How Creative Riot got started

Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?

Creative Riot is a pretty telling name actually. I’m at the core a music producer and composer. As of right now, I’m writing music for a Swedish upcoming TV series but with time and age, I’ve realized that I just like to create - basically anything artistic. I’ve directed some music videos and worked as a color grader as well, and I’ve always been interested in graphic design.

I started this shop with a focus on T-shirts and greeting cards and things I could already create in Photoshop with my existing skills. Things started taking off in 2020 during COVID, when I was in the countryside away from my studio and I just had a laptop and my iPad with the Apple pencil. I decided to learn how to work with vector graphics and got into the world of SVG files. I didn’t know anything about what they were used for, but saw that they were popular.

So I started researching, and the things people can do at home with a Cricut machine and some creativity are pretty amazing! But I also felt that quite a lot of the designs on Etsy had a certain aesthetic that I’m not a big fan of. I felt that there’s a slice or spot I could occupy with my style.

And yesterday: Etsy's automatic notifications just told me I’ve sold 11,000 products, so I guess I wasn’t completely wrong!

Favorite items

What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?

That’s a tough question. I like my own designs for different reasons. I have maybe, 50 cute animal designs that barely sell at all that I really like. But then again, I really like cute animals.

Here are some designs I’m proud of: Organic Design Pack 2

That one is nice because it’s simple yet detailed, and I also love functional designs. I like when a designer spends time to make sure their designs are both useful and beautiful. With those design elements, it’s really easy to make anything look good. 

You don’t need to place your own text in an exact position if you, for example, make an invitation card, and you don’t need to use a specific font to make it work with the design. Some fonts work better than others of course, but in general, I’m very proud of how easy it is to make something look good with the design elements in that product. Form and function!

And then we have: Leopard Print SVG

It’s a classic leopard pattern - but better! Or maybe not better, most leopard patterns look the same because leopards look a certain way. But I think this is my first “bestseller” product, and I decided to make two versions in the same product. One single layer design and one with 3 layers with multiple colors. Even if it’s a super simple design, it just works. There’s something to appreciate about simplicity.

And lastly, we have my absolute top seller at the moment: 119 Mystical Designs

This one took a while to create. It’s actually a bundle of several products, but all bundled products are bundles to begin with. It’s 119 mystical design elements with everything from outer space to daggers and cats. I just love that aesthetic and really enjoyed drawing these designs. It took some time, but there’s something satisfying when you can put it all together and have that many designs following a theme.

Getting sales on Etsy

How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?  

Well, my shop has undergone something of a transition to what is now almost exclusively focusing on SVGs. I sold my first product (a T-shirt) in like, the first or second day of having the shop. After some more understanding about the platform, I think it’s the visibility boost Etsy gives to new shops and products combined that resulted in an immediate sale because it didn’t stay that way. 

I was selling really slowly in the beginning, but when I uploaded the first SVGs, they started selling pretty regularly. So I noticed a difference there. And I wish I had a great answer for how I attract customers, but I really don’t have a strategy. I have a Pinterest account where I upload my designs and link them to the shop, but that’s about it. 

I basically just use Etsy ads to give products a kickstart. They sell and rank higher in search results because they sell. Well, that’s actually a strategy I have - but I’m not sure if it’s a good one.

I’m prepared to take losses on Etsy ads if a product still sells, because in my mind, all sales are good for ranking. To a certain level of course! If I lose too much money on a product from an advertisement, I’ll just focus on different products.

Managing Creative Riot

How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?

Well, since I mainly sell digital files, it’s pretty straight-forward. I do sell some T-shirts via Printful and that works pretty well, everything is automated once the products are synced. But other than that, I have my shop connected to Pinterest and sometimes I use Envato Placeit to create example mockups if I have SVGs that are suited for heat transfer prints or mugs or cards. But I tend to use those less and less. 

I trust my customers to know what they can create with my designs just by looking at the design itself and I think most people have a clear idea of what they do when they type what they’re looking for in the search box.

The future of Creative Riot

What goals do you have for your shop in the future?

My clear goal at the moment is to get to a level of income so I can have one more person working on the shop with me, and then expand to a standalone shop. The only thing I don’t love about Etsy as a platform is that it feels like it’s not really meant for selling high volume low price items - and SVG files are very much low price items. Every time I make a sale, there’s the listing fees and all other small fees Etsy is charging.

There’s a big difference between being charged $0.2 on every item you sell for $100 and every item you sell for $1. I wish all their fees were percentage-based. Some of them are, but not all of them. But aside from that, I’ll just keep adding to the number and types of designs I offer. 

I’m pretty lucky that I like to really get into, let’s say, a certain type of design and then understand it and learn to create things I don’t have prior experience with. 

It brings me a certain satisfaction to master new skills or subset of skills, like creating Christmas designs. I’ve never done that in my entire life before, but now I’m pretty comfortable with it.

Advice for new sellers

What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?

I think it’s important to understand that success will take time. It’s easy to say “but I’ve looked at the designs available and I can do it better” and miss a few important points. 

First, we have the algorithms. Etsy rewards shops that make sales and get good ratings. A new shop doesn’t have any sales or ratings. Sure, they boost visibility for new products for a little while but sales will go up and down. Sometimes during a month or a week or during the day. I can post a new product and get 5 sales immediately - or none. And a month later, there’s no guarantee that the product that immediately got 5 sales will have sold more than the product that didn’t get any sales. 

To have consistent sales, you need to work your way up to that position. Another thing that’s important is quality. When I started out, I focused more on quantity than quality. Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. I do think it’s somewhat valuable to do that as well, you never know what people might like. 

But you can’t compromise with quality. If you sell digital, your products can potentially sell for years and years. So if you spend 2-3 hours extra on a design, that’s nothing if you imagine that design will make you money for the coming next 2 years. “What if I offer this design in 2 versions?” it might take you a couple of hours to create the second version but if just 5% more people will buy your product over the coming year it’s probably worth it right?

But in the end, you need to like what you’re doing. If you’re not excited to create, then what’s the point? Go make money on something else that’s fulfilling to you. 

Finally, there’s always going to be good times and bad times, and getting through the bad times is just so much easier if you’re doing something you’re passionate about.