Friday, 15 March 2013

How to (try and) combine a shop with a full time job!

On the Etsy forums this week, a newish seller was asking for tips on how to run a shop around a full time job. Having done this for the past two and a half years I thought I’d give a few suggestions that have worked for me, and thought I’d flesh them out a bit in a blog post.

Make the whole making and selling process as streamlined and efficient as possible. For me that means batch making; ordering supplies in bulk; using helpful webapps and programs to make accounting and stocktaking as quick and easy as possible. I use WaveAccounting for my accounts (it’s free) because it automatically imports all your PayPal transactions, which covers 95% of my total income and outgoings. I’ve also recently started using Craftybase (various monthly packages) to keep track of my supplies and unsold stock and to help provide me with stock value estimates for my tax return.

Be honest with yourself when you have a fantastic new idea. Are you REALLY going to be able to fit it in to your life as it is now? If not, add them to a list to do when you have more time. I have reached the point now where I am spending most of my free time on Mog’s Togs, so at the moment, I can’t add new product lines without ditching something else. My “ideas” list is very long!

Keep lists. I have lists of supplies to buy, emails to reply to, and above all I enter every new order into a todo list so I can see at a glance what I need to do over the next few evenings and never forget an order.

If you have a commute on public transport, see if you can use this time productively. If you knit or crochet small items, can you take them with you to work on during a train journey? I can’t bring a sewing machine with me, but I often use my hour on the train each day glued to my iPhone or iPad – I mark items as dispatched, catch up on emails, read blogs, and relist or renew items. Now I can upload photos from my iThings, I can even list new items for sale on Etsy and Folksy.

Whether you hold your stock already made, or make it to order, add a processing / lead time to your items and make it a day or two more than you need. It’ll give you a breather, a bit of space to work around any unexpected life problems that crop up, and most importantly could push orders made in the latter half of the week to an expected dispatch date in the following week, giving you the precious weekend to catch up. Also, if you exceed customer’s expectations and usually get your orders out more quickly than you say in your shop policies, it’ll give them the warm fuzzies. Remember – under-promise and over-deliver!

Keep a close eye on your diary - a few weekends on the trot where you're out of the house or have guests over can push everything completely out of whack. I am going through this at the moment, we only have a few weekends at home over the whole of January, February and March. It is having an impact on my shop and I am having to work hard in the evenings to keep everything ticking over.

Consider getting into wholesale. I find bulk orders with a realistic lead time less stressful than the many single orders that come through my shops. They help to even out the demand on your time and best of all you know you are getting paid for the items you’re making; they aren’t going to sit on sale in your shop for who knows how long.

Streamline your home life as much as you can. Plan the week's meals in advance and foodshop at the weekends or online (it’s quicker than numerous small trips to the supermarket during the week because you ran out of pasta / milk etcetera). If you are making enough income from your business, consider "outsourcing" chores if it's more profitable for you to be creating. We now have a cleaner come once a week, which is a couple of hours more I get to spend making, or doing something with my husband, or other things that usually get put off indefinitely ... I just wish I could outsource going to the gym...

I realise there isn’t necessarily anything you can do about this (you either have it or you don’t), but if you have a partner, them being understanding and supportive is a big help. This means someone who doesn't see your shops as “just a hobby” and understands that when you are particularly busy with it, they need to step up and do a bit more, just like they would if you were having a particularly stressful period at work.  However I do think we have to earn this a little – if you are undervaluing your work by selling your time-consuming-to-create items for just the price of the materials and not giving yourself a proper wage, why would your partner value your enterprise?

If you have a designated work area, every time you go into it to start work, spend a few minutes tidying it up a bit. There’s nothing more annoying than having to spend half of Saturday doing a massive tidy because you’ve got to the point where you can’t find anything, when you could have used that time to create.

Finally my biggest tip: When you come into the house from work, DON'T sit down on the sofa, even for "just a minute". Go straight to wherever you create (maybe pick up a cup of coffee on the way) and sit down there. Look at your lists and work out what you're going to do that evening. Then do it!

Do you have any more tips? Not just for working your shops around a job, but working your shops around studying, a busy family, volunteering, or other responsibilities - how do you get it all done?

I wrote this weeks ago! That busy life got in the way and I only just got round to tidying it up and pressing "publish". Perhaps my last tip would be "Don't start a blog" - it always ends up at the bottom of the pile!!


  1. A couple other ways to streamline the selling process... use sites like to help minimize the time it takes to get your message out on social media. And use HootSuite or Buffer to schedule those messages at a time most likely to get the best response.

    That reminds me, I have a blog post I've been meaning to write about how to optimize your etsy listing for social media. LOL, I guess that's your last tip at work there! :D

  2. Nice Information in the post.An awesome post.Knowledge from your web site. It’s a reputable great report. For more jobs Perfect Profile