WARNING: Extremely LONG, yet informative post…
A while back, sweet Tingting over at Empower Love, sent me an email asking if I would be willing to give her some insider tips on setting up her Etsy shop, Lovassion, as well as what to expect when selling on Etsy. I was more than happy to oblige, and went about compiling every little tidbit I could think of that could prove beneficial to her. While creating this list, I realized that there were probably thousands of others out there with the same questions, so I decided to write up a little post on the topic. I’m positive that there are a TON of other tips that could be added to the list, but this is what I’ve put together so far. Feel free to add additional information in the comments below.
Okay, so you’ve already established the fact that you TOTALLY dig being creative in your spare time. Your friends and family members have been giving you the third degree for months about when you’re going to start selling your creations, because you’re “THAT GOOD!,” but the thought of selling at craft shows just doesn’t fit into your schedule. The next best solution is to sell online. WHAT???!!! Well, why not? You put in the same amount of time creating your masterpiece, then you take some killer photos, write up a little bit of information about what it is and what it’s used for, and then you hit “Publish.” Simple as that! And the best part of selling online is that you can make sales even while you sleep! Who wouldn’t want to make money while they’re catching some ZZZ’s?
So, you’ve been giving it some thought (have been doing the “Should I, Shouldn’t I” dance around in your head) and are finally considering selling your items online, but are unsure if you should go through with it. Now I pose this question to you, what are you waiting on? Yeah it’s scary to try something new, to shake up your routine, but the worst thing that could POSSIBLY happen is that you lose a couple bucks. Whoopty Doo! (How many Redbox movies have been total flops that you wasted your money on?!) So, my advice to you is to stop wasting your time and your thought process on this, and just take the plunge. Better yet, if you click on this link “OPEN YOUR OWN ETSY SHOP NOW!” you will get your first 40 listing for FREE!!! Yes, you read that right, FREE! That way you can test the waters without coughing up the cash. How cool is that?!
***PS: If you use my link, make sure to go through ALL the prompts without clicking out of it to ensure that you receive your 40 free credits-I have no control over this process.***
While the whole idea of selling online is extremely daunting when you first go into it, and you start doubting your talent and abilities, fear not. It’s not as brutal as you may think! “Well what if no one likes my work?” you may ask. “What if I don’t make any sales?” What if, what if, what if… Well, here’s one for you, what IF your art is SO well loved that you become an overnight sensation? Highly unrealistic, but crazier things HAVE happened!
So let’s delve into the topic at hand. I’m going to skip the self-explanatory process of actually “opening” your shop, as I trust you are quite capable of doing this on your own, but I am going to offer you some food for thought. So, let’s begin…
The first thing that you need to do is to come up with an unforgettable shop name. Make it easy, and one that people will remember. Make sure that YOU like it, and that you enjoy saying it. You are going to be spending A LOT of time advertising, so make it something fun and something that will look good on a business card or flyer. I believe that you can only change your mind on the shop name once, and if you’ve already established some customers, this will be confusing for them; so avoid this at all costs. You want for their overall experience to be amazing! Plus, you don’t want to waste your energy on changing everything around just because you want to change up your shop name. Best tip: Try to center your name around what you plan to create and carry in your shop. You wouldn’t want to have a shop named “The Gun Show” if you have a line of baby doll clothes; know what I mean?
Now it’s time to create your shop pages. It goes without saying that the most important page on any online site is your “About” page. People like to put a face with a name; especially if they’re purchasing items from you. What is your shop’s focus, or your mission statement? What are some personal tidbits that relate to your new business venture? How did you get into your craft, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time, what are your hobbies? Share a little bit of info about your family, your pets, and so on. This is supposed to be a short, sweet, and to the point kind of thing, so be conscientious in what you write. Your customers want to connect with you, not hear your life story; their time is precious after all! If you’re a blogger in addition to being a shop owner, share this information as well. They may be interested in reading some of your posts.
In addition to your “About” page, you are going to want to fill in your shop’s policies. It is best to find another established shop that is similar in nature to yours. Use their policies as a guideline, but DO NOT COPY! Everyone is unique, as is their shop. By copying their work/words, not only are you infringing on their “property,” but you are cheating yourself. Once people catch on that you’re a fraud, your business WILL suffer. Start out honest, and allow yourself the opportunity to prosper.
Make sure to include detailed information in your policies; the more information you offer, the more legitimate your business will appear to others. Spend some time thinking about your sales, whether you are going to offer international shipping, what your return policy is going to be, and whether or not you will honor exchanges. People research these topics prior to making a purchase and they want to feel “protected” when they finally decide to buy. Put their mind at ease, and make their experience as painless as possible.
Now that you have the “business” side of things done, you are going to want to jazz up the appearance of your shop, and it ALL starts with your banner! You can create your own custom banner on Canva (in addition to a multitude of other websites/photo shop programs) or you can purchase one on Etsy. There are several shops devoted to creating banners for other shops. It is a good idea to have several banners on hand; to advertise your sales, the holidays, when you temporarily close up shop to go on vacation, and so on. Make sure that your banner caters to your “brand.” (What your shop/creations are all about (the “feel”).) If you are a vintage/antique dealer, a banner covered in kitty cats and rainbows would not only look completely out of place, but it would make you look like an unprofessional and complete doofus. Instead you would want to choose retro images/colors that would complement your shop. Make sure that you take the time to make things look top notch. You have a TON of competition, and online, first impressions mean absolutely everything! Whatever you do, DO NOT rush this process! Take your time and get it right the first go around. You’ll appreciate it down the road, trust me.
Alright, so your initial set up has been tended to, your shop is packed with informative information, and your shop face looks stellar; now the time has come to advertise. YEAH!!! First, you will want to invest in some business cards. You can design your own, or you can choose from thousands of pre-made designs. VistaPrint has a massive selection to choose from and they offer some fantastic deals, but there are a TON of other places that you could get them printed from as well. As with the banner, choose something that promotes your “brand.” Make sure that they are similar in nature to your banner, focusing on the same color palette, and exposure. You wouldn’t want a “soft” feel (a blush pink watercolor with tiny white polka dots) on your shop page and then pass out a business card with a “sharp” feel (a neon pink zebra print). Your customer would be like, “WTF???!!!”
Once you have your business cards/brochures/flyers/post cards/what have you printed up, you are going to want to start a buzz around town. Pass them out everywhere that you go, post them anywhere you can find a spot, tell your friends, family members, co-workers, even strangers on the street about your new shop. Get excited about it! How would you respond if someone walked up, handed you a business card and said (IN A MONOTONE VOICE) “Hi, come check out my new shop.”? Now, think about someone who bounces over to you and in a bubbly tone says “Hey, I just opened my Etsy shop. I have a TON of fun jewelry for sale that you would just love!” Which shop would you take the time to check out? Point made.
One misconception that folks have when starting a business is that once the shop is open to the public, it’s time to sit back and reap the rewards. Nothing could be further from the truth! You HAVE to get out there and promote yourself; do the legwork, get involved in social media, connect with others around your community. Tell everyone that you run across about this fantastic new business that you just opened. If you have your own blog, share the great news with your followers. Write up posts about new items that you’re creating, share videos on your YouTube channel about how you make your creations, organize how to tutorials, create announcements that you can share on your multiple social media spots. Whatever you can think to do to get the word out about your new business, do it! YOU are the one who determines whether your shop will be a success or not.
One aspect of selling items online that had never even dawned on me when I opened my shop was my packaging/shipping plan. I had been selling on eBay for so long that it just never clicked up there in my overstuffed noggin that I should go about things a bit differently. When Tingting started sharing what her packaging plans were, I was like, “Well, yeah! Why didn’t I think of that?” You know, one of those BIG RED TRUCK moments! You definitely want to make your packaging supplies reflect your personality and your overall business scheme; from your color palette to the little extras that you tuck in your packages.
What works with eBay shipping, is frowned on from Etsy customers. Would you be happy getting a ratty, well used box with your item just plopped inside, or would you prefer to get a pretty package that looks as though you just purchased it from a boutique? Exactly! Thank you card inserts are a fantastic idea, as well as discount codes for your customers to use on their next purchase, and don’t forget to throw in a little freebie gift; that is always appreciated. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you do SOMETHING to sweeten the deal and make your customer feel that you value their purchase. After all, the best advertising is by WORD OF MOUTH! Give them a reason to brag about your shop!!!
One MAJOR thing that you need to familiarize yourself with when creating items for your shop, are Copyright and Trademark items. A while back, I had sewn a couple of baby items, only to discover that another company owned the rights to that particular name and style. My “Taggy” Blanket was the item, and using the term “Taggy” in addition to the style of “loop” that was sewn between the two swatches of material that I had used, was in direct violation. I received an email from an attorney stating what my infraction was, and was advised to remove said items from my store front, or that legal action would be enforced. Well, hell, I didn’t know! I was new to the business, and I had seen a million other people on Etsy selling them, so I didn’t think anything of it. It was then that I decided that it was time to stop being naive, and start researching the Etsy forums. WHOA! Talk about hitting the motherload! There are an insane amount of threads dedicated to this very topic! I learned that titles like “Cadbury Purple,” “Shabby Chic,” “Onesie,” and “Tiffany Blue” (among others) were completely off-limits!!! If you even think about using these, consider yourself in violation. There are a ton of shop listings that still use these terms, but in due time, they will get busted.
Okay, so I mentioned the Etsy forum up above. The forum is a SUPER valuable resource that you should definitely take advantage of! It is designed for shop owners, as well as for Etsy customers, and it is jam packed FULL of valuable information! Word to the wise though; be cautious when you decide to make yourself known. Since everyone has access to this forum, if you feel like talking smack about that crazy difficult customer that you had recently, there IS a possibility that they could see it.
Say you get research happy, and have a question about a specific topic, head on over to the forum and type your inquiry into the search bar. I’m willing to put money on the fact that you will find your answer. There are a multitude of fabulous articles available for you, and your peers are very involved and descriptive in their threads! Make sure to build friendships with your fellow Etsians. Join Etsy groups and teams if you are in a position to do so, and if you are given the opportunity to get together with your “neighbor” Etsians at a meet up, jump on it.
Running an Etsy shop can be lonely, and if you can interact with likeminded individuals close by, do it. You will then have the opportunity to brainstorm, encourage, and support one another when it’s needed the most. They are a tight knit network, and this could prove extremely beneficial to your growth. The more friends you make, the more your shop will advance. Not only will your new friends take the time to promote your new shop, (as you should do for theirs!) but they will also offer you valuable insight that could help you keep your shop looking sharp. Take the time to follow your friends on their various social media platforms; write up short posts bragging about their shop/creations, and nine times out of ten, they will do the same for you. You know the old saying, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” But, make sure NOT to compare yourself, your shop, or your success level with your new friends. Doing this is extremely unproductive and damaging to your self-worth! Everyone is unique, and we all have our different way of doing things. Be happy for your friends; be supportive when they need it and rejoice at each of their successes! If you surround that friendship with negativity, you will be the one who suffers from it.
Most Etsy shops cater to one “type” of item in their shop; be it crocheted items, jewelry pieces, vintage items, handmade greeting cards, and so on. Not only is it better for business, but it is less confusing for your customers. If your craft centers on several different items, you may want to consider opening up an additional store. Personally, I have a wide variety of items that I enjoy creating. I get bored focusing on only one “type” of craft. But, in my shop, the theme is pretty consistent. I use a lot of bright colors, and my “style” teeters on Hippie/Boho art. It may come off as confusing to some, but it works for me, and I haven’t seen any major issues regarding my sales. So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?!
Currently, the listing fee for each item that you post to your shop is 20 cents. The total (of new listings and the number of sales you make) at the end of the month will make up your monthly bill. When you make a sale, Etsy will take a small percentage from that sale, and will then take the remaining funds and direct deposit that amount into the bank account that you have on file. At the end of each month, they will automatically debit your monthly bill from said account. I believe that “due dates” are different for everyone, but don’t quote me on that.
It goes without saying that having breathtaking images on your shop are a necessity. Since you do not have your beautiful creations displayed nicely in a brick and mortar shop somewhere, then you need to ensure that you give your customers the best possible “First Impression” they can get. How are you going to do that??? With PICTURES, of course!!! Etsy allows you to upload 5 pictures per listing. Make sure that you use all 5 of these, and that you only choose your best images. Make sure to include different angles to give your customer the full effect.
So let’s pretend that you have two shops selling a similar Turquoise Knitted Infinity Scarf that would accessorize your new maxi skirt perfectly. They both have their scarves priced the same, but one shop has bright, sharp photos, while the others’ photos are dark and unfocused. Which shop would YOU purchase that scarf from?!
While doing a photo shoot for your creations, make sure to accentuate the beauty of each individual piece. You have two options here. You can either create photos with white (Gallery Style) backgrounds, or you can utilize the nature around you. A lot of shop owners swear by the “White Backdrop,” but you should choose whichever method will do your creation justice. Carolina over at Yesterday After, displays her jewelry on stones and leaves, among other props, and I feel that her usage of nature really add to the beauty of each piece!
In saying this, don’t place that rhinestone bracelet in a “busy” environment. That will only take away from its elegant beauty; instead photograph it laying on a piece of driftwood down by the ocean. Don’t photograph that scarf lying flat on a tabletop, instead display it on a female model in a secluded valley surrounded by freshly fallen snow. Use the nature that you have around you to your benefit. Photos taken in natural light end up serving you best, and they complement the radiant tones and hues of your creations. Natural light (but not direct sunlight) accentuates its truest beauty. Make sure to eliminate as many distractions as you can from your photos, and take those few extra seconds to ensure that you wind up with a nice clear/sharp shot. Photo editing can do wonders for your photographs, and I have heard that Foto Fuze is a fantastic program. Apparently, in this program, you can remove backgrounds from your images, but I personally, have never used it.
Second, I want to encourage you to watermark your photos. You take the time to plan, execute, download, edit, and upload these originals photographs; make sure that no one else can claim these bad boys as their own work. As much as I hate to admit it, there are thousands of these characters out in the world. The placement of your watermark can be anywhere on your image. You should choose what works best for you. Keep in mind that watermarks are extremely helpful when it comes to pinning images on Pinterest. Say that you run across a “I gotta have it!” item on Pinterest. You click the image, and discover that the link is broken. Well, now how are you going to buy it? Well, if the shop name is on that image, the person could then search out that particular shop, find the item and buy their “PRECIOUS.”
SEO-Search Engine Optimization
So, on to SEO, that essential “tool” that determines whether your shop will get exposure or not. If you are a blogger, then you KNOW how important SEO is in getting noticed. Let’s begin by discussing Titles, Tags, and Descriptions. First of all, they need to sync together so that your content will get more exposure on Google searches, but PLEASE, DO NOT become obsessed with this! Same goes for the pictures. While it is super important to have bright, clear photos, if you get tunnel vision on getting that one perfect shot, then you are wasting your creative energy. Do the best that you can, and then forget about it.
While putting together a listing, keep in mind that the source of your keywords will generally be from your title, from the first TWO sentences in your description, and from the tags that you choose to use. You want to be consistent here, to ensure that if someone types your keyword into a search bar (i.e. Google), that your listing will pop up as a result. When it comes to creating your title, DON’T be vague and use a title like BEAD BRACELET. Instead, break it down like this: Amazonite Bracelet, Virgo Bracelet, Zodiac Bracelet, Astrology Bracelet, Beaded Stretch Bracelet, Blue Stone Bracelet, Boho Bracelet. This covers a wide variety of specific terms that a person may be searching for. Also, common misspelled words could be included into your list, so that way, if the person types in the incorrect spelling, your listing will still show up.
When you get down to your description, it should start out something like this: This classy amazonite bracelet features a charm with the Zodiac/Astrology sign, Virgo. This Boho style bracelet stretches and features blue stones and glass beads… See what I did? You want to plug in your keywords, but at the same time, make your sentences fluid, and easy to read. When you get down to your tags, you need to make it a point to use ALL 13 tags. This not only will benefit your potential customer, but it will increase traffic to your shop. Utilize this feature. Examples of tags would be: Amazonite Bracelet, Virgo Bracelet, Zodiac Signs, Astrology Signs, Virgo, Beaded Bracelet, Stretch Bracelet, Blue Stones, Glass Beads, Boho, Charms, Gift, Jewelry
Some additional tips for your description include adding personal details. For example, what kind of fabric is used, what are some different uses that your creation may serve, what are some special features that it offers, or you could even share the proper care instructions. Think about what they would do with your creation at a brick and mortar store prior to purchasing it. They would feel it, smell it, play with it, and so on. Get excited when you describe your creation. The more information that you can offer your customer, the more likely you are to get their sale. Also, who would benefit from it, where could you display it, how can it be used? What inspired you to create this piece? How much time did you spend creating it? Make sure to share a little of your creation’s backstory. That extra explanation will make your customer treasure it that much more.
Additional Features of a Listing
There are two more important parts of a listing. The shop section (Necklaces, Bracelets, Rings, Earrings…), and the materials used. The sections will break your shop into a more organized platform for your customers to view, and the materials used will give your customer a more realistic idea as to the quality of your item. Use them to your advantage. The more information that you share the more knowledgeable in your craft you will appear. The more organized your shop is, the more your customer will experience a pleasurable shopping experience. It’s a win-win all the way around!
If you can find an appropriate occasion/style/recipient in the list, use those as well. If someone is searching under a broad category, and your item is Whimsical, you will want to make sure that your creation is seen. By using “Whimsical,” for your style, your creation will be included in those search items.
Also, make sure to include measurements and extra details about your items size. It would be like when I ordered my plate for metal stamping. I was expecting a 2-3 inch square, and when it arrived, it was like ½ inch! Talk about being disappointed! If they had included their measurements, or at least showed it photographed next to another item for size reference, it would have eased the blow. Make sure that your customers are fully aware of what they are ordering. Provide that information on the front end. It will save you from experiencing a lot of frustration when you have to cough up a replacement/refund.
I’m no expert on the subject, but some additional advice that I can send your way is to post new items often. Every time you post an item/renew an item, your products get bumped up in the search menu, thus allowing your shop to gain more exposure. More exposure=more sales. Several shop owners have said to post 3 to 5 new items each day to stay fresh. If you have that kind of time, more power to you! I personally, don’t. I do what I can, when I can.
I have also read that 75 is the magic number on Etsy. Not sure how true this is? But apparently, once you have listed 75 items in your shop, sales take off. Also, and this is HUGE, DO NOT be a stats fanatic!!! Comparing your numbers to someone else is unproductive. Use that extra energy to create new items for your shop, or create a new stellar blog post about your creations, or put together a tutorial for your YouTube channel. Use your time wisely, productively, and your numbers and sales will show it. Another thing; on the forum, there are countless people worried about their reviews. While they are great to have (positive ones anyway), they don’t deter people from purchasing from you. I would much rather have NO reviews, than BAD reviews! You can politely ask your customers to review your products, but if they don’t, make sure that you don’t hound them. That makes you look bad, and will only result in a negative review.
Like in all business, customer service is key for a company; but more so when doing business online. Make sure to give your customers a great first impression. Say I’ve been shopping around for a new iPhone case. I find two that I really like at two different shops. I send each shop a short list of questions prior to placing my order. One responds in 5 minutes, while the other takes 4 days to respond. Which one do you think I would do business with? With that said, stay on top of your convos! I check mine multiple times per day. I want to make sure that my questions are answered ASAP.
So, how much should you charge for your creation? I hear this question being posed on every platform that I frequent! My advice to you here is to look to see what your fellow Etsians are charging. That way you can get in the ball park. Also make sure to include the cost of your materials, labor, and your packaging products. DO NOT short change yourself!!! If you charge too little, you cheapen the quality of your creation. The higher you charge, the more value your creation will have, and the better your sales will be. It’s all psychological, let’s just leave it at that.
Let me begin by saying that I am NO expert when it comes to shipping. I have not shipped internationally yet, but am planning to do so once I have the time to research how it all works. During the early stages of my research, I discovered that it is a safe bet to choose 2 shipping destinations when trying to get an idea on shipping fees. For American sellers, we would choose Canada and Australia, as these two countries are the closest and furthest away from us. If our creation can ship to Australia for said price, then it will ship to all of the other countries slightly cheaper. Also, make sure to check what items are allowed INTO each country. Some countries have regulations on certain types of materials, and will refuse these items across their border. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. I read that France has super strict import rules-check out the USPS website for additional information.
One thing that I do know from experience is that a customer is more likely to purchase an item if Free Shipping is offered, as it simplifies the sale for them. But, if that’s just not your thing, make sure that you charge an appropriate fee. There are a TON of equations available on Pinterest that can help you out there. Just make sure that you don’t overcharge (folks just REALLY don’t like feeling that they got gypped), and that you don’t end up losing money (It’s never fun eating your profit!). If you want to save a ton of time at the post office, be aware that you have the option to print out your shipping labels through Etsy. I’ve never tried this, but have heard wonderful things about it!
I’m going to go ahead and include these little tidbits, but keep in mind that these figures were compiled PRIOR to the recent increase in postal prices.
- First Class International is apparently the cheapest method-this only applies to packages 4 ounces and under
- A 4 ounce First Class International package ranges around $9+
- There are extra custom charges when shipping internationally-something to consider
- Make sure to include tracking on your packages, and insurance if it is a higher priced item
- You can insure through Etsy Insurance on the Shipping Label page
- Etsy has a Shipping Calculator
- Etsy Shipping Labels are apparently cheaper and tracking is included for free-One perk to using them is the auto fill in function-Saves writing/typing for you!
And finally, I am sharing with you a “Critique Worksheet” that is used by established shop owners to evaluate theirs and others’ shops. Use these prompts to your advantage, and set your shop up right from the beginning. Having to go back and “tweak” this or that is SO time consuming! It is NOT something that you want to do, trust me!
I hope that this has proven a helpful post to at least a few of you. And if you’re a shop owner and you have additional tips to add, please do so in the comments below. Let’s get these folks the info that they’re searching for. Over the years I have obtained a TON of knowledge from bloggers, and I hope to return the favor.
Shop Critique Worksheet
Polish your shop-Top Notch Photography
1. Is the shop using all 5 photos in each listing-does it show product details?
2. Is the shop using photos to accurately depict the size and scale of the item?
3. Do the photos have subtle backgrounds that don’t distract from the item?
4. Is the shop cropping photos in a complimentary way and are they using the image cropping tool to adjust their thumbnail photos?
Get Found-Optimize Search with Titles and Tags
1. Is the shop using descriptive key words/phrases in each title/tag/description that answer questions about their product such as: What is the item’s:
- Who is it created for and how?
2. Is the shop using all 13 tags and describing the item’s style in their titles and tags?
3. What keywords would you personally use in search to find items in this shop? ___, ___, ___
4. Is this shop using words from question 3?
Curate your Shop-Create a Cohesive Brand
1. Does this shop feature a diversity of products with varying price points to keep their shoppers engaged?
2. Are the shop policies filled out? Do they instill a trust in the buyer?
3. Is the shop telling a story and communicating a style?
4. Does the avatar and banner reflect the shop’s style and personality? Do they complement the item photos?
5. Are the item’s descriptions full, and do they tell a shopper why they should buy this item?
Ship It Out-Successful Shipping and Handling Policies
1. Is the shop listing its location correctly so that local shoppers can find them?
2. Does the shop offer international shipping options?
3. Does the shop offer reduced shipping when purchasing with another item?
4. Does the shop clearly outline their shipping, insurance, return, and refund policies?
Price It Right-Price to Sell and Thrive
1. Is the shop pricing high enough to cover material, labor, and their profit after fees are taken?
2. Does the shop price items to attract their desired customers?
3. Does the shop support its pricing structure with detailed descriptions about their process and materials used?
4. Does the shop provide a range of items with various price points?
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