If you’re a crafter, designer or someone who has any entrepreneurial ambition in you, you’ve probably thought about starting an Etsy shop. Etsy is the premium online marketplace for handmade, vintage and custom goods. According to Statista, in 2018 there were over 2.1 million Etsy sellers worldwide.
But, don’t let those numbers get you down. There’s still plenty of room on Etsy.
One thing a lot of people forget is that Etsy’s just a sales platform – just like Shopify and Amazon. Although you own an “Etsy Shop”, it’s just a brand using Etsy technology. These millions of shops are other people using this shared technology.
If you are interested in opening an online shop and you don’t want to put a lot of upfront financial resources into it, Etsy is the perfect place to be. There is very little upfront costs – I’ll even show you how to open it for free – and you get immediate access to the Etsy audience.
And that Etsy audience is HUGE. As of 2018, Etsy shoppers totaled 39.4 million active shoppers. These are people that hit the Buy button at least once. In truth, I’ve never met an Etsy customer whose had the self control to only buy one thing.
Just think how hard you would have to work to find millions of browsers for your Shopify shop on day one.
Etsy really is the place to be when you’re just starting out.
The other good piece of news is that the steps to start an Etsy shop are really simple. Unlike setting up a website, you can start an Etsy shop in a number of hours (or naptimes).
You don’t need to know HTML or other programming knowledge.
There also isn’t a huge financial investment to get started. There’s no monthly fee (Shopify is $30/month and Amazon is $39.99/month) and each listing costs $.20. You can even snag free listings to open your shop.
So if you’re on a shoestring budget, then starting an Etsy shop might be the best way to go. It’s the perfect platform to try out your new business idea without a lot of risk involved.
As a busy mom, I remember the days when all my free quiet time was during naptime. I would use these precious hours to work on my business. In the very beginning, it was during these hours that I dreamed up my shop idea, opened my doors and grew my stationery shop into a full time job.
So, if you’re on the fence with opening your own Etsy shop, I challenge you to use naptimes just for one week. See if you can get your own Etsy shop up and running. It just takes one step to start and you’ll be on your way to building your first business.
No more naptimes? I remember those days too when my littles transitioned to active afternoons. I wrote each of these steps to take about 2 to 3 hours (depending on your skill level and how complicated you choose to get).
So, find a chunk of time to work – I use my mornings for these kinds of projects – or break the step into smaller tasks that you complete over a series of days.
Don’t use time as your excuse, though. Just get started. Once your Etsy shop is up and running, growing it becomes a whole lot easier.
Naptime #1 – Decide What to Sell
If you decided to start an Etsy shop, then it means you have something to sell.
The first step to opening your shop is deciding what this something is.
Focus on choosing one product in a niche that you love or are talented in. This product needs to solve a problem and be something you enjoy making. Work on getting this product into your shop. You can focus on growing your shop later, but you need to start somewhere.
When I started my Etsy shop, a mentor advised that I make sure my shop was perfect before opening. I spent months creating listings and deciding what I wanted to sell. After I finally opened my shop, I realized within a few weeks that my niche wasn’t going to work. I ended up changing the entire shop concept any way.
If I had just selected one product and focused on opening my shop earlier, I could have started learning the ins and outs of Etsy much sooner.
So, choose your one product and move onto the next step.
But what products will actually sell on Etsy?
To be honest, there’s no way to really tell which of your products will be the next biggest hit on Etsy. It depends on your audience, current trends and how well you bring in potential buyers.
Before choosing your product, I recommend doing research on what other Etsy sellers in your niche are selling. Visit some of your competitor’s shops and select to sort their items by the “Most Recent” option on the right.
Please remember, you are not here to COPY their creations. That would be violating copyright. Your goal is to get a sense of the things that are selling in more established shops. For example, if you’re a knitter and you notice that newborn caps are very popular, you could think about creating your own line of caps for your shop.
I use this browsing trick to figure out what themes are trending in birthday parties. I will look at different stationery shops to see what’s currently popular. This research technique is a lot easier then depending on a Google Search where the information isn’t always up to date.
Naptime #2 – Brand your Shop
Once you figure out what you want to sell, it’s time to the design the home where you’ll sell it. As with any home decorating project, you’ll need to choose colors and other elements that will define the look and feel of where your products will live.
These colors and other visual elements are the branding for your shop. This branding tells your customer what your shop stands for. Although your brand will evolve over time as you get to know your products better, you need to design your starting point.
Let’s start with choosing your shop name. You’re looking for something memorable, creative and speaks to your product offerings. Brainstorm your initial ideas in a list. Aim for single words that relate or describe your product. Use a thesaurus (Thesaurus.com is great) to come up with alternatives.
Then, start putting the words and phrases together into a name. One or two will probably rise to the surface as favorites. After you decide on a shop name, check Go Daddy to see if the domain is available.
I also recommend doing a trademark search to check if the phrase or name has been trademarked. You’d be amazed at how many common phrases or random words – “entrepreneur” is my newest jaw dropper – are licensed in the trademark office.
It’s also important to check on Etsy to see if there are other shops with the same name or similar ones. Many Etsy shops do not have their own websites yet, so the domain might be available, but the name isn’t.
Shop names can be funny. They sometimes take time to grow on you. So, make sure you’re really happy with the name you choose and start using it in your every day conversation. This way you can be sure you still like it when you hear yourself and others talk about your brand.
But I can’t think of a shop name?
If you really aren’t sure what to name your shop, consider using your name or even your kids’ names. I named my stationery shop after my daughter because she inspired me to start an Etsy shop in the first place. TomKat Studio combined the names of her children for her shop name.
You could also use your first and middle name – a combination that is less likely to already be taken.
And don’t worry, once your Etsy shop is open you can change your Etsy name. But if you have trouble making decisions, you can always submit a form to Etsy Support to review for an additional shop name change.
Next, you will need to think about your shop’s colors.
What colors represent your shop?
If you aren’t sure where to begin with choosing your shop’s colors, check out my post here:
How to Choose the Best Color Palette for your Business
Your colors will be used throughout your Etsy shop, so make sure you like them. Once you have your colors selected (and the web safe color codes that go with them), you can start designing the other elements for your brand.
Since you’re just starting out, you don’t need to invest in professional logo design work. Designing a unique and professional logo can be expensive.
Luckily, you’re starting your shop in the 21st century so there are many inexpensive logo design options on the market.
One option is to purchase a pre-made version from a fellow designer on Etsy or Creative Market. With this type of design, you would put your shop’s name and colors (depending on the logo design) into an already created design.
Another idea if you want a completely unique shop logo for free is to use Canva. Canva makes graphic design for non-designers so much easier. You can create everything from beautiful pins to Instagram posts and now even your own logo.
The best part is that their basic design software is free. You can choose from a pre-made design or make your own if you’re really creative. They even have the designs sorted under different shop categories, so you can select something that matches your business type.
Once you choose a logo layout that you like, you can match your new brand’s colors, change the typography and even add a graphic. It’s a great way to create something that is yours without the cost.
Naptime #3 – Set up your Shop and Write your First Listing
So, I’ve got another piece of good news. Etsy is free. I know crazy, but it is free to set up your shop and open your doors.
What isn’t free is adding your listings. Those cost $.20 each. At first this might not seem like a lot and to be honest it isn’t. I didn’t feel the effects of the $.20 listing fee until I reached 1,500 listings. That’s when listing fees started to seem expensive.
But, in the beginning, the $.20 fee isn’t too much to spend to open your shop. Especially if you think about how much you’d have to invest to open a brick and mortar business or even the fee to attend a craft fair.
Here’s another interesting fact – your first 40 listings can be free. I say “can be” because you need to find another Etsy shop owner to invite you via email to receive your free listings. In exchange for the recommendation, Etsy sends them a free 40 listings.
So if you have a friend with an Etsy shop, I’m sure they will be more than happy to send you an invitation for your free listings.
If not, send me a message via our Contact page. I am happy to invite you to open your shop so that you can start with your free 40 listings. Please note that I would also receive a set of free listings too.
Setting up your Etsy shop is pretty easy. Go to Etsy.com and click on the upper right hand corner where it says “Sell on Etsy”. Then sign up with your email address and create an account.
You’ll receive a prompt that asks if you wish to open your Etsy shop. Click yes and you’ll have to answer a series of questions about your country, language, currency, etc.
Next you’ll need to enter the name of your shop. Remember that you can change your shop name once you choose it. So if you’re still not positive, use something you like so you can get started. You can always change it later.
Now it’s time to create your first product listing. Although photos are at the top, I recommend writing your product description before worrying about your product photos. But, it’s up to you how you want to write your listing.
Before starting to write your product description, you need to do some keyword research so you can use good SEO when writing your description.
SEO means search engine optimization. These are the keywords that you will include in your listing so your potential customers can find it. I recommend using Etsy Rank since they’re free and provide amazing information to include in your listing descriptions.
Type in the title of your product. Be sure that the words your choose describe your product and uses some keywords. After the title, you’ll need to select the details about your listing – who made it and when it was made. These answers double check that your product falls into the handmade credential to sell on Etsy.
Next you need to choose a category. You can write your own two to three word category description or choose a pre-written one.
And you will need to choose your renewal option. As easy as it is to set up automatic renewals, I’ve found it costly because products that I didn’t want to renew kept getting renewed. I recommend manual renewal so you have more control over your shop.
Now it’s time to write your product description. Include important details about your product such as sizing, materials and other options.
When writing your product description, highlight the benefits of your product and use good describing words. E-commerce can be hard because your customer can’t touch and feel your product. The words you choose for your listing lets potential customers experience your product.
After you’ve completed your product description, you’ll need to select the section of your shop you want your item to appear in. If you only have a couple of products, it’s okay to leave this part as “No Section” until later.
Next, you need to add your product tags. These tags are your keywords and the materials used in your design. The materials list can be helpful for handcrafted pieces so that customers know the quality to expect.
Then, choose your pricing, shipping and the quantity available.
Now, let’s return to the photos section. Photos are one of the most important parts of your Etsy listing. They showcase the beauty of your product and what customers are buying. Since customers can’t look at your product in person, they rely on your photos to get to know it.
A long time ago – about 5 years – product photos on Etsy were awful. Sellers put up any old photo for their products. Many of them were dark and made their products look like they were made in a dingy basement (which many of them probably were).
Fast forward to today and you probably aren’t surprised that most of those sellers are gone or have replaced their photos with professional ones.
When taking photos of your product, use natural lighting and showcase your product’s many different attributes. It’s great to also include photos of your products being worn, held and used.
Not sure the kind of photos that you’d like to include? You can find more ideas on the types of product photos to include in your listing here.
Load your product pics into the photo section of the listing. Choose your best photo for the first one since it will be highlighted as the main photo. Also, be sure to edit the thumbnail version of this photo. Correctly cropped photos guarantee that your product makes the best first impression to potential customers in search results.
Naptime #4 – Shop Details
After you’ve completed your first product listing, you need to set up your other shop details. These are spaces in your shop to communicate with your customers about you, what your shop’s about, why you created it, policies that you follow and shipping information.
Let’s start with your About Page. This awesome section of your Etsy shop is where you tell your story.
But, I don’t have a story?
Everyone has a story – even if they don’t realize it.
Brainstorm how you got to where you are right now. Think about how you started making your products, why you’re starting your shop and even how experiences in your life contributed to opening your shop.
Also, include details about the problem you solve and how your product contributes to the marketplace. This is also where you want to talk about you, your pets, studio/office space, family, where you live (and how it inspires you) and any other details you think will customers connect with you.
Etsy is a very personal sales platform. That’s one reason I like it. Customers like to know who they are buying from personally. They go to your About Page to learn more about you and your shop. The goal with your writing is to build trust and confidence in your products.
So, be yourself and write your story.
If you aren’t confident in your writing, you can always hire a freelancer to write this section. You can also have someone edit your writing to make sure you have the vibe you’re looking for. Make sure your writing doesn’t have any grammatical errors. Those can really stand out when customers are trying to get to know you.
After you write the story section, you need to add photos. The most important photo to include is one of yourself. Etsy customers want to see a face behind the person making their products. You’re the star of the show (and this is an introvert writing this) whether you like it or not. So pick a beautiful naturally lit photo of you to include in your About Page.
You can also select photos of your work space, products in action, accomplishments, pets and things that inspire you.
In addition to photos, Etsy now allows you to upload a video about yourself. This is another fun way to help your customers get to know you.
Next you need to go under Info and Appearance to set up your other shop details. Here you can upload your logo, shop icon and write your first Shop Announcement.
For your Shop Announcement, welcome customers to your shop and provide important information. This includes current turn around times and any discounts/promotions.
You also need to write messages to your buyers. This is the communication your customer will receive once they’ve made their purchase.
For this message, thank them for their purchase and tell them what to expect next. You can also include your current turn around times and when they should expect the item to ship.
The next part is a little harder – writing your shop policies. Policies are VERY important since they can be the difference between a good transaction and an unexpected refund. Your policies need to be clear and leave no questions asked between you and the buyer.
You can find more details on how to write your shop’s policies here. Etsy has generated a set of policies that they “recommend” your shop use. I found these missing a lot of details that pertained to my shop.
That being said, as a new Etsy shop you won’t be able to understand all of the issues customers may have with your product until you’ve been in business for awhile. Our shop’s policies are a fluid document that I’m always updating based on new rules and customer feedback.
If you aren’t sure where to begin with your policies, use the ones that Etsy provides. You could also research policies from shops similar to yours. DO NOT copy another shop’s policies (this language is copyrighted), but you can get some ideas for the issues that may arise when selling.
The policies section is also where you write about how your product is shipped. You will need to consider whether you want to charge shipping (which Etsy now charges their transaction fee on) or if you prefer offering free shipping.
Naptime #5 – Promotion Tools
If you are a social guru, you’ll probably find the last part of your shop set up fun. It’s time to get your promotion tools up and running.
Let’s start with an email address. Whatever you do, don’t use your personal email. You can set up one with your shop’s name in it for free. If you have a website, your domain host (such as Siteground) also has a shop email that you can use.
But if you’re just starting an Etsy shop, at least set up a separate email via your email provider.
This email will be posted on Etsy for the world to see. I promise that you don’t want everyone to have access to your private email.
Next, you want to add your social media accounts. Start business accounts on one or two social media accounts that you feel most comfortable with.
After you’ve created your social media accounts, you can add them to the bottom of your About page. Include the links so potential customers can follow you there. You can also add your shop’s website (if you have one) and blog.
Growing your Shop
Congratulations! You’ve opened your first Etsy shop. And during naptime or the quiet moments you snag every day. I’m so excited that you’ve started your Etsy journey.
But now that your shop is open, it’s time to make some sales. One thing to remember with any online shop (or even a blog) is that it just doesn’t grow on it’s own. Think of your shop like a garden. It needs tending – constantly.
The next step to growing your shop is to add more products. The good news is that your first few weeks (possibly a couple of months depending on how you promote your shop) will be slow.
That’s good news?
Yes, it actually is because this time will give you a chance to create more products for your shop and get to know how the Etsy platform works. Start dreaming up new designs, making things and figuring out exactly the kinds of products that you want to sell.
Keep in mind that the more products you have in your shop, the more sales you will have. Most successful shops have at least 100 to 300 products to get sales jumping. And Etsy seems to reward shops that add new products consistently.
If that sounds like a lot, don’t get discouraged. There are lots of ways to create new listings without making new products. Check out our guide to expanding your shop’s product offerings here.
The other part of your shop that needs to be tended is finding your audience. One of the best parts about Etsy is if your keywords are good, your customers will find you naturally. It takes some time for your listings to appear in search, but eventually your potential customers will discover you from all over the web.
If you don’t have the time to wait or want to be that patient, promote your shop on social media, your blog or guest post for another blog. You can also pay for advertising, which when done correctly, has a pretty positive sales return.
Not sure how to create an effective marketing strategy for your shop? No, worries. I’ve created a FREE class for online shop owners to learn simple marketing strategies that will grow your shop and you’ll have time to use. You can find more details below.
Most importantly, figure out your shop’s goals for the quarter (3 months). Think about what you want your shop to accomplish. And remember, be specific.
Writing down “Make sales” is not helpful. Consider how many sales and how much revenue you want to make. Then, use that information to write your goals.
If you’re still not sure on how to get started marketing your shop, you can sign up for our FREE First Steps to Marketing Email Course. Here we walk you through how to set up your first marketing strategy to grow your shop in the time you have. You can join the class here.
After over 10,000 sales in my own Etsy shop, I can say that choosing to start an Etsy shop has been an amazing part of my business journey. I’ve met wonderful customers, learned the ins and outs of online business and developed product designs that I’m proud of.
I’m so excited that you’re ready to embark on your own Etsy adventure. It’s wonderful to live in a time where becoming an entrepreneur isn’t limited to those with lots of seed money or business degrees. The low cost of entry makes it possible for anyone with an idea to sell their products.
Remember, to make your Etsy shop successful you need to start with a great idea that solves a problem and complete ALL of the steps to opening your shop correctly. This will keep customers happier and your shop in good standing many years down the road.
Still not sure you’re ready? I get it. Starting an Etsy shop can be overwhelming. Especially when your busy. I recommend checking out the Etsy seller guides and these Etsy how to books.
But, remember, sometimes the secret to getting started is to do just that. Get started.