Let me state first off that this article is geared toward people who eventually want to quit their day job, not the people who just want to make crafts casually and sell them for fun. There is nothing wrong with being a casual crafter, but these tips are how to grow your own business on Etsy which is going to be more hardcore than what you’re looking for.
I’ve been on Etsy since 2010. My shop was originally called Firebird Floggers and has since expanded to become Firebird Leather. The majority of my sales come from Etsy and I have been doing it full time since 2014. I’ve definitely gone through my own love-hate cycles with Etsy, but I am all for passing on what I know so hopefully others can skip some of the hard bumps I hit.
This isn’t a fully comprehensive list. I could go on about this topic for hours, but these are the big ones. There are a lot of good tutorials on Etsy itself that will give you the basics of how to create your shop.
- 1. The most important thing about selling on Etsy is having good photos. Beautifully staged photos that are clear and show the product off well without annoying filters are best. You don’t have to spend a ton on a big camera, but you should watch some youtube tutorials, read Etsy’s articles on product photography, and invest in some lighting. The more info about the product you can put in your photos the better. Many people don’t take the time to read the description.
2.You have to promote your shop on social media and work to gain your own following. If you think you can just make crafts and post them on Etsy expecting them to sell like hotcakes, you’re wrong. If your goal is to quit your day job, then you have to realize that you are aiming to be a business owner and your workload will increase, not decrease. You can’t have the attitude of, “I don’t like to post on social media,” “I don’t understand Instagram,” etc. It is now your job to know. Do your research and suck it up. No eyeballs on your stuff means no sales and Etsy gives more traffic to shops that draw their own.
3.The second most important thing is understanding SEO. If you don’t know what SEO means then I suggest you do some research because it determines whether your items get found on Etsy or on any website. You want your title, description, and tags to all use keywords that someone might use when shopping. If you’re selling a leather dog collar, don’t call it Fido’s Pride or something whimsical like that because no one is going to search for that. Etsy also weights the first three words of the title the most heavily. Ideally, you want something like;
Title: Leather Dog Collar – Size Large
Description: This dog collar is made out of hand burnished veg tan leather in black and red. It is a size large and adjusts from 14” to 20”. Etc, etc. Etsy recommends a description of around 500 words. You want to put your keywords in the description as much as you can without beating people over the head with it.
Tags: Leather dog collar, Leather collar, dog accessory, pet collar, dog collar, adjustable collar, Large collar, YOUR SHOP NAME, handmade leather, leather accessory,
Bonus Tip: Include your shop name in your tags so that people can find your shop easier on Etsy. If someone searches for your shop name you want your listings to come up. That will only happen if you include your shop name in your tags. Sometimes Etsy will ask in tiny letters at the top of the page “Did you mean shop…?” but it is easy to overlook and will only happen if your shop already ranks in SEO.
- 4. You need more than a handful of items in your shop to look professional. If you want people to trust you enough to buy from you then your shop needs to look complete and well thought out with good photos, well-organized shop sections, clear shop policies, and clearly branded images in the icon and header. If you offer an item in more than one color or style you should have a listing for each one.
- 5. If you sell kinky items like floggers, collars, etc, put one tag that says “mature” in every listing of an adult item. Every once in awhile Etsy tries to clean house of the people who sell adult goods and if you don’t have “mature” as a tag on your adult oriented items they will give you a strike against your shop. Three strikes and you’re out and even one listing without the tag can get you a strike.
- 6. Underpricing your items makes you look unprofessional and can hurt your sales. People equate quality with price. If you price your items below what they are worth people will think they are low quality or that you don’t take your shop seriously. There are a lot of resellers of outsourced products on Etsy masquerading as handmade and selling for dirt cheap. This is not the price bracket you want to be in. People can tell the mass produced from the real.
Develop a mathematical formula that allows for you to get paid what you need per item and cover your costs as well as count toward future growth. Underpricing out of fear that the price will scare off a customer is a rookie mistake. Realistically, you need to make a certain amount of money to have this be a successful endeavor. Numbers are impartial and are what you need to rely on. A basic starting out pricing guide is Cost of Materials + Hourly wage x number of hours + 10% of that number for overhead, tool wear, etc. This gets you your WHOLESALE price. For retail you double that.
I know it sounds like a lot but this is money that has to cover your learning and growing in your craft, expanding your business, and refining your product. Trust me, it will still feel like you’re barely scraping by for awhile.
- 7. When someone leaves a negative review you have two choices. A) You can respond and your response will be shown below the review. This is a good option if someone leaves a negative review for something that is pretty much on them. For instance, if they bought a collar and it wasn’t the right size but the size is clearly stated in the item description. Offer a reply with roughly the format of; a statement acknowledging their dissatisfaction, offer a solution to their complaint, mention that for future reference the information is in the item description.
Responding to a review will take away your ability to report it to Etsy to have it removed.
- B) Reporting a Review. Etsy will only remove a review if it fits very narrow criteria. Etsy takes FOREVER in resolving any issue whether it be a reported review or other things, IF they ever address it at all. I would only rely on the report option if the review was just made up of insults, a customer cursing at you, or otherwise over the top.
- 8. Learn the ins and outs of shipping. I have found USPS to be more reliable and more inexpensive than other carriers but you do have to take the time to learn the rules, some of which are nonsensical. Purchasing labels online is cheaper and saves you time because you can just drop the packages off at the post office without waiting in line or schedule a free pickup.
Also, investing in a thermal label printer will save you tons of money in the long run over an ink printer.
- 9. When someone opens a case against your shop deal with it quickly. Having cases open against your shop negatively impacts traffic to your shop. I am going to be honest here; Etsy encourages you to simply issue a refund and eat the cost of whatever item is in dispute no matter what your shop policies are and they threaten you with action against your shop if you don’t. They will not come to bat for you to enforce your shop policies. Once someone opens a case against you do not sell to them again.
- 10. Have other avenues of selling and promoting yourself such as selling on other sites like Amazon Handmade, Wholesale, your own website, and craft fairs or vending events relevant to your market. The ultimate goal should be to eventually get off Etsy and have your own brand and store that stands on its own without being subject to the whims of a third party.