1 update

Sidehustle log is an ongoing series in which I explore earning money outside my day job through entrepreneurial efforts. Right now, my focus is on trying to build an Etsy digital download shop that I can run from anywhere in the world where I have my laptop and an internet connection.

That hasn’t always been the case. If you want to know more about how I got here, you can read previous installments of the sidehustle log series here:

New strategy

In the last sidehustle log update, I shared that my goal for 2019 was to reach 100 listings. It seemed a good idea at the time, but a hyper-focus on the numbers like that can backfire quite badly. In this first quarter of the year, I am already changing things up.

If the focus in 2019 was to only focus on the number of listings, and not the quality of listings or organic growth/sales, that does not sound like a good idea. Of course I could split up bundles and sell them a page at a time, but that isn’t popular and won’t sell. Customers generally feel like they get more value for their money when things are bundled up, and good bundles take more work.

I also realized that focusing on 100 listings could lead me to keep renewing listings that weren’t selling. Especially since I had previously kept everything on automatic renewal.

So to identify the listings that weren’t selling within the 3 month period, I have gone through most of my listings and changed them to manual renewal. The beauty of this is that Etsy will still renew (and thus reset the 3 month timer) every time something sells, as long as you have stock available. That means the products that sell will renew, while those that don’t will go in the “expired” folder, where I can review and change them if I want to try to list them again.

Due to this, I might have made 61 listings, but only 56 of them are visible in the shop. $0.2 might be a small sum, but it adds up. I figure my shop is stocked enough a this point that it will not look barren if a few listings quietly disappear.

New products

After publishing my massive mortgage savings tracker, I was starting to feel like I had a solid range of financial tracker products and wanted to branch out a little bit. After spending the better part of January thinking and researching, I thought I would give bullet journal printables with dot grid layouts a go. This tied in easily with the rest of my shop, which can be printed as either a poster or inserted into a planner.

I have loved bullet journals ever since I learned about them, an there have been times where I have struggled to keep from buying a dot grid journal to try it out for myself. What better way to scratch my itch than to make products for printable bullet journals?

Even though I have only launched a handful of dot grid products in the shop so far, I think I might be on to something. The competition is much harder in the printable planners space, but “bullet journal” and “bullet journal printable” has already surpassed all other keywords searches people use to find my shop in March. Excited to see what the future might bring!

Reviews

Any time I get a notification that someone has left me a review, I get this anxious knot just in case it might be a negative one.

I am happy (and relieved!) to say that so far, feedback has been nothing but positive. This is not just a great ego boost, but it also helps the Etsy algorithms rank my shop higher and it tells me that I manage in my efforts to be clear about what exactly the different products are and what customers can expect. I would never want to mislead people into thinking they’re getting something different.

Marketing on Etsy

Marketing is definitely one of the things I find the most difficult. My goal is to only spend money my shop is generating, which means growing is slow but hopefully steady. My method is by no means the best or correct one, but it works for me and has kept my sidehustle from going in the red.

Most of my marketing is done directly in Etsy, through promoted listing. My daily limit is set at $1 per day, which is the lowest it will go. I tried for a few days to up it to $2, but panicked when I saw how quickly it was bringing my shop into negatives. It was still early so the loss has been recouped, but it definitely made me go back to my “slow and steady” strategy.

To use the daily $1 promoted listing budget, you activate bids for your listings. Again, being an anxious critter, I don’t follow the Etsy suggested bid, which is usually somewhere between $0.40-0.8 for my products. Instead, I set it as low as it will go ($0.02) for a couple of items I believe in and have seen generate clicks over time. I do not advertize everything in my shop.

For the listing that seem to be doing better than others, I have gradually increased from $0.02 to $0.08 for my most popular items (apart from the short $2 stint where I matched Etsy’s suggestion and got a big bill but no returns). I expect I will keep slowly and surely increasing the most popular listings like this as long as my profits are growing.

Again, this method is slow going, and probably not the best. But this sidehustle is supposed to be fun, and I don’t want to feel stressed out because it is costing me lots of money in the beginning. It is just not my style. I’ve also seen other bloggers like Millennial Boss post that matching the Etsy suggestions isn’t really working for them either. I don’t know why, but why throw money out the window if it isn’t working?

The numbers

March isn’t entirely over and done yet, so there might be a few more sales. But this still gives you a pretty good idea of how I’ve been doing at the beginning of the year. In January, we were still seeing a lot of orders from Christmas and New Year resolutions, and February died down a bit. I also hit 600 NOK in profits for the first time ever, and I am still optimistic about hitting Norwegian four digits per month before the year is out.

MonthOrdersRevenueFeesSum
January 201925809.04 NOK207.07 NOK601.97 NOK (~$50)
February 201920560.41 NOK131.24 NOK429.17 NOK (~$35)
March 2019 (as of 24th)20755.32 NOK335.76 NOK419.56 NOK (~$35)
Sum652124.77 NOK674.07 NOK1450.7 NOK (~$120)
First quarter stats from my Etsy shop
Sidehustle log 08: Q1 2019 update

Fees

As you can see from the numbers, fees are eating a significant portion of the revenue at 31%. Some of this is due to my experimenting with marketing in March, but it is not unusual for fees to be in the 25% range of profits, at least in my price bracket, which is towards the cheap end of the spectrum.

Nevertheless, I am quite excited to be keeping up the steam. It does not seem like too much of a stretch to get 30+ orders per month at the end of the second quarter, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Pst. Want a boost when you set up your own shop? Use this link, and we both get 40 free listings!

6 Comments on “Sidehustle log 08: 2019 Q1 update

  1. I love how you broke it down like this, and I think you’re right to give yourself permission to change things up! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! I hope to show people that it’s not all instant success. Slow and steady is less of a headline, but can be just as powerful. 🙂

  2. I had an Etsy shop for art a few years back. I made a few sales over the course of a year. In the end I closed it. There’s plenty of competition for a small market that I think isn’t ideal for the platform.

    I love your breakdown and graph of sales to fees. Glad your side hustle is growing steady!

    • Yeah. I tried a physical shop too (soaps) and found it very difficult, especially with Norwegian postage prices being so high. I think people hold back a little more with more expensive physical items.

      And thanks! The graphs are an easy way for me to look back too!

  3. Wow, sounds like your shop is really clipping along. You’re averaging almost one sale a day, which seems pretty good (though admittedly I’m an Etsy outsider). I’m glad you’re structuring things to avoid too much stress. Like you said, this is supposed to be at least somewhat fun!

    • Thanks! I am hoping to break a sale a day before summer. And yes to it staying fun, or I wouldn’t keep at it!

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