Artistic + intellectual pursuits. Social justice. Actress. Model. Musician. Eugene // Portland.
8 min. read
Updated November 13, 2023
Have you ever wondered how to start an Etsy shop? If you’re someone who is both creative and entrepreneurial, you might be considering starting an Etsy shop as a way to monetize a craft that you truly love doing. If so, you’ve come to the right place.
Etsy is a popular eCommerce platform for everything handmade, from custom jewelry to baby clothes. It’s a robust online marketplace, with more than a million active sellers and over a billion dollars in sales in 2014. If you’d like a slice of the pie, it’s wise to do a bit of homework to figure out how to stand out from the crowd.
To help get you started, I spoke to Etsy sellers from around the globe, to get their advice on how to start an Etsy shop. Each of them shared their experiences and their thoughts on what makes an Etsy shop great. From these answers and from a few other resources, I’ve compiled a list that will help you put your best foot forward.
And one of these first considerations should be: Is starting an Etsy shop right for me? Where am I most likely to meet my customers?
You can read more about Etsy products and policies on their very informative blog. One big factor to consider is that a successful Etsy store takes time to maintain, so be sure that you can commit to regularly spending time on this venture.
This is an eCommerce business; it won’t make you money if it’s sloppily created or neglected after launch.
In addition to researching the Etsy platform, before you dive into starting an Etsy shop, make sure to research your product.
Ask vital questions such as “Who are my competitors? Who is my target market?” You don’t want to launch with the wrong idea only to realize you need to go in a different direction and have to re-do a bunch of the work. Save yourself the energy by developing a strategy right out of the gate, including a plan B or a couple of backup products if things aren’t going as well as expected.
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This is actually a good time to consider creating a lean business plan so that you have the flexibility to change as you go.
It isn’t just about creating the shop—part of maintaining it successfully has to be focused on actually getting pageviews, and being discoverable through search.
Google Keyword Planner is always a good place to start, you can use it to see what search term people are using to find a site like yours. Another huge aspect of being discoverable online is choosing the optimal name for your business.
Once you’ve done that, sign up for all of the pertinent social media platforms that you can regularly use and update. The ones that have a visual emphasis are always a good idea for Etsy sellers: Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine are very popular. But don’t forget the great reach that sites like Facebook have!
The Etsy sellers that talked to me couldn’t stress this enough, I lost count of how many people mentioned the importance of excellent photography in making sales on Etsy.
Your photos are your products here in a sense because this is the primary avenue that customers will use to decide if they’d like to buy. They can’t hold or see first hand how great your product is, so the photos will have to do the convincing. Don’t forget to use a compelling photograph for your avatar as well!
Your store must be customer friendly and consistent to be successful. Make sure your policy is clear, timely, and that you stick to it every time. You want to achieve a high rating, and providing excellent and expedient customer service is a great way to get there.
Don’t bring in someone who won’t tell it like it is; you want to receive honest and constructive feedback. Make sure that they find your shipping policy, return policy, product descriptions, images, and about page up to snuff.
Once you’ve got your Etsy shop up and running, there are ongoing aspects of operating your business. Stay on top of things like refunds, returns, SEO strategy, social media presence, and responding to reviews.
What some people forget about starting an Etsy shop is that being an Etsy seller is being a business owner. So, staying active and involved in your business is key to success.
Many people communicated to me that Etsy is really a world of its own; sellers and customers bond, write reviews, help each other out in forums, and generally have a strong and close-knit online community.
This can be a great advantage, but it will serve you well to learn the rules of the road. Derek Coleman, who runs the Etsy shop Lonehood, said: “Etsy is all about the community and the community influences others. Simply put: if a customer has a bad experience the word will start to spread and your ratings will show this. Ratings are very important. If you have excellent customer service, the community will also know of this and it will be reflected in your reviews.”
Michelle Gannon of The Language Playground shared an early mishap she had on Etsy: “Once one copy of my digital product was sold, it was gone from the shop and no one else could buy it. I had no idea until a few days later when I checked into my store to see how things were going and realized that my shop had no products in it. Luckily, it does not cost much for shop owners to post products again so the mistake was not huge.”
For a rundown on fees and listing products, look here.
Stephanie Maslow of Metalicious gave us this tip. “Some of my best sellers have been from collaborations with my customers.” And, among her tips? The all-important role of good photography in an Etsy business. Surprise, surprise.
These are the people who are keeping you successful and spending their hard-earned money on your work.
“Offer your clients discounts on all future purchases to encourage repeat shopping. Make sure your buyers know how much you love them, by telling them so with discounts. Repeat shoppers are the best. I have a few clients who come back every year to do their holiday shopping. That’s the best compliment,” says Brooke Malloy of Etsy shop SageLike.
“Make sure your brand is always represented properly. Customers on Etsy provide excellent feedback and can help new businesses hone their customer service experience which makes Etsy great for market testing and startup scalability.Your product may not be the right item for Etsy, but it doesn’t hurt to get it on there to find out, but still take it seriously. Remember that even if potential customers aren’t clicking ‘add to cart’ on your item on Etsy, if handled professionally, you may have made an impression, be certain it’s a lasting one,” says Jed Darland, founder of Plant Picket.
Dana Reich of SweetDees Closet told me that a good goal to start with is “about $10 worth of sales for every 100 views your shops and listings get.“ From there, you can track your progress and make changes as needed, whether it’s adjusting the goal to reflect your variations in pricing, or boosting your SEO strategy to get more eyes on your shop.
“Make sure your Etsy tags and keywords are those which people can easily find you, both on Etsy and when searching for a particular item on Google. The more items you have in your store with great SEO, the more people will be able to find you and the more sales you’ll generate,” she says.
If you’re looking for even more info on how to start an Etsy shop, or you’re still not sure if starting an Etsy shop is right for you, check out these resources.
Etsy offers a detailed archive, The Seller’s Handbook, available for perusal with information right from the horse’s mouth.
Moz, a software company, has a great introductory SEO guide. I’ve used this for reference myself in the past. If you know nothing about the subject, start here.
Our own library of sample business plans is always a good resource as well, regardless of whether or not you’re starting an online shop. We have over 550 different sample business plans represented. Here are several eCommerce specific options:
Etsy hired a third party research firm to gather data on the type of people who sell on their site. You can check out the report here.
It’s a fascinating look into a group of people, over two-thirds of whom are women, who sell their goods primarily from home and aren’t necessarily looking to be acquired by a larger company or hugely expand their operations, but who value their self-contained businesses.
If that sounds like a group you’d like to join, starting an Etsy shop could be for you.