I had a big epiphany about ten days ago. I've been loving my 'wedding invitation a day' experiment, and am delightfully surprised at how I'm almost mid-way through and haven't had a creativity block yet. Granted, some designs have been better than others, but I've been able to produce something each and every day.
One of the frustrations of running my e.m.papers enterprise is not knowing what people are going to like and what they aren't. The truth is, a huge majority of my sales come from just one design, my Garden Party wedding invitation design. That's nice, consdering I based it on the wedding invitations I designed for my own wedding, but a girl can not live off revenues generated from one invitation alone. So doing a design a day is a good way to get more designs out there to test. But, out 'where'? That's when I realized that Etsy is a perfect platform for testing new products.
Often, when I come up with a new design, I think 'Awesome, this is great and it's going to be a huge hit' sometimes I'm right, sometimes, I'm not. I realized the best way to find out for sure is just to upload it to my Etsy store and use craftcult to see which designs are getting the most love. I'm finding out that I just can't predict from gut feeling what's going to be popular. Now, this isn't a perfect science, I have to make sure that I'm not biased in what I'm relisting, but still, the view-to hearts ratio feature on Craft Cult helps to adjust for that. Besides, some things, like actual sales speak louder than all the hearts in the world.
I'm really excited about this 'discovery' because it means I can get designs in front of customers faster, and develop the products they like and not spend too much, if any effort on invitation sets that people just aren't going to buy. This is my mini-version of 'JIT' Just in Time delivery, common in manufacturing, which basically means not keeping a lot of inventory hanging around. If someone orders the design, I can build the template after the order is placed, rather than doing it up front and hoping that someone will purchase it later. I just wish I thought of this sooner!
Obviously this doesn't work for every product type, but for those that involve a lot of production, you can still make a prototype, list it and see how it does rather than spend a lot of labor and time producing a bunch in anticipation of sales that may never materialize.