It’s your biggest fear about opening an Etsy shop:
What if you start your shop, and even though you devoted time to develop, photograph, and list your products, it fails?
But I think there’s something worse:
Starting your shop and giving up just before it begins to succeed.
This is by far more common, because new shop owners become frustrated when they list their items and don’t see any sales. If you find yourself in this position, don’t give up just yet.
I’ll save you some time and frustration by sharing with you the fourteen things I wish I knew before starting my Etsy shop.
These lessons will give you a leg up by letting you know what to expect from your new Etsy business and help you get traffic, favorites, and sales to your Etsy shop far faster than if you struggle through on your own.
Lesson #1: The Beginning is Painful (But It Gets Better)
Maybe you’re at this stage now…
When I started my Etsy shop it would take me no less than 30 minutes to list a single item. It was frustrating. It was difficult. And it was painful.
If you haven’t started an Etsy shop yet, I’m not saying this to scare you. It gets better. But initially, editing and uploading photos, writing a great product description and researching proper shipping rates can take a long time as a new Etsy seller.
As with everything, there are growing pains, but you must push through!
Etsy’s platform allows you to build a full-time business if you stay focused and consistent.
Lesson #2: Your Shop Can’t Succeed Without At Least 9 Items
When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to want to just list a couple of items to see if they’ll sell.
In reality though, even if your products are awesome, if you only have a couple listed in your shop, they won’t sell — at least not very quickly.
Customers don’t like shops with one or two items. A buyer wants to know that you take your shop seriously. A serious Etsy business always has more than a few items available for sale.
Having a cohesive offering will give your Etsy shop and brand a solid base identity. This cohesive look will be what shoppers remember you by. You need to list at least 9 items in your Etsy shop.
You may be wondering why 9 items and not 10?
Etsy currently displays items in the shop’s main page as three per row. With nine items you will have three rows full of product. Your shop will look full and less like something you put together on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Lesson #3: Photography Sells
You know the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”?
On Etsy, a picture may be worth a thousand dollars. Product photography is one of the most important keys to Etsy selling success.
Think about it: when you’re shopping online, what is the first thing you notice about the product listing? For most people, it’s the image.
Would you rather buy a product with an image like this:
Or an image like this?
See the difference?
One image sells the product. The other doesn’t do the product justice.
When your listing appears on the results page of a search by a potential customer, the best way to convert them into a buyer is to have a killer image showcasing your product.
Customers will gravitate to the items with the best photography because they will be able to clearly see, and understand the product.
Lesson #4: SEO Brings Customers
When you’re looking to buy a product on Etsy, how do you find the one you’ll ultimately end up with?
Probably with this nifty tool:
The search bar!
Your customers use Etsy’s search function to find your products too. So you need to make sure that they’re optimized for search engines.
The best way to optimize SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your Etsy product listing is via the listing tags.
Tags are the keywords found at the very bottom of your product listing page. Etsy recently announced that they are upgrading their search capabilities, but this is still in the planning stages.
In the meantime, tags rule when it comes to getting your items viewed by potential customers. To help you out, we have written a comprehensive guide on how to generate search friendly tags that will boost your sales.
You can also watch our step by step video guide that will walk you through the tag search process.
Lesson #5: Etsy’s Built-In Traffic is Powerful
People often overlook one big, compelling reason to start their businesses on Etsy:
Etsy has a huge fanbase of customers searching only their platform for the products they want to purchase.
Etsy is a well-known brand, but what most people don’t really grasp is that it’s really just a massive search engine. Sort of like Google, but curated only for handmade and vintage goods.
This search engine will bring your new shop tons of traffic, once you learn to optimize it to your benefit. This traffic will be hard to match on a new stand-alone site like Shopify. Etsy will keep you busy with their customers giving you plenty of time to build a following that you can later funnel into your very own website.
If I’d known this when I first started my Etsy shop, I would have leveraged that traffic earlier on.
Lesson #6: Your Mailman Becomes Your Best Friend
Before I started on Etsy, I had no idea that I would need the depth of shipping knowledge I now have.
When you start making more sales with your Etsy shop, you’ll find yourself in the same position.
You will need to get very familiar with your local post office and the ins and outs of shipping.
We have used our years of experience mailing 3,000+ orders to write a comprehensive guide on all things shipping. If you’re a member of our How To Earn 1k/month on Etsy course, log in now and find it under Module 4: Creating the Perfect Product Listings:
Which brings me to the next point…
Lesson #7: International Shipping is a Pain
If shipping domestically is level one on the pain scale, then shipping international orders is level 50.
International shipping comes fraught with:
- Higher shipping rates
- Slow transit times
- Potential Customs delays
Again, I’m not telling you this to scare you. Even though international shipping can be challenging, shipping internationally can increase your sales like crazy.
The benefits outweigh the difficulty in this case. International customers love to shop on Etsy and do so frequently.
Twenty percent of my Etsy sales come from international buyers.
To get acquainted with international shipping rates play around with the Etsy estimated shipping cost tool to see the variance of cost per pound or ounce. You can learn much more via our course mentioned above.
Lesson #8: Join a Community
At the start of your Etsy journey, you’ll likely want to talk about your shop. A lot.
That’s because your shop is your new business (yes, even Etsy shops are businesses!) and building a business is really exciting.
You’ll also have some challenges and questions, and you’ll want to vent or chat about those things. Trust me.
This may eventually wear on your friends and partner. I learned this the hard way. Something I learned after I had been in business for awhile is the importance of community.
Joining a community like our Etsy How To Private Facebook Group will give you the space to talk it out with other people who share your passion for Etsy. Plus you will get much more valuable advice from a group of seasoned sellers than from your relatives or friends who aren’t as familiar with the magic of Etsy.
Lesson #9: Find Ways to Stay Inspired
Here’s the truth:
Unless you have a magical unicorn of a product, your Etsy shop sales will grow slowly. At least at first. And the slow growth can be kind of discouraging.
It’s during this period that most Etsy sellers who could have built successful Etsy shops give up. But they pull the plug too soon.
You must find sources of inspiration to keep you interested in growing your shop once the shiny newness of it wears off. I stay inspired by reading other people’s success stories and following positive content creators on my favorite social media platforms.
Instagram accounts like our Etsy How To feed can give you a pick me up just when you need it.
Lesson #10: Selling Vintage Can be a Grind
Selling a type of handmade soap?
You’re lucky. That requires you to photograph it and write an amazing item description ONCE. You’ll then be able to use that listing to sell that soap multiple times.
Think about it. One listing. One chunk of work. It pays off over and over.
But with vintage, because every item is unique, you will have to discard your listing after the item sells.
Love vintage? Don’t despair. Lots of Etsy sellers have successfully grown their vintage businesses. You just have to make sure you optimize your time, stay organized and avoid common selling pitfalls.
Vintage is not only a profitable corner of the Etsy market but it’s also a lot of fun. Don’t avoid selling vintage just because it’s a lot of work. It pays off.
Lesson #11: Get Your Accounting Organized NOW
You’ve decided you want to supplement your income with an Etsy business.
Don’t make the mistake Sarah did when she first started and ignore getting your accounting organized. You must treat your Etsy shop like a real business and get your books in order!
This is not as hard as it may seem. Our blog’s co-author, Sarah, has written an amazing Step by Step Guide on Online Business Money Management.
There are also plenty of online services you can use to make things easier. Etsy now offers an automatic integration with Quickbooks, and you can still use other highly recommended services like Freshbooks (which is what we use because it makes bookkeeping super simple) .
Lesson #12: Social Media Must be a Daily Practice
I know this may be hard to hear, especially if you sometimes feel as if you’re allergic to social media. But successful Etsy shops maintain a consistent social media schedule.
You know Instagram?
You will most definitely need to start an account and maintain it daily.
No, not once a month or when you remember to. It must be every single day. Brownie points for more than once per day.
Marketing your Etsy shop using social media is an integral part of growing your business. In fact, some Etsy shop owners and even other ecommerce store owners use social media platforms like Instagram to drive all of their sales.
You will need to take marketing seriously as an Etsy shop owner.
Come up with a social media calendar and showcase a cohesive brand identity.
If Instagram is your jam, luckily we’ve got you covered: Here’s how to put your shop’s Instagram on turbo charge.
Lesson #13: You Need to Show Your Face
You probably already know this, but Etsy has some die-hard fans. Because it’s largely a handmade community, customers on Etsy want to feel connected to the people they are buying from.
You can’t connect with a faceless online presence. Your customers can’t, either.
That’s why you need to show your face.
Popular Etsy shops have clear photos of the shop owners (usually smiling). A friendly face on your Etsy user icon will do wonders for the success of your shop:
Bonus points for adding photos of your workspace and of your products being created. Showing bits and pieces of the behind the scenes process will help build trust in the quality and value of your goods.
This also piques the natural curiosity we all have about how things are done. What goes into making or producing the products we’re buying?
That’s why shows like How It’s Made are so popular.
Lesson #14: Collect Customer’s Email Addresses Like It’s Your Job
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your customers.
Email marketing is also the most profitable marketing channel, with a return of 44.25x. This means that for each dollar you spend on email, you can rake in on average, $44.25.
So that’s why it’s crucial that you treat your customer’s email addresses as the valuable gems they are and collect them!
If someone purchased from you, a lot of the marketing legwork is already done. They already opened their wallet for your product, which means they’re far more likely to do so again.
Emailing customers with information about new products, sales and promotions is exactly how you take those one-time buyers and make them repeat buyers. And since it’s far less costly to sell to existing customers than it is to acquire new ones, this is just smart business.
That’s why you must start to build your email list…like, yesterday. Today will do though 🙂
To do this, you need an email service provider (which provides somewhere to store the emails you collect and an automated means of emailing those people)
The best online email collection service we’ve have come across is Aweber.
Aweber connects directly with Etsy and will email each one of your customers and ask them to join your email list. Click here to join Aweber today (and get a free month!).
Opening an Etsy Shop? Don’t Give Up Before it Has a Chance
I’m glad I kept going with my Etsy shop, even though I didn’t know these things before I started.
I could have thrown in towel before I had even given my shop a chance, and then I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now: earning a full-time living from opening my Etsy shop and teaching you how to do the same.
You’re smart for looking up resources to ensure your Etsy shop will become a success. And now that I’ve given you these lessons, you’ll have a leg up.
Don’t give up. Take the advice in this article, execute it, and watch the sales begin to trickle in.
We believe in you!
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