Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Running an Etsy Shop while Dealing with a Chronic Illness

When I started my Etsy shop I never wanted to become famous or even so popular that I would need to hire employees.  And I haven't.  This post is not about my Etsy story; it is about how my celiac disease has affected the way I run my Etsy shop.  Most of you who are regular readers here know that I was diagnosed with celiac disease 3 years ago.  Celiac disease is a chronic illness and it's an autoimmune disease.  I haven't had enough energy to work a "real job" since September 2015, and I've accidentally ingested gluten twice in the past two months.  For me that means not being able to keep most food down, insomnia, sleeping for 12+ hours when I do sleep, brain fog, and constant fever, among other symptoms.  To really complicate things I haven't been able to walk since the beginning of September 2016, probably due to gluten ataxia.  All of these things combined mean that I'm really tired all of the time and my muscles are very sore as well.  Luckily for me I rarely get more than two orders a month and I always manage to fill and ship them on time.  Sometimes I send my fiancee to the post office if I can't do it but I always stick to my commitments.  If you also have a chronic/invisible illness I have some tips that might help you run your Etsy shop with less stress.

1. When you set your shipping windows make sure you give yourself enough time to definitely get it done.  You never want to ship orders late (and if you ever do have to ship late make sure you let the customer know why!)  I used to have mine set to ship in 1-3 business days but last year I switched it to ship in 3-5 business days.  That time works for me because it gives me a full week to pack and ship orders.  I can space it out through that week if I'm sick and not get stressed about missing the deadline.

2. Don't do custom made-to-order items.  I only sell ready-to-ship products.  I added a custom made-to-order item which was a $7 beaded dragonfly suncatcher during the Summer and I sold so many!  People were ordering as many as 6 to 12 suncatchers in each order.  Then I had to make each one according to their custom choices and I was struggling to get them all done and packed in time.  It really stressed me out and I removed them from my shop.

Add either custom or made-to-order items to your shop but once again make the shipping time longer than you think you will need to fulfill the order.  Keep in mind that sometimes you will have multiple orders to make at the same time.  If you do ever have more orders than you can fill in a time frame communicate it to the customers who have ordered from you.  If they aren't willing to wait longer they can cancel their order and if they're willing to wait the extra stress is off of you.

3. If your shop starts getting more sales than you can handle, increase your shipping times.  People tend to buy less often when shipping times are longer but it should help you get through all of those orders without getting completely overwhelmed.

4. If you ever get too sick to be able to fulfill any orders turn on vacation mode until you feel better.

5. This is one that I haven't done yet but super need to: come up with a low-price item that's super quick and easy to make and make them in a variety of colors and designs.  That way you'll get at least a little bit of money from the low-price items in between sales of higher priced items in your shop.

So that's obviously not an all-inclusive list but these are things that really help me.  Clearly my biggest Etsy stress is shipping, so I tried to make it as stress-free as possible for myself.  If you have any questions about running an Etsy shop with a chronic illness ask me in the comments and I'll try my best to answer.

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