Starting an Etsy Shop: Tips from Experienced Sellers

If you’re a creative and entrepreneurial individual considering how to start an Etsy shop, this article is for you. Etsy is a popular eCommerce platform for handmade items, offering a robust online marketplace with over a million active sellers and more than a billion dollars in sales in 2014.

To help you stand out from the crowd, I’ve gathered advice from Etsy sellers worldwide on how to start an Etsy shop. By following these tips, you can put your best foot forward.

7 Steps to Start an Etsy Shop

1. Determine if Etsy is the right platform for you

Before starting a business, whether it’s a franchise or a cat cafe, research is crucial. Ask yourself if an Etsy shop is the best fit for your product and target market. Remember, an Etsy store requires ongoing maintenance and dedication.

2. Research your product

In addition to researching the Etsy platform, thoroughly research your product. Understand your competitors and target market. Develop a flexible business plan to adapt as necessary.

3. Consider SEO and social media strategy

Increase your shop’s visibility by utilizing search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner to optimize search terms. Choose a business name that enhances discoverability. Utilize visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine, as well as Facebook.

4. Utilize high-quality professional photos

Great photography is essential for making sales on Etsy. Your photos serve as the primary representation of your products, so make sure they are compelling and convincing. Additionally, use an appealing photograph for your avatar.

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5. Establish a solid shipping and return policy

Provide a clear, timely, and consistent shipping and return policy. Exceptional customer service is crucial for achieving a high rating.

6. Seek honest feedback from a trusted advisor

Ask someone who will provide constructive criticism to review your shop. Ensure that your shipping policy, return policy, product descriptions, images, and about page meet high standards.

7. Maintain the success of your launch

Once your Etsy shop is up and running, consistently manage refunds, returns, SEO strategy, social media presence, and customer reviews. Remember that being an Etsy seller is being a business owner.

Insights from Etsy Sellers

How to Start an Etsy Shop

"Get to know the community:

Many people have expressed that Etsy is a unique world on its own; sellers and customers form bonds, write reviews, help each other in forums, and have a strong and close-knit online community.

This can be an advantage, but it’s important to learn the rules. Derek Coleman, owner of the Etsy shop Lonehood, said: "Etsy revolves around the community, which influences others. Simply put, if a customer has a bad experience, the word will spread and be reflected in your ratings. Ratings are very important. If you provide excellent customer service, the community will also know and it will reflect in your reviews."

Understand the platform:

Michelle Gannon of The Language Playground shared an early mishap on Etsy: "Once one copy of my digital product was sold, it disappeared from the shop and no one else could buy it. I had no idea until a few days later when I checked my store and realized it had no products. Luckily, it doesn’t cost much to post products again, so the mistake wasn’t huge."

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For information on fees and listing products, click here.

Listen to customer feedback:

Stephanie Maslow of Metalicious gave us this tip: "Some of my best sellers have come from collaborations with my customers." And among her tips? The important role of good photography in an Etsy business. Surprise, surprise.

Reward loyal customers:

These are the people who keep you successful and spend their hard-earned money on your work.

"Offer your clients discounts on all future purchases to encourage repeat shopping. Make sure your buyers know how much you love them by telling them so with discounts. Repeat shoppers are the best. I have a few clients who come back every year to do their holiday shopping. That’s the best compliment," says Brooke Malloy of Etsy shop SageLike.

Project a strong brand:

"Ensure your brand is always represented properly. Etsy customers provide excellent feedback and can help new businesses improve their customer service experience, making Etsy great for market testing and startup scalability. Your product may not be right for Etsy, but it doesn’t hurt to try. Remember that even if potential customers don’t add your item to their cart, if handled professionally, you can leave a lasting impression," says Jed Darland, founder of Plant Picket.

Have measurable goals and track them:

Dana Reich of SweetDees Closet suggests starting with a goal of about $10 worth of sales for every 100 views your shop and listings receive. From there, track your progress and make necessary changes, whether adjusting the goal for pricing variations or boosting your SEO strategy to increase visibility.

"Ensure your Etsy tags and keywords are easily searchable, both on Etsy and on Google. The more items you have with great SEO in your store, the more people will find you and the more sales you’ll generate," she says.

Etsy-related resources

If you’re looking for more information on starting an Etsy shop or still unsure if it’s right for you, check out these resources.

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Reading material:

Etsy offers a detailed archive, The Seller’s Handbook, available for perusal with information straight from the source.

Moz, a software company, has an excellent introductory SEO guide. I’ve used this as a reference in the past. Start here if you’re new to the subject.

Sample plans:

Our library of sample business plans is a valuable resource, whether you’re starting an online shop or not. We have over 550 different sample business plans, including several eCommerce options:

– Junior’s Clothing Business Plan

– Outdoor Clothing Business Plan

– Nutritional Supplements Business Plan

The independent seller:

Etsy commissioned a third-party research firm to gather data on the types of people who sell on their site. You can find the report here.

It provides an intriguing look into a group, over two-thirds of whom are women, who primarily sell their goods from home and aren’t necessarily seeking acquisition by larger companies or significant expansion, but instead value their self-contained businesses.

If that sounds like a group you’d like to join, starting an Etsy shop may be right for you."

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