On today’s episode we welcome Sarah Gilcher of the very successful Etsy shop, Perennial Planner.
Sarah lives in Washington State with her husband and three daughters. She creates printable organizational tools and planners and actually took our ideas and inspiration and brought them to life with her work on the Brilliant Business Planner! Sarah has been such a wonderful part of our Brilliant Business Moms community since it first began. She's kind, brilliant, and crazy talented!
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to hear Sarah's Story
On the Podcast
01:28 – Sarah's Top Priorities
03:17 – Sarah's Start on Etsy
05:37 – Self-Taught Designer
07:31 – Finding her Niche
11:34 – 3,000 Sales in 1 Year's Work!
13:31 – How to Make a PDF Editable
15:41 – Building a Lifestyle Business
17:18 – How Sarah's Business Helps her Family
18:56 – Two Streams of Income
27:15 – To Blog or not to Blog?
31:44 – 3 Kids + a Successful Shop: How She Does It
36:50 – The Power of Video for Business
41:56 – Sarah's Terrifying Mom Moment!
Sarah's Top Priorities
Sarah is a stay at home mom to three little girls who are 6, 4, and 13 months old. Her husband is a pastor
and spends a lot of time learning new languages and training new pastors. Sarah's main priorities are as a wife, mom, and helper in so many ways to her husband. She helps with his ministry, and she also has the privilege of helping to bring in an extra income for their family.
Sarah's Start on Etsy
Sarah’s journey with Etsy began when she was searching for a specific printable grocery list. When she couldn't find exactly what she wanted, she decided to open up Adobe Illustrator and create one herself! Sarah
then realized that she could make her printable cute and share it with other moms who may be looking for the same thing.
Sarah was excited about helping women with organizational tools that were attractive
and that moms would actually want to use. Another early item in Sarah's shop was a spreadsheet she and her family had used to get themselves out of debt. Clearly, Sarah's organizational sheets were helpful! All she did was make them prettier, and they were ready for Etsy success.
Sarah has a degree in Fine Art, but she's a self-taught graphic designer. In doing projects for her church,
friends, and for herself, Sarah slowly learned programs like Adobe Illustrator and In Design over the course of several years. Now she can create beautiful printables and planners like it's nothing! (Seriously – Sarah works fast!)
Finding Her Niche
Business was very slow when Sarah was started out with her printables Etsy shop. Since she was pregnant
with her 3rd baby, Sarah became interested in the idea of sewing and selling baby products in a brand new shop. She knew that baby products were a wildly successful niche on Etsy and wanted a piece of that pie. Through this process of trying to build up her second Etsy shop, Sarah spent a lot of time learning how to grow her store.
She listened to podcasts like Brilliant Business Moms and took the advice of other successful Etsy sellers. Sarah then applied the lessons she learned to both Etsy shops and found that her original printable store was seeing lots of growth.
Since product creation is so much more time consuming than selling digital products, and since her digital store was seeing more growth, Sarah ditched the baby shop and focused on her original idea. She rebranded the shop and officially become Perennial Planner. After about a year of focused work, Sarah's shop has surpassed 3000 sales!
3,000 Sales in 1 Year's Work
Sarah has attributed a lot of her success to listening to the Brilliant Business Moms podcast! (aww shucks, thanks Sarah!) She found that listening to stories of other successful business owners has been a huge help for her.
Once Sarah started seeing her Etsy shop as a real business, success followed. Sarah shared two great tips that helped her to grow:
- Focus on keywords, titles, and tags for each listing to get found more often via Etsy search.
- Brand product photos so that your online shop looks more cohesive. This gives the customer a similar feeling as if they were stepping inside a physical shop. Set the right tone for your customers.
How to Make a PDF Editable
A lot of Sarah’s printables are actually editable forms so customers can use them right on their computers.
To Make a PDF Editable:
- Use Adobe Acrobat Pro (this is a part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Subscription).
- Find “tools” on the top menu.
- Select “Forms”, then “Edit”, and “Add New Fields”. This will allow you to create editable fields for your customers built right into your digital products.
- Note: you cannot copy and paste your fields throughout the document to add more than one editable filed. Instead, select “Create Multiple Copies” to speed up the process.
- You will also be able to give fields multiple lines and make them rich text enabled so customers can change the size and fonts of the text.
How cool is that?!
Building a Lifestyle Business
Sarah's top priority is her family and her faith. She knew she needed a flexible schedule, and she quickly realized that she didn't want to create and ship physical products day after day.
Creating beautiful and helpful digital products has been the perfect solution for Sarah. The best part? She can create a product once and sell it over and over again… even while she sleeps!
How Sarah's Business Helps her Family
Perennial Planner has provided Sarah’s family with more financial freedom. Since she has little to no overhead she is able to bring home more profits, and that money has helped cover the “extras” for her family. Sarah and her family live a Dave Ramsey lifestyle with no debt. Although her husband provides the primary income, her Etsy shop has worked to cover extra expenses and provide more security.
Occasionally Sarah does struggle with the idea that she is bringing in extra money and struggles with the mentality, “oh the business will cover that!” versus remembering to be intentional with how she spends and what the family's big goals are.
Two Income Streams
Sarah loves doing whatever she can to help busy moms by providing them with the organizational tools they need. Often customers’ needs are slightly different from her product so she offers customization. This is hard to balance with the overall business because custom work in any business can be very time consuming. Sarah counters this struggle with requiring a minimum amount for custom products so that each order is worth the time she puts in.
On top of doing custom orders for her Etsy shop, Sarah enjoys taking on freelance projects. This provides another great stream of income for her business, and it keeps her income balanced and weatherproof during a slow season on Etsy.
In the past, Sarah has done work for local businesses but lately she is getting more referrals from her shop and past customers.
One of Sarah’s biggest freelance jobs so far has been designing the Brilliant Business Planner! She landed this job by seeing a need for her service and reaching out to Sarah and Beth Anne. This is a great lesson for any entrepreneur — it never hurts to ask. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no, but on the flip side you could land a great job and a great partnership!
Sarah really enjoys these larger projects and they work out well to balance out the times when her Etsy shop slows down during the year. (We've certainly loved working with Sarah and hope to keep her busy for years to come!)
To Blog or Not to Blog?
As with many other Etsy sellers Sarah has struggled with blogging to promote her shop. Blogging takes time and commitment, and it's often too much to add on to an already busy shop!
Recently, Sarah did a post on how to print her products double sided. She plans to focus more on helpful, instructional type videos that will serve her current customers. She can link to these videos within the listing descriptions in her shop.
Videos are a great tool for serving current customers better as well as gaining trust and credibility with new shoppers. Sarah and Beth Anne created a video about how to build a butterfly terrarium and that video has sold more products as well as ranked well on Google for some competitive keyword phrases in their niche! (And isn't Sarah's little girl Lilly adorable?)
Your videos don’t have to be perfect or even posted on your own website, just get them posted to your YouTube channel and out in front of an audience!
3 Kids + a Successful Shop: How She Does It
Building a successful business can take a bit time commitment, but Sarah proves that you can do it with just a few hours a week. Sarah only works 10-15 hours each week and balances this time between afternoons (during naptime) and nights (if her husband is working).
A great tip Sarah shared was to encourage independence in smaller children so they can be playing alone and entertained at least for a short time while you do some work. Sarah has been able to achieve her goal of making a part-time income on her own terms with lots of flexibility. Although she tries to continually create new products, she knows that her business was built to allow for flexibility and put her family first. So Sarah doesn't stress if she can't add new products for a while. Her business works for her – not the other way around!
Sometimes when you're working as your own boss it's easy to set crazy deadlines or hours for yourself without realizing it. Step back, know your limits and ask yourself if you and your family are thriving. It can take a long time to learn how you work best but it is so important so you can set up your time and your business for success.
The Power of Video for Business
Many online business owners don't realize how powerful video can be for their business. Not only does it let you connect with your audience on a deeper level and teach things that are difficult to convey with words on a screen, but video also makes it easier to rank in Google (as well as get found on YouTube of course!)
The video that Sarah and Beth Anne created on how to build a butterfly terrarium has 967 views! This video has had zero promotion and only one “dead link” included in the listing descriptions in their Etsy shop.
Another surprising video result: Beth Anne found a tutorial video she created for her and Sarah's now-defunct Mommy blog on making cappuccinos at home with a frother. That video has almost 5,000 views on it! Again, this video wasn't promoted in any way, it just sits on their Mommy blog which gets about 10-20 hits per day… so it's essentially dead. The video is getting viewed because it's ranking for keyword phrases on Google and YouTube.
These statistics just show how powerful video can be. You could use video views to send people to an Etsy shop or blog. How can you use video to drive more traffic and sales your way?
If you're nervous about starting out on video, Meredith Marsh, the VidProMom has you covered with these great tips for newbies.
Sarah's Terrifying Mom Moment!
Sarah's mom moment is both funny and terrifying!! You'll have to tune in to hear the story!
Find Sarah Online!
Watch Sarah's adorable little girls in our planner landing page video! (They're the ones talking about Pinterest strategy!)