Warning: as with my blogging tips post – this post is going to be long and word heavy – however I think it will be incredibly beneficial to anyone interested in Etsy so definitely read through it if you’re interested.
Unlike with my blogging tips – I was not as confident in what I wanted to write for this post. Compared to my blog, my etsy shop is young, inexperienced and I can honestly say that I do not spend as much time working on it as I should or as much time as I do on my blog. My shop is a result of my blog and my love of photography – whilst other people’s blog’s are a result of their shop and their love of what they sell.
So as well as answering Shellbell’s (who herself has just opened a great little shop) questions myself, I also asked a few of my favourite etsy ladies for their advice to share with you – I love how each person approaches their shop differently and I hope all of our answer together provide some insight into managing a successful etsy shop.
First my answers! What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? Be prepared - if you really want to make your shop successful – its going to take a lot of work. I know that I don’t spend enough time advertising and marketing my shop but if you don’t get your shop out there then people won’t know how to find you.
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? My biggest issue has been currency – everything on Etsy is in dollars whilst I am used to Pounds and the exchange rate changes constantly so I can never be sure if the amount I’m charging is what I want to be charging when converted. Also postage and packaging is extremely time consuming – be prepared for everything to take longer than you expect.
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? Yes, definitely. Just knowing that I have opened a shop and actually sold something completely amazes me, especially considering I had no plans to do anything like this only a year ago.
How do you know which items people will like? I try to list the photos that I know I love and would like to have hanging around and then hope that other people like them too. My favourite prints have been my most popular ones. How many items did you list when you first opened? I started off with ten and then added more slowly, though I don’t have many in there at the moment. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? My shop has been open for only a couple of months so technically, I am a newbie. But I really wish someone had told me about this: choose a bookkeeping system as soon as possible -- before you buy anything for your business! Though my shop's been open for only a few months, it's amazing how many transactions we've had. I've paid numerous vendors for merchandise and supplies and I've had many sales, too. In my precious spare time, I've been categorizing each transaction: label the money coming in, label the money going out. It's a laborious process when you try to categorize these things after they've happened.
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? When I decided to open a little Etsy shop, my ideas were purely romantic in nature -- I thought it would be fun to have my own store. I didn't know that I would first need to apply for city and state business licenses. Of course, these laws vary depending on where you live, but in California, opening an Etsy shop is a serious commitment.
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? Opening Mr. Rabbit Sir changed my life. That sounds pretty corny, but it seriously has. I've become a very careful spender. I used to enjoy going to the mall every so often, either to go to Forever 21 to buy a couple of tops or to H&M to check out the accessories. Since MRS, every extra dime I've made has been invested into the business.
How do you know which items people will like? I stock my shop with things I love in the hope that there are like-minded people who will want to buy them. I find that some of the things I like sell and some don't. So there really is no secret -- I only sell the sell the things that I get excited about and that I would love to buy.
How many items did you list when you first opened? At this time, I have over 50 items for sale, so it's hard to believe that I opened with 1 item, which happened to be a vintage ribbon set.
What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? Advertise! Giveaway your work, too. Have a business plan. Where will you be in a year, a month, tomorrow?
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? There is a difference between failing and slow business. I expected people to run to my shop but the reality of it is i had to put myself out there. It was hard at first, but worth it.
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? Have a support group. There are women out there that have similar etsy shops. They can either compete against you or they can support you. This is a community and being a part of it really does help the business morale.
How do you know which items people will like? If you like it, then people will like it. My favorite items are the ones that I've supported the most and people see the sincerity in the interest.
How many items did you list when you first opened? Less than ten! This was the first month but added more eventually.
Any other advice? Another site I recommend is craftopolis.com - you can see what treasuries you are in, and you can see how many hearts you get and what item is hearted the most. Also, make treasuries. Lots of them. It will help you get your name out in etsy.
What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? Research! New listings pop up on Etsy almost every second, so there's a lot of competition out there. Search for other items that are in the same category or similar to what you intend to sell. This gives a good idea of knowing what people are buying, what is the competitive price range, and how unique your items will be.
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? I started off selling rings, and in the beginning I had to learn the hard way that you need to be really good with packaging jewellery. The postal service, especially if you're sending international mail, can be rough. Make sure you have plenty of bubble wrap!
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? Yes, absolutely. How do you know which items people will like? It's hard to know. Sometimes the items that I expect to sell well, don't! However, like I said in my first advice: research! Design blogs can be a good way of knowing what trends are going on. How many items did you list when you first opened? I can't remember, but probably around 10, and I kept gradually adding to it.
Any other advice? Just an added note on promoting your Etsy: do it! When I started selling on Etsy a few years ago, the competition was no where near where it is today. I did very little promoting, but could still get a couple of sales a week. Nowadays, I probably wouldn't make any sales at al if I didn't promote it through my own blog and twitter. Consider advertising on popular blogs to get more exposure, and do giveaways from time to time.
What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? Have a marketing plan ahead of time. So many people set up their shop and then sit back and wait. These are also the people who whine on the forums about no sales. Let's face the facts: there are over a million sellers on Etsy. People are not going to just stumble upon your shop in droves. You have to lead them! So get a plan set up ahead of time. Plan to blog, Facebook, promote through friends, get into local shops, etc. Do as much as you can right off the bat!
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? I didn't expect such a wonderful network of people ready to help. The Forums, especially the Business section, is my favorite way to market, do marketing research, and pick the brains of my fellow Etsy sellers.
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? Absolutely. As a fine artist crossing her fingers on graduate school (I'll find out this week or next!), this is a great way for me to get my work out there.
How do you know which items people will like? Ultimately, I don't make my artwork because I think people will like it. If something interests me enough to make me sketch it out and then ink it, I'm going to go all the way. If you try and make a piece for a certain market, you generally end up working against your muse. There's the saying that you can sell anything (heck, look at the man who invented the Pet Rock!). All you have to do is be enthusiastic and find the right market niche. How many items did you list when you first opened? I started with maybe three or four the first day and slowly added one a day after that until I had listed all of my recent work. Now I list a new item every week. I'd love to list more often but my pieces take 36-40 hours to illustrate.
What would be your first bit of advice for a newbie? Pictures, pictures, pictures ... and photography. Did you know that the longer somebody holds something, the more likely they are to buy it? When people shop online, they can't pick up your product. They can't forge that glorious bond that spurs them to fork over their hard-earned cash. Your pictures have to make up the difference. They should be bright (but NO flash!), crisp, clear, close, and please hold the cutesy text or vignettes. That can just be distracting.
What are the things you may have run into that you didn't expect? As naive as this may sound, I did not realize how terribly time-consuming it can be to run an Etsy shop. As you can see from looking at mine, between grad school, work, interning, and the blog, it's falling quite by the wayside. To run a good, successful shop, you must plan to devote a great deal of time to the endeavor. You must answer convos quickly and always be friendly. You must list, list, and relist. You must engage in the Etsy community through the forums and such. It's hard to get your name out there, and it takes time.
Have you found it a worthwhile experience? When I had more time, I had a blast with my shop. It's a great way to expand your talents, surprisingly enough. I had to learn a lot about photography (still don't know very much...). I also started a blog to 'go along with' my shop (has now taken over *eek*), so I learned a bit about web design, HTML, Blogger, and so on. Finally, my favorite aspect of being an Etsy shop proprietor has been the community. I have 'met' so many wonderful people through my shop and blog, and I've learned more from them than anything else!!!
How do you know which items people will like? Hrrrmmm... I don't? Is it lame that I just pick things that I would like and then keep my fingers crossed that I'm not alone? I think it's important to be confident in your own taste and style. If you market something the right way (*cough* good photos *cough*) then you can make the rest of the world want it, too!
How many items did you list when you first opened? I started off with about 20 items. I had them all photographed, edited, measured, and written up so that I could just 'drip' them over the course of a few days. Listing often keeps your shop at the top of the searches. Any other advice? I have a series on my own blog called Marketing Minute, where I feature a different business topic every so often. I have in-depth lessons on photography (the biggie!), branding, packaging your product, pricing, making the most of your shop policies section, keeping your shop on the tip of everybody's tongue, and even personalizing your Etsy mini for use on your blog, just to name a few! I'm always happy to answer questions for the small business community (though I'm no expert...), and if there's a big need for another Marketing Minute topic, I'll research it and write it up for you, lovelies!
I really hope that this helps both newbie’s to etsy and also experienced Etsy people – there are a number of things that I know I need to work on with my shop now!
I’d like to say a massive thank you to all the contributors of this post – Katrina, Diana, Anna, Megan and Lindsay – please have a look at their shops as they all have some wonderful things and its amazing shops like theirs that set the standards high for other etsy shops. Also a big thank you to Shellbell for asking me these questions in the first place!
If anyone has any further questions please email me!