Are you a creative business owner? Have you ever wondered if you can actually make money while still having fun and being creative? Sarah Watts from Craft with Sarah did and she’s here to share with us how she used Facebook ads to jumpstart her creative business.
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Sarah has been crafting and making cards since she was a teenager. She started looking online for creative inspiration which is where she discovered forums filled with other card makers sharing their creations. Before long she was sharing her own unique designs she had created for a particular style of card.
Sarah had been taking a web design class at school and decided that making a website of her own digital designs was the best way to share them while also practicing her web design skills at the same time. After a couple of years, she had moved away from actively posting on her website until she got to college and was trying to think of a way to make a little extra money without having to get a job. She started a new blog with the idea that it could eventually be used to offer a course on how to use photoshop.
Sarah found herself trapped in the cycle that a lot of bloggers are in. She was spending all of her time creating new freebies for her audience and never actually made any money from the blog. She was reading articles on Pinterest about bloggers making thousands of dollars every month but she couldn’t figure out how to crack the code and was actually losing money on her blog.
She wasn’t ready to give up though and applied to the Facebook Ads Intensive but wasn’t accepted. There was more to be done before she could be successful in the intensive.
Last Christmas, Sarah’s family gifted her a Cricut cutting machine. This gift changed everything. Instead of focusing on general card making, which is a very saturated niche, she switched to making designs for the Cricut.
“That was kind of my turning point because I shifted my focus from general card making, which is quite a difficult niche, I think because a lot of people don't really want to spend any money on a casual hobby. Whereas with the Cricut audience, it's people that have already invested hundreds of dollars in a machine so they're more likely to spend a little bit on patterns to use with the machine or on instructions of how to use the machine. So once I started talking to that audience and having that shift, things just kind of started snowballing. I started picking up more pageviews and having ideas for new products. That's kind of when I thought right, that is what I should be going forward with. It's taken me like years and years to get here. But I found it.”
Sarah’s first new product design was a layered card design.
“A couple of months after I got my Cricut, there was a new kind of thing which became really popular- making layered card designs. So it's layers of card that you stick together to make a 3D design.
“I saw everyone posting these online and thought that I could design those so I gave it a go and I made an alphabet. I did every single letter which took a very long time. But then I stuck them up on Etsy as a ‘let's see if they'll sell’ kind of thing. And they did, which was exciting.
“That was what encouraged me to keep going with this and also to apply to your intensive for a second time. I had had my Etsy shop for maybe a month at that point but you looked at the sales and saw the potential there. So on the second time I applied, I got in.”
Etsy is a great starting point and testing ground for products because you don't have to invest in that Shopify site and everything else. A note though – if you are a student in my ads intensive, you will have to set up your own shopping platform with the Facebook pixel installed. But when you are just starting out and wanting to do what Sarah did, proving her product idea and proving that it can sell, Etsy is such a great place to do that.
Seeing the Success of Others Inspired Sarah to Pivot
Though she had a little hesitation about making the switch from general card-making to Cricut cutting machine designs after spending so many years trying to grow her business, she knew it would be worth it to change course.
“I've spent all these years doing this and now I'm basically starting again, because, although my new focus is still craft-related, my email list was full of people that don't necessarily have a Cricut machine. So now I'm talking to different people and that is basically kind of starting again, from that point of view.
“There are quite a few people in the Cricut niche that do amazingly well and so I was familiar with some of these people. Knowing their stories was a way to see that there's a lot of potential here. And you know, I'm a bit stubborn. So if I see someone else's done it and made it work, I’m going to try it myself.”
I think too many newer business owners think that if somebody else doing what they want to do that means the niche is taken and they’re going to have to think of a new idea. That’s not true. Sarah’s mindset about this is right. If someone else is doing really, really well in the niche, that means there's money to be had in that niche. Be encouraged if other people are seeing amazing success in your niche because there is no limit to creativity and there's no limit to finding that little hole within that current niche that you can fill. We're not talking about just copying what other people are doing. We're saying you can go and create your own unique aesthetic and products and fill your own little space within that world.
Make Sure Your Freebie Relates to Your Product
“My tripwire was the whole alphabet, A to Zed. The freebie was an ampersand because I think that's kind of something that can stand alone and it will be relevant to everyone. I didn't want to just put up one random letter because then if I put an S and your name doesn't begin with S, you're not going to want it.”
I love that Sarah’s freebie is basically a teeny tiny sample of the full product. Because I think people way too often have a big disconnect between their freebie and tripwire. That's the one big mistake I see where you're drawing in the wrong people who wanted that freebie, and now they don't care about your product and buying that. The other big mistake I see people make is they give away too much of a sample of their product.
Sometimes It’s Better to Lower the Price
When Sarah first started running her freebie to tripwire offer, she wasn’t seeing a lot of sales. A lot of business gurus will tell you that higher prices are better but zero percent of a higher price is still zero.
“When it launched I think I went about 10 days and didn't get a sale. I was pretty confident with the ad creative, the picture, and the words since the ads mentors had helped me quite a lot with the wording. I was targeting my specific audience- people that are interested in Cricut which is about as right as I was going to get it so I figured maybe it's the price. I dropped it from 27 to 17 and just a few hours later, I got my first sale and they kept coming. So it was just that $10 difference that made it work.”
Of course, we never want to discount our products or services just for the sake of a discount but at the same time, we're going after ice-cold traffic and people that have never heard of us before. There's a ton of competition out there and they have so many choices for what they want to buy. So you had better offer them something really juicy and it better be the right fit. And so sometimes lowering the price actually helps you make more money in the long run.
Once Sarah lowered the price and started making sales, she made up for the money lost initially and ended up with about a 2.5 ROAS. The ads ran profitably for about three months until they started to peter out and she turned them off.
And remember, when it comes to Facebook ads, it’s not just about the sales you’re making in real time. It’s also about getting more of the right people on your list for the future!
“So I was running that ad from July to September and for those three months, I got over 1,500 leads, which was a lot. Before the ads I only had about maybe 4,000 – 5,000 total names on my list after five years of blogging. To get that many new leads in a couple of months was amazing!”
The upfront stuff is great, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Ads can really help someone kick off their business. Sarah had this new amazing product that was selling on Etsy. Then she took it to Facebook ads where she was able to make sales and grab those targeted leads. Now she has this foundation to work with. She has the right leads on her list and she’s been running purchase optimization campaigns to make sure that they're more likely to be buyers. And now she’s got a base of a business that she can build new products on to and has this audience that's already interested in what she has to offer.
Building Her Business With Her New Audience
Sarah didn’t stop at the freebie-to-tripwire offer. People had been asking her how to make their own designs so she decided to build a small course.
“My course is how to design layer designs within the Cricut design space software and I pre-launched it to my email list just a week before. I just decided I'm going to do it, I'm going to say I'll be out in a week. I’m just going to email them and say ‘I'm making this. Would you like to buy it?’ and I sold it at a discount to my email list. I sold about 85 in that week which was only possible because of all of those freebie-to-tripwire leads that I had on my email list now. The Cricut audience really isn’t that big. But because I've been targeting those people, and a fair bunch of them had already bought something, there was that trust. And that really helped to get those pre-launch results.”
Are you paying attention? Sarah hadn’t even built the course yet when she started to sell it with a pre-launch. She chose a reasonable time frame to get it all done and then she just went for it. She wasn’t letting anything hold her back!
Anyone who has worked with me knows that I ask my students to create pretty long, drawn-out, detailed sales pages. But I love watching some of my students do really simple pages to test them out. Sometimes they work, especially for smaller products with a lower price point.
“Before I emailed my list about the course, I planned out the 10 different types of projects I wanted to make. And then I actually opened the software and made them just to be sure that I really could do it which went fine. Doing that also meant that I had some pictures to include in emails and the sales page.
“Once I sent out the email and started getting sales, I knew I had to start making the course. It wasn’t anything fancy or complicated – just screen-recording from within the Cricut Design Space software, talking through as I’m doing everything what I’m doing and why. Then some quick edits of mistakes, highlighting buttons on the screen, and then I just made a Teachable account, made a course, and just put the videos up, and done.”
I love this. In one week Sarah had a video course done, recorded, edited, and put it into Teachable. So anybody out there who has been putting off their course- you can do this. If you have that idea, go for it. Do it. Obviously, not every course is going to be this simple but don't make it more complicated than has to be.
Sarah Grew Her Creative Business From $100 Per Month to a Five-Figure Month in Less Than a Year
At the beginning of the year, Sarah was making a couple hundred dollars a month. She went from that at the start of 2020 to her first $10,000 month in November selling all design files and courses and creative things.
Newsflash, you do not have to be in the B2B space to do well online.
So how did she do so well in November? What was she selling?
“I had done some dog patterns the month before and they've been really popular. I had loads of requests for different breeds. So I just made a bunch more. I did a few little pre-launch engagement ads saying that new dog breeds are coming soon and asking which ones they would want to see. That got quite a lot of comments because I think people just like talking about their dogs. Out of everything I've done, the dogs are the most popular and get the most engagement and people share pictures of their dogs and it's just something that gets people talking.
“So I launched it to my email list with a 20% off for a week or two. I ran the Facebook ads also for those two weeks but then I had to stop them because they mentioned the discount in the ad copy. That did really well and I got like £3,000 from that. The individual patterns are only $4 each with the discount and I also had a bundle with all of the designs.
“It was a direct-to-sales-page ad and I couldn’t decide if I should send them directly to the bundle or to the category page. If they only bought one pattern, then that would only be a $4 sale. I found though that actually most people buy more than one and about a third of people bought the bundles. So I think by driving it to the category page I got more sales than if I'd just shown them the more expensive bundle product and nothing else. I did list the bundle first in the category though so they would know it was available.”
Sarah also offered a special Black Friday product which increased her November sales numbers.
“That was a three-tiered offer and clubhouse which is on Teachable. So it's on a course platform but it's more of a collection of designs than anything else really, plus videos and extra tutorials that they can't get for free on my blog.
“The top tier, the $97 one, includes access to a course that I haven't even started yet. I just said you'll get free access to this course which is coming in March. I was really worried that no one would spend even the middle tier of $67 and that they're only going to buy the cheapest one. I bought a Black Friday email course from Kate Doster because I’m terrible at sales emails. The pack includes a series of emails that build up throughout the month leading up to Black Friday. Within about five minutes of sending my launch email, I had my first sale, and it was for the highest tier. So exciting!
“I ended up with about an equal breakdown of sales between all three levels rather than all the lowest tier as I had expected. I tried to run Facebook ads for the launch but the CPM was way too high because of Black Friday and I wasn’t getting any sales so I turned them off right away and did the launch just through email. It ended up being a pretty successful launch.”
“I feel like after so many years that I've finally kind of found my way. And I really think that's all due to the ads intensive. You lay out the steps and the path to take. But you don’t just tell us what to do, you also teach us why we’re doing it. Learning the reasons why helps keep you going when things come up. After the class, you know what you’re doing and how to make any adjustments.”
I don’t want my students to be robots, always dependent on me for the answers. I want you to truly understand how it all works so that you can adapt it to your own business and troubleshoot any issues as they come along.
I loved hearing about Sarah’s journey and seeing how she’s grown. She has a full-fledged business now. She has a customer list full of people who love using their Cricut and learning from her and using her design files.
This is really just the beginning for Sarah. I can't even get over how many products and offers and things she’s created in just less than a year. She’s such a great example to other women out there who want to use their creativity to actually make money online.