Bella Paton has been in the industry for over 10 years.
After getting her Masters in Science AND a Masters in Public Health, she took a risk and pivoted to something she enjoyed even more, and she's never looked back.
Today's episode will explain countless things on improving your business, starting on the right foot, and more. Especially for those in the Etsy space (32 Million Monthly), this episode is for you.
Grab your drink and get ready. This is the caffeinated hustle, the best place to learn about entrepreneurs and FTS and life expert advice and guest interviews to launch your business and NFT journey further than you ever imagined. Now, here's your host, entrepreneur, coffee fanatic, and founder of the NFT project, caffeinated creatures, Ben Carson. Welcome back to the caffeinated hustle. I'm your host, Ben Carson. thanks for stopping by. Alright team, today, we're going to drop some amazing value on your day, I've got a very special guest for you to meet. And I'm really excited how she's going to help you along with your journey. So Bella has been working in the E commerce space for around 10 years helping small business owners scale their business and increase their social media presence. Bella, welcome to the show. Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. Absolutely. This is gonna be a treat for people. So I don't want to spoil it. How about you just telling me a little bit tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and what you're doing? Yeah, absolutely. So I have been working in E commerce for about 10 years, like you said, it actually came about in an interesting way. I graduated college, with my master's in science. And I actually have a master's in public health as well. And you know, I was doing this on the side for so long. And I kind of hit this crossroads where I realized I wasn't necessarily happy in my day to day job at the hospital. And I thought, you know, this is the rest of my life. And so I kind of made this decision for you to really just just give it a try. Honestly, I was on my mom's health insurance at that point still. So I had a few months to figure it out and see if I could quit my job and make this work. And so here I am almost 10 years later, it's been really fun. That is awesome. I love that you gave yourself a few months to make it happen or not. That was the right timeline. Because you know, you think about everyone thinks about those things like cool if I could just start start my own business and make it happen. And I was thinking about it for so long. And and it was just it was now or never. Yeah, no, that's awesome. Well, I took a look at your social profiles a little bit. I kind of like what you're doing. It looks like you're more in the Etsy space now than anything. Is that true? Are you doing all types of E commerce and Etsy was just what I have noticed on your social at that time? Yeah, no, that's a good question. So I mostly work with Etsy sellers. I personally use Wix as my e commerce website. And so I branch out to other websites, you know, on a case by case basis, but Etsy is really where I have a strong focus. It's such a great platform for small businesses and people who want to sell their art so no 100% I mean, the the art behind me actually sells on Etsy. I made six figures on Etsy and, and yeah, it's one of the things like if if someone says, like I saw on Etsy, they're expecting like, you make like hand knitted, like weird sock puppet things. And it's like you make 20 bucks a year. It's like, no, that's, that's not Etsy. That's so Etsy is has, I don't want to interrupt here, here. But basically, there's value in selling online and places that people trust. And I think the fact that Etsy has such a massive following, it's very important to sell trust more than just your product that people don't trust you. I don't feel like they can do anything with you. So where do you like to work most? Is it only Etsy? You said, you're also on Wix? Is it all types? Or do you specialize in Etsy, so it is all types. But what I love about Etsy is that when I work with someone, I mean, they really want to make it work. So they're so excited to share their art, their jewelry, their clothing, I mean, these are women and men who have been crafting for years and are just ready to take that next step in their own business. So working with these business owners truly from scratch, I mean, they're all so interesting and passionate. And that's what I love the most. So there are times where someone will have their Etsy shop and then continue to grow enough to branch out to their own website once they have that following. But starting off Etsy is always so easy, you know, you know how you go on Etsy, and there's so much at your fingertips. I mean, the barrier to entry for me was was why I started there, because it's like 20 cents to list something. But I found like, at first that hurt me more than helped me because everybody's doing 20 cents for a listing, you know, like you're competing. It's such a big amount of ocean until you finally get your footing. So how do you help? Let's talk first let's start with the new seller. So someone that's like just getting started and wants to work with you. Well, you work with them or you said they happy passionate they have been doing this for a while before you're willing to take them on? No, not necessarily. So I Some people hire me just truly from scratch. They don't even know what they want to do yet. And so that's kind of its own challenges as well. But yeah, that that is I want to make money. Okay, good. Yeah, I know. Well, you know what, sometimes that's just how it starts. And I think that's great. But, but yeah, that is a big part of my job is trying to figure out what is going to set this person apart. And not only that, but set them apart, get them noticed and make themselves it's a lot that goes into it. You know? I think people look at Etsy. And like you said, there's no barrier to entry, there's no risk. So people think, why not? Let me just upload my work and see what happens. But, you know, there is a lot more that has to go into an Etsy shop or especially a successful one. And that's where I come in, and I guide them through that process. Yeah, so walk us through a little bit, obviously, you can't give away all the secret sauce. But you know, maybe from a top level or something like what makes a successful Etsy shop, I think there's a few things, I think the most important thing really is, and it sounds a little corny, but caring about, about what you're offering. So even in my own business, that was a big part. For me, everything I offer is something I truly care about, and something that I'm very confident in. So when someone creates their Etsy shop, you know, I don't want them to just create a pair of earrings, because it's simple. I want them to create the pair of earrings that they would wear themselves or that their best friend would wear their mom. And I think even at a very basic level, that's just a great starting point. And then, you know, of course, there's more technical things like standing out on social media and remaining consistent. So the two things really are feeling strongly about what you're offering. And then consistency is always key. And I think social media especially, it's almost just as important as having the physical Etsy shop is having a social media account to go with it. Interesting. So every seller almost has to be an influencer for their own product. Is that what you're saying? Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, I don't rely on the Etsy search system in itself. So I like to really strongly push mailing lists, email lists, things that will keep you in contact with your clients or potential clients, and really remaining in the public eye, whether that's tick tock, Facebook, Instagram, I think that is vital for a successful Etsy shop. Wow. So so your business consultant, your are you handling the marketing side? Are you Are you do you have a partner or someone else you kind of hand that part off to? Or do you do all of it? I do all of it right now. It's something I'm I'm thinking about expanding, as I'm sure you know, you're, you're in business, it's it's hard to, it's hard to let go of, of your work and assign someone else that job. You have to trust them so much. So I'm thinking about it. But yeah, I handle it all. Yeah, no, I totally get that. Because it's, you know, it's your baby. And it's one that you, it's hard to let go. And extremely well. Okay, so starting businesses, we've kind of talked about when you would show up, you're just starting. So what about someone that's established? Let's say they have a website and an Etsy shop, they're doing it both ways, but they've kind of plateaued. Alright, so how would you help someone, again, not trying to give away all the details, but just top level stuff? How would you help someone that's hit a rock and wants to smash through it. So I experienced this a lot. And I think even with COVID Lately, it's increased in that way people are hitting these plateaus, there's so much online competition. But the main thing that we do is we reassess everything top to bottom, because what happens and I worry about this, even with my own business, and my own website, is you kind of become blind to things like you don't realize, oh, you know what, I'm not really putting my best foot forward in this in this space. And my website has remained the same for a year and a half, there's no updates, your business is alive, and you have to maintain it appropriately. And so when these people come to me, the first thing we do is we go through their website, we go through their Etsy shop. And the main component of that is looking at what is underperforming. So with Etsy, specifically, I mean, you have access to so many stats, and people will not even realize, oh, that these 15 listings are getting zero traction. And so at that point, we just think like why, you know, what, what is missing here? Are we not following trends? Is the photography bad is the quality not there? And we almost rebuild a bit, even though they are established, it's it's just nourishing something that needs that life put back into it, if that makes sense. Yeah, so let's try and make this for a little wider audience. Now, for those that aren't on Etsy, but you are an E commerce. You know, most stores are going to have a lot of products on their store, but they're gonna have a few best sellers and the rest are almost not even helping move the needle where they'd be better off just cutting all the fat and just focusing on the strongest pieces. Do you find that a solid healthy Etsy store can do that? Or does it need a lot of listings to really get out there and even if they only sell to have 100 They should have 100 listings just to help gamify? The the out of them almost? Yeah, that is such a great question. Because that is, you know, something that I'm always working on myself figuring out that, that perfect combination. Ultimately, you know, if you have an Etsy shop, you need to have variety. So I've think anywhere from 50 to 120 listings, it's like the sweet spot any less than that. I personally think it's not enough anymore. It's too much But exactly what you're saying, I have this one client, and he sells beach photography, his work is really amazing. And he has one listing, and it makes like 80% of the sales, and we're talking 1000s of dollars, you know, upwards of almost $40,000 a year with this one listing. And we talk a lot, and we're like, what can we do to replicate this? And for him specifically, we haven't gotten rid of too much. He's sitting around, maybe I think 80 listings, and I think that's perfect. But what we do is, we try to replicate it. And we try to think, Okay, well, if this is working, then maybe XYZ will also work. And that's interesting, because it just shows you how difficult it really is in E commerce, because what works on your website is almost the opposite on a platform because you're you're doing entirely different things. So it's a similar concept that you're selling. But like for myself, I have an Etsy shop, and I have my website. And I do things differently on each side. Because I've found like what you just mentioned that it you can't just do it, there is no one size fits all here. And that's very discouraging. But that's what makes it that's what makes you stand out. It's not easy. That's why the barrier to entry is low. But if it was easy in the barrier, interest low like everyone when no one and it's just not how this works. So you have to make it work for yourself, you have to put in that extra effort. So if you're not doing yourself, then yeah, it's time to go reach out somebody like Bella who can actually do the things that you need, because you have to treat each part of your business separately. So do you look at the business as a whole? And not just the Etsy thing? And you would tell them how to do website this Etsy, this Wix this red bubble this like, do you do like that? Or do you give them a generic thing? Like how do you approach someone that has all those options? Yeah, I try to remain as personable as possible and make it very personal. I mean, no two businesses are the same. I think, you know, if what I offered was generic, I probably wouldn't have this job anymore, because it would never work. So let me ask you this. So you've been doing this for 10 years, you're constantly with other clients, how many clients do you think you've had over the course of your career so far? Probably just under 1000. Wow. So 1000 people you help. I mean, that's phenomenal. By the way, like, that's just that would make me sleep so easily. Knowing I've helped 1000 people every night, go to bed, like Yeah, I'm awesome. It is crazy. That's amazing. So let's tell our listeners, I'd like to hear a highlight reel, and something that don't do this, right, whatever you're gonna do, if you're gonna go into ecommerce, don't do this. And don't tell any names, you know, obviously, privacy but like, give us a give us both sides of the coin. Yeah, I think and we've even touched on this already, you know, don't just make an Etsy shop to make an Etsy shop, that will not work, it will just not work, you have to really be passionate, you have to be ready to put the hours in. Truthfully, when someone is just starting an Etsy shop, it's really going to be anywhere upward like five to 10 hours a week, adjusting things, creating new listings. And the biggest thing is analyzing your stats to seeing what's working and what's not working. So you know, and I know that's kind of broad. But if you're going to make an Etsy shop, just make sure you have the time to put into it. I always like to tell my clients, if you treat it like a hobby, you're you're going to make the kind of money that a hobby would make, you're not going to ever get to that point where you're you have a full time job from it. That's a great saying. I love that same by the way. Yeah, I've had clients that have quit their full time jobs. And that that nothing makes me happier than that. That is just truly keeps me going and all of this. I think that's so exciting. Yeah, that's, that's awesome. Do they continue to use you after they've hit a certain point? Or do they? Are you helping people get to the next level again? Or are they I'm happy where I'm at, I don't need you anymore. Where's the cutoff point for business consulting, I do have clients that hire me monthly. So they just like that person to bounce ideas off of. But you know, my main goal really is to give them their wings, you know, let them experience these things. Ask ask me as many questions as you want to ask me and then feel comfortable to continue doing this on your own because because you can as long as you have the tools I truly believe people can do this and it is scary. You know, I have a lot of friends who who look at me and are like, I can't believe you just did that. Like you just quit your job and you started this and sometimes I can't believe it either. But if you really want to do it, you can do it. So that's that's what I try to give give every client is that confidence because I truly believe in that. Yeah, I mean you're doing it firsthand. So it's very that's amazing. Let's just say that. So let me ask you this going through college getting your masters ended up in the path you're on Are you happy with the journey other people considering doing this? Do you feel like if they're in college and they're thinking about this should they keep going in your personal experience? Was it not worth it? I mean, because it's a very heated topic like college these days is like you don't need college now you have to have college like it's there's no like just air whatever. It's college like it's one or the other. What do you what do you think on that and that is such a difficult Question. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would have done it the same way. You know, it stinks paying the student, my student loan bills, which I'm still paying, and I still will be paying for a bit, knowing that I'm not using my degree. But I think what would be worse is if I was using my degree, and I was unhappy, that would make it a lot worse. So the trade off for me was worth it. I think my first job out of college was at Sloan Kettering in the city. And I lived in New Jersey. So I had upwards of a two hour commute at that time. And oh, my goodness, yeah, at that point, was when I was starting my business on the on the train, I was reading a book, I was like, brainstorming all of that I had all this free time, maybe without that I wouldn't have been able to get here. And one thing kind of just led to another for me. So I would do it exactly the same. And I think if someone else is in college, if they're considering dropping out to start a business, just be really, really sure that you can you can do it. That's very well said. And that's it is a huge risk. And you know, everyone has to make that decision for themselves. But I'm, I'm happy to hear that you wouldn't change a thing. And that's, that's cool. That's as part of your journey, you know, you can't change who you are, you can't change that journey. So it's, it's very interesting like that. So if someone wants to create their own sort of social presence, and they want to kind of, they feel like they have a business that they need to expand and social marketing is the best way to do it. Do you find that either for Etsy, in particular, or just e commerce in general is I mean, Facebook ads is kind of just the obvious one that comes to mind for everyone just because it's been around the longest but where do you find the best return on your money or on your time if you're trying to go organic route for social media marketing these days? Yeah, that's a great question. I get asked that so often, my my clients, I think the main one to always start with if you're starting a business is Instagram. I think a lot of millennials and you know, the younger group right now we're not using Facebook as much. And Instagram is I think, right in that sweet spot where it's used by a really wide range of audiences, and it's gonna maximize your reach. After Instagram is handled, then I think actually, for at least online sellers and Etsy shop owners, Pinterest is also a great way to go. Interesting. So yeah, I've heard that I actually have no presence in Pinterest whatsoever. And I feel like I've dropped the ball there because Pinterest is difficult to understand because it's kind of like this like tailwind community that like basically read pins each other's pins basically, to drive fake traffic that turns into real traffic. I don't understand the system there at all. So can you can you explain this the top level? If you're going to do Pinterest, how do you do it? Because I'm lost? Yeah, Pinterest is very confusing. I agree. It is not user friendly. And I personally don't even use it for to advertise my own business. I've moved elsewhere. But I think for artists, it's a great place. Basically, what you want to do is create boards for you know, that's the big one is to have boards for different aspects of your business. So if you offer jewelry, then perhaps you'd have a board for necklaces, earrings and bracelets. And then within those boards, you would have pins of the work itself. So it's almost like a scrapbook in a way. I mean, it's there's sections and and then those pins will lead to you know, whichever link you want to provide for your shop. So you said like people aren't using Facebook as often these days because the younger demographic is moving away. So on Pinterest, is there a certain demographic that really will work there and certain demographics that won't? Or will everyone find opportunities on Pinterest if they are consistent with it? I think Pinterest, and I'm sure you would agree is mostly women. So if you have or if you're trying to appeal to women, that's where you should go. Instagram is so even keel like everyone uses Instagram and that's why I love it. But you know if if you're a small business owner and you're selling jewelry, clothing, anything that's more for women, Pinterest is the way to go. Okay, that's good to know. And that's probably why I stayed away from it because I have primarily a male buying list. I have some women but it's very small compared to male so I just I didn't invest the time and maybe I should have still I don't know it's it's one of the things I've it's on the backburner now, so it is what it is. Yeah. 1000 clients, you've seen all types of businesses. What do you feel is the type of business No, I'm not talking Etsy or Shopify. I'm saying like as an established business, where do you see the most return for someone considering buying your consulting services or just hiring a consultant in general? Do you feel like the people that are planners that haven't even started yet? Those are the best ones that get the most out of this? Do you feel like the people that are just stuck in a wall? Or is it the blind spot where you're having success and you think nothing can hurt you? And that's when you really need someone to to come in and deflate you a little bit to keep going, where do you feel the best person would be suited for this? I really think It's, it's the first two options, people that are ready to get started. And then other people who have their businesses and they're just looking to scale. You know, I do work with people of your last option that are successful, and they just they want that second opinion on things. But I think in order to really get the most out of the way, my consultations are designed, it would be best for someone who's just starting out or someone who is looking to expand. So we started out with Etsy, we said about 10 hours a week. So if someone has the time, what does it cost? Just expense wise, what do you think they need saved up to launch a business like this, because I'm assuming you still have to do some sort of marketing, you have to get your product together, you know, outside of your time, what's what's your cost initiative to get into this, it will vary definitely based on what you're offering. When I started my business, I my total cost upfront was $125, for my Wix website, and I didn't spend anything else for months, no advertisements, I just, it was word of mouth and social media. And I loved that. And I think that was such a great way for me to start to build very naturally in that way. So I think as long as you have maybe a few 100 bucks to spend, I'm talking one $200 You can start a business. Of course, if you're offering jewelry, high end jewelry, you know, you're gonna have to buy those supplies, but depending on what you offer, it can be very cheap. Wow. Okay, so that's, that's cool. The barrier again, the barrier to entry is low. So I mean, it attracts all types, but there's, you know, if you're the best, you're gonna rise to the top, and it's gonna be worth it there. So, let's talk about you said jewelry. So in Etsy, I know there's a lot of jewelry, a lot of range in the jewelry, how do you make yourself stand out? Like, how do you get that premium look you're trying to get where you can charge a lot more for your jewelry, and somebody else is selling similar things, you know, maybe like 20 bucks, like how do you get the premium price target you're looking for? Yeah, there are a few different aspects, but a lot of it is attention to detail. So photography, even even if someone's offering the same exact thing, same material, same style, the photography can make a huge difference. Photography and also things like the way you ship and you know, package or jewelry to your customers. So whether you offer gift packaging, or you know, any kind of special experience for the customer, when they receive their their purchase, that will really set you apart. And then of course, there are different materials like gold filled or, you know, things like that, if you want to get technical, but the main thing on Etsy is aesthetics, you know, you you need someone to see your main listing photo, and be drawn to it for some reason. And that's what's gonna set you apart. And so is that part of just the testing phase? Is that where you just need to take 30 pictures? Are you? Let's, let's take a step back here for a second, do you ever suggest shipping off your product to someone else to do better photography, or always just do it yourself? I don't think you have to ship it off. So my whole philosophy is don't spend money where you don't have to. I mean, as long as you have a relatively new iPhone, you can make it work. There's so much free editing software, you can even just edit in your photos app on your phone and use natural resources. You can use your the lighting through a window, you can take your pieces outside to photograph. There's so many resources. And I think people get nervous, like, Can I do this all myself? And the truth really, is that if you put the time and energy into it, you definitely can. Okay, so because you've seen 1000 people, because you're always looking forward of how does help successful businesses or businesses become successful or not? Where do you see so we're in 2022? Right now, we're going to date this a little bit. But I think this be a really good way to look back and see something where do you see the E commerce space going in the next six to 18 months? Because you know, post COVID Everybody got online, it changed a lot of things. So are we coming back now kind of get back pre COVID as it changes never coming back. And we have to adapt even further going ahead, because it's gotten so saturated. How do you what are your thoughts on the future here in this space? I personally think that ecommerce is only going to expand, people have become accustomed to the ease of online shopping. And truthfully, if you're looking for that personalized touch or that handmade piece, that special, meaningful gift that you want to buy someone you're going to shop in a handmade seller space, you're not going to find that at Macy's or you know, other other stores. So, especially places like Etsy, and it's not going anywhere. I think there will be changes, you know, in terms of online fees. That's that's the biggest thing I see right now people complaining about the fees that they're paying for their online businesses. I think there will be some changes there and I'm not entirely sure what that will be yet. But I've already been speaking with with another company who they actually offer direct checkout through Instagram. So basically, rather than going through a website at sea, and you don't have to have anything, you just have to have an Instagram account. You don't have to connect that Instagram account to anything. And you can have this basically link that will allow someone to comment on your picture, say, I want to buy this, you send them the link, and they can checkout right through the app, I think things will move in that direction, just less less friction, less steps to get there. That's very cool. I feel like so that wasn't part of Facebook, by the way, that was a separate company that just integrates into your Instagram to do it. Correct. Yes. That is awesome. That's, it reminds me of, of the trading cycle. So for us, it costs about 35 to $100 to make a trade, and now you can do it for free, because they just figured out how to sell your your orders to someone else. But that's where they make the profits enough that now you get free trading. And the entire industry had to change once Robin Hood showed up and kind of forced it. And so yeah, like you said that that's where we're gonna go, everyone's gonna get cheaper and cheaper, like I know. Yeah, that's, that's gonna be phenomenal. I'm excited for that. Because there's definitely a lot of fees. I know, Etsy is it hurts a little bit with the fees, but you have so much access to 80 million people a month. So you have to you just have to pay that fee. It's part of it right now. But yeah, it'd be forever, you know? And the truth is that the fees, they're not great. You don't love them, obviously. But it shouldn't be a deal breaker, it really shouldn't. For people that have their own websites, they pay hundreds a year or more, you know, to maintain their website. So people don't love that sci fi but it realistically speaking is is not, you're going to find that anywhere. If you had a brick and mortar shop, you'd be paying rent. I mean, I wouldn't let that dissuade you. As long as you're making a profit and you feel you're getting paid fairly for your art and your work. That's the most important thing. Yeah, and I think that's a good final topic to discuss is, is profit because pricing your your item, whether you're an e commerce Store, just on Shopify and Wix and Etsy, it's a very difficult thing to do, because you want to try and make top dollar. But you also don't want to feel like the customer is priced out because they can't afford you. But you can't give away so cheap, you can't continue you have to make a profit to be in this business. So how do you help people identify their sweet spot for pricing any of their products? Yeah, it definitely depends what you're offering. But let's just say for example, let's just stick with the jewelry theme. If you sell jewelry, it's very easy to offer variations of a certain piece. So you can offer gold plated and gold filled. And all of those will have different price ranges. And so even just offering that same exact style in different options will allow you to hit a wider range of customers who can afford your work. With that being said, I think Etsy, especially people go there to buy those special gifts for people. So don't be nervous to price your items, what you think they should be priced at, I wouldn't go low just to make that sale. Sometimes I won't buy something because it's too cheap. And I think oh, maybe this isn't great quality. You know, just do the research on your space, whatever that may be and see what people are pricing. And you can kind of use that as a starting point. So let's take it one step further. Let's say they go into space, and the prices are just all over to the point you just can't find a middle ground that makes sense. Do you just take all your cost? And just give it a margin or like a multiple of three and just start it there? And if it doesn't work, you start dropping? Like is there any sort of like back of the napkin rule you can do for pricing? Or does it weigh? It just doesn't work like that? You got to think about a little bit? Yeah, no, that that's a good question. Basically, that is exactly what they would do. They would take their costs and their time. And, you know, I would never tell someone what to charge for their time I let them decide that themselves. And they do that math and see, you know, add everything together and what can I charge for this? And if they do price something and it's not making any sales, we don't really know why it's not making sales, we'll put it on sale for a bit like 10 15% off. And if it starts getting a little more traction, then we're like, Okay, this may be a bit a bit too high right now, you know, but we make sure everything is appropriate. I would never tell someone to price their item low just for a sale. I don't think that's fair to anyone involved. So it's definitely case by case basis for that one. Yeah, hearing that cash register, go off on your phones always nice. And you like my next dopamine hit. I need another one. I mean, it's it's a bad cycle to try and fall into. I know that's, that's great. Well, this has been awesome. I really appreciate this value given to the community here. Where can they go and find you and learn some more about you or just get in touch with you? Yeah, absolutely. By my socials are all at Bella consulting Studio. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Tiktok. and my website is Bella consulting. studio.com Awesome. Well, I want to wrap this up with the last question we asked every guest on our show. What is your favorite caffeinated beverage? Oh Man, iced grande coffee from Starbucks with vanilla and almond milk every day. That sounds like a treat. I mean, only once a day, right or a couple times a day, once a day. Once a day. That's awesome. Well, Bill, I appreciate your time. Thanks for stopping by. We'll talk again soon. Yeah, thank you very much. Thanks for listening to the caffeinated hustle. Sponsored by caffeinated labs LLC. For more information or to connect with Ben, check us out online at caffeinated labs.io. Or email us at support at caffeinated labs.io. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss an episode. Or give us a follow on social media by checking the links in the description. We'll see you next time.