Blog Reboot: Masters of a Modern Going Concern


This blog formerly known as “The Self Sustaining Prophecy”is relaunching today as Masters of a Modern Going Concern to mark the shift from an “Etsy empire reflections blog” to the next phase in our business development. We are keeping backlogged posts up for now to provide continuity and background on future posts.

All posts made before December 2016 are tracking tips, tricks and reflections for developing a self-sustaining small business between 2013-2016 using (specifically using Etsy and alternative-income strategies) as well as tips and reflections on budgeting and minimizing total cost of living.

Masters of a Modern Going Concern will be a behind the scenes blog for the small worker-owned business start up: Bonne Witch Enterprises LLC, a joint venture between high volume sales and management maniac Bonnie McMillion AKA “Bonne” and vintage web shop hack Kate Witchger AKA “Witch”. Together we are starting up an enterprise to strategically develop and scale small quality online businesses that will scale down with waning market and easily generate new ventures from past efforts.

Recognizing the quickly changing patterns, markets and platforms associated with small business in the 21st century our principle aim is to generate a commensurate income for ourselves while doing things we are good at that we atleast think were going to enjoy, and which other people do value and enjoy. This means keeping swift and agile pop-up shop state of mind able to evolve and adapt quickly and stay on top of emerging trends while still taking care and finding joy in the daily grind.

This blog will document the hard lessons learned, the workflow optimization tricks, the insights and reflections and the nitty gritty how-tos of our business to help fellow 21st century entrepreneurs embrace and optimize technology for small worker-owned businesses.

Beginning in 2017 our principle effort, with an aim to generate our basic income, will be an affordable women’s vintage fashion retail shop online : The Cute Hunter West. This new operation is based on Kate’s flagship vintage Etsy shop: The Cute Hunter which operates out of Raleigh, NC through Etsy. In January 2017 we began start up plans to set up a second sales location this time scaling up and using Bonne’s outlet-mall retail expertise to bring the operation smoothly to a scale within 3-5 years.

As we develop and evolve we will track our successes, failures, tips, templates and resource research on this blog. Thanks for checking out this post and if this is something you’d be interested in following, sign up for our newsletter or follow us on wordpress!


The Back-Up Plan: 4 Alternatives to Etsy

I recently posted List of Top 10 Blog Post Lessons from Folded Shops while I’m sure each case is even more complicated than the posts revealed, one of the recurring reasons for shop closures was Etsy themselves suspending or terminating service due to violations in theis Terms of Service. If youre like every single alive person, you dont read Terms of Service Agreements, I know I don’t. Disturbingly many of the bloggers I featured had not even violated the ToS but rather were just accused of doing so (often by automated research) and suspended just-in-case. To boot, theres no real recourse to get ahold of Etsy or hold them accountable for anything. So here I am posting a list of sites like Etsy. Check them out and consider diversifying and protecting yourself with a back up plan.



Art Fire offers commission free sales for a monthly fee. Every plan is commission free and includes access to the ArtFire Marketplace ranging from $20-$60/month with the top tier offering your own branded domain and unlimited lisitings.

They have a pay-as-you-go structure where you can purchase 100 listings for $30 USD. It costs $0.30 USD to list an item for 4 months as well as a monthly plan at a flat fee of $14.90 USD per month with unlimited product listing. They charge a 6.5% selling fee on the item’s sale price. In addition they have coupons, an Express Product Listing feature, a Guest Checkout so customers dont have to have an account to buy, an integrated Facebook Page Application and Social Sharing tools for Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Zibbet offers an online marketpalce with similar SEO and coupon code perks to the other sites listed above for $0-$8/month. But the best part is, if you already sell on Etsy, there’s no need to re-list all your items again. They can copy them over to Zibbet for you.
Storenvy offers a marketplace as well as custom storefronts with a focus on branding. You pay transaction fees for PayPal or Stripe. For every sale Storenvy’s marketplace drives your business, they keep 10%, while you keep 100% of the sales on your custom store.

Top 10 Etsy Blog Posts: Lessons from Folded Shops

Not all Etsy shops work out. I myself have started a few that have ended up folding within a year and a few more that never made it off the ground. Issues range from bad branding, to market saturation to those specific to Etsy Terms of Service issues can tank your business overnight. I have compiled here a list of blog posts from people who have folded or left Etsy for one reason or another. If you are thinking about starting your own shop on Etsy learn here from the mistakes of others first!

1. Closing Down My Etsy Shop 

A jeweler reflects on the saturated market and the new influx of cheap non-handmade knockoffs as a result of new policies.

2. Handmadeology Leaves Etsy 

One of the great blog resources outlines how to leave Etsy and why he closed up shop after using this service successfully.

3. Luna’s Baublebilities Closing My Etsy Shop

A frustrated shop owner shuts down after new Etsy search functions limit her sales.

4. Brittany’s Best Confessions of a Profitless Etsy Seller 

This is a well written honest piece about being relegated to the realms of a hobby seller.

5. Venus Envy’s Why is My Etsy Shop Failing One Year In? 

Venus Envy, a fine artist selling on Etsy, takes a closer look at why she was unable to get her shop off the ground

6. Why I closed my Etsy Shops by HomeGrownStringBand

Tired of the “big business” problems on Etsy the author gives alternatives to the major handmade market site.

7. Its About Principle: Etsy’s Reign of Terror and Discrimination 

An indepth outline of Terms of Service issues with Etsy. Check this out before you set up shop!

8. Etsy Shop Suspended without Warning 

A cautionary tale from a seller who was shut down by Etsy.

9. Why Girls Are Weird’s Dear Etsy 

Krysten of Why Girls Are Weird writes a public letter about getting shut down by Etsy with no room for recourse.

10. I Used to Sell on Etsy 

One last sad story of an insolvent pursuit.

The Sustainable Life: On Routines

As someone who is voluntarily self-employed, I’ve never been a big fan of routines. I associate routine with being trapped in a boring office watching the clock and mindlessly waiting through my life making cups of tea and clicking refresh on my inbox. But routines don’t have to be boring!

Routines can be an important touchstone to help ground and sync you. Doing the same thing regularly, daily can help build a frame of time around the other less cohesive elements of your life.

These repetitions over time don’t need to be dreaded or even beneficial in themselves, simply repeating the same ritual over time can give you some of the benefit of a routine.  If you are like me and are resistant to the idea of routine try some short and innocuous routine you won’t avoid or stress out over to get comfortable with the idea of routine. This year I hope to build from some of these smaller routine try-outs to bigger routines that are beneficial in themselves.

Here are some ideas for little routines I have started trying to incorporate into my daily life to get some of the benefits of living consistently.

A line a day

Journalling is an awesome practice. If you have any inclination to write, you probably should start by writing a journal. As someone who knows this, and herself occasionally writes, I should take my own advice but the consistency of this practice sets my procrastinatory impulses on fire and in my heels dig. So I’ve started with a line a day. I have a log book which physically limits me to a single line everyday. I keep it out and every evening I pick it up and write captain logs style a single line about the day. Sometimes its just a word. I’m not concerned about what I’m writing and it is a negligible task even for my super procrastinatory spirit, the point is to get in the routine of doing it everyday.

Pouring a Cup of Water

I have read and heard from various health related info portals that starting your day with a glass of water or even better a hot cup of water with lemon helps various aspects of being alive. I buy it and figure it can only help even if its only helping by hydrating me with one of the most essential elements of life. This fact in itself has not persuaded me to stick to this ritual. Something about downing a whole glass of water than seems daunting some mornings. Once I miss a day on grand plans like these I often throw in the towel. But this is not about doing things that benefit you directly, this is about doing things routinely to build a tiny vibration, a pattern of life from which you can launch. So I have altered this routine for now to simply be pouring a cup of water with lemon each morning as soon as I enter the kitchen.

Sunday Night’s Plan for the Week 

Being self-employed Sunday nights are not blackened by the same cloud of unfortunate resistance they once were. In fact, once The Walking Dead comes back they will in fact be greatly anticipated evenings. This one’s a little bigger of a task but its weekly and the key is its during a window of time each week where I’m usually floating. On Sunday’s after big family gatherings, I hang around late to watch the aforementioned Walking Dead with my mom, one thing I got into the inadvertent habit of doing in this nebulous window after my brother’s took their children home to bed before the 9pm showtime was roughly planning my week ahead and writing out tasks and goals for each day. These are generally vague notes of which yoga classes I want to try to make, which days I will make runs to the post office, lists of supplies I need to gather and maybe a blog post title I want to work on at some point. I am not strict about any of these goals and rarely stick to the schedule in full… sometimes I loose my master plan before Monday morning but still sitting down for 10 minutes and thinking about the not-so distant future me is a weekly routine I can handle. Sometimes it escalates into full scale apartment cleaning and project set-up but most of the time its a post-it with a few bullet points.

Keep it small and be consistent, thats what I’m after here.


Etsy Seller Tip #9 : The FREE SHIPPING switch

In an earlier Etsy Seller Tip post, I outlined how to estimate shipping costs. While its still important to know what your shipping costs are, I’m suggesting here that you offer FREE SHIPPING! Unfortunately for small business, customers have some to expect it. if you use sites like eBay you may get a little taste of the kind of discounts major shipper are getting but most small businesses don’t have access to that kind of discount. Here are some ways tips and tricks to help shift your business to a a more competitive shipping model.

Raise Your Prices 

Absorb the bulk of your shipping cost into the price of your item. This is a pretty simple strategy. If you can’t justify such a price increase absorb as much as you can.

Free Shipping on Orders Over $50

If you are getting multiple sales in a single order this is a good option for incorporating free shipping. It encourages more sales while leaving the customers feeling like they have gotten a great deal. Set the amount over equal to your average # items per sale + 1. So if you sell items averaging $8 and average 3 items per sale set the free shipping on orders over price at $35. If you sell items at $20 with 2 items, set it at $50 and so on. This does not work well for shops who do not already regularly sell multiple items per order.

$5 Flat Rate Shipping

$5 flat rate may be the lame little brother of free shipping but its a good second best. Maybe your shipping costs average $5 per item , if not you can try to raise your prices just enough to cover the difference. If your items fit in small flat rate boxes you are golden!

Etsy Seller Tip # 8: The Buyer’s Unboxing Experience

If you are selling through Etsy your buyer’s experience is already pretty sweet. With automatic messaging when and item is purchased and when you print shipping labels, you can provide great communication without actually doing anything!

The buyer’s experience is important for repeat sales but also for ratings and word of mouth advertising! Here I will discuss the little extras you can add to your buyer’s experience during unboxing to encourage props and happy vibes!

1. Package your item with care.

You want to make sure your item is packaged safely so it will not break in transit but you also want o take care with out it will look and feel for the buyer to receive and open the package. If you reuse packaging material make sure to ‘own it’ as a responsible green alternative and make a note in your shipping policies with something like “I try to reuse packaging materials whenever possible to reduce waste.” And remember just because you are reusing a box doesn’t mean your item needs to look like its wrapped in garbage.  This is especially important if you are dealing in vintage.  Wrapping the item up in a reused plain brown paper (like from a paper bag) and tying it with simple kitchen twine can make all the difference!

If you are selling high end items you want your packaging to match the luxury feel of your item. Incorporate tissue paper, washi tape, ribbon in your packaging to make the opening feel like a gift! A customer who feels like they have received a gift will be more likely to leave positive gracious feedback!

2. Don’t forget to include a calling card!

You may just be happy to get the item wrapped and to the post office in your processing window but don’t miss the opportunity to connect to your buyers and encourage repeat sales. The buyer probably remembers they ordered your item on Etsy but they might not remember the name of your shop. A little slip of paper or card in with the package that has you shop name, website and a cute graphic will help serve as a little reminder.

3. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

You’ve made a sale! Be grateful for the business. Include something somewhere that says the words Thank you. This can be a stamp on your tissue paper or a thank you card (you can get cheap packs 10/$1 of thank you notes). Including a handwritten note (even just a small slip of paper) is a nice personalized touch that remind they buyer this is a person-to-person exchange. You can print out your own 4/sheet thank you post cards and include a thank you coupon code for a percent off their next order to encourage even more love!!

4. Make it easy

First order of business in packaging is to keep the item safe. That said, you don’t want them to accidentally break the item trying to cut it out of 15 layers of taped up bubble wrap. Use appropriate packaging in the right amount to keep the item safe and make it easy to open.


  • If you are using newspaper as padding wrap the item in plain tissue paper before adding the newspaper, this will keep ink from accidentally transferring.
  • Make it clear which way is up with the postage label and place your calling card and thank you note on the top just after the package is opened.
  • If you are using tissue paper, tie a string or tape tissue paper edge to prevent it from wiggling off during shipping.

Top 10 Etsy Blog Posts: Photography Tips

Nikon_F_SLR_camera_with_NIKKOR-S_Auto_1,4_f=5,8cmI’ve grew up in a dark room and have worked as a professional portrait photographer in the past but taking cohesive, branded photographs of products was still a bit of a learning curve for me. Just because you know how to use a camera doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to shoot product photography. Theres a lot to consider when shooting product photography for your shop, backgrounds, lighting, details, scale, square aspect ratios etc and I’ve read countless blog posts on the matter trying to figure it out myself. I have compiled here my top ten most useful posts on how to shoot photos for Etsy.

1. The Offical Etsy Blog 

Take it straight from the horses mouth with this hyperlinked guide. Link through official posts for all skill levels!

2. DIY Craft Photography 

This entire site is dedicated to tips and tricks for shooting photos of handmade things! A comprehensive resource for newbies and veterans alike!

3. Handmadeology’s Big List of Photo Tips 

This post is exactly what it says, a big list of hyperlinked tips linking tons of well considered tutorials with great photos!

4. 10 Etsy Sellers Share their Jewelry Photography Tips 

This great post my Style Campaign is a must read for those of you shooting tiny sparkly things!

5. Shoot to Sell by PhotoJoJo 

Photojojo is a site for photographers not Etsy sellers but this great post caters to Etsians while having broader applications for online photo.

6. Everything Etsy’s 5 Tips for Photography 

A great introductory article well formatted with photos of the phototaking process!

7. Typically Simple’s 4 Photo Tips for your Etsy Shop 

This basic guide is just as the site name would suggest: a simple easy intro to get the newcomer started shooting great basic photos!

8. Beads and Beading’s Cheap Lightbox tutorial 

This blog is dedicated to beading tutorials but they know how to take their photos…and how to make tutorials. If you do not have access to a naturally lit way to shoot check out this post!

9. Table Top Studio’s How to Photography Jewelry

Looking for something a little more professional and little less DIY? This super professional walkthrough shows you how to shoot professional looking jewelry photographs using professional grade lighting.

10. Make Magazine’s Etsy Photography Tips

MAKE: and their more crafty sister portal CRAFT: are great places to go if you want to check out good looking projects. No wonder they should weigh in on how to take photos for handmade things!

Etsy Seller Tip#7: Estimating Shipping Costs

Estimating shipping costs can be tricky. The last thing you want is to loose money because you didn’t realize it would cost so much to send your item but you also don’t want to overestimate and scare away customers during the checkout process by adding on a shipping fee which rivals the cost of the item. Here are some tips and tricks I have picked up along the way for estimating shipping costs.

1. Use Etsy’s shipping estimator tool!

This is a great add on Etsy provides and with a little extra attention you can get an accurate estimate on your shipping. One drawback to this tool is that you need the final destination postal code before you can use it. One trick I have picked up along the way is to wait until I have an order then box up a few of the heavier things I am curious about and act as though I am sending these items to the buyer (of course just back out once it comes time to purchase the label!) I am based on the east coast so whenever I get a West Coast order I take the time to test a few of my draft listing weights and see what it would cost to ship. After a while you will get pretty good at estimating this!

2. Think about your true shipping COST

If you’re thinking like a business shipping costs should not just cover your final postage fee but should atleast include the cost of your packaging (boxes, tissue paper, that cute washi tape you had to get to tape the tissue paper, bubble wrap for fragile items-this can be a significant expense if you’re buying it new!) and maybe even think about partially covering the costs of your printer (especially if you’ve bought a special postage printer), scale, labels etc. If you live far for the post office or the shipping service you use you may even consider the cost of gas into your total shipping costs.

3. Think like a buyer.

That said, the shipping fee you require does not have to perfectly reflect your shipping cost. You want to put as much of this cost as is reasonable to your customer and can always slip the difference into the cost of your item. NOTE: The shipping and taxes collected at checkout will not be included in any discount coupon you may be offering so if you regularly run % discount promotions be careful when you hide shipping costs in the price of your final item.

Unless you are dealing in large specialty items like furniture, you don’t want the cost of shipping to exceed (or even come close to) the cost of the item itself. Think about when you are purchasing an item online. If the item costs $8 then you get to the final checkout to pay and your bill is $16 you might think twice about confirming that payment. For example, If you suspect the shipping cost of your $8 item to be close to $8 think about pricing the item at $12 and lowering the cost of shipping to $4. That way the customer is going into the payment process already prepared to pay $12 and when they receive the $16 bill they are less likely to baulk and reconsider.


Its not always possible to competing against other services like amazon that offer free shipping, especially when you’re not getting the major shipping cost breaks the big companies get. FREE SHIPPING is a major perk however and is a great way to run a promotional sale. Be sure you have your items priced at such that you do not loose money when you run these promotions!



Etsy Seller Tip #6: Treasury Selection and Layout

In an earlier Etsy Seller Tip I went through the benefits of making treasuries. Here are some further tips and tricks I’ve developed for selecting great items and layout.

1. Build your list around a few special initial items. Use this item to determine color palate and theme. If you are looking to promote your own items this should be one of those but remember there are other indirect benefits to curating treasuries so they don’t all need to feature products from your own shop.

2. Audition your items together and edit down! As I am searching for items to include in a treasury I open up to 20 different item pages in separate tabs then I cut and paste the URLs into my main browser page where I am working on my treasury.

3. Balance backgrounds and angles of the photos you select. Think checkerboard! As I add each URL,  I pay close attention to the color scheme as well as lightness/darkness of background and the scale of the item. I try to balance the light and dark background building a sort of checkerboard effect while at the same time alternating and balancing the scales. I always select more items than I will end up using and ditching the glaring outliers as I go.

Here are some specific examples of some of the treasuries I have built with tips and reflections to help you get a better idea about how to build your own! (If you are into making treasuries on Etsy I’d recommend joining the Treasury V Treasury Team on Etsy where we compete to see who can make the best treasury on a given theme.)

Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 2.01.12 AMHere is an example of a treasure I built around the theme Oh Canada. I have lived in Canada for a few years and was feeling a little nostalgic when I made this while enjoying looking through all the fun canadiana Etsy has to offer.

I tried to keep the elements subtle only repeating the bold visuals like the maple leaf or moose head a few times and specifically looked for a few less overt items like the hockey stick photo and the whiskey barrel tea light holder.

I also chose a few key items based on the photographs alone, the kids in bear hats and the lush knit throw photos added unique angles and depths of field I was missing in other shots.


Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 2.01.01 AMHere is an example of a treasury I built with the theme of Father’s Day. If you want people to be interested in your treasury a surefire way is to make it relevant to the season or upcoming holiday. Unlike selling gift items (which requires more advanced posting) you can post a treasury for TODAY’S holiday!

I stuck with a brown and green color scheme on this treasury and and tried to disperse the dar backgrounds throughout.

Take extra care in choosing the top 4 items, these items are viewable even before the treasury is opened and should help entice people into viewing more!



Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 2.01.22 AM

Here is a treasury I built around the trending theme Southwest Bohemian. It is a good idea to look at what else is trending in the treasuries to find ideas for themes. If they are already trending they are more likely to get looked at and there are more likely to be items and good photos available.

You can see here my attempt to checkerboard the light and dark color background to balance the whole treasury while still alternating close up and far away angles.

Look for interesting photos not just interesting items. I would maybe want 1/3 of the items on this list but the others (like the arrows or the dream catcher choker had such great images on theme it didnt matter what the items themselves are.

Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 2.01.34 AM

For this treasury I went with what I knew! Trends are great but there is also an advantage to building a set of photos around things you are really into. The theme is loosely world travel and I begun with the map and a globe which was later removed.  I stuck to the color scheme of turquoise and orange while I went all over the place in terms of types of items.

It is not as important that all the items make sense together in their final use but that the colors and themes subtly balance with each other.

As I was building this I searched for the types of things I knew I already like like ‘persian rug” and “leather pouch” then selected ones in my color palate that also had great photos.

Screen shot 2014-01-19 at 1.59.37 AM

This is a little treasury I made in 5 minutes when I came upon this adorable fox hat and this set of yellow mugs. I was just in a fall time mood and that is a great time to make a treasury! Making treasuries is fun and the more you enjoy it the more it will show in your final look.

You may notice this is smaller than the average treasury with only 12 images. You can make a treasury with any number of items you dont have to fill all the 16 slots provided. I would recommend for a cohesive balanced looks sticking to 12-16.


  • The photo is all that matters in treasuries. It doesnt matter if its the coolest item you have seen, if they photo doesnt look good, dont include it in your treasury.
  • Use multitab option on your web browser while you’re searching and open more tabs than you’ll end up using.
  • Search items related to your theme and color using Etsy’s color search tools and carefully selected keywords.
  • Move them around! You can drag and drop items into place as you go to help you balance the different styles.
  • If you are trying to promote a particular item be sure to put it in the top 4 slots. These 4 items are viewable even before the treasury has been opened.


Love making treasuries? Join the Treasury V Treasury Team on Etsy where we compete to see who can make the best treasury on a given theme.

Top 10 Etsy Business Blogs: Tips and Tricks from Top Sellers

TG3If you are reading this then youve already figured out part of the process to making it on Etsy is reading blog posts from others who have been in the trenches and figured it all out. Over the first few months of setting up my shop I found myself reading advice from others who had been there and figured it out for hours at a time. This can be really valuable reading but can also send you down a spiralling rabbit hole of conflicting advice and outdated info (check the date of any given post and make sure Etsy infrastructure and policies havent changed since it was posted!)

While Etsy is not the only platform I use for my online businesses it is one I have gotten a lot out of, especially early on. I have compiled here a list of top 10 most useful and still relevant Etsy related blog posts for new shop owners:

1. Everything Etsy

This top blog posts a lot of fun tutorials and crafting related content but one of their most useful outputs is a section called Etsy Business where they provide tips and tricks for those thinking about starting and those years into the process.

2. Handmadeology 

There is a lot ogogin on on this blog which has the tag line: the science of handmade. Most of it is super relevant tips for Etsy sellers. With sections dedicated to Etsy Tips as well as Photography Tips and Small Business Tips this is a great hub of information to get you started and keep you going with an Etsy shop

3. My Etsy Blog

Kim of Blue Otter Art on Etsy has a long running blog about her experiences as a shop owner. “My Etsy Blog” has a great section called Start-Up Lessons where she takes you through the ins and outs of Etsy with posts on topics starting with how to choose a name as well as more advanced tips on photography and banner creation.

4. Soap Queen

This great blog by handmade soapmaker Bramble Berry (R) has a great section called Business Musings that focus on issues relevant to hobbiest who’d like to turn pro. There is especially good advice for Etsians who want to expand beyond Etsy to markets and retail.

5. Team EcoEtsy 

The Team Eco Etsy blog grew out of an Etsy team and has multiple contributors. With a special focus on eco-friendly shops and practices this is a great little blog to follow. They even have a dedicated section for business tips focusing on reducing waste, reusing materials, recylcing and upcycling!

6. Hobbycraft 

This UK craft shop keeps an awesome blog which features interviews and how tos as well as a great introductory article about using Etsy.

7. Etsy Entrepreneurs 

This is another blog started from an Etsy Team. There is a lot of collective experience from the writers here which makes it worth sifting through the not so great template and layout they are using.

8. Liz Marie Blog 

While Liz’s blog isnt totally dedicated to the business side of things, hers is an excellent example of how to build a sister blog for your shop. She also has a thorough advice post outlining 8 Things To Know Before Selling On Etsy.

9. Handmade-Business

This blog features loads of backlogged information, including interviews and social media insights. It has not been updated in over a year so ignore posts on Etsy’s functions.

10. BPlans 

This blog is not dedicated to Etsy at all but rather to small business planning. They have great resources that apply to any small business whether or not you use Etsy but don’t miss their great guide specifically on How to Start an Etsy Shop.