Wednesday , 2 December 2020
Zero hearts. Zero sales. These are scary numbers, but they hold a wealth of potential.

Starting an Etsy Shop From the Bottom Up

Starting an Etsy Shop From the Bottom Up:

Zero hearts. Zero sales. These are scary numbers, but they hold a wealth of potential.  I was very fortunate to make a sale within a week of posting something in our shop Beantown Handmade on Etsy, and at the time I contributed all our success to having our adorable six-month-old Boston Terrier puppy, Bean, modeling the merchandise. Looking back now with much more knowledge of Etsy and handmade business, I can see that I did several things right. Even if you don’t have access to an adorable puppy that will sit freakishly still like a statue, you can set yourself apart from the crowd.

1. I made something unique. I can’t stress enough how much I would encourage you to strive towards creating something completely your own. Having been looking at shops on Etsy every day for several years now, I feel I can pretty quickly identify who is creating their own identity as a handmade artist and who is taking bits and pieces of what they see other artists making. I get really excited when I find an Etsy shop that finally traces the source of a particular trending item back to its origin. I want the best. I want the original goods. Most customers do, too. In the perfect words of Shelly Kennedy, Be Your Original Best.

2. We took good, simple photos. They were definitely not perfect but they looked professional and had a cohesive look to them. We were using brown butcher paper back then and daylight fluorescents in our basement. Oh, and we were using a pocket sized digital camera purchased in the year 2002. Yet somehow my husband was able to take this picture

and suddenly everything changed. People really liked this hat and a lot of people wanted to buy these, and that was unexpected and amazing. I was completely unprepared. It just took one really great photo and one popular item to set the wheel in motion for something that has now become my full time job.

3. I had fun, but I was really serious about getting it right. I made a lot of prototypes and took a lot of photographs before I posted things in the shop. It only took one photo to completely change the direction of my business, so putting a whole lot of effort into one photo makes sense in the long run. Your time and hard work are a great investment. Try to look at your work and shop objectively. Is what you post online your absolutely, 1000% best effort? I would also recommend the Etsy shop critique so you can get feedback from Etsy admin and your peers about how they perceive your products. Fresh, unbiased opinions are incredibly valuable.
I would love to hear about your experiences starting up your own business. What piece of advice would you give yourself if you could go back? 

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  1. I love Bean, and I love this article! Happy to be reading you here on Handmadeology ♥

    I would have told myself to spend that little extra on absolute quality from the start. Take that risk and make the investment.

    My first several bracelets sold had some pewter accents before I made the upgrade to sterling silver. The shop took off and I sent upgrades to my lovely first customers after having learned the difference in quality.


  2. Thanks Lisa! We love the Bean-man to the moon and back. We have a female Boston named Lily who is also a superstar ;)

    That’s a great point about investing in quality supplies. I wish I had spent the extra money and purchased fabric labels and better packaging from the start. Those are changes I made several months in. In the beginning I was sending my items without really branding them because of the expense.

    Thanks for commenting on my post!

  3. I agree on the quality thing, I have been using plated silver necklaces and Friday I am taking the leap and ordering 30 sterling silver necklaces to increase my quality. I mean I spend HOURS making my fused glass pendants, why am I not using the best chains?! Crazy!

  4. Great article!!!! I too feel if you are encouraged the first week it makes a difference……..I am completely addicted to seeing who views my shop…….it makes my day to get a heart….I do get discouraged when I look at other shops and they recv’d 1,400 views in 3 hours. So, I just focus on myself and give myself the same kind of celebration when I get a sale. But, I can’t wait for the lightbulb for the perfect photo arrives…….it does make the difference.

  5. Love the advice, the photo, and the dog! We have a boxer, which is like a very large Boston Terrier. I don’t know if she’d let me put a hat on her, though, lol.

  6. Love these hats! Going to have to share it with our dog blog readers!

    Great advice, too! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. Great article. Thank you.

  8. Thanks everyone for all the great contributions! Melinda, Bean plays just like a boxer. He has a Boxer friend at the dog park and they box each other with their paws, too cute!
    Thank you Deanne for sharing our shop info on your blog!
    One last thing I thought of that I’d wish I’d done from the get-go is digitally watermarking my photos. Digimarc is an inexpensive service that allows you to put a digital code in your photos with Photoshop, so that even if they are separated from your name they are able to be traced back to you. Kind of like micro chipping your new puppy! Just one more thing to think about – once images are out there they have a life of their own. Ours have ended up in some interesting places, so maybe that’s for another blog post… Have a wonderful weekend, Anne and Bean

  9. I agree with Quality and from the start I did that Swarovski Crystals,Pearls Sterling Silver and Goldplated. I made sure the Earring wires were precious metals most people prefer them. BUT from the start sales were not much and so till I put them on Sale really at a almost cost just to maybe get my money back on what I used to design them. Not quite sure what I’m doing wrong but thought maybe the Classic look is not what is Trendy so going to try something different soon. This is long but I really appreciated what you had to say about Quality that I would never scimp on and people do appreciate it.

    Have a great day!Doris

  10. Reading this article in the early morning hours has sent my mind spinning. I am always looking for that ‘just perfect’ shot and that ‘just perfect’ product concept. Although my niche is somewhat small, I love what I do and feel positive my day will co e! The search is on. You have inspired me for sure. Tha ks!

  11. Thanks for this article. Very cute dog & photos! Makes me wish my puggy could sit still long enough for me to put a cute hat on him!

    I just started up an Etsy a month or so ago. It is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. It is slow-going at the moment, because I have many other commitments, but I am happy in the direction I am going.

    I like to set small goal for myself. Right now, my goal is to make enough money to have a professional logo done & some business cards printed.

    This article was a good motivator, Thanks!

  12. That same thing happened to me! One ring I recently listed that got twice more views in one month than items I’ve had in my shop for almost a year. I’m so excited because I”ve sold so many of it already and I never saw it coming.

  13. When i first started my Etsy shop yours was one I used for inspiration. I wish I had a Bean but I love taking candid photos at craft shows. I need to work on my photos that’s for sure. In the beginning I focused on policies and descriptions but I should have focused more on pictures. You are still my inspiration- when I grow up I want to be just like you :) Thanks!

  14. l’m with Sherry on the quality front. l will be looking at expanding my range from simple pendants to more fancy pieces. l agree that going the extra mile and putting in that bit extra can make the difference between something passable to something you can be proud of. Mos def quality over quantity.

  15. How to get etsy shop critiques ?

  16. *looks thoughtful* I need to find some critiques. My business is NOT doing well at. all, even though I’ve put a lot into it lately. I don’t know what the trouble is, except that not everybody needs a cute handmade button.

    Good advice! I very much enjoyed your post (and the dog is too cute)! I agree, photography is key. I need to figure out how to do that better.


  17. Is there somewhere I can get the pattern for the hat? I would love to make it for our dog.

  18. Great article, we have just opened a shop on Etsy as an outlet to sell the vintage and vintage style clothes and accessories that we find on our travels around the world.
    I know its hard work and requires dedication. I believe also if you really love what you do and it gives you joy, combined with proper marketing and giving people a glance into your world you will succeed.
    Good luck to us all

    Lisa and Kat

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