Over the last little while, I’ve been photographing my line of stencils, in order to create product shots.
It’s been a fun challenge, attempting to marry the stencils with themes of sorts!
This was a task I’ve overlooked for a long time.
Honestly, I just didn’t even really think about it.
Because I didn’t really intend to sell anything.
Yet… here I am. With a product line.
And all I can think of to say is, “How did this even happen?!”
Cabin Resort sign tutorial
This one sort of fell into my lap organically, so to speak. I wasn’t up all hours of the night trying to figure out what to sell 10 years ago.
Nope. 10 years ago I was scooping junk off the side of the road, as a means to decorate my home, because I was too broke to decorate otherwise.
Before it was cool to do it.
You can read my entire story HERE.
Those early junkin’ days were quite an adventure, with all those unknowing eyes peering on you, wondering why on earth you are looting their garbage piles. If I could count all the snorts and raised eyebrows I got over the years, well, I’d need a calculator.
I’m a junker, not a mathematician after all.
Just for fun, here’s one of my first ever junk projects. It’s an old sign made into my headboard, I landed for free from a gas station.
From time to time, I get asked how someone can start up their own business selling stuff.
How did I do it?
How can they do it?
What should they sell?
How can they sell it?
How can one know if it’ll be successful?
In a nutshell, I absolutely believe everyone in the world indeed has the ability to sell something.
But is it right for you? Let’s find out.
My own story:
10 years ago, I scrounged junk off the curb, in order to decorate my home.
I then fired up a blog in order to share.
Learning to monetize a blog with ads came next.
But boy, was it hard doing double duty with a day job by day AND a passion job by night!
But after 8 very long and hard years, I nervously left the ‘ol day job due to being needed at home. Overnight, I was Funky Junk Interiors full time, leaving half my pay check behind.
Gulp. I’ve never done something so scary in all my life.
But overnight, I was able to better focus on all the opportunities I use to say no to on a regular basis, due to lack of time.
One of those things was to solve a big problem.
I was making DIY signs for my own home, using my professional sign making equipment I used in the day job. When readers reached out desiring to make the same designs, but without all the high end equipment nor design experience, I had my work cut out for me. How could I help them without doing it all for them?
That’s when old sign styled stencils came into play. The stencils allowed them to make the same signs, right down to the same fonts. But this time, in mere minutes vs. my hours.
The stencils actually solved 3 problems. My readers got what they were after, I was able to not have to worry about the day job I left behind, and it suddenly became way easier doing something that was a completely natural extension to what I was doing anyway!
See? No real big plan at all from the get go. A desire became known, then a problem was solved, which helped everyone at the same time.
So, here’s how you can relate your own scenario to my own…
Beach signs tutorial
How long does it take?
For 8 long years, I wondered every day what in blazes I was doing. Would my little ad money I earned blogging ever amount to anything? Should I keep blogging, or quit and do more day job work instead?
A friend noted my exhaustion one day, and warned me VERY STERNLY that I was absolutely NOT to quit, because one day the passion thing would become my job thing. I didn’t believe him.
I’m now eating my words.
If I had quit, where would I be now? I’d be miserable in a job I hated. But now I do something that feels like weekend play.
All because I didn’t quit when the going got tough.
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Count on at least 5 years, but my real answer? As long as it takes.
My friend told me it would take between 5-10 years to generate an income with something new.
Right again. So… if you have something in mind, quit wasting time saying NO. Just say YES now, and get started.
Just don’t quit, or it’ll take forever for certain.
How do you know what to sell?
I started blogging. For fun. And then ads came into play. Still fun, but now I got paid. Cool.
But you can bet, I’d ask myself every day what direction I should head. I wanted to blog full time, but I didn’t know how to earn enough.
Thing is, I didn’t even ENJOY the topic of money. I detested quoting sponsorship rates. I didn’t want to think about it. I just wanted to ‘play.’ Hence, the ads worked for me. I didn’t have to ask anything from anyone. I just did my own thing like always. But… money. Sigh.
It wasn’t until I was entered an online decorating contest, that I got the idea to try some vinyl cut stencils on my stairs. I didn’t even know if it would work. I remember asking a friend if it was a stupid idea.
Well… my ‘stupid idea’ won the contest that week because it was at that time pretty unique. And that was the official start of me putting signs on stuff. Once I realized I could make stencils out of my high end decal equipment, there was no stopping me.
From there, the rest is history. Creating a stencil line was a perfectly natural extension to something I was already doing, without doing any aggressive head banging money planning.
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Don’t do it for just the money. You have to love it.
It should be a natural extension of what you already do or love to do.
Everyone has a passion. Think of your fav day if you were to wake up on a weekend. What would you be doing?
There are plenty of ways to earn money. But why not give yourself a break, and this next round, really love it so it doesn’t feel like work?
It is possible.
How do you know others will want it?
When I started making DIY signs before I sold stencils, I took note which projects folks seemed to pin the most.
Farmers’ Market was the first hot potato. I made this sign above my window, which stayed for quite a few years!
I also did a coffee design on a coffee cart.
So when the stencils came into play, the first serious launch I did was make stencils out of the more popular signs from the past.
I had no idea if they’d even sell. But I felt that was a pretty obvious way to start.
So glad I did. The first ones have become the best sellers!
Some of those first design projects:
Brand new designs of course, will always be a gamble. But because my stencils are made to order, if something isn’t very popular, it can always be pulled at a later date. I’ve pulled a few weak non sellers over the past 2 years. It happens. But I’d bet no one even noticed.
I also find creating something cool and unique with said stencils helps a great deal. It’s like, here’s PROOF on how they can work for you. The below Laundry project is an example. The project itself was being pinned for its usefulness. The stencil looks cool too. But together? Teamwork!
I doubt very much that I’d have the same success if I just sold stencils without useful project samples.
You can view ALL MY STENCIL PROJECTS HERE
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Solve a problem.
Utilize successes you’ve had in the past.
Create unique things with your product.
There are no guarantees anything will be a success. But it’ll be a for sure failure if you never try. Just remember to solve a problem, go by your past successes, make unique stuff, then take an affordable risk!
What price should it be?
When it came to pricing my stencil line, I snooped online to see what the market would bear.
But I pulled hard from my sign making past, and custom created my stuff, utilizing knowledge from the past 20 years. The computer helped, but it did not design my stuff. My experience did.
I also decided to add a few special things to my stencils to make them a little more unique and hopefully add more valuable.
I deem those ‘sign maker’ registration marks, helping you align the stencil on your substrate without a ton of measuring required.
Lines on the left / right.
There are three. The bottom one helps you align the bottom of the letters.
The middle one marks the centre of the ENTIRE stencil design, including the subtext.
The top one marks the centre of Laundry only, without the subtext.
The lines in the middle of the stencil mark the middle.
I use to letter vehicles with decals easily, by drawing middle and under letter alignment marks all over them. The stencils carry on that premise.
The stencil manufacturer I use has also totally exceeded my expectations. They are made from a heavy weight 10 mil, which is not typical. This makes them extremely durable.
I priced my stencils from average market value to slightly higher, due to the unique factors.
I personally feel my stencils are priced right on the mark. If one were to create even just one sign to sell, the stencil investment would be paid for. And statistics are showing, the designs are selling in the hands of others.
That fact just couldn’t make me happier!
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Compare to what your market offers.
Create a unique twist to your product. If you offer more value, you may be able to charge more.
You can paint a dresser, or you can paint a dresser, and include some super unique features or finishes. While there’s a market for both, I feel cranking up the unique factor helps your product stand out moreso.
Your selling options are so vast these days. So here’s what I do… in hopes that you’ll get some ideas for yourself.
By creating on the blog
Because I’m already online via my blog, I sell stencils by simply using them with unique projects, then showcasing them on the blog. I and others literally just play, and create cool things. Then they sell themselves.
You can view ALL MY STENCIL PROJECTS HERE
That said, I do have retailers that sell them, and we are opening our own world wide division soon. Having them more available will make them just that much more accessible.
I also sell them on Big Cartel, which is an easy to use, and affordable online store. But traffic must be generated to it.
View my own store HERE
Shopify is a step up. It is another self driven traffic online store, but has many more options, and apps you can purchase to make it do more things. (think Blogger vs WordPress) But it comes with a higher price, and is more technical.
You can also sell things direct from your own blog or website. But you’ll likely need to hire out to have it set up right. I did everything myself on Big Cartel, which was very attractive.
But I will say this. If you sell through an online store, please be sure and purchase a url for it before you launch. If you ever wish to change your store, you can redirect your own url to your new store. I didn’t do this with my Big Cartel store, (it has Big Cartel in the url which is not ideal) and am kicking myself!
Photos by Zoe Brown Photography
I have done other things to earn, such as public speaking, and workshops, but I have hosted a couple of vintage show booths too. They are a LOT of fun, but also a TON of work. I’m a one girl band, so I don’t find this option a good fit long term for me. But they are fun to do periodically. It’s really nice connecting with your readers!
Tips for booth selling…
* Host a demo table. The folks that tried the stencils, ended up buying them. Folks love to learn. Teach them how to be successful, and you will be too!
* Host a giveaway, while collecting emails, giving them an opt in to be a part of your newsletter.
* See if you can also be a guest speaker at the show. It’s a great way to promote your products, and it can earn you a little extra as well.
* Or if you get hired to speak, see if they’ll also throw in a booth for you.
Some speaking gigs and booths I’ve done…
My Crafty Affaire booth and workshop
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Use online stores available to you.
Sell on social media. (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc)
Make unique things with your product, so they sell organically.
Check out store booths.
Decorate a local shop with your goods in exchange for them selling it, or perhaps on consignment.
Sell at travelling shows / antique flea markets.
Open up a brick and mortar store.
Offer speaking engagements or workshops.
Is selling your own thing even right for you?
While I have never loved the topic of making money, (and I still don’t), we do all need it. So if you’re doing something you love, and you can monetize it in some way, you’ll always be happy with your work!
Some ask if earning from something I use to do just for fun has changed the fun factor for me. If I focus on what I’m doing rather what I’m earning, it doesn’t feel any different.
Working gigs that force me to stay on a timeline give me the most stress, so that’s why you don’t see many sponsored posts on my blog. I want it to remain informative, fun, and spontaneous. But selling my own thing on my own timeline has helped with all that tremendously. I just do better working for myself.
Also noteworthy, I’ve been self employed forever. I love working on my own terms. But one does require self motivation and drive, and needs to be ok with never knowing exactly when your pay check arrives nor how much. You do get use to it. But it isn’t for everyone.
But what’s to say you can’t do both? Try your own as a sideline while you work the day job. One day they just may meet in the middle, so you can take the leap!
If you believe in yourself, work hard, fall in love with what you do, work endlessly due to passion, and don’t take ‘impossible’ for an answer…
… how can you do anything BUT succeed?
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