Finding Success Through Diversifying My Income Streams
My success in growing my business and continuing to thrive (even through the pandemic!) comes from my commitment to diversifying my income streams. Having multiple income sources helps my business be more resilient and adaptable. I currently sell my illustrated products through an Etsy shop, an online shop (tied to my website), wholesale, craft fairs and in-person events, as well as taking on commission illustrations and designing custom products.
Each of these sources plays an important role in my business:
Craft fairs provide an opportunity to chat with people who enjoy my work and give me lots of ideas for future products. They are invaluable for creating connections in the community and beyond.
Etsy allows me to reach a broad online audience who probably do not know my business, but are searching for something that I happen to make (because Etsy is still the number one handmade retail marketplace online!)
My online shop is an easy way for customers who already know my business (often funneled from social media) to shop from me.
Wholesale is a way for me to make large orders and increase the geographical reach of my business.
Commission projects are a great opportunity for me to collaborate on ideas, draw new things, and bring in larger payments throughout the year.
How I Slowly Grew my Business
I didn’t always have all of these income sources. I started my business slowly, taking on small new tasks every few months when I felt comfortable. I grew steadily and consistently, adapting as I went.
I began with just an Etsy shop in 2016.
In 2018, I did my first official craft show - the Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle.
Once I felt ready, I created my own online shop, so I could drive traffic there from social media and other online outlets, and avoid the Etsy fees. (I maintain an Etsy shop, even to this day, because they continue to provide a high level of traffic and sales. I am always working to convert Etsy buyers to my own online shop by including a coupon for my shop with every Etsy sale.)
A few years ago I started to have stores reach out to me about offering wholesale, so I learned what I could about the wholesale process, and started stocking local stores. I emailed and went into more local stores to share my linesheet, and my wholesale accounts quickly grew. I especially found success with bookstores, gift shops, and grocery stores/coops. As I grew my wholesale, I kept asking myself “who are my customers, and where do they shop”.
In 2020, right before the holiday rush, I was emailed by a company called Faire. I had never heard of them, but I did some research and they sounded legitimate. They were an online wholesale marketplace, like Etsy but for wholesale. They even offered to set up my entire online catalog for me. Even though it was a super busy time of the year, I figured it was worth a try. Faire has transformed my business over the last three years. It has enabled me to reach a wider market for wholesale, and has allowed me to streamline my process. Now I run most of my wholesale orders through Faire, even my existing accounts. Because of Faire I was able to grow the wholesale component of my business to six figures last year. This year I am focusing on reaching out to more museums and zoos across the country, as well as targeting specific cities and towns that I think fit my vibe.
When covid hit, it really made me assess my income streams for my business. As shops across the country shut down for community safety, my wholesale orders took a hit. As craft fairs got canceled, that part of my income also dried up. Suddenly a lot more people were home and shopping online, and my Etsy and online shop sales went through the roof. I adapted by working on my search engine optimization (SEO) and increased my posting on social media to drive even more traffic to my online shops. I also started posting on TikTok and Pinterest to see how those platforms would work for my business. Surprisingly (to me, at least!) Pinterest drove a lot of traffic to my online shop.
The pandemic made me extra aware of the importance of having multiple revenue streams and how they enabled me to adapt to the changing market. Hopefully we will never face such a massive upheaval of our daily lives again, but diversifying your revenue streams can still help you create a more dynamic and profitable business that is able to take advantage of changing markets, whatever they may be.
How to Diversify Your Revenue Streams
If you are looking to diversify your revenue streams within your business, I recommend beginning by looking at where your income currently comes from, then thinking creatively about new directions you could explore.
Some of those directions could include:
trying new online marketplaces (they are always popping up!)
branching out onto new social media platforms
exploring wholesale (look into trade shows in your region, or try Faire or other online wholesale marketplaces)
looking into print-on-demand and digital products
trying new in-person markets (such as bigger shows outside of your area or outside-of-the box events like Renaissance Fairs)
developing new offerings, like different product lines, public art, custom pieces, etc.
offering services (like workshops).
Through all of this, remember to stay firm in your brand. The core of your business should not shift, even as you develop new revenue streams. Think of your business like the trunk of a tree - it is stable and rooted. The new revenue streams are the branches - exploring new directions, but always connecting back to the trunk. As you develop new branches, make sure the trunk of your tree remains strong and unmoving.
As you play around with new revenue streams, keep track of what is working and what isn’t - this way you can assess your strengths and challenges and better understand where you should put more energy. Don’t be afraid to be seen trying - show up, try new things, and enjoy watching your business grow and change.
Moving My Business Forward
One of my favorite parts of running my business is how every day is new and different. I enjoy trying new things and seeing how they work. I am looking forward to continuing to experiment with my products and revenue streams. I am especially excited to develop workshops, pursue more mural painting opportunities, and continue to grow my wholesale reach in small shops throughout the world.
My goal for my business has always been to create products that bring people joy, while allowing myself to build a life that brings me joy. When I started drawing at my kitchen table all those years ago, I never imagined I could build such a vibrant, fulfilling business that challenges me and brings me so much happiness. I cannot wait to see what the future holds.