Can you turn Instagram likes into paying customers? Meet Etsy Shop Owner Amanda Williams
Etsy shop owner Amanda Williams started YarnHouseCreations while she was pregnant with her son, and she's been creating her quirky and colorful crocheted hats and mandalas ever since. Balancing a full-time job as a mother of two *and* growing her online store has been tough, but we love the creative ways that Amanda has learned to balance the work she loves with family life.
In a recent chat with us, Amanda shared her own experiences with starting a business and why she's focusing next on turning her Instagram followers into customers who keep coming back for more.
I was always interested in crochet, but that interest really kicked into overdrive when I was pregnant with my son. I never put my hook down! I spent tons of time learning all these great new techniques and honed my skills. Because I had massive stockpiles of crochet work, I inevitably started selling it at local craft shows here in the Victoria, BC area. From there, I knew I’d need to open an online shop to get a steady stream of customers.
Craft fairs are great, but the sales come all at once. Having an Etsy shop means I can make items at a more reasonable pace and have a steadier flow of orders coming in.
I still do regular craft fairs, butmy online storeworks well for me while I focus on what I enjoy, which is crochet. Occasionally I’ll get a request for a custom order, but I’ve learned that not every piece is something I want to make, so I tend to go for the ones that fit my style and that I know I’ll enjoy working on.
These days I’ll take bespoke orders for the crochet mandalas I love making, because that’s really my niche. Requests for more random pieces generally get turned down. I’m still learning how and when to say no, but I think it’s great that owning my own business allows me to do that!
Who was your very first customer?
I'm not sure who my first customer was, but I can remember my first craft fair!
It was when my son was just a little tiny baby. I was so green and spent a lot of time checking out other vendors and taking notes on things like how they set up their displays, whether or not they had business cards available, whether they provided a mirror for customers to use and whether they had bags ready to give people who purchased an item.
The next year I incorporated what I’d noticed into my sales strategy and took a bunch of new notes as well. I’m always learning! I still want to improve the overall look of my display, and going to these craft fairs gives me the chance to really see what other vendors are doing, what works and what doesn’t.
When did you know your business was going to work?
Sometimes I still don’t! Some things I make get a lot of attention onInstagram, but people don’t buy them, while others I don’t especially like will get a bunch of sales when I post them on Etsy.
It’s part of the process to figure out what your audience does and doesn’t want to buy. The first item of mine that became really popular was a hat with a Christmas tree pattern. I worked really hard on it and it took me forever to design, but I was so excited because I knew it would be successful right off the bat.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
I’m always surprised by the type of people I attract, like when I see an old grandpa follow meon Instagram. I have a wide range of followers!
I don’t know what it is about my art, but it appeals to all sorts of people, which is amazing.
How do you price your products?
I try to follow the basic formula of combining cost plus labor and multiplying it by two for wholesale and by four for retail. It’s tough sometimes, though, because it doesn’t always work for my products.
For example, the really big mandalas take a long time to make, so I find it difficult to incorporate the hourly rate into the price of those because I wouldn’t get as many sales if I did. I don’t want to scare anybody away with outlandish prices!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m mostly a mom during the day. I’ll squeeze in some crocheting during nap time if I can, or when my kids are playing quietly.
Most of my work is done after they’re asleep. Usually, I’ll crochet on the couch in the evenings while watching TV. That’s also true for responding to emails or Etsy comments and engaging with my followers on Instagram.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when you were just starting out?
I would have done some more research. I still haven’t gotten around to writing my Etsy shop policy and other things like that. I know I could be doing so much more with the online side of my business, but I just haven’t had time to figure out how I could be marketing the site better.
I also dove into theEtsy Wholesaleoption without doing any research on what it would need. I was approved and paid the fee so I’m able to sell my products in bulk now, but I have no idea how to use the feature efficiently. I need to do a lot more research!
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I’d most like to learn about how other small business owners engage with their audience. What do they do that inspires people to comment on their Instagram photos, share their work with others and turn likes into sales?
I want to know how to build a tribe and encourage customers to come back and purchase more of my items in the future. I know it can be done because I see it happen elsewhere!
Calling all social media savants!
Let's see if we can help Amanda out! Do *you* have experience with building a tribe online, or turning likes and followers into paying customers?
If you have social media or marketing tips for Amanda, share them in the comments below! We can't wait to hear your stories. :-)