In this expert interview, Erin from Printable Crush shares the story of how she evolved her struggling Etsy shop into a successful blog. She is not only an incredibly talented (self-taught) graphic designer, but a savvy entrepreneur. Erin has done an awesome job at identifying the areas that are already working in her business, and maximizing their profitability. I know you will be inspired by her wisdom and inspired to make strides of your own!
What is your background in art + design? Are you formally educated or self-taught?
I am self-taught. I always wanted to do something in art, but I didn’t think I could make a living doing it. Through A LOT of trial and error, I taught myself to use Adobe Illustrator and sold my first logo 8 years ago for $5! It was worth $5, trust me. I now teach an online course for Basic Printable Design because I’m hoping I can help some people side-step that HUGE learning curve that I had.
What made you want to want to start sharing your talents in an online setting?
I used to design logos and blogs on Etsy, and the transition into blogging seemed natural. I was feeling burnt out with designing for clients, so I started creating printables and parties for my blog. Once I started getting paid to blog, I stopped doing custom work and focused on being creative ALL day long! It’s seriously my dream job!
Did you have any hesitations or setbacks after you started your business? How did you find solutions and overcome them?
Oh gosh…ALL the time. There weren’t any how-to guides or online courses when I started my business, so I was just winging it. I would say the best thing I did was adapting to new trends. Client work wasn’t as steady because people were selling designs cheaper than I could, so I went into printable designs. Etsy changed it’s policies and my sales TANKED for my printable shop, so I focused on making money blogging. I’ve had to make adjustments for Facebook and Pinterest algorithms so I can get more traffic. It’s all being willing to change when things don’t go as planned.
All about those printables
Printables are super popular right now, largely due to the fact that they are so affordable. How do find ways to maximize your revenue for products that have a low price tag?
I am just barely getting back into selling printables, but I try to find multiple ways to make money off of one set of designs. I created a free printable cleaning schedule two years ago, and it’s by far my most popular post every month. I decided to capitalize on that, so I created an updated version and gave people the option to purchase the editable format. This way, I’m getting paid with ad revenue for every visit to those two posts, plus I get paid for every purchase made for that printable set. I’m planning on doing it with my other popular schedules and calendars because it has been working really well!
Having said that, most of my printables are free because my main focus for my blog is to get traffic and get paid through ads because I just love that passive income!
What software do you work in to create your printables and why have you found it to be the best solution for what you do?
Adobe Illustrator. NOTHING compares to this program for designing printables. It’s so fast, and I love the vector format so I can size and resize images without losing the quality.
So many of your adorable printables are geared toward kids, family and entertaining. Can you talk about how narrowing in on that niche has brought you success?
This is another thing that just came naturally to me. I have three kids (7, 5 and 1), and they are my inspiration for a lot of my printable concepts. I made some dinosaur masks for my son’s 2nd birthday party in my first year of blogging, and those did well. I always try to duplicate concepts that are successful on my blog, so I kept creating more fun printables for my kids. There are so many parents scouring Pinterest for fun kid activities, so it’s a huge group of people that my designs appeal to, and I know that kids like my activities because my own do. My kids played with my Jellyfish printables for forever, and they did well because they’re tried and true.
Blogging is all about honesty. If you create something you’re passionate about, you will find others that are passionate about the same thing. My passion happens to be design and my kids, and that merged into something incredible that works for our family and my business!
Behind the scenes
How do you manage running a business and being a mom? Any tips for those struggling to do the same?
Some days I don’t manage and other days I do. It’s all about setting priorities. I know I can’t get very much work done unless my one-year-old is taking a nap. It also helps that I create a lot of activities for kids, so sometimes the two are combined, and it’s a WIN/WIN for everyone involved.
For anyone struggling, you can not progress in your business or as a mother if you constantly feel guilty about your work. Get as much work done when your kids are napping or in school and be present when they need you. Remember you don’t have to entertain your kids EVERY second. I’ve found that my kids are independent and can do a lot on their own, but they know they can count on me when they need my help! I’m not perfect, and no one should expect me to be…even my kids.
Can you name a book, podcast, conference, or individual who has had a lasting positive impact on you and your business?
I listen to a lot of podcasts, but my favorite thing to do is talk with people individually or at conferences. I went to Stationery Academy (not Creative Founders: http://www.societyforcreativefounders.com/blog) last year, and that completely changed things for me. It helped me focus in on my branding, so within months my page views doubled (and they’re going to double again this year).
Another person that has been HUGE for my blog is Jamielyn from I Heart Naptime. I applied to be a contributor for her blog in 2012 on a whim, and I got it! It was a total shock to me, and since I started working with her, my blog has gone places I never imagined it could go. She’s just a talented, sweet and humble person and I’m glad she took a chance on me and my little blog. I’ve been a monthly contributor for her ever since.
Hopes + dreams
What areas are you still working on becoming better at, as a business owner and a creative individual?
I’m trying harder to be more organized because I am right-brained ALL THE WAY. I used to do everything on a whim, but I’m working harder at making a schedule for myself and sticking to it (asana is my life blood right now). Just don’t ask me anything about bookkeeping because it’s almost physically impossible for me to keep receipts.
Individually, I feel really good right now. I have anxiety, and a couple of years ago I was having panic attacks because I had too much on my plate and wasn’t taking care of myself. I just have to remember to eat healthy, get some rest and know when to say no!
What do you envision for the future of your business? Do you have any personal dreams that you still have your sights set on?
I want to work with a company in creating products with my designs. It’s always been something I want to do. I also want to make more than my husband…I don’t want him to quit his job or anything; it’s just a silly goal I have.
I know you have some exciting projects in the works! Tell us about what you’ve been up to lately and what we can look forward to:
I’m creating a lot more printable sets for sale, and I’m excited about a mini class for kids that’s coming out in the next couple of weeks! I post three times a week, so there’s always something fun on the blog!