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Hand-knit dog booties? Portraits made of gum? “Seinfeld”-themed enamel pins? Whatever objects you love to craft, no matter how niche they are, there’s a horde of consumers out there looking for your product—and most of them are browsing the Etsy marketplace.
If you don’t have previous experience with the platform, opening an Etsy shop may seem like a complicated prospect. But in reality, opening an Etsy shop is relatively straightforward and can provide for an optimal home for your products—either alongside your small business website or as your primary online storefront.
Here, we’ll first walk you through the basic steps for starting an Etsy business on the platform. Then, we’ll share some tips from pro Etsy sellers about how to ensure your Etsy shop’s success right from the start of your digital venture.
Opening an Etsy shop on the platform is easy—just follow these eight steps.
To get started, simply create an account with Etsy by clicking on the “Sell on Etsy” link, and follow the prompts from there.
Next, you’ll set your default language, which is the language in which you’ll describe your items (after you open your shop, you can choose to translate your page into other languages). Then, you’ll set your home country and the currency in which you’d like to list your items.
Here’s where you can start to get creative: coming up with your shop name. Ideally, your shop name is intriguing but easy for customers to remember, and reflective of your products and values. And that name can be anything you’d like, as long as it falls within Etsy’s guidelines: four to 20 characters long, no spaces or special characters, not a name that’s already in use by another Etsy seller, no trademark infringements, and (of course) no profanities. If you need some inspiration, check out Etsy’s tips for choosing your shop name.
Listing physical and digital items (think printable stationery, patterns, stickers, gift tags) involve separate processes. We’ll show you the basics on how to list a tangible item; you can consult Etsy’s guide if you’re listing a digital item.
Pick how you’d prefer to accept payments. Options include PayPal, check or money order, “other,” or Etsy Payments, which is the main way sellers get paid—with this option, you can accept credit cards, debit cards, Etsy gift cards and store credit, and more.
Depending on your country, Etsy might require that you provide a credit card for identity authorization purposes. You’ll also need a card on file so that Etsy can charge you for selling fees (more on that below).
Ta-da! Your shop is open. Next, you’ll need to…
It’s not enough to simply have an Etsy shop—just like a brick-and-mortar store, your digital store needs to be easy to find, beautifully curated, intuitively organized, and constantly updated. Here are a few more sections you can fill out to ensure that your shop opens (and runs) successfully:
To ensure your Etsy shop starts out on the right foot, follow these five tips, sourced directly from Etsy shop owners.
Whether you like it or not, we live in an image-driven society—and that includes physical objects! It’s crucial that you provide customers with product images that are stylish, well-lit, and portray the product from several angles.
Katarina Vojinovic, co-owner of the jewelry shop Dzefer, offers a few tips on taking the best possible pictures of your items:
“On Etsy, it’s very important to have great photographs. They have to be clear, well-lit and brand-oriented. I take all our photos myself, so you don’t need to be a photographer to make it on Etsy, but you do need to learn how to take sharp photos. Also, use as many of the 10 photos that Etsy allows. You’ll need all the angles, at least one photo showing how the product can be used, and maybe even just one pretty picture. How good your photos are will directly impact the number of sales you have.”
As Vojinovic says, you certainly don’t need to be a professional photographer, or even have a special camera or photography gear, to take great pictures of your products. Gari Anne Kosanke has owned her handmade jewelry shop, BeadsLoversKorner, since 2010. She echoes Vojinovic’s advice, and knows firsthand that taking pictures is easier (and cheaper) than you might think:
“The biggest tip I have is to make sure you take great photos that represent your product. Etsy has an excellent app where you can upload photos directly from your phone and make minor size adjustments. Most phones have pretty decent cameras today, so it’s possible for a beginner to just do everything right from the phone. I still make other adjustments to my photos with Photoshop, but I do upload pictures right from my iPhone.”
For some more direction, consult Etsy’s suggestions about which product shots you should upload, as well as their comprehensive guide to product photography.
Simply having great product photos isn’t quite enough to guarantee that customers are drawn to your store (and are inspired to purchase your goods)—it’s also important to consider how you’re presenting your products on your site.
Kamaria Hill is the owner of Loccessories, a Chicago-based Etsy shop that sells natural hair accessories, jewelry, and gifts; she underscores the importance of setting up an organized Etsy shop:
“Your buyer is judging you. That’s the bottom line. And pictures give a powerful first impression. When a buyer clicks over to your shop from one of your listings and sees a jumble of different items, they don’t have any confidence in your skill level at your craft. Having a cohesive look and a selection of similar items suggests to them that you’re good at what you do and that the quality is there.”
As Hill says, a slapdash collection of products implies that the store owner didn’t put too much time and energy into organizing their store—or, potentially, their products. On the other hand, thoughtfully curating your images, organizing them into easily navigable sections, and providing detailed descriptions for all of your items accurately represents the work and commitment you put into your business, and reflects the quality of your products.
First, a quick refresher on SEO: SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s a marketing tactic that, when implemented properly (which is admittedly complicated), launches your online presence—whether it’s your business website, blog, or social media platforms—to the top of any given search engine. In turn, that increases the likelihood that browsers will click on your link and visit your store.
Leveraging SEO tactics on Etsy will make your store easy to find, so it’s a surefire way of driving customers to your products. But even if you’re an SEO wizard for your website or blog, know that Etsy has its own set of SEO rules that you’ll want to nail down right off the bat. Vojinovic explains:
“Although many of our sales come from social media, most of them are from the Etsy search. SEO is complicated, but the basics are simple: Make a title that is suitable for your product and keyword friendly. Add tags that make sense with the title and allow the search engine to make combinations that work. For example, if your title is ‘pink cashmere sweater for women,’ tags like ‘for her,’ ‘for wife,’ [and] ‘bridesmaids gift ideas’ make sense. The search engine will be able to combine these tags so that if someone searches for ‘bridesmaids gift ideas pink’ your product will be shown in the results. You should also use a tool like Marmalead.com or EtsyRank.com to help you find suitable keywords.”
As Vojinovic says, use as many keywords as possible in your tags, shop title, shop sections, and product titles and descriptions. For a more in-depth review of best SEO practices, take a look at Etsy’s social media and SEO guide.
Also know that if your store has more listings, it’ll be easier to find via search. Hill suggests aiming for at least 50. “I have had my Etsy shop for years and really didn’t give it much attention—it was more of a placeholder for my brand name,” Hill says. “Recently, I started adding more listings and saw immediate results from averaging one sale a month to one to two sales per week, and ‘favorites’ have increased significantly.”
Of course, it’ll take some time for you to build up to 50+ listings, but you can use the prospect of increased traffic as fuel to create more and better products.
As almost any new business owner will tell you, pricing your products competitively is essential for garnering business and turning a profit, but it can also be one of the more difficult hurdles to overcome. Luckily, Etsy offers a few resources on this tricky topic, including an easy formula for pricing your products and a worksheet to carry out a couple of pricing strategies.
Don’t short sell yourself—price your products so that you can cover your material, labor, and production costs, and at a rate that accurately reflects the quality of your products. But keep in mind that one of Etsy’s major draws is the prospect of buying unique items at prices that won’t break the bank. Try to keep your costs relatively modest so that you don’t risk turning away a big chunk of the Etsy audience.
Also remember that joining the platform and setting up your shop is free—but once you start listing and selling items, certain fees will kick in, so account for these fees as you price your products.
Here’s Etsy’s fee breakdown:
“There are three basic selling fees: a listing fee, a transaction fee, and a payment processing fee. It costs $0.20 to publish a listing to the marketplace. A listing lasts for four months or until the item is sold. Once an item sells, there is a 5% transaction fee on the sale price (including the shipping price you set). If you accept payments through Etsy Payments, we also collect a 3% + $0.25 payment processing fee when an item is sold.”
Even if your Etsy shop is starting out as a side hustle, it’s still a good idea to keep your personal and business finances separated. The easiest way to adopt this best practice of entrepreneurship is to sign up for a business credit card that’s dedicated solely toward your Etsy store’s expenses.
There are tons of business credit cards on the market, and the right one for you really depends on what your personal credit score will qualify you for, your spending habits, and the rewards you’d like to earn. But it’s pretty safe to say that you could do with an extra cash infusion—in which case a cash back card is your best bet.
And if you’re not a natural accounting whiz (few among us are), it’s worth it to sign up for business accounting software so that you can easily track your sales and expenses.
Opening an Etsy store is logistically simple, thanks to the platform’s user-friendly interface and abundance of internal resources, like their comprehensive seller handbook. But it’s after launching your store that the real work begins. Don’t be discouraged if your store opens to little (or no) traffic. Just like brand-new brick-and-mortar stores, it can take time for your Etsy shop to build up a fan base. Vojinovic says:
“The longer you work at your Etsy store, the more you will learn. The more you learn (and apply) the better chances you have at being successful. When we opened Dzefer, we maybe had a sale a month. Now, we’re considering hiring help over the holidays. As you grow a reputation, get better at SEO, and add more awesome products, you will make your dreams come true.”
And once you do land your first sale, encourage an ongoing dialogue with your customers. Check your message box regularly, respond to questions promptly, address their concerns, and ask for their feedback. Other than the obvious pleasure of treating your customers respectfully, a perk of great customer service on Etsy is the potential for five-star reviews. They’re a welcome source of positive reinforcement, true, but excellent reviews also convey to potential buyers that you’re a trustworthy seller (and that your products hit the mark)—which will directly result in more sales.
Ultimately, your energies are best focused on doing what you love: creating unique, high-quality products. Excellent products are the biggest draw for new and returning customers, plain and simple.