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Etsy: Everything To Sell Yourself

An analytical investigation into helpful tips on opening an Etsy shop


Thinking about opening an Etsy shop? It is highly recommended, it's fabulous, but there is so much to learn and I thought I would discuss how I run my shop with knowledge gained over the last five years.

There are so many guides and tutorials about how to run a shop on Etsy, but I wanted to offer all the little tips that I have found to be most beneficial. If you're thinking about starting a business on Etsy, there are so many paths to possibly take and everybody does it differently. I had a five year plan where any money made for the first three years would be put straight back into the business and so I had to have another source of income. Once I gave up employment I stepped up my game with the presentation and customer service as I had plenty of spare time to spend on it. I have never paid for advertising but instead have chosen to offer a service that is exceptionally unique to ensure people come back again and again. Two of the things Etsy likes to see is repeat customers and 5* reviews and both will really boost your shop's visibility and credibility. Everything you do on Etsy is to get your shop and listings seen by as many people as possible. That means a lot of research, note taking and checking out the competition. It's not for the faint hearted, but so rewarding once you're selling, it is well worth doing,


WHAT TO MAKE

Check out Pinterest and Etsy to see if your idea is already being made.


1. If there is an abundance of what you want to make, your competition will be high so you'll be just one of thousands of listings and folk barely scroll through the first few pages of a search. If this is the case consider:

  • Adapting your item to serve a specific genre, reducing the competition in a search

  • Make it and sell it far cheaper than the competition

2. If there is nothing like your idea ask yourself why:

  • Is it economical to make?

  • Is it postable?

  • Is there a demand for it?

I decided all of my Stuff would be completely unique, so I know I'm the only one making what I make, eg: my handmade cards are the only ones hand sewn with fabric and scented, designed specifically for Pagan festivals and house rabbit owners, both very small audiences.

My lavender birds are the only bird lavender bags, presented specifically as gifts.

My pom pom draft excluders are made using advanced colour theories



YOUR IDENTITY

Your logo, shop name and livery should reflect what you are selling

1. Your logo is the first creative thing folks will generally see so it needs to accurately represent you. There are many companies that can design one for you, but you cannot beat the one you design yourself. If you don't draw or do graphic design try:

  • Photoshop and many other design programs can help you achieve pretty much anything. Some of the simpler programs will have enough ability to produce a decent logo making it possible for folks to design things they never thought possible. Allocate a day and get stuck in

  • Photograph one of your pieces in an arty, abstract way or from an unusual angle.

2. Your shop name is sooo important

  • Make sure it's easy to spell and memorable so you come up in searches

  • Give a clue as to what you do within the name

3. The theme and colours of your shop plus stationery, compliment slips or business cards should represent who you are. You wouldn't want a glittery modern look if you are selling hand woven rustic goods.

  • Use Pinterest to research fonts to suit your theme

  • Spend a morning on Etsy looking up the things you want to sell that are already available

  • Make sure you put the country of origin on your stationery, eg. Handmade in England

As most of my Stuff is organic, rustic and rural. I use Celtic fonts in both oak green and earth brown colours, printed on cream rather than white for my stationery. My logo is one of my own doodles tidied up in Photoshop and I print everything myself. The name Cat's Punky Stuff took weeks for me to come up with but it perfectly gives an idea as to what I do, though I can't tell you how many times a cat lover has bought pom poms for their kitties, thinking I am a shop for cat toys! I now pop a little catnip giftie into pom parcels when I know they are for a cat. It brings a whole new meaning to customer service and attention to detail!


STARTING OUT

It can be very slow to get going with your first few listings so you need to shine above the rest

When starting out, getting a good review for an item will help it appear early in searches, after all, Etsy makes money out of each of your sales, so if something is well thought of Etsy will want you to sell more. There are lots you can do to ensure a good review

  • if your item is a little cheaper to begin with it will be value for money and cheaper than your competition. You can put the price up once it's selling

  • reply with a message on receipt of an order, tell the customer when their goods will be posted

  • include a handwritten note sharing your gratitude for the order

  • never be late with posting, Etsy doesn't like that at all!

It took me 3 years and 140 listings before I really started to feel I was 'selling on Etsy', but you could be lucky and produce something that is easy and quick to make, cheap to produce, only you making it and sells like hotcakes. I have been fortunate to appear in the first slot of many searches, eg Saturnalia Cards: there is hardly any competition, plus my cards have hundreds of 5* reviews and lots of people who buy them year after year. Because these Saturnalia cards are highly thought of they help promote my other cards which automatically feature early in other searches.


REPEAT CUSTOMERS

Etsy will love you if you have someone repeat buy from you.

1. It is the greatest testament to your product if someone buys it again, especially if it is a different item. It shows:

  • that your listing is accurate

  • that your product meets the expectations of the buyer

  • your product/service encourages faith in the other things you sell

  • your product works as its purpose and is made to a high standard .

2. There are lots you can do to get repeat customers:

  • give a service unique to you

  • give more than is expected, whether it's informative messaging, thoughtful, arty packaging or a personal hand written note. The more you do to create a great shopping experience, the more your customer will feel special, and it doesn't have to cost a thing

  • remember you are a designer/craftisan/artisan so pack your parcel to the same quality as your item

  • first impressions are everything, so wow your customer from the moment they receive their parcel.

There have been many times when someone has bought something cheap or small to then buy lots of Stuff again virtually as soon as the first order is received, or repeat buy seasonally. The service I offer ensures the customer knows exactly when their Stuff will be posted. Instead of buying advertising I include a high quality gifty in each first order and upgrade to 1st class for free for any order after. There are lots you can do that just takes your time to better a shopping experience, do all that you can to squeeze out these first few good reviews and repeat purchases


ETSY SHOP

Make sure everything is filled out before you write your first listing

There are lots to the Etsy shop, but it is very easy to navigate. It is important to fill everything out

  • The About section is your chance to let folks know what you are all about, include a bit of your home life, pets and interests

  • You can link all of your social media to your shop

  • Choose a good tagline

  • Pick a picture for your shop banner (it appears along the top of your shop page) that best represents what you do

  • Add your logo

  • Add your shop video, maybe showing you working, or your workplace or your best seller

  • Set your shop policies for returns and refunds etc

  • Add a welcome note in your 'shop announcements'

Even if to begin with you don't have much to say, or videos or pictures, just use anything you have so that all of your details have something. You can gradually improve and adapt as you grow, adding a great creative video, arty photographs and fun, informative writings.

Constantly keep updating all of the above as your products and business style develop


Having all of this information on your Etsy will not only help you connect with your customers, but it's a real chance to sell yourself. It took me a full week to fill in all of my shop details, but it meant as soon as someone looked at one of my first listings, all of this information was available to them. You could lose out on your first sale if the buyer cannot read about who you are, or your page is full of blank spaces. Sparkle and shine, sell yourself!


ETSY LISTINGS

With each listing fill out everything, the more information you give the more visible you will be

1. Tags (SEO's) are key words to describe your item and are the key to finding your target audience. Use the wrong tag words and your item will not find potential buyers (see SEO's below)

2. The first three words of the title should accurately describe your item as these are the words seen under the thumbnail during searches. Use your tag words for this

3. Fill in the description, keeping it clear and informative, including sizes, materials used and function. Use as many of your tag words as possible.

4. Choose a category for your listing. This is so important to get right. Think like a shopper to determine where your item should appear eg my small organic lavender birds are listed under 'car air fresheners' and the larger ones as 'light pulls'. I chose these categories because my birds are totally unique in each category. Listing them as lavender sachets they would never get seen as the competition is much higher

5. Fill in every single question, never leave a space blank. It's really quick to finish writing your listing after the first four steps.

6. Add 10 photographs, (see below), but if you struggle to fill all the slots, maybe include pictures of you making the piece, or your packaging, or the piece being used or your workspace. Folks like to see how things are made, a view into your world if you like, so if you're short of photographs fill up the slots with anything relevant.

7. Use your best listings as your 'Featured Items' which will appear as samples of your work when somebody likes your shop. I colour code mine so they look like a whole, like these below!

Once you have written a listing save it as a draft and check out its visibility and 'grade' in one of Etsy's marketing tools eg E-Ranker (see below)


I have learnt to do a listing in the order I have shown here. Using your tag words in the title and description increases the listings visibility in searches. Keep your description to within 1,000 characters and you're heading for an 'A' grade listing (See SEO's below). I use E-Ranker to check my listings, but some people say it doesn't work for them. I found it a huge help at the beginning


SEO's AND E-RANKER

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of directing the right traffic to your listing

I was petrified by the daunting task of learning how to write quality SEO's. However it is not as scary as it seems and within a week I had cracked it. Don't be deterred, if I can learn it anyone can, just be focused!


Getting your tag words right is vital, eg 'Christmas Card' is used over 50,000 times on Etsy 'Unusual Christmas' is used 29,500 times,

'Pagan Christmas' has just 17,000 users which again cuts down the competition even more. As you can see, the more specifically you describe your item the better chances it has of being seen. There are many websites teaching you how to write good SEOs and Etsy has a few they recommend. E-Ranker is a great marketing tool to help write productive tag words as you can link your Etsy to it and it analyses all aspects of your shop.


You will learn that adding several words together within 20 characters increases the amount of words you can use.

Example: 'rose gold, gold, ring, diamond, wedding ring, precious stone' are terrible tag words, but

'Rose Gold Ring' or ' Diamond Wedding Ring' are great as they are 3 words in one tag. (in truth though there is probably huge competition with both of these tags but it shows how you can increase the amount of words you can use)


E-Ranker is really good as you can view all of your listings through it. It's very easy to use so there's no need to go into it here. Once you have written your first listing and saved it in 'draft', check it out on E-Ranker to see how it rates. An 'A' grade means the listing is at its best so publish it. You can then view it as a customer would see it and simply just wait for the cha-ching! SOLD! If there is a problem with your listing E-Ranker high-lights what needs to be changed.

For an 'A' grade E-Ranker suggests:

  • Title Analysis - around six words, 45 characters

  • Tag Analysis - you can see how visible all 13 tags are and what the competition is

  • Attributes - are details like colour, theme or celebration

  • Description - keep within 1,000 characters

  • Images - use 10 pictures

  • Processing Time - this will vary depending on whether the item needs to be made to order or not

Once your listing is posted, you can 'Copy' it if you have another item that is similar. Remember to change the bits that are different then publish it. There's no need to check the listing again on E-Ranker unless you've made drastic changes to the original..


Having 'A' grade listings doesn't guarantee your listing will sell. I have seen best sellers (over 100 sales of an item) with just two photos, terrible descriptions and single word tags. Because I use the annual Etsy competition (see below) to promote my shop I know it has to be set out as Etsy likes it. I like E-Ranker, it was a huge help so I'd advise to check it out!

LISTING PHOTOGRAPHS

Just as your description has to accurately describe your item, so do the photographs. For the best results:

  • try to use natural light and invest in photography lighting. I found a set of studio lights for £30, totally worthwhile

  • have a neutral background that suits your theme. Etsy suggests white but I think it depends what you are selling. I use a weathered wooden shelf and a grey hare wallpaper as a backdrop. I NEVER use props because I want my Stuff to shine on their own merit not distracted by photo props

  • keep all your photographs the same size. I use the square aspect when I take the photo as I want the listing photograph to also be square, saves hours of cropping.

  • colours will vary when viewed on different devices, with all devices having lots of screen settings. Accurate digital colour can be a tripping point so ensure your photograph is spot on, it may look different once uploaded to a computer

  • photograph your item from all sides including the top and back, close-ups, show it in use and have an item for size comparison. As an example I used to take one photo of my painted stones next to a daisy in the lawn. Everyone knows how big daisies are! I've seen people use a penny or a shabby ruler, neither work for me. If I had to have a ruler in one of my photos I would decorate a strip of card and add the measurements to it., far more creative than a ruler. This is the sort of attention to detail that helps you rise above the crowd. If you pay that much attention to a photo prop, your craftsmanship must be equally fabulous!

  • fill all 10 photograph slots even if some of the photos aren't of your item. I use a photo of my craft room and a packed order ready for posting so folks can see where I work and what they can expect with their parcel


PACKAGING

Having worked as a courier for 25 years I know the importance of good packing

To ensure your parcel travels safely think about the following :

Is it breakable, bendable, heavy, oversized or needs protecting from water?

  • Breakable: ensure the item cannot move in the box. Use bubble wrap and scrunched up newspaper for padding as an item rolling around in a box will break. Use a box that is a perfect fit as too big a box will take a lot of padding. Put fragile on all 6 sides

  • Bendable: use thick card or a length of wood to firm up the parcel. Corrugated card laid in different directions is very strong

  • Heavy: ensure the item cannot roll around in the box as it will break out! Don't rely on thin parcel tape, think about using cling film or shrink wrap (industrial cling film). I use pretty, sticky-backed plastic to wrap the whole box up ensuring the corners and edges are well covered. Failing that use wide parcel tape to tape every surface of the box. Write heavy on all 6 sides

  • Over-sized: some big items like furniture and sculpture may need packing on pallets. Protect all the corners with folded card and protect your item from warehouse dust, rain, road spray or even spilled items in transit.

  • Water-proof: if your item can get damaged by water ensure it is water tight. Either protect the actual item or preferably waterproof the whole box, so if it does get wet the box's integrity will not be compromised

I add the price of the box to the item, (approx. 24p) after all it cannot be posted without the box, but all the la-di-da packaging I pay for myself as part of my advertising substitute!

In the beginning I used any recycled boxes and pretty wallpaper to wrap in. This was fine at the start, but as my business grew, so did my presentation. Using proper parcel boxes of the right size really looked professional and so with attention to detail I started hand-printing my own brown parcel paper secured with thin string finished in a bow. I strongly recommend your first investment should be the right box for your items to be packed in. Bulk buying tissue, ribbon and string works out really cheap per parcel, just a few pence, if you have the funds to invest at the start. Some folks feel having lavish parcels is a waste of money, it all just goes in the bin, but I know that with a few pence worth of organza ribbon and a 1/4 sheet of 1p tissue paper your parcel can go from nothing special to a real treat for your customer. People like and remember these things!


SHIPPING

Getting the shipping wrong can cost you a fortune

Setting your shipping may seem scary but take your time, fill everything in and once it is done the profile you have made can be used for similar listings, or copied to create a new profile.

  • It is important to know how heavy your item is with all of its packing so you can set the postage costs correctly.

  • Etsy likes you to offer free postage (though it isn't actually free as you stick the postage costs onto the price of the item). I have tried both free and charged postage and it's made no difference. I believe in transparency and honesty so customers know exactly what they are paying for and so I always charge the exact cost of the stamp and offer refunds for combined items. This is one of the statements in my 'shop announcements' and I always mention any postal refunds in my 'confirmation of order' message.

  • Set your 'Processing Time' for as quick as possible. This is the time it will take you to post the item from the time of ordering. Eg my pre-made Stuff is set as 1 business day and many times I post the same day of the order, whereas poms that are made to order I have a 3-5 day processing time. If you offer made to order bear in mind you could have 10 orders at once...does your processing time allow for you being really busy, you can't miss a deadline (see Being Naughty at the end of this blog)! I have always sent out my made to order Stuff by the next day. As soon as I get a commission I drop everything and get making. You want those projects made and sent asap so you can keep within your set processing time.

  • You MUST remember to adjust your processing times if the postal service closes for holidays. If you offer next day posting you'll get caught out on bank holidays as the post office is closed on Mondays. Therefore extend your shipping to two days and add a note in your shop announcements explaining why, especially if you ship internationally. Remember attention to detail! Don't forget to change it back again after the holiday. I actually list all the UK bank holidays in my shop announcements for international shoppers so they know when there may be a delay in shipping

  • Filling in the shipping may be daunting but it really isn't. Your postal service/carrier will have either a hard copy or online lists of prices and different services.

  • Including international posting is an absolute must. It opens the world to your shop. Your listings will only appear in the countries/continents you ship to. 60% of my sales go abroad. I have one lady who started in Florence, then moved to Switzerland and each time she moves she messages me. I simply add her country to the listing she is interested in.

  • When creating an INTERNATIONAL shipping profile for your item always choose 'other' in the drop down box for which carrier you use, if you ship with the post office. The post office doesn't allow enough estimated time for delivery, just 3-5 days when in reality it's 7-21 days. By selecting 'Other' you can enter your own estimated delivery times to a more realistic length of time. From October to December I increase all my shipping times because the postal service has huge delays. I put a statement in the shop announcements...attention to detail


ADVERTISING

Advertising is the sole purpose of the internet. Everybody is selling something and wants you to know about it!

I have never paid for advertising so I cannot offer any advice. Instead I ensure that every customer I have loves their shopping experience with me. The finances that would have been allocated to advertising I use for:

  • pretty packaging: my packaging costs approx. 11p per parcel for organza ribbon, tissue, brown paper, jute twine, plastic wrap and hand stamps with ink pads. Putting it all together costs me about 20 minutes per parcel, with the hand written note and a hand written, home-printed pretty parcel label.

  • free giftie: many people do not think freebies work, some buyers say they would rather their bought item was cheaper with no freebie. I decided the best cause of action was to create a freebie that people would love to keep and use and therefore it would make sense to ensure my shop name was on the gift so I would never be forgotten. In year four of my five year plan I invested £300 in high quality metal pins of my logo and shop name. One of the biggest sellers are the robins filled with lavender. Therefore I designed a very small version of the robin which takes about 20 minutes and costs about 12p to make. The little metal pins are pinned to the robin tail creating a lovely, well thought of giftie, designed to be kept. They also act as a sample for my bigger birdies. They really paid off, it was the best decision I have made whilst on Etsy. For customers who I know well I will gift little trials and test pieces not available to buy.

  • Etsy Off-Site ads are a great idea in principle and there are mixed views about them. I tried it once, never again. If you sign up to these ads where Etsy promotes your item, you only pay a fee if someone clicks on your listing and buys it. They took 20% of the item price which is very high. I later found out that if that customer had ordered again within 30 days Etsy would keep taking its 20%. These ads would probably help a newly opened shop

THE ETSY DESIGN AWARDS

An annual competition open to all Etsy shops, highly recommended

This competition run by Etsy offers great opportunities including:

  • an annual revamp of your whole shop, tweaking bits and bobs, retaking photos.

  • if they like your entry expect to be busy.

  • you can use this competition as a great promotional push. Even if you don't make the top 100 or one of the finalists, it's a brilliant way to be promoted for free.

I love competition time. I start prepping a month in advance at the end of May. I see it as a great time to check everything is up to date and current throughout the whole shop. I like to enter on the day it opens as it shows your shop is always top notch. Last year I entered my best selling bird and had a lot of orders for it, so much so it took me by surprise. This year I plan to submit one of my drafties as I use the same colour theories as with the birds. Next year is the year I try to get in the top 100, with my lavender wands. I wanted to enter them this year, but they have been so popular I have run out of lavender already.. By next year I hope they will be a 'Best Seller' with over 100 sales and I've booked lots of extra gardens for harvesting huge amounts of long stem lavender.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND ETSY

A huge part of selling on the internet is being active online. The more access points you have to your shop, the more traffic you will gain

As part of your shop you can link your social media to your Etsy. It's easy to do and well worth it. You simple drop the links for eg:

  • Web site

  • Pinterest

  • Twitter

  • Facebook**.

Each listing you write can be shared to your social media which in turn can bring extra traffic to your shop. Etsy has lots of statistics so you can see where your traffic was directed from.


**There are craft pages on Facebook that say 'like my shop/listings and I'll like yours'. Avoid these because if lots of people like your items or shop but nobody buys, Etsy can tell. A sudden increase in similar likes with no purchase will go against you in searches.


I also run an Ebay shop for my most popular cards. With each Ebay sale I include a pretty printed note explaining about the full range and offers on my Etsy shop. Lots of people have bought from my Etsy shop, having found me on Ebay. My prices and service are just the same on both Ebay as Etsy and I find when someone has been wowed on Ebay they want to see more on Etsy. It works a treat. I would never have one-off crafted pieces on both shops, imagine if by fluke they both sold at the same time but there is only one available, ahh!


BEING NAUGHTY ON ETSY

There are a few things that can upset Etsy and you'll get a knuckle rapping or completely shut down, depending on the severity of the offence

  • Copyright infringement: If you use someone else's ideas without permission, the listing will get closed down. Peter Rabbit, Star Wars, Disney are all no-go's. This goes for lyrics, quotes or sayings. If it's not your work or idea, you cannot make money from it. There are plenty of websites where you can check what is copyrighted

  • Poor reviews: If you get a few 2* or below reviews in quick succession your shop will be closed.

  • Problem customers: Always talk to your customers through Etsy Messenger so there is a record of what has been said. I have heard of complaining customers, absolute horrors where the seller is not at fault, 'I want to return the item because my dog doesn't like it' 2* review...how do you deal with that, but it can happen.

SUMMARY

The important bits to remember as I see it though every path is different

  1. When selling online you need to be on multiple platforms for maximum exposure

  2. The words you use are more important than you could possibly think

  3. Be very accurate with your item descriptions and photographs

  4. Never miss a making/posting deadline. Message your customer to prevent confrontation

  5. Work hard to get those first few reviews by doing that bit extra, it doesn't have to cost

  6. Treat repeat customers with the reverence they deserve, they are a vital key to your success

  7. Reply to a good review with a personalised thank you message.

  8. Be as honest and transparent as possible, there are a lot of crooks selling online. A customer should feel confident about their purchase. Etsy is a posher, fancier version of Ebay, so an Etsy shop should have individuality, charm and a personality that will make any customer feel like they are the most important person in the world.

The world is your oyster if you want it to be. There are so many ways to run your Etsy shop, this blog just covers my little story. I have 780 sales and 236 5* reviews and I am very happy with my achievements. I am just a small, one-woman set up making one-off pieces and so I will never be mass producing and making millions. When I started my shop I was 220,000 in the Etsy world rankings, out of 1.5 million shops. Right now I am ranked 100,223 and have sold more than 93% of other shops. My closing words on using Etsy is that the more you put into it, the greater your success but unless you're really lucky you'll have to wash a lot of paint brushes before you can produce your masterpiece.















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