When I started my Etsy shop, I had a million and one questions about how to take this passion of mine, and turn it into a successful business. Almost two years and 2,000 sales later, I still don’t have all the answers, but I have definitely have learned a thing or two that I would love to pass on to anyone who is considering opening a shop of their own.
I first want to start with some words of encouragement. If you are an artist, a crafter, a DIYer, a designer or anyone who has ever used their creative talents to make something special, I believe that you should be sharing your work with others. Erase the phrase “starving artist” from your vocabulary. The internet has made it possible for creatives to not only sell our work but to create thriving businesses.
If you’ve got a passion for creating, a desire to make money and 20 cents, you have everything you need to open your own shop. Let’s get going!
Step 1: Research
Before you open your business, it’s a great idea to get inspired by other shops— particularly the successful ones. Start to do some Etsy searches for the types of products you will be selling and see what comes up in the results. Click on the listings that stand out to you, and take a look in the shop’s sidebar to see how many sales they’ve made since they have opened. Pay attention to how many items they have listed. Look at the keywords they have used to describe their items, which can be found at the bottom of each listing.
There’s a great site called Craftcount that showcases the top Etsy shops, broken down by category so you can really be inspired by the most prosperous sellers. The goal here isn’t to completely copy another shop, but to identify the ingredients that are bringing them success. The future of your shop depends on you putting forth a product and brand that is unique, special, and has your own personal touch!
Step 2: Learn the rules
Etsy is a fantastic marketplace, but it’s important to remember that we are guests in a space where they call the shots. There are certain guidelines that we, as sellers, need to adhere to (most of which are for our own protection). I encourage you to read through these guidelines before launching your shop. I’ve heard cautionary tales of Etsy sellers who have had their shops shut down as a result of breaking a rule they didn’t even know existed, so take the time to learn em’ and stick to em’!
Step 3: Brand yourself
As soon as you open your shop for business, you are officially a professional— so make sure that you look the part. If you are just starting out, you don’t need to spend tons of money on hiring a designer to create business cards, banners, tags, etc. Other than your listing images, the only piece of artwork needed for your storefront is a simple banner that’s 760 x 100 px, which can be designed by you and created for free, using a program like PicMonkey.
Step 4: Stock your shop
If you don’t already have your products created, now is the time to get started. The minimum number of items you need for your shop to go live is one, but I definitely suggest showcasing more than that. This is just my personal recommendation, but I think 12-28 is a good number to start with. I have noticed that more items usually leads to more sales. If you don’t have quite enough items to fill 12 spots, consider creating a few listings for custom, made-to-order items that can be created after your customer has purchased it, or a special deal like “Buy 2, Get 2 Free!”
Step 5: Take high quality photos
This is the step that is probably making a few of you cringe, but it’s really important. You’ve spent lots of time and energy creating your product, so make sure to take the same care in presenting it in a clear and professional manner. Use natural light when taking your photos and take your shots from different angles, close up and far away. Avoid using that flash whenever you can. You may consider styling or showing your items in use. For example, if you are selling a scarf, showcase a photo of somebody wearing it. Smart phones take great photos, but if you want to kick it up a notch, a high quality DSLR camera will definitely give you the best results.
If you are selling digital products like I do, you can get away with avoiding picture taking all together by displaying your items using stock photos and photo mockups. These have been a huge blessing and time saver for me!
Step 6: Write a killer description
The counterpart to your photos, this is the place where you provide your customers with everything they need to know about the product they are about to purchase. In addition to the description of your item, you will also want to include relevant information like the size, color, and materials used to create your product. It’s important to include your turnaround time, shipping time, a return policy and special instructions if you are selling something custom. A great strategy that a lot of Etsy sellers use is to promote your own products within your listing. For example, at the bottom of your description, you may want to include a note that says “If you are looking for a handpainted vase to match your new plate, you can find our entire collection here <insert link>.”
Step 7: Price your products
Before you go looking at what other people are charging, make note of the money you have spent to create your item, what it is going to cost for you to package it, ship it, and then add .20 (the cost to list an item on Etsy). This may be a no brainer but make sure the amount you are going to charge is more than what you’ve spent to make it. Factor in the time you’ve put into creating your item, or the time you will be spending if you are offering custom-made products. THEN do some research and see what other shops in your niche are charging. Keep in mind that pricing yourself below everyone else is not a great strategy, even if you are just starting out— you don’t want to give the impression that your items are worth less (unless they legitimately are).
Step 8: Do keyword research
This is when you need to think like a buyer. Imagine you were shopping for your item. What would you type into that Etsy search bar? Although Etsy limits the amount of characters we can use for our keywords, it’s great to use phrases rather than words, when we can get them to fit. For example, instead of using the keyword “blue”, “vintage blue teacup” would be a lot more effective in helping a buyer find your item. Keep in mind what I mentioned in Step 1— take note of what those all-star sellers are using for their keywords!
Step 9: Prepare for Shipping
I’ve heard from a few different people that shipping is what is standing in the way of launching their Etsy business. Say it ain’t so! Etsy has made shipping extremely easy for us— once your item has sold, you have the ability to create a shipping label right from your dashboard.
If you are just starting out, you may want to consider selling within your own country only. This narrows your audience but it will also keep your operations manageable while you get the hang of things. If you are within the US, a lot of sellers take advantage of USPS Flat Rate Shipping. As long as you know the size of your item, you know that the cost will be the same, no matter what, and you can easily add insurance to your items (I highly recommend this). Additionally, you can schedule pick up times with the post office so you don’t even need to waste time running out to mail your items. If you are shipping using something other than flat rate shipping, I recommend either investing in a shipping scale, or bringing your core items to the post office, all packaged up, so you know exactly how much to charge your customers.
One more quick note about shipping! Keep that packaging is as high quality as your product. You don’t need to spend an arm and a leg, but make sure your items are packed securely and with a clean presentation. It’s great practice to include a business card for and a small thank you note for your customers so they know how much you appreciate them.
Step 10: Promote
Once you’ve created, you’ve researched your little heart out and your shop is stocked and ready for business, it’s time to get the word out there! If you already have a Pinterest account set up, this is a great place to start. You can pin images of your products directly from your Etsy page, which will drive your followers right to your awesome shop. Now that you are a shop owner, you are officially a small business! Think about setting up additional social media feeds like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which is the best way to get the word out there. If you are feeling particularly ambitious, you may even want to think about starting your own blog!
Another great way to get eyes on your products are to create “Treasuries“, which is a collection of Etsy products that you curate based on a certain theme, style or occasion. Other shop owners are notified when their items have been included in a Treasury and it can be a great opportunity for you to connect with them and ask them to share or “like” the Treasury that includes both of your items.
If you have been thinking about opening your own shop and just needed a little kick in the butt to get started, consider yourself kicked. I hope this mini-guide will get you on your way to selling your work and running a business where you are doing what you love. Have more questions for me? Please leave them in the comments and I will do my best to help you out.
If you’ve opened your shop as a result of reading this, I want to promote and support you, so please be sure to leave links to your shop below as well!
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