Case study: How a 22-year old made $28,139 on Etsy

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The most successful cross-sell in the history of the world is 6 words long: “Would you like fries with that?”

Today, a story about how one of my students used the principle of cross-selling to generate a terrific amount of side income.

First, the numbers:

Ben doesn’t have a tech or business background. He took my systems and applied it to his business: selling posters on Etsy. So when I hear people saying, “Yeah, that might work for ___, but not for me because I’m [INSERT SEEMINGLY UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC THAT IS REALLY JUST A PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIER],” I smile.

Whether you’re a food salesmen getting inside his client’s head, pilates instructor niching down to double her clients, or artist selling online — like I’m going to introduce you to today — the fundamentals of building a successful side income are the same.

Let’s start by examining real data from one of my students.

Sales data from an Earn1K entrepreneur

I have something special for you today. One of my Earn1K students meticulously tracks his data for selling artwork via his Etsy shop - and agreed to show you some of those numbers to demonstrate how powerful this material can be. We all know how secretive most entrepreneurs are about their numbers, so it’s a treat to get a look behind the veil.

Let’s focus in on two numbers. The 61.9% increase in highest sales to a customer from $176 to $285, and the 90.6% increase in average sales to a customer, from $32 to $61.How did he do this?

Besides increasing prices (and value), Ben implemented a simple but incredibly effective technique for increasing sales: cross-selling related products.

I love this story.

The Economics of T-Shirts

Back in June 2007, Ben graduated from his high school in small-town Utah. Seventeen years old, he wanted to earn money online. “I taught myself screen printing via YouTube videos, and started selling these really weird looking t-shirts on Etsy.”In the first year he made about $1,000. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I would draw things and photograph them with a really crappy camera, the quality wasn’t there to compete against the entire internet.”

Then he had an epiphany. “t-shirts cost about $5 per unit, and paper costs maybe $1 per sheet. Nobody wants to buy a $50 t-shirt, but on paper you can make a lot more. Tees were screwing me, so I started printing on paper.” [RAMIT NOTE: See my list of 8 stupid frat-boy business ideas, which includes t-shirt companies.]

Soon after, he found IWTYTBR. “Summer 2009 I was searching for personal finance stuff. I actually found Ramit’s site, and I thought he was crazy. So, I didn’t go back for like a year after that.”

At this point Ben had a business, but it wasn’t going great. “I didn’t really think of myself as an entrepreneur. I thought I was some kid selling artwork. I went back to read Ramit’s stuff, and it really fit the way I saw the world – when I found Earn1K it just made sense. I looked at the payment plan, and figured out how I would make the payments. The price was reasonable and I could afford it, so I bought.”

Earn1K took Ben from being “some kid selling artwork” to an entrepreneur using proven techniques to grow his business.

A simple technique that doubled his sales

“As I watched the Earn1K videos, I started thinking maybe I could do some freelancing. But then I got the final module about how to optimize your system, and Ramit was saying all this stuff, and I was like ‘whoa, I’ve already got a system!’ Then ‘how can I take this stuff and apply it to my art?’ So I went back and re-listened to all the sections.”A big part of optimizing any system is willingness to test assumptions.

“I experimented with different drawings, colors of ink and paper, and prices. Before Earn1K I was pricing very low, probably $25 for a poster, because I noticed others in the market were charging that. Now I’m getting $110, and I want to try one at $200.”

Here’s the test that nearly doubled Ben’s sales.

“Before Earn1K, I had several people purchase 2-3 prints at a time. We all love collecting things. After listening to the material on up-selling, I realized people were up-selling themselves, all I had to do was supply a particular collection they might want. At the beginning I was selling all on white, so I tried a few on black, brown or cream. Those would sell, so I printed more on those colors and people started buying multiples on just brown or black. Then I’d try red or black ink and people would purchase 2-3 with that same color scenario.”

Ben had tapped into his customers’ love for collections – nearly doubling his sales per checkout, and earned $5,430 in the next 3 months. Since then, he’s streamlined his business and earned another $7,722.

I’m aiming for a $5,000 month, a $10,000 month, a $1,000 day.

“I love doing this. I love every aspect of running a business and giving people what they want. The end goal is to do the exact same thing I’m doing now just on a larger scale, I want to create more value and aim for a $5,000 month, a $10,000 month, a $1,000 day.”Ben will continue using Earn1K optimization techniques to nail every one of those goals, and had some terrific advice for other would-be creatives selling online.

“Most artists want to sell their work, but they don’t care about learning the process to sell, so there is a ton of stuff out there that will just never sell. The entire Earn1K course helped solidify how a typical business system might work. Before I took it I had nothing to go off of, it was a guessing game on what I should do and I had no idea how to grow a business or even what details to pay attention to.

Now I have spreadsheets filled with various data: financial, stock of supplies, stock of prints, how many people visited my website, how many purchased. The key thing was to make Earn1K fit my situation.”

I want to give you the same material Ben used to grow his side income. To watch an excerpt of the exact Earn1K lesson that showed Ben how to optimize his system and double his sales,  sign up for my FREE newsletter below and you’ll get instant access to the video.

Sign up FREE to watch part of the Earn1K lesson that showed Ben how to double his sales.

P.S. For more insights, check out this studio session “How much should you invest in your business?

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  1. Congrats to him for implementing what he learned and capitalizing off of it. This reminds me of a friend who should be considering selling her artwork on Etsy. It’s great that he tested out the market to better streamline his business. Great case study!

  2. Nice. This is what I love about working with artists. Once they gain just a little understanding of how marketing works, they almost always blow up. Ben is on his way to something big for his career – which will then allow him to be financially stable enough to try some of the big artistic ideas that he might have.

    Keep it up Ben – I’d love to chat with you some time.

  3. Wow! I love when a career takes off with the right info. Great job Ben! This sounds almost as magical as the shampoo sales increase that came from the words “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.”

  4. He could also test out “limited edition” or numbered prints to see if Etsy customers respond to scarcity.

  5. Hooray for artists making money! I totally agree with Cory – there is plenty of money to be made if you gain just a few marketing and tech skills. Well done Ben.

  6. It was really good to read this case study. I actually am also a fine artist selling on Etsy who took the Earn1K course too so I can REALLY relate to this.

    I unfortunately have not had his success with only one sale since March. With art, it’s so hard to tell what people might want. Also balance that with what you as an artist want to create. I can’t tell if there’s something wrong with my system or if it’s my products.
    I do want to test if bigger things sell better as opposed to the smaller things I’m selling now.
    Honestly I wish I had more insight into selling in this field.

  7. That’s excellent, that’s a huge distinction to jump into posters from shirts. Same “product” through a different medium changes everything.

  8. Just goes to show that it is not so much what you are selling, but targeting an audience, and then help your audience get to or closer to their goal. There is a time to give stuff away for free, and a time to charge.

    PS: finally i am able to access IWT website again.

  9. Interesting. I’d like more info on producing an income.

  10. And he has genuine talent as well.

  11. Excellent. Once other aspects of my life get stable, I’ll see what I can do with my Etsy page, too.

  12. As one of the first group of people to buy the Earn1K system I can say that it works. I’ve used Ramit’s methods to triple my sales at an annual craft show (I do woodturning as a hobby) but I’m not in Ben’s league. He has shown some real ingenuity and should be congratulated.

    Yay! for Ben

  13. I took Ramit’ course Earn 1K course in 2010.
    My wife on the other hand did not although she began a side project.

    She heard the videos and I guided her in some of the concepts.

    She took me to Hawaii in March and now to this September 2012 from her “side gigs”. Her market is global and her product very simple. I’ll have to make sure she reads Ben’s story for anything she can apply.

    Thanks to Ben and Ramit for sharing this story!

  14. Pretty cool story. It’s always awesome to hear about people making an awesome living doing the things they love to do. It excites me to read the possibilities of a person who is willing to dig in and hustle, and has the balls to make a run at it on their own.