Etsy Talk: 6 Tips for Beginning Etsy Shop Owners

Thursday, July 28, 2011

With my new Etsy shop "Plumed" I am finding my desire is strong to make this a true blue business. A day or two after I opened the shop I was contacted by Emily Henderson of HGTV's Secrets From a Stylist and the winner of last seasons Design Star. She ordered my "I Love Louisiana" pillow cover and it will be on an upcoming episode of her show (airing mid-September, woohoo!) When this happened I suddenly had this realization that, hey, I seriously need to approach this as a business. When you put your product out there you never know what kind of attention it might attract, so having a business mind going in to your venture is a good idea. With the attention from someone like a "design star," and the promise of my product making it on TV, my confidence was boosted for sure, but if you are doing what you love and love what you do, you don't need a fancy designer to catapult you into thinking of your Etsy business as a real business. Apparently I did, but now I am here to tell you, you don't! Since opening my shop and getting this enormous compliment and validation, I have been spending a lot of time online trying to learn the in's and out's, the do's and don't's, how to promote oneself (oh, that is just not in my nature, or it wasn't, waahaha!), market my shop and stay on top of everything.

There is so much information out there and I am still in a learning process (I am talking early stages here) and I imagine this process will continue for a long time, if not forever. There is advice on using facebook, twitter, etsy teams, mailing lists, SEO's (whatever that is), google analytics, etsy circles, etsy treasuries, taking photographs, the list goes on and on. I do not understand all of these methods or how to best utilize them but I have learned a few things that seems to be making a difference and I thought I would pass the information along.

1: Do Take Good Photographs: I think it is better to have a couple great photos than five fuzzy photos. When I see something draped over the back of a sofa with a cat in the corner and a pile of laundry on the floor, I will NOT buy that product no matter how much I love it. As soon as I find a sure fire method for taking photos that is easy, cheap and results in great photos I will be sure to pass the info along. But for now look for tutorials online, try different methods and shots, take lots of photos, edit and don't get too discouraged by the studio shots other Etsy sellers have. If you don't have a studio your photos will never look like that, so get creative and use as much natural light as possible!

 Vintage Tapestry Pillow Cover (photo taken in natural light in front of a window)

2: Communicate! With my first Etsy shop I started out communicating a lot with my customers, but as a buyer, I found hardly anyone communicated with me. For example, when someone would place an order with me I would contact them and say "thank you for your will ship out on this date." Once the item had shipped I sent another message letting them know it shipped and the tracking code (if I had one for them). As a buyer, I found much too often, I would purchase something and then just wait and wait for my item to get to my house, with no confirmation of my order, no ETA from the seller. I took this lack of communication from other sellers, turned it inwardly and believed it to mean I was being a zealot and I shouldn't be contacting people so much. Wrong! My initial instincts were correct. You should absolutely make contact with your customers. I believe the reason for this are as follows: as a buyer when I didn't have a confirmation of my order or that it was shipped, I felt like my purchase didn't really mean anything to the seller. And lets keep in mind that anyone could go to any big box store and buy anything they want, but they are on Etsy. Someone buying from Etsy is making a conscientious buying decision. They are buying from YOU, supporting your business, the local and handmade community. They are complementing your design and your craft; they chose your product out of billions, that's right BILLIONS of products that are out there in the world. You want your customers to feel special because they are making a special purchase. So encourage this and give them the kudos they deserve! Additionally, I believe that if they not only see the product that you make, but also see you as a person, you have a much better chance at having return customers. They will not only remember you make really cool headbands but they might remember you as a person and the next time they need a really cool headband they will remember you and your shop.

3: Be speedy with Orders and Make Them Look Purty: Again, with my first shop most of my orders were custom made so I didn't have the luxury of getting my orders out quickly and if you are doing mostly custom made orders you won't either. You can let them know ahead of time in your listing the approximate turn around for custom orders and again when you email them confirming their order. If you have stock of what you make send them within a day or two of purchase. I usually wait a day to see if I get any other orders in. Driving too often to the Post Office isn't cost effective so this certainly needs to be accounted for (then you can keep your shipping pricing down for your customers too). However, after my one day window to see if I can take two or three orders at once, I head straight to the Post Office. I have realized Etsy customers expect a long wait, but that does NOT mean that they like it, who does? We are a right here, right now culture, look at the fast food industry ; ) Now, of course as Etsy shop owners and crafters we are the opposite of the fast food culture but that doesn't mean we should just take our time because we can. In my shop policies I let customers know that ready made orders will be shipped within five business days, this gives me a cushion for when times are really busy but I always try to send my orders out as quickly as possible and, in doing so, I often get a message back from customers saying "Thank you! It arrive so much sooner than I expected!" This is good business, this is another positive for you and a happy customer is much, much more likely to spread the word about your business or return again. But before you send of that package like speedy gonzales, check to make sure it is in the condition you want it to be sent in, iron if needed, package it nicely with tissue paper, a ribbon or sticker and include a business card. To me this just shows that you take care in what you do. Everything you do for your business speaks about your business, so you want it to all speak wonderful things because your products are wonderful and so are you.

Bicycle, Bicycle Hand-Embroidered Pillow on Linen (photo taken outside against brick wall)

4: Network: Now there are a thousand ways to network and, you know, the whole thing totally overwhelms me to be honest. And I can't imagine not being overwhelmed by the list of places and ways that one can network. So my advice on that is pick a couple and really try to figure them out. Whether that be using pinterest, craftgawker (which is one of my favorites!), a facebook page, twitter, a blog, or one of the other thousands of venues. Pick your poison and spend time on it. If you are opening a new Etsy shop, or trying to really make a go of an existing one and you try to promote yourself on 100 different sites you won't have the time to really learn about any of the platforms you are using, or how properly promote yourself using them. Choose one or two at a time and establish yourself there. Say for example you look into pinterest, have a good time with it (it's really fun and addicting!), follow people, get followers and learn the site, then you will be familiar with the site and promotion will come more organically. At pinerest you "pin" things that you like, so in essence you are promoting others, but if you are active in doing this, like pinning 90% other items/blogs/photos and 10% pinning your own items or blogs, people will follow you back and re-pins items you post - hence the term "networking." The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out of it, is the moral of that story and all networking stories for that matter. If you want a blog to promote your business no one will read it if you don't offer them anything in return other than promoting your Etsy shop. So if you don't have the time to give a blog (and a blog takes a lot of time) by offering new information, tutorials or great stories to share, well, you just won't get a following. Even after you have supplied your blog with great information it takes time to attract readers and there is another map to navigate there in gaining followers and networking too! Bottom line is, look at your options, decide what interests you, because you will have to put time into the platforms you choose to try to promote yourself, and again, (I can't say it enough) pick platforms you enjoy spending time on. 

5. Etsy Teams, Circles and Treasuries...Let's start with Etsy teams, for one they are filled with people just like you, people looking to promote their shops and blogs, network and get answers to the same questions you might be asking yourself, or your computer at 2 o'clock in the morning. While joining Etsy teams you may not see a spike in your sales but you will learn things from seasoned sellers, gain followers for things like twitter, your blog and your facebook page and all in all be apart of the Etsy community. I think it's a great place to start. Now, onto Etsy circles, so, when you join a circle or someone adds you to their circle, your Etsy activity (like the treasuries you created or new items or favorite items you add to your shop) get plastered on other peoples activity pages. The great thing about this is that other people that are in their circle see when they "like" something in your shop. Ultimately it is about exposure and it's a good idea. I know we don't all like seeing 800 other peoples Etsy activity, we want to see who likes OUR products, but just think about all the people that are getting exposure to you and your shop and I guarantee you will see more hearts for your shop, items and get into more treasury lists. Through looking through my Etsy activity page I often find shops and products that other people in my circles like and I end up going to those shops, checking them out and adding them to my favorites. At the same time this is happening for me and my shop too. Etsy treasuries...egads, I don't quite have a full understanding of these yet, but I will say I know the front page of Etsy is taken from curated treasuries from other Etsy users. You can join an Etsy treasury team where your treasury will get more exposure and people will often use other members items in their treasuries, but from what I can tell this is definitely a time consuming undertaking, but if you love making treasuries then this might be great for you! When making a treasury be sure to send a message to the shops you are using, that way they are sure to visit it and perhaps re-post it to twitter or facebook. I often find when I am in a treasury my "hearts" for that item go up; so again, I am getting more exposure for my shop overall. Again, all of the above are about exposure, how that may affect your Etsy sales today isn't the point, it's how your sales will be affected over time. It's about getting your name and product out there as much as possible. So while someone might not need a rhinestone doggy leash today, they might get that cute little chihuahua they've been vying for in a month from now and think, oh, I know exactly where I can go get one of those because they have seen your shop pop up in their Etsy activity feed or in a treasury.
Mediterranean Spice Pillow Cover (photo taken with white cloth back drop, outside in natural light)

6: Use Google Analytics:  I must admit I had a difficult time figuring out how to set it up, but once I did, I find I use it all the time (eventually I watched a video on youtube and that was how I got it working). It will give you a plethora of graphs and charts that show your website activity and trends. My suggestion is to first find out what days and times people seem to be on your site generally speaking. From there you may be able to decide when it is best to post new items or renew items. Personally I have found I get the most visitors to my shop at 9 am, 4 pm, and 9 pm PST, additionally, Wednesday seems to be the day where I get a bit more traffic. So I use this information to my benefit and post my items at those time slots and try to post my new items on Wednesdays. I also keep a paper log of when I post or renew items and compare them to the traffic on google analytics. The days and times in which I post or renew I see that my views double or triple. Google analytics is really an invaluable tool in my book and it's free to boot!

Ok, so these are a few things I have learned by logging hours upon hours onto my poor tired computer. Again, this is just the tip, the very tip of the iceberg. As I learn more, or I learn more simple methods, I plan to update this path of learning and pass along my information. Above all I believe if you are doing what you love give that love over to it. Don't be afraid to promote yourself because others out there aren't blinking an eye in doing the same thing. While self-promotion is a bit aggressive in nature you can still do it with that warm and crafty flair that makes the products you are promoting so spectacular.

Lastly if you have noticed I have also "promoted" myself in this post. To give you some examples, I used photos of pillows from my shop and linked them back to my Etsy store. I have also linked pinterest and facebook to my accounts and so on. That's the point of having a platform, you offer something, support others and then link up your site. Will I sale 500 pillows from this post today? Uh, no. Maybe not even one, but I might get a follower, a viral friend to journey and navigate with or learn something from, links to others amazing shops and blogs where I might find something I like or information I need to know. So the point is you can promote yourself but do it with a wide array of intentions and make them good ones, not just your profit margin, because I might be wrong, but I don't think it works that way. I have also included different images of my pillows using different methods and backgrounds. I included where they were taken to give you an idea for your photos. Good luck! And PLEASE if you have any advice to share or an experience that you would like to add I would love for you to do so in the comments!


  1. This is awesome! Great tips and being inspiring for me :)

  2. Great! I am glad to help, it can be so overwhelming trying to figure it all out! Checked out your site, terrific! I am a follower now : ) I'll be checking back in with you to see how your giveaway went! I haven't done one yet, but plan to in the near future.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information with us! It is very helpful!!

  4. Thank you so much for the great tips!!!
    I will definitely try those~~!!

    I just "liked" your facebook page:)
    "promoting yourself" worked for

  5. When I started reading this post I thought..."This is exactly what I have been thinking, wondering, trying to figure out!!" I have an Etsy store and was going to keep my blog totally separate from Etsy. I also have a Pinterest acct. and a Seaux Southern facebook acct. and a twitter acct. Trying to figure out how to combine them all and if I should tie in my blog or keep it a separate "just for fun" thing that I do. Also thinking about making "treasuries" and Google Analytics. So much to think about! Your post was very helpful!!

  6. Thanks for stopping by and liking my facebook page. Do you have a fan page? If so, please leave a comment with its address on my blog.

  7. Im working up the nerve to start an etsy store. My photos are still lacking and Im still unsure on how much "stock" I should have,mahalos for the post,it answered more than a few questions I have! Happy crafting! Aloha!

  8. Great post! I've been seriously considering starting an etsy shop when I leave for grad school so I will lock away your tips for future reference :)


  9. This is a Great post! Thanks for sharing:)

  10. I love these tips, thank you for sharing them! Any advice on how to get the attention of buyers who want custom orders-- I miss alchemy.
    - Cait

  11. oh my gosh cait, i didn't even realize alchemy was gone! they have made so many changes to etsy. i suppose that was one thing that made me wake up and think about my new shop differently, i had to, because etsy had changed so much!

    i think first i would make sure i added that to every listing description ("convo me for a custom order"). another thing you could do is post a listing for custom orders (title it something that makes it clear it's not a custom order for someone else). if you have photos of previous custom orders post different images of those. if you don't have photos of those orders, i would just use examples of your work that could be custom. in the description just say i do customs orders, i am able and willing and able to this and this, here's some examples, please convo me. that's where i would start...if i think of anything else i will get back to you! your blog is so cute! i'm a follower now : )

  12. Thanks :) And thanks again for the seller tips!

  13. thanks for sharing this great info - your pillows look great!

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Thanks for sharing! this was super helpful! I am always really timid about self promoting, but I am working hard to be more confident. I am getting ready to launch my Etsy shop and have been working really hard to build a good following for my blog and plan an Etsy launch so that everything will be in tip top shape! Keep sharing your great advice!

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  18. You are an inspiration Miss Plumed! I will re-read this several times as I embark on my journey to be a full time crafter :)

    Thanks so so much


    p.s your cushions are gorgeous!


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