Aside from being a small business enthusiast and marketing nerd, I am a DIYer to the core. I love getting my hands into anything and everything creative, and when that anything/everything is something that brings in extra cash, well, that’s a serious perk.
I live in the south, and we like everything personalized…that’s just how it is. I can’t say that I’ve ever been on a bachelorette weekend without receiving something with my initials on it – and I’m not mad about it.
Greenville, NC (my hometown) has GOT to be the monogram capital of the free world…seriously. Everyone has EVERYTHING monogrammed: their car, their shoes, their sweatshirts, their regular shirts, their cups, their earrings, their shower curtain, their dog’s bed (no, really). The market there is pretty saturated with adorable gift shops…and pretty much all of them offer monogramming, which tells you it’s a hot commodity, for sure.
By the Way: I only recommend products I would (and do) use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links from which I may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.
When I moved to Charlotte, I realized that there wasn’t a single gift store that offered vinyl monograms within thirty miles of my house – not kidding. Of course, there were plenty of shops on Etsy who were selling monogrammed everything, but for those of us who are more into instant gratification and/or wait until the very last minute to purchase gifts, there was a gap in the market. *light bulb*
So I invested the 300 some dollars (this was a big deal at the time because we were newly married and super broke), bought myself a Silhouette vinyl cutting machine decided to start up my own little vinyl biz, and woah, did it pay off.
Seriously – a thousand dollars selling 3″ stickers that take me .2 seconds to cut out. Now, I know that $1,000 is actually more like $13.75 in the adult world…but when you’re selling vinyls for only four or five dollars a piece, that is A LOT of product movement. I could barely keep up with my orders because I was also still working a full time job.
I’ve had plenty of side-gigs in my life. Babysitting, pet-sitting, painting cornhole boards, sewing, re-upholstering furniture and countless other endeavors to make extra money. But my vinyl business was by far the most successful of them all. Why, you ask?
The simple explanation is I treated it like an actual business…and marketed it like one. That’s it. I took a few extremely simple steps to grow my business from nothing…and it paid off.
Side note: if you’re ready to treat your business like an actual business and build a strong foundation for your marketing, check out my FREE 5-Day Marketing Kickstart!
How I Make $1,000 a Month Cutting Vinyls
1. I researched my equipment: I truly believe the start to my side-business success was finding the right piece of equipment for me. I spent days reading reviews, watching videos and looking at photos online before making my decision. I decided on the Silhouette Cameo for several reasons, the main ones being it seemed easy to use and it was at a price point I was comfortable with. My initial investment was around $300.00 – that included the machine itself (it was a starter bundle) and vinyl to get me started.
It took me no time to learn how to use the Cameo. It’s extremely easy to work with and I was selling vinyls within a week!
2. I made business cards: I know. Seems a little serious for a new hobby, Eden. But listen and believe when I say that these little $10 business cards helped me grow my business by leaps and bounds. Every time somebody came to pick up a vinyl, or if I went to deliver an order, I always handed that customer a business card (or five). Presentation and branding ARE important and people appreciate the small details. It made me look (and FEEL) less like a hobbyist and more like a legitimate business owner, which is one of the keys to going from hobby to actual business.
I ordered these through Vistaprint and I really think I spent around $10…they are always running promotions for business cards – sometimes you can even get them for free! Pay attention when you hear a radio ad or see a TV commercial – listen for promo codes.
And let me say this, when it comes to branding and presentation, it doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. Whether it’s babysitting, landscaping, washing cars or selling seashells, you need business cards. How often do you get asked “So, what do you do?” Perfect opportunity to hand over a business card with your contact information on it.
3. I packaged my products: This is another thing that seems a bit excessive, but like I said before…branding, people! I invested in some inexpensive, self-seal baggies that I put all of my customers’ vinyls into (along with a business card and a note with their name and their total). Or, if somebody purchased a wine glass or an ornament from me, I put those things into a simple paper bag, folded the bag over to make a clean edge and stapled their receipt and my business card to it. If I was shipping something in a box, I would wrap up the item and stick a custom label with my business name and logo on it.This was just one other tiny detail that made my little hobby seem like a real business. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re selling products or services, you are branding your business with every detail. So if you’re sloppy and unorganized, that is going to translate to your customers. If your presentation is polished, that too will reflect on your business.
4. I established pricing: This was one of the very first things I did. I did tons of research to find out how much other shops were selling their product for, and then I priced myself a little bit higher. Why? Because from the beginning, I intended to set myself apart – to offer better customer service and better products. Sure, there are probably people who wanted to save a dollar and continued to order vinyls online, but I developed an awesome customer base with tons of repeat business, so I believe my pricing was appropriate.
The big thing with pricing is consistency. At first, I had no idea what to charge and no idea how many products I would have. I started by making a list (just on a scrap piece of paper, nothing fancy) and every time I added a new product, I would write down the pricing. Of course, the things I sold frequently like 3-letter monograms, I had the pricing memorized. But every once in awhile, I would receive a custom order request and would have to come up with pricing. When this happened, I would write down exactly what that customer ordered and what I charged them so I could reference that pricing in the future if another customer were to ask for something similar. The last thing you want is one customer to tell another customer that she bought this awesome thing from you and it cost X amount of dollars, and then you give a different price because you can’t remember what you charged before. Be organized! Take the time to write down these things and keep your pricing consistent.
An extremely important thing to consider when pricing your products/services is your time. How much money do you want to make per month from your business? How many days a month and hours a day do you want to spend working on your business? You get where I’m going with this. It can be pretty simple to price your products/services once you have a goal in mind for how much money you’d like to make per month from your business. The last thing you want to do is price your products/services too low and end up never sleeping again because you have to sell twice as much to meet your goals. If it’s something you can make fairly quickly (like vinyls, for instance) you can charge a little less. If it’s something extremely intricate and time consuming, you need to take your time into account and price accordingly. Don’t be afraid to charge what your time is worth! The customers who see value in your product won’t have a problem paying what you’re asking for.
5. I wrote down customer orders: In the beginning, I had maybe one or two orders a week. I could easily remember who ordered what, when I told them I’d have it ready, and their contact information. But as my business picked up, record keeping became crucially important. The last thing you want when starting a new business is to forget an order, so take the time to write everything down! I created an extremely simple order sheet that I printed each month and used to record customer orders, and I would also use this sheet to keep up with how much revenue I was generating each month. Need a order tracking sheet to get you started? Head over to the Free Resource Library and snag a downloadable copy of mine! Depending on your business, you may want to eventually create your own that is specific to your products/services, but this basic template could be helpful for now.
At the bottom of the Customer Order Tracker, there is a spot to jot down your goals for the upcoming month. This may seem cheesy, but it’s proven that writing down your goals helps you to be accountable and more likely to accomplish them. No goal is too big or too small! Write it down and make it happen.
6. I participated in vendor events: Admittedly, I’m a pretty big homebody. And even though I’m extremely outgoing, I love being antisocial on the weekends. So this was a bit of a challenge for me, but it definitely paid off. When I was invited to participate in vendor events/craft fairs, I did! Most of these were simple little events at schools or convention centers – ya know the type…you pay $20 to rent a table, set up all your stuff and people come to shop.
I’ll be honest, I never made a ton of money at any of these events. Maybe two to three-hundred dollars on a good day – keep in mind, the most expensive thing I was selling was $10 so it’s not too terrible when you look at it that way, but not really anything to write home about.
The value in participating in these events is the exposure. Like any business, people need to know about you if you want to make it. Having hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of people see your products and learn about your business in a single day is HUGE! At one event I met a lady who owns a boutique who ended up ordering hundreds of dollars worth of product from me for her store. I probably would have never come in contact with her if I wouldn’t have agreed to participate in that vendor fair – so the $25 I spent to rent a table and the four hours I spent standing there making small talk were completely worth it.
7. I found the best way (for me) to advertise: I tried the Etsy thing for a while…I really tried giving it a good go, but ultimately I didn’t stick with it long enough for it to really pay off for me. There is SO much competition on Esty for vinyls, and the shops with more purchase history and more reviews are typically going to outshine someone new, so I began looking for other places to strategically market my products.
I lived in a huge neighborhood at the time (around 600 houses) with all ages of people. There is an app called Nextdoor, which is basically like a social media platform but only for people who live in your neighborhood or in surrounding neighborhoods (this depends on how your Nextdoor is set up…mine pulled from about twenty neighborhoods nearby). Mostly people use it to complain about people parking in front of their mailbox or dogs pooping in their yard (if you live in a neighborhood you probably just said “YUP!”), but I used it to HUSTLE, friends.
About 98% of my income from cutting vinyls came from local sales that I PAID NOTHING TO GET. I would post a grouping of products on Nextdoor with some general info and the orders would start flooding in. It really was that easy. I created seasonal products (Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day) that were always sure to appeal to people looking for gifts or decor.
Another huge perk to selling to people living nearby is that you rarely have to pay anything (or charge your customers) for shipping, because people can come by and get their orders. Or if you really want to step it up a notch, offer to drop it by their house!
The word of mouth from my neighbors was insane. I ended up selling vinyls to people living in New York, Chicago, Florida, Delaware and all kinds of places because people in my neighborhood knew somebody who knew somebody that NEEDED a monogram. Exposure, exposure, exposure!
Of course, there are other ways to advertise and sell products. Facebook/Instagram ads, Etsy, online yard sales, etc. I really didn’t utilize anything other than Nextdoor because I could hardly keep up with the workload from those sales. But if I ever decided to further expand my vinyl business, those would be my top priorities.
Side note: if you’re ready to build a strong foundation for marketing your small business, check out my FREE 5-Day Marketing Kickstart!
8. I searched for the best prices on my supplies: After the initial investment of buying my vinyl machine, the only things I really needed were vinyl and packaging supplies. The first few times I restocked my supplies, I did a Google search and bought whatever popped up that fit my needs. Being lazy is a horrible characteristic when you’re trying to get your business off the ground…fact. Remember when I mentioned how impatient I am? I have always been the type who will pay extra for added convenience, so this was tough for me, but I forced myself to sit down and research the best sources for my supplies based on pricing and availability. Part of making money is saving the money that you make…and I was thrilled to find my supplies for almost half as much as the first go-around. Every few months I would search for more competitive pricing, just to make sure I was always being as smart as possible with the money I was making.
Another tip! Don’t just write down the money you’re making, also write down the money you’re spending. This will give you a much more accurate idea of your revenue for each month. I made a habit of writing down what I bought as soon as I purchased it. I use an extremely simple tracker log that is almost just like my orders log, and there is a space at the bottom to jot down things that I’m running low on so I’ll know to order those items next time I’m purchasing supplies. The Money Spending Tracker log can also be found in my Free Resource Library!
9. I didn’t waste supplies: Speaking of supplies, an easy way to save money/make more money from the supplies you have is to NOT WASTE! It doesn’t matter what your business is or what your supplies are. Find ways to use every last bit of your materials whether it is vinyl, fabric, fertilizer, boxes, paper, etc. I started a “scrap bag” of vinyl scraps because I started feeling guilty for throwing away so much vinyl (little scrap pieces can add up to a lot!) and I was so surprised at how often I dug into my scrap bag and was able to use the leftover pieces for other orders. For instance, I had a lady order twenty, one-inch decals to go on phone charger boxes (adorable stocking stuffer idea!). She wanted all different colors and let me tell you, it would have torn up my nerves to have to cut a one inch square off of almost all of my vinyl sheets. I was able to use all scraps to complete this order that would have been thrown away had I not decided to hoard them, instead. It seems silly, but money saved is money made!
10. I catered to my customers: I worked retail for five years, so listen and believe when I say that the customer is NOT always right. But, the customer is who basically pays your bills when you own a small business, so it’s important to aim to please. These are SUCH simple things that speak volumes to customers:
How I Make $1,000 a Month Cutting Vinyls: The Recap
1. Research your equipment. Don’t make hasty decisions. Take the time to look into what you’re purchasing and make sure it’s the best decision for your business.
2. BRAND yourself by purchasing simple business cards. Never underestimate the power of an old-school business card. They’re inexpensive and easy to make – get some!
3. Package your products. If you are selling tangible products, they should be in some type of packaging that matches your brand. If you are selling services, consider getting folders with your name and logo to put invoices/other paperwork in.
4. Establish pricing. This is a basic step that is extremely important. Figure out your pricing and stick to it. Make sure you are taking your time into account when coming up with pricing.
5. Write down customer orders. The worst thing you can do is forget an order or deliver the wrong product/service. Create a simple template or use mine!
6. Participate in local events. Don’t waste an opportunity to get your name out there! If you are invited to participate in a local event, even if it’s just setting up a table and handing out your business cards, go!
7. Advertise your business. Find the avenue where you’re most likely to reach your target customer and focus your advertising efforts there. If your business is still new, consider free advertising on social media or other online sites.
8. Spend time finding the best pricing on your supplies. Think about the things that you know you’re going to need and spend some time finding dependable sources and good pricing. Don’t just buy the first thing you find because you’re in a pinch.
9. Don’t waste supplies. Regardless of the industry you’re in, save money by saving your supplies!
10. Cater to your customers. The customer may not always be right, but you can put in the extra effort to keep them coming back.
P.S. – The order trackers I talk about in this blog post, as well as many other marketing resources for small business owners can be found in my Free Resource Library!