So you’re thinking of getting into e-commerce and asking yourself, “Where should I start?”
There are many layers to starting an online shop: choosing a platform, legal issues, finding your niche and so much more. Today, we’ve brought in an expert.
Lizz Porter from More Than Thursdays & Pew Pew Lasercraft joins Jenny Guy, our Senior Director of Marketing, in a conversation on how your passions can turn into products. Hear Lizz’s story about how she applied her skills from blogging and product creation to running a successful Etsy business.
As always, remember you can not only listen to the podcast but watch the accompanying Youtube video and read the transcript below!
- Pew Pew Lasercraft
- More Than Thursdays
- An Interview with Jamie Lieberman of Hashtag Legal
- Lizz’s S’mores Sticks
- Running an Effective Mastermind… | Summer of Live 2020
- Everything VA | Teal Talk
JENNY GUY: It is Thursday, January 28th, which means it’s time for Mediavine’s Teal Talk, the show about the business of content creation. I’m Jenny Guy, here as always, as your host. And I know I always say this, but hosting the show is truly one of my favorite parts of this job.
Partially, because it requires me to actually put on makeup and wear a normal shirt and know the date and be a real person twice a month, which is– it’s very rare. But I do have to know those things. But mainly, this is the bigger part, because it gives me the opportunity to chat with some really incredible and inspiring people in the content creation industry.
I learn so much from our guests and from you guys in the audience, every single episode. So thank you for being awesome. I’m very grateful that this is what we get to do. On today’s topic, while a lot of things have gone away over the past 11 months, I’ve been talking with Lizz about that, right before, my guest today. One thing that has definitely stayed around is our ability to buy things.
And while the economy and everything in that realm is grateful for this fact, my personal bank account is not. I don’t know if I am the only one who is shopping more than ever now, because it’s one of the only normal things that we can actually do, I feel the need to internet shop constantly. But I made a really concerted effort during the last holiday to shop small. Etsy, local businesses, there are so very many talented makers in the world.
So I wanted to ask everybody out in our audience, say hi, and tell us, what are you currently purchasing? What are you buying? Do you have a favorite small business or product line that you’re loving these days? And bonus points if it is a Content Creator blogger turned product maker. Please tell us in the comments. We would love to hear all about it.
And if you have questions for myself or my guest, who I’m about to introduce, please post them there, as well. For example, I– these earrings that I’m wearing are a custom design from our fantastic guest today. Her name is Lizz Porter. Her product business is Pew Pew Lasercraft, which makes me giggle every time I say it. And she knows firsthand that physical products can be a very lucrative revenue stream.
She is here to share all her tips and tricks so that you can explore branching out with making your own products in 2021. So let’s meet her. Lizz has been a maker since before that was a thing, going back to her Girl Scout days. Blogging at More Than Thursday since 2005, she expanded into a product based business in 2018, when she launched Pew Pew Lasercraft. Got to do it. An accessory and a company for those who don’t take life too seriously. Lizz, thank you so much for joining us today.
LIZZ PORTER: Thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
JENNY GUY: And we’re excited to have you. Where are you joining us from?
LIZZ PORTER: I am in Northern California. So I am smack in between Sacramento and Reno. So like, we had snow yesterday. It’s currently pouring down rain and the snow is gone. My son is heartbroken. So yeah, and actually, my location is part of my story at this point. I’ll probably get into that a little bit more.
JENNY GUY: I would love to hear more but we’re getting some wonderful comments about the product lines that people love. People are saying they love InBooze, Ashleigh Evans, and Pew Pew Lasercraft, obviously. Yes, there are some amazing businesses out there. OK, let’s begin, as we always do, Lizz, which is learning about our guest, you, and taking that beyond the bio that I just read. Tell us about your journey from content creator to product entrepreneur.
LIZZ PORTER: Absolutely. So I started my blog in 2005. I thought I was late to the trend when I started it. If I only knew. And so it’s been many things, over many years. I was unmarried. I did not have a kid. I was working as a graphic designer. I was very into scrapbooking.
That’s why I started it, basically. My scrapbooking message board, everybody was making blogs. And so I started this blog. And over the years, I used it to plan my wedding before Pinterest existed. And then when my son was born, he was a preemie, he was in the hospital for months. And so it was our centralized, update people thing.
It actually wasn’t until 2011 that I found out that people would actually pay me for doing things on my blog and on the internet.
JENNY GUY: It’s an awesome discovery to make.
LIZZ PORTER: What, you’ll give me money for this picture that I took? OK. And so I started moving into that professional content creation space in 2011. I did that for– it’s always been a side hustle. I went to school for graphic design. It’s what I’ve always done.
And so I jumped into full time social marketing in 2012. And I worked at a startup. And I worked at Google. And I worked at a few different places. Pretty traditional tech environments. Full time job, I had an office. I went in, most days. My blog has always been a side hustle for me.
In 2017 I joined Mediavine, which was very exciting, and really changed the trajectory of my blogging. That sort of ability for income is life changing when you’re only spending a few hours a week on your blog, absolutely. And so that was great. And like I said in my bio, I’ve always been a maker. I’ve always been crafty. I did scrapbooking.
My husband is a woodworker. And so the two of us together, we built a camping trailer from scratch ourselves. We are currently doing a bunch of home renovations. We are just those people, right? So we used to have a membership to something called Tech Shop, which is a thing here in the Bay Area. It was one of the original maker spaces. And it’s like a gym, but for equipment, workshop stuff.
And so there would be C&C machines and there would be powder coating and all sorts of crazy stuff. And there were lasers. And so I did a laser cutting class at this maker’s shop and I actually have the first thing I ever lasered. I made this dog tag for my son. This was the safety class that you had to be allowed to use laser.
JENNY GUY: Which is, it’s good to know that there is a safety involved, when you’re using lasers.
LIZZ PORTER: Absolutely. Because laser are scary and dangerous but also, don’t be afraid of them. It’s like the ocean. Just don’t turn your back on it. So I’ve always known that I really liked this sort of melding of technology and crafting in the laser thing.
JENNY GUY: Yeah.
LIZZ PORTER: But also, a laser is $25,000. And I don’t have $25,000 for a fun toy. So when the Glowforge came along, which was my first laser. So Glowforge, a lot of people have probably heard of it. It was a super successful crowdfunding thing. And it is a desk. You can actually see it right there, the smaller one, right over my shoulder, here.
It is a desktop laser. They vary in price from about $2,500 to about $6,000. There’s three different models. But they’re whole thing, it’s plug and play. So you buy it. You plug it in. It’s like a printer. And it just works. It’s magic. And so it’s not these intimidatingly undocumented– because you can import a laser directly from China for like $1,000.
And it’s big and it’s fast and it’s great. But it’s not user friendly. And it’s not ready to go. And so I got the Glowforge. Which actually, I pitched them, because I wanted it for free. Because I couldn’t justify spending the money at that time to just buy myself this fun toy, because it was so much money. I pitched them. I put together this whole proposal and they shot me down.
But I have been working with them. They have this great affiliate referral program that has been really successful for me. So it’s worked out really well for that. So I bought the Glowforge. The Glowforge was delivered on Halloween 2018.
I was like, Max, you have to trick or treat, because I wanted to stay home and play. And I planned to play with it for a while and maybe create some content around it, and then eventually, maybe I would start an Etsy shop. But it wasn’t a huge goal for me.
And so I started playing with it. And I made two things. I made a little mini collection of earrings. I made five designs. And like I said, I’m a graphic designer. So these are things that come together really easily for me. So I made five styles of earrings and posted them on my personal Facebook page. And I’m like, guys look what I made. These are so cool. I’ll send you a pair for $20.
JENNY GUY: Sure.
LIZZ PORTER: And I sold like, 250 pair.
JENNY GUY: And there you go.
LIZZ PORTER: So–
JENNY GUY: You decided maybe there might be something here.
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah. And then it was like, oh, can you make Christmas ornaments? And then I’m suddenly getting inundated with orders from friends. And this is all just on my Facebook page. Inundated with orders for ornaments for my friends, for their kids. And it’s like, oh, can you make a dirt bag ornament? Oh, can you make a Roblox ornament? Can you make a da da da. And so I actually had my machine paid off by January 1st of the following year.
JENNY GUY: Wow.
LIZZ PORTER: Like, 2-and-a-half months.
JENNY GUY: That’s amazing.
LIZZ PORTER: Miranda, you were one of those people. You bought earrings and ornaments. So yeah, it was a hugely supportive audience of my, obviously, my friends and people who I know, but then that’s what spurred me on to jump directly into Etsy. And I opened Etsy on January 7th, 2019.
JENNY GUY: OK. That’s really amazing. And you had it paid off. And so you started out with more of a personal touch that was with your friends. And like you said, when you branched out into the laser cut, that was just something that was more of a natural extension of what you already were creating as a graphic designer.
What advice would you give to other content creators who might be interested in branching out in products? Because laser cutting might not be for everybody. But how can you explore those different avenues?
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah. And really, it’s about finding your thing and then just doubling, tripling, quadrupling down on it. It’s the same as blogging, right? Niche down, find your people, find your community. And that’s where you’re going to find success. And I know it’s so tempting to just throw a bunch of Canva designs up on Tee Spring, and be like, look I make t-shirts now.
There’s a million people making t-shirts. And there’s a million people. And it can be really hard. You need to expand what you think you’re capable of doing because there are other ideas that are out there that make a lot of sense for you. And so over the last two years, my products have really evolved and I’ve niched down into this geeky pop culture focused, but not where I want to infringe on licensing, but people like me.
So I’m a huge nerd. I’m in on all the fandoms. And so I really tailor things to people that are like me, that wear ridiculous earrings.
JENNY GUY: Come a little closer so I we see them, please. I just want–
LIZZ PORTER: These are my mix tapes because I’m Gen X.
JENNY GUY: I love them.
LIZZ PORTER: So I made these.
JENNY GUY: I love them.
LIZZ PORTER: So this is like, laser cut wood with an inlay of a different color. I sold, like, 300 Fauci Clause ornaments at Christmas this year, which is a picture of Dr. Fauci with a Santa hat on. Because it’s like–
JENNY GUY: I saw those and they’re pretty amazing.
LIZZ PORTER: But it’s this niche that is– and that’s people who don’t take life too seriously. I make things that make me laugh. I named my company something that makes me laugh.
JENNY GUY: It makes me laugh.
LIZZ PORTER: Every time I say it, it makes me smile. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, if you don’t know me. And so I love it. And when people like– even you, Jenny, it was like, oh, pew pew. Like, that’s how you say it. We’re teaching our puppy to play dead at pew pew, instead of play dead.
JENNY GUY: That’s awesome.
LIZZ PORTER: You know, it’s just all about finding your people and then figuring out their thing. And it’s not necessarily something that they know that they need. Only one person knew that they needed a Fauci Clause ornament. Because she’s the one– she’s a dear friend and she sent me a message. It was like, I need Dr. Fauci in a Santa Claus hat.
And I was like, I’ll send you one for free if I can sell it. And then it paid my mortgage in December. That’s the thing. Don’t be limited by what’s available from Print On Demand. Don’t be intimidated by potentially carrying inventory and having things in your house. Sometimes you got to take a bit of a risk to get the really cool rewards.
JENNY GUY: I was going to actually ask you about that in a second. But first, I wanted to talk to you about, you said, find what your people want. And you’re doing that some by just, directly, people saying, I like my– like my earrings are they’re the Mediavine M. And I can make something that– it’s amazing. But my question is, how did More Than Thursdays evolve to Pew Pew? Was that a natural transition? And are your More Than Thursdays people also your Pew Pew people? Are they different people?
LIZZ PORTER: It’s a very circular Venn diagram. There’s a lot of overlap. My blog is primarily geek focused crafting. So the same mom who’s going to be interested in doing a Star Wars room redo for her kid is probably also going to be into my– I have English to Aurebesh translators, which is the Star Wars language, and so it’s a little engrave credit card, basically. You can wear it on your lanyard at Disney World and use it to translate languages. There’s phrases and stuff on the walls at Galaxy’s Edge.
So there’s a definite overlap. And I do also create content for other laser owners that lives on my site that is bringing in awareness for Pew Pew and then also, building that audience of that geek focused craft niche.
JENNY GUY: So those two things are feeding each other and I love to hear that synergy. How do you balance the workflow? Because I think we actually were talking about that before we started, that workflow can be a little crazy in Q4 for every content creator, but especially somebody who creates things like Christmas ornaments that are perfect for the holidays. So you were talking about that. But how do you balance the workflow between More Than Thursdays and Pew Pew. How much time are you spending on each per week, would you say?
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah, so this is a balance that I’m still struggling with. If you go look at my site right now, I haven’t posted since the second week in December. And that was purchase content, I think. Balance is not a lifelong thing, it’s a play by play goal for me. And so, as long as it feels overall– like, at the end of the week, if everything feels balanced, I’m OK.
But sometimes Pew Pew needs more attention than More Than Thursdays. I basically just focus on what needs more focus. Like I said, I’m still working on finding this system for myself, to get it into place, so that I can more reliably– I do rely a lot on VAs for my blog. And so I just I’m still finessing how that all works out.
I address what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Like, I’ve got a dozen or so orders open right now on Etsy. I will knock those out, probably this afternoon, and then I’m hoping to get a blog post done, because I haven’t blogged in forever. So it really varies. I don’t have a system. I wish I had a magic answer.
JENNY GUY: I don’t think anyone has a magic answer.
LIZZ PORTER: It’s like kids. Whoever needs more attention at that moment, then they get the attention, and then you can pay attention to the other one when it needs it.
JENNY GUY: Yes. And I wanted to follow up with what you said about VAs. How long have you been working with VAs for More Than Thursdays? And this is something, I know it’s not directly tied, necessarily, to product creation, but I think that talking about scaling and talking about outsourcing and building your business, you have to start relying on other people. So I’d like to hear about how you found your VAs and give some advice on that. When did you know you needed one?
LIZZ PORTER: A lot of it is in mastermind groups that I’m in. They’re very encouraging. And here’s a person– I will only go off of personal recommendations from people that I really trust. I’m not going to hire someone from Fiverr. I’m sorry, I’m just not.
JENNY GUY: OK.
LIZZ PORTER: And so, I generally use them more project based and short term help. I have a couple of people that I’ll go to when I need help on something. I have a few people that I rely on for content creation. They’re amazing photographers and stuff that help a ton. And then I have a Pinterest manager. She’s managing my Pinterest ongoing, so that can just stay, so I don’t have to worry about it. Because it’s a great source for me but I don’t– you have to let some stuff go. And it’s not ideal.
And I don’t love 100% of the things that get pinned. But you’ve got to let some stuff go so that you can focus on the things that really matter. So I don’t have a 20 hour a week person who just helps me with stuff. But I do hire, as needed, for project based things.
JENNY GUY: And those are all personal recommendations that you’re getting from your mastermind groups that you’re finding. And how did you find your best mastermind groups?
LIZZ PORTER: I don’t know. A lot of them have been around for so long that I don’t even remember, necessarily. But again, it’s people that I trust that have stepped into these roles, as coaches and organizers. And so I have I’ve joined and followed them as they have gone on these journeys as coaches, too.
So I’m supporting them and they’re supporting me in a huge way. Next week starts my first– I joined an Etsy mastermind for this year, for my goals. I’m terrified. It’s the biggest financial investment I’ve ever made in my business, outside of the actual laser. So I’m really excited. I’ve set some pretty audacious goals for this year.
I’m excited to see where that goes. But that woman just came– like, some other Etsy sellers have said good things about her and I’ve seen other people that have worked with her that seem to be doing well. So we’ll see.
JENNY GUY: I think that’s amazing and I love hearing that you’re setting some really incredible goals for yourself. We’ve got people that are very much identifying with your analogy about kids and business and finding that perfect balance. It’s not a– unfortunately, with everything in life, with your blog, with your business, with your children, with everything, it’s not a set and forget. It’s a constant thing that’s happening.
So I think that a lot of people really identify with that. We’ve also got so many people that are talking about your incredible products. Michelle Price said, her s’more sticks are awesome, by the way. I highly recommend. One of 80 kajillion things of Lizz’s that I own. I’m going to need to hear about the s’more sticks and then I want to go ahead and share with our audience out there, that there is a really amazing offer that you are giving them today. And we will share that in the comments. And we will talk about it now and again at the end. But I don’t want to wait.
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah, this more sticks are– so last year, well 2019, we were living in a house with a pool. And I found out that Saturday, August 10th was National S’mores Day. And it was a Saturday. And it was the last Saturday before school started.
And so, I was like, we should throw a s’mores party. And so we invited all of our friends. And I think we had 12 or 15 kids. And we had gotten a new fire pit for the backyard. And so I was like, what can we do? What can we do? And so I bought these wooden– I don’t think I have any that I can reach. I bought these wooden s’more sticks. Like, a telescoping fork thing.
And I told my husband, I’m just going to buy these on Amazon and I’m going to engrave them. And so I bought them and I engraved them. And they just have these weird little sayings on them. It’s like, the s’more I know, the smarter I am.
JENNY GUY: I love it.
LIZZ PORTER: Life is s’more fun. They’re all puns because puns are wonderful. And so I made them for my friends and I gave them away as party favors. And then I posted a picture of them on Facebook because all the things go on Facebook. Just to show them off, like look, these are so cute.
And people are like, oh, you should totally do these. You should sell these. I would buy them. And actually, Michelle was the one who would text me periodically, so hey, when are those s’mores sticks going to go up? And so then I listed them. It took me a year to list them, I have to admit, because they were kind of inconvenient to make.
The setup is really convoluted and stuff. And so I posted them and they ended up being another one of my best sellers for Christmas. I was ordering refills of my supplies daily. And I had to buy them on Amazon because I didn’t have time to wait for them to come direct from China. Yeah. It was crazy. I kept increasing the price.
Because that’s the whole thing, right? Supply and demand. So if demand is too high, then you raise the price so the demand goes down, until you find that perfect balance. I think Michelle paid like $3 a stick. And they are currently listed at $8. Because so many people were buying them. I literally couldn’t keep them in stock.
Yeah. They were a hit. They’re great. I love them. They make me laugh. See, that’s what I do.
JENNY GUY: Yes. It’s a gift. It’s a gift to have everybody. And I think that what you’ve done is found a way to take something that is a useful thing for everyone. Earring things or Christmas ornaments or something, and make it personal, that means so much to everybody. OK. Tell us about your offer that you have.
LIZZ PORTER: So I have extended this offer to people who are here. So 15% off the whole shop if you use promo code TEAL TALK. And then I do also have free shipping over $35. So those two things can stack. Yeah. So I do some digital file design, so those aren’t included. But all of the physical products that I will make here in my workshop are 15% off.
JENNY GUY: Such a great deal. Thank you so much for offering that. I will definitely be ordering more stuff. And tell me, tell me what’s happening in your background. Tell me what we’re seeing. What’s the big black thing for starters.
LIZZ PORTER: The big black thing is the big laser. Oh, there we go. OK. So that one is the Glowforge. So that is my original laser that I bought in 2018. The Mira is the big one. So the little one does up to 12 by 20 inches. And I have two inches of clearance in the machine. So I’m really limited. It does cool stuff. I can cut lots of materials. But it is pretty limiting.
The Mira is a 24 by 36 inch bed. And I have a 6 inch depth. So it has a lot more capabilities for things like tumblers and travel mugs, which is new. So I just got this laser in November. I ordered it in June and then spent six months chewing all of my fingernails off and waiting for it. It weighs 450 pounds.
My husband and I got it in the house alone, just the two of us, which is insane. And we’re still married. And so, those are my two machines. And so really, it’s turning into, the Mira is my production machine. It is exponentially faster than the Glowforge. The Glowforge my fun play machine.
I use it for prototyping, for testing out ideas. My husband uses it more than I do these days. He actually just opened an Etsy shop himself with a buddy. And so that’s getting used for that stuff. And then, also behind me, that’s my supply closet. So I’m really lucky. I have a dedicated room. So this whole space is my workshop. I don’t have to share it with anybody. So I just sort of take over whatever space I need. And so the closet is blanks and supplies and things for jobs. My sister is a professional organizer. So I’m super lucky.
JENNY GUY: Oh, nice.
LIZZ PORTER: So my housewarming present was she came in and did my office, which is amazing. I mean, there’s more mess, but that’s primarily what you see behind me, is the laser.
JENNY GUY: You look incredibly organized. She is good at her job.
LIZZ PORTER: I know. And it’s also a disaster right now. So she would be really disappointed.
JENNY GUY: It looks fantastic. It’s very deceptive. But can you hold up your mug again and tell us what it says real quick?
LIZZ PORTER: It says, first I drink the coffee, then I pew pew the laser.
JENNY GUY: I love it.
LIZZ PORTER: And I’m working on getting these listed because it’s very exciting that I can do these. Because these wouldn’t have fit in the old laser. And so this is a new product that I’ll be expanding into, tumblers like this and those stemless wine glasses that people love so much.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
LIZZ PORTER: I have actual mugs with handles that I’m very excited about. Yeah. So the possibilities with the new laser are humongous and so it’s really exciting that I can grow the business. It allows me to go into wholesale in a way that I couldn’t before, just because of the speed limitations. I love the Glowforge. I will always love the Glowforge. It changed my life. But it’s not a high speed production machine, by any means.
JENNY GUY: So while you brought up wholesale, explain to us what you mean by going wholesale.
LIZZ PORTER: So basically, it’s selling things in bulk for people to resell. So I did, if you guys saw, I’m not going to swear here. But the F-flakes that were going around at Christmas, they were very popular. And there were dozens of models of it. And so I did some of those. A woman paid far below what I would sell them for. So my engraved flakes– I call them cuss flakes because I have more than just the F word. I have other swearwords.
JENNY GUY: There was more than F. There was lots of options.
LIZZ PORTER: I have all of your swearword needs. I wholesale to this woman. So I sell mine for $15, I think. Or 16, I don’t remember. It’s like yay big and it’s engraved acrylic, so it’s clear and it’s sort of pretty and dainty. This woman who reached out to me bought 200 of them. And it was a different design. It was like actually cut out shapes instead of the engraving, like I do. She provided the design.
But it was a far lower price, obviously, than my retail price point. And so it’s moving into that providing to resellers for product instead of just selling directly to the customer.
JENNY GUY: Love that. And love hearing– is that part of your ambitious goals for 2021, more wholesale?
LIZZ PORTER: It’s going to have to be if I’m going to reach them. So yeah, we’ll see what happens. There’s an online marketplace called Faire. It’s like Etsy, but for wholesale. So you can set minimum orders. It’s a different sort of environment. So I’m looking at expanding into that, now that I’m at a place where, if somebody says, oh, I want 100 pairs of that earring, I can make it happen, not in weeks and weeks.
JENNY GUY: F, A, R, Fare, or–
LIZZ PORTER: Faire.
JENNY GUY: Dianna Hanson Mosher wants to know, which Glowforge model is yours?
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah, so I have a plus. If I were buying today– so they have a basic, a plus, and a pro. If I were buying today, I would buy a pro or a basic. I don’t know that I would consider the plus because they’ve lowered the power on the tube since I got mine.
So the differences between the basic and the pro are cool, but the plus to the pro isn’t worth the price difference, if that makes sense.
JENNY GUY: Does make sense.
LIZZ PORTER: Also, side promo thing, if you are considering buying a Glowforge, I do have a referral link that I can give you that will save you, I think it’s $250 off a plus or $500 off a pro.
JENNY GUY: That is a great link.
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: That’s great.
LIZZ PORTER: So if you’ve been considering buying one. And I am always happy to answer questions about them. I do love my Glowforge. If you’re thinking about it or considering it or have any questions about it, I am happy to answer them whenever, wherever.
JENNY GUY: Thank you.
LIZZ PORTER: Of course.
JENNY GUY: So I want to get back into some more logistics here in a second. But first, we’ve mentioned some numbers. I would like to talk about numbers because we especially like them when they have dollar signs in front of them. So we’ve talked some about the start up costs. Tell me what you felt like you had to have before you moved into starting your own Etsy store and how did you prepare for that?
LIZZ PORTER: I didn’t. I really didn’t. And that was– much like blogging, I just stumbled into it and then I’m getting more intentional as I go along. I am a big fan of done is better than perfect. If I had waited until I had read all of the articles and watched all of the videos and done all of the tutorials, I would still not be open. It doesn’t take much to open an Etsy shop.
It takes an email address and an internet connection. I mean, it really doesn’t take much. And an idea. And so it doesn’t take a lot to get started. And even if you’re thinking about starting the business, Etsy makes it really easy because they collect sales tax for all of your different areas, your different states and whatever.
It’s really simplified as a way to just hit the ground and go and start selling. So I got my laser and then I spent several months, just buying, buying, buying, buying, buying. It’s really overwhelming at first. Because it’s like, I have so many deals and I have so much potential creativity floating in my brain and I don’t know what to do with it.
And so it’s really hard. I bought a lot of crap. Half of the stuff in this closet I will never do anything with because I bought it, because it was like, oh, I could come up with something. But then, it never materialized. I never came up with a really great version of that thing. I spent a lot more than I needed to. Really, I should have just bought like a crap ton of basic materials so that I had it to refine my designs and figure out my process for creating and things. I think that’s the main thing. Just do it. You can learn along the way.
And as an example, here, I’ll give you numbers. So I opened January, what did I say? 8th or 9th or something of 2019. In 2019 I had 291 orders that year. And like I said, I didn’t I didn’t do any research ahead of time. To the point that I didn’t even know that I could have gotten 40 free relisting fees if I had used someone’s referral link.
This is their standard, you can get 40 free listings, which is like $20 value or whatever. But I didn’t even do that. I didn’t even know that before.
JENNY GUY: Slow down. Are you talking about on Etsy? 40 free listings on Etsy?
LIZZ PORTER: You pay a fee to list your item.
JENNY GUY: Got it.
LIZZ PORTER: There’s a promotional share thing that’s 40 free listings.
JENNY GUY: Got it.
LIZZ PORTER: I didn’t even know about that. That’s how clueless I was going in.
JENNY GUY: OK. Got it.
LIZZ PORTER: I opened my shop in early January. I had 291 orders. I made just under $6,000 in 2019. Which, you know, it’s nothing to scoff at. That’s fine. It’s great. That’s a car payment. But it is not a full time income. So in 2020, did just shy of 1,600 orders.
JENNY GUY: Wow.
LIZZ PORTER: For the whole year. Now, of that 1,600 orders, 1,000 of them were in Q4.
JENNY GUY: That’s completely insane.
LIZZ PORTER: I completed and shipped 1,002 orders from October 1st to December 31st. Yeah, I did 69% of my business in Q4.
JENNY GUY: But was it a full time income at that point.
LIZZ PORTER: Yes. Absolutely. Well, it’s hard to tell. Because if I look at the whole year then it all averages out to a decent full time income. But also, that’s $30,000. But then, there’s February, where–
JENNY GUY: Right.
LIZZ PORTER: So it averages out, yes. And that’s why I have these audacious goals for this year. My goal is to actually triple what I did last year.
JENNY GUY: That’s great.
LIZZ PORTER: So we’ll see if it happens. It’ll be very exciting if it does. Yeah. So it’s absolutely possible. I see Diana here did face masks. And if I sewed I would have jumped on the face mask wagon. I have a lot of friends that are making very good money selling masks.
JENNY GUY: And patterns. We have a whole series on the blog where we’re talking about people– content during COVID, where we’re talking about how they did some pivot to cover what people are most interested in now. And had you told anyone in 2019 that face masks are going to be a big thing, nobody would have said a word. But–
LIZZ PORTER: Right?
JENNY GUY: –what do you know? Here we are.
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah. And I don’t have– I actually just launched a COVID related product this week. And I don’t have one that I can show you. It’s a fan for blowing out birthday candles so that you’re not blowing your cooties all over someone’s birthday cake.
I have– a little engraved, so you can get personalized and stuff. And mask hangers. I do a bunch of different mask hanging signs. But yeah, this year’s been weird.
JENNY GUY: The birthday cake fan is a great idea. Totally agreed. I don’t know if anybody else– and this is more of a general thing, does anybody look at old pictures or old movies and cringe when you see all the people in the room together or blowing up the birthday cake or like buffets? I get visceral– like, I see a buffet in a TV show. I’m like, don’t eat the food. Everyone get out of the room. And it’s in the before times. And I’m so in this mindset now. It’s bizarre, so bizarre.
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah.
JENNY GUY: And also, like you said, with Fauci Clause, you’re going to have a really popular item with the doctor from the CDC. What other year? No one knows. This year.
LIZZ PORTER: I mean. I can’t.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
LIZZ PORTER: It’s a weird, weird, world. It says, my first pandemic on it.
JENNY GUY: Yes. And this is the other thing that I’m loving so much about the small makers and it’s what we talked about throughout all of this, starting in March, when we were highlighting lives and talking about how the influencers and the small business owners and people that are able to move quickly to respond to what’s happening at the moment, the larger entertainment industry is just now being able to produce some things that are actually relevant to what’s happening.
But you guys were able to, right at the time that it was happening, move and handle the trends. You were the only ones making things that were relevant to our lives at that point.
LIZZ PORTER: Exactly.
JENNY GUY: Everyone’s saying they have COVID reactions to things that happen. COVID reactions to everything.
LIZZ PORTER: So weird.
JENNY GUY: Diana, and Sarah and– Ellen says, Etsy groups are the best. I’m in a Tampa Bay one and the makers are phenomenal. Can you tell us a little bit more about these Etsy groups? What is that and how do you get involved?
LIZZ PORTER: Yeah, so there’s a few different ways. I’m in several on Facebook. There’s a couple that are run by coaches that are clearly just trying to promote their services and this is part of their strategy, which is fine, and the groups are fine. I like having places I can go to ask a specific question. And just to get a quick answer if Google doesn’t help. So there’s a million of them on Etsy. And there’s also, actually, communities on Etsy itself.
So I’m in a couple for regional groups, San Francisco and stuff, for Northern California, so that you can connect there. And those ones, actually, the woman who leads the SF Etsy group works with Etsy and gets information from them to run courses. So she does things. She gets content directly from Etsy and then does these classes and live streams and things to help people build their businesses.
JENNY GUY: That is phenomenal. And I love hearing how Etsy is a plug and play option for makers so you don’t have to be as concerned. And I wanted to actually ask you about that because, as you were saying, it’s very easy to get run away with all of the various intricacies, details. And I want to ask you about that here in a second.
But first, I want to say, in terms of the legal side of creating a business, terms of service, trademarking, you mentioned licensing when you are talking about walking that line between the trendy things that people know and something that is owned by another person. How do you navigate all that?
Michelle actually mentioned something. Michelle Price mentioned earlier that she was thinking about starting a business for creating a food product but with some of the laws, was struggling. So how do you navigate all of it?
LIZZ PORTER: So that is one of the nice things about Etsy, is they take care of a lot of it. So you have built in– like the fact that they take care of sales tax is huge. And so there’s a lot of that. And you do pay fees to Etsy for that service. But there’s a lot of back-end engineering that they’re dealing with.
And so it does come up a lot in the groups, that people feel like they’re paying too much to Etsy. But maybe your prices are too low. Yeah, a lot of that legality stuff, as far as transactions are concerned, is covered within the Etsy platform and within the Etsy terms of service. When it comes to trademarks and licensing and copyright and all of that stuff, there’s so much drama. I mean, so much drama.
This is like saying, mommy bloggers and now. And basically, if it’s recognizable as being a brand, don’t do it without permission. And basically, most likely, as a crafter, like a small business, you’re not going to get permission. Disney will not even talk to you until you have a six figure business with demonstrated years of sales.
There are other ways to get licensing. So an example, I had a Christmas ornament that did really well for me this year. And there’s a very good chance you guys have seen this. It’s just the number 2020, but the first 0 is really tall. So it looks like a middle finger.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
LIZZ PORTER: So it was done by this artist, this guy named TypeO, he has a page on Facebook. And he’s a typographical artist. And so he had made this thing and just put it out on Facebook. This is what he does. And I’m like, oh, that would be a really cool ornament.
And so I sent him a message. And I saw that he had mentioned, he had an official t-shirt distributor. And if you want this on a shirt, here’s the guy to buy it from who has my permission to sell it. So I sent him a message and was like, hey, I have a laser cutter and a small business in California. I would love to license this image so that I can sell this ornament.
And so we talk back and forth. And he actually lives in Abu Dhabi. Like some sort of–
JENNY GUY: Wow.
LIZZ PORTER: Like, other side of the planet place. And he was like, oh yeah, totally. I don’t have an ornament person. So sure, you can be my US seller for this thing. And so I Western Union-ed money to get this letter from him that said that he was the original creator of the artwork and that he gave me permission to do it. And so I did it and I listed it.
And there are hundreds and hundreds of people who just copied it. They basically stole it from the artist. And I mean, we see this all the time with memes and stuff, right? Like your little quotes that gets stolen or whatever. But I was able to put licensed, authorized on mine. I got lots of messages from customers who were like, hey, I’m an artist, too. And I really appreciate that you take the step to get permission to do this.
So that’s actually my first foray into licensing. But it is definitely something I would consider again. There is a woman in one of my laser groups who was talking to Getty about licensing the Bernie picture so that she could do stuff with it.
And so licensing expands beyond just Disney and Marvel and NFL. And those are the big ones. So the big scary ones that you hear about are Disney, the NFL, Harley Davidson, and Dr. Seuss. They all go after– they actively seek out and send cease and desist letters for people who are using their intellectual property without permission.
JENNY GUY: Ellen just said, whatever you do, don’t infringe on copyrights and trademarks. Starbucks, Disney, Marvel, et cetera. So that is very good advice. And part of that is involving a lawyer. And you would recommend working with somebody who has expertise in small business?
LIZZ PORTER: Yes.
JENNY GUY: A product person.
LIZZ PORTER: Actually– yes. So once you get to that point, you definitely– it can be really intimidating and scary. I mean, find an expert. I rely on experts for all the things that I don’t know about.
JENNY GUY: Ashlee Marie Prisbrey wants to know, do you sell anywhere else or only on Etsy?
LIZZ PORTER: Currently, only on Etsy. And then also, if I get messages or whatever, I’ll sell through– I have a Venmo for business account, which is a new thing, if people don’t know about that. So you can actually do transactions now on Venmo and PayPal. And then getting my Shopify site launched is a goal for the year. Again, audacious.
JENNY GUY: You want to do Spotify, as well. Are you outsourcing or working with someone to help you with that, get that done?
LIZZ PORTER: I hired a friend who built the framework for me. And then I’m still tweaking it. I have the basic site and I just have to refine it and then get all my products loaded and then get it up. I say this all the time in Etsy groups, because people will be like, oh well, Etsy charges all these fees, so maybe I should just do Shopify or WooCom– because you can do WooCommerce, I think, is free through WordPress. I forget because I went with Shopify.
And I compare it to, Etsy is renting a storefront in a mall. And Shopify is building a building on the side of the highway. So like, the mall is going to have built in traffic. There’s people who are just going to stumble across you. And you have to pay for that. If you’re in your own building, just on the side of the road, then you are 100% responsible for getting every single person in the door. So it’s great to have both.
JENNY GUY: Which is a great analogy. And I want to have you back so we can talk about how the two perform versus each, to learn of what that investment ended up being. But you’re talking about Shopify, that leads me to my question about marketing and how do you do all of that? And where are you investing money in dollars? And like I said before, do you use More Than Thursdays? Do you use any kind of affiliate? Have you invested in any ads? Tell us about it.
LIZZ PORTER: Sure. So I rely very heavily on social, obviously. So Instagram is Pew Pew Lasercraft. Facebook is Pew Pew Lasercraft. Then I use my– I have a single Pinterest account for everything that I pin. And again, back to that VA, she often incorporates my products into the pinning strategy.
As far as spending, I am not in a position right now that I’m doing anything on an ongoing basis. Ideally, I would be. I’m a huge fan of paid social marketing. I think it works really well and I know how to do it. It’s a skill set that I have, so it’s not just throwing money at boosting.
So I will occasionally boost something, just sort of short term, $20, $50. I did, as I released the new ornaments, I would do those on Instagram and things like that. But I’m primarily just focused on engaging. Organic social is most of it. And then, word of mouth from friends is invaluable.
I do some on More Than Thursdays. So like I said, Glowforge has this amazing referral program that’s performed really well for me. I’ve created a bunch. If you go to my website and search Glowforge, I’ve got a bunch of things that are like– there’s things that are tutorial, just a tutorial for how to make a specific project. Or there are round ups for my favorite places to get files for making projects.
And I have one that’s 143 things you can make with a Glowforge. I do posts– it’s a lot of things. And I could probably update it. I pull that content because it is a really lucrative affiliate program for me. And so as my– and then those are all SEO optimized and things, so that they’re really driving traffic on their own and helping to build awareness.
And then I include myself in every gift guide that I do. So I did a small business Father’s Day. And I listed a dozen products and three of them are mine.
JENNY GUY: Obviously.
LIZZ PORTER: So stuff like that. So yeah, there’s quite a bit of cross over.
JENNY GUY: And you have that audience that is already loving those things. You know they do. So why would you not? They would want to buy these things. Ellen Folkman says, I have a few product ideas. It’s just finding the time to make it, list it, et cetera. You can do it. You can do it, Ellen.
LIZZ PORTER: Listing it is the worst. I hate listing. I’m this close to outsourcing that to somebody else. I hate it. I hate it. I love photography. I love taking pictures. I hate listing photos. It’s the number of things– here, I’ll show you. I have right here on my desk. So I made these earrings. So these are Aquarius, for our February friends.
JENNY GUY: Yes.
LIZZ PORTER: I have all of the zodiac signs.
JENNY GUY: Oh.
LIZZ PORTER: Right, they’re so cool.
JENNY GUY: Give me a Virgo. I want some sweet Virgo action.
LIZZ PORTER: They’ve been sitting on my desk for weeks because I haven’t gotten around to taking the pictures. I have to pull out my light box and my props and my thing. It’s the worst part. It’s the worst part. It’s so annoying.
JENNY GUY: Outsource. Outsource. OK. We’re almost out of time, which is such a bummer. But I’m going to ask you the final question and then I’m going to ask that you think about it for a second while I make some announcements. So–
LIZZ PORTER: OK.
JENNY GUY: To help people like Ellen who are on the verge. They’ve got product ideas that are burning. They’ve got truffles. They’ve got all sorts of stuff that are keeping them up at night. If you could go back in time and tell yourself two to three pieces of advice while you were getting started with Pew Pew, what would you tell yourself? What do you know now that you wish you knew then? And what might help you as you got started?
Great. While Lizz is thinking on that, I’m going to tell you about our next episode of Teal Talk. It is Thursday, February 11th at 3:00 PM Eastern. We are talking with Jennifer Borget of the website Cherish 365. We’re going to make your photography a priority this year. We’re going to talk about leveling up for all different budgets. We’re not going to necessarily say you got to have a big expensive camera, but we’re going to talk about all the different ways that you can actually make it a priority and really improve yourself, wherever you are in your photography journey.
And then we also wanted to remind everyone about Lizz’s incredible offer, 50% of all of her products at Pew Pew Lasercraft, through the end of February, using the promo code TEAL TALK in all caps. That is case sensitive. Drop in there and we’re going to drop the code again for you guys or just scroll up and you can find it. And we are pretty excited about it. OK Lizz, you’re amazing. Pew Pew is the best. I’m wearing you right now. Tell us what you wish you knew.
LIZZ PORTER: Don’t be afraid to just try things. Not everything is going to stick. But some things might. And you’re not necessarily your only judge. So just try things. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to make changes, if you find that something’s not working. And pivot, pivot, pivot.
But it doesn’t have to be a big dramatic change. It can just be something small that can make all the difference. But it’s really taking the risks and trying things can really bring the most amazing rewards, I think. And that’s– I don’t do farm house. It’s super popular. And I could probably make lots of money if I was making farmhouse home decor. But I don’t. And those aren’t my people and that’s not my thing.
And so I would rather make ridiculous bacon and egg earrings or popsicles or mix tapes than make things that I don’t love, that don’t make me smile, and that I’m passionate about. I think that’s really the biggest thing, is just don’t be afraid. Obviously, don’t mortgage your house so that you can buy a laser or whatever.
But take risks– really evaluate what you’re risking. Because if it’s just a $0.20 listing fee on Etsy, who cares? It’s $0.20. You can find that in the couch. That would be, I think, the biggest thing. Be your authentic self and what makes you happy and brings you joy and do that. Because then it’s all great.
JENNY GUY: Just like you can taste somebody’s joy and happiness in their food, I think you can feel it in their products. And I definitely have in what I have from Lizz. So where can we find you, Lizz?
LIZZ PORTER: I’m on the internet.
JENNY GUY: Yep.
LIZZ PORTER: My shop is at pewpewlasercraft.com. There’s actually a fancier Etsy URL, but Pew Pew will take you there, and then eventually, when I get Shopify launched, it will take you there. I’m Pew Pew Lasercraft on social. And then I am Lizz_Porter on Instagram and Twitter. And yeah, and then More Than Thursdays on Facebook. I think that’s everything.
JENNY GUY: I love that so much. We’re getting so many comments of people saying this has been great. They’re excited about our photography lab. We’re excited, too. And wanting to do more with their Etsy shop. Thank you for being inspiring and wonderful, as always.
LIZZ PORTER: Thanks for having me.
JENNY GUY: Of course. And thank you, guys. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Bye, now.
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