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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Newbie’s Guide to Etsy

I’ve shopped on Etsy for years. I tried to start up a shop once a few years ago and just couldn’t keep it going after moving to another state on short notice and then going without Internet for a few months. I made a few sales before I closed up shop but I really was taking shots in the dark at what I should be doing. In starting a new Etsy store I decided to take a look around and see what kinds of resources were available to a new seller like me. Luckily, there are plenty of veteran crafters who are more than happy to share the tricks of the trade. I’ve compiled a list of things that I’ve learned myself and heard through the grape vine. Hopefully this can save you some of the trouble and start you on the way to Etsy success.

Purchase something first
If you are opening a new account to start your store you really should buy something first. This is probably the most fun part of opening your shop. Pick out a couple of items from other sellers and purchase them. You will get to see what Etsy is like from the perspective of the buyer, get some good feedback, and you’ll get the opportunity to start a friendship with another seller. Not to mention your awesome new handmade loot.

Ration your listings
I made this mistake my first time selling on Etsy and it took me close to two months to make my first sale. I just took my photos, posted all of my listings and called it a month. I missed out on the chance to have my art gracing every page of the listings and settled foolishly for the lump of my prints and paintings to be stuck at the bottom of the searches.

This time around I’ve posted something every day to every other day and boy, what a difference that has made!

Not just good, but great photos
Since you can’t pick up the things in an online store and look at them, try them on, feel the texture and weight, or smell the scent, you can only rely on what you see. Sure, a description and some measurements help, but the clarity and mood of the pictures will sell your items far better than the description ever could. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? With the ability to post 5 pictures per listing you should be set.

Get a Unique Name for your Business
This will either be so easy it’s ridiculous or so difficult it hurts. Make sure it fits your personality and the mood of the store. Don’t stick with the same username if it’s something like Winky67. Start a new account with a more suitable name and lay down new roots.

Know that outsourcing isn’t all bad
I think about becoming a graphic designer from time to time. I am tempted by the career, the salary, the growing demand for their services… Time after time I arrive at the conclusion that I just hate hate hate graphic design. I decided to paint my own banner, logo, and avatar. If I had not, though, you can bet your boots I would have hired one of the many talented designers from Etsy to take care of that for me. Know where your talent lies, and if your DIY banner doesn’t look 100% professional, outsource.

Promote your URL, not your Shop
This is perhaps one of the most important favors that a seller can do themselves in the future. Say you start your new shop to sell your funky mittens and you call it Purple Zebra Mittens. If you promote your shop for a few years and later decide to stop making the mittens and start making elegant upscale scarves you will either have to start from scratch or sell your new scarves in your inappropriately named mitten shop.

By simply paying a few dollars a year you can have a unique domain name (such as purplezebramittens.com) that points to your store. It really is a win-win situation. The domain name will be easier to remember for your customers, you look much more professional, and if you decide to change directions in the future your hard work and clientele will not go down the drain.

Think outside the box when it comes to promotion
When it comes to promoting your store there is no need to pay for expensive advertising and books on marketing. The only costs that you need to expend are for business cards, a stamp, and mailing something every few months to the folks on your mailing list. Creativity and networking should take care of the rest. Checking out the Promotion category will reap many wonderful ideas for getting your store some much deserved attention.

Write Thoughtfully
Your Shop Announcement, Profile and Listings all need to be written with much care. They need to state the facts, of course, but your personality must be conveyed clearly. Your unique voice must come through here. Shoppers on Etsy are there to support crafters and they are buying it because it was made by a real person. Looking at the written aspects of other stores helped me to see what information I needed to include.

Ship Promptly
I know that when I order online I can’t wait for my new things to arrive. I know that my customers probably feel the same way.

Follow the Golden Rule
When I was little my Mom taught me that I should treat others the way I’d like to be treated. Even when you are frustrated with a customer that you feel is being difficult, remember, you are representing your business. If you start getting angry at the keyboard it may translate in your correspondence. Walk away and come back when you feel calm and collected. You never know, that difficult customer could go back and say negative things to their friends and family that could result in losing sales. That’s not to say that you should be a doormat and let folks walk all over you. Just know that it is important to maintain your good reputation, not to mention your good karma.

Send Thank You notes to anyone and everyone who is nice to you, does something for you, helps you, or buys something from you. The investment you make is worth so much more than a postage stamp. Just put out all the goodness that you can and watch it come back twofold.

Don’t be a thief
Be unique and original, don’t rip off ideas that came from other people without their permission (or knowledge). Doing this will come back to bite you in the ass later on. Looking for inspiration and outright stealing are two different things. Respect the time and thought that others have put into their work and don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you.

Give it your all
If you want your store to be a success you must believe in your product and work your fingers to the bone. If you want part time income you must work full time, and if you want full time income you must work 24/7. Eat, breathe, sleep, and have faith in your store.

Now, go out into the world and craft your handmade business.

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