S2 EP9: Building a $10,000 Etsy Shop in 4 Hours a Week with Julie Berninger
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Today’s guest is Julie Berninger. Julie is a blogger, podcaster, Etsy seller, and co-founder of Gold City Ventures, where she teaches others how to start a successful Etsy business selling printables.
In 2017, Julie started her own Etsy shop, The Swag Elephant, selling temporary tattoos for bachelorette parties. After realizing she didn’t want to deal with the hassle of shipping orders, Julie switched to selling bachelorette scavenger hunt printables.
Over the course of two years, she was able to build her Etsy shop to $10,000 a year working just 4 hours a week. Even after taking 6 months off for a cross-country move, her shop still brought in over $10,000. Through her E-Printables Course, Julie teaches others how to create and sell printables on Etsy in nearly any niche.
In this episode, Julie shares:
- The #1 mindset trap for most people when starting an Etsy shop (and most online businesses)
- How she built a strong support community of entrepreneurs in the early days of her business
- Some printable niches you never would’ve guessed were profitable (or even possible)
- How the 80/20 rule applies to an Etsy printables business
- The biggest mindset change that improved her life and business
- A few dos and don’ts for starting an Etsy shop
- Things to avoid when starting your Etsy shop:
- Julie’s Free Workshop on How to Sell Printables on Etsy
- Julie’s E-Printables Side Hustle Course
- Julie’s Instagram
Note: This transcript was automatically generated and may include typos.
[00:00:00] Welcome to the Dollar Sprout Podcast, where it’s all about building a business that offers consistent income and flexibility so you can live life on your terms. And now your host, Megan Robinson.
[00:00:18] Megan: Welcome back to the Dollars Sprout podcast. Thanks so much for joining me today. I’m so excited for you to hear today’s episode with Julie Berninger, who is a blogger, a podcaster, an Etsy seller and co-founder of Gold City Ventures, where she teaches others how to start successful businesses on Etsy selling printables, which.
[00:00:44] Very cool. It’s a very cool episode. It’s something I’ve thought about doing in my own business. Um, I talked in the episode with Whitney Hansen. I talk about, um, or we talk about like just having a bunch of different ideas in a business and wanting to do all kinds of different things all the time. And this is one of those things that I have wanted to do in my business for a long time, selling spreadsheets and printables on Etsy.
[00:01:08] So it was really, really fun getting to dive in and talk to Julie about her. Um, you’ll get to hear a lot of really good nuggets from Julie today, including the number one mindset trap that she says. For most people hold them back when they’re trying to start an Etsy shop or really most online businesses.
[00:01:31] You’ll also hear how she built a strong support community of entrepreneurs in the early days starting out in her business, which I think is such a good idea and something that I’m now looking at doing for my. And, you know, community. Um, so very cool idea there. Um, you’ll get some printable niche ni niches.
[00:01:53] Oh God, I can never, can never decide if I wanna say niche or niche, you’ll get some printable niches that you never would’ve guessed would be profitable, um, or maybe even possible. Um, Julie really opened my ideas in this episode to all of the different. Areas that it’s possible to create principles in.
[00:02:16] Um, and her printable shop is, or started out in the bachelorette space, she started out selling scavenger hunts for bachelorette parties, which like. What I never would’ve thought of that. So you’ll get a lot of really good ideas. Um, we’ll talk about some mindset stuff, and she also shares some really actionable dos and don’ts for starting your Etsy shop.
[00:02:38] A lot of good takeaways in this episode, so be sure to stick around for the whole thing. Please welcome Julie Berninger.
[00:02:46] Julie Berninger: Thanks for having me.
[00:02:48] Megan: Yeah. Excited to talk to you today. Um, this is a, a business that I used to think about doing. It’s like one of the many businesses that I was interested in, you know, putting together when I first got started out in online business and I never really pursued, but it’s been one of those in the back of my mind.
[00:03:06] That I’ve always been curious about and like had as a project that maybe I would want to start or add on to my business at a later date. So I’m really interested in hearing you talk about your business today. Um, but before I jump into the middle of things, um, can you get us started by telling people what is your business?
[00:03:25] What do you do? Um, what products and services do you offer? For who?
[00:03:31] Julie Berninger: Hi, I’m Julie Berninger. I am the co-founder of Gold City Ventures, and we help people start Etsy printables businesses, their first ever Etsy shop, selling primarily digital products. So that’s a side hustle that I’ve done for a few years now.
[00:03:45] It’s so creative and fun, like you said. It’s really a really good thing for me to kind of get that creative outlet at the end of the day, but that has sort of morphed into this bigger business for me. Gold City Ventures, where. I took all of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years and then consolidated that into a course called E Principles, and that’s my main job now.
[00:04:06] Megan: Awesome. Very cool. Um, so I do want to talk about where your business is now, and usually I do start with that upfront. I like to ask a lot of questions and you were very open and what you said you’re willing to share on the podcast. Um, but I. I would love to hear more before we get into that, cuz you have built this business of like, you had your own Etsy shop and now you teach other people how to like, create their own Etsy shop and be successful with that.
[00:04:35] Um, and I would love to talk more about like, what was your first Etsy shop like what, how did you get started in your business even before that? What were you doing before you knew Etsy was a thing?
[00:04:50] Julie Berninger: Sure. So I used to work in tech in a typical nine to five office job, and I had just moved out to Silicon Valley and gotten a big tech job.
[00:04:57] But even though I was achieving my corporate goal, career success that I wanted, I felt like there was another part of me that always knew I was meant to be an entrepreneur and the way that I. Explored that was by listening to podcasts on my lunch break and when I was commuting to and from work. And I heard a podcast about someone that started an Etsy shop and they had started their Etsy shop selling very inexpensive to manufacture items.
[00:05:22] And that sort of lit a light bulb in my head of, okay, I’m gonna start a shop that. Doesn’t cost that much inventory to get started. Now, I didn’t think of digital products right away. I actually sold temporary tattoos and they were a great business because they were so cheap to buy. So I could buy hundreds for not that much money.
[00:05:39] And I made the designs myself and I niched them down to the bachelorette party space because at the time I was in my twenties, I’m in my thirties now. I was going to tons of bachelorette party events and for anyone who’s ever attended one. You have to shell out a lot of money to the maid of honor and the whole bridal party for do dads that are one night only and you’re never gonna wear them again or use them again.
[00:05:59] And getting started with a business that had a high profit margin like that. Like people pay a lot of money, they buy them in large groups. Usually there’s 15 or 20 women who are attending these events. Then it seemed like a good niche to get into, so I was doing that. On top of my day job, but shipping and worrying about inventory, like I made a couple bad design choices.
[00:06:18] So I still to this day have a couple hundred raunchy bachelorette party tattoos that no one’s ever gonna use in my closet. But I was, I was onto some things doing it right, but I didn’t do the whole package right. And that’s where I met someone that sells digital products on Etsy. And once I switched my shop to be a digital product shop where I sold bachelorette party scavenger hunts, then I felt like it was a perfect blend of, yes, this is a really good side hustle for me.
[00:06:42] I’ve made $10,000 in a year on Etsy, which is great on top of everything I do, but. It’s something that’s not gonna take up the mental bandwidth because before it was really like, okay, I have a day job, I have all this stuff going on, and I have to worry about shipping like three orders out and of six tattoos.
[00:06:57] Like it just, it wasn’t something that I wanna take on. So digital products so scalable, it’s been like wonderful ever since.
[00:07:04] Megan: I’m so curious when people tell me like they got started in like such a specific niche, I’m so curious, like what was the thought process? What was I guess the process of discovering this niche of like bachelorette party temporary tattoos and then scavenger
[00:07:23] Julie Berninger: I think today, now this was, is probably 60 years ago that when I got started here today, I would use keyword research and I would use free tools like Google Trends and I would figure out what the trends are. But then I didn’t necessarily know about all those tools, so I just did it based off of my life.
[00:07:38] And I look to see, okay, where’s a situation where I see people spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t cost that much to manufacture? And that was the only thing that clicked in my brain. And where do I see people spending a lot of money? In the orders because I also sold, uh, tattoos for individual people.
[00:07:57] Like for example, I had this one line of Wolf Pack tattoos and I was thinking of like the hangover, cuz that was really popular, the movie at the time. And I was like, oh, maybe you know, people going to bachelorette parties in Vegas will want something like that. But, It turns out that kids’ birthday parties for wolves were also really popular, but like people would, they wouldn’t buy that many, they’d buy like two tattoos.
[00:08:18] So that to me is not worth it having to go through the, the shipping and everything just to make like a couple bucks. Whereas in the bachelorette party space, people are buying 15. 20 of them at once and the average order size was really high. So that was something I was kind of, I was thinking through like average order size or is this something that I’m only gonna get a couple things, or am I gonna get like a big bulk order and it’s worth my time.
[00:08:40] But now I would use keyword research tools, but that’s kind of how my mind was processing it Then.
[00:08:44] Megan: Very cool. Um, would you mind, I guess, kind of take us through a little bit of the history of your business. So you started out with this, uh, selling temporary tattoos and then you moved on to selling, um, scavenger hunts for bachelorette parties.
[00:09:02] Where does your business go from there?
[00:09:04] Julie Berninger: So this arc of the business also was following a journey into financial independence. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the fire movement, financial independence retire early, but my husband and I were super into that. So we paid off like a hundred thousand dollars of debt.
[00:09:16] We were churn away, trying to save as much as we could start to invest, et cetera. So for us, these side hustles that we both did were like gravy. That allowed us to save even more on top of what we were doing in our day jobs. So we. Trying all the things, but Etsy I kept coming back to because it was just so much fun compared to the other side hustles that I was doing.
[00:09:37] I am a blogger. I’ve made money with blogging through display advertising and affiliate marketing, but it’s just not, it’s just not as fun as Etsy. I’ll just be honest. Etsy’s great. Right now, I’m. Shopping for presents for people on Etsy all the time, every month. I mean, I just really enjoy the brand and I think there’s great stuff on there.
[00:09:53] So for me, this type of side hustle in having it be passive is awesome. So I was doing that for a bunch of years and then, I also had started a podcast about financial independence, where I would interview people who had achieved this thing that I was trying to achieve. And I would interview people that happened to sell on Etsy because I was interested in that.
[00:10:13] And my audience was also interested because they were hearing every couple episodes I’d bring on an Etsy person and we’d get inspired. So I asked them at one point, would anyone be interested in starting this mastermind with me? I, I’m new to kind of doing this, but what if we joined it together? And for six weeks we’ll create our shops together and we’ll see where it goes.
[00:10:32] And I did that a couple times and then my shop even took off more when I was focusing on it every couple weeks. This was like six years ago now. But I had some success stories from students and I had sort of the proof of, Hey, PE people are also just as excited about this as I am. Everyone seems to think this side hustle is a hit for them.
[00:10:51] So from there I thought, why don’t I just turn this into a course? I was having my first daughter and I couldn’t run masterminds anymore. It would be too much, and I was getting really tired cuz I would run them at night, at the end of work and just being pregnant, I was like exhausted. I just needed to go to bed immediately.
[00:11:05] So I recorded videos of how I created. The principles in Canva, how I did the keyword research, how I listed them on Etsy and turned that into a series of videos that people could purchase for me. And then this side hustle became more scalable for me, I guess. So that morphed into Gold City Ventures, which I now have a business partner on, and, and that’s my main gig.
[00:11:24] I was able to leave my corporate job and just do that now.
[00:11:27] Megan: Wow, that’s amazing. And I love that you, I love that you started like a beginner’s mastermind. Would love to, you know, have something like that. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot, you know, throughout the years in my own business, because usually you see masterminds of like, you know, people who are already, they’ve already reached a certain level of their business.
[00:11:48] So I love that you found this group of people and you were like, Hey, we’re all getting started here. We don’t. Maybe necessarily know exactly what we’re doing, but let’s do it together. Um, how did, I guess, how did that work? I’m so curious what that looked like and how those ran and how you knew what to do together when you were all just getting started.
[00:12:08] Julie Berninger: Luckily, I had had my shop a little bit more and I had sold the tattoo so I could be a little bit of the ringleader, so it wasn’t completely like free for all. But the fun part about it is that every single person who joined, they. Their interest in other niches, like no one was interested in Bachelorette.
[00:12:26] I had someone that was more of a personal finance budgeting guy and he did his based on spreadsheets and he actually sold spreadsheets on Etsy and he had a lot of success there. I had someone else who was um, a mom of four and she was interested in creating quiet book patterns, so, I have kids now, so I know what they are, but at the time I was like, I have no idea what a quiet book is.
[00:12:46] And it’s something to occupy your children when you just need a couple minutes and has like a lot of different things that they can touch and play with. But she was creating patterns for people on Etsy. And then I had someone else, this was actually my co-host, she was selling cro, uh, no stained glass patterns.
[00:13:00] She makes these beautiful e. Wedding gifts for people like the Harry Potter keys and all these things. So she was selling the pattern behind some of those, not Harry Potter, obviously, because that’s trademarked. You can’t sell that on Etsy, but other types of things. Now, what we realized though, through all this, some things are just more popular than other things, stained glass patterns.
[00:13:19] She didn’t make nearly as much money as I did on bachelorette parties, and that’s probably obvious. It was really a good wake up call for all of us of like, Hey, if you wanna do this cuz you have something in your heart that you love doing, then you can, you can, and who cares whether you make 20 bucks a month or you know, $2,000 a month.
[00:13:36] But if you’re doing this because you’re trying to make money as a side hustle, you cannot skip the keyword research and making sure that you’re testing the market and doing all those sort of data-driven decision making things upfront, because otherwise it’s not gonna be as profitable as you kind of hoped it would be.
[00:13:51] Megan: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and uh, I would love to know more if you’re open to sharing this. Um, Definitely wanna get back and hear more about your story, but since you brought it up, would love to hear more about like, how do you figure out what you can sell on Etsy and what’s gonna be profitable?
[00:14:12] Um, are there any like niches, markets on Etsy that are oversaturated and that people should avoid? What are your thoughts there?
[00:14:20] Julie Berninger: I think the oversaturation fear is the number one mindset trap that any of us get into when we’re starting a new side hustle. I mean, I even thought it when I did the bachelorette stuff years ago, and I’m still selling to this day, some of the scavenger hunts I made back in 2017 when I was getting started doing all this, but.
[00:14:36] In terms of making sure that you are putting yourself in the possess best position to get return on your time. Think about a couple things and the benefit now. I was talking to you about back in the day when I got started doing this. Now I’ve seen myself heavy years of an ETSI shop as well as over 9,000.
[00:14:54] Students we’ve taken through our E principles course, so that’s quite a large sample set on beginners, making money and getting started. And the people that do make the most money, they are using tools like Google Trends to figure out what are people typing and searching for. I mean, that’s one of the easiest free tools you can use.
[00:15:11] Type in printable template. Digital, certain keywords and see what returns there. And then they’re also thinking about a seasonal product strategy. And that’s something that we really differentiate ourselves in our industry on, of helping people understand that Etsy is a huge marketplace. It has 97 million shoppers every year, and people think of shopping on Etsy to celebrate holiday’s, events, and special occasions.
[00:15:35] That’s just a fact of why people use that website. So if you can create printables for holidays, events, and special occasions, and you can create. Enough lead time that people are looking for those things. Sometimes you can do a last minute night of printable, like for example, Partner in all this, Cody, he created a letter from Santa and that sold Christmas morning up until like the final minute where parents were printing that thing out and giving it to their kids.
[00:16:02] That’s an example of a last minute printable that could do well. But for the most part, people are looking a couple weeks ahead of the actual holiday. So if you could get your, your shop stocked with those events in advance, you’re gonna put yourself in the best position to make sales.
[00:16:15] Megan: Hmm. Yeah. So are there any big holidays outside of, you know, like the winter holidays. We’re recording this in November right now, so we have Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, Christmas, all the December holidays, new Year’s coming up. Are there any other like holidays that maybe people wouldn’t think are. Big money makers, but can actually do really well.
[00:16:40] And I’m sure maybe it depends on the niche also, but
[00:16:43] Julie Berninger: Totally. We have seen people join the course from all over the world and sometimes they’ll tell me, oh, did you know that Father’s Day is in September in Australia? Or I, I think that’s what it is, but they’ll, they’ll tell you about what they’re celebrating, where they live, and there’s a market for that on Etsy.
[00:16:57] Now, not every country has a bunch of buyers on Etsy right now. Etsy’s been pushing hard to get new buyers internationally, but I think. UK, Australia and Canada seem to be where there are buyers beyond the us. So if you’re trying to think of international holidays, maybe focus on those countries right now.
[00:17:14] But we, we’ll see people make sales in the holidays that I didn’t even realize people were celebrating at a certain time.
[00:17:20] Megan: Yeah. What’s, uh, This is not entirely related to holiday stuff, but what, I’m curious, what’s like the oddest niche that you’ve seen somebody, maybe like somebody through your course create that you would not have thought would be successful but was?
[00:17:40] Julie Berninger: There are so many niches and whatever you do in your day job, someone might be shopping for a printable for that on Etsy, like for example, the doula. If you’re a doula, if anyone has gone through the childbirth situation, you might hire a doula. That’s a big niche for printables on Etsy. That’s so funny.
[00:17:55] They’re the witch niche. I don’t know if you are on TikTok. I’m not on TikTok. Yeah. But I’ve seen witch talk. Everyone thinks they’re witches now. Back when I was younger, it was a Harry Potter thing. Now it’s like literally a whole thing. Yeah. The witch industry has taken off on Etsy in terms of principles.
[00:18:11] So if, if you’re someone that’s into that or anything like astrology tarot, I’ve never. I will make products that I don’t myself use, but in that particular niche, I’m like, I don’t know if I know enough about what people want in this niche to make it. But if that’s you, you’ll find your people that are ready to buy stuff there.
[00:18:27] So I, I’ve seen all over crazy niches.
[00:18:30] Megan: Wow. Yeah. That’s so interesting. I, I am on witch talk, by the way. I do.
[00:18:35] Julie Berninger: Oh my gosh. So, you know exactly. I’m sure you’ve seen principles. I
[00:18:38] Megan: actually, I don’t think I’ve seen any on, like, on TikTok. I’m curious what, what do those printables look like?
[00:18:45] Julie Berninger: So what I have seen, I don’t know how the, these are use, but there’s a lot of people that do, um, Manifestation rituals or like witch spiritual rituals and they’ll get like a guided workbook for that.
[00:18:57] Um, there’s people that are like green witches, that’s certain subset of witches and they have different stuff than the people that are the regular witches. See, you should be telling me more about this, but that’s so cool. It’s a, it’s a whole thing and I keep seeing all these keywords and I look at shops that have done so well in this niche and I’m like, I don’t understand this, but it is blowing up.
[00:19:15] It is huge.
[00:19:16] Megan: That’s amazing. I feel like I need to go look into this a little bit when we get off here.
[00:19:22] Julie Berninger: Um, go check it out on Etsy. Just type in like, which, which printables and you’re gonna find there’s, there’s one shop, I think it’s the Almost Witch. She’s been like really crushing it and I’ve been following her for like, over a year now and looking at all this stuff and I’m like, wow, this is, this is so amazing.
[00:19:36] But for me at this point, I have my bachelorette party niche shop, but I, I like to just pass ideas onto the students and try to inspire them to come up with, you know, whatever the hot sellers would be. Yeah. Because that’s sort of my role now is like helping the students get success. So I, I love like, doing that research, but I don’t actually always make, I’ll find like a really hot niche, but I don’t make the products necessarily myself.
[00:19:57] I’ll like just tell everyone, Hey, this is a really good keyword. It’s going to apply to one of you. It’s not me, but it’s gonna apply to one of you.
[00:20:03] Megan: Yeah. Oh, that’s so funny. I never would’ve guessed. The witch niche would be so popular on Etsy. Yes. But that’s amazing because where else would you buy that?
[00:20:13] Julie Berninger: Right? Like some of it is if you’re looking for something customized, and I mean, you could go down a rabbit hole in this niche, like love potions are allowed on Etsy. Wow. And as long as you physically, as long as you physically deliver a product to somebody like. If the love potion had a, a digital component where you gave a printed version of someone, you can sell that on Etsy.
[00:20:33] So I have never explored these niches and someone, someone listening to this is gonna be like, I don’t believe in this at all, but I’m gonna make a love potion because I can make a lot of money here. I feel like there’s bad karma in this world. Like I wouldn’t get involved in any type of like spiritual things, right, that you feel like might come back to bite you.
[00:20:49] But for. Other people, where else would you get this? Except for something like Etsy, where you’ll get, you know, personalized, custom handcrafted things. So it, it just kind of aligns perfectly with some of these more, um, accessory niches, I would say.
[00:21:02] Megan: Yeah. That’s amazing. Are there any other, like, weird, not weird, but you know, like any other niches that have surprised you recently?
[00:21:13] Julie Berninger: I mean, I think just people, whatever you do in your day job, it is a niche. So people, let’s say that you are a occupational therapist that works with kids or even, um, right now, like health, health related things or mental health related things. So, A D H D is something that you might have heard people talk about in their circles, but if you have that or you have a child with that, where would you buy certain type of workbooks or daily schedules or planners?
[00:21:40] Those are really becoming really big right now, and there’s people that they help other people with that condition or with their kids with that condition. Um, Improve their daily life through printables and planners and organizers. So I’ve, I’ve seen that kind of, that like if you’re in the autism community, then you might find resources to help your kid and, and whether you’re, if that’s your day job or whether you’re just like a parent looking to help someone or you’re looking for yourself, those are niches that I see.
[00:22:07] Doing well that are related to like what people do in their day jobs, I guess.
[00:22:12] Megan: Yeah. You’re, I my mind is reeling right now with like my own personal ideas for things that I could create as you’re saying this cuz there are so many things like that I do in my business as an online business manager. You know, project management, uh, launching all kinds of stuff that I’m like, oh, I could create something here.
[00:22:31] So, Yeah, that’s, that’s great inspiration. I feel like I need a pen and a paper to write down all my ideas right now. I’m gonna go journal after we get off here.
[00:22:41] Julie Berninger: Um, okay. Buy the journal on Etsy cuz someone made that journal. Yeah.
[00:22:46] Megan: Um, very cool. So I wanna kind of jump back a little bit cause I know you mentioned earlier that you and your husband were doing, you were pursuing fire, you were paying off a lot of debt when you first started your Etsy shop.
[00:23:00] And you were doing other side hustles as well? Um. First of all, how quickly were you able to like build significant revenue with your Etsy shop and how much debt did it allow you to pay off?
[00:23:15] Julie Berninger: It took me a couple years to get to the $10,000, um, a year mark where I’ve kind of. Kept it at. And I think right now I couldn’t commit to more than that just because I’m also blogging and podcasting and I now, now, gold City Ventures is a massive business.
[00:23:29] Anyone who’s ever sort of undertaken this, it’s, it’s a lot sort of managing that. Um, but. I did do it with around four hours a week. Like every weekend I would go to a coffee shop, maybe like two hours Saturday, two hours Sunday, or four hours on Sunday or something, and I would just bang out printables and do the keyword research and get them listed.
[00:23:47] So that’s as much time as it takes. Now some of my students, they end up loving it. They wanna spend 15 to 20 hours a week, and I’ve had people like Rachel Jones, her website’s, money Hacking Mama. She’s made $150,000 a year. Selling principles on Etsy. After taking our course, there’s another wo woman, Sasha Hutchson.
[00:24:04] She has a six figure business where she quit her accounting job in the pandemic when everything was awful for everyone, and she traveled around the RV with her kids and she makes six figures now. She sells principles, she does some work. Helping us actually with our, with our students and what’s been cool.
[00:24:20] I’ve kind of retained a lot of my original students. Even Kevin Jones, the spreadsheet person I was saying in the original Mastermind. He’s still around coaching students. So that’s been kind of fun to build out this team of people that we just love helping new people succeed. But it took, it took a long time to to build that out and for my husband and.
[00:24:38] With having a hundred thousand dollars of debt that it probably took, it took 18 months kind of to pay that off. But we could, we sold some things. We downsized, we, we did other things to kind of chop that debt. It wasn’t just side hustling, but I also was bringing in like $30,000 on blog revenue and I had these other things that I was tying in.
[00:24:58] So my day job kind of went towards investing and. Our daily lives. And then anything extra that I brought in from the side hustles, we just used it to slash the student loans and then they were gone. And then we hit the next level of like, okay, well now we still have this side hustle revenue coming in.
[00:25:14] What do we do with it? And we’re learning. We learned about investing and that was a whole nother journey. Yeah.
[00:25:19] Megan: Very cool. Are you still on the fire journey today?
[00:25:22] Julie Berninger: No, I’m still, I still part of the community. I stopped podcasting in 2020 because, um, it was kind of crazy. I was supposed to come back from maternity leave and.
[00:25:32] Then that was March, 2020. So the world like went nuts and I just couldn’t do the podcast on top of a day job and, and this thing that was blossoming with Etsy and Gold City ventures and all that. But, um, I think what has changed in terms of my fire journey when you reach a point that you have saved over the, like a million dollar mark is sort of what the fire community wants.
[00:25:52] Or like what, what is the, the basic PHI goal for a lot of people, I’ve seen some people have different goals, but that that’s a kinda traditional goal and then you find something that you love to do. It becomes like, why, why? Why would I stop working? And I, and I’m just one of those people, I’m so passionate and even when we were just kind of playfully talking about the witch talk and stuff, this, I get paid to do this.
[00:26:14] This is what I do for my job. You know, how fun is this? So you kind of lose that desire to escape. When you just are excited about it. And I think for me, just having, I have one daughter and then I have another kid on the way, the time that I do get to spend in my business, I look forward to that. Whereas I used to, when I, you know, was working, I would kind of get the Sunday scaries and dread, but now I don’t have as much time.
[00:26:37] So now I’m like, I can’t wait till I can get on the computer and start working again. Not that I don’t love being with my family, but it’s just I don’t get as much time. So I really look forward to it and I think it’s creative and fun. So am I a fire person? I believe a basic level of financial security just in case.
[00:26:52] I mean, who knows? Well, what could happen. I always think of the doomsday scenario, but once you save up enough money, you could last enough time a couple years to figure out something else. And that’s kind of what my new, my new thing is and the new path for our family. Yeah, I like that.
[00:27:06] Megan: I’ve never, like, I’ve always admired the fire community and like people work so hard and it’s.
[00:27:16] People go hard in the fire community. Um, and I’ve always admired it, but I’ve also never pursued it myself. Um, cause I kind of feel the same way. Like, you know, my, my job, my work isn’t perfect, but I also enjoy it. And so, um, yeah. I’m glad you found that. I’m glad you were able to find that through your business.
[00:27:36] Um, so. You, when did you go full-time in, in your business? In Gold City Ventures. How long has that been?
[00:27:44] Julie Berninger: I made it until July, 2021. And then it became too much and that’s where the fire thing, what I’m saying, like reach that basic level. It’s the point where you don’t have to do the, the corporate grind anymore because, and having a young kid and right now illnesses, we, our daughter’s in preschool, she’s getting sick every week.
[00:28:03] If I had a traditional job, I don’t know how we’d fit in the doctor’s appointments and you know, we did sleepless nights and random stuff that’s sort of popping up. It’s a lot easier now. And my husband works from home too, and we, and he’s kind of pursued a more flexible job opportunity as well. So it, it just has made our life a little bit easier in this time.
[00:28:23] That’s very stressful for a lot of people. So there is that aspect to it, but we’re not like, oh, I, I wanna now supercharge it even more so that we never, ever have to do anything for money again. That’s not really our, our goal.
[00:28:35] Megan: Your story seems amazing and, uh, I love that you’ve tried so many things.
[00:28:40] You’ve done blogging, podcasting, um, you obviously Etsy. Are there any projects or even specific like Etsy products that you have tried in the past that you, that were not successful?
[00:28:59] Julie Berninger: Yes, and I have dabbled in all the things. I think and, and for some of this stuff, it could be that I just didn’t give it enough time.
[00:29:07] But I did try the print on demand for Etsy. And it’s funny, my husband and I, we kind of did it as like a competitive contest to see who could. Be more successful with this, cuz I wanted him to create a shop too. We don’t have time for these type of, you know, dates anymore where we’d do coffee shop dates, but at the time it was fun.
[00:29:23] But the print on demand, and if anyone doesn’t know what that is, it’s like you create an se shop and. You get the orders fulfilled with, whether it’s t-shirts or hats or mugs, you get them fulfilled by someone else. So you just make the designs. You set up the systems on these other third party websites, and when someone orders off of Etsy, it sends the details to the third party and they ship it to the person.
[00:29:45] But the issue with that is the margins are just so low. So my husband, he has like two products. He has. I think it’s a guitar like grandfather hat or something, and it sells every Christmas, and we’ve had so many issues with that where the hat, maybe he’s charging $25 on Etsy and then the actual third party is charging him $21 or whatever.
[00:30:08] So he gets the $4 in between. But if. You’re running ads or whatever reason you’re making like four bucks on the sale. Whereas let’s say that you sell a printable, and we talked about the witch planner. Let’s say that witch planners are going for $13 on Etsy. That didn’t cost you much to make except for your time.
[00:30:26] Maybe you bought some clip art that was fancy for like $3 or something like that, and then you can use it for all a thousand of the witch planners. It’s just, it’s just much more scalable, and then there’s no other systems really that have to be used because sometimes when someone buys those Christmas hats, The third party is getting so many orders that they can’t fulfill it in the timeframe that the customer wants, and, and we think we’ve all ordered from a website like Etsy and it’s taken a while and we’re like, Hey, when’s this thing coming?
[00:30:53] That is kind of a thing with print on demand. Now that being said, in my world, I talk to people that sell print on demand and they’ve done extremely well with it, similar to how we’ve done in our space. So I’m sure there’s people that have done well, but that’s just one example where for me, I never really got anywhere with it, and it just got a little frustrating.
[00:31:11] And I think like the business model, I’d rather just do a different business model.
[00:31:14] Megan: Yeah. Yeah. And speaking of, like, while we’re talking about numbers, um, would you mind to share, you said that you built your, oh, Craig, me if I’m wrong in any of this, but I think you said you built your Etsy shop up to $10,000 a year while you were working roughly four hours a week, um, mostly on the weekends, and that it’s, you know, you’ve sustained it at that level.
[00:31:38] What amount of that revenue from your Etsy shop is profit and what is typical profit for most Etsy shops? I guess if you have numbers for that,
[00:31:48] Julie Berninger: I don’t remember the exact number on that, but because I didn’t. As well in terms of like how much I spent on clip art and things. But I, I mean it’s, I would say 80, 90% profit, um, probably 90 in this industry.
[00:32:03] And you know, it could be less depending on if you are running ads and. A lot of newer people like to run ads, but they don’t have the rest of the shop set up quite right. So it ads are a very easy way to waste a lot of money at the beginning. It can once a year, products are looking good and they’re in demand, and you understand the keyword research in the seo then.
[00:32:23] By all means, run the ads and it’s gonna be worth it. But I worry when people turn the ads on too early, because now they’re, they’re usually only doing like a dollar, $2 a day, but that’s an extra like, you know, 50, $60 that you don’t need to spend every month until you’ve figured out the rest. And then what I recommend instead is get the shop going, get some organic sales, and then once you see, oh, people love this particular thing, then run the ad to that thing.
[00:32:45] But don’t do it from the beginning. But I just mentioned that because if you’re running ads, then you could actually cut into your. Revenue a little bit more. Um, Etsy also, you might hear people complain about Etsy that they have high transaction fees, but they totally don’t like, cuz I also, I did try to sell on Shopify and for Gold City Ventures, we have a Shopify store where we sell commercial use templates and that is a five figure additional revenue stream for our business.
[00:33:13] But we already have the whole system. We have an email list, we have a website that gets a lot of traffic. We have Facebook and social media and all that bringing leads. When I tried to do this years ago for myself, before I even had any type of community, there’s no traffic coming to that Shopify store and I had to build up all the traffic and it took a really long time just like it did with my blog, and you can totally do it.
[00:33:34] It’s just, it’s not like Etsy where you sell on Etsy and there’s 97 million buyers and they’re shopping every day and you just need to like cut in there and. Intercept some of that search traffic when you’re on your own trying to create your own shop or whatever you, you might need to pay for ads. So I’m mentioning this when you ask me about the profitability, because for most people this is gonna be a very profitable business.
[00:33:55] But there’s ways that you can make it not profitable if you air off and you try to do your own thing. Um, and don’t go the easiest route. And that makes sense.
[00:34:03] Megan: That makes total sense. You wanna make sure you have a successful product before. Put money into it. I’m sure people who are listening right now have heard me talk on other episodes about how, not, not like with an Etsy shop, but in other things in my business, I have fallen prey to that, uh, mistake of putting too much into something before it’s actually validated and selling.
[00:34:25] So, Words of wisdom. Um, so now that you have built out your business and you’re doing other things, you know, and you have your, your course and your programs and you’re helping, you know, your students build their own Etsy shops, how much time do you put into maintaining your shop? Are you still.
[00:34:44] Consistently publishing new products. Um, and I guess, is there ever a time when like you get to a certain point in your Etsy shop where you don’t need to be publishing new products? Or like, what is the upkeep once you’ve, you know, built something that’s bringing in money?
[00:35:02] Julie Berninger: So at the beginning it’s, I think it’s called the Pareto principle, where.
[00:35:05] Eight 80% of the outputs are from 20% of the inputs. That’s just the reality of almost any online business. So I say that because in the first year you’ll have to spend a lot more time because you’ll, you won’t understand what’s gonna be a hit on Etsy until you get a little more experience and. You’ll put up like 10 products and only two of those 10 will sell.
[00:35:24] And that’s just the way it kind of works. But for myself having a shop that’s five years plus old, I don’t have to do that anymore. And what I typically do is in Q1 I do my brush up and I re-put all my listings that I need, new listings, go through, see what is in selling for the old ones and what I wanna do with them, and then I can let it ride for the year.
[00:35:45] And I’ve had some crazy things the last couple of years. So last year we moved. 3000 miles across the country and I took six months, six months off from my se shop, but still was able to maintain that a thousand dollars plus per month just given the history of my shop, me understanding the keyword research.
[00:36:03] So I had, well the products that I put up had higher chances of selling, I think, than if you were just trying to DIY this on your own. Um, that there’s certain things that I do to make sure that I put myself in that position. And it’s just life. Like, for example, I couldn’t work, um, I’m pregnant now. I couldn’t work all.
[00:36:19] I couldn’t even use a phone. Like it made me so nauseous to do that, and I didn’t have touch my Etsy shop. It still kept selling. Every once in a while I get messages from customers, but that took five seconds and I would just try to batch ’em and do ’em all at once, so I wouldn’t throw up. It was, it, it was insane.
[00:36:33] But that’s what I kind of love about this and, and what I’m describing. I see that I’m mentioning we have the data set of all the students. People will take six months off and their shop still sells once they get, its selling in the first place. So you have to put the, there’s no. Easy shortcut. There’s no get to the end before you get to the beginning.
[00:36:51] You gotta just get through the beginning, and then once you do that, then it can become when, when people are saying quote unquote passive income, it’s the time they put in at the beginning. That’s what’s allowing them to step away and let it kind of ride with the sales.
[00:37:04] Megan: Thank you for sharing all of that.
[00:37:06] I would love to maybe get your thoughts or. For somebody out there right now who is jazzed about this conversation who’s like, oh my God, I need to start an Etsy shop. This is, that’s what I’m gonna do this weekend. What are the first few steps that somebody can take to set their shop up for success?
[00:37:31] Julie Berninger: Get familiar with canva.com, and that is, a lot of people probably know it.
[00:37:37] If you’re new to online business, you might not, but it’s a free online graphic design tool and that’s where 99% of us making printables, we make our stuff. And as I got more experienced, I started dabbling in the Adobe Suite and, and. More advanced kind of professional software. And there are some people that are really diehard about it and they’re like, oh, Canva’s not even close.
[00:37:57] And if you’re gonna be a principal seller, you should use the better tools. But the reality is it’s so easy to use Canva, it’s so fast. And unless you’re selling in the wedding space where you’re making this bride’s invitation and it’s gonna be in Boston Gold Foil, and she really cares about X, Y, and z.
[00:38:12] For the principles that we were just talking about in this episode. People don’t care. Like canva.com is gonna be en enough and they’re pumping out so many new features. It’s just amazing. So I would create that Canva account and start playing around with it, even just for your own, I mean, you can do fun stuff for yourself in Canva, for your own life, and you can get ideas.
[00:38:32] Um, I would do that and then, Obviously being a course owner, I’m all about courses, but like, just take some sort of paid training. Um, I spent so many years DIYing, and I mentioned the coffee shop dates, but my husband and I would sit in the coffee shop because we were trying to pay off debt and we would spend hours and hours just trying to piece together somebody else’s YouTube videos and they would tell me half of what I needed to know and then I’d listen to five podcasts and try to like piece it all together.
[00:38:58] And now being a mom and. Realizing the value of that, I would just get somebody step by. And that’s what I do now. So for example, how did I learn how to do my own, the Gold City Ventures business? I just paid other people that I know in this space to tell me what to do and they know what they’re doing and they wouldn’t have a successful business unless they had a track record of student testimonials.
[00:39:22] So I just do that now and, and I’m like, oh, they tell me to use this tool. Here’s why they said it. I’m not gonna spend a hundred hours trying to figure out what tool I should use because here’s somebody that is using this tool as success. That’s what I’m gonna do. So that, that’s me. Now, not everyone is in that place to invest, but my time is worth a lot of money.
[00:39:41] I’ve realized, and I’m not gonna like just waste it wa waste five hours of my time trying to save a hundred bucks. That’s just not me.
[00:39:48] Megan: Yeah. Yeah. I was just having a conversation with somebody yesterday and we were talking about like the different courses and coaching and like all the stuff we’ve bought in the years of.
[00:39:58] Being in business. And, uh, one thing we were both saying that we’ve learned is that it is so much better. Like there’s a time and a place for general business training, but if you know you wanna do something very specific, it’s so much better to like hire somebody, whether it’s a course or a coach or whatever, who has done exactly that and who can kind of show you like, The, the roadmap, you know, show you the shortcuts and, uh, yeah.
[00:40:27] I, I wholeheartedly, as a course and coaching person advocate, I wholeheartedly agree.
[00:40:34] Julie Berninger: And I had to let go of this because as a fire person, I didn’t wanna spend a dollar because that’s another year working and Oh my gosh. And in the community of the fire community, There’s a lot of pride in like even things like doing your taxes yourself.
[00:40:45] I mean, some of the other bloggers I was looking up to, they’re talking of all these complicated tax strategies and how they do it themselves and they do their own budgeting and bookkeeping and all this stuff. So I, that’s something I’ve had to, I don’t wanna say unlearn because. I, I’ve met a lot of them.
[00:40:59] I ended up going to conferences and networking and, and that’s a whole nother thing that’s helped me in my business. But, um, and I saw they were living the real life that they portrayed online, which was amazing, this fire life. But the act of like outsourcing actually is how people scale. So when, when everyone asks me like, oh, how do you, you know, you’re about to have two kids.
[00:41:18] You have all this going on, how do you do it? I outsourced literally everything. And the second that we started making more money, more stuff got outsourced. Now we have landscapers. We never did that. We have house cleaners. We never did that. A reality of how when you’re seeing people be really successful, um, that seem not like they’re losing their minds or like they have families or whatever, the reality is, they, they are investing back in themselves in their business and their life.
[00:41:43] That’s what I see. I’m sure there’s someone who’s some superhero in the situation I’m in that does it all themselves and bless them, but for me it’s just that’s not gonna happen.
[00:41:51] Megan: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t even think about that in the fire movement, but you’re right. Like. Lot of DIYs over there and, uh, yeah. I’m also, I’m also an outsourcer.
[00:42:04] Like, I can’t be bothered to mow my yard right now, so, no.
[00:42:08] Julie Berninger: And like, I would even, I felt like with my husband, when he would go mow the lawn, I was like, oh, well that’s, you know, I, I don’t wanna say you’re getting a break, but it’s very difficult having a kid. And the last couple years with the pandemic, it’s been, you know, childcare shut down, like weird things happened.
[00:42:20] So I was thinking like this is a better family life for us. The more that we both outsource. This is more harmony. Absolutely.
[00:42:28] Megan: Um, well, I appreciate you coming on the show so much, Julie, this has been such a fun conversation. Um, I would love to ask you some rapid fire questions before we wrap up. Okay. Does that sound good?
Rapid Fire Questions
[00:42:39] Megan: Okay, awesome. Um, so first rapid fire question I have for you is what is one of the best or most worthwhile investments that you’ve ever made in your business? And it could be an investment of money, time. Any, anything.
[00:42:55] Julie Berninger: I hope this is a different answer, but when I started Gold City Ventures, I had a business partner and I still do, his name’s Cody Berman and he’s, he has his own podcast, the FI show, but he’s seven years younger than me and he is just a go-getter and just us together.
[00:43:10] Are like, we’re able to do so much more. We have a multimillion dollar business because there’s the two of us. If I had been trying to do this by myself during everything that I, I’ve sort of been through the last couple years, I just, I wouldn’t have got to the same place. And I don’t think enough people are willing to take the gamble to invest in other people in relationships.
[00:43:27] Most of my businesses, though, I did start with another person. Maybe not an Etsy shot, but something that’s a little bit larger, like a podcast or a blog or whatever. Um, if you can. Find the right person. You gotta be aligned. You have to think of it almost like a business partnership. I mean, like I mentioned, Cody and I we’re, we’re not even in the same demographic, but we, we have the same vision and the same drive and the same business acumen and desire.
[00:43:52] So that’s why we do well together. But I would say that’s the best investment I ever made.
[00:43:57] Megan: I would love to have a business partner sometimes. Sometimes it’s just nice to have other, other people there not be doing it alone.
[00:44:05] Julie Berninger: Yeah, it’s super fun. I mean, just have someone to like talk th things through with.
[00:44:09] Megan: Okay. Next question I have for you is, in the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life and or your business?
[00:44:18] Julie Berninger: The outsourcing. I just mention. It’s everything to me.
[00:44:22] Megan: Awesome. Um, okay, last question. What are any bad recommendations that you hear in your niche or your business area of expertise with
[00:44:32] starting an Etsy shop?
[00:44:34] Julie Berninger: In terms of bad recommendations? I think there’s a lot of. People that can start a Instagram or a TikTok and put out content. Um, but it’s very difficult to know whether this person knows what they’re talking about or not. And in the case of Etsy and the Etsy Seller Handbook, Etsy’s very particular about certain terms and conditions.
[00:44:55] Like for example, don’t use trademark. Thanks. Never, ever make a Disney product. And some of you may say, Well, I buy all these Disney products on Etsy. They’re short-lived. Like for example, last week I was trying to find, there was this Disney Christmas sweater, and I was so pumped about it. I’m like, I can’t wait to buy this thing.
[00:45:10] I, I started shopping for something else. 10 minutes later, the shop shut down. They’re kicked out, they’re gone. And sometimes, you know, influencers, I just gave one example, but they might not necessarily know all the rules regarding what fonts you can use, what clip art you can use. Um, so I like to learn from people that they have products and they.
[00:45:30] Students and testimonials and just that ru that proof that there’s success because anyone can kind of start a TikTok, um, nowadays. So that, that makes me nervous.
[00:45:40] Megan: Yeah. I didn’t even think about what are, what are some other, like maybe rules of selling on Netsy or some, just some general things that people should steer clear of.
[00:45:50] Julie Berninger: There’s a couple I can rapid fire. Now, depending on the mindset of the person, some people they get really this, this conversation makes them nervous and they don’t start because of it. But I promise you this is like anything in business, I feel nervous every day cuz I’m entering some new arena and I don’t, that I’m learning in my business.
[00:46:06] And it’s like the ability to push past that because what you want is. A greater desire than like how you’re feeling anxious about it. So I’ll, I’ll caveat with that, but some things kind of no-nos don’t have your friends and family buy the product. Um, there’s something called shilling their rule where if you incentivize someone to leave a good review, then you could get a warning from Etsy for that.
[00:46:29] So if your family buys, they’ll be like five stars. I absolutely loved it, but like maybe they didn’t even use it or whatever. Etsy doesn’t like that type of stuff. Um, For Canva. A lot of people I see like the influencers, I’ll see them tell people to start with Canva templates. Canva has hundreds of pre-made designs that you can use as a personal business owner or as, um, you know, in your day life.
[00:46:54] Like, let’s say that your kid is having a birthday party, you can type in, in into Canva birthday invitation, and you can get a pre-made one. You can’t just like take that, tweak it slightly and sell it as your own design on Etsy, when you’re using Canva, you gotta start from the beginning. You can look at it and say, Oh, okay.
[00:47:11] This is the size that they made it and then remake the same size or something. But like, you cannot start with the template. So that’s another thing that a lot of people don’t understand or they’ll use. Camba has free graphics and those are okay, but you cannot use the pro graphics, um, in your principles.
[00:47:27] So, you know, those are just some kind of common no-nos and like, I don’t want anyone to think they’re, you’re not gonna get sued. I mean, I’m not a lawyer, it’s just more, you, most people wanna always do the right things, so take the time to learn what the right things are. Yeah.
[00:47:41] Megan: Uh, that’s so funny. I wouldn’t have thought that about the, uh, pro graphics.
[00:47:44] I would’ve thought it would be the other way around that like, if you pay for it, You can use it for whatever.
[00:47:49] Julie Berninger: It’s because Canva is, I think, licensing them from other third party websites like Pxa Bay and other websites we’ve heard from. So they don’t have the agreement with Pxa Bay for somebody to use them.
[00:48:02] Commercially in a product that will be sold. Now if you wanna put them on your Instagram, who cares? That’s fine. And I use pro Graphics all the time and you know, stock photos and things like that. But on an actual printable that I’m uploading to Etsy and saying is my own, I’m not gonna use any pro elements.
[00:48:17] Megan: Ooh, well, thank you for those tips, because I definitely would’ve been somebody who would’ve broken several of those starting out. So really appreciate that.
[00:48:26] Julie Berninger: So that’s why what I’m saying, like don’t DIY it. It’s just because then someone gave you that whole list and how long would you have had to spend, or like you might do it wrong for six months and then well now you get a best seller and you gotta change out the clip art and it’s frustrating.
[00:48:40] Megan: Well, Julie, this has been great having you. Where can people find you and connect with you online?
[00:48:45] Julie Berninger: You can go to gold city ventures.com. We have a free workshop if you are like, Hey, I actually wanna learn more about selling principles on Etsy. I am on Instagram at Millennial Boss. I am not a social media person, so I’m not gonna be doing the dancing tos.
[00:49:00] I have a couple on there, and that was enough. Um, maybe, maybe in 2023 I’ll finally get more excited about doing that. But I’m all about like keyword research and the more passive ways of making money. Doing the TOS and the Instagrams are not me.
[00:49:16] Megan: Yeah, me either, but I think TikTok is like trending more towards talking, like talking head video or whatever.
[00:49:22] So I’ve been thinking about it more. I’m like, I’m I in TikTok, but also I hate social media, so. Don’t get your hopes up anybody.
[00:49:31] Julie Berninger: Th and this is where I would love to, like I mentioned the mastermind, if I had like a mastermind of people of, Hey, I already have a business, but I’m dabbling in TikTok, so we could try it, but I was, what I don’t like about it, I don’t wanna have to prepare.
[00:49:41] And I was even, you know, I, I don’t have time to like do my makeup or anything here. I was putting the fake eyelashes, the filters on my face. I looked ridiculous. Looked like I had two spiders on my. And I just was like, well, I don’t have time, so I’m just gonna like, just have this filter, put makeup on my face and I’m gonna do this thing.
[00:49:57] So, I don’t know, it just seems like a lot of work. Um, yeah. It’s not, it’s not necessary. It’s not necessary to like perform, to have a multimillion dollar business. You don’t need it. Yeah. But it could help, to your point, I mean, people are really doing so well on these platforms.
[00:50:09] Megan: Yeah. I love that you say that though, because not everybody’s a social media person and you don’t have to be on social media to make good money in a.
[00:50:20] Julie Berninger: No, and and that’s what I learned with the podcast because I had so many listeners and fans like this podcast had a couple million downloads. And I, I thought it was fantastic. I met people in person and I kinda made friends through it, but that wasn’t a multimillion dollar business. Now I have no podcasts at very little social media, and I have a multimillion dollar business, so I don’t want people to like conflate.
[00:50:40] If you have a lot of followers and a lot of people click things, that’s not the same as you have a revenue driving business. Mm-hmm. And sometimes optimizing for downloads and content and traffic, but not setting up the rest of it. That’s where you can just kind of tread water. Yeah. And then you’re not making money on the side hustle.
[00:50:57] Megan: Another mistake I made for so long in my business thinking that like I just needed a blog and like get people to my website and do Pinterest and stuff, all distractions because I wasn’t making money for like a year.
[00:51:09] Julie Berninger: So yeah, you’re like, well what, what product are you selling? I don’t have a product. Oh, okay.
[00:51:15] Problem. So how you make money? Yeah. Yeah. You have to make money to have a business. What?
[00:51:20] Megan: Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for being here today,
[00:51:25] Julie Berninger: Thanks for having me.