Wedding stationers! Are you leery of selling on Etsy? Confused about how you can leverage the platform to sell custom invitations? If you answered yes, this episode is for you! We’re bringing in Valerie Freeman of Betty Lu Paperie to help you crush those Etsy scaries. She started Betty Lu Paperie on Etsy in 2013, became a six-figure seller by 2016, and has generated almost $800,000 in all-time sales on Etsy alone. Listen in as she shares her wisdom and provides an inside look at her six-figure Etsy strategies and the back-end of her biz!
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When did your wedding invitation obsession first begin? How did you find yourself on this path?
So, I think I’ve always loved paper and like the smell of old books and fashion magazines and journaling and all that kind of stuff. Like I even had a typewriter as a kid, so I just have always loved paper.
And then when I was in college, I actually got a job with a photographer. And through that job, he used to photograph like high school seniors and all of that kind of stuff and family portraits and everything. And through that job, that’s where I ended up learning graphic design and. I started designing little by little senior portraits, uh, like their graduation, invitations and family Christmas cards.
And I just remember being so obsessed with all of the different, like papers and printing methods that we offer. Like, we actually offered foil printing on Christmas cards, which is really awesome. And then we offered several different types of paper and I just loved walking clients through all of the like different offerings.
So from there, that was when I got engaged. And then I decided that I really, I couldn’t find anything out there in terms of wedding invitations for myself that I wanted, like, everything was just kind of like boring and there just wasn’t really anything out there that I really felt. I spoke to what I envisioned for my wedding stationary.
So like many other stationers, I actually decided to design my own wedding invitations. And that was really how I got started.
People have mixed feelings about Etsy, especially for wedding invitations. Why did you become hooked on this platform?
So yes, people do have a lot of reservations in the creative industry about Etsy and I love it because.
It’s for me, it’s like social media for your business when it’s kind of like Instagram, I would say. But like when people come to Etsy, they are not looking to be entertained. They are not looking for information about how to do something. They are looking for a specific product that they want to buy. And so for me, even if you don’t want to be on Etsy, it can still be a very profitable second revenue stream for your business.
Obviously, for me, it’s really my main source of income now, but it really is like for me, just like a better place than. Instagram to promote your services. Instagram’s a really great place to connect with buyers and build that like know trust factor, but Etsy is a great place to sell your products and to make that instant gratification of being able to have someone buy your products and fall in love with your brand, like right from the get-go.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, Etsy is, you know, there’s a built-in audience of people who are like, I’m here to buy some things. So like, I love Etsy, but, I know people with wedding invitations specifically can be like, wait, how do you manage like the custom process of it? Or are the buyers actually like, not as good clients on Etsy?
Cause you kind of hear the horror stories that they’re just looking for, like cheap things. So how do you kind of deal with that process? So I think in terms of battling that myth of Etsy shoppers are only looking for a bargain or Etsy shoppers are like kind of a nightmare. You’re going to get that.
Whether you’re selling on Etsy or selling online, I know a lot of other stationers who don’t sell on Etsy and they just sell. On their website or like in person through wedding planners and they still have those same horror stories and they still have those same people who are looking for a bargain.
The thing about Etsy is that, and the thing about really selling anywhere online is that there are two types of buyers. There are always going to be people looking for a bargain online, anywhere that you sell. But then there are people who are looking for something unique and something that they can’t find anywhere else, and they are willing to pay anything to get it.
And so when it comes to Etsy, you have two types, you have those same two types of shoppers, but essay really focuses on do it yourself, shoppers and. People who are looking for handmade items. So when you’re building your business on Etsy, if you’re scared to get started on Etsy, you need to figure out what type of buyer you want to attract.
Do you want to attract people who are, do it yourself brides, and they just want a template, or do you want to target their handmade audience? Because if you’re wanting to target their handmade audience, you can sell your products and services for way more money than you can with do it yourself. And secondly, if you are wanting to target the handmade buyers, you also want to add something about your stationery should feel handmade or personalized.
And I think in general, wedding invitations is a very custom process. Even if you’re just selling semi-custom invitations on it. But, you know, if you can offer things like letterpress invitations or foil invitations or adding ribbon or wax seals, like anything that you can do to give your invitations, that handmade feel, that is where you are going to find your special niche on Etsy and be able to charge more for your products and services.
What strategies did you use to leverage your work on Etsy?
I do, end up of course taking them off of Etsy because I just don’t feel like the messenger is a great place to be sending proofs. I mean, I guess it could work, but for me, I like to do everything through email.
And so I’ll send them an email of their proofs, you know, within a couple of days with all their information, but yeah, like, so in terms of like taking payment, you could do it two ways and it really depends on your process. You could have it set up to where they pay a deposit, you know, 50% deposit to get started or.
The way I do it currently is that they pay for everything upfront. So I only sell semi-custom invitations. So, it just makes it a lot easier in terms of the personalization process on Etsy. So what they do is they’ll actually select, oh, I need like a hundred invitations and I want to add envelope addressing, and that’s what I need.
And then they check out and then I’ll email them from there, their proofs of all their stationary. So yeah, in terms of payment, I think you can do it in a couple of different ways for me. I like to set it up to where they can buy immediately because I don’t want to lose the sale. I don’t want them to be asking questions like, okay, well I’m paying this, you know, $500 deposit, but what do I get.
So for me, I want them to know upfront, like, Hey, here’s the total cost of everything that you have. , and here’s what we’re going to do moving forward.
When you run an Etsy shop, people are worried about their brand being “pushed to the site” because so many people will say they “got something from Etsy” instead of naming the shop it came from. Should people be worried about this? How can you overcome it?
so I’m actually really, really glad that you brought this up because I was looking at my stats this morning and. I get the majority of my traffic through direct traffic on my Etsy shop.
That means that somebody has typed me into Google, or they’ve either typed me on to the Etsy search bar, like my specific shop name, and they have found me. So I actually, even though I do really well on Pinterest. I don’t get most of my traffic from there. So I also get a lot of clients who are referred to me.
So I think, and I know that that’s a very scary thing. I’m not going to lie and say, oh, as all of my customers remember me because that’s not true. Some of them do think of me as the Etsy girl, but when they, you know, I do get a lot of clients who are referred to me. And I think when you personalize the process and wedding invitations is highly personable.
, you’re working directly with the client, whether you sell semi-custom or completely custom, you’re working directly with them to make something that they want and love and, and something that they deeply care about. And so you do work very closely with the client for a couple of weeks, at least with wedding invitations.
Now I do also sell other products and. For my other products, I sell return address dance, and I also sell, social stationery, like monogrammed note cards. And through those, I really just make sure that my packaging is key. I want to put a handwritten note in every single order. I want to put a little promotional card that says, Hey, like here’s all the stuff that I sell.
And here’s where you can find me on Instagram or Pinterest. And then I just want to make sure that even the packaging tape has Betty Lou paper on it. Like,, I don’t mention any sort of Etsy references. I put a link to my website and all of my packaging. So, and I put in a business card so that they can contact me if they ever need anything else.
When I’m selling return address stamps, it’s not a very personalized process. , I mean, I send them a proof and that’s it. And they approve it. So when I’m mailing those orders out, I would definitely want to make sure that the packaging has all of my branding on it, linked to my website, promotional materials, anything else that they can come back and find me.
If you’re hitting six figures in revenue on your Etsy shop for invitations, what does the back end of your business look like? Is this just you, do you have people helping you? Is there a room in your house overflowing with paper?
so it’s just me and most days I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water, especially because I have a nine-month-old daughter and I also have a five-year-old son, but it’s so hard when you have a baby to have a business because I don’t know, you just lose a lot of sleep.
So, I mean, you’re going to lose sleep with your business anyway, but when you have a baby, it just changes the game. , but yeah, the backend is basically, it’s just me. I do have an office at home, the house we moved into a couple of years ago actually has a home office. And so it was the only house that we looked at out of like 50 others that had a home office.
And we were like, this is the one I did actually use the guest bedroom and that was chock full of stuff. And then my office was also full of stuff. And then, so was the code closet is supposed to be for coats. It has all kinds of packaging supplies in it. So, yeah, it’s, definitely always overflowing when we had our second child, I was like, okay, I’ve lost my overflow room and I’m going to have to condense some things.
So, yeah, we ended up having to just maximize that one office room that I have, but yeah, it’s, I’m not going to lie. It is very hard being a solopreneur, I guess, is the fancy word for it. But I do try to hire out. Anything that I can. So like earlier this year I hired a copywriter to really help me clarify my message with my website.
And so anytime I can hire someone out or contract somebody out to do something, that’s what I do. But yes, currently I should probably get somebody to help me with packaging orders. But I know Cammie, you’ve talked about this before. I just don’t want somebody coming to my house. Like, I want them to feel like, oh, this is an established business.
And you know, sometimes when you’re working from home, even if you make a lot of money doing what you’re doing, it just doesn’t feel legitimate until you have that like office space sometimes. And so. I just don’t want somebody coming to my house and not feeling excited about the position because they’re packaging orders from someone’s house, you know?
For those starting on Etsy today, specifically for invitations, what is something you wish you had done from the very beginning that you might not have done as well when you first started?
really two things. I wish I would’ve started my own website in tandem with my Etsy shop. , because it is very important to have something that you own. So if Etsy closes down tomorrow, which I don’t think it’s gonna happen. But, you know, it is important to have something that you own and your own personal space on the internet.
Even if your shop link goes directly to your Etsy shop, you still have that domain name. So I wish I would have done that in the beginning because I’ve could have built a better following for myself. And if you don’t have the capacity or the time to build a website, I wish I could have started an email list and I have an email list now.
I get tons of email signups through my website and that has been really great in building up my audience and building up my following and then getting more clients through my own personal website. So I know a lot of stationers probably may not even think about having an email list. I didn’t think I needed one because a lot of times we just work with clients one time.
I mean, that’s the goal is for them to only get married once. But you can still build your following, especially if you expand your product line. So yeah, either an email list or a website, either one. You recently transitioned into the education space as well! Tell us about your newest courses and offerings so our listeners can take advantage of those resources.
So my first course is actually called Etsy with intention, and it really teaches you how to build a profitable foundation for your Etsy shop.
So whether you’re just starting out on Etsy, whether you’re using Etsy as a second revenue stream, or whether you have had an Etsy shop for like a couple of years, and it just had not really taken off for you, this is really going to get you to take a deep dive into. The foundation for your Etsy shop so you can get started on the right foot.
And then the next course that I’m actually working on right now is called the Etsy accelerator. And this is how you can drive even more traffic to your Etsy shop. And that is through SEO and then also through Pinterest and those are two big drivers of traffic to my Etsy shop. And then, , the last course that I’m going to be teaching is called the Etsy marketing mastermind.
And this is like the full-on course. I haven’t started working on it yet, but I feel like I have all these ideas in my head and I just, it’s just going to come together when I start writing it out. But it’s full-on. Every single thing that I would do from start to finish. If I was opening my business again, including starting a website promotion through email marketing and blogging and all of that kind of stuff, that’s every single thing, the full scale of what you need to do when you open a wedding stationery business or a creative business on Etsy, and then beyond so many amazing resources.
Your style is very distinct! How did the development of your style occur?
So when I first started, I used to sell floral wedding invitations and I’m not even sure why I picked that because.
That is not my style at all. Like I like very simple and classic and clean designs. I love typography and that’s what I want to shine in my stationary. So last year in 2020, I took a crazy deep dive into my business and was like, I don’t really want to be known as the watercolor floral invitation girl anymore.
I want to do letterpress and I want to do foil. And I want things that when the guest opens up the invitation that they are just like, wow, you know? And not that they weren’t saying that before. I’m, I’m still very proud of the floral invitations that I did, but I also wanted it to look like me. And what kind of invitation would I have?
And so. I spent last year, I designed an entire collection, a semi-custom collection with like, I think the first time I did it was I had like 16 different entire invitation collections from invitations to thank you cards. And I was like, you know what? And they were very classic, very Southern, like monogram aesthetic.
I was like, that’s not really me either. And so I did it again. And I would say last year is really when I hit my stride, even though all of that, just craziness. When I really looked into what I wanted. My stationery and aesthetic look like I wanted it to feel artful and like a book, like a little storybook.
I wanted it to have little vintage touches and I wanted it to have be a little bit luxurious. And so I haven’t even really released all of the stationary that I did just because I haven’t had a second to breathe this year. , but when I started designing those invitations, I called it my 2022 collection because I knew it was going to take me that long to really nail down how I wanted it to look and how I wanted it to be presented.
And so yeah, even the stuff I have on my website right now, isn’t that whole complete collection. , so hopefully next year I can get, you know, the rest of the stationary as I had intended, you know, upon the website, but yeah, that’s really. I loved using pieces like the vintage artwork from books.
And then I love like typography and I just wanted, I wanted everything to be letterpressed and special, even if it’s classic, I wanted it to be able to be accessorized and feel unique when the customer gets it.