So, You’re Thinking About Selling on Etsy? Here’s The Hard Facts
Etsy, craft fairs, Handmade at Amazon… they all make you want to rush home and start crafting from dawn until dusk and then sell it all for a big profit. Creating a profitable product line is a great goal to strive for, but unfortunately it does require more effort that just making pretty things and selling them online.
I became an entrepreneur at age 19 and I knew it was for me right away. It’s fair to say that I have a healthy obsession for marketing, creating product lines, and teaching others how to do the same. Anytime I run into another entrepreneur I itch to ask them all about their business, how they got into it, how they manage it on a day to day basis, and what all they’ve learned along the way. Getting to understand the expectations of new and seasoned entrepreneurs has helped me tremendously in understanding how to best help people succeed with their new business from the get-go.
Here are the realities of starting an online shop on Etsy:
Hard Fact 1: It’s NOT free
This is without a doubt the biggest misconception I run into with online sellers. Since Etsy gives you a platform to sell on with millions of shoppers already at your disposal, it makes sense that most people would assume they don’t need a startup investment. While selling crafts online is definitely one of the most affordable businesses you can get into, it still requires an investment of time and money.
- $0.20 Etsy Listing Fee: This seems insignificant, but you’re competing with nearly 2 million sellers on Etsy. In order to keep your products ranking above others you’ll have to renew your listings before they actually expire. Doing it several times a week seems to work best for most sellers we work with.
- Photographer, Photography Equipment, or Photo Help: Taking gorgeous photos of your products is something you absolutely cannot skimp on. Think about it… people can’t see your products in person and with nearly 2 million sellers competing with you, the shops with the best photos are going to have the highest conversion rates. Shoppers can’t smell, touch, or look at the quality of your product. All they have to go off of is your pictures which means that a lower quality product will sell better than yours if their photos are better. Either hire someone to help you or take the time to learn the principles of photography on your own.
- Branding: Etsy gives you a fair amount of flexibility with your branding and if you want to see those sales start rolling in then you need to nail this. Confusing branding that doesn’t clearly demonstrate what you sell and compliment your products will cause buyers to bounce from your shop. With online marketing you have 2 seconds to convince people to stay on your page. The slightest mistake such as an un-clear tagline or miss-matched logo forces people to contemplate what it is that you sell. That brief moment of confusion is usually handled by the person deciding to just hit the “back button” and look at the other shop they were interested in instead. If you decide to hire a designer to create your banner and logo the cost usually runs between $50 – $500. You can try it on your own in Canva.com, but if you can’t get it right then hiring someone is the way to go.
- Packaging: Everyone knows that 5-star reviews increase the appeal of your shop and one of the best ways to guarantee an excellent review is with your product presentation. Would you rather get a plain, brown envelope in the mail with a ring rolling around loosely inside, or would you rather open up a little brown box filled with decorative paper and pull out ring box with a ribbon around it? The buyer’s reaction when they get your package dictates how they will react to the product itself. This means that you need to invest a bit on things like cute paper, nice boxes, stickers, and business cards if possible.
- Training: Whether you decide to do all your own research or get help from experts in the industry, you HAVE to learn how to market yourself and your products online. First you have to learn how to optimize your shop on Etsy, then you have to learn how to market and promote yourself outside of Etsy to send extra sales and boost your ranking even further. Taking the trial and error approach to all this wastes time and you don’t want to wind up in the very large pile of stagnant shops that never appear on the search pages.
- Future Investments: As you grow you’ll discover that you need tools to help you out such as label printers, hired help, your own website, and marketing tools such as Onlypult that can cut out hours of tedious work from your day.
Hard Fact 2: You Need a Plan in the Beginning
Despite how it may look, an Etsy shop is not a place to list 100 random items. Remember how you only have 2 seconds to convince people to stay in your shop? They won’t stay if you have a hodgepodge of items. People who are shopping online are looking for one or several things in particular. Most people don’t have the spare time to just browse all over the internet and the ones who do have that time still only have so much money to spend. The chances of them landing on your page are very slim.
This means that you need to have a plan for what you are going to sell and what kind of people it would appeal to. For example, don’t make baby blankets, market your shop to moms, and then list a bunch of journals (unless it’s a baby journal). They aren’t shopping for journals and if they have to sift through your journals to find the blankets then your 2 seconds are up and they’ll leave the page because they’re too busy to dig for what they want. Narrow your focus to one kind of product or category and work on it until it’s successful. If you want to sell other stuff after that you can start another shop.
Hard Fact 3: It’s Not Always Glamorous
For some reason when we shop for products online we picture the seller sitting at a neatly organized desk with kids playing quietly in the background and raving reviews trickling in from past customers. While you may have days like that, some days will be the exact opposite. You’ll be juggling upset customers, tricky custom orders, kids not understanding why you aren’t focusing on them instead of your work, and a grumpy partner because dinner isn’t ready. These are the days when you’ll need to find the good things to focus on such as your newly increased income or how much you love making your products.
Hard Fact 4: This IS a Real Business
Oh boy… this is the one that scares a lot of people! Any time you sell things and make an money from it, you’re running a business. It doesn’t matter if you’re just doing it as a hobby or a charity, the IRS wants their cut. I saved this one for last because it’s a doozy and relates to the first section about this being a free way to make money. Selling online IS a business, it does require effort, and it definitely requires some investments. Don’t let this scare you off, though. All you need to do is keep track of your expenditures and your income. Once you file your taxes the first time it will be way less scary and you’ll be super proud of yourself.
Don’t Worry, You can Do It!
If everything you just read discouraged you a little, don’t worry! Unless you’ve been marketing online for a long time there’s no way you can be expected to know what it takes. I only mentioned a few key points. There are MANY more things you’ll face as an online seller, but if you keep learning and implementing what you learn along the way, your growth will be fairly painless. At the Handmade Seller magazine we aim to cut out those growth pains by teaching you how to sell on Etsy successfully and avoid costly mistakes such as joining “like ladders” or getting a bunch of people to “favor” your items. We even do keyword research for you so that you can update your titles and tags for holiday shoppers!
If you’re interested in taking a serious approach to building up your business, we can help! Try a free sample of our magazine or use the coupon code: HANDMADEOLOGY to get 5% off of any subscription you purchase.
CEO & Founder