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Inside Mrs. Money Mustache’s Top-Secret Five-Figure Etsy Shop

oil-mixFor the past two years or so I’ve been keeping a secret from you, and I think today it is finally time to spill the beans.

The secret is that my wife is no longer really retired, and in fact she started a business that is now big enough to fund our entire family’s lifestyle. Making this confession will subject both of us to the full fury of the Internet Retirement Police. But it’s worth it, because there are some valuable lessons in her experience that could be useful to other people hoping to take control of their own income.

I’m always fascinated and happy to see people making money through self-employment, (especially in fields that don’t require a university degree) because it presents a nice shortcut around most of the problems that the world of work presents to us. Prefer to set your own schedule? Go right ahead. Unhappy with work conditions? Change them. Want a raise? Company profits are under your control. Don’t like your boss? Just find a mirror and have a quick word with yourself.  Sure, there are loads of great jobs out there, but conventional employment is often only a small, boring slice of a life’s work experience.

The Etsy Shop

labeling-soap

You’ve almost certainly heard of  Etsy, a highly popular online marketplace that specializes in handmade, small batch products – most often produced by a single person. Almost everything there is cute, unique, and custom, which makes it a hit in the gift-giving and personal pampering markets. And because the focus is on small entrepreneurial business and relatively natural products, even Mr. Money Mustache can get behind the general theme without too much grumbling about clueless consumers.

My wife was a fan and an occasional customer, but also became curious about just how difficult it would be to make some of the things that were for sale – often at relatively high prices. So she launched an investigation, which has led to two years of fun and learning, and is still growing.

Update: When I first posted this article, we asked people to please avoid trying to track down her Etsy shop, just to keep her experiment realistic. A small percentage of good-hearted but mischievous Mustachians disregarded this request and flooded her shop with orders anyway. Almost her entire current soap inventory (over $1000 worth) was quickly sold out. So if you do find her shop, you’ll only see a few remaining products for now. You’ll have to use your imagination to picture what it usually looks like – an array of 20 different fancy looking soaps and other products.

So to continue this tale, let’s launch into an interview with the lady herself.

An Interview With an Etsy Entrepreneur

 

Mr. Money Mustache: Hello there wife! Thanks so much for allowing me to do this interview with you – I know you’re normally not a fan of the public eye.

So to start things off, what is it exactly that tempted you to get into the business of being an Etsy seller in the first place?

Mrs. Money Mustache: Hello husband! It is strange and fun to be back on the blog, so thanks for doing this article.

Becoming an Etsy Seller was a gradual process, as it is with many folks, I suspect. I was sitting around being all retired and, frankly, I was bored sometimes. At the time, I didn’t have a real plan for all my free time.

One day, while standing with a group of parents at the after-school pickup, I became enamored with these lovely wrap bracelets with pretty beads all the moms seemed to be wearing. I hadn’t seen them before and became curious, so I started shopping online. I found out they cost a small fortune and, not really being a jewelry person, I quickly dismissed the purchase.

But, upon further review, I saw they were selling on Etsy and this prompted me to think I could make one myself. So, I dove down into a rabbit hole of watching videos and buying supplies and I was hooked. Learning and making really filled a void in my life, so I went a little crazy. I made a bunch of bracelets, gave them to friends, and at a certain point, I had spent more than I felt comfortable on the whole endeavor.

This is when I came back to Etsy and the idea of selling was born. I figured if I could sell enough of these bracelets I had learned to make, I could pay myself back for all the stuff I had bought to make them recreationally.

MMM: Wow, that’s interesting – selling as an atonement for consumer guilt? It sounds negative when you put it that way, but it seems to have become a big positive in your life. So anyway, what date was this?

Mrs. MM: This was in April of 2014. That’s when I started my first shop.

MMM: How long did it take to get your first sale? And how have your sales ramped up since then? What was your busiest month so far?

Mrs. MM:  It definitely took a while to get my first sale. About 2.5 months after first opening my shop. But, I was so busy making items and learning about Etsy that I didn’t really notice the time pass. I remember it was a holiday-specific item (a fourth of July bracelet) and that’s when I realized the importance of holidays in retail (duh!)

My sales increased really slowly over time. I did so much research by lurking around in the Etsy forums and finding out what makes other shops successful. I created a lot of different products (necklaces, bracelets, guitar picks, even crocheted dish cloths!) so I could test them out and see which were successful. A wise man once said: “Work is better when you don’t need the money.” and he was right. :) I was able to do a lot more than a shop that can’t invest much due to money constraints.

My busiest time, by far, was the holiday season of 2015. In November and December of 2015 I was so busy that I couldn’t keep up and had to place my shop on vacation mode (Etsy has an option for that, which basically means: I’m not open for business at the moment.) During just those two months I sold about $10,000 of stuff. I was working constantly and it got in the way of family time and I realized I needed more balance.

blending

Blending various fancy oils in the home workshop, with a stick blender.

MMM: I noticed that even after your first shop became fairly successful, you actually started a second Etsy shop. What was the cause of this? How has the experience been, compared to the first?

Mrs. MM: Yes! I decided to start a second Etsy shop in August 2016. As an Etsy Seller, I really wanted to support other Etsy sellers, so I started buying stuff from them quite a bit. I purchased almost all my shop supplies on Etsy and I also started buying small gifts.

One year, I bought some handmade soaps for family members at Christmas and tried one out myself. I fell in love with it and realized how much better my skin felt. Of course, as a crazy-researcher-type (which is what I realize I am, post retirement), I decided to try making my own soap. This led to a second love and once I felt confident in my products, I opened my second shop, which sells mostly natural bath and body products (soaps, scrubs, lotions, and oils).

This second shop is so much more fun than the first. For one thing, I am making products that I love using myself and really believe in. I also had so much experience at making my first shop successful that the second one was much easier. I had a few customers that shopped at my first shop that immediately bought from my second shop. So, that first sale came much faster.

I also really love the “soaping community”. All the soapers I’ve met through Instagram (which is a platform I used to hate and now love) are so generous with time and information and they make beautiful products too. It’s just a completely different (and more fulfilling) experience this time around.

MMM: How do you decide what to make and what to sell – and which products to discontinue?

Mrs. MM: In both shops, I try a lot of different things. I follow my own feelings of what I’d like to wear or use. I like to make new items and sometimes they do really well and sometimes they don’t. I also find that in the bath & body world, you get repeat customers much more easily. So, they will let me know what they want more of, which has led me to keep products that I wasn’t sure if I should continue and making new ones.

I also follow my values. For example, right now many of my bath and body products are all natural, but I’ve also tried using ingredients that aren’t considered natural. I like to experiment and decide for myself what I like. But, after dabbling in fragrance oils and other “not 100% natural” ingredients, I find myself veering back towards all-natural. I’m trying out a lot of different packaging and am finding that this is a challenge as well, as I want everything to be eco-friendly, but also reasonably priced.

So, I guess I discontinue items that aren’t doing well and that I’m not a huge fan of either. But, I will always make new things (because that’s the fun part), so I will always want to sell new items along with the ones that stay on and sell well.

MMM: What are the factors in your success – Is this something just anybody can do? If not, what skills or personal tendencies do you think would create a good Etsy shop owner?

To take nicer photos like this, she had to figure out lighting, background, and camera - For both Etsy and MMM pruposes, we upgraded to a Sony alpha6300 with separate Sigma prime F/1.4 lens.

To get nicer photos like this, she had to figure out lighting, background, and camera. For both Etsy and MMM purposes, we upgraded to a Sony alpha6300 with separate Sigma prime F/1.4 lens. I love the camera – takes amazing film-quality videos too.

Mrs. MM: My success (or, my definition of success anyway) is probably due to incessant research. I am always researching. I read a lot and look at a lot of other shops and try to figure stuff out. It’s a fun puzzle and I think it is the most interesting part of owning an Etsy shop for me. I would get bored if I wasn’t doing that. The business half of my degree is finally coming in handy!

To be successful on Etsy, you need to understand how SEO (search engine optimization) works. Etsy has their own search engine, so you just need to figure out how to make your listings show up near the top, which is easier said than done!

Once you know that, you need beautiful pictures so that people actually click on your listing. Again, this takes a lot of research and some photography skills. I look at every single picture in a search result and figure out what makes me click on an image. I also look at my listing in that list and see if it stands out.

For example: I recently realized that I was clicking more on photos of soap with packaging than “naked soap”, so I changed one of my listings so that the first photo had packaging – and it did result in more sales.

Doing what it takes to get the shot.

Doing what it takes to get the shot.

SEO and quality photos are the two biggest things. After that, you need to give excellent customer service and ship your packages out in time. It helps if your packages look cute upon arrival too. That leads to good reviews and word of mouth, which leads to more sales.

MMM: What has been the biggest unexpected positive, and negative, in your experience in dealing with customers?

Mrs. MM: The biggest positive has come from my second shop, as I have built up repeat customers in a relatively short amount of time. These are people that leave me incredible reviews, send me a message that brightens my day, post their purchases on Instagram, etc. I am very surprised by this, but it does bring me a lot of joy.

The negatives used to affect me a lot, but I’ve learned that they will always be there. There are people that leave one star reviews without contacting me first. People can be pretty brutal when reviewing a product. I don’t think they realize they are leaving a review to a single person (as opposed to a company). It’s one thing to say “Amazon sucks”, but when someone says “You suck”, that’s totally different. Sometimes they are folks that own a competing shop on Etsy (or have a friend that does), so you know the review isn’t even accurate or relevant, but it still sits there staring you in the face.

MMM: I hear you on that Mean Internet Strangers thing. Sometimes I stumble across multi-page discussions on Reddit or Bogleheads, among people I’ve never met, who are just making the most bizarre and pessimistic speculations about our personal lives, or my motivation for writing the blog, or whatever. There is no practical way to set everyone straight, so you really just have to develop a thicker skin instead.

Mrs. MM: I think it’s a bit easier in the smaller world of an Etsy shop. There are also a lot of difficult customers, but I always answer all their questions and do my best and some of them have actually made large purchases or become repeat customers. One of my best customers in my second shop was someone that was previously difficult.

MMM: What do you think the upper limit on profit would be in an etsy shop? Do any of your role models or competitors seem to be running pretty big operations?

Doing the Math

Doing the Math

Mrs. MM: The sky is the limit! There are many shops on Etsy that started off as one-person endeavors and now they own huge businesses with many employees. Most of them move on from Etsy and start their own web sites, which makes sense as they no longer need the Etsy platform to generate sales.

Etsy also has rules about manufacturing help and the handmade nature of items, so if you get big and want to start selling different things, it makes sense to move on.

That’s not the goal for me, although I might use a helper during the holidays sometimes. (MMM himself has been known to sit on the couch and cut out hundreds of cardboard squares for my packaging material)

My goal is to keep making and to keep learning… not to have a huge money-making operation. My word for 2017 is ‘balance’. :)

I should also add that on the lower end, it’s very easy to make nothing, or even lose money on an Etsy shop. There’s a lot of competition, so it is not easy to get established. Hard work and endless patience are essential to get through that painful first year.

MMM: Hmm, there were no numbers in your answer, but I guess we don’t really know how any of those huge Etsy sellers personally. But based on their photographs of daily production I’d estimate that the upper limit might be in the $200,000 range of annual profit for a single-person shop. $1000 per day in sales, minus about 33% in cost of materials and other overhead.

But as you say, shops can get much bigger than that – they just usually leave Etsy, hire some employees, and expand into a standalone operation.

So let’s talk about your situation instead – what’s the net hourly profit you would say you make at this stage, now that you are established?

Mrs. MM:  Hmmm… that’s tricky because I keep wanting to make new things, so I am spending more than I would be if I were purely profit-driven. My first shop is at a stage where my profits are very good compared to my revenue because I’ve lost a bit of interest in that shop and am not spending much on it. Hourly, I’m guessing around $30 per hour. However, as a result of me losing interest, it has slowed down quite a bit and it is actually “on vacation” on Etsy at the moment.

My second shop is still in the growing stages, so profits are not that great at the moment. I’m also finally at a place where my prices are set where I want them to be. My up front investment was quite big and soap takes 4-6 weeks to cure, so that shop is still up in the air, profit-wise. But, I’m guessing it will become more profitable on an hourly basis than my first shop once I ramp up my operations by making larger batches (less time spent and supplies cost less when bought in bulk).

So yeah, good question. I guess my answer is: “I’m not sure. I should probably calculate that.”

wet_soap

A freshly poured batch of soap. This hardens overnight, and you cut it into 16 bars. 4 weeks later, it is cured and ready to sell.

For example, to make a 5 pound batch of soap (a “loaf”) takes about $20 worth of materials if you are using high-end stuff like coconut and olive oils. This takes roughly 2 hours of labor by the time you make it, clean up, and later cut and package the soap. You end up with 16 bars, which sell on Etsy for $6 each. So, your profit is about $80, for roughly two hours of work. But that work is spread over a month, so you need make a bunch of batches to keep things in stock.

MMM: Where do you see this hobby taking you?

Mrs. MM:  Ultimately, I want to be able to use this hobby for community building. I imagine owning a store somewhere on Main Street that sells my products, but also empowers others to make. I see myself teaching others how to make their own things and how to start their own shops. I see myself making alongside others and having this ongoing conversation about our common problems and our successes. I imagine connecting with other makers in a community space. I see us all teaching kids that you can make instead of buy, create instead of consume. You can own your own business while also doing the things you enjoy.

MMM (update): During the casual yearlong process of working on this article, we ended up stumbling upon an interesting, underpriced old building on Main Street, and are now about to purchase it. It will make for some interesting stories (and parties too), so I’ll keep you posted on that.

Mrs. MM: The maker’s movement is huge and is having a big resurgence in our modern lives. I am the type of person that never considered myself “creative”. I still wouldn’t use that word to describe myself, but I am now a handmade maker. I make stuff with my hands and they are sometimes even useful things! You can do it too!

I would love to go back in time (or forward in time) and live in a world where everyone is a maker of things and we just make and trade with each other. The simplicity and the community of that framework really appeals to me and it gets at the root of what makes us human.

MMM: During these past two years, I have mentioned your growing Etsy hobby, but never told anyone how to find your shop. And even with this article, I still want to encourage readers not to go out and try to find her shop on Etsy. We both felt that doing so would be a form of “cheating”.  Can you explain this philosophy?

Mrs. MM: It was really important for me to create my own success, independently. Success isn’t as fulfilling if you cheat! I’m pretty sure that almost every single person who purchased from me didn’t know my secret identity and that feels good.

I’ve built all of this myself, from scratch. I’ve also learned that many people will pay big bucks to cheat the system (whether it is online selling, blogging, etc). I’ve found that the harder, longer road, is always better in the end.

MMM: That’s really cool. And it’s also more educational for you. As a relatively high achiever with skills in software and technology, and no financial pressure, it can be argued that you are already “cheating” compared to most Etsy sellers.

But if you do it right, financial independence is the good kind of cheating – you preserve the learning and effort, but cut off the stress and any temptation to create shortcuts.

And even without financial independence, entrepreneurship is a huge advantage to add to your collection of life experiences. I have a bunch more stories of entrepreneurial friends I’ve been wanting to share with you, so let’s do it in the months to come.

 

Somewhat Related Reading:

50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree
Interview with a CEO – Ridiculous Student Loans vs. the Future of Education

  • Brian Jones March 9, 2017, 1:27 pm

    This is really a fantastic piece. A few things stand out here that have further implications than perhaps you realize (though I am sure do realize it) for our social and cultural conditions. The first is that you are seeking to do work that is genuinely good and satisfying. While you recognize the importance of earning a living (although you do not need it), this is not the most important motivation. Aristotle already made this same point when distinguishing home economics and profit-making. The former is the foundation for a health household and culture, while the latter will bring about their destruction. Second, your work is naturally communal. Your purchasing of the shop is locally-based and grounded in supporting the public sphere, thus transcending the tendency of contemporary Americans towards privatizing every facet of their life, especially home and work. Finally, I think there is a recovery here of good work and making things that reveals how intellectual it is. There is a strong tendency to view trades or working with our hands and body as simply kinesthetic and anti-intellectual. Your insights here, along with those of MMM, have done a tremendous cultural service in bringing back a healthy and proper relationship between thinking and doing. The blog as a whole often makes me think of the classic book written by the philosopher and motorcylce mechanic, Matthew Crawford, called Shopclass as Soulcraft.

    Thank you for your continued insights and wisdom. It is nothing short of refreshing!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:54 am

      Thank you Brian! You put so well what has been rumbling around in my brain. I do think that “going back to our roots” is very fulfilling and important for society. As I stated in the article, I’ve never considered myself to be a maker or a creative person, but this path has proven me wrong and has reminded me that working with my hands has given me something I didn’t even know I was missing. MMM has been talking about this for years and has been making things for as long as I’ve known him. I always assumed that it was something that was great for him, but not for me. Now I finally understand what the big deal was!

      Reply
  • ZJ Thorne March 9, 2017, 9:14 pm

    Nice soap is one of my favorite luxuries. I usually buy some local soap wherever I vacation. A souvenir that does not take up permanent space in my life and allows me to fulfill a desire.

    I love your Main Street store ideas. Can’t wait to see what you do with it. You are inspiring. FI can be used to do whatever you’d like in the world. That’s very neat.

    Reply
  • NESailor March 10, 2017, 9:28 am

    NICE! I found it – like many unruly Mustachians – but didn’t click on the search result so I won’t skew your stats. $6 soap is not in my budget at the moment :D. When I do get to the point that I want that experience I’ll make my own! Rock on, though, I love seeing people succeed at their passion. I’m still looking.

    Reply
  • Tom March 10, 2017, 9:33 am

    I wanted to let you know that my wife and I did actually purchase a product from Mrs. MMM in December of 2015 although we had no idea it was her until a few months later. It was a bracelet for our kids that had the quadrants of where we were getting married. She did an outstanding job and and very helpful and responsive so thank you Mrs. MMM for making this piece a part of our family forever! I’ve been wanting to contact you and share the story about how we came to the conclusion it was you as I just discovered the MMM blog in October of that same year. It’s funny when the universe provides you hints that you are on the right path in life. My wife could have chosen any of the hundreds of people selling bracelets on ETSY or any other craft website but somehow she chose hers at the same time I was reading MMM posts and ‘awakening’ about changing our lives to put us on the road to financial independence. My wife had no idea I was reading MMM’s blog and I had no idea who she was ordering from on ETSY yet it was all connected. Thank you again Mrs. MMM and also to you MMM for the timely article!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 13, 2017, 2:03 pm

      I think I remember your wife! She also came back and ordered a bracelet for her brother, I believe. Thanks for sharing that story. It made me smile. :)

      Reply
  • Angie March 10, 2017, 9:50 am

    What I love about this post is the experience of self learning and develop so many different skills. Congrats on that!
    Besides, it is really hard for some people to belive that If you keep going you can achieved amazing results!
    We need some dosis of optmism and humor! Love the blog and thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • Laura March 10, 2017, 12:32 pm

    Congratulations on a successful Etsy shop! It does that hard work and time for sure. And there will always be competition as most people make similar things. But in the long run, you have a cool business. Being retired just means trying out new things whether you get paid or not.

    Reply
  • El March 10, 2017, 1:17 pm

    Wow. Your photos have gone from decent, to GREAT!

    Either of you ever consider photography/videography as potential hobby/side business?

    Reply
  • Chris March 11, 2017, 6:03 am

    Hi, have recently discovered your blog via Tim Ferris’ podcast, great to discover such a positive and supportive viewpoint. I like this article because while I am aware of Etsy I had no idea it was largely individuals or small businesses so brings that into a new light.
    Regards
    Chris

    Reply
  • Kristen March 11, 2017, 2:57 pm

    As with the rest of the blog, I really enjoyed and loved reading this post. It really hit close to home as we have been in the process of making batch after batch of soap to perfect them for selling. It started as a holiday gift idea last fall and my husband and I fell in love with the process. We decided since we simply just enjoy making soap, that we would sell it with intentions of donating the profits to a variety of our favorite charities. Reading this finally lit a fire under our butts to just go for it. Can’t wait to check out Mrs. MM’s shop and try some of her beautiful creations! Thanks for inspiring others to pursue their passions!

    Reply
  • Matt March 11, 2017, 7:39 pm

    I’m all for Etsy and handmade goods, but whenever I hear about fancy soaps it just seems crazy to me. After you give your body some time to adjust, you don’t need soap or shampoo to shower. Plain water actually works better and is much nicer on your skin and hair.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 13, 2017, 2:06 pm

      Hi Matt! I see what you’re saying and this might work well for some people. As I’m getting older, I notice that my skin is become more sensitive and dry (especially since I live in a dry climate). I tried a lot of different things and handmade soap made such a big difference for me because of the extra oils in the soap. My skin is no longer dry all the time. :)

      Reply
  • Knox's Favorite March 12, 2017, 7:09 am

    For anyone with an entrepreneurship itch, Etsy is a great place to test your skills. I’ve been making hand poured candles for a as long as I can remember and I finally decided to start a shop on Etsy last year. As Mrs. MM said, there is a lot of research that needs to be done to be successful and constant adjustments to figure out what makes products sell on Etsy. It was awesome to hear her say that she searches for similar products and analyzes what makes them stand out to her. I do the same thing. I have a few “Competitors” that I track regularly to see how they’re doing and what I can learn from them. I struggled, and am still tinkering, with the SEO and Photos as well. I work in banking, so these skills were not in my repertoire to begin with and I’d place myself in the same category as Mrs. MM in saying I don’t consider myself creative. Running a shop gives me an opportunity to add skills that I wouldn’t be able to add in my “profession” and I find it very rewarding. There is just something about knowing that someone spent their hard earned money on something you’ve created. I’m grateful for every sale I get and still in disbelief of them to be honest.

    I’m sure Mrs. MM has a social cause she supports with this endeavor, but it was left out of the interview! Aside from being natural, handmade, and personalized, one of the best parts of Etsy in my opinion is the commitment of a lot of the sellers to give back to a cause they are passionate about. I have pledged to give 10% of profits to animal rescues and shelters across the country. Our products are mostly dog themed, and the company is named after our dog Knox. (I know your stance on pets, but hey, mine helps provide for the family).

    I just finished the books for the year and we turned a profit! We learned so much along the way though that I know we’ll be able to avoid some of the pitfalls we had and grow even further this year.

    I’ve read every article posted on this blog and never left a comment. It has always amazed me how similar we seem to think and it is amazing to me how many people you’ve been able to reach. I hope one day everyone hears your message and realizes there is a better way to live the limited amount of time we have on this planet. Keep it up!

    Stephen

    Reply
  • lindy March 12, 2017, 10:20 pm

    Kudos to your new business. I’ve never made soap, but I just recently started making our own cleaning supplies and even bug spray. It really is fun, they work, and it’s great to know that there are fewer chemicals around the house. I also started making our own deodorant last year and it works surprisingly well, but I have yet to find the perfect formula.

    Reply
  • Julia March 13, 2017, 4:28 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Mrs.MM, and congratulations with your success! I started selling on Etsy a few months ago to cover the cost of my hobby and it works well so far. At the moment I don’t advertise anywhere except for occasional posts in a couple of Facebook groups, but I was curious to see what happen if I put some efforts in promotion. I would appreciate if you could share your experience with this. You’ve mentioned in the comments that Etsy ads didn’t work for you, so I’m wondering if you had any good outcome from Facebook, Instagram and other social media? Any recommendations? Thank you!

    Reply
  • Bombay To Goa March 13, 2017, 9:55 am

    Inspirational, Mrs MM! Not just the beautiful products and the business success, but also to know that you did so much research and learnt things from logos to photography to SEO!
    One question- how did having an Instagram account help?

    Reply
  • Picky Nikki March 13, 2017, 10:08 am

    How interesting, and how impressive that Mrs. MM is making Etsy work for her!
    I have a very creative friend that has a lucrative Etsy business. She makes changes as needed to her goods depending on the market and sales. I had another friend who thought an Etsy shop would mean easy money and ended up spending a good bit of cash on a failed business venture. It sounds like Mrs. MM is more like my first friend that is researching and making smart and bold moves. Best of luck to you!

    Reply
  • Tab March 13, 2017, 12:22 pm

    How do you guys do shipping? Do you schedule UPS/FEDEX/USPS to come get or do you make the trip yourself. Just curious as I know shipping can add a lot of cost to any sales ventures.

    Thanks!!

    Reply
    • Minerva March 13, 2017, 1:50 pm

      I’m still researching (hoping to open an Etsy shop!) so I do not yet know how they handle shipping, but may I offer up a suggestion? I have a long standing account with stamps.com for my business – it’s a USPS based company that ships all of the same postal service methods, but can be done completely online! I selected them initially because they will pick up packages for delivery right at my front door – which is HUGELY helpful during our tough Montana winters! When a customer places an order for shipment, I simply log in to my stamps.com account, plug in the customer’s address and info on how I want the package shipped (Priority, Next Day, etc), make sure that my account is loaded with shipping funds, print a label, then arrange for the package(s) to be picked by my mail lady (sure beats having to make a trip to the post office!) The service costs $15,99 per month, but I find it to be very much worth the money! (Man, the United States Postal Service should be paying me for the plug! LOL!) Good luck with your endeavor! :)

      Reply
      • Mrs. Money Mustache April 13, 2017, 2:09 pm

        With Etsy, it’s all built in, so you don’t need a stamps.com account. They also give you commercial shipping rates, which saves money. Plus, since the customer already put in their address and shipping info, you don’t need to enter anything and risk making a mistake. My mail carrier picks up all my packages as well!

        Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 13, 2017, 2:07 pm

      I ship via USPS and my mail carrier picks up all my packages. Etsy has shipping integrated, so I just print out shipping labels at home. It’s really easy. I also charge for shipping, so it covers my costs.

      Reply
  • Henry March 13, 2017, 1:33 pm

    Being a maker can be very fulfilling. Taking raw materials, and turning them into something useful is so satisfying. I used free online plans and basic woodworking skills to build furniture, and not only did I save tons of money, but every time I use the furniture, I feel proud of my accomplishment.

    Also, I have to thank you, MMM, for writing this blog. I found it at a time when I was about to go over a consumer cliff. Instead of buying stuff I didn’t need, I started applying Mustachian principles, and I just reached the halfway mark in paying off my $200k+ student loans, and I am encouraged that soon I will pay off the other half.

    Thanks for taking the time to help people like me.

    Reply
  • Diane March 14, 2017, 8:54 pm

    Congratulations on your business launches! It is so fortunate (OK, throw in some hard work and Mustachian principles with the good fortune) to have the financial security to experiment and try new ventures, but I found I had to change my perspective in other ways. My new motto is “Everything is a learning experience.” Which is a heckuva lot better than my old mottos: “Oh no! This is not going well. I really effed up! (internal blame) and “Oh no! This is not going well. Those bleepity-bleeping bleeps (insert “contractors,” “clients,” “municipal authorities,” etc. here) really effed me up!” (external blame). So, last year I bought a beat up old rowhouse in another city to rent to my kid. I didn’t know anything about rowhouse construction — now I do. This year, I fixed up an addition and put it on Airbnb. I didn’t know how to tile — now I do. (Yay Youtube). So, now, when things get challenging, I set to figure them out instead of waaaahing all over the place — “Hmmm, those seem to be drug dealers in the alley behind the rowhouses. Let’s talk to the neighbors and put up a gate.” “Hmmm, I’m getting one or two night business stays, not longer tourist stays like I expected at my Airbnb. How am I going to make money? Let’s figure out what they are looking for and provide it so I can charge appropriately.” (Yes, I talk to myself in the third person. It makes me feel like there are more of me so it’s not so scary. No judging.)

    Reply
  • Your neighbor Christina March 14, 2017, 9:19 pm

    Congratulations on finding a new passion Mrs. MM! Have you been in Simply Bulk? I suspect Heidi would be happy to sell your soaps too. Looking forward to learning more about the new place you are buying on Main as well!

    Reply
  • Wade March 15, 2017, 2:49 pm

    Great Etsy success story. By the way, you both are terrible at being retired. :-) I kid, I kid.

    Reply
  • Karen March 15, 2017, 5:58 pm

    Ooh, great article! I’m going to make my first batch of soap, just ordered supplies! :)

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:53 pm

      Awesome! Keep me posted!

      Reply
  • Derek March 17, 2017, 5:56 am

    Very, very cool! I am trying to see if my wife and I can come up with a concept for an Etsy store that will work. Beats sitting at home watch TV all night :-). The soap idea seems so incredibly intriguing! Being an engineer in the chemical industry, I can really see myself loving something like this.

    Reply
  • Mrs.Wow March 17, 2017, 8:33 am

    What a great story! I am totally new to the Etsy world and was quite hesitant to buy from there at first. I have bought from two sellers and have had such a great experience. Its nice to hear a little of the backstory from the perspective of the seller. I am curious how hard it was to get set up in the first place? Not the marketing/ selling piece, but more just the actual starting the shop. I have been trying to talk my mom into selling some of her creative projects on Etsy, but she thinks it is just too much work to get set up. Any words of wisdom I can pass on to her?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:52 pm

      It’s actually surprisingly easy to set up. Basically, you start your shop (by getting a name) and then you create a “listing”. The listing is your product. You add 5 images, your price, and the keywords for that item. Presto, you have your fist listing on Etsy. The cost for the listing is $0.20 and it lasts 4 months. When you sell something, Etsy takes a cut.

      The magic to figuring out Etsy is to figure out the SEO (search engine optimization: keywords, etc) so you get found in their search and to take amazing pictures. Not just good pictures, but incredibly good. There’s a lot of visual competition.

      Reply
  • James March 17, 2017, 12:12 pm

    Very cool. When do we find out what you’re going to do with the storefront?

    Reply
  • Tabiza March 18, 2017, 3:54 pm

    Mrs. MM please check out the Downtown Women’s Center in LA. It is a non-profit that helps women with supportive housing in Skid Row. Their store Made sells soaps and candles that the women are taught to make. I think it is very in line with your interests and they are often looking for volunteers to teach the women. It might be of interest if you ever come to LA.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:49 pm

      Thank you! I love that. I’ll check it out.

      Reply
  • Jen Sutherland March 18, 2017, 8:19 pm

    Thank you for this article! My husband and I read your blog regularly, we feel that your family closely resembles a lifestyle we are working towards achieving. As a new mom on maternity leave, I have rediscovered my need to create, and realize that it is the fuel that carries me through each day. I’ve been considering starting a business just for the fun of it (profit would be nice too, but breaking even and getting some creative steam out of my system would be enough), and I just felt so much encouragement about the concept from reading about your experience. Congratulations on the (upcoming)purchase of your new building, I’m excited to read about how it turns out! And, since my husband and I have benefited greatly from your blog, thanks for sharing your advice/experience with us!

    Reply
  • Laura March 19, 2017, 4:32 am

    I was curious if you did any promotional work. I have been helping my Mom get started with her Etsy shop and we have been having trouble driving views and sales. I know it is early, but any feedback on the subject would be appreciated!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:48 pm

      I tried Etsy ads and it didn’t help me all that much, except for maybe during the holiday season. I eventually gave them up altogether and tried to focus on organic hits and that has been much better. Instead of focusing my energy on buying views, I focus on what matters more.

      I also feel like dedicating yourself to ONE social media platform is useful. Pick the one that you like the most or find to be the easiest. I ended up doing quite well with Instagram (for my soap shop) and if I post a sale on there now, my stuff pretty much sells out, which is awesome. Even before the MMM boost. :)

      Reply
  • Pellrider March 19, 2017, 2:17 pm

    My friend had a shop on Etsy . She sold crocheted things. It was not getting anywhere. After 3 years of hard work she quit and went back to full time work. Same with the jewelry shop by another friend. It depends on the product, I think. My friend got tons of emails from China asking to buy crocheted items in bulk though.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:46 pm

      Sorry to hear that. Sounds like she gave it a good go. I was a crochet addict for a while and follow several successful crocheters and their photos and cult-followings via social media, is key. Also, the speed at which they crochet is mind-boggling. I sold $5 dishcloths/washcloths that did pretty well, but they ended up not being worth it for me, as the hourly rate was pretty awful (I could make 1.5 to 2 per hour). I enjoyed it though, until it became tedious… then I stopped. :)

      Reply
  • Greg March 20, 2017, 12:57 pm

    I love that you’ve been able to use FI to learn new skills and start side projects that interest you. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us and keep up the great work!

    Reply
  • Lighter March 20, 2017, 2:40 pm

    The way you describe it seems very interesting! Almost made me want to start doing crafty work myself. Well done on keeping the same initials on this blog and on Etsy btw

    Reply
  • Mr. FWP March 20, 2017, 3:09 pm

    This is inspiring; shared it with my wife, who’s starting her own side business with an online component. Seems like a small world. I just had lunch with a friend whose wife is doing something very similar to Mrs. MM, while he’s doing something more similar to Mr. MM, and I’ve just launched a blog (for fun, not for business/revenue) as well.

    I’ll add this comment luxury soaps generally, too: we received one bar as a gift more than a year ago. I bathe very regularly, yet that one little bar (absent a mishap) would have lasted us more than a year – and it’s far higher quality than easily-degradable box-store junk. I’ll adhere to MMM’s admonishment not to find the e-store, but I’ve found such soaps to be both frugal and excellent. I’m about to buy another bar myself.

    Kudos to you on finding a fun, freeing, and financially beneficial enterprise!

    Reply
  • The Tepid Tamale March 21, 2017, 4:27 am

    Awesome, just Awesome! I have been trying to inspire my kids to use their talents on Etsy. We have been moderately successful. My biggest problem, trying to figure out the promotion/SEO thing. I have only so many hours in the day. Thanks for sharing, this may help inspire me to jump in again!

    P.S. It would be a great follow-up article to go further into the SEO details you have learned!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:43 pm

      I have so much to say on that subject! Part of me is reluctant, as it is always changing, but once you know how it works, it’s fairly simple. I might write something somewhere to help others…

      Reply
  • K March 21, 2017, 3:40 pm

    Love this post! Great job Mrs MM :) I wanted to chime in as someone who has run a successful business exclusively on Etsy for the last 5 years, it can definitely be done! Every year since the beginning we have made over 150k a year in net profit. With an increase in profit every year. Its our (my husband and I) sole income source. We treat it as a full time business though and take it very seriously. if we didn’t do research and work in the background though – it would only take about 10 hours a week to produce product and ship. So there is still balance for us. After 5 years we are learning that our time is valuable and producing product and shipping ourselves may not be the best way to grow. we have begun to outsource to manufacturers (since Etsy allows this now). we can make even more money by simply focusing our efforts on the things we do best – making new products & working on SEO / marketing. We are all about efficiency. It really is fun for us. Good luck Mrs MM, sounds like you are doing all the right things :)

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache April 12, 2017, 4:42 pm

      Awesome story! I really believe that small business can find big success on Etsy… or, at least get a kick start to going on their own once they have a following. Thanks for sharing your success!

      Reply
  • Carrie March 22, 2017, 5:16 am

    How fun! You guys seem to have the Golden Touch, I’m telling ya. I linked to this post today in one I wrote about How to Start an Etsy Business. It’s part of a series in which I encourage mom types to use their tax refund to invest in themselves and start a cottage business.

    I used to make handmade soaps just for fun and gifts and it was such a nice hobby. It sounds like Mrs MM really knew her target market. That’s an important step in launching a side hustle. Great stuff here, thanks for sharing! And I’ve found myself buying two different things from Etsy in the last month – a piece of artwork and a handmade bracelet. It feels great to support cottage industries.

    Reply
  • Randy Montana March 23, 2017, 9:46 pm

    Can you address how the business is set up? LLC? Insurance? Maybe I worry to much but I would hate to get sued by someone that was allergic to something in the soap (or make up any other example of crazy lawsuits). I woodwork in my spare time and have plenty of friends that sell items but have no business set-up or insurance. It is all good, until it isn’t.

    Reply
  • LostPersonsArea March 24, 2017, 1:34 pm

    This is a timely subject for me. I opted out of the corporate world for FI in March 2013. I researched ETSY for a talented artist friend so she could sell her original prints. My goal was to present the admin side in an easy-to-use fashion so she could just run with it. Four years later, I have 3 shops on Zazzle, one at FineArt America/Pixels and one at Red Bubble. I’m still learning about what sells and how to create it – because that never ends. My original goal was to help someone else on Etsy but my curiosity (what would happen if…?) got the better of me. SEO is still an eyeball twirler. This article gives me a kick in the butt not to give up. Maybe Etsy will work for me.
    BTW: I tried the $80 a week grocery bill scenario for two people. I think the alcoholic refreshments sank our success. We’ll try again this summer.
    Thanks M and Madame Moustache

    Reply
  • Joel March 29, 2017, 1:42 pm

    Woah. My wife has been looking for something on the side. Perhaps she needs to look at Etsy?

    Awesome interview and congrats.

    Reply
  • Maia April 1, 2017, 6:22 pm

    I ran across this blog last summer or thereabouts…
    Thanks to Mr. MM, I now have a proper investment account and it’s actually looking pretty exciting after a year of savings.
    Thanks to Mrs. MM, I’ve found the first exercise I’ve actually stuck with – my partner and joined a Crossfit box and it’s been AMAZING. It’s expensive, so one day we may invest in the equipment instead, but at the moment I’m figuring it’s an investment in the skills. Also thanks to your inspiration, a few days ago I finally opened my Etsy shop!
    Thanks both of you for what you do. :) I find Mrs. MM’s voice particularly relatable and really appreciate her chiming in at times!

    Reply
  • Chris April 2, 2017, 4:47 am

    Well done, and thanks for sharing your experience. I have often wondered what the real story is behind Esty success, given a lot of people do fold, with some other shops going from better to better. The difference it seems, is to have a passion for what you do, and reinvent how you do it.

    Reply
  • John April 4, 2017, 3:11 pm

    This is a great look into the Etsy startup process. My wife made some custom bibs that her friends had wanted so we talked about putting some stuff on Etsy to see if it would sell. Well, after posting a couple of pictures and waiting a few weeks, she basically gave up thinking no one liked her stuff… but I’m not sure anyone really saw it in the first place. It clearly takes more effort than making something and posting a single picture/description one time.

    Thanks for the insight!

    Reply
  • Denise April 9, 2017, 12:05 pm

    Hi Mr. & Mrs. Money Mustache! I had left a comment before and unfortunately had computer problems, so it looks like it didn’t go through. I found your blog on accident, thanks to a picture of a truck on Google images. Funny story, but anyways. I believe that it must’ve been a sign. I clicked on this picture, and it took me straight to this blog. I’ve began reading and am in total awe. I wish I would’ve run across this long ago. Things happen for a reason I guess, and I believe that you are a light at the end of the tunnel for so many. Keep up the awesome work!

    Reply
  • Amanda April 19, 2017, 9:50 pm

    Do you have a favorite online wholesale soap supplier? I’ve been poking around online, but a little overwhelmed by all the options & trying to determine the most cost efficient place to start. Thanks for any information, love your products! Sincerely,
    Amanda

    Reply
  • Dividend Wisp April 20, 2017, 7:37 pm

    Thank you for sharing your success and methods :)
    I’m not sure I am the creative(literally) type, so I’ll probably just keep working, learning and blogging. Although I would be curious to maybe try some soap making for purely personal use.

    Reply
  • Natalie April 26, 2017, 2:03 pm

    I read this article after reading your “you become a millionaire $10 a time.” I also read Mrs. MM first article on Lady Temptations. Isn’t fancy, homemade soap the exact thing you were suggesting is a waste of $10? Also, if I’m supposed to embrace my grey hair and not pay for make-up, how can I justify buying fancy soap? I love your blog and I get inspired by it. I just found this post very odd after reading the two previously mentioned posts. How can I earn income by trying to get people to spend money on things both you and your wife have suggested were luxuries that are not worth the money. I’m just confused.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache April 29, 2017, 11:23 am

      Yup, good points Natalie. Just few of points that might explain things:
      – Fancy soap could be considered different than cosmetics, because it doesn’t consume a bunch of your time to use it
      – This is the Mr. Money Mustache blog, wherea the Etsy shop belongs to Mrs. MM. We have slightly different views.
      – The soap is $6 per (large) bar rather than $10, and it will last you months
      – The type of frugality I preach here is VERY lightweight rather than hardcore. I use the slogan “slightly less ridiculous than average”, which still allows you to waste plenty of money on small luxuries. Heck, most of my annual $25k spending is on luxuries!

      Reply
  • Linda May 10, 2017, 10:01 am

    I am hoping you can answer this question for me about opening an Etsy Shop. How do you know if you need insurance for the hand made items? Is it for the products themselves or shipping or what?

    Reply
  • DK May 11, 2017, 7:56 pm

    This was a fantastic read. I considered doing an Etsy store, but was always deterred by feeling like I would need lots of inventory or feel pressured/ rushed to make something. I instead opted to use Zazzle as it alleviates all of those concerns and I merely create/ design the items. I’ve made a few sales, trying out a bunch of different ideas, but nothing definitive yet just having some fun. I think I’m struggling most with describing the creation as well as SEO. Sounds like I need to devote some time and research a bit more. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply
  • April May 17, 2017, 6:25 pm

    I just want to say thank you! My husbands is an avid mustachian fan. I am an irritated 1 couch owner, who does get it, but wants that second couch!!!

    Anyway, rewind to dinner mid march after this article came out. My husband said to me ” I’m gonna start an Etsy store. To which I immediately replied, ” No I’m going to start an Etsy store!” After a bit of market research, my idea won. I’m making the organic whole ingredient hair gel I’ve made for myself for years!

    I’m excited to say I’m 2 weeks in and 40 some odd sales in!!

    Fingers crossed I keep this trend going! It’s so exciting.

    Thank you for this article and the inspiration. Maybe I can be a happy 1 couch convert after all!
    -April

    Reply
  • Michael R May 20, 2017, 7:25 pm

    Why would it be cheating to have a MMM mention? (a MMMM?)
    As in, why cheating and not leveraging?

    Reply

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