12 Things I’ve Learnt About Selling on Etsy
In September 2010, I was in Sainsbury’s in King’s Lynn when a magazine caught my eye.
It was the magazine Craftseller. On a whim I bought it, and although this is a cliche, it changed my life!
I’ve always enjoyed making things, and I’ve loved sewing since I was 10, but at that point I hadn’t used my sewing machine for a while.
Reading Craftseller inspired me to take up sewing again. I rediscovered my sewing machine and eventually opened a shop on Etsy. It is also the reason why this blog exists!
Unfortunately I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, either with the blog or with Etsy!
The magazine made it sound so easy. Open a shop, slap up a few listings and wait for the sales to come rolling in.
I made a few things, took some photos (they were awful, grainy, blurry and dark!), wrote some half hearted descriptions and sat back and waited.
I read the Etsy success emails but I didn’t get it. I realised that my shop was weird but I didn’t know how to make it unweird. I thought my photos were fine, I didn’t understand what having a cohesive looking shop meant in a practical sense and I couldn’t understand why some people were enjoying success when I was not.
Eventually I gave up. The shop stayed open, but I didn’t do anything with it.
Over the course of 5 years, I sold 5 things.
Thanks to the blogging, my photography had improved and I understood more about branding and photos needing having a particular look. I’d learnt a lot about blogging, and I had realised that there was a lot to learn about selling on Etsy too!
So a year on, although I can’t claim that Peacock in a Pear Tree has been a runaway success, things have definitely improved. From making 5 sales in 5 years, I’ve made about 70 in the past year. Not masses of sales, but much better!
I’m not claiming to be an expert. Clearly I’m not one! And in the words of Einstein, the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know!
13 Tips For Selling on Etsy
Don’t Waste Too Much Time Picking a Name and a Logo
It’s easy to get carried away, but in the end what you call your shop doesn’t make that much of a difference.
People aren’t going to decide whether or not to buy from you based on the name of your shop or your logo.
You need something, and it needs to look nice, but it doesn’t need to be fancy.
So pick a name. Something memorable is good, but Creative Sue Designs or Crafts and Tea With Bea will do, then you need to sort out a cover and a logo.
The cheapest option is to make something yourself. If you’re not a graphic designer, keep it as simple as possible. Have a look at other people’s shops on Etsy and you’ll find plenty of logos and things that are very simple. Canva is a free design program that has plenty of free templates and fonts and things, and is fine to use if graphic design is not your thing.
If you’d rather not make one yourself, there are people on Etsy selling ready made shop sets, or you could pay to have one designed.
Work on Your Photography
When I was starting out, I heard this so many times but I ignored it! This was not a clever thing to do!
Etsy is visual. Try it yourself. You’re going to click on the things that have lovely, clear photos that are well lit and make the thing look gorgeous. That dark, grainy picture with the flash reflection is not going to get any interest if you’re selling on Etsy!
You don’t need a fancy camera, you just need some good pictures!
My photography tips are:
Use natural light and turn the flash off! You don’t want direct sunlight, but there needs to be plenty of light. Think of a cloudy summer’s day. Not dark and gloomy, but no glaring sunlight either.
Choose a background and use that for all your pictures. This will help to give your shop a distinctive look.
For my backgrounds, I use the sliding part of the computer desk that I commandeered for the sewing machine after we got a laptop. I took the sliding part off and covered it with sticky backed plastic that is supposed to look like wood. One side is white, the other is a pale brown. Although on the roll, the plastic looks unconvincing, in a photograph it looks like actual wood!
You can buy this stuff on Amazon. These are affiliate links.
For larger things I use the wall in the garden.
Light colours are best. Other options include a wooden table (if it’s light coloured), a large piece of board covered in the plastic wood stuff I mentioned before, or a piece of wood painted or stained a light, neutral colour.
Your photos will probably need editing. Consider turning up the brightness, contrast and saturation, and you might need to crop them. Before uploading, the photos will need to be 1024 pixels wide otherwise they’ll be too large.
If you need help with your photography, there are plenty of books and websites out there. One that I’d recommend is Learn Blog Photography.
Learn About Etsy SEO
SEO is search engine optimisation. Etsy is a search engine, just like Google and Amazon are.
Optimising your listings will increase the chances of them being found. Most people don’t go beyond the first couple of pages of search results, so you want your stuff to be as high up the list as possible.
Some people will charge you a lot of money for telling you exactly what affects search results!
From what I have gleaned from the free information, search rankings are helped by:
Doing stuff to your shop regularly. There are plenty of shops on Etsy that people have started then abandoned, so Etsy favours ones that are clearly active. Tinkering with your shop and adding new listings shows that your shop is alive and well.
Having a long title. Include in the title all the words that you think people might be searching for that are relevant to your listing.
Making sure that your tags match the words and phrases in your title. The title of one of my listings is Santa Cushion Craft Kit Father Christmas Craft Kit For Adults DIY Kit DIY Gift Christmas Home Scandi DIY Christmas Sewing Gift Sewing Kit. The tags for this listing include santa cushion, craft kit, Father Christmas, craft kits for adults, you get the idea!
Pick Something For Your Shop That’s Sustainable.
This goes for the type of things you’re selling on Etsy as well as individual items. If you find something very fiddly to make, or if the materials are hard to find, or if you find it boring, it’s going to be difficult to sustain making lots of them.
I found very early on that I don’t enjoy making the same thing over and over again.
Not long after I’d opened my shop, somebody sweet said that she like my heart garlands. I had several of these, so I decided to make some more.
However, once I’d made a couple, my interest had waned! I made a few more, but I was bored of them and some of them I never finished.
This was one of the reasons I abandoned my shop until last year.
By then I had discovered that I liked the process of developing an idea, so putting together PDF patterns and craft kits didn’t have same affect on my attention and I can do this without getting fed up or bored.
If you are hoping that selling on Etsy will become your job so that you can give up your boring day job, why give up something you find boring just to be bored doing something else!
Running your own kitchen table business gives you the opportunity to do what you enjoy, and although some of it is likely to be dull (accounts!), boredom should not be the measure of your days.
Make Sure That All Aspects Of Your Shop Show You As Competent.
I’ve already mentioned photographs, but there’s other stuff you can do too.
Make sure that all the elements of your shop are filled in. Photographs, your shop description and shop policies will all show that you are serious about what you are doing.
Only list items that are made as well as you are able to. It’s better to sell things that are simple but beautifully made, than items that are harder to put together and are not made to such a high standard. Know your limits and do your best!
Consider how you will package up your items, and include a photo in the listings. I recently bought some new boxes for my kits. I stamp the boxes with I stamped with a peacock feather and I tie a label around the box with bakers’ twine. This makes the whole thing into a treat for the person who’s buying it!
Don’t worry about nice packaging pushing the cost of the thing up by 50p or so. Remember that Etsy shoppers are not usually trying getting stuff for cheap. They will mind if you send them a hand knitted baby cardigan in an old cat food box. Wrap the cardi up in some pretty tissue paper, put it in a nice box and add the cost to the price of the item.
Keep An Eye On What Sells and What Doesn’t.
If you have particular things that do well, keep plenty in stock and consider how you could develop some more items that are similar and might also do well.
For example if you sell handmade baby clothes and the little leggings do well, you could try more leggings in different colours and prints.
Consider Your Profit Margin.
Pricing your handmade items can be very difficult. Always In the back of our minds is what we would pay if we bought something similar from Primark. However there are reasons why stuff on the high street is relatively cheap. Mass production, inferior materials and exploitation of workers in poorer countries being among them.
People who buy from Etsy do so because they don’t want mass produced. They want something special, one of a kind or at least one of a limited number, from a small business not a faceless corporation.
If you don’t charge enough to make a profit, then it’s a hobby, not a business!
So take into consideration:
How much the thing cost to make
How long it took to make it
How much skill was involved and how easy it would be for somebody to make the same thing themselves.
Any packaging aside from jiffy bags etc for posting
Don’t forget listing fees, Paypal fees and Etsy Payments fees!
At the very least, you need to add up how much it cost to make it, plus listing fees, then multiply that by between 2 and 2.5. That way you’ll be making a bit on every item you sell.
Have a Range of Items For a Variety of Budgets.
Etsy isn’t like Ebay, where people are often looking to pay as little as possible. Etsy shoppers are usually looking for something special, not the cheapest thing they can find!
This means that it’s fine to have some pricier items in your shop. But there will also be people who are looking for smaller, more inexpensive things, so you need to make sure that you are catering for both groups of people.
What I’ve found is that I’ve sold more of the cheaper things, with some orders being for several of these.
Although I’ve sold less of the pricier things, the profit margins on these are greater.
The pricier kits take more time to develop and often more time to put together, whereas the cheaper kits are much quicker to make.
So decide on a price range and make sure you have stuff that covers the range. If you’re not sure what the price range of your shop should be, look at the other shops on Etsy that are within your niche to get an idea.
Don’t Have Too Many One of Kind Things.
When you’re selling on Etsy, one of a kind things are a lot of work. Each one of these has to be designed, made, photographed, listed and promoted. In the end you’re only going to sell one of them! It makes more sense to make several of something, then you can aim to get more sales from a similar amount of work.
Streamline Your Processes.
When sales eventually started coming in, I quickly realised that it was no good spending 2 hours putting one kit together. It all took too much time that I could have spent doing something else.
Space is an issue at my house, and I don’t have room to have dozens of kits all made up ready. But there are plenty of things that can be done to speed up the process. The first thing I did was streamline the postage end of things. Putting jiffy bags, tape, bakers’ twine, labels and a pair of scissors in a box, made a big difference to how long it took to get things ready for posting.
Now I also have boxes and labels ready and stamped, and kit bits ready to go in freezer bags and boxes. When an order comes through, all I need to do is grab the relevant bits, pop them in a box and stick them in a jiffy bag. It’s all much quicker!
Getting organised early on will give you more time for developing stuff for your shop and promoting it..
Keep on Learning.
Although the craft magazines will have you think that selling on Etsy is easy, there is a lot to learn. Out here in internetland there are plenty of people out there who are happy to share the benefits of their experience. Some people will want you to pay for that information, but there’s plenty out there that’s free or in the form of inexpensive ebooks.
This is especially important if you have no experience of selling things or running a business, but even if you have, it’s worth finding out how Etsy works and what other people have done to make their Etsy shops a success.
There’s Never a Perfect Time, So Just Go For It!
If you’ve just had a baby, or you’re moving house, or you’re dealing with a messy divorce, now is probably not the best time to start selling on Etsy.
Waiting for the perfect time though is another matter!
The perfect time will never come, so if this is something you’re considering, now is as good a time as any. You don’t have to do it all in one go. Decide what you’re going to sell. Decide on a name. Make a shop banner. Then go for it!