1000 Sales!!! Thank you!!!

I got this notification from Etsy on the anniversary of my shop opening! And now I’m posting this on the anniversary of my first sale. What an awesome coincidence!


Thank you, everyone! I never thought I’d hit this incredible milestone. It’s been an amazing four years. My customers are the best! You’ve all been nice, fun to talk to, and I love your ideas and creativity on your custom order requests. 😊

I’ve shipped to 48 states (waiting for Vermont and Alaska), 9 countries, and at least one military base. It’s fun to think that my ornaments are hanging on Christmas trees around the world. I hope they continue to be special and meaningful year after year.

I am excited to see what my fifth Christmas brings. I love seeing my repeat customers, and I look forward to meeting my new ones.

I hope you all had a fun Halloween!



Christmas Rush is Starting

It seems early for a Christmas post, but my Christmas rush is already starting. Heck, I just got back from buying Christmas ornaments at Hobby Lobby, so I’m not the only one excited for Santa Claus. I love Christmas! I’d almost forget about Halloween and Thanksgiving if I didn’t have two little girls begging to go trick-or-treating.

Since I sell Christmas ornaments, Christmas is obviously my busiest time of year. I joke with my husband every October, “See you in January!” Each year, the rush builds differently. October is busy, but not overwhelming. November and December flip a coin to determine who will ambush me the hardest. September is like any other average month. This September I’ve gotten over twice as many orders in the first half as I had the whole of last September. I wonder what that means for the rest of the year…*gulp* *cheer*

I’m excited for my fifth Christmas on Etsy. Every year, I learn so much. I meet new customers, and I see old ones return. I get inspiration for new ornaments from the personalizations people ask for. There’s always at least one fun surprise, and at least one big challenge to get through. My best friend or my mom helps me package the orders, and we have a blast watching bad TV and talking until late at night as we work. I’ve perfected my system. My first two Christmases were overwhelming. I still have my stressful late nights and long weekends, but I still find time to relax and celebrate with my family.

So, to all my other Etsy sellers out there who are finishing up their holiday preparations, look up for a second and enjoy the fall while you can. It’s sure to go fast. The leaves are starting to change, and soon I’ll be out admiring the fall colors on the walking trail to the lake by my house. I put a sweater on today for the first time since June. My kids and I discussed Halloween costumes in the car. My oldest daughter started kindergarten, so I’m adjusting to school schedules and being home alone with a toddler again. Pumpkin flavored foods are popping up (Yum!), and Panera Bread has a delicious autumn squash soup I’m looking forward to again.

Christmas is awesome, but fall is pretty dang amazing too!


Oops! I made a mistake. Now what?

I knew when I started my Etsy shop that it was impossible to get every order right every time, especially since my items are personalized. Dates come in different formats, names have unique spellings, grammar is confusing. It’s hard to talk about visual things through messaging. Pile on top of that some people are bad at computers or communicating in writing, and I often work at night when I’m tired. Whatever the reason, mistakes happen.

Customer service is a big priority for me. When I wrote my business plan, I thought about who my customers would be and what kind of customer service they’d expect. I thought about the tone I’d use in my messages, response times, and when it would be appropriate to engage in casual conversation and when it was best to keep it strictly business. I also thought about how I’d handle mistakes. I don’t handle criticism well, so I knew this would be a hard one. I expected the customer to yell at me and demand a refund, and I’d be hurt and sob my eyes out over what a horrible hand stamper I was. That’s never happened. Turns out, handling a mistake isn’t all that bad. Most people understand that you’re an imperfect human, and they’re willing to work with you if you work with them.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Own your mistake. Don’t try to rationalize it, explain it away, or downplay it. Apologize for it. Look at it from their point of view. Your customer was excited about their order and you let them down. They have a right to be disappointed, so don’t minimize it. Most of my orders are memorial, miscarriage, and infant loss ornaments, so I can understand how upsetting it would be to order something to grieve my loss and have the dates or name wrong.

2. Make your mistake right. I send my customers a new ornament immediately. I include a hand-written note apologizing and offer a coupon code so they can save on their next order. Make sure your shop policies are very clear on how these situations are handled, including when you offer refunds and who pays for return shipping. My shop policies state that if I make the mistake, I take 100% responsibility financially for fixing it. If the customer makes a mistake, then they are 100% financially responsible for fixing it.

3. Learn from your mistake. How did it happen? What can you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? What changes need to be made in your processes, listing pics/descriptions, or communication to prevent this? I learned it’s easier to ask for clarification than to make guesses about what the customer wants. Some of the mistakes I’ve made were assuming the customer made a typo, which I corrected, and then learned it was supposed to be “wrong.” I state in my shop policies that the customer can request a pic of their order before I send it. I know some shops don’t do this because they think it’s too much trouble, but I haven’t found that. Only a few customers have asked, and though it takes time and materials to do, I know the customer is happy and getting exactly what they’re paying for.

4. Don’t dwell on your mistake. I don’t know why negative experiences stick to our brains more than positive ones, but they do. Move on. Praise yourself for what you’re doing right. I’ve had over 900 orders, and less than ten where the customer came back to me with a mistake I made. That means I’m getting it right over 99% of the time. Every customer where I’ve made a mistake on their order was happy in the end. None of them left a bad review. Some left five star reviews and have ordered from me again.

I’ve never had an irate customer or one that’s been unreasonable or tried to take advantage of me. I’ve been fortunate that way. My customers are awesome! 😊 The only advice I can give is that you need to protect your business. You work hard for your money, and your time is valuable. Don’t let your customers bully you into a refund or into doing something you’re uncomfortable with because you’re afraid of a bad review. That one bad review will be soon be buried by all the five star reviews that come after it. Customers won’t be turned away by one bad review among hundreds of five star reviews, either. No one gets 100% five star feedback. If you’re stumped on how to handle a situation, the forums are a great place to get advice.

When dealing with an unhappy customer, don’t focus on the mistake, focus on the customer’s experience. You want your customer to remember your shop positively, even if they don’t get exactly what they want. That’s how you build trust and loyalty.

Mistake Review



Etsy Free Shipping Guarantee Announcement

Etsy announced this week that they are offering a Free Shipping Guarantee on orders $35 and over for U.S. customers. If you opt-in, your listings will appear higher in search results. The reasoning behind this is that customers expect free shipping and more customers will shop on Etsy if free shipping is available. There’s a lot of passionate feelings over this topic. A lot of Etsy sellers feel they are being punished if they are unable to or don’t want to offer free shipping.

My first reaction was anger because I don’t like Etsy telling me how to run my shop. I don’t feel like Etsy can be run like Amazon or other big box stores. Etsy provides a platform for millions of people who might not otherwise be able to own a business. It also provides customers with millions of products that can’t be found anywhere else. Each of those sellers has a unique setup, product, location, and obstacles to overcome. That makes buying from an Etsy seller its own unique experience. You’re not ordering something mass produced from a warehouse, you’re ordering something special from an individual who poured their heart and soul into it. I love it!

For those sellers who are hurt or have to close shop over this, I’m sorry. I hate that for you. I think it’s unfair that free shipping items are placed higher in search results. Customers can use the filter to select free shipping, so there’s no need to lower a shop’s search results. I also think it’s unfair to the customer. Some customers are ok paying extra in shipping costs to get exactly what they want. Their selection is limited when Etsy sets these types of filters.

At the same time, Etsy is its own business. As Etsy grows, it needs to provide uniformity across shops so that customers know what to expect. When you own a business, you don’t let your employees do whatever they want. You may like and care about your employees as the wonderful people they are, but ultimately you need to hire and fire based on business operations. It’s not personal, it’s necessary for survival. Etsy can’t and shouldn’t give special care to every shop owner. Etsy doesn’t exist just for shop owners. It exists to make money providing a service to others, including the customers. If you don’t like that, that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself that it’s anything else. This is how all businesses operate.

Businesses constantly need to make changes to adapt to shifting market trends. This is true whether you are an Etsy seller, an online retailer, or a brick and mortar shop. Right now, customer demand is for free shipping. Shipping is seen more and more like an annoying extra fee. I’ve abandoned carts because of shipping costs, so I know other people do it as well. No one likes surprise costs. I get it. Etsy made a choice. Is it the right one? I don’t know, but now as your own personal business owner, it’s your choice how to respond to the demand for free shipping. You can continue to build your brand with Etsy with or without free shipping, build your brand elsewhere, or close shop.

As an Etsy seller, what is good for Etsy is generally good for me. I don’t agree with every decision or change Etsy has made, but overall Etsy has worked out well. I’m staying loyal, and I’ll go along with this choice to see how this plays out. If free shipping brings in more customers as promised, I can make up any shipping losses with an increase in volume. This could potentially be a great thing. If it fails, then I hope Etsy learns from its mistakes and keeps working to improve.


How I Opened My Etsy Shop

Etsy makes it easy to start your own business, but that doesn’t mean running your own business is easy. I am amazed at how many hours I put into it, and I still feel like I’m slacking. Fulfilling an order is only a small fraction of what I do. I am always tweaking photos, tags, or descriptions. I’m planning new products. I’m thinking of the holidays ahead and what I’m going to do for them. I’m always checking inventory and ordering more supplies if needed. I read articles on photography, trends, changes to Etsy, marketing, and the health of the retail market. I browse the forums to see what’s going on with other Etsy sellers and to look for advice. I’ve listened to many of the Etsy Success Podcasts. I’m about to embark on a rebranding campaign and research starting my own website. I don’t keep track of my hours, but if I did, I’d average well under minimum wage. You don’t run an Etsy shop to make money, you do it because you have a passion.

I always dreamed of running my own business. I like problem-solving and being in charge of things. I even like paperwork and spreadsheets, though I’m not great at math. I’m organized, I’m a planner, and I like to feel useful. Etsy is perfect for me. It has an established customer base, so I don’t have to do a ton of marketing (something I’m uncomfortable with), and I’m (mostly) in control of how I run my shop. I can stay at home with my two girls, set my own hours, and even get a couple of bills paid doing something I love. Thank you, Etsy!

Don’t expect success to come right away. I spent a year researching how to start and run an Etsy shop before I opened mine. I feel like I actually did it backwards. Most people have a hobby or talent already established before they open an Etsy shop. Not me. I wanted my own business, but I didn’t know how or what to sell. When I ordered a miscarriage ornament from Etsy and fell in love with it, that’s when I decided I wanted to sell metal memorial ornaments like the one I bought on Etsy. My ornament meant so much to me, and I wanted to help people the same way.

I didn’t even know it was hand stamped. I’d never heard of hand stamping. I researched engraving, but it didn’t match what I had in my hand. I don’t remember how I finally learned what hand stamping was, but I was overwhelmed trying to figure out what supplies I needed to get started. I read books, I watched videos online, and I found hand stamping and jewelry making websites to order tools from. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also learned many valuable lessons.

I practiced hand stamping for months, but I still had a lot to learn about it when I opened my shop. My first ornaments were very simple. I like simple ornaments, and that’s my style, but my first ornaments were very basic and some looked unfinished. I hadn’t learned all the quirks of my fonts and design stamps, so the letters were unevenly spaced or slightly off. I was also still trying to figure out how to best use the space on the metal blanks.

Gold Snowflake 1

This ornament was my first sale on November 1, 2015. Though oddly, I never sold another one. I stopped listing it two years ago.

I opened my shop on Halloween night 2015. I got my first sale the very next day. WOW!!! I was shocked. I read it took months for most Etsy sellers to get their first sale. That was only the start. I got over a hundred orders that Christmas season. I closed my shop in mid-December because I was going crazy. I was unprepared for that much business, and my stress level was pushing the limits. I spent long hours and late nights trying to figure out the fastest way to get all those ornaments to my customers in time.

I cried a lot that first Christmas because I’d have to start all over on an ornament because it’s wasn’t perfect. Especially with my baby feet design stamp. Yikes! Trying to get all those little toes to stamp perfectly every single time was a nightmare. I’d sometimes go through three blanks per ornament before I got a decent impression. I considered pulling all my ornaments that had those feet, but they were my bestsellers. I just kept on crying until I got it right.


This ornament was hands down my best seller for the first year or two I was open. I sold over 70 of them, still more than some of my current best sellers. It took a lot of time, practice, and tears to get those baby feet to stamp correctly, but the hard work has paid off.

I was amazed at my 5 star reviews. I didn’t feel like my work was crap, but I still felt insecure about it. I felt my competition was more skilled and offered much better products. But people still loved my ornaments. That was encouraging, and a big reassurance that I was making a difference in people’s lives, that I had something valuable to offer. I’ve had a few customers who ordered that first Christmas remember me and come back years later to order more ornaments.

The following Christmas, my sales doubled, but I prepared for it. It was still stressful, but I knew I could do it. My skill was better, my processes and packaging streamlined, and I felt more confident. I still have troubles with the baby feet stamp sometimes, but now I shrug it off and keep going. All those blanks I mess up become my practice blanks for designing new products. They aren’t wasted, and the practice paid off.

Don’t expect to open an Etsy shop, post a few things, and gets sales right away. You need to do your research, learn your competition, define your brand, figure out your policies and your customer service style. Then once your shop is open, don’t expect everything to go right. There’s a lot of trial and error. Be flexible enough to know when something isn’t working and fix it. Treat your Etsy shop like it’s a business and it will run like a business. Treat it like a hobby, and it might take off or it might not. Etsy offers the framework, but you still have to build the shop.


You Are Not Alone With Your Grief

The main reason I started selling on Etsy was because of my pregnancy losses. I had two miscarriages and a ruptured ectopic. My therapist recommended that I find a way to remember and celebrate those losses, like a memorial trinket on Etsy. It was my first time hearing about Etsy, but I decided to try it out. I wasn’t finding anything I liked anywhere else. It was all too mushy or over-the-top frilly for me. Etsy was exactly what I was looking for. I was amazed at all the miscarriage and memorial things I found, and they were all unique and could be personalized. I found a simple but elegant hand stamped miscarriage ornament I loved, and the shop owner was so sweet in customizing it for me. I fell in love with Etsy and decided I wanted to open my own shop to help people like me.

Our Little Angel Ornament Pic

Custom miscarriage ornament made for me by Mary at Etsy shop Divine Memories

I was talking with my friend the other day who has tried to get pregnant for four years. She saw an article on a news site written by a woman discussing how hard it is to struggle with infertility. The comments on the article were harsh, saying things like, “You can always adopt,” “We don’t always get the car or job we want, so just get over not having a kid,” and “The world is overpopulated. It’s selfish to bring another kid into it.” Unless you’ve been through it, you can’t understand it. I lost two friendships because my pregnant friends didn’t understand why I had a hard time being around pregnant women. It wasn’t because I wasn’t happy for them—I was very happy for them, I wouldn’t wish a miscarriage on anyone — it’s because it was a reminder of my losses. Wanting a kid isn’t the same thing as wanting a luxury car or a dream job. Being able to have kids is part of being a woman, so not being able to have one cuts to the core of how some women define themselves. Why can’t I do this simple thing my body was designed to do and other women can do so easily?

Miscarriage and memorial ornaments are by far my biggest sellers. So many women are struggling with infertility and pregnancy and infant loss, and I wish I could tell all those women that they are not alone. Sadly, it’s a common thing that no one talks about, though more and more people are. What speaks of this is the changes made to two of my ornaments. They say, “You left footprints on my heart,” and “Always with me.” Almost always the customer changes it to say “on our hearts” and “with us.” It’s incredible to me. When I designed these ornaments, I was thinking about the woman who suffered the loss, but really it’s a family loss. The partner, grandparents, siblings, everybody experiences the grief. How awesome that they want to be included, too!

The other big surprise to me is that miscarriage ornaments are often ordered as gifts for friends and family members. To me, it’s a personal thing that I’d want to pick out for myself, but why not give it as a gift? What a great reminder that women shouldn’t have to suffer in silence. The people ordering these ornaments are going out of their way to say, “We are a part of this, too.” I love it!

To all the women who are struggling with infertility or grieving the loss of a pregnancy or infant, you are not alone, and your babies are not forgotten. There are hundreds of support groups and sites dedicated to helping you with your grief, and of course, dozens of Etsy sellers here to help you find the perfect way to remember your little angel so you can grieve on your own timeline in your own way.


Time for Spring Cleaning

I get the urge to clean up my house in the spring, so why not clean up my shop, too? I’m often surprised at what sells and doesn’t sell. Sometimes I think what I made is really cute and I’ll sell a ton of it. In reality, it hardly gets any views let alone sales. Other times, ornaments I’m not as thrilled about become my bestsellers. I have also learned that an ornament may be super cute in person, but it doesn’t photograph well so therefore doesn’t sell well. When I’m designing products, I keep in mind how it might look on camera. I’ll also try a different picture on a poor seller to see if that brings in views.

My goal since I started my shop was to have 100 listings. I reached 102 listings this April, but I didn’t celebrate because I wasn’t happy with my shop. Not all listings are created equal. Just because I have 100 products available doesn’t mean they all sell. Some of them have been active for a year, and I haven’t sold any. I let a lot of my non-selling items renew because it was cheap, and I figured maybe one day someone would see them, like them, and buy them. Now I’m letting all my poor sellers expire. I realized that when my products come up in searches, I want them to be my best and most popular. I could lose sales if Etsy search chooses to display a poor seller over a best seller.

So, this spring and summer, after all my poor sellers expire, I’m going to see how many listings are left and start designing my new products for Christmas. Summer is a slow season for Etsy, so I like to take advantage of the extra time to get my shop looking its best. When I reach 100 listings, I want each of those listings to have earned its spot in my shop.

Cari Harris

Mother’s Day is next month. Are you ready?

If you haven’t thought of something special and unique for Mother’s Day, I’m trying something new this year. I’m selling ornaments for moms. They can be personalized with your favorite saying about moms, the names of her kids, and some even have room for a special message to mom on the back. Not only will she love it for Mother’s Day, she can enjoy it at Christmas, too! I’ve also had people order my ornaments to hang from wind chimes.





And don’t forget Grandma!


All these ornaments plus more can be seen in the Family Ornaments section of my shop. As always, anything you see can be personalized however you want it. I love getting custom orders.



Basic Photo Tips for Beginners

Out of all the things I must do to keep my Etsy shop running, product photos are my least favorite. I even prefer counting inventory and doing taxes over taking new product photos. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most important things to master to get people to click on your listings. The photos you publish are the first impressions your customers have of your shop, and you want them to be good. Don’t waste your time posting bad photos. Take the time do it right. I still feel I have room for improvement in my photos, but I thought I’d share a couple of things I learned.

In Memory Round

This is the first background I used when I opened my shop. I wanted color and texture, but this look wasn’t impressive and didn’t represent my brand.

First, don’t be hard on yourself when you first start and you’re not getting it right. It takes a lot of practice. I took thousands of photos in all different types of lighting on all different types of settings from all different angles before I figured out what I liked.

Second, learn your camera settings and features. I know most Etsy sellers use camera phones for their products, but that doesn’t work for me. I sell big metal disks, arguably one of the hardest things to photograph, so my phone doesn’t cut it. I did hours of internet research to learn what ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and white balance mean. I’ve forgotten most of it now, but I don’t need to know the definitions anymore, just the settings. Write them down somewhere so you never need to research it again.

Third, I have the best results on cloudy afternoons. I used to know exactly what time of day and I needed to take my pictures for the best lighting. Fortunately, it was midafternoon during my daughter’s nap time, and I set up on a table in the playroom. Avoid direct sunlight, it washes out the colors. If it’s not cloudy, go in the shade.

Silver Snowflake Washer

This is the second background I tried. It’s ok, but it’s not attention grabbing. The ornament is lost a little in the wooden block. Some of my listings still have this background, and I plan to update it this summer.

Fourth, get a tripod. They’re not that expensive, and that alone significantly improved my photos and saved me time clicking through and deleting all the blurry ones. This is especially important for jewelry and other items that have a lot of fine detail. No matter how still you are, your hand still shakes a little, especially when it’s tired from holding the camera.

Fifth, learn photo editing. You may take awesome photos, but a little tweaking helps. I use www.befunky.com. It used to offer the features I needed for free, but now I pay for the premium version. I found this to be the easiest site to use, but you can also use photoshop, www.picmonkey.com, www.ribbet.com, or find your own. There are a lot of free ones and you might not need to pay.


This is the background I use now. I like the contrast with the light ornament and dark green. I also like that the pine branch says Christmas without screaming it since I sell my ornaments year around.

Other stuff:

Etsy recommends clean, simple, white backgrounds. I find most sellers don’t stick to this as their main photo. My personal opinion is that it looks too much like a catalog and corporate. I like to see more personal backgrounds when I shop Etsy. I use the white background as my second or third photo. When I publish a listing, I search for it to see how it looks among all the other listings on the page. Does it stand out? Does it look professional? Does what I’m selling stand out or do you have to guess?

I got tired of living around the best days and times to take pictures, so I bought a small lighting tent. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on them to get good results. It was another learning curve for sure. Had to readjust all my camera settings, but now I can take photos whenever I want, and I have more control over the environment. I noticed this has made my photos look more consistent.

Etsy has room for up to ten photos and recommends using all those slots. I like having at least two photos of the ornament from the front, one of the back if there’s stamping on the back, and I recently added a photo of the ornament next to a quarter for scale. You want the photos you chose to show the customer everything they need to know about your product and how to use it. Many customers don’t look through all the photos, but many more of them don’t read the product descriptions. A customer is more likely to buy something if they don’t have to ask or make guesses about what they’re looking at.

Last, if something isn’t selling, try taking a new photo of it. I’ve had some luck with this advice. I had wine glass charms that weren’t selling, so I changed the background of the photo, and got my first sale for them a few days later. I also had an ornament that got a lot of favorites, but no sales, so I changed the charm on it re-photographed it. It’s not a best seller, but I’ve sold a good amount of them.

I’m thinking about all this now because I plan to redo a lot of my photos this summer. Some of them still have the old background, and some of my listings only have one photo. I want my shop to look cohesive and the amount and types of photos to be consistent across listings. So, while I hate taking product photos, I’ve learned that they are important enough for me to suck it up and just get it done.


Where do you get your inspiration?

I finished posting three new Easter basket tags, and now I’m working on 15-20 new ornaments. I’m designing new memorial ornaments, Mother’s Day ornaments, and teacher’s gifts. The last two categories I haven’t tried before, so I’m curious to see how they do. I get swamped with orders at Christmas, and I’m looking for ways to increase my year around sales.

I wish I had a fun, witty story about where I get my inspiration, but the truth is the creative process is the hardest part for me. Staring at an empty blank intimidates me. All that space with so much potential. Where do I start?


This idea came from a customer who ordered a tag to put on a pair of booties she knitted for a miscarriage ornament for her friend.

I start with you! Some of my best-selling ornaments are inspired by custom orders and personalizations. My customers have great ideas, and when I get one, I tweak it a bit and create a listing. Custom orders give me an idea of trends and the types of things my customers are looking for. I’ve discovered major design flaws in my ornaments this way, and some of my poor selling ornaments took off with a couple of tweaks.

I also get my ideas from looking at all types of ornaments, not just the hand stamped ones. When I was first learning to hand stamp, I studied a lot of the competition’s ornaments, making notes of what I liked and didn’t like. This helped me learn how hand stampers think and how to make the best use of space on the blanks. Now that I have my own shop and know what I’m doing, I try to make ornaments different from what I see on Etsy. I glance at the competition to get an idea of what they did, see if I notice any trends, then launch my own ideas from there. I am always amazed at the skill and creativity of my competition. Etsy sellers are passionate about their work, and that’s one of the reasons I love Etsy.

Lately, I get my ideas from playing around. I look up quotes on the internet I like, think about what shape and font they’d look best in, and start hammering. My final product is often completely different from how I originally pictured it.


This best seller came about because I like the way the font looked with the heart design stamp.

Sometimes I have an idea of what I want to do, but I can’t get it to look right when I stamp it. I rely on friends and family to tell me what they like and don’t like about my designs. I may like the way something looks, but my customers may like something different. Ultimately, my customers get the final say because it’s your ornament, your milestone, your loved one, your experience, and I want your way of remembering it to be just as unique and special as you!