December 14, 2018

2018 in review & my plans for 2019

I haven't been writing a whole lot on my blog this year, but what I would like to continue doing is share how my year went in terms of business. It's nice to have some kind of record on how things are going and maybe it will be of some kind of help to other small online business owners. So let's get to it! What did 2018 bring for The Dutch Lady Designs and what are my hopes and plans for 2019?

Selling on Etsy in 2018

I started selling on Etsy with my two shops there in 2014 (clipart shop & blog/business shop). And it's been a learning curve ever since. From the get go there has been growth in the business, I was slowly selling more and more products each year. This year however that growth on Etsy came to a halt unfortunately. With a little more than two weeks to go in this year I will probably end up with almost the same revenue as I did last year, so it's not like my revenue fell back. It only stopped growing.

I knew there would come a day when I would hit this point. I'm only a one-woman show so to say and there are only so much new products I can create and clients I can tend to on a daily basis. But I'm sure that some circumstances on Etsy also prevented me from growing. Maybe you are selling on Etsy yourself and you've lived through all the changes they made this year, but in short I think what stopped my growth on this selling platform is this:

1. Etsy raised their seller fees in July

This meant that a bigger part of my profit needed to go to Etsy. I waited for a couple of months to see how this affected my revenue before I raised my own prices in November to make up for the raised fees. There were a lot of complaints on Etsy from sellers that were outraged about the raise in seller fees. Of course I didn't like it, but I understand it. And Etsy is still the cheapest platform for me as far as seller fees. I think on average I pay between 10-15% in fees on each transaction I make there, while on some of the platforms I sell the fees are up to 50%!

2. More competition on Etsy

Etsy is still growing. Hundreds of new shops are opened there every day. I read a post this week stating that at this moment in time there are about 1.98 million shops on Etsy. If that is true then the amount of shops almost doubled in about 18 months time. Go figure how many of those shops are selling digital and graphic design like me. It's just getting harder to get noticed in that massive amount of sellers.

3. Too many changes on Etsy

Besides raising seller fees Etsy is still rolling out changes since their new CEO started in the Spring of 2017. Some changes work out well for the visibility of my shops while others probably prohibit it from gaining more traffic. I totally understand that a large company like Etsy needs to keep up with other selling platforms. No change probably means stagnation and they want growth as well. But too much change can scare off buyers in my personal opinion. If you are constantly changing the look and functions of your platform a part of the buyers will lose interest just for the simple reason that the platform becomes less user friendly by changing every few weeks. I really hope that Etsy will reach a more stable phase in 2019. People are getting tired of all these changes.

Selling on other marketplaces in 2018

Last year, in 2017, I had already opened shops on Creative Market and The Hungry JPEG, two selling platforms for digital/graphic designers. Both these platforms take a 30% fee, so they are much more expensive for me than Etsy. But even with these high fees I'm making a nice side profit from these platforms. I added more products to these platforms this year and I managed to grow my revenue there by over 400%! That's awesome!

I also was approached by two other digital design platforms this Summer with the request to sell my products on there as well. So I have opened shops on Design/Font Bundles and on Creative Fabrica. The revenue I receive from these platforms is nowhere near what I get from Etsy on a monthly basis, and the fees on these platforms go up to 50% per transaction, but my motto is: every penny counts! And you've got to give it time to grow.

The fact that I am now selling on 4 other platforms outside of Etsy is going to result in a higher total revenue for my business this year compared to last year. Even though I did not grow on Etsy this year, I made growth elsewhere. So it's always a wise thing to not put all your eggs in one basket.

My business plans for 2019

In 2019 my business will hopefully celebrate its 5th anniversary! Who would have thought? I just started with the idea: we'll see what comes out of it. And something did come out of it! I am now making a serious monthly contribution to our family's finances and I am doing what I love to do. So all the more reason to keep growing right? Well, I might take a different approach this upcoming year...

I love my work, no doubt about it. I often have so many ideas for new products and services and I'm 'in the zone' when I open my design software and get to be creative. But, just as with everything in life, there is a downside to this as well. And that is that I spend a lot of time on my ass in a chair staring at my laptop screen. This is healthy for my wallet, my creative outlet but not so much for my body. My eyes started to deteriorate this year, probably from all that screen time, and I just came out of my first episode of the flu since over 20 years, so my immune system could use a boost as well.

That is why I decided to not make any business plans for 2019. I'm sure I will be creating some new products and helping new clients with customized items, but other than that I am going to rely on the products and services I am already offering. I have over 600 products on Etsy right now and about 275 products on each of the other platforms. That should hopefully be enough to keep selling for another year.

In 2019 the focus will not be as much on my business, but more on my personal health and growth. The plan is to have a lot more screen free time and spend more time outdoors and being active. The digital world is interesting and feeds my creative outlet, but it also sucks me in. It's time to let go more and realize that there is more to life than a screen. Hopefully in December 2019 I will be able to let you know how it all worked out!

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