When Christina Umerez first began drawing pet portraits, she had no idea it would replace her day job and give her the freedom to work just six hours a week.
But that’s precisely what happened. Christina opened up a profitable Etsy shop through hard work and effective strategy, using a combo of print-on-demand, audience targeting, and specific market research.
Today, Christina’s shop generates passive income, requiring her to work only a few hours weekly for business maintenance and fresh designs.
She recently chatted with Pat Flynn on the Smart Passive Income podcast to share how she made it possible.
A pet passion project
Umerez had extra time on her hands when quarantine began, so she started researching side hustles to generate additional income while exploring a new creative outlet. This led to painting pet portraits for her friends. Eventually, the response was so positive that Umerez began selling custom prints on Etsy, the online shop for creative artists.
During the holiday season, Umerez had so many orders that she was overwhelmed and struggled to meet the escalating demand. She knew if she wanted to keep her new business afloat, she needed to pivot.
The print-on-demand solution
Umerez did her research and discovered print-on-demand, the process of outsourcing the printing and shipping of products through an external supplier.
She started implementing this system with her Etsy shop, allowing customers to print custom pet portraits on different products. Umerez immediately saw an increase in profits but still received more orders than she could fulfill. Then, she had an idea that changed everything.
Umerez eliminated the customization and started premaking generic designs (outside of pet portraits) for her customers. She would then send them to her supplier to have them printed and shipped for her, significantly reducing her workload while she continued to generate revenue.
“I remember just sitting there, and I was like, wait, I don’t have to do anything,” she says. “I got an order, and there’s just nothing I have to do. You just have to pay your supplier, but there’s no work.”
Leaving her day job
By switching to print-on-demand and identifying her niche audience, Umerez watched her revenue rise from a consistent $300 to an impressive $12,000 per month. She decided to leave her day job, embracing the freedom and potential her pet portrait shop made possible.
Here’s what Umerez learned about building her business on Etsy.
1. Find your niche. Umerez’s Etsy sales skyrocketed once she discovered her niche market with limited competition and a dedicated, passionate following. She initially tried marketing to ten to 20 different audiences to find the perfect fit. Once Christina pinpointed where she’d have the most success, she expanded into various sub-niches. This led to customers purchasing multiple related products, further increasing her revenue.
2. Pick the right supplier. The first step in establishing a print-on-demand business is finding a supplier to print and ship the products. Several different suppliers are available, including Printful, Teespring, and Apliiq. To ensure the smooth operation of her business, Umerez utilizes Printify as her print-on-demand supplier.
To streamline the process, Printify is linked directly to her Etsy store. When an order is placed, they handle creating and shipping the product. Umerez only has to step in when a customer complaint arises. Even then, Printify promptly issues a reprint or a refund so that Christina is not left financially responsible for any complications.
3. Stay ahead of the curve. To get inspired, Umerez spends time researching other best sellers on Etsy. She looks into what makes a good design, including exploring different fonts and colors that she can apply to her designs. She even utilizes ChatGPT to generate engaging content and witty sayings that she can incorporate into her designs.
Umerez also notes the importance of standing out by curating a high-quality listing: an enticing photo and a compelling and relevant title.
“What do you think someone is going to type in the search bar? And that if your product came up first, they would be like, yes, this is exactly what I was looking for,” she says.
4. Utilize Etsy-specific analytics and pricing strategies. Umerez optimizes her business through data analysis and strategic pricing. Her recommended approach is to include the cost of shipping in pricing—that way, potential customers aren’t discouraged by unexpected expenses.
Umerez also takes advantage of Etsy’s advertising to determine the performance of new designs. Analyzing the featured picture, product type, and design of a successful listing can provide valuable insights.
Generating nearly $100,000 in profit in 2022, Umerez’s store is now almost entirely passive, only requiring about one hour daily to manage the business and create fresh designs.
Her journey from a pet portrait side hustle to a thriving Etsy shop has given her the financial freedom and flexibility to pursue her passion for travel and other life goals. Her current focus is guiding others to replicate her success and achieve financial freedom.