by Stacy Altiery of InkSpot Workshop
When I started InkSpot Workshop two years ago, I was making stationery and invites for friends and family, but had never entertained the idea of starting my own craft business. That all changed when a good friend introduced me to Etsy. I was blown away with the quality and selection of handmade items available. It was like having all of my favorite vendors from my local craft shows under one roof and multiply that number by 1,000! I was instantly smitten.
Then I started to realize, “Hey, I can do this, too”. My creative juices instantly kicked in, and when I saw Etsy shops such as sarah + abraham, I got completely inspired. Within an hour, InkSpot Workshop was born. I’m not an expert on Etsy, but I’ve had an incredible amount of success selling on Etsy. In just two short years I’ve opened a second Etsy shop called Fire Hydrant Press and launched my own website in August of 2009.
Websites like Etsy are a great way to get an online following because they get much more traffic compared to starting your own website. I get more customers through Etsy currently than I do my own website (more to come on that topic in a future post).
Etsy has done an amazing job of helping people who have never sold anything online before. There’s an endless supply of information (overwhelming at times) and help available to everyone. Etsy has it’s own blog called The Storque where every topic is geared towards helping you become a successful seller.
Now that I’ve had my Etsy shop for two years there are a few points I’d like to share with everyone new to Etsy. First, there’s no monthly fee on Etsy. It only costs 20 cents to list an item for four months. If you sell the item, there’s a 3.5% fee that you pay to Etsy, plus another small fee to PayPal if that’s the payment option your buyer chose. Your shop setup will consist of a few key ingredients:
If you already make something, for example hand knit scarves, take a look around at what other sellers are making and be sure to try to include items in your inventory that nobody else is showing. Take a mental picture of the Etsy shops you like and see how they have set up their shops. What does their banner look like? How do their pictures look? What is it about certain shops that inspire you to want to buy their items, compared to others? Do the shops you admire have a blog?
Online shopping is completely visual, so it’s super important to make sure you take some time to read the many photography and product styling tutorials available so you can have a professional looking shop. If you look at pictures of the first few products I sold, you will see I’ve come a long way, but still had many sales in the beginning. Also be sure to have at least 12-24 items listed in your shop – the more the better. If you have less than 12, your front page will look empty and there’s nothing that says “I’m out of business” faster than only having a handful of items listed in your shop.
Before you open an Etsy account, think long and hard about what your shop name will be. Your username is also going to be your shop name, and unfortunately, you’re unable to change it once it gets set up. Search around the other shops to see if there are similar sounding names – you want to be unique but still have a strong name that people will remember.
If you have a basic graphic design program like Microsoft Publisher or Photoshop Elements, you can make your own banner. There are many tutorials on the web for you to search how to do this. If not, don’t worry, there are plenty of Etsy sellers that exist just to make your shop look good for a small fee or even for a trade of goods/services sometimes. Your banner is the first impression you will make on your potential customer so make sure it’s a WINNER.
This is the first thing people who visit your shop will see. Etsy has done a great job of working with the different search engines such as Google to help lead potential customers to your shop. In a nutshell, your shop announcement should be short and to the point. The first sentence of your shop announcement should tell exactly what it is you’re selling, as these will be the first words to pop up on Google when someone searches for keywords. I won’t go into great detail here because like everything else, Etsy does a great job of giving you examples of how to write your shop announcement, even showing you how it will appear on google should someone find you.
I also want to stress that you keep your announcement short. There’s nothing worse than landing on someone’s shop and your computer screen shows their nice shop banner, then a bunch of text and no product pictures because they put all their shop policies on the front page. If you don’t see product pictures on the front page, chances are you’ll get bored and click away, right? You want to keep your shop announcement short so your first row of item pictures can be seen the first time someone lands on your shop.
Shop Sections are also located on the front page and what your potential customer will see first. If you organize your items into sections, your customers will have a much easier way of finding things in your shop. If you knit scarves why not make your sections based upon colors? or lengths? For example let’s say you look at your scarf inventory and you have a bunch of different colored ones, why not categorize your sections to reflect “Warm Colors”, “Cool Colors”, and “Neutrals” ?
Just as important as your shop announcement with regards to the words you use and how they’ll impact search engines. Again, Etsy gives you tips on how to not only name your item, but how to effectively write your description. If people can’t find you through a search, your lovely and clever product descriptions will not matter. After reading Etsy’s tips you’ll find you can strike a nice balance of relative words and sizzling product descriptions.
When you’re listing an item you can add up to 14 tags, a.k.a. keywords. If you knit scarves and are listing a 4-foot-long wrap made with 100% hand spun lambswool in peach color, be sure to include the words knit, wrap, wool, lambswool, peach, and orange in your tag list. This way when potential customers are searching on Etsy for the perfect peach knit wrap, yours will pop up because you included those keywords.
If you’re not offering International shipping, you may lose up to 50% of your potential sales! I took a look at what other shops selling stationery were charging for shipping and set my shipping charges accordingly.
The best bit of advice I can give a new seller is to create an account with Endicia. In the beginning I was taking orders to the Post Office and waiting in line. This was a complete waste of my time. Using Endicia, for a small fee of $15 per month and the purchase of an inexpensive postal scale, I print ALL shipping labels from my home.
Whether you’re sending something First Class, Priority or International mail, it can all be printed straight from your computer. No more waiting in lines! It’s all through the United States Postal Service (Endicia is just an agent), so that means as long as one of your packages is Priority, you can schedule a Carrier Pickup. You just place all of your packages at your front door, including the one Priority package, and the carrier will come up to your door to pick them up! I can’t tell you the time this saves me! If I don’t have anything Priority, I can simply place my orders with my Endicia printed labels in my mailbox.
#1 MOST IMPORTANT TIP FOR BEING SUCCESSFUL ON ETSY
Renew, renew, RENEW your items several times a day. Why? The minute you list your item on Etsy, it’ll show up at the top of the list when potential customers are searching for products. In just minutes, your #1 ranking spot in the search will get bumped as other sellers selling similar items add listings.
Renewing items is when you have not sold an item yet, but you just want to refresh it in Etsy’s search engine. Isn’t that expensive you ask? Nope! Not when you see your return on investment. Personally, I renew 4-6 items at a time at least 4 times per day. Morning, noon, evening and late evening. When I get too busy I purposely do not renew as often in order to get a break. This is a nice problem to have.
Most sellers are very nice and eager to help people new to Etsy, so don’t be afraid to ask, even if they would be a potential competitor of yours. We’re all in the same boat! In fact if you have any questions for me, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me here.