Find this new print in my shop here. <3
Have you been thinking about starting your own Etsy shop? If you're like me, getting a spontaneous idea to do something, doing it, and then surprisingly finding out everything that's really involved with it, is a frequent occurrence. I can't say my Etsy shop was a whim- I'd been thinking of starting one for a long time but I just wasn't sure what I was going to sell in it until the idea popped in my head in December 2015. Right away, I then started working on setting it up to launch in January 2016 and I've been running it ever since.
I've learned quite a few things along the way, mainly through trial and error and researching advice. So here are my top 10 tips of what I've learned these past 2 year.
1 | Make sure you really want to run a store. Seems obvious right? I know, but I think this is probably my most important piece of advice. I don't think people really understand the time it takes to run a store, whether through Etsy or any other avenue- I know I didn't. It takes TIME. Lots of time. If you think you're going to pop some listings up in your shop and watch them sell themselves, you're highly mistaken. It takes a lot of time and work to hone your tags, titles, descriptions, and photos. Then you have interaction with customers, replying to messages, working on your product, shipping the items, keeping on top of supplies, thinking of new products to launch, etc. And let's not forget promoting which I will bring up in a moment.
2 | Have the time to commit. Like I mentioned, having an online store takes time. When you decide you really want to dive in, make sure you have a realistic amount of time to dedicate to it. Sit down, carve out a schedule in your week of when you're going to work on it. I'd recommend 2-3 hours a day depending on what you're selling. It could easily be upward of 6-8 hours per day if you're creating your product by hand and it takes a lot of work and care. That also includes time doing admin, replying to messages, fiddling around in your shop moving listings around, renewing them and anything else you need to do to keep it running smoothly.
3 | Plan out your shipping supplies and schedule. This is big. You can't sell stuff and then be left wondering how you're going to ship it. A lot of people who sell print items, such as myself, get their prints drop-shipped so they don't have to worry about this. I however, do not. As a perfectionist, I like to see my final product before I send it to my customer and nobody can package a print to my standards the way I can. If someone receives an item that's subpar, I want to be responsible. I don't want to be answering to an upset customer as to why Bob, three states away, packaged a print to bend via transit. Then you're stuck re-ordering and tempting fate again or possibly even refunding the client and dealing with a poor review.
Not me! I'm quite pleased to say, my careful creation of my own prints and packaging has led to zero complaints. Plus, what's the fun in running a shop if someone else is doing all the work?
So, think about how you're going to wrap the items, the packaging you're going to use, what you're going to include (I include a thank you postcard with each order), and any personalizations you're going to add. Are you going to get a stamp with your shop name and stamp each package? Are you going to get stickers, inserts, postcards, business cards, etc? Have everything ready to go when you open your shop. Keep an eye on your supplies and when they start to get low, order more. Don't wait until they're gone!
4 | Install the app on your smartphone. This is important if you want to stay updated on the status of your shop. You get notifications when you sell something (and it's a cha-ching sound which is really fun), get a conversation from someone asking about your items, and when someone favorites an item or your shop. From the app you can also do shop updates which you can't do from a computer for some reason. The shop updates are little photos you post of whatever you want- usually it's about a new item, a photo of you working on your items, the progress of a new item, or advertising a sale. When you create a shop update it goes on your page but it also goes on the front page of whomever favorited your shop so they can see you're active and adding new things.
I mostly find the app important for knowing when I've sold something and replying to questions from customers. Think about it, if a customer is shopping for a specific item and sends a question to 3+ different shop owners, they're probably going to purchase from the one that responds first or second.
5 | Take quality photos. I'm not just saying this because I'm a photographer. I also shop on Etsy myself, and when I'm browsing my eye naturally passes over dark photos or items that are cluttered in photos so you're not really sure what they're selling. When shopping for clothing, I always purchase from someone who has it modeled on a mannequin or person, never laying flat. I will always pass over those. One exception to this would be baby clothes, but for myself, it always needs to be modeled.
If you're incapable of taking quality photos, ask someone you know to help you out or invest in a photographer. We all can't be great at everything and the photos can make or break your listings. People shop online by viewing photos! Get them right.
6| Promote it yourself. Listing your product and calling it a day is not going to work. You should have at least one form of social media to promote your shop and post to it regularly. There are also ads within Etsy and Google that you can spend money on. You know when you're browsing and you see a listing on the first page of your search that says "ad" in the corner? The shop owner pays for that (when you click on it). I spent my first year messing around with Etsy ads and spent way more than I made from them, but I learned from it! I could create an entire post on this topic alone and if you have questions, feel free to ask me, but my recommendation for that is to test out how much you're willing to spend per ad click and watch your stats from there. Then tweak the monetary amount as needed. Promoting can very much take up a good hour of your day's shop allotment. It's worth it though. People can't buy your stuff if they don't know about it!
7 | Stick with it. Nothing happens overnight. Etsy has been around for a while so there are a lot of shops selling a lot of things and a lot of them may be similar to what you're selling. You have to give it time. Work on your titles, tags and descriptions and promote! It take a lot of patience and it's not unusual to have a slow trickle of customers well into your second year but guess what? You keep learning as time goes on and know what to tweak in your shop here and there and then BOOM, it takes off. There's always going to be a time for learning, don't get discouraged during that time.
8 | Renew frequently. The listings expire every 4 months. When you list an item it gives you 4 months before it expires and you can manually or automatically renew it at that time. Each time you list something or renew, it's 20 cents. One method in the Etsy community to get your listings higher up in search results is to renew them before the 4 months are up. The theory here is that Etsy "sees" that you're being active in your shop instead of letting things stagnate so the search algorithm puts your items higher up in search since you're engaged.
If you have a lot of listings, this can add up really fast so be careful. If you renewed 200 listings a week that would be $40/week or $160 a month! Crazy! That doesn't even include your ad budget. You don't want to do anything that makes you lose more money than you receive.
Since I'm edging close to 400 listings I will renew the 5-10 oldest listings each week or whenever I think about it. That's only a few extra dollars a month and I'm getting decent placement in searches.
9 | Have really good descriptions. Anticipate any question a buyer might have from measurements, how the item is used, shipping times, your method of packaging, etc. Not everyone is going to send you a message to ask a question. If they don't see the answer they're looking for, they will move on to the next shop. When you do get a question from someone, be grateful that you now have insight into what else you can add to your description and add it! Most likely, if one person was wondering that, someone else is too. You don't want to lose sales because you're not adequately describing your product. Photos can only do so much.
10 | Have a back up plan. Depending on what you're selling, you need a backup plan especially if your items are made to order. For example, with my calligraphy items, I like to use certain quality paper. I've stocked up on a decent supply in case my vendor discontinues it. I've also researched where else I can buy that paper as my back up plan. Same goes for shipping supplies. One time I ran out of 8x10 photo mailers and then, naturally, someone bought a print that size so I was running all over town trying to find one while I was still waiting on my mailer order from Amazon. It's good to have at least 2-3 places you know you can buy your supplies to keep your shop running. Do you make jewelry with a certain brand of clay? Stock up, find your vendors, and have some backups.
Most importantly, don't have more listed for sale than you have supplies for. Another example, navy place cards are oddly popular to the point of selling out online hours after they're listed. I can't make this up! This drama unfolded before my eyes last autumn and I'm still chuckling about it, since I wasn't in a desperate situation at the time. Imagine if I'd listed 100 navy place cards and someone purchased them for their wedding and then I go to order them and they're sold out! Quelle horreur! This is what nightmares are made of. So always, always, only list what you have in stock or know without a doubt you can get at a moments notice.
Bonus tip - Have fun, of course. Creating your own shop, running it, and knowing your items are making people happy is the most rewarding part of it all!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or email me directly.