This series will be aimed at those creating their own handmade product to sell in an Etsy shop. If you will be reselling or have outside manufacturing, please refer to Etsy’s rules on those topics as I have no experience or knowledge in that area.
Starting an Etsy shop was actually not something I planned on doing when I first started hand-lettering. Initially, I had hoped that with practice, time, and a lot of posts on IG, I might get noticed by a company like Tombow or Pentel and hired as a brand rep. Unfortunately, growing on Instagram has been really slow for me as my posting is sporadic and I really only have time to make good content late at night when the kids are sleeping.
After I got my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, I was able to create pieces that I could sell. I had already made some things on paper that I had digitized, but the iPad made the process much more efficient. I was able to create more pieces faster and with less editing in Illustrator.
At this point I’m working less with the iPad and more with the pointed pen, just so that my shop can have more variety. In this post I’ll share some of the things I wish I had known before starting an Etsy shop. I’m not a pro by any means, but since opening in late October, I have had over 50 sales. A lot of sellers wait months before getting even their first sale.
I’m going to run through a quick checklist before getting into the nitty-gritty.
1) Do you have a vision for your shop?
My vision was just “hand-lettering.” I didn’t know what I would be selling, other than that it would have something on it that I wrote with my hand. My company name is “Lettering by Melody,” and so I titled my shop with the same name. It’s all-encompassing and doesn’t box me into one niche or another, which is good.
2) Do you have items ready to sell right now?
I didn’t have a lot of items ready right away. I think I had around 24 listings, but some of them were repeated in different colors, which easily had me around 80-something. You want at least 50 listings in order to appear in Etsy’s search results reliably. If you don’t have items ready to sell right now, don’t be discouraged, but also don’t expect your shop to get a lot of views right away. There’s really no way around this, unless you have an item go viral somehow or are already big on Instagram or Facebook.
In my case, I had a few nursery themed prints that I offered as digital downloads. Etsy doesn’t have variations available for digital downloads, so I was just duplicating listings and changing the colors for the duplications. This was a huge waste of my shop space and made my shop look boring and repetitive. Now the only duplicates I have are of physical prints and the same prints offered as downloads.
3) Do you have decent photography equipment?
If you don’t at least have a decent cell phone camera or point and shoot camera, you are going to run into a lot of problems. Even if you have good SEO (search engine optimization), people likely won’t click on your listings if the photos are bad quality, dark, overexposed, or otherwise poorly edited. If you plan on running a digital shop, you won’t have these problems as you can use mockups to showcase your products.
If you don’t have a way to photograph your items, find a product photographer either online or in your area who can set up scenes and takes photos for you. It’s well worth the money.
4) This is probably the most important part:
Do you have a computer and internet connection? Without a computer, you really can’t run a successful Etsy shop. The app is great, but it doesn’t allow you to do partial refunds, see where your shop views are coming from, see how well your tags are performing, etc.
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, wait a little bit before setting your shop up.
Figure out what you’re planning on selling, get some money stashed for decent photography equipment, make sure you have a good computer/internet connection.
Also remember that Etsy is for handmade or vintage resale only. You cannot buy a product wholesale and sell it in your shop as your own.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way:
Let’s talk about your shop name.
Get a pen and paper and make a list of things that you plan to sell in your shop. Jewelry? Knick-Knacks? Vintage? There are endless possibilities and I won’t be listing every type of shop here. Like I said above, my business is hand-lettering, so “Lettering by Melody” is a very descriptive shop title. There’s no confusion when a potential customer enters my shop.
A lot of shops use people’s names (not necessarily their own name), which is really vague and tells nothing about what the shop sells. “Pretty Peonies”, for example, is cute, but nondescript. I like to know what a shop sells as soon as I see their name. “Pretty Peonies Paperie” is an excellent name for a shop. It’s cute and you know that they sell paper goods.
You also want to be careful that you’re not using another shop’s name too closely. This causes confusion for both their customers and yours. You don’t want to send your customers to the wrong place by having confusingly similar names.
Also be aware that your shop name may be taken already, even if the shop is no longer active on Etsy. This is just how it goes sometimes. There’s nothing you can do in this situation other than come up with a different name.
Try to avoid using too many special characters in your shop name. Lots of underscores can be annoying and difficult to search for if someone is trying to find you on Etsy search. Pick a memorable name that will come up easily.
In the next blog post, I will talk about listing your first item.
This will include the dos and don’ts of listing product, how to efficiently list things, and some of Etsy’s rules when it comes to deactivating listings.