Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Etsy Tips

I would consider myself a very novice Etsy seller. I opened my shop just under a year ago and have only had 39 sales (and 18 of those have been in the past 2 months). I want to see my shop do well, so I eat up every little bit of Etsy advice I find out in blog land. And since blog posts become old history in just a matter of weeks, and I regularly see friends asking for advice about getting started on Etsy, I thought maybe a few of you are eager for advice the way I was not that long ago. Here are six basic tips for a new Etsy seller (and if you've been at it a while, I'd love to hear your feedback!).

1. Set Up Shop
Have a nice banner. As a buyer, I am quick to judge a shop by their banner. I know it’s shallow, but it’s true. It doesn’t mean your banner needs to be super fancy or designed by an expensive designer. Just put your best foot forward by giving attention to the first detail a shopper notices when they enter your “store”.


For Jilly Bean’s Babies I bought a premade design package from Simply Creative Shop (Thanks Rachel for the tip!!!). She customizes a basic set of graphics (banner, avatar, reserve listing, sale and away images) with your shop name. One of these packages only costs $10 and I felt like it was a great use of that money. I have yet to come across another shop with the same images as mine (although that is a possibility at some point, but I’m not worried about it).

banner 1

For Ruffles ‘n Such I just designed something of my own in Microsoft Publisher using clip art images and a font on my computer.

In addition to having a good image, look at other shops similar to the one you want to have for an idea of what to say in your shop policies, what their pricing points are, and how much of the item you’ll be listing they actually sell. Do your research.

2. Photos Make A Difference
Have pretty pictures. But don’t feel like a DSLR camera is your only way to have good looking pictures.

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The picture on the left was taken with my point and shoot, and the one on the right is with my DSLR. You can see the difference, but it doesn’t mean the one on the left is a bad photo. Check out this post for tips for good photos without a fancy camera or Photoshop. When you’re taking your pictures, highlight what makes your item unique, show it in action, and be sure if there are any flaws, you show them. Make sure that a buyer knows what they’re getting when they purchase it—you want them to know what they’re getting if you want good feedback.

3. Find Your Niche

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(Picture on left is with DSLR, right is with point and shoot)

This should probably be one of my first points, but sometimes it may take you a little while to find your niche. I think that my sales were slow[er] at first because what was listed in my shop wasn’t anything different. If you search “Rosette Headband” on Etsy, you’ll find that 15,000+ items come up in your search. Why would someone want to buy one of my rosette headbands (unless they have a connection to me) when there are so many others out there, listed by sellers who have hundreds of sales and positive feedback. So I’ve tried listing a variety of items that I like to make and have watched to see what gets the most interest, and eventually, the most sales. I’m finding that scarves seem to be my thing. Only 4000 items come up if I search “Ruffle Scarf” and only 148 if I narrow it down to fabric ruffle scarves. Of my 39 sales, 15 have been scarves. So now I’m focusing on investing the most of my money and time into making scarves. I’ll keep adding other fun accessories as I go, because those are still being bought here and there, but I won’t invest as much of my money or energy in them.

4. Package with Love
I want my customers to feel like what they receive from me is worth their money. So professional touches like cards for small accessories are a priority for me.

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(Picture taken with point and shoot)

If I sell an item that doesn’t fit on a card (like my scarves), I pin a business card/label to the item, or attach it to the packaging. And I don’t know about you, but I love to get presents. I figure my customers are the same way, so I try to make their packaging something special. I want them to open their bubble mailer and be excited by what they see.

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I wrap my items in simple brown paper and tie them with a ribbon (brown paper packages tied up with strings…). If a business card didn’t get attached to the item, it gets tucked in the ribbon. I also include a coupon code for a discount for future purchases. I’d love to see repeat customers.

5. Develop a System
Back in May, my friend Molly did a post on how she keeps her Etsy business organized. She inspired me to want to create good systems for myself. I got my supplies all organized and easily accessible. For the items that are made to order (such as rosettes for bobby pins), I precut strips of fabrics in the colors I advertised so I can have consistency in sizing when I make the flowers. I figured out exactly what I wanted my packaging to look like. Ordered free business cards (just google it, you’ll find some good deals). I “branded” my name. I figured out where I would mail everything from. Basically, I got my ducks in a row so when orders to come in, my life doesn’t have to stop to complete them.

As much as I would love to have every item ship within 12-24 hours of purchase, sometimes it just isn’t realistic for me. I’m a mom of a toddler who also works part time. So, in my shop announcements I note that unless otherwise noted, all items are ready to ship and will go out within one or two days of purchase. That means I consolidate my trips to send items off. Today I was able to send four orders off at once.

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I got them all wrapped, tucked their invoices in the ribbons to keep them straight, and took them to the mail box store. The invoice just gets tucked in the bubble mailer before shipping, that way the package gets to stay cute. One of these days I’ll get a postal scale and print my own mailing labels to save money, but for now I love my little local shop where they know my son by name and have my business info saved in their computer. They enter my customers in their system and print the labels for me. It might cost me extra (I haven’t compared their cost to going directly to the post office), but it’s worth it to me.

6. Make it Worth Your Time
It’s tempting to price your items at what you’d be willing to pay. I don’t know about you, but I’m cheap and can say “I’ll just make it myself.” So if I price my items at what I’d be willing to pay, I’d be loosing money. So instead, I make sure that the price of my item covers the materials and my time. Set an hourly wage for yourself and be sure you’ll make it. Some items will have a higher profit margin than others. Hopefully the higher margin items will be your big sellers! Take into account the fact that if you sew, you’re putting wear and tear on your machine and will eventually need to replace it. Remember that it uses your time and gas to shop for materials. For as much as I love making items and it’s therapeutic for me, I really don’t need this business to cost me more than it makes. Be careful, though, that you don’t value your work too highly. You need to prove your worth before you can charge crazy prices. And then, as your items gain popularity, you can gradually increase your prices. After all, then a person is paying for your experience and your brand.


So there you have it, some of my Etsy thoughts in a nutshell. Do you have an Etsy shop? I’d love to visit it! What are some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way? Are you interested in opening one, or really wanting to see some sales? What kind of tips or help are you needing? Let’s help each other!

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  1. Thanks for the advice my sis and mom and I have a shop and would love for you to check it out. It's Shaye Lee's Place.
    I am always looking for advice on what to do for our shop so thanks again for this post.

  2. Thanks for sharing!!! I'm looking at opening a shop (I have wanted to for a while now) but I'm so scared - this will help I think.

  3. Thanks for the tips. My shop is I started listing in Feb and have had 22 sales. The best advice I can offer a brand new seller is not to underestimate shipping. I thought I was very careful in estimating shipping costs, but the first order I shipped ended up a dollar in the hole. And I started using Wave Accounting to keep up with what I'm spending and what I'm earning. That was probably one of my best decisions.

  4. Great tips! My favorite is the "package with love" section--I think it's so important that your items arrive looking pretty! I'm always so disappointed when I order off etsy and get an ugly package without a note or business card or anything. Such a let down, even if it's a great item!

  5. I commented on this 2 days ago and I didn't think my comment worked! Argh!

    I love to see posts like this because I was helped a LOT by fellow Etsians and lists like this. When I think back to where I started - I've learned a lot!
    Your packaging is very cute and now I'm having DSLR envy. So crisp!

    Thanks for linking to me! Staying organized is so important!

  6. What great info. I so need all the help I can get. I'm cheap too and I say the same thing( I'll just make it myself). LOL

    Have a great weekend,

  7. Thanks for the tips! I really needed to read this today!

  8. These are great tips. Thank you. I pinned this.

  9. This is a great post. My Etsy shop turn 3 in August. Would love for you to check it out

  10. ooooOOO! Thanks for this post! I have had my Designs By Sessa Etsy shop open for over a year now with NOTHING in it! That's what having a baby does to you, I suppose! However, I'm really contemplating trying to actually make something happen BEFORE Christmas. Maybe when I actually do it, you'd be willing to get one of my necklaces from me or do a giveaway or something!? I really like reading your blog and admire your ability to put cute clothes together!


  11. I really read this to learn so much! THank so much! I have had my shop for a year, and it is a bit slower than I would like. I do a lot of sales outside the shop, but would like to see the numbers up on the shop. I also do all my shop/crafting for charity. Visit our shop and our blog to learn what we are about... and I am open to suggestions you might have!


  12. Thanks so much for this post! I've been in the process of opening an etsy shop for months now and there's always been one thing or anohter that has kept me from taking the jump to actually listing things. I'm definately going to pin this for future reference!

  13. Great post! I definitely agree with packaging up items nicely.. it makes a huge difference!
    Hope you can check out my store sometime. :)


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