Monday, September 28, 2009

new week, new shop - tips, tricks, and a little advice.

The regular "new week, new shop" feature will return next week (with a fun twist!). This week I want to share a few tips and tricks for starting up an Etsy shop. It is easy to get your shop up, but can be a disappointment when you don't have sales coming in every day.

I am by no means an expert, but have been on Etsy for a few years now and picked up lots of advice along the way. Now it's time for me to share that advice with you.

1. Put together a plan. To have a successful shop you need a banner / avatar, shop policies, products listed, promotion, packaging ideas, and shipping plans. Rather than tackle this all at once, set goals for yourself and then break those down into mini goals. Finishing your mini goals will give yourself a sense of accomplishment and keep you on track. Consider actually writing down your goals and mini goals. Being able to physically cross them off can be extremely motivating.

2. Capitalize on what you're good at. If you are a good photographer, focus on photographs that will make your products stand out in a search and get you on the Front Page. If you have impressive graphic design skills, focus on a striking shop design, professional packaging, and eye catching promotional materials that will create a strong brand identity. If you are a social butterfly, attend craft shows and talk up potential customers, utilize Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites, and approach store owners about carrying your products.

3. Know when to ask others for help. You will save money by doing everything yourself, but be honest with yourself. You probably don't have the time and talent to successful accomplish everything - graphic design, photography, promotion, taxes... I knew I needed help with my shop banner / avatar. I found a graphic designer on Etsy, gave her my ideas, and she created the design for a very reasonable fee. Knowing it was time to reach out to others saved me a lot of time and gave my shop a more professional appearance.

4. Create a brand. Branding isn't something that should only be left to the big box stores. Jot down words that represent the products you want to sell and the feeling you want to portray. Incorporate this style into all aspects of your shop - banner / avatar, photography styling, packaging, and promotional materials. Consistency is key.

5. Deliver a pretty package. Some might not agree with me, but one of the reasons I shop on Etsy is knowing my order will be packaged with care and will be pretty! I am more likely to purchase from a shop (and pay a little extra) if I know my order will come looking professional and like the owner put in some effort. For me this is what sets independent shops apart from the big box stores. This is especially true now, when I am starting to look for gifts to give at the holidays. It doesn't have to take a lot of money to make your packages look good. I wrap all of my orders with kraft tissue paper, red baker's twine, and a red label. Simple, but reflects my brand and looks better than just thrown in a bubble mailer.

6. Communicate with your customers.
Answer questions promptly. Acknowledge custom order requests, regardless of whether you can fill them or not. Thank customers for their order and let them know when it will ship. This may seem like common sense advice, but I cannot tell you how many times I have placed an order and never heard from the shop owner. I have even contacted a shop about purchasing an item from their Sold Section, was told she could likely accommodate the request and needed to check on her supplies, and then never heard back. That is an easy way to lose a customer that was ready to purchase from you.

7. Ship quickly.
This is another simple one. Think about how you feel when you place an online order. You are probably anxious to receive your products, and might need them by a certain date to use as a gift. Try to get all of your orders in the mail within a couple of days. You can utilize Paypal and automatic shipping centers at the post office to lessen the burden. If you know it will take you awhile to ship your orders, be clear and up front with your customers. Be sure to let them know how long it will take to ship in your Shop Announcement and Product Descriptions to avoid disappointed and frustrated customers.

8. Listen to what others are doing, but stick with what works for you.
It is a good idea to take into consideration what has and hasn't work for others. The vast majority of sellers will say paying to be in a Showcase did not produce extra sales so save your $7. (Sorry, Etsy!) However, just because a seller in the forums reports $500 in sales after sending out a newsletter doesn't mean you should rush to put out your own newsletter. There is a long list of reasons why a newsletter may have worked from them, but won't work for you - long list of newsletter recipients, many repeat customers, certain price point, experience with newsletter design... Think about your shop and your customers, and the best ways to reach them. It may take some trial and error.

9. Make yourself visible. Unfortunately you can't just set up your shop, list your products, and watch the sales roll in. You can easily be lost in the sea of Etsy shops if you don't work hard to be seen. Spread out your listings over a few days so you will be closer to the front of searches. Email blog owners whose blogs you enjoy reading to introduce your shop for a possible feature. Pass out business cards to friends and family, and ask they pass them on to others who might enjoy your shop. This is something you will have to continue to do to continue growing your shop and customer base.

10. Be professional. Some people are a little apprehensive to shop on sites like Etsy because they don't know what to expect. Make sure to include all relevant information in your Product Descriptions - measurements, materials used, care instructions, and such. Clearly list your shipping times and method of delivery. Explain your return policy if a product arrives damaged or the customer simply doesn't like it. These are the little details that aren't always fun, but will relax your customers' possible fears.

That should certainly give you a starting point, but definitely isn't all the tips / tricks / advice out there. If you have your own Etsy shop, or just like to shop on Etsy, please share your own words of wisdom and what makes you return to a certain shop over and over!


  1. Thank you so much for this post! It is very helpful. Now I just have to stop procrastinating and actually implement your suggestions.

  2. Great suggestions! I've been with Etsy for less than 10 weeks now, selling vintage, and I've learned many of these suggestions from other sellers in the forums. It does work to do everything suggested in this blog. I've had a decent number of sales already by implementing these ideas. I haven't mastered the "blog, twitter, or facebook" promoting ideas yet, but they are definitely on my "to do" list. Thanks again for reminding us what works!!

  3. Thank you for much for your tips foundpaperco. I'm pretty new as a seller and am still learning, but if I may say about "Wisdoms" to newbies like myself are:

    1. Take great pictures of your product
    2. make yourself visible
    3. and, learn from others' experiences - read the posts or blogs, etc.
    4. Don't get discouraged even if your number of sales is low (I know it is hard...)

    As I said, I'm still learning but wanted to share what I have been telling myself addition to what you have listed above.

  4. Forgot to add my shop name to the above post by betty!

    Thanks again!

  5. Thanks for the great post! I appreciate all of the time and effort you put in not only to eloquently making your points, but visually exemplifying them.

    I have a blog where I employ such practices (as found in your tips) and share the results of my efforts. Check it out if you're interested.

  6. Great advice, yes. And don't get discouraged, or let others discourage you. A positive attitude is so important, and you have to remember that you love your art or craft, and that's why you started doing it in the first place.

  7. I would add a couple of things to this (excellent) post. First, be realistic. Look critically at the things you are planning to sell. Are they good enough? Look and see how much competition there is on Etsy for your items. If there's a lot of competition, it's going to take that much longer to get sales, unless you stand out by being better or cheaper. But on the other hand, if there's no competition, maybe there are limited buyers for your items. So be realistic. If there are 30,000 bracelets listed you are going to be one in that 30,000 and have to figure out how to get noticed. If you make, I don't know, decorative barbed wire wrapped rocks, you might be the only one selling them, but there's a limited number of buyers out there and you'll have to focus on getting those buyers into your shop.

    The second key point: Know your dollars. I know, I know, the financial stuff SUCKS! I'm a creator, not an accountant! But it's SO important. Know how much you will pay out in fees to both Etsy and Paypal when your items sell. Know your materials costs. Know your packaging and shipping costs. Know how long it takes you to make something, and figure out how much you are actually paying yourself if you sell at the price you set. And importantly, all those .20 renewing fees add up. If you are selling fairly low cost items, the renewing may net you sales, but does that really matter if your entire profit margin has been chewed up by all the renewing?

    OK, third point, then I'm done: views and hearts are not sales. Views and hearts ARE NOT SALES. If renewing nets you 200 views but no sales...well, was that .20 well spent? Maybe yes, maybe no. IME while views and hearts are lovely pick me ups, hearts in particular have rarely translated into sales for me.

    Gee, maybe I should write my own darn blog post!

  8. Hi I stumbled on to your blog via 'oh hello friend'.
    As a paper addict, just the name of your blog clicked with me.
    I have wanted to start an etsy shop, and your post really does go through the process step by step which is very helpful. Thank you.

  9. Thank you so much for this! I have my own etsy shop (who doesn't!) and I've gotten a lot of exposure but this really helps!

  10. What perfect timing to find this post (I also came via 'oh hello friend'). I am just about to set up my Etsy shop selling my artworks and face the daunting task of wondering where to start and, most importantly, how to get buyers in my shop, so this is all good stuff! Got the blog already where I've been posting up pictures of my works to good review, but now being brave and actually thinking about selling it!

  11. This post is so helpful! Thank you!
    I've been meaning to open an etsy shop for almost a year now and I really hope to do it by the end of the year.
    I agree with you about most of the stuff, the other things I just haven't experienced yet. One of the things I like about etsy is that it so much more than just a place to buy stuff, it is so different from ebay for example, everything is so much more personal and that's what I am looking for when I place an order. I am even saving money to get some items I love which might be more expensive than what I would usually spend, but it feels like I am making myself a gift and I know I won't be disappointed :)

    have a lovely day!

  12. very good sharing,
    i would like write something in my blog to ask ppls see yours,
    i think this is very good suggestion to all the etsian! :) Thanks.

  13. This was a very helpful post ! I wish it existed when i opened my shop earlier this year. :))

    + Photography :: I like it when i can see every angle of a product. I take pictures of every. possible. angle. Hey, i paid .20 cents !

    + Business cards :: I have been wanting to package my items better. I currently package them in handmade glassine envelopes (closing the sides with my sewing machine).

    + Identity :: I'd like to make tags/labels, business cards, and mailing labels with my logo to make my shop look more professional.

    Thank you for this post !

  14. this was a really great post, xenia, thanks!

  15. i just mention your useful article in my blog, Thanks for the sharing again!!

  16. Just opened my Etsy shop and so glad I saw your post! Thanks for sharing things you have learned along the way!

  17. Ahh, this post was well timed! I'm just looking into opening an etsy shop, and was a little worried... but your post made me feel like it was less of a daunting task than I have been making it out to be. Thankyou :)