It’s a marketplace minefield out there. So much so that it’s a wonder ecommerce sellers get started at all and each marketplace comes with its own way of doing things. But if you’re wondering about whether to sell on Etsy, and what that would look like, then we wrote this guide to help you out.
The first section is all about getting you set up with an Etsy store and how to maximise your chances of success on the platform. Then we get into the nitty gritty of how to actually manage your orders in a time-efficient way (which is super important if you’re also selling on eBay, Amazon, Shopify and a million other places).
Enough with the intro already. Let’s get going.
In this guide:
Let’s begin by taking a look at what you can and can’t sell on Etsy.
Things like art, jewelry, clothing and ‘quirky’ items get the green light. But don’t be misled by the term ‘handmade’. That doesn’t mean you have to make the items yourself (phew). You can have outside help.
There are a few terms that you have to abide by when selling handmade items though:
And if you sell any personalized items or made-to-order goods, you need to make sure that:
Pretty much anything that can be used as a ‘building block’ to make something else. Oh, and party supplies comes under this rule too (random). So things like:
The ‘blanks’ rule can be a little confusing. This just means that the item needs to customized or crafted in some way. For example, a blank canvas. Buyers can’t do much with a blank canvas other than paint on it.
If you’re giving someone the base materials for them to create something with it, that’s cool. But for example, if you’re selling plain t-shirts, that won’t fly under Etsy’s policies. Because people can just wear that as is, they don’t need to add anything to it. Mass-produced clothing and accessories also aren’t allowed.
You can sell any item that is at least 20 years old. They don’t have to be handmade or even functional.
It’s worth bearing in mind that you may have to prove the item’s vintage status to Etsy. They may ask questions about where the item came from, how you know how old it is, as well as photo evidence to show vintage indicators.
Etsy also make it clear that buying things from yard sales, or selling the clothes of a relative who’s been dead 20 years isn’t enough to verify the items as vintage. Darn. ;)
We’ll go through every step you need to take to create an awesome Etsy store.
Head over to Etsy and click the Sell on Etsy link on the top right of the website.
Pick the default language (you’ll have the option to translate your shop into other languages after you’ve opened your store), country and currency you want to manage your shop in.
Let’s get the naming rules out of the way before moving on to how to choose a name:
Well, that narrows it down a little. But not much. Unless you’re amazingly creative, this can be one of the hardest parts. It’s like you suddenly forget all the words. And the pressure. What if I choose the wrong name? What if other people hate the name? What if I hate the name later?
The good news is that you can scrap and change names as many times as you like before you open your store. And once you’ve launched your store, you can instantly change your name once. If you still have cold feet after that name change, you will need to contact Etsy support about it.
CAUTION: If you change the name when your shop is open, you won’t be able to use the previous name on another account. Once the name has been used on an open shop, it can’t be freed up again. Which sorta piles the pressure back on to get it right.
So, here are some tips for brainstorming and landing on the perfect Etsy store name from Marlo Miyashiro:
Start off by brainstorming words that you think would be commonly found in Etsy shop names, like ‘creations’ or ‘designs’ for example. Then do a search on Etsy for those words. If it comes back with a ton of hits, know that you’ll be competing with those sellers. The bigger the pool, the tougher it’ll be for potential buyers to find you. It might be wise to think of something more original.
Easier said than done though, right? Marlo suggests that you try out this branding exercise to come up with something fresh:
Pro tip from us at ChannelGrabber: Flip through a dictionary to find synonyms of the words on your list. There might be a cool word in there that you didn’t think of!
Time to do those listings:
Etsy recommends that you upload at least 5 photos so shoppers can see the items from different angles (ooh, er). You should also try to make sure that the size of your photos are at least 1500 pixels wide.
The thumbnail image is the prominent photo people will see in search results and your shop. You do have the ability to adjust the photo so it looks even more attractive to potential buyers.
Put in the details for each of your listings, making it as in-depth as possible. More info on what you’ll need to fill in can be found here.
Key takeaway 1: You’ll have 140 characters to use for your product title and it’s crucial to think about what shoppers may be typing in to find what they need. Put the most searchable terms at the beginning of your title.
Key takeaway 2: Take advantage of all 13 tags available to you in each listing. Again, think about what shoppers are typing in to find your item. The keywords they’re using are what your tags should be.
Set the prices for your products alongside sales tax if it applies. You’ll also need to input the quantity of items you have and any details like variations (different colors available for the same item etc). You’ll also sort out your shipping info at this stage. Things like where the item is being shipped from, a pricing guide, and standard processing times.
Pricing is another biggie. So we thought we’d include some carefully curated advice here. Abby Feuer wrote a fab article over at Etsy breaking down the best ways to strategize your product pricing. We’re gonna be paraphrasing slightly!
Abby put forward the idea of using a top-down or bottom-up approach to hit the pricing sweet spot.
So the top-down method focuses on your expenses and calls for your current expenditure costs and a little experimentation to see where you could improve things. It goes like this:
The bottom-up approach is more about market research to figure out “sweet” price points. Doing this can help you re-evaluate your expenditures to be able to offer those goal prices. Here we go:
Don’t worry, you can check that they don’t look fugly before hitting Publish!
Choose how you’d like customers to pay you. You have a choice of check or money orders, PayPal, or Etsy Payments (this is the most popular option). With EP, you can accept payment via credit card, debit card, store credit and Etsy gift cards.
Yup, the slightly sucky bit. You need to give Etsy your card details so they can deduct your selling fees. We’ll cover fees in a little while.
You’re in business, hooray! But there’s still more you can do to make your shop top-notch and have shoppers falling over themselves to buy from you . . .
Etsy is the perfect marketplace for building a personal brand and personal connections with your market. The more they like you, the more likely they are to buy from you. Your photo doesn’t need to be a straight-laced, strictly business headshot. Just a regular, smiley pic will do and will make you look approachable.
Tell them about you, the person behind the brand. People are interested in other people (most of the time, anyway). Hobbies? Any quirks? A funny anecdote you could throw in? What’s driving you to do what you do? If you have a mission in life that’s tied to your business, that’ll make for a great story.
And we’re back to the less creative stuff. This part is painful, but necessary. Here’s where you put all the info about your manufacturing, processing, payment, returns/refunds, and shipping.
Because this ain’t a jumble sale. Group items into categories so people can easily browse the sections they’re interested in.
You have 5000 characters at your disposal to tell your business’s story. Don’t worry too much about sounding “professional” in the traditional sense of the word. You don’t need to write like a corporate drone to get people to trust you enough to buy. Actually, that could hurt your chances. A lot of the time, people love it when a brand is human and honest.
If you’re being yourself and writing in a voice that’s natural to you, you’re doing a great job. If you’re really struggling to get your voice onto paper, you could just talk aloud about your business and record it, before typing it out and tidying it up a little.
Include photographs to pull people’s eyes down the page (sorry, that sounded a bit gross). If you’re on a shoestring budget and can’t afford a professional photographer, don’t worry. As Julie Schneider points out, you can “organize a photo shoot on a budget by using readily available elements like flattering natural light, simple backgrounds and props for context.”
Don’t forget to include your unique selling proposition here. What makes your business different and stand out?
Another reminder: If there are other people involved in your product creations, Etsy expects you to include information about them here.
Ok, so Etsy keeps things fairly simple. There are 4 main fees: listing, transaction, shipping, and payment processing:
To get more info about costs and taxes, check this out.
It’s easy enough to set up a store, but what about keeping it going and making your venture a success? Here are some top tips to help you sell more:
Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it’s more fun to just get going. But seriously, the best thing you can do is make sure there’s room in the market for your products and carve out your own little niche. Once you’ve figured out what you want to sell, check out your competitors. When you’re doing this competitor audit, consider things like:
Use all the tags available to you when creating your listings. So many people don’t take full advantage of this, don’t be one of them. There’s no point creating amazing products if people can’t find them! As we mentioned earlier, you need to put yourself in your customer’s head and think about what they’re typing in to find your product.
If you’ve come up with a few keywords and are now stuck, check out LSIGraph to generate ideas. Type in what your item is, and it comes back with suggestions.
Always be looking for opportunities to make people’s shopping carts heavier. If you sell necklaces, put a link on the product page to the matching earrings, or earrings that would go well with it. If you sell balloons, cross-sell birthday banners.
It doesn’t take much effort to do, but it can boost your average transaction value.
The pictures are the closest online buyers are gonna get to your products. So don’t let the photos fall short and cost you sales. Lisa Furgison has some great tips for showcasing your products in the best light:
Good descriptions that snag the attention of your target market aren’t easy to write, we’ll give you that. But there are so many flat, lifeless product descriptions floating around out there that it’s a great opportunity to set your business apart. So, definitely a skill worth learning.
Here’s a simple way to add some punch to your descriptions. After each sentence you write, ask yourself “so what?”.
For example, “this blanket is 100% wool”. So what? What do I get out of that? “This blanket is 100% wool so you can keep cosy while drinking a cup of cocoa.”
Ok, that’s not exactly gonna win any awards but you see what we’re driving at here. You describe the product feature “100% wool” and tie it to a tangible benefit, “keeping cosy”. The cup of cocoa is an attempt to tell a story of sorts through the senses. It paints a picture and is supposed to make you feel warm just by reading the words and imagining the scene.
Alright, so you have some enticing descriptions. But if they look ugly and like a lot of work to read, people won’t bother reading them. Break up your descriptions into shorter paragraphs and add bullet lists for easy scanning. It needs to look good and sound good to be effective.
You also don’t want to leave your potential buyers with any unanswered questions as that can kill the sale. It can be tough to know what these are, as you’re so close to the product. You could show the descriptions to someone else and say “is there anything you’re still wondering about the product after reading this?”. That way, you get a fresh pair of eyes on your descriptions.
Here’s an awesome resource for learning how to write better product descriptions.
Not trying to be negative here, but Etsy is super saturated and super competitive. So it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket (which is just good business sense anyway). Branch out onto other channels. Amazon, eBay. Set up your own Shopify store. Do some selling on social media.
Of course, adding more marketplaces and a webstore to the mix can be chaotic when it comes to getting orders out the door on time. But there are ways to juggle your orders efficiently, which is what we’re gonna dive into next.
Now getting on to the hands-on, order management side of things . . .
You can indeed, which is great news, as this can save you a ton of time. The ‘official’ term for this is Multichannel Fulfillment. If you’re already using Fulfilled by Amazon (for your Amazon listings), then you can get Amazon to pick, pack and ship your Etsy orders from your existing inventory in their warehouse. However, if you’re not using FBA, then Multichannel Fulfillment can still be used for your Etsy orders. You’ll just need to send them some stock, of course.
Not only do you get the blissful feeling of not having to fulfill your orders yourself, but it has the added bonus of making your Etsy shop more competitive, because of the highly desirable fast shipping.
We covered the Multichannel Fulfillment process in detail in this post, showing you how to send orders to Amazon individually and in bulk. And we show you a much quicker way to get those orders sent over. (The post is about eBay orders, but everything in the Multichannel Fulfillment section applies to Etsy too.)
If you want to bulk ship your orders, you’ll need to enroll for Etsy Shipping so as you can buy and print shipping labels in bulk.
Tracking numbers are automatically sent out to your customers when you use this feature (if you buy shipping with tracking). Here’s how you buy shipping labels:
Etsy then sends a shipping confirmation email to your buyer, and the order is automatically marked as shipped.
If for whatever reason you don’t buy your shipping via Etsy, here’s how you manually mark an individual order as shipped and add a tracking number:
Now. That’s pretty time-consuming if you have a bunch of orders to fulfill. And this is just for Etsy. If you have to do this on every sales channel you’ve got, then jeez. Bye bye free time and coffee breaks and hello burnout.
Why not just have all your channels hooked up and one list for all your unshipped orders? And then have them all taken care of with a few little clicks. This is how ChannelGrabber does it:
Then. . .
So you’re getting all the bulk action-y perks that you get with Etsy Shipping, and sorting out all your multichannel orders in one fell swoop. Once you’ve got your labels, you can select the orders and hit Dispatch which then updates your channels and sends out confirmation with tracking details straight to your customers. Easy.
There’s nothing more tedious than having to manually collect a list of unfulfilled orders from each of your channels. Such a time suck. Luckily, there is a fast way to get a non-ugly picking list that includes all your orders. A good order management system can do this effortlessly for you.
We’ll give you an example from inside ChannelGrabber’s interface:
It’s as easy as that! And such a time saver.
Life would be so much easier. Time really does add up when you’re flitting between channels to get all your invoices. There isn’t a way to achieve this manually without an order management solution to pull the three channels together.
That probably conjures up images of headache-inducing sessions trying to learn your way around some complex system. But it doesn’t haveto be that way at all. We’ll show you how simple it is to do inside our system:
So, as seen in the GIF above, you’ll have all your orders from Etsy, Amazon and eBay right there in the interface. Check the boxes to create customized invoices in bulk.
Shopify does offer integrations with Etsy, Amazon and eBay. But it may not necessarily be the most straightforward, accessible method. For instance, there are limitations and a certain amount of manual work involved with the Amazon app. We went into detail about that here. And we talked about the eBay integration (and the reports of glitches) in this post.
The Etsy integration is a paid app (unlike eBay and Amazon) that comes with a 7-day free trial and several payment tiers to choose from. And it has a rating of 4.3 stars (as of January 2019) based on 10 reviews. But is it really worth paying for if the apps for your other channels don’t turn out to be optimal? It would be better to invest in a solution that manages each channel with equal capability to save you time and headaches. Which is the whole point of using multichannel management software anyway!
Also, when using Shopify as your multichannel order management system, you may well find it’s not as “ready to go” as other systems. As in, you might have to install more apps to get everything how you want it. For example, if you wanted to create detailed, customizable invoices, you would need to choose and install an app for that.
If you need a robust multichannel order management solution that does what you need, cuts down on manual labor, and is super easy to set-up, why not check out ChannelGrabber?
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