If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of opening your own Etsy shop, the best advice I can give you is just to go for it. It may sound intimidating, but I swear it’s not so bad. (I say this as a previous Etsy shop owner, and one who made money, at that!) Here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Decide what to sell. Etsy offers hand-crafted items, craft supplies, and vintage finds. Whatever you decide to market should be something you are passionate about. Your love for a hobby can fizzle quickly when you add a business element to it; imagine how quickly it’d dissolve if you mixed business with something you just felt “eh” about.
2. Select a name. Do some research before settling on just any name. I spent a long time looking around, only to give up and settle on something I regret now – That Goldfish, the same name of a blog I was running at the time. Go cutesy, abstract, formal, straight-forward… whatever you do, just make sure it’s something you like. (Note: Your shop name and your login name are two different things.)
3. Calculate your overhead. As with any business venture, there are costs that go into making something successful. You can’t just register a username and write a description of what you’d ideally like to sell and expect people to buy based on a promise. You’ll have to provide a sample of what you’re making. I’d say have at least three items up for sale when you “open,” although the more you have, the likelier you are to show up in a search. But that means you’ll have to foot the bill for the costs to create the initial items.
When you’re pricing, you absolutely must factor the cost of materials plus the time it takes you to make each item. Say materials to make one card are $2, it costs 25 cents to list an item, and it takes me an hour to make each. If I charge $3 per card, then I’ve only made 75 cents for 60 minutes worth of work. Is that worth it? It’s different for everyone, but be sure you have a good idea about finances before you just jump in. Making too little money for your effort is bad, but breaking even or hemorrhaging money is worse.
4. Don’t forget the shipping costs. On top of factoring in costs of materials, the fee to list the items, and time it takes to make each thing, you’ll need to think about how much it will be to ship your items. Are your products heavy or dense? Are they large? Are they fragile? What will they be delivered in? And how — U.S. postal service, UPS, FedEx? Will you ship internationally or nationally? All of these things will impact how much you should charge for shipping. One thing I’ve realized: shipping always costs more than you think it will. Sad, but true, so be sure to do your research beforehand.
5. Make the shop look good. Sure, your “shop” is digital only, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t look nice. A great header created in Photoshop (or a free version, like Gimp) can go a long way. (Find out how to upload it here.) Be sure to take a photograph of each item you’d like to list; photos should be well-lit and accurately represent your items. Your photos are all the customers have to go on!
6. Keep the listings concise and accurate. Product listings should be clean (“Winnie the Pooh Anniversary Card”, for example, instead of “Super cute winnie the pooh Anniversary card!!!”). Try to stick to descriptive phrases – it’ll help your listings show up in the Etsy search – but don’t overload. “Card” is way too simple, but “Winnie the Pooh Anniversary/Birthday/Valentine’s Day/Christmas/Hanukah/Independence Day/Wedding Card for All Occasions” is excessive. And be accurate! If I’m a customer and I’m looking for a birthday card, and I click your link only to find out you listed something incorrectly just to get me to look at your product, I will be frustrated and unlikely to return. Try to treat your customers as you’d like to be treated.
7. Wait it out. It might take a while before you get your first order. That’s okay! It can take months before orders come in and even longer before you feel successful. In the meantime, promote your shop when you can. Let your friends and family know you’ve just launched; see if they’d be interested in passing the link along. Use social media to promote yourself. Participate in Etsy forums. Most importantly, have fun with it and be patient. Your first sale will come!
This is part one in a series. The next article will deal with what to do once you’ve got your store up and running.