May 31, 2024

My Journey to Creating a Thriving Small Business

I’m so at home communicating through my art that my writing skills have gone a bit rusty. Plus, let's be real – I'm an artist, not a wordsmith. But I've decided to document my journey to creating a thriving online shop – and that means writing, whether I like it or not. Hopefully, my wit and honesty will keep you coming back to my blog and along for the ride.

At work on my iPad creating a new pattern

Welcome to the blog that chronicles the ups and downs of building an online shop. That's the dream! Even though I wield a paintbrush, not a pen, I believe my journey mirrors the path many of us take: turning a passion into a thriving business.

Expect full transparency here about my missteps and triumphs. I'll share the strategies that flopped and the ones that soared. Don't worry, I won't bombard you with tired marketing clichés like, “6 Mistakes Shop Owners Make.” Oh no, I’m here to serve you the raw, unfiltered truth about building an online shop. So buckle up!

Stepping into the World of Etsy

I dipped my creative toes into Etsy by selling my designs on bedding, curtains, and wallpaper as sold on my Shopify shop. Just recently, I launched a second shop filled with digital downloads of my wall art. Both shops are polished to perfection with snazzy photos, descriptive blurbs, carefully chosen keywords, and competitive prices. So why aren’t the sales rolling in like confetti at a parade? Some Etsy gurus boast about six-figure sales and Star Seller status in 90 days. Well, kudos to them! If their promos found their way to my inbox, they’re doing something right. But wait... Etsy also preaches that "Growth takes time.” So, what's the real scoop?

Pink Peony Arts and Imprezi on Etsy

I’m becoming convinced growth is a marathon, not a sprint. If you made six figures on Etsy, you’re probably selling golden nuggets of wisdom on how to do just that. But what about us, the hands-on independent artists, crafting our own products in the true spirit of Etsy?

Here’s what I know: you can’t just plop a product on Etsy, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. Nope, you’ve got to nurture that baby like a seedling. Refine and re-refine those keywords and descriptions, and keep your photos fresh. I might whip up a blog about titles, descriptions, and keywords later. But honestly, there are tons of guides and apps out there way more savvy than I am.

Social Media, Yuck!

Today, let’s dive into my latest revelation and how I'm shaking up my own revulsion to social media. Let me be clear: I HATE social media! Yep, I said it, I even yelled it! I naively thought I could skate by without it, relying solely on my meticulously crafted titles, descriptions, and keywords. I even signed up for Etsy Ads, promoting my shop both on and offsite. As a one-person show, I've poured my heart and soul into what I adore most—creating new designs and bringing them to life on products. Accounting and taxes? Yuck. Social media? Ugh! Apparently, it falls into the same dreadful category.

My first foray into the wild world of social media? Instagram. I posted enchanting collections of patterns for bedding, paired with matching wallpaper and curtains. Captions were short and sweet, with a shameless plug to visit my Etsy or Shopify shops. Followers started to trickle in, and I thought “If I just mimic what other artists were doing, I’ll ride the wave to more sales." Spoiler alert: Not so much.

Instagram post of my poppies pattern on curtains

Still trying to figure things out, I ventured onto Facebook and decided to run paid ads. The grand plan? A flash sale blitz on both Facebook and Instagram. The result? Crickets. No sales, barely any follows, and a mild dose of disappointment. The silver lining? I realized I needed to shift gears and focus on building a community before throwing money at ads. Time to stop the ad buys and start fostering a tribe of followers who actually give a hoot about my art.

Patience, Grasshopper: Growth Takes Time

So, I didn't come to this brilliant conclusion all by myself. In fact, it came to me via one of those emails titled, "Hitting 6-figures with 4k followers" drop into my inbox. Now, before you roll your eyes, hear me out. The email was from none other than Carla Biesinger, and let me tell you, this woman knows her stuff. Among the sea of “How to make 20k a week” that flood my email box, Carla is a beacon of positivity and practical advice. 

Carla offered a free Instagram class on amassing followers, and obviously, I jumped on the opportunity. Freebies? Count me in! Carla's wisdom was already resonating with my own thoughts. She did toss in the pitch for her paid continuing education class (and I’m still considering it), but let's give credit where it’s due – she equipped me with enough knowledge to kickstart my social media revival.

The Daunting Blank Page.

I realized the next thing I needed to do was to visualize what type of content I could share that was valuable and would create followers? How would my content keep them coming back? What is interesting enough that people would want to know more? Can I think of a concept that would expand easily and blossom into copious amounts of content?

Starting my brainstorming on an empty whiteboard

To start mapping out those questions along with brainstorming content ideas, I used Miro. is an ideation tool which is basically a huge whiteboard. My daughter in-law turned me onto it. And it is WONDERFUL! I have the free level which works great for me. You only get three whiteboards on the free level, but they are endless. You can brainstorm until the next century because they just go on forever. I haven’t even found the edge on any of my boards yet.

Getting Started: Ideation.

First things first, I had to confront the "what" and "why" of my mission. This task can be as daunting as creating your own brand. Trust me, as a graphic designer, the hardest client you'll ever have is yourself! If you think branding someone else is tricky, try branding yourself.

But enough about that. Let's dive into the "what" I'm aiming to achieve. This step required a sincere look at who I am: I’m an artist, I’m a designer, I’m over 50, I’m trying to build a small business, I’m productive, and I’m creative. So, do I have something valuable to share? Who is my audience? Is there a demand?

From the "what," we get the "why." Here it is: “I want to share my story to inspire others who desire more from life. These are people who truly want to reach their full potential and experience the abundant life. I am an artist, but the journey of reaching for a dream connects with all types of people.”

Next comes the "how." How will I accomplish this? By sharing this journey with humor, candor, insight, humility, and compassion on Instagram, Facebook, X, my blog, and email marketing.

Brainstorm complete with a ton of content ideas and a path to follow

Seriously, one hour later, my whiteboard was filled to the brim and ready to expand with ideas, fears, struggles, inspiration, and more. The big question remains: Will this strategy work to gain followers and, eventually, sales? We will see...

Do you want to join me on this journey? Are you ready to hop on this train? Brace yourself for a bumpy ride, but remember, it’s easier when we journey together. Stay tuned, stay inspired, and let’s figure out this shop-building adventure together! Please comment below.

Jan Johnston Signature

Disclaimer 😉: We are not business coaches, we do not have MBAs. We are just recording our journey building a small thriving business using our own wits, talents, compassion for organization, beautiful things, and our love for the LORD and each other.


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