Etsy: Newbie To-Do List

I started selling on Etsy in the fall of 2009. I opened one shop, and then another, and before the Holidays it was like a frenzy of making, selling, packing and shipping. Then it calmed down...a lot. And I had time to think about what I really wanted to do, and how I wanted my shops to look. In the end I decided to have two shops, one dedicated purely to photography, and the other to my love of vintage and handmade jewelry, mostly unique necklaces. I'm no power-seller (maybe a buyer!), but I learned a few things here and there that I wished someone had told me, so I thought I would include them here. sooo...

Before You Open

1. Think about your goals for the shop. 
Do you want to have fun? Make money? Start a real business where you can quit your day job? That matters in the long run, so at least start thinking this way early on.

2. Decide on a name
This category could actually fill an entire post, but don't overanalyze it. As Etsy stands right now, you cannot change your shop name. Don't pick something cutesy, or too niche-y. For example- if you think you might like to include vintage clothing on your shop at some point, don't call it "Jenny's Jewels." Something as simple as your name + the word vintage would work. If that shop name is taken, experiment with other names- your dream child name, a cool pet name, whatever. Write them down, doodle them, picture the name on a business card. Then do a search online and on Etsy to make sure no one else has a similar name. (quick note: I originally used the word "The" before my shop name, and while this works for some people, I hated having to search for myself using "The.." I would just rather type the shop name.) 

3. Go shopping!
Yes, it sounds counterintuitive to spend money before you're actually making any on Etsy. But you must get a sense of what others are offering, and it helps to see how they're shipping and packaging their wares. I found out that I enjoyed receiving a handwritten note or card when I purchased, so now that's what I include on every purchase from my shops, too.

3. Order business cards. There are tons of great sites with inexpensive, or free, offerings. But without a business card, everything you ship out will seem rather lacking. People save business cards, especially fun ones, colorful ones, or ones with good information on them. It's also easier for someone to hand out your card when someone asks where they got that funky necklace than for them to try and explain Etsy. Ship two cards with every purchase if you can. My fave source: Use their mini-cards as labels or to offer coupons for return customers. Their website has tons of ideas!

Designing the Shop

4. Think about the personality you'd like to inject into your shop.
Most of it will be via the items you're selling, of course! But you still have control over your banner and your avatar- the little icon people see you as on forums and in listings. Do you sell really cool and unique items that will make people salivate just seeing them? Then upload a pic of one of the items and use that as your avatar. Do you sell a service or something more personal? Use your own photo. It makes people feel better about doing business with a human being. You can design a banner using Photoshop, Picnik, Picasa, Flickr, or any other online tool, where you can control the image yourself. Or how about making one online with a free banner maker website, like this one!  It's easy and you don't need any graphic design skills to do it. Just a pic, or text, or both- and put in the 760 x 100 pixel parameters, and upload it.

5. Taking photos of your items:  
Photos of Stuff. Do you sell small items, that are difficult to see? You might need a lightbox. Search online for instructions on how to make your own. You also need a digital camera with a macro setting (usually looks like a tulip icon). This allows you to get in close to the subject and grab some of the detail your buyers will need to see online. Do you sell clothes or jewelry? Invest in a bust- check out local business supplies or surplus shops for racks and busts from stores who've gone out of business. Or try a creative jewelry display by draping items over a pretty cloth or blanket. Use natural daylight when possible- never indoor light! Your shots will take on a horrid yellow cast that looks even worse online. Trust me.

Photos of Art. If you're selling art, like canvases or photography, you can upload a straight-up file of the image, but remember to keep your image small. Anyone on Etsy can right click and save your image. It's best to let people know that the resolution they view on Etsy is not very high quality, but that your piece in person will be much richer in color and detail. Also- show how the piece might look framed, for buyers' convenience! Check out Big Huge Labs for ways to upload your art with a nice mat. You can even customize the colors.Think, how would a buyer want to visualize this piece in their own home?

6. Tagging. 
Once you upload and add items, you have the option to "tag" them with 14 various tags. Etsy will start you off with the obvious, jewelry, etc. Now, once you use up the first 3-4 obvious or mandatory tags, you get to pick several others to help buyers find you! Think: who would buy this? What color is it? what type of decor does it fit? is it for a man, woman or child? (or pet!) How does it feel/ sound/ look? If I needed or wanted one of these, how would I type it in a search form like Google to find it? Always use all 14 tags- and read the tagging rules on Etsy, if in doubt. If you run out of ideas, or hit a wall, open a new browser and search for similar items on Etsy and see how others have tackled their listings. Aha! You might have forgotten an entire group, like "equestrian prep", that suits your item! (really, that's a category, I found it while tagging my Horse necklace!) If others are tagging with it, buyers are looking for it. Also, keep in mind what's going on in the world, season, region, etc when tagging. Is it Mother's Day month, graduation time, or the beginning of Spring? Or is it the start of the Holiday season? People's searches will change depending on those things, too.

I'll continue this article in the future with more information, but first, some Etsy-speak you might like to know before your shop opens its virtual doors.

Etsy Speak

Convo: Etsy's conversation feature. Works like an email, using the person's Etsy shop name. Click on "contact seller". This opens up the convo, and continues as long as it's with the same seller/buyer.

Renew: to renew at item in your shop means to pay the $0.20 listing fee again on an item so that it jumps to the top of your shop list. Not only that, it jumps to the top of anyone else's search for related items. You can renew any item anytime you wish. Tip: renew items that haven't seen many views. They could have been uploaded during a time when not many people were online, and quickly gotten lost in the sea of Etsy items added since then.

Marking: this is what you put in a forum thread when you want to save the article to read for later, but don't have much to add. Etsy allows you to search in forums you've posted in, so by "marking", you've "posted" and can find the forum thread again.

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