I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I am not crafty. I am not creative. If my life depended on it, I couldn’t come up with a super cool, uber chic art project. And even if I did, I can guarantee you that nobody would pay money for it. That being said, I do have a fairly successful Etsy shop. Here’s how.
Last November, I joined Etsy as The Mitten Mom. I’d learned how to make felted wool dryer balls, and since other people were selling them on the website I thought I’d give it a try. For just $0.20 per listing, what did I have to lose? (I also listed homemade scented play dough and dishwasher detergent, but those haven’t done nearly as well as the dryer balls).
After I put up my listing, I didn’t give it a second thought. I never checked it again to make sure it had all the information a buyer would want. I didn’t look at what other Etsy sellers were doing. Essentially, I moved on and forgot that I’d even signed up. Then, one afternoon I decided to take a peek at my listing – and that is when I saw my mistakes. I was surprised to see that the descriptions weren’t clear, the shipping wasn’t properly calculated, and my prices weren’t competitive. No wonder I wasn’t selling anything!
If you’re thinking about selling on Etsy, here’s what you need to know:
Describe your items clearly. This one is a no-brainer. Make sure to include the dimensions of the items, weight of the item, quantity and colors. (And be prepared for people to send you an e-mail asking you these very questions – not everyone takes the time to thoroughly read your listing!).
Pay attention to the questions buyers are asking. If you keep getting the same question from multiple buyers, maybe you need to add more information to your listing. Buyers are more likely to buy from the seller who provides the most detail.
Take a look at your shipping costs. When I first began selling, I would run out the post office with each shipment and pay standard shipping rates. After a month or two, I discovered Stamps.com. Now, I pay considerably less than I did at the post office, don’t have to pay extra for a tracking number, and our postal carrier picks the items up right from my mailbox. Plus – I received $25 in free postage just for signing up. (Click here to try Stamps.com, use my Tell-A-Friend Promo Code: C-CVRN-RCF. You will get a $100 offer which includes a digital scale and $45 in postage!).
Know where to buy boxes. Before I even had my first sale, I wanted to make sure I had all the supplies that I would need when the orders came rushing in. So I ran to Office Depot and picked up a few boxes of different sizes. I brought them all home, and found the size that worked perfectly for me. Then I ordered them in bulk from Uline.com. I bought two packs of 25 boxes (I needed two different sizes to accommodate the various items I was selling), and with shipping, got them for around $.50 a box.
Set-up a Paypal account. Let’s face it, some people still aren’t comfortable putting their credit card information in Etsy, so having a Paypal account is essential. This allows buyers to log into Paypal when checking out, and often makes them feel more secure about the items they are purchasing.
Learn how to get your money from Paypal once your account is set up. This one took me a while, and for a few weeks, I had over $100 sitting in Paypal land, with no idea on how to retrieve it (other than using your Paypal account to buy other things from Etsy!). There are several methods for getting your cash from Paypal, but these are the two that I recommend. (1) Have the money electronically transferred to your checking account. This is a great option for those who are not in a hurry to get their funds (it takes 3-4 business days for the funds to transfer). (2) Get a Paypal debit card. With the debit card, the funds are available instantly, so you don’t need to wait for transfers. As soon as they are made available, you can access them. (You do have to wait for about 10 days for the card to arrive in the mail, so I’d order it as soon as you set up your account).
Take good pictures. You want to make sure that your pictures clearly show what you are selling. And while having an interesting or artsy photograph may help to get your listing noticed, be sure to include additional, more traditional photos as well, so potential buyers can get a clear view of what you are selling.
Set standards for yourself. When it comes to selling on Etsy, you are your own boss. This means that with every interaction with a potential buyer, your reputation is on the line. That is why I have operating standards that I always adhere to, including: (1) Always respond to buyer inquiries within an hour of receiving them. (Unless it’s in the middle of the night – in which case I wait until the morning to reply). (2) Always ship your items on time. If your listing says that shipping takes one business day, be sure to stick to that. If your items are ready to ship (and it’s not late in the day), ship them same day. (3) Never ship a product that isn’t great. When it comes to my dryer balls, each ball is handmade, and there are sometimes small imperfections when they go through the felting process. If, at the end of the process, the ball isn’t perfect, I don’t ship it out. Plain and simple. I’d rather eat the cost of one or two items than have a dissatisfied customer.
Take a look at the competition. What does their listing look like? What are they charging for shipping? Look at their item description compared to your item description to see if there is anything else that you should include. While you’re there, take a look at the feedback that they received from buyers. Emulate the things they are doing right, and make sure not to make the same mistakes they did.
Figure out your true costs. When I was first trying to determine what price to charge for my items, I considered nothing other than the cost of materials. But then I realized something – I need to get paid, too! While I don’t expect to make a ton of money from selling items on Etsy, my time is valuable, and I should be compensated for the time I spend making, packaging, and shipping my products.
Decide early on if you are going to offer bulk pricing, and get to work figuring it out. About two months after I opened my Etsy shop, I received an inquiry from a buyer asking if I offered a discount for bulk orders, and if I did, what the cost of the entire order (including shipping costs) would be. This sent me scrambling – and I spent the entire day in a mad rush, running to the post office to grab a few flat-rate boxes from the lobby, checking to see if they fit in the box, deciding how much of a discount I could reasonably give without feeling as though I was losing too much. Even though the buyer didn’t follow through with the purchase, I was prepared for the next time.
Always be on the lookout for ways to decrease your costs. My primary product (felted wool dryer balls) are made entirely out of wool. When I first began selling them, I was making them with wool roving yarn from the craft store. And, as you can imagine, it was quite pricey. So I did some research, and found a wool farm that is not that far from where I live. Now I buy all of my wool there for about a quarter of the price.
Don’t get discouraged. It took a while before I had my first sale, but that was all I needed to get the ball rolling. Even now, I may not sell anything for two or three weeks, and then have four sales right in a row. In the end, if you have a quality product at a reasonable price, it will sell.