Q&A: Writer Kimberly Palmer on Selling via Etsy

November 28, 2011 · 6 comments

I’m always fascinated to hear how young professionals manage to succeed with a side hustle. Working on a project or even growing a business on the side of your day job is not only becoming more popular, it’s also a fabulous way to move toward your professional goals.

Kimberly Palmer

That’s why I wanted to chat with Kimberly Palmer, an editor at U.S. News & World Report who recently launched a new line of financial planners — so we could learn about how she juggles her 9-to-5, being a mom and her newest side project. Kim also wrote a book called Generation Earn: The Young Professional’s Guide to Spending, Investing and Giving Back.

Welcome, Kim! So tell us: how do you juggle Palmer’s Planners with your day job?

I wouldn’t even consider my full-time job, which is as a personal finance reporter and editor at U.S. News & World Report, a “day job” — it is my real passion. It’s certainly not something I need to “get through” to focus on other things. I love it, and it’s where the vast majority of my working energy goes.

So I just squeeze in Palmer’s Planners wherever I can, which is at night, after my daughter goes to bed, and on the weekends. In many ways, Palmer’s Planners is more like a fun hobby right now, which I hope to grow in the future.

You’re also a mom; how do you juggle that?

I have a two-year-old daughter, and I dedicate the weekends to her, plus, of course, mornings and evenings during the week. But I do have weekend nap time to get work done… that is my time and my husband knows to leave me alone with my computer while she’s asleep.

It’s amazing how much you can get done when you really have to squish four or five hours of work into two hours. Knowing that she could wake up at any moment and work time would be over also acts as a big motivator; it’s almost better than coffee for getting me to work fast.

Why did you decide to use Etsy to sell your planners instead of your own website?

I’ve always loved Etsy; I love the whole notion of people working on small businesses out of their homes and pursuing their artistic dreams. I’ve bought clothes, jewelry, and art on Etsy, and I’m never disappointed. I always dreamed of joining the community, but I never thought I could, since I’m not an artist.

Then I discovered that people sell organizational tools and e-books on Etsy, too, related to getting organized and with a heavy design emphasis. So I thought, “Hey, I could do that, too!” I had a big brainstorm one day and came up with the concept for Palmer’s Planners, along with the name.

Because I don’t have a ton of time to dedicate to this idea, though, I wanted to keep things simple, and selling through Etsy does that for me. You pay minimal fees and get to use an easy interface with clean designs to create your shop. I worked with an amazing illustrator to create the covers for my planners, and then all I had to do was focus on designing the planners themselves. Because I live and breathe the world of personal finance, that part was not so difficult, and part of my ideas, especially for the Money Planner, are based on my book, Generation Earn. It’s almost like a workbook to accompany the book.

From a business perspective, there are some downsides to using Etsy, but they don’t really concern me yet. The main one is the lack of control you have. Since you are directing people to the Etsy site and not your own website, you are potentially losing out on the potential to build your own brand. But since I’m just at the beginning stages of this, that doesn’t really bother me right now. The ease of using Etsy far outweighs those concerns.

How does selling your own planners on Etsy compare to your experience with traditional publishing?

Well, I love traditional publishing and had a great experience with my book, Generation Earn, at Ten Speed Press. If I ever want to write a book, I would probably prefer to go through traditional publishing, for the support that you get. But with my planners, I didn’t want to write a book, I wanted to create an organization tool. So it wasn’t really the kind of thing that made sense to take to a publishing house.

What’s your long-term plan with the planners?

I feel like I’m just experimenting right now to explore this whole world of selling something. It’s totally new to me. If people like them and buy them, then I would love to create more — I have a huge list of planners I would like to design! So in my dreams, Palmer’s Planners would become a huge hit and eventually you’ll see them sold in stores like Paper Source and the Container Store.

What about financially — are you making money with them?

No, right now my planners are definitely more of a hobby than anything that could support me financially. I spent money to have the covers designed and create the printed versions of the Money Planner and the Baby Planner, and I’m nowhere close to recouping those costs yet. But I think I’ll have minimal costs going forward, so if I can sell a few dozen planners, I will at least break even. I definitely get a big rush each time I make a sale!

Do you do anything else to build your income?

Having a full-time job plus being mom definitely limits the amount of “extra” stuff I can pursue, but one thing I love doing and am trying to do more of is speaking.

I’ve started giving workshops, especially to groups of young women or young professionals in their 20s, on the basics of money management, based on the ideas in my book, Generation Earn. I love doing that, and eventually that could be something that brings in money.

Thanks, Kim!

Anyone else use Etsy? What have you found to be the benefits and drawbacks?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

C. Hope Clark November 28, 2011 at 10:15 am

Wow, Etsy as a way to earn a living as a writer. Seriously good idea!

Hope Clark
FundsforWriters.com

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Michelle Mach November 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

Great post! I also use Etsy as a writer, but in a different way: I put some of my original words on magnets, which I sell. (One of my most popular is a list of things that writers fear!) I also use books to inspire much of my jewelry. Regardless of what you sell, having good writing skills is a definite advantage on Etsy or any online venue.

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Alexis Grant November 28, 2011 at 10:32 am

Wow, brilliant idea! I’m eager now to see what everyone else comes up with!

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Tara Lazar November 28, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Wonderful interview. I am a mother of two, children’s author (books forthcoming with Simon & Schuster) and I also sell on Etsy. It’s a great community with supportive and encouraging people, plus I’ve made some extra money to help out with the extraordinary cost of preschool, LOL. Etsy is something that’s easy to fit into your spare time. I design jewelry during the day, take photos and typically list it at night after the kids have gone to sleep. It’s a lot of fun and my girls like to help with the business, too.

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Kimberly Palmer November 29, 2011 at 1:27 pm

I love these other ideas for how writers can sell on Etsy! Tara and Michelle, what are your shop names? I will add you to my Etsy circle!

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Michelle Mach November 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Thanks, Kimberly! My shop’s just my name: michellemach.etsy.com My clever shop name was already taken by someone else! : )

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