I’m thrilled to announce that my online shop-Alice Jeong Studio-is finally nearing its launch. Carving out my own space in ETSY shop has been recurring dream of mine for years…
I finally decided to open my online shop…so what now?
I am huge on planning…so my next step was research. I spent days snooping on other people’s ETSY shop, stand alone e-commerce websites, youtube channels to get tips on how to be successful on ETSY and how not to fail… While it was definitely helpful and gave me many valuable pointers, I was getting increasingly anxious and nervous. “How am I going to possibly compete with these already established and incredibly successful people and shops???!!!” I expressed my frustration and worries to my boyfriend over Skype and he gave me the advice I needed to hear the most “so what? they all started somewhere. Just take one step at a time.” He was right… so I took my first step, which was to decide what to make.
Why I decided to make greeting cards?
I decided to make greeting cards because they are something that speak to my heart. I still remember my first greeting card my parents got me when I was a kid. It was a super cute snowman card and I was so happy that felt like I owned the world. I was five years old. I decided that I want to create that feelings of excitement and make little enchanted worlds in people’s heart through my cards.
Diving into the creative and production stage…was the most enjoyable aspect of the project
Here are some of my quick thumbnail sketches (one of the many) and rough sketch. This is to crank up ideas and decide on the overall design and composition. The thumbnail sketches I come up with get shown around to my family and friends to get opinions and many get thrown out at this stage. The process can be frustrating but it’s the most important step and I throughly enjoyed every step of it. Once the thumbnails are chosen, the next stage is sketch, and lastly, the execution. Thanks to my boyfriend (who is a professional printer) who graciously agreed to silkscreen my design, the final was executed on Photoshop to make separations for the silkscreen.
It’s wonderful to have someone who can help you with the project. Do not pressure yourself into thinking that you have to do everything
When I first started the project, my expectation was that I would totally have my DIY moment, that I would do everything from start to finish,including the production process. However, I quickly learned that it can be very time consuming and inefficient. For example, when my boyfriend graciously stepped up to print my cards, my first reaction, while forever grateful for the offer, was that somehow I was cheating. I tried printing the cards on my vacation day away from my job, with my boyfriend helping me. How did it go? What would have taken him 3-4 hours max ended up taking me almost all day. And the hours of
working basically went down the drain because I made a fatal mistake in the end of the process which made the cards completely useless. (Yes, I shed some tears and kept the cards as the reminder not to rush). What I learned from this experience is that it’s important not to pressure myself into thinking that I have to do everything. And it’s great to get help with your project or collaborate with people to take your project to the next level. On that note, I want to thank my boyfriend for doing such a great job on printing my cards. This project would not have been possible had it not been for him.
Photoshoot, photoshoot, and photoshoot. Natural light, light box and light diffuser does the magic
I knew from reading ETSY forum and youtube channels for e-commerce that taking good pictures are super important. This was a bit daunting to me because I am not a photographer. All I had was my smartphone and… yea all I had was my smartphone period. Maybe it was time to invest in a real camera? I went back to doing my research. Should I get one of those fancy DSLR camera? What is a compact camera? Should I just get a simple point and shoot? Meanwhile, the Black Friday sale was in full bloom. The sale was ending in days with limited stock available. I came THIS close to make a rush purchase on DSLR camera. Then I stopped. Instead of going to Best Buy to buy a fancy camera, I went to Staples and bought a cardboard box. What did I do with the box? I made a light box out of it using a cheap kraft paper to diffuse light. And it was one of the best purchases I have ever made. All my product pictures were taken with my smartphone and I am happy with the way they came out. They were mostly taken in portrait with my phone and I needed to reshoot the whole line of my products in the end because I learned that they are not the most friendly dimension when it comes to listing at ETSY (another lesson learned). I am not trying to say that fancy cameras are useless. In fact, it’s on my top 5 list to buy in near future. I would totally go for it if I had money and skills to take advantage of the power the DSLR camera has to offer. I am saving for it!
Joining community of like minded people and reading their forums were more than helpful
Next up was a series of decision making process. How should I price my products? how to package my products safely? How to ship my products and how to determine the shipping fee? How to list on ETSY so my products can be found amongst the sea of vendors? To answer these questions, I joined and turned to many different online shop communities and read what I could find in the forum. The wealth of information they had was astounding. I didn’t have to post my questions and wait for it to be answered. My questions were already asked and answered/discussed by so many other people in the community previously. Reading the forums and realizing that people all go through the same nervous uncertainty was oddly comforting.
Learning new skills is like riding a roller coaster. It’s nerve-wrecking and exciting at the same time
With all my products ready, photoshoot and edited, the final step was fast approaching. PROMOTING MY PRODUCTS! I took a look at my website. It was sad. I’ve always wanted to have a user friendly and engaging website, which makes people want to hang around more, clicking one more button to next. My previous website had almost ZERO level of engagement. I decided to make my website better. It was a crazy bold choice, considering that I am not a tech-savvy person and scared of coding to death. But I decided to go for it. It sort of became a mini-project. One by one, I learned to customize the theme I purchased by learning little bit of HTML and CSS, learned to transport my files from computer to my remote server (my hand was shaking the whole time), learned to create buttons and slideshow (I was really excited and jumping with joy when the buttons appeared on my site), learned to add widgets to my site (didn’t know how useful those tools can be). And Just few days ago, I crashed my site while playing with the code from getting syntax/parse error. The website went blank with only an error message. Same exact thing had happened to me years ago when I was building my first website and I ended up abandoning the theme and started from the beginning without giving any attempt to fix it because I was scared. This time, however, I couldn’t walk away from it. I spent so much time trying to improve my website and now it crashed on me?? To make the long story short, I fixed it (after having a mini-panic attack, shedding tears and calling my boyfreind on gmail and crying). It wasn’t too difficult to fix once I learned the how to from online forum (needless to say, it wasn’t uncommon to crash ones’ site from coding error). What I learned from the mini-project was that I shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things and learning new skills. It sure took me forever to update my website and put me through ups and downs but I learned a lot from this roller coaster ride I put myself through. My website still has a lot to improve on and my coding skills at the bottom basic level, however, it should be about progress, not perfection. I am happy that I have made the progress and still on my way for more.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase just take the first step.”
The project began on November year 2015. It took eight months to develop and produce my product line, do photoshoot and edit, listing items, and tweaking my website. And it is still not finished yet. It has been quite the learning expereince. I learned new skills, learned to manage my time between my full time job and my personal life to keep working on my project. The biggest lesson I learned from the experience is the importance of making baby steps everyday to make it happen. This is just one step towards my dream and I am excited learn more and make progress.
About Alice Jeong
Alice Jeong is an illustrator and designer based in Toronto. She is a designer/owner of Alice Jeong Studio , where you can find cute and adorable handmade greeting cards.