10 things I’ve learned selling on Etsy

10 things I've learned selling on Etsy

I recently hit an Etsy milestone. 100 sales! It’s been a weird and wonderful journey so far. Each sale is just as exciting as the first. Well, almost. I cried tears of joy and did a happy dance when I made my first sale, and I still do a happy dance these days… but inside my head. Every sale helps support my new reality of self-employment and I’m so grateful for those who’ve helped me along the way.

When I opened my shop, I didn’t really have any concrete plans, just a loose goal to make $50 a month and if that didn’t happen in a few months, I’d close it down and called it an experience. Things took off much quicker than I expected. 100 sales certainly doesn’t make me an expert, but I have learned quite a bit in the last four months and would like to share some things with those out there who would like to open an Etsy shop or improve their existing stores:

CRITIQUE YOUR SHOP
Is it easy for people to find your items? Write detailed titles, tags, and descriptions. Does your policies page include information about your refund policy, shipping information, and frequently asked questions from buyers? Are your items organized into different sections? Put yourself in a potential buyer’s shoes and ask yourself if there is anything about your shop that may be confusing.

Are certain items in your shop not getting any views? Ask yourself why. Re-examine the titles, tags, and descriptions. Do your photos make it clear what you’re selling? It sounds like a silly question, but sometimes I have no idea what someone is selling unless I read the listing because there are so many other props in the photo. Critique your photos — the lighting, angles, would the photos benefit from some cropping or some photo manipulation?

Further reading:
Building Your Brand >> Etsy
Big list of product photography tips for Etsy sellers >> Handmadeology

BE EXCELLENT TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Respond to convos and e-mails in a timely and friendly manner. I include answers to frequently asked questions in my listings and policies, but if there’s anything I learned from working in customer service it’s that people don’t read anything. That’s okay, people are busy and we don’t have the patience for anything these days that isn’t a Buzzfeed-style listicle.

Many of my items require extra design work, so when an item sells I give customers a timeframe of when I’ll send their proof. If there’s going to be a delay, I let people know and keep communication open.

BE MEMORABLE
One of the things I love most about buying on Etsy is how each purchase feels like a personalized experience. I love the handwritten notes from sellers, the carefully wrapped packaging, and have always been delighted to receive extras with my orders.

I sell digital items, so how do I make purchases memorable? Many of my items are personalized stationery, so it requires a lot of one-on-one communication. When I wrap up an order, I provide buyers with a coupon for all future purchases, including custom orders. That didn’t seem particularly memorable to me, so I wanted to do more. I still send coupon codes, but I also include extra stationery. For example, with save the dates, I’ll include a PDF of personalized stationery with the couples’ names. Couples may find themselves writing handwritten notes in the months before and after their wedding, so personalized stationery comes in handy. I get a lot of positive feedback about the extra stationery and it’s led to custom design work.

STAY ON TOP OF SALES
I sell digital items, so items are sold over and over again. I renew an item as soon as I see it has sold. It often seems like an item will get a spike in views, favorites, and will occasionally sell again within a couple hours after renewal.

When you ship an item, make sure to mark it as shipped in your “Sold Orders”. Include tracking information and choose the option to notify the seller to avoid “where’s my item?” questions.

STREAMLINE YOUR WORKFLOW
Find ways to make running your shop easier. Since I do a lot of e-mail communication, I find that I repeat myself all the time. There are certain questions and phrases I’m always writing, so I’ve enabled Canned Responses in my Gmail account. I have a half dozen canned responses that I use, templates that can be easily customized and sentences that I use over and over again. Saving a few minutes writing up an e-mail may not seem like much, but it can really add up over time. Canned responses helps me achieve inbox zero everyday.

DON’T SPAM
Every time you favorite an item or a shop on Etsy, the seller can see your profile, unless you mark your settings to private. As a new seller, it can be tempting to reach out to potential buyers to thank them for favoriting your item or to offer them a discount. Do. Not. Do. This. This is considered to be unsolicited promotional material, also known as spam. If you favorited 20 items on Etsy in one day, would you want e-mails from all 20 sellers?

Likewise, if someone has purchased something from your shop, do not add them to your newsletter. Rather, include an opt-in link for your newsletter in your message to buyers. Opting someone in your newsletter without their consent is a terrible user experience. Additionally, it’s probably against the mailing service’s TOS. If someone reported you, you run the risk of getting banned.

SELF-PROMOTION
Okay, honestly, this is one of my weak points. I don’t spam my personal Facebook or Twitter accounts with shop-related announcements because the vast majority of those folks aren’t my audience. I use Pinterest for promoting my items and it brings my shop lots of traffic. I have a Facebook page for my shop, but I don’t really have a plan for it yet. I link my shop to my blog, which brings traffic everyday. Ideally, I want to be the kind of person I wouldn’t mind being promoted to — but I’m still figuring out what that is.

I allot $10 a month for Etsy advertising. It doesn’t bring in a lot of direct sales, but I do get several favorites. I realize something like a save the date isn’t necessarily an impulse purchase. According to my shop stats for every 10 favorites, I make a sale, so I continue using Etsy advertising.

MAKE NEW FRIENDS
It can be overwhelming to dive into a market that already seems over-saturated. How are you ever going to get noticed selling t-shirts or stationery? It’s scary. And it’s also easy to fall into the trap of being envious of someone’s success. Other designers are not your enemies. Get involved in the Etsy community. Answer questions, ask questions, and when you find a shop you really like, compliment the seller or ask for advice.

Join Etsy teams, follow your favorite sellers on social media, subscribe to their blogs, join their Facebook groups. I work from home and it can feel easy to feel isolated from the world, especially during this brutal winter. Befriending other sellers and creatives is a bit like having a bunch of new co-workers. I learn from them, they learn from me (I hope!), and it helps me grow as a designer.

BOOKKEEPING
I use Google Docs for everything, from wedding planning, writing down goals, planning trips, to bookkeeping. I keep separate spreadsheets for my income, for Etsy and outside of Etsy. For the Etsy spreadsheet, I track the date an item sold, the amount it sold for, the amount I received after fees, type of payment (Etsy direct or Paypal), customer’s name, item name, a link to the receipt, and how much I paid in fees that month. This helps me analyze not only how much I’m making, but hopefully will make things less of a hassle around tax time.

COPYCATS
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… sure, if flattery feels like getting punched in the gut. Yeah, yeah, we are all inspired by the world around us, there is nothing new under the sun, and loads of other platitudes. If you are blatantly ripping off someone’s work, you know what you’re doing. The world is a small place, the design community is a smaller place, the Etsy community is an even smaller place. If you’re just starting out as a designer or an artist, you’re not going to be respected in the community by making enemies.

Stephanie Creekmur has a great write-up on how sellers should deal with copycats. I filed away her post last week in anticipation for this blog post, but a few days later I discovered my very first Etsy copycat. Sadly, copycats are an inevitable part being a creative, but learn how to protective yourself and take action when necessary.

For more reading on this subject, the Nicole’s Classes blog has an excellent series on this:

Inspiration vs. Copying: Where is the line? >> Nicole’s Classes
Inspiration vs. Copying: What is original? >> Nicole’s Classes
Inspiration vs. Copying: Is copying ever okay? >> Nicole’s Classes
Copyright Protection >> Nicole’s Classes

What have you learned selling on Etsy? If you have any Etsy-related questions for me, let me know!

Share your thoughts. Don't be a weenie.
  1. Megan says:

    So many great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing. Hoping to put a few into action in the coming weeks!

    Reply
  2. Leah says:

    Wow- what a great list! This is a gold mine for new etsy sellers, and I’m sure it will be fun to look back on later. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    Reply
  3. Becky says:

    Great post, I’m bookmarking it! I use google docs for everything as well and it’s a goal in the next few weeks to get even more organized & improve work flow.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply