Saturday, February 5, 2011

tips: Starting Up Your Own Etsy Shop

Hello friends! Meet my good buddy Chris.

He is the founder of Topher & Co., a shop dedicated to your handmade knit and crochet accessory needs...or wants :) His shop has only been open for almost exactly a year now, but he's already made close to 400 sales! Can you believe it?! Crazy...Well, I need not say more, let's hear from this young and experienced creator himself! Here he is sharing some raw, practical, and heart-felt (I promise) suggestions for those of you hoping one day to start up your very own Etsy shop :)

Disclaimer: I by no means claim to be an expert at this, but this is just a short list of what I wish I had known before starting my Etsy shop last year, and what I sometimes want to tell people who are selling on Etsy but are worried about not doing very well. Hopefully, this will help someone not make the same mistakes that I did, or help someone avoid the mistakes that so many other sellers are making. They're ordered in what I perceive to be decreasing importance (so #1 is the most important), but really, they've ALL proven to be really important facets of running a successful Etsy business.

1. Don't be mediocre at what you do.
Sorry, did that sound incredibly harsh? Well, in my opinion - not sucking is the most important thing to running a successful store. I've seen so many sellers on Etsy try to make it by being barely competent at their craft. Do you think that people are willing to pay you to be barely competent? I guess if you price your items dirt cheap and you make something that's highly desirable it might work, but then you'd be making like $2 an hour. Not worth your incredibly valuable time, I promise. So how do you not suck? Keep an open mind, continually seek out opportunities to learn more about whatever it is that you do, and practice! And it's not about being the best artist out there or the best knitter out there, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen amateur and shoddily put together items being peddled on Etsy. Don't be one of those people. Bring your craft to a place where people will covet and desire the items that appear from your deft and creative fingertips because they're well-made, creative, and professional. And make sure you're up with the times! Trends are fast moving - don't try and sell something that's unfashionable when it's 50 million times easier to sell something that's fashionable.

2. Take AMAZING photos.
I don't think I can emphasize this enough. One of the easiest ways to bring in sales is to present your items beautifully. One of the turning points in my store's success was when I got my Canon Rebel and made sure my photos were top notch. They're not award-winning photographs, don't get me wrong, but they present what they're trying to sell clearly and without distraction, and they sell not just the item, but a lifestyle. My goal is for my target audience to look at my photos and to feel like they NEED to own my knitwear so that they can look exactly like Michelle, my gorgeous model. Strive to make your items look so beautiful that people feel an indescribable urge to buy it as soon as they see it. If you don't have a nice camera, find a friend who does and ask them to take some pictures for you to start, so that you can test the waters. If your business is going well, I would say that a nice camera is one of the best things you can invest money into for your Etsy store.

3. Figure out all the money stuff BEFORE opening up shop.
This is one thing that I highly regret not having done. Research how to price your items - what are your competitors pricing at? How long does it take you to make each item, how much do your materials cost, and how much are you aiming to make per hour? Ask around - what do people, both friends and strangers, perceive your item being worth? Now, remember that the average Etsy consumer is wealthier and willing to spend more money than the average Joe off the street. And remember, you're selling a unique, one-of-a-kind, handmade, artisan item - price it as such! And make sure to have a system for keeping track of your earnings, too. I use an Excel spreadsheet, but there are many great tools like Outright ( that can help you keep track of your finances.

4. Design a lot of stuff before listing anything.
It's often not enough to just have 5 items in your store. They might be 5 incredibly beautiful, well-made, gorgeously photographed items, but if you walked into a Gap and all they had was 5 choices, how long would you stay there? This is also something I wish I had done before starting to list my items. The more selection you have, the more time the average shopper will spend in your shop, and the more likely they are to find something they like! Now, this doesn't mean you should try every craft you can get your hand on and then stuff all of your projects in your shop. You want to make sure that your items have a cohesive look and feel so that your brand is clear and memorable. But give yourself a lot of space and time to be creative and to come up with lots of different ideas and items!

5. Get involved with the Etsy community.
This has made an incredibly big impact on my sales and my Etsy experience. I was "discovered" by a team called Team Discovery ( when I had fewer than 20 sales. They placed me in a ton of member-curated treasuries (themed collections of 16 items), and every hour, the Etsy admin pick a new treasury from the pool of thousands of treasuries for the home page of Etsy. This team is what got me on the home page of Etsy so many times. If you've followed all of the above tips, and you're finding that you need more exposure, I would suggest getting involved with the Etsy community by joining a treasury team like Team Discovery, or by making treasuries on your own and featuring sellers from teams like these, in hopes that they would feature you back. Being on the home page of Etsy jump started my sales like nothing else ever has.

Hope this helps anyone aspiring to start an Etsy store! There are a million other things I could tell you, but ultimately, learning is best done through experience. Good luck, and most importantly, have a heck of a lot of fun doing whatever it is that you do.

Phew! Long, but good post, eh?


elee1147 said...

thanks for sharing.

Soren Duus said...

400 sales? Wow, that's a huge figure for someone working for a year now, especially as young and imaginative as him. On your topic about being successful in running a successful Etsy business, you gotta bring out your best in showing all your potential customers out there that you're the one that they need. Other than that, you should keep your products and finances in check to avoid any miscalculations.

elisha said...

Most definitely. There's certainly a wisdom to know when to take risks and know when to go with what's safe.

Soren, do you yourself have a shop of your own?