Can Etsy Sellers Outsource?

If you’re like most small business owners, you have more to do than you have time. Feeling the constant crunch-of-the-clock is a daily reality for most Etsy business owners. Some Etsy sellers seem to continually grow and thrive, despite having so much to do in a short 24 hours. How do they do it? One smart business move of successful shop owners is to free up more time with outsourcing.

What is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is a small business owner’s best friend. Let’s face it. As your business grows, doing everything by yourself can become an energy-sucking nightmare. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Think of all the little tasks associated with your business. Packaging and shipping products, designing and printing business cards and business collateral, and adding and revising listings are just a few things jumbled into your collective day. What about crucial record keeping like accounting and filing business taxes?

Outsourcing refers to handing off tasks to someone else so you have more time to do what you love — create things. Think of outsourcing as a great way to get rid of tasks that you’re not good at, hate doing or just get bored taking care of.

The beauty of outsourcing is that you can hand off many projects at once, or just a few. You can hire someone to outsource on a long-term basis, or just when you need extra help. Unless you plan to hire a full-time assistant who qualifies as an employee, you can usually hand off tasks to others under independent contractor status. This means the person helping you is responsible for filing her own taxes and income. State laws vary on the definition of an independent contractor, so be sure to check with your state on the rules.

Is Outsourcing Allowed on Etsy?

Luckily, Etsy allows certain tasks to be outsourced. According to Etsy,

“An assistant, under the direct supervision of the seller, may: assist with a portion of the creation process, list items in a shop, ship items, communicate with buyers, accounting or other record keeping”.

This means, you may hire someone to help you with packaging and shipping, listing and revising items in your Etsy shop, answer convos for you and assist with paperwork. Outsourcing other key business tasks is also OK, including accounting, marketing and social networking.

Etsy has rules against outsourcing production of your products. You can have help with minimal creation of your products, perhaps you create jewelry and hire someone to pre-cut all your necklace chain to the right lengths or if you create soap, have someone cut all the bars up once they’re ready; however, Etsy rules state that the shop owner must do a majority of production. If you outsource some components of product production, consider contacting Etsy to make sure it conforms to their rules.

Why Outsourcing is Essential for Growth

Simple, the less time you spend on business tasks the more time you’ll have for creating and producing products. After you’ve been juggling all the aspects of your business long enough, many of your everyday tasks become invisible; you just get used to doing everything yourself. You’ve simply absorbed the time it takes to do everything, until you suddenly realize that you’re in a creative straightjacket. Your creative time just runs out.

Furthermore, multi-tasking is just not good for anyone. While you may feel more productive with several browser windows open on your computer so you can tweet on Twitter, add status updates on Facebook, edit newly taken photos and create new listings, studies on multitasking show that you’re getting less done than if you focused on completing one task at a time during that same span of time.

All of the collective tasks needed to run your business take time. When you’re busy struggling to design a new logo for branding purposes (and graphic design is like a one-legged sack race for you), you’re wasting valuable time. And time, indeed, is money. There are so many sellers out there stating the same things over and over again – “do it yourself, it’s free” – yet that’s just not the mentality you want to have because if it takes you 5 hours to learn how to tweak your own website, when you could pay someone else to do it for you, you’ve just gained 5 precious hours to do something that can make you even more money, like create new products or market more online.

To grow your business, you need to ditch the things that you are not good at and make more time for the things that you are good at.

Keys to growth on Etsy are:

  • Making new products
  • Shipping sold orders quickly
  • Great customer communication
  • Marketing off of Etsy
  • Having incredible product photos

Except for product design and creation, all of these tasks can be outsourced. Making the products is up to you; allowing someone else to do the rest provides you with more time for creating. Creating=growth. Growth=money.

Outsourcing to people who know what they’re doing brings their expertise to work for you, as well. If you’re not savvy in marketing, outsourcing your marketing plan to a professional brings your business the benefit of her experience. Instead of floundering and flopping trying to find marketing opportunities yourself, you’ve now put your needs in the hands of someone who can help. Likely, the outcome is going to be much better.

Outsourcing allows you:

  • More time to focus on key elements of your business, like creating new products
  • Allows you to hand off dreaded tasks to professionals
  • Adds value to your business growth by way of another’s experience
  • To experience less stress over getting everything done

How to Outsource When Money is Tight

You might have the desire to outsource, but not the money. How can you find help with your budget is tight?

Don’t be afraid to look for people just starting out. Need help with your logo and business branding? Look for a graphic designer who has just opened her own studio; she may be willing to barter with you or accept payments on design work. Virtual Assistants (VAs) are versatile professionals who can perform a variety of business functions. Many charge on a per-job basis or flat hourly rate which may be easier to work into your budget. If money is super-tight, don’t be afraid to set away funds for outsourcing at a later time.

Also, consider outsourcing just one small task at a time, as it fits into your budget. If you’re able to free up a few hours a month by having someone help, you may be able to put money away for outsourcing bigger projects later on. Other ways to find the funds is to pump a little bit of money into your outsourcing fund from non-business earnings, such as from a full time job or occasional government tax breaks.

4 Steps to Outsourcing Slowly

  • Make a list of everything you do to run your business.

Everything including steps: From accounting, to tracking receipts to sorting materials to making your own coffee. Cross off the things that you really can’t outsource (like…making coffee and potty breaks), then circle in red the things you really hate to do or just plain suck at. Pick two things that you’ve circled in red.

  • Find out where you can get help

Let’s say accounting was one task you circled in red, and social networking is another. Where can you find someone to help with these tasks? Start by looking in your own business circles. Jump onto Twitter or Facebook and let your followers know you’re looking for a good social networking professional.

Or, search the web for Etsy-friendly social networking assistance. Ask family and friends for local accountant referrals. Once you’ve compiled a list of good leads, start calling, emailing or visiting websites to see who may be a good fit for you. Once you’ve found good help, keep a list with their phone number and email address handy for future reference. You never know when you’re going to need help fast.

  • Start with just one thing

Letting go of tasks—even ones you hate—can be hard for a small business owner. If you struggle with the thought of giving up responsibilities, remember you’re not giving up control, just time. Start by outsourcing one task to see how it works for you.

  • Give it time

Finding someone you trust to take over business tasks, training them to your satisfaction and monitoring their progress can take time. Remember to work closely with the person you’ve outsourced to and keep communication open. Once the task you’ve given up is replaced with more free time, you may begin to relax and enjoy this new arrangement—after all, that’s the point!

Outsourcing Success Stories

Sometimes, small outsourcing steps can make a big difference for an Etsy shop. Even freeing up a few hours a week or month can have a big impact. Some Etsy shops choose to only outsource when business is busy; others keep outsourcing going year-round or when a big project or two is on the horizon. The biggest perk to outsourcing your Etsy tasks is that you can easily pick and choose when it will be most beneficial to you.

GetThePartyStarted sells birthday party and shower banners—pieces that can be time consuming to create. To keep up with busy times of the year, banner assembly and shipping is outsourced so orders can ship quickly.

GracieJewellery outsources packaging assembly by having boxes stamped with her business name and prepared for shipping. Both shops outsource shipping help by having an assistant prepare packages and make mail runs—freeing up time for the shop owners to keep on creating!

In May, 2011, Etsy shop, ElizabethAO quickly became overwhelmed with wedding orders and the owner Elizabeth knew she needed help to keep things running smoothly…for sanity’s sake. She outsourced packaging assistance to a friend who was out of work. Simply having her packaging materials cut, assembled, fitted with business labels and ready-to-go gave Elizabeth 4 hours a week extra to work on getting designs out the door. She also outsources accounting and inventory statements to a contracted accountant monthly and graphic design and contract creation for wholesale and retail accounts when needed.

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