Selling on Etsy: Tips for small business owners

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

he business world has been shifting to e-commerce for years. But that shift has definitely accelerated over the past 12 months, and today, online shopfronts reign supreme for connecting small businesses with customers and driving sales. And if you’re in the business of crafting, building or making things, one of the best e-commerce platforms you can use is Etsy.

It doesn’t matter if you’re an artist launching a new business, a budding entrepreneur looking for a new side hustle or just someone who wants to make a little extra through a creative hobby. With a whopping 10.2 billion in sales in 2020 alone, Etsy is definitely the place to start selling.

But what are the best Etsy tips for beginners? How, exactly, do you start selling on Etsy? And once you’re established on the platform, how can you effectively reach your customers and sell your crafts?

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about starting an online craft business — and, more specifically, tips for starting an Etsy shop and using the platform to sell your goods. You’ll learn how to break through the noise, grab your customers’ attention and use the Etsy platform to take your craft operation to the next level. Here’s your step-by-step list for Etsy success:

  1. Open your Etsy shop.
  2. Establish your POD.
  3. Use product photos to drive sales.
  4. Craft a seamless shopping experience.
  5. Optimise your online shop.
  6. Promote your shop.

1. Open your Etsy shop.

Before you can start selling products on Etsy, you need to open an Etsy shop — get yours up and running in just a few steps:

  • Set your shop preferences. Before you can set up shop, you’ll need to set your preferences, including language, currency and country. You’ll also need to confirm whether you’re a part-time or a full-time seller (being part- or full-time doesn’t have any impact on your shop; it’s just data for Etsy to use internally).
  • Choose your shop name. Every business needs a name — and that includes Etsy-based businesses. Etsy shop names can be between 4–20 characters and can’t include any spaces, special characters or profanity. You also can’t choose a shop name that’s already in use by another seller or infringes on someone else’s trademark.
  • Add your products. Your shop exists to sell your products — so before you launch your new business, you’ll need to create listings for each product you plan to sell.
  • Set up payment and billing options. Your customers need a way to buy your products — and you need a way to get paid. Etsy offers a few different payment options based on location; choose the one that’s most relevant to you. Depending on where you’re selling from, you may also need to put a credit card on file before opening your shop.

Those are the basic things you need to check off your to-do list before you can officially open your Etsy shop. But tips for opening an Etsy shop are just the first step of the process. For your shop to be successful, you need to connect with your customers, promote your goods and drive revenue — which we’ll tackle next.

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2. Establish your POD.

As of 2020, there are more than 4.3 million sellers on Etsy. The fact that so many makers are selling their goods on Etsy is a testament to how effective the platform can be — but it also means that there are a lot of shops and products for customers to choose from.

So, in order to succeed on Etsy, you need a way to stand out from the crowd and show your customers why they should choose your products. And that starts with having a strong point of difference (POD).

Think of your POD as your Etsy shop’s signature dish. It’s what makes you unique, differentiates you from your competitors and connects you to your ideal audience. For example, let’s say you’re planning to sell your hand-knitted masterpieces on Etsy. There are plenty of knits for customers to choose from, so why should they choose yours? Maybe your point of difference is that you incorporate unexpected patterns into traditional knitting projects. Maybe you use an unusual type of yarn. Or maybe you specialise in creating one-of-a-kind knits for pets.

Whatever your POD is, you need to identify it from the get-go — and incorporate it into the positioning and marketing of your Etsy shop. If you’re not sure what your POD is, ask yourself these questions to dig a little deeper and decipher what makes you stand out:

  • What does my shop offer that no one else does?
  • How am I different from competing shops/makers?
  • Why would my customers want to buy from me over anyone else?

3. Use product photos to drive sales.

Etsy is a visual platform. When customers search for a product, they’re able to browse through hundreds — sometimes thousands — of product photos. High-quality photos are a must for marketing your craft business on Etsy (or anywhere, for that matter). Often, listings with the best photo are the ones that get the click, and, most importantly, the sale. In fact, according to research from Etsy, a whopping 90% of people surveyed ranked image quality as ‘very important’ or ‘extremely important’ when making their purchase decision.

Using high-quality photos in your marketing shows potential customers that you’re a professional. It shows that you take your business seriously and are invested in yourself, your crafts and your Etsy shop — and that you’ll bring that sense of professionalism to your interactions with them if and when they make a purchase.

Bottom line? If you want your products to sell, you need to make your product photos as professional, appealing and attention-grabbing as possible. But how, exactly, do you do that?

  • Choose the best product photo to feature as a thumbnail… Your product thumbnail is the photo customers will see when searching for a product or browsing through your shop — so make sure you choose the best photo to feature. Pick an image that represents the whole product, not just an unidentifiable detail.
  • …but make sure to include a variety of photos in the listing. It doesn’t matter how awesome your thumbnail is — if that’s the only product photo, it’s going to give customers pause. Make sure that you’re featuring multiple product photos in your listing (Etsy allows for up to 10), including shots from different angles.
  • Use high-quality photos. You don’t have to hire an expert photographer to take your product snaps — but your photos should look professional. Make sure you’re using a high-quality camera, snapping your products in a well-lit room (natural light is best!) and uploading all images in high resolution.
  • Include photos of your product in action. Shooting your product photos against a neutral background is fine. But if you really want to grab your customers’ attention (and convince them they need your product) snap pictures that show your creations in action. Selling a necklace? Include a photo of someone wearing the jewellery. Selling a piece of art? Include a photo of it hanging in different rooms.
  • Include a point of reference. It can be hard to tell how large — or small — something is from a photo alone. When you’re selling on Etsy, make sure to include at least one photo that gives shoppers a point of reference on the size of the item (for example, by placing your product next to a ruler).

4. Craft a seamless shopping experience.

When customers shop on Etsy, they’re looking for unique, interesting items — but since they’re browsing online, they’re also expecting a simple, streamlined shopping experience.

So, if you want to drive sales on Etsy, one of the best things you can do? Make the experience as easy as possible for your customers. There are a few different ways to simplify the shopping process for your customers:

  • Write a clear shop policy. Your shop policy outlines what customers can expect when doing business with you. Your shop policy should be straightforward and easy to find on your page, and should include information about your returns policy, payment options and delivery times. If customers aren’t clear on things like delivery times or payment options, they might leave your shop in favour of an easier, more flexible shopping experience.
  • Answer customer questions quickly and clearly. Etsy allows buyers to contact sellers directly with questions — and if a buyer sends you a question about one of your products, it’s important you get back to them ASAP. If they’re waiting days for a response, they’ll likely find what they’re looking for somewhere else — and you’ll lose out on a sale.
  • Clear up any issues immediately. If a customer has an issue with their purchase (maybe the item was damaged during shipping or they ordered the wrong size), it’s important that you resolve the issue as soon as possible. Otherwise, the customer might leave you a negative rating or review — which can throw a wrench in future sales.

5. Optimise your online shop.

Etsy is a platform where buyers search for the crafts, art and goods they want to buy — and in order for your Etsy shop to really take off, you need to make sure your customers can find you and your products during those searches.

Search engine optimisation is the practice of optimising your website (including your Etsy shop and product pages) to ensure that you show up in relevant searches. When these pages are properly optimised, it’s easier to find high-value customers who are already searching for exactly what you’re selling.

There are a variety of ways to optimise your shop and products. Make sure you:

  • Use categories and attributes. Etsy organises products by categories (for example, ‘Art + Collectibles’), subcategories ( ‘Painting’ or ‘Watercolour’) and attributes. Make sure you include these elements in your product listings so that when customers are searching for what you’re selling, your shop shows up in their search results.
  • Use tags. In addition to categories and attributes, Etsy also allows up to 13 tags for every product. These tags are used for search purposes and allow sellers to highlight longer keywords that speak to their product (like ‘watercolour painting of a beach’ or ‘ocean dog portrait’). Make sure you’re using all 13 tags — and that each one features a term or phrase your customers are likely to use when searching.
  • Maximise your product descriptions. Getting your customer to find and click on your product is the first step. But once they’re on your product page, you need to convince them to buy your product — and that comes down to your product description. Make sure your product descriptions are written in a way that gets your customers excited to buy and gives them all the information they need to make a purchasing decision (for example, dimensions, materials and delivery information).

6. Promote your shop.

The Etsy search feature can be a great tool to get new customers to your shop…but it shouldn’t be your only tool. There are a variety of ways you can promote your home craft business — and drive sales in the process — including:

  • Promoting across your social media channels. Your social media platforms are already full of people who like and follow you. Sharing your Etsy shop with your followers is a great way to capitalise on your existing audience and drive new customers to your shop. For example, when you create a new product for your shop, show it off on your Instagram Stories and get your followers excited — use the swipe up feature to add a link and drive those followers right to your shop. Or, as a way to convert your social followers into paying customers, give them an exclusive discount on their order or a special gift with their purchase.

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  • Influencer partnerships. Partnering with social media influencers can be a great way to get your product in front of a new audience. While well-known influencers often charge high fees for promoting products, up-and-coming influencers — known as micro-influencers — are often a more affordable alternative. Look for influencers in your space (for example, if you’re selling boho wall hangings, you might look for influencers in the interior design space with a similar style) and reach out to see if they’d be willing to partner with you. Just make sure you’re offering them some sort of incentive — like a free product or exclusive shop discount code.
  • Guest blogging. There are a variety of blogs on online publications dedicated to the kinds of things sold on Etsy. Reaching out to those sites and offering to write a guest post can be a great way to drive qualified customers to your Etsy shop. For example, let’s say you sell custom pet portraits. Look for pet bloggers or digital publications targeted towards pet parents, and offer to write an article on how to snap the perfect photo for a pet portrait. Then, you can link to your products within the post and drive readers right to your Etsy shop.
  • Leverage your existing customers Your existing customers offer one of the best opportunities to promote your shop and find new customers — if you know how to leverage them. When you’re packaging up a customer’s Etsy order, add a branded business card encouraging them to refer their friends and family and share their new purchase on their social channels. Throw in a few additional surprises (like stickers of your logo, a handwritten thank you note or a branded postcard with a discount code) to sweeten the deal — and make them actually want to share your shop with their friends, family and social media followers.