With a little help from our friends | Letter of advice to the new Etsy seller

At first it’s a struggle.

But with a little help, you might be making great strides.


Do you think about starting your own Etsy shop?

I know that feeling.

In March of 2008 I took the plunge and was thrilled to find a small level of success with my first Etsy shop, worthygoods. Now I have two with an organic fabric shop, worthygoods textile. Occasionally I get requests for shop advice  and when I sit down to thoughtfully respond, I find that I have much to say.

Following is an edited letter written in response to a lovely customer of mine interested in selling on Etsy:

First, I truly love the opportunities selling here on ETSY has afforded me. It is time consuming, but there are many advantages that come with the independence of selling online here at worthygoods. For me, and most sellers new-to-Etsy, there is a steep learning curve that comes with the first six months to a year of shop ownership. I found myself grooming, re-grooming, updating, re-wording, re-writing, discovering better ways to photograph, re-photographing and re-photographing- again. I still do these things, weekly, monthly, seasonally but now with a matured eye.

I’ve been selling on Etsy since March of 2008 and now have 2 shops:worthygoods and worthygoods textile. I easily spend 40, often more, hours a week working for the two shops. Days, evenings, weekends- no time is spared,. Though presently, I’m making small changes towards a more constricted schedule for myself that will free up more of my weekend and evening hours. I’m hoping to maintain this during the more hectic fall and holiday season. We’ll see! (Wish me luck.)

Here are a few tips:

Sign up for and read all of the Etsy Success newsletters. They deliver critical information on what Etsy will be featuring in the upcoming seasons and trends they will be watching for. With these details you can tailor your listings and item tags to get higher in the search rankings. Consider joining a team or asking someone who you admire to mentor you in your new shop. You’ll have someone you can ask for feedback on photos, listings, pricing etc, someone that’s not your mom.

Get to know your camera. Find the best place in your home/studio to get consistent, indirect daylight to take pictures, then create a stage/backdrop/setup that will give your shop photos a cohesive look. Your photos are about 90% of the way people will visit your shop for the first time. They’ve got to be great.

Make sure your prices are appropriate. I don’t mean low. There is much time that goes into regularly grooming your shop, photographing the item, editing the pictures, describing, measuring, listing that item, plus the fees for listing, selling, accepting payments and shipping. Consider cost of materials and wether or not you might want to consider offering your product wholesale in the future. The most critical factor is your time. If you want to stick around as a seller, you’ve got to be sure it’s going to actually ‘pay’ in the long term.

Respond to customer convos ASAP. People move on quickly! Etsy is a big pool. :-)

Buy supplies (art/craft, shipping/packaging/whatever) in bulk/wholesale whenever you can. Those costs add up in a big way over the course of the year.

Also- read some of the Quit Your Day Job series that is a part of Etsy’s Seller Handbook (a terrific new seller resource). You’ll find background on many sellers that manage to parlay their Etsy shops into full time employment. I’m at a middle ground point with Etsy in this respect. I have two small children and am not truly able to devote as much time as I would like. I also find that my expenses (fees, packaging, studio space) related to my shops are high. Initially, I’m quite proud of my latest year’s sales. Then when I actually sit and do taxes, I realize just how much I actually profit- it’s a little disheartening. But, it gets better each year. I have to remind myself that I’m moving in the right direction, yes?

About that Etsy seller learning curve:

After a few years it’s smoothed out a bit, but I’m still there- I consider staying on the curve a critical shop tool.

What would you add to this letter of advice?

Together we can do so much. -Helen Keller

A big “Thank you!” to Captured Moments Photography for these lovely family photos. I just adore every one. <3