Alicia Shaffer, a California mother of three, has an Etsy store. Nothing unusual about that, right? Not until you learn that she makes up to $70,000 per month!
No, that’s not a typo: Shaffer sells more than 3,000 socks, scarves, headbands and other items each day through her Etsy store, Three Bird Nest — the second-best-selling handmade store on all of Etsy.
Shaffer launched Three Bird Nest (named after her three kids) in 2011 with a handful of headband designs. Today, the shop offers hundreds of accessories, including twist headbands, feather headbands, bohemian scarves, leg warmers, beaded hair bands and more. Her website offers more options, including headbands, jewelry, scarves, hats, gloves, sweaters and even home décor.
How did Shaffer — who doesn’t have a background in fashion — build such a spectacularly successful Etsy store?
Here’s how she did it, plus her advice for sellers wanting to follow in her footsteps.
The Evolution of Three Bird Nest
Shaffer didn’t plan on starting an Etsy empire when she listed her first handmade headbands on the site in 2011.
“The first couple of weeks, the Etsy shop got a few orders, but at that time it was a hobby and a way to make a couple extra dollars,” she says. “But closer to Christmas, we received 90 orders in one day, so I needed to do something to make it grow after the holidays.”
She brought in one person to help with sewing, and another to help with shipping and order management, and soon her thriving business was employing 15 to 20 people, depending on the project.
Her team helps a lot now, but she’s always constantly managing different facets of the process, including shipping, employees, production and supply issues. “It’s a lot,” she says. “I’m definitely not sitting back and cruising around the town in a limo, shipping champagne. I’m definitely still in the trenches working.”
Products Don’t Sell Themselves
Even with her success, Shaffer still puts in 16- or 18-hour days to grow Three Bird Nest. “I don’t let my products sell themselves—I have to sell my products,” she says. “That’s what’s so important to understand. You can’t just list products with Etsy and expect them to sell. You have to be the one to do the work.”
She takes advantage of every feature possible in order to analyze her sales. “On Etsy, there are so many tools available to you that people don’t utilize,” she explains.
Shaffer suggests newbie Etsy sellers focus on analyzing which items are receiving the most views and why. Etsy offers a “Shop Stats” tool to help you track your traffic (including how many people are looking at your items, and how those people find your shop) and is also compatible with Google Analytics. To add your shop to Google Analytics and closely track its performance, follow these step-by-step instructions.
“Be creative with your products to get them in front of more people,” Shaffer advises. Techniques that worked well for her include reaching out via social media to promote her products and contacting bloggers who might share her designs. These social media tips from Etsy expert David Morgan are a great place to start honing your strategy.
Shaffer also recommends that you think like a shopper and critique your own products. “If I was a buyer, would I like it and buy it?” she asks.
How to Make More Money on Etsy
Uniqueness is key to standing out from the crowd on Etsy.
“Offer something that’s different and stands out from what everybody else is doing,” Shaffer recommends. “Don’t do what everyone else is doing because you’ll get lost in the photos and get lost in the other products. Be different. You can have a similar product, but be different in how you photograph or describe it.”
She also highlights the importance of customer service and branding. “If there’s one thing I would say, it’s have confidence in yourself and your ability to do what you want to do. Don’t focus so much on products, focus on service and how you’re going to market to differentiate yourself from the other products out there.”
Shaffer notes that many people reach out to her for help boosting their sales above 100 purchases or so each week. She typically asks them how much time they spend on their shop each week, and typically hears a reply of around 30 minutes. “They say you get what you put in,” she says. If you want to reap the rewards of a successful Etsy shop, you’d better be prepared to put in the time and effort — remember those 16- and 18-hour days she mentioned earlier?
Most of all, Shaffer wants you to be confident in your entrepreneurial skills. “I tell people to believe in themselves and believe in their abilities to be able to make a few extra dollars,” she says. “Don’t get sidetracked by ‘I’m not doing 1,000 sales a month like this other seller.’ Start out small, build your business to be the best that you can be, and you will achieve success.”
Your Turn: Do you run an Etsy shop? Have you tried applying some of Shaffer’s advice?
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.