I've been meaning to write this post for ages. Little snippets, tips, wisdom and woes from an etsian who has sold a few things over the years. What I've learned and would like to share... maybe a nugget or two will be good information for some of you. I think I'll write this in list form and I can promise it will read rather randomly at that.
First, the disclaimer.
I haven't even begun to tap into the tools that etsy offers. I don't "work etsy" full time. In no way am I an expert or a big-time seller, but I have been very happy with my time at etsy and have certainly learned a few things along the way.
Okay, here we go.
:: List often. It's been said before, right? Think of it as fishing. You must keep casting, at different times for the fish to see the bait. I don't fish so I have no idea what I'm talking about, but it's definitely a cast/wait and see process. Cast often. That's what I'm saying. When I first opened my handmade shop (almost three years ago), I worked and worked making a pile of lovely tote bags, then sat down one day and listed them all... and waited. I went ahead and wrote a "shop update" post on my wee, infant blog that very few people were reading in those days.. I waited some more. One bag sold, just one. You are better off establishing a rhythm to listing. When I don't list, I don't sell.
:: Photos. I just had to get these first two out of the way, everyone talks about frequent listing and excellent photos. It's true though, how clickable are your photos? Your listings will show up (as thumbnails) in a variety of ways as people search through items on etsy, will they click on your photo? Indirect natural lighting is best. No flashes!! I don't have an amazing camera, thankfully I can edit them as needed using picnik. I have tremendous room for improvement in this area and it is one of my shop goals for the year. It is helpful if your entire shop has a very cohesive look to it. Dear Golden does this beautifully. She takes all of her photos in the same setting and lighting. She lists everyday (it helps that her items are amazing), look at her sales for a shop that is just over a year old!
:: My favorite background (or underground, really) for photographing most of my vintage goods is a piece of white foam core board, picked up at the office supply store where the poster board is kept. I like this because it is a true, bright white which makes the colors of my items pop, and I never have to think about ironing it, and it is portable, easily moving to wherever the best lighting is. Sometimes I use a white enamel-top table too. But I do think a good amount of white under an item provides a clear, colorful image. The photo above is on foam core, it's just placed on top of a wood table. If I had photographed the item straight on the wood, my camera would have read the colors very differently. I do like the pop of color the green wall provides and wish I were home enough during the time of day when the lighting is best in that room... it is the sort of image that easily provides the signature, cohesive look that I mentioned above.
:: Put a thumbnail or gallery widget on the side bar of your blog. I like the photo size of the gallery choice, but I really wish the price did not have to be there. Having a few photos of new items in your blog sidebar allows readers to click over and browse without the pressure of being told to.
:: Renewing an item or two on days when you cannot provide a fresh listing is certainly a good idea. It will cost only .20 cents per item and will put your item at the front of the search pages. Very sound advertising practice. Don't renew your entire shop at once though. People do this and it only costs you more money. You will get the same potential benefit by renewing just a few items (preferably in different categories) to place you in the front of the search pages.
:: Don't reinvent the wheel! If you design something that is beautiful and appealing, why on earth would you make just one!? Make at least a few (or many more) of your favorite designs. That way when one sells, you can swiftly hit the "relist" button and etsy will automatically create a fresh listing (with zero views) of that item. This is huge people, probably the biggest thing I've learned as a handmade seller. One of the biggest complaints people have about listing on esty is the time it takes to create each listing, which for me can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Think about it - you've got to measure your item, take photos and likely edit them a little bit, write the description, provide shipping info, tags, materials, etc. Time spent creating new listings is time I'd rather be spending creating new designs. Make multiples so relisting is a breeze. Your customers will be happy too! It can be so disappointing to miss out on an item an etsy seller lists because there is only one. If an item appeals to one person, it will appeal to a few more as well. Of course there is a place for original work too, but I am talking about typical handmades; bags, pouches, jewelery, scarves, prints, clothing... you get the idea. It doesn't mean you have to create 52 of a particular handbag, but definitely make more than one. It really has been one of my greatest etsy lessons.
:: TAGS! Etsy gives you 14 opportunities to create "tags" for your item(s) that will help you land that item into various search results. Use them!! I am amazed at how many items I see that only utilize a small portion of those tags. Some of the more useful tags I use (depending on the item) include; boho, earthy, repurposed, upcycled, patchwork, midcentury, groovy, retro, you get the idea. I also always include the main colors of an item. Don't want to miss any potential turquoise lovers, and there are many! ;)
:: Shop announcement. Keep it brief. Again, Dear Golden nails it perfectly. The only shop I have seen with an exhaustive shop announcement that can get away with it is Treehouse 28. They do have some of the most beautiful clothing on etsy with a strong customer base.
:: Forums. Etsy forums are a great place to ask questions, get advice and promote your work. My only suggestion would be to remember who you are. Personalities can get a little heated and weird in there. Remember to maintain a positive image.
:: Storque blog. It's just wonderful. And on the left side bar of the main page there are all sorts of topics to peruse. Take advantage of what other esty sellers are willing to share.
:: Take advantage of etsy's many wonderful email newsletters! Good stuff in there.
:: Your own blog. It helps so much to have your own blog, and use it partly as a companion to your shop. I look at Etsy as a venue, it opens my shop doors into the great virtual mall of handmade goodness. However, they guarantee me no sales (especially handmade...vintage shops tend to have a life of their own), that is mostly up to me. Maintaining an active blog with regular, fresh content will help to build readership. A blog that sees a few thousand visitors each day has plenty of interested window shoppers, folks like you and I who would rather buy handmade, supporting indie businesses. Those window shoppers love reading the handmade story. We all want to feel a connection, don't we? Business websites tend to be static, non-changing. A blog is an active place with new things all the time. In recent trends, many types of businesses are moving to a blog format as their main site. It appeals to how people take in information these days. I do think it's a delicate balance though... a blog should feel like a warm, interesting, genuine place to visit. Too much advertising can be a turn off. Find the balance that works for you and your loyal readers. Keep it real.
:: Think about the payment types you will accept. I used to accept personal checks and money orders, but too many times they just never arrived in the mail. Now I offer paypal only, it's kind of a bummer because I liked offering the other options, but it got too confusing tracking down payment.
:: Let it flow. One of the things I like best about etsy is the organic feel to it. Nothing is black and white, cut and dry. That appeals to me as an artist. I like things to be able to grow and evolve. Etsy provides the space and freedom for that to happen. A shop can start off slow and over time (and hard work), it can develop into a nice little side gig, or perhaps, you can even quit your day job.
There are of course more topics to be covered; shop policies, customer service, etsy street teams, the list goes on and on. I hope this was helpful to some of you! I still have so much to improve and develop on my end as an etsy seller and would welcome any tips you have found, as would everyone else reading.
Please share if you'd like!