“You’re so talented…you could sell this!” says great aunt Beatrice when you present her with a hand-made sweater for the Christmas party.
It used to be just another compliment. After all, if you’re a micro-entrepreneur selling relatively inexpensive goods, you’d need truly macro-sales to make it worth your while!
The internet offers you that opportunity.
YouTube has transformed Canadian tweens into international pop idols and Norwegian trickshooters into NFL stars…and Etsy has generated up to $960,000/year for creative men and women like Alicia Shaffer.
And, with the right product and the right approach, an Etsy shop could turn your talents into a reliable source of income. In this article, we’ll show you how.
Remember: You’re Starting a Business
One of the major pitfalls for Etsy sellers is assuming simply that “if you sell it, they will come.” When you open an Etsy shop you are literally starting a small business. To be successful, you’ll need to put in the same thought, attention, and hard work into your shop as you would a brick-and-mortar store.
So, let’s put on our business hats and start thinking like entrepreneurs.
Is an Etsy Shop Right for You?
The first big business question is whether an Etsy shop is even the right way to be selling your stuff. Etsy specializes in selling unique, hand-made, or hard-to-find items, as well as supplies for creative people.
Some of the top-selling categories include:
- Hand-made jewelry
- Hand-made clothing
- Home décor
- Vintage items
- Toys and games
- Child and infant supplies/clothes
- Craft supplies and tools
There are thousands of niche products that can sell successfully in an Etsy shop, but almost all of them have something unique or “special” about them. People don’t go to Etsy because they’ve run out of extra chunky peanut butter or AA batteries, so items like these aren’t be a good fit for the platform.
On the other hand, some products require so much of a personal touch that the internet isn’t the right place for them.
For example, you might make custom wedding cakes, but the whims of a bridezilla can change so often and so suddenly that a single online interaction with your customers probably wouldn’t be enough (not to mention the nightmare of trying to SHIP the thing!).
You would be better off selling hand-made gum paste flowers on Etsy, which individual bakers could order for use in their unique creations.
Know Your Market
Once you’re sure an Etsy shop is the right place to sell your product, you need to know who you’re selling to.
Different customers have different priorities. To pursue our cake supply example a little further, one potential market could be culinary-minded moms who want to make a cute, unique birthday cakes.
In this situation, you’d probably want to sell a large variety of cake decorations that match every possible interest a child could have. It would also be best to sell them one at a time, since your customers likely don’t need to make a hundred Transformers-themed cakes!
If you’re targeting professional wedding caterers, however, you might consider selling more mature items. You may also want to offer these items in bulk, because a single cake could require 500 edible pearls and 30 edible roses and your potential customers might be making several of these cakes at a time.
Naming Your Items
Different markets don’t just have their own priorities, they have unique lingo. They use their own terminology when they’re searching the internet and they won’t find you unless you’re using the same vernacular.
A birthday mom, for instance, might be looking for a “Transformers Bumblebee cake decoration.” She likely doesn’t care too much what techniques were used to make the decoration, but she’s adamant that it has to be her kid’s favorite character from the TV show.
You may have just the thing for her, but if you label it a “soy-free 6-inch edible anti-oxidant rich dark chocolate robot” she’ll never see your product in her search results. That name offers a lot of details, but not the right ones for your audience.
The professional caterer, on the other hand, might care a great deal about the exact dimensions, ingredients, and color of a particular spray of gum paste cherry blossoms.
Keep your creativity in check when naming your products. Use the search terms your chosen audience will be using, not your own moniker. Nobody knows what a “Spritely fairy cookbook” is, so they won’t search for it, and—even if they stumble onto it—they probably won’t click on it.
Use the Forms
You only get 140 characters to use in your product titles, so even when you do your best to title your products effectively, you can’t include every term that everyone could possibly use to search for your stuff.
Thankfully, you don’t have to. When you list a product in your Etsy shop, the website offers you a long form to fill out describing every detail of your item: size, color, category, material, etc.
It takes a little time to input all that information, but it’s worth it because it gives Etsy the information needed to suggest your product even when people are searching with different terms from those in your title.
Put Your Best Footage Forward
Effective titles and product descriptions will help your stuff get found, but it’s the quality of your pictures that has the biggest influence on whether people click on your item or not.
Put in the effort to create pictures that will stand out from the crowd. This typically involves using a nicer camera if you have access to one, and setting up the right background to showcase it best.
The best way to showcase your product will vary depending on what it is:
- If you’re selling a bright red bridesmaid’s dress you might simply put it on a mannequin or a model in front of a white background so that the color would really pop and the contrast would be eye-catching.
- If you’re selling a piece of armor for a costume, you might show it as part of a complete set so that your viewers can better imagine how they could look in it.
- If you’re selling a vintage wedding ring, you may want to lead with a close-up shot which shows off its delicate, ornate detail.
- If you’re selling a vinyl wall-art print, you may want to put some furniture in the picture so that viewers can appreciate just how big it is.
Finding the perfect picture is a lot like writing the perfect title…it helps if you know who is going to be looking for it, and what they care about most.
Your cover photo is the most important, but you can upload 9 other images and you can switch out which one takes the lead if your first try isn’t getting the traction you want.
Use Social Media
Etsy is a visually-driven sales platform and you can use the power of other visual platforms to advertise to a wider audience.
Sites like Instagram and Pinterest are picture-centric and can be great places to post your products.
When sharing your wares on social media, you may choose to lead with different pictures than those you put on your Etsy store.
For example, you might put a picture of a work in progress on Twitter to tease your audience into clicking a link to see how the finished product turned out.
On Pinterest, you might consider adding a small price tag overlay to your images to make it clear that the pictured item is available for purchase. Don’t worry about seeming pushy—Pinterest pictures with prices actually get 36% more likes than those without!
Managing Your Etsy Store
Once you’ve gotten through the first big push of deciding which products to sell in your Etsy store, creating listings for them, writing titles and descriptions, filling out forms and taking/editing pictures, you’ll finally be ready to open your digital doors.
Don’t rest on your laurels at this point, though! Your business is a living thing and will need your ongoing attention.
Etsy offers you several ways to analyze the performance of your shop. It tells you how many people are looking at your items and how many are favoriting them. It lets you graph the performance of your shop on a daily basis, tells you where your customers are located and how much traction each of your items is getting.
You can use this data to learn more about your audience and refine your listings to meet their needs. You can also start making changes to your poorer-performing products to see if you can help them out.
Rather than guessing at what your customers will like and dislike, a much more systematic approach is to create an “A/B test.”
Online services like “Whatify” allow you to set up experiments on your Etsy shop so that half of the people who see your products see one picture and half see another. The software gathers data for both groups and lets you statistically determine which version your customers react best to.
By continually testing your pictures, titles, etc, you can learn a lot of new things about your customers and their tastes. That way, you can ensure that your listings give them exactly what they want.
Keep Them Coming
Once you start making sales, it’s twice as important to stay involved in your Etsy shop.
Etsy is different from many online stores, because people imagine a real person on the other end of the transaction, not just a disembodied spirit of all things business-like. This gives you the chance to connect on a personal level with your customers and create some real loyalty.
As with building any type of relationship, this takes time and commitment.
Responding quickly and courteously to customer questions can make all the difference in whether or not clicks turn into purchases, and shipping your items quickly in packaging that shows a little extra care can help to ensure you positive reviews and repeat business.
Other ways to incentivize customers to come back include offering discount codes after their first purchase and having periodic sales on some of your items.
If you can establish a reputation for being reliable, honest, and excellent at your trade, you will attract interest from many new viewers, and get repeat business from those who have already purchased.
Starting an Etsy shop can be a great way to turn your passions into successful business.
It’s important to keep in mind that every Etsy store is just that—a small business—and running a successful Etsy shop will take all the thought and care that any business requires.
If you can successfully put a little business savvy into the things you already have a passion for, Etsy can be a great way to do what you love…and get paid for it too!
How do you feel about opening an Etsy shop? Wondering if your specialty would make for a good Etsy store? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
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