I stumbled upon Etsy a couple of years ago. From the information I read, I was under the impression that as long as you are talented, all you have to do make money is to open an Etsy shop, put your products up for sale and wait for the millions of orders to roll in. Perfect? Easy? Wrong. Wrong and Wrong!
Recently, I volunteered to help a friend of mine set up a Facebook page. It was for her Etsy store. After I set the page up, she also requested if I could check out her store and see if she is doing anything wrong, because she was not getting much sales. Thereby began my deeper exploration of Etsy – How it worked, what sells well on Etsy, how to successfully sell on Etsy and make more money. I spent a few weeks researching everything that has to do with the market place to buy and sell all things handmade.
Selling on Etsy is NOT an easy feat. People who say otherwise are lying and making money by selling you that dream. There is no magic pill to successfully sell on Etsy, so this process (and hence this post) is going to be long. Brace yourself!
1. How to sell on Etsy: Have a business plan
Many Etsy users make the same mistake a newly self-employed person does. They do a poor job viewing their Etsy shop as a business. It is an easy mistake. When you love what you do it often doesn’t seem like a “job”. That is fine if you don’t need to make money. If you are relying on your products to put food on the table, you have to change that mentality and start viewing it as a legitimate business. It IS a business.
And no, all the awesome business ideas and brilliant thoughts in your head are NOT a business plan. You need a written plan that outlines your goals; your path to achieve those goals; your mission; your short term and long term plans.
Don’t know where/how to start?
- Here is a great, easy to fill out worksheet to serve as a map for your success – The Wonder Thinking Business Plan-o-Rama workbook
- If you want to acquire venture capital, grants or other funding to start your shop, you might want to go for a traditional business plan. U.S. Small Business Administration is a great place to start if you want to go the route of a traditional business plan.
- Etsy itself has a great seller handbook that provides a wealth of resources on how to successfully sell on Etsy.
2. How to sell on Etsy: Know your audience
Again, this goes to any business, not just Etsy. What does your product help with? Who will it help? Who will buy your product? Why will they buy from you when there are hundreds of others selling the same thing? What differentiates you from the rest of the crowd?
If you do not know who you are selling to, how can you talk to them and convince them to part with their money? Each of us relate with a product in different way, once you figure out your ideal customer, you can put yourself in their place and customize your Etsy store to be very attractive to this subset of the population.
3. How to sell on Etsy: Think about branding
By now you should have a clear idea of your market plan and your audience. Now it is time to “be everywhere” and capture that audience. Creating a valuable product is only start of the journey, now it is time to let everyone know about your awesome product, make them remember your product and recognize it when its need arises. Google is a search engine, but “Googling” has become a verb for searching using any search engine due to their branding. Ziploc, Swiffer, you want people to remember your “brand of wood buttons” if they ever need any wood buttons.
Having a memorable, consistent brand will help with marketing on social media as well (more on that below).
Don’t know where/how to start?
- Branding 101: How to Build a Memorable Etsy Shop
- Branding basics for Etsy teams (this one is focused on Etsy teams, but most of the tips work well for any individual Etsy shop as well).
- Tips for building your Etsy brand.
4. How to sell on Etsy: Know your vehicle
Your vehicle here is Etsy, the way you are selling your products to the world. If you want to be successful in selling on Etsy, you have to understand how to use Etsy. Research the platform thoroughly to understand how to stand out.
- How do people usually search on Etsy so that you can make sure you come up at the top?
- What products sell on this particular platform?
- How to make an attractive listing?
- How to write a great description that will make the buyer want to own your product?
- What kind of keywords to use in your description to be found on the search? This point itself is a full post; I will not try to elaborate on how to do search engine optimization (SEO). There are several great posts on how to do this; I have included some of them in the resources of this section.
- What does Etsy offer that you can take advantage of? More relevant results are displayed at the top in the searches. Most people are not going to go beyond a couple of pages to buy what they are looking for. So how do you become more relevant? Etsy search team offered tips on how it works and what you can do to make your listing more relevant.
Research, research and research again. You could have the most wonderful product in the world but if no one can find it, you are not going to sell anything.
Don’t know where/how to start?
- Get Found in Search
- Etsy SEO made easy – A tutorial on getting your shop found
- Etsy SEO manual
- Etsy guide to SEO
5. How to sell on Etsy: Picture is worth thousand words…esp. for handmade
I cannot emphasize on how important photography is when it comes to selling handmade crafts. Why will I buy something that is not very attractive? Why will I buy from you when I can’t see your product from every angle and when there are a thousand others selling the same product with a better view of the product?
If you can spend money on only one thing to increase your sales, it should be for great photography. Nothing sells better than a photo showcasing how awesome your product is. If you have a great photo, there is a chance it will get featured on the Etsy front page thereby realizing your dream of getting thousands of orders.
I was only researching Etsy with no intention of buying, but I still couldn’t take my eyes of some of the products and ended up adding them for my future gifts. I cannot emphasize this enough – Photos sell.
Resources on how to create photographs that sell your products
There are thousands of tutorials on how to take better photographs in general. You can start with some of them if you are just starting out. If you want to take better pictures specifically for Etsy, here are a few articles to get you in the right path.
- If you are taking the photos yourself, these three pages will help you get it right – Photography Tips part 1, Photography Tips part 2 and Achieving Clear and Crisp Photos.
- If you already have your awesome photo but want to improve on it, these will help Create feature friendly photos and How to style your photos.
- Photo editing software: Picmonkey & Pixlr for beginners; Photoshop or Gimp for advanced users.
6. How to sell on Etsy: Tell a story
Why should I buy from you when there are hundreds of people selling the same thing? I keep asking this question again and again because, well, Etsy has over 850,000 shops. If you go searching for something you are likely to get 100s of pages of results. Which one would you choose? Who would you buy from and why?
Something has to pull you to a specific shop. Excellent quality is one of the things that will attract you to click on the link, but there is much more than quality. Etsy has a LOT of shops that offer excellent quality. It is the extras that often set a specific store apart – great photographs, easy to understand descriptions, story behind your product to name a few. Why showcase your story? Because Etsy attracts people who value handmade, non-mass-produced stuff. Because buyers are not just buying your product, they are buying a story that they could tell their friends.
Bring out your passion for your product and make your stop tell a story. Quirky, humorous, make your personality shine through your listing. If you get stuck on this step, here are a few resources to help.
- The Ultimate Guide to Telling Your Shop’s Visual Story
- Studying successful shops to see how they have set up is also very useful.
- Introducing an about page for your shop
- How to tell your story
7. How to sell on Etsy: The art of listing
If you have your great photographs and story highlighting the best of your products, it should be easy to write a description that will make the buyer click the cart. Make your listing personal and memorable. Use the keywords you found in step #4 that will help with SEO. Use all the features available to you like the tags. Make the description clear and easy to read. Bullet points, short paragraphs and clear sub titles help.
Want more help with this step?
- How to write enticing item descriptions
- How to write great Etsy listing
- Seller How-To: Tag-o-rama With Descriptive Keywords
- 10 things buyers are looking for on your product page
8. How to sell on Etsy: Price your product
Pricing is where most newly launching business gets stuck. Should you price low to attract those initial buyers? Should you price high so that you won’t be bunched together with low priced low quality products? What is the right pricing? You might also want to price differently if you are doing this as a hobby or if you are counting on this business to get you out of the 9 to 5. So unfortunately, there is not one size fits all answer. But here are some excellent resources to make sure your price is right –
9. How to sell on Etsy: Review you shop
Take a step back and forget you are the owner of the shop. See the shop from the point of view of a buyer. Enlist the help of a few friends and ask them to be as critical as possible.
- Will they buy your product?
- What will they search for if they are looking for a product like yours?
- If they won’t buy your product, why?
- What other information will convince them it is a good purchase?
- If they are not specifically searching, but instead just browsing, are your categories set up right to help them stumble upon your product easily?
- Do you have enough items or is your story captivating enough to keep the buyer’s interest for more than 2 seconds?
10. How to sell on Etsy: Time to market
You might be inclined to say that you specialty is making awesome handmade stuff, not marketing. That is true but the unfortunate truth is unless you are big enough to have your own marketing department, you are a small business owner who will have to wear all the different hats, even the ones you hate. You are the marketing department, the shipping department and the resident accountant. That is the reality and it will serve you good to accept that and start learning how to be best in those fields as well, esp. the marketing as that is the crux of your business.
There are several ways to put your product in front of your audience.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): We already touched upon this in step #4, if you have not already looked into SEO, now would be an excellent time. You need to bring your product to the front of the line. You need to show up on as many relevant searches as possible to sell. To achieve that you need to learn a bit of SEO.
- Social media marketing: If your target audience uses social media (most likely they do) and you do not have a social media presence you are missing out on a huge free source of marketing. Popularize your brand via Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest (do some testing to see which one works best for your audience). Get a dedicated following by providing valuable tips related to your product (for example of you sell a decorative candle votive, become an authority in all things home décor). Offer giveaways and discounts for people who follow you.
- Market your name: Blogging is another avenue to market your brand. If you like to generally share ideas with other people, try to get a blog up and running. If you don’t have a blog or not interested, you can still benefit by getting mentioned on other blogs and commenting on blogs. The visitors of that blog will pay your shop a visit as well.
Don’t know where/how to start?
- Etsy’s Guide to Twitter
- Etsy’s Guide to Facebook
- Etsy’s Guide to Blogging
- Gain Media Exposure
- How to Pitch to Bloggers
- Getting Started With Pinterest
11. How to sell on Etsy: Treasure your repeat customers
So you have made your first sale. Congrats! Now how do you keep them coming back? Great customer service. Follow up with the buyer to see if they had any comments or suggestions. If they are unhappy, fix it right away. Don’t spam them, but send one thank you email with a coupon for a future product.
Make your packaging attractive to make your buyer feel special. Add a little thank you gift to your package. It’s usually the little extra touches that gets you repeat sales and referrals going. Offer discounts for referrals.
12. How to sell on Etsy : Refine, refine and keep refining
Know when your product sells. Keep testing. Keep a log of what you are changing and after a month or so, check the sales stats to see if they have improved. Do one small tweak at a time to see what works and what doesn’t. Stay positive during your downtime and use that time to improve on your photography skills, SEO or social marketing skills.
How to find out what works/what doesn’t?
13. How to sell on Etsy: Keep learning and improving
This goes hand in hand with the previous step, the only difference is that the previous step tweaks and refines the way you market your products. This step will make your product more awesome. Keep your creative juices flowing; try different tweaks to your product itself and offer more variety in your shop. The more products you offer the better chances of sale. This will help avoid burnout as well. Never stop improving your skills.
14. How to sell on Etsy: Take it offline
Etsy is just a platform to sell your products. You can showcase and publicize your product in a lot of traditional avenues. For more selection, you can point them to your Etsy shop. For example, participate in your local craft fair. Also join Etsy teams, communities of people who live in the same area or have the passion for similar kinds of crafts. This will allow you to meet other Etsy sellers, share tips and learn.
15. How to sell on Etsy: Have fun with it!
Any business or hobby is sustainable only if you are having fun with it. If it becomes a chore, you will easily burn out.
Be creative, have fun and make money!
I also went to the library and the bookstore to check out all the Etsy related books. Here are some I found really useful –
- Etsy-preneurship: Everything You Need to Know to Turn Your Handmade Hobby into a Thriving Business
- The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and On-Line
- Starting an Etsy Business For Dummies