So you are thinking of opening an Etsy shop. Great idea! Probably. Let’s find out some right up front necessaries.
As a multi-year, now multi shop owner on Etsy, I get asked a lot about opening an Etsy shop. Which I think is great, as it means that person is putting some thought into it before diving in the deep end. In trying to assist someone recently with some questions, I realised the amount of information provided, discussed, explained and sometimes even lied about is rather overwhelming.
It had me thinking. If I was once again opening my first Etsy shop what are some of the things I would tell my (younger) self. The real basics. The actual important points. What to start with.
I honesty wish, when I was looking to open mine, that there had been someone to say, clearly, what you should focus on. Particularly at the beginning.
So without further adieu, here are some basic to Know and to Do’s I wish I had been told before I opened my shop on Etsy.
By the way my knowledge is based on selling vintage, but you could apply this across Etsy’s other areas – handmade and craft with regards to opening a new shop.
Opening an Etsy Shop
8 Do Tips – 1 Don’t
1. First, first, first is it to decide will this become a Sole Income or stay a Side Income? This matters because you have to decide how much time to put into it. Time to source items/materials, time to photograph, time to list, time to promote. And let’s not forget time to learn. Sole income – you will need to put in the time, eg full time, even if you have another day job to start. Plan to work nights and weekends. Side earner – still need to put in time, but less pressure. (You can always change your mind later, but it’s important to decide now, at the start so you can plan appropriately.)
2. Pick a focus – I’m assuming you already have something in mind to sell. Now consider how you can focus it. Etsy shops with focus do better. There’s a bunch of reasons too myriad to go into here without overwhelming.
The focus could be the item type, such as you make different types of tote bags. But the focus is tote bags. Art Deco jewellery. All about tea… starting to get the idea?
The temptation is and will be to diversify. Especially in vintage. But I learned the hard way, it is best to focus, focus, focus. My ‘French Silk Scarf shop’ is an example of focused. Where as my first shop Pumpjack & Piddlewick was not, and it is taking a long time to bring it around to my focus of French finds.
3. – Photographs – You will hear this time and time again, from Etsy in particular, but also other sellers. And they are all right. Photographs are the window to your shop and to your products. When online shopping people can’t touch, turn it around, feel the texture, the weight, so it is up to your photographs to entice them in and then explain as much as possible visually. Take the time to make them good.
Of very really note, you do not need an expensive camera to do this. A digital camera, yes, for sure. A mobile/cel phone camera is fine, particularly to start with.
4. Learn SEO – (Search Engine Optimisation) Etsy is essentially a search engine for people shopping, so you need to get familiar with how to be found via keywords, in other words optimising your use of words to be found by the search engine. You sell tote bags, you will use the keywords ‘tote bags’ a lot, in titles, in tags, because that is what you sell.
This is an area you have to take the time to learn. Etsy provides some guidance in their Etsy Handbook, but it is not super in-depth. If you wish to succeed on Etsy, or any online selling platform, you need to learn about this and how to do it well.
5. Pick one Social Media – You can not rely totally on Etsy to sell for you. They are not actually in it to ‘sell’ your products. They are, as mentioned, a search engine to find your products, and a platform from which you can sell them. You need to drive customers to your shop via SEO and your social media.
What I personally recommend, is choose one social medium: Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok… it doesn’t matter which. If you are particularly familiar with or like one, stick with what you know or like. Whether you use many anyway, to start, choose one for your shop and focus on it only. You can always branch out later, but for now your time is best spent elsewhere.
6. Quantity matters, particularly if selling vintage – This is one of those things that nobody wants to tell you. But it is about being found, and the competition is fierce. Think about, if you walked into an actual shop and there were only 50 items. They better be showcased beautifully to make you want to buy. But normally, in a shop, you would find lots and lots of items with the idea that with many you will be enticed to buy at least one, if not more.
If you are going to sell something you make, and quantity could be an issue, consider adding listings that showcase variety. A change of colour, pattern or size. In other words the same item or type of item listed in the different ways you might offer to make it.
7. Read the Etsy handbook – (Click here) before you open your shop. You really need to understand what is important to Etsy. What is not allowed, and what they recommend. Read it once at the beginning before you start. Let it sink in. Don’t let it overwhelm. Rather, by reading it, you can then use it as a referral guide if needed in future.
8. Take time to prepare before you open your shop. You can open with a minimum of 10 items. My suggestion is wait until you have at least 50. You will barely be seen until you reach 50, especially if selling vintage. Etsy will promote your shop for its first 3 months a bit more then it normally will do. Use this time wisely and be prepared.
You are able to add a many items a you like to your shop before you push the button to make it go live. Add, add, add as many as you can before opening your Etsy shop.
And a Don’t
This is a Do List – but as this is a very real and important Don’t – I am including it as a Do.
Don’t expect to make a sale the first day. Or possibly even in the first month, or three. Especially if you have not done the above Do’s. My first sale came a month and a half after I opened my shop with 10 items. Then I had to wait another 2 months for another one, even though I was *very slowly* adding to it. (I hadn’t thought through or done any of the above.)
If you wish sales from the get go, do take the time to prepare. Or if, like me, you wish to jump in with both feet, then anticipate that things will take a little time to pick up.
Now get to it, in whatever capacity you wish. And good luck!