Etsy 101

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.


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.


  1. Thanks, Stacy! This was great! I am going to have to try the renewing thing again. I only do it twice a week now. I started doing it every day back in December. I did it for two weeks and sold nothing. I was also surprised because December was my WORST month and I expected it to be a good one. I actually sold more after Christmas. Maybe I will try the renewing more in April and give it a month – hopefully I will see a better return on my investment!

  2. Just an FYI, PayPal (that links into your Etsy store) has the ability to print postage and do pretty much everything the Endicia does without a monthly fee. By using those functions, it also automatically sends a notification to the customer when you print a shipping label so it’s saving me the step of having to send a shipping notification. I only recently started using it because something I purchased from a fellow Etsy seller came with that label and it led me to look into it. So far, I really like it because it’s saved me alot of steps in tracking, sending notifications, buying postage, filling out delivery confirmations, and printing address labels (yay!). Then I just bring my packages into my job’s outgoing box when the USPS guy comes in for his daily pick-up. I hardly need to go to the post office anymore!

  3. sara says:

    I use PayPal for all of my shipping labels, too, except for First Class International mail. Since PayPal only allows you to print Priority Mail or Express Mail labels for international shipments, I use Endicia for my international orders that can be shipped via First Class mail.

    I used to have to take those into the post office & was so happy when Stacy told me about Endicia – that was the last thing keeping me from avoiding the post office entirely!

  4. Stacy, your tips are always so helpful. I have been overwhelmed by the thought of opening an Etsy shop, but I see your success and it makes me want to get moving on it. Thank you so much for your willingness to share your knowledge. I am sure I will be in touch with many questions along the way.

  5. The best piece of advice was the part about renewing! I make sure to renew but it’s always helpful to hear just how many times people renew (especially those really successful shops). Now I see I need to renew more. Sounds expensive, but it definitely pays off in sales.

  6. Thanks for all your terrific comments everyone, so glad you found the posting helpful. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions about Etsy. I’m sure Sara and the other contributors here on Oh My Handmade are also open for giving you any advice you might need for starting an Etsy shop of you own.

  7. Thank all of you who have contacted me directly with questions. I am THRILLED that a few of you have even decided to take the plunge and have gone ahead and opened your own Etsy shop. Please, please, please send me links to your new shops so we can give you a shout out!

  8. Janet F says:

    Hi. I’m thinking about starting an Etsy Store, but I’m trying to figure out if there is an Endicia equivalent for Canada (I’m based out of Toronto). Any ideas?

  9. lakshmi says:

    Stacy, I can’t thank you enough for this post. The information is so streamlined and concise !

    I now have to take that leap and get going forward. Your blog is not just colorful and cute, its informative.


  10. LLH Designs says:

    Great post, and I’m especially interested in the future post you alluded to (Etsy vs. your own website). I love the community of Etsy sellers (so many talented peeps!), but I went with Big Cartel because the look is more seamless/coordinated with my website (and I feel like it’s easy for buyers to get lost/distracted/overwhelmed in Etsy). But I still have an Etsy love. Toying with the idea of having both…Etsy and Big Cartel. And featuring a different product line over on Etsy to try it out. We’ll see!

  11. Carmen's Custom Creations says:

    I too found you thru Whimsy Couture…thank You for taking the time to post. I’ve learned several things about Etsy that I didn’t know…thank you! Any suddestions on figuring international shipping?

  12. Joyce says:

    Just now read your blog, but I am glad to know that about the renewing more often thing, you have great ideas and I agree about the paypal, I use it to print my postage and it works fine for me!


  13. Jamin says:

    Great post! We have just started an Etsy shop after positive feedback from a local store we have been selling with and we are hoping to improve our views and sales. Helpful tips!

  14. Thank you for this article. I opened my shop several weeks ago and I still have no sales. Its frustrating because I don’t know what else to do to get more than views and actually make some money. Articles like this one give me hope.

    • Jessika says:

      Be patient! That is my best advice: ) It will take time to build reputation and connect with your market. It might be awhile until you make money but put in the time/work & it will come! Best wishes to you & your business!

  15. Kayla says:

    Just want to say thank you so much for posting this! It was and is truly VERY HELPFUL to me! I am just starting off my etsy shop and got so many helpful tips from you 🙂

  16. Diana says:

    Thanks for the article. I’ve done the “renew” over time but find that it was just a waste of $$..which I can’t afford. Your tips were very helpful and now that Etsy allows you to change your name, we were able to partially get the name we really wanted because a “buyer” wouldn’t let us have it. They haven’t bought a thing in 6 yrs. We contacted her and she said she might be opening a store someday. Oh well…got shopladylike which we’re happy with.
    You really hit the nail on the head with some of your suggestions. Thanks again!!!

  17. ann says:

    Found your site through a Google search. Thanks for the advice! I opened my Etsy shop ( about 2 years ago, but am ALWAYS learning new tips. You’re right about the Etsy info being overwhelming at times! 🙂 I will be trying the renewing tip. Thanks again!

  18. Fantastic article, Stacy – and love all these comments!

    For any of you selling your crafts, be sure to check out Stitch:

    Stitch helps you manage all of your orders in one place, and helps with everything from inventory, invoices, packing slips, business contacts, and expenses… but the MOST awesome thing for Etsy sellers is that it has auto-relisting!! That means Stitch not only helps you save time, but you’ll never miss a sale while you’re sleeping, working or creating your products!

    Disclaimer, I’m one of the co-founders, but I’ve also had my own product line for years and have been selling on Etsy since 2007.

    Happy to answer any questions!

  19. Megan says:

    This is a really helpful post. Especially the bit on shipping, that’s one of the parts that’s been the most overwhelming to me. I had a question regarding pictures that I haven’t seen any answers to–do you know if there is a particular/ideal size they should be? Thanks again for the helpful pose

  20. Susan says:

    Thank you for the informative piece. I am very creative and have wanted to start an Etsy shop selling jewelry. But what has held me back up to now, is our primitive postal system in Kenya, ideally, I have to be willing to spend at least 3 hrs, just to post a piece. Until that situation changes, I am stuck.

  21. barbara says:

    Have you come across an app or a way to determine what is your best selling item, other thank counting it myself???

    That is one stat etsy does not provide.

    Thanks for any input!

  22. Ching Suarez says:

    Thanks a lot for the advice! Today is my first day at Etsy. I opened my shop early this morning. I’m nervous. I want to do all the right things. Is there a particular site for newbies like me to help us launch our business the most effective way? Thanks a lot for future advices!

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  24. Aakash Desai says:

    Might be worth looking into if your inventory is getting big enough that your business is spread over multiple stores. It’s an inventory management app that we’re building which sends weekly business reports that show total sales across your stores (e.g. Etsy, Shopify, eBay, Bigcommerce, your Physical Shop) and the top products sold per week. It’s worth a shot and also integrates with your social media channels too. Try it out at (it’s free for your first 100 products to manage).

  25. Chantelle says:

    These are some really good basic ideas if you are new. But I would also caution that the search algorithm has now changed so just renewing isn’t always the answer. You definitely have to adjust your titles and keywords on each listing to really shine. You can check out my shop for some examples (or send my a convo) as I am currently pulling together a hints book (from over nine years on Etsy).

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