This is Part 7 of our Back to College series, which aims to help college students thrive as small business owners. In Part 6, we covered finding a business mentor while in college. To view all the posts in the series, click here.
Running an Etsy Store in College
A Georgetown University Center Education and the Workforce study titled “Learning While Earning: The New Normal” notes that more than 70 percent of college students work while they are in school. For many, this requires finding an employer willing to work with employees who can’t work full-time and whose schedules may change every quarter or semester.
Finding an employer willing to extend this type of flexibility can be challenging; luckily, the internet opens up all kinds of possibilities for entrepreneurs of all ages and all career stages. If you have the ability to produce your own handmade products, launching and running an Etsy store could be an ideal way for you to help fund your college education and start your career in ecommerce at the same time.
Running an Etsy store during college can be done on a low budget, from startup to operations and marketing. Many colleges provide the internet and Wi-Fi service needed to run an online store. Fellow students may even be interested in helping you with marketing, production and order fulfillment so you can grow your store and earn even more toward your schooling.
As your online store takes off, you can take advantage of working capital loans if you find you need to rent space, buy inventory or scale production in advance of the holidays and other busy selling seasons. In addition, the experience you gain in owning your own business, managing people and what you learn about ecommerce could be the start of a promising career as an entrepreneur.
We have already published a guide to selling on Etsy, which details more than a dozen tips for setting up and promoting an Etsy store. Now let’s talk about specific ideas you can take advantage of to increase sales and kick your Etsy store into high gear.
Add More Channels
Put your store into the shopper’s path, instead of waiting for shoppers to (somehow) discover your Etsy store. When you manage stores on multiple platforms, instead of just one, you’ll reach more shoppers. Some of the other platforms where you can run online stores alongside your Etsy store include:
- Bonanza – Whose tagline is “everything but the ordinary.” This platform was voted the best place to sell online by more than 12,000 sellers.
- Zibbet – Home of more than 52,000 independent creatives which promises unique, one-of-a-kind products that will amaze and inspire.
- Handmade at Amazon – Where handcrafted, one-of-a-kind products can be found for sale right alongside millions of other products on the world’s biggest ecommerce platform (you can also earn revenues as an Amazon Associate in the form of commissions on sales driven through your online links).
Formalize Your Schedule
If you were working for a local employer you might have flexibility, but you’d still be required to show up on time, stay for a shift and complete assigned responsibilities. You need to adopt the same mindset while running your Etsy store while in college.
Set hours for work time – both the time needed to run your Etsy store and to produce the products that will be sold on it. Write down a list of responsibilities and tasks that you’ll complete each day, week or month, and hold yourself accountable to fulfill it. Remember that your store’s success hinges on your willingness to put in the time needed to promote and run your online store.
Consumers are savvy and many are tired of the same-old, same-old. Whether they found a mass-produced item online that inspired a search for handmade alternatives or saw something they wanted at a craft show, boutique gift shop or a neighbor’s home, they know they can turn to online search to find items similar to the ones they want. The better you optimize your product and store pages for online search, the more buyers will find your stores instead of similar competitors.
Build Your Contact List
When buyers who are interested but not quite ready to buy find your Etsy store, your ability to capture their email address or earn their follow on social media could be the single most important thing you can do to contribute to future sales. Contests, giveaways, easy-to-follow links and pain-free registration processes can all help you grow your contact list more quickly.
It will take time to manage and run your Etsy store from an operations standpoint, but you can’t stop there. Establish a formal publishing schedule for social media and email marketing to increase brand awareness and create opportunities for future sales to both returning and first-time customers.
Plan to Scale
Every business plan should include contingencies for what to do when sales slow or when sales begin to exceed production capabilities. Your college may even have startup incubator programs or be willing to let you use a vacant classroom, dorm or other space to house production capabilities on an on-going basis, or temporarily during busy seasons.
Running an Etsy store could be your ticket to paying for schooling and achieving financial independence before you’ve even earned your degree. Use these ideas to launch your own store or find like-minded students who want to partner with you as internet entrepreneurs.
What about you? What kind of online job are you using (or did you use) to work your way through school and how is it working for you? Share your answer in the comments below or tweet us at @KabbageInc.