Are you a craftsperson, craft supplier, or artist who is interested in using Etsy as a virtual storefront for your small business? Have you been looking for a one-stop resource that details the most important aspects of how to market your business on Etsy? If so, then this guide to how to be successful on Etsy is for you.
Before we dive into the details on this topic, we also suggest you check out Insightly, our recommended small business CRM. Insightly is an inexpensive, easy to use, contact and task management system. Visit Insightly to learn more.
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Is Selling on Etsy a Good Choice for Your Business?
Etsy can be a tremendous tool for business marketing and sales. It has been one of the main ways I have used to sell my pottery since launching Rueger Pottery, my small part-time business. Although I have yet to hit it big, Etsy has been a consistent seller for me.
Making sales on Etsy requires consistent effort, so before diving in it’s important to make sure Etsy is right for you and your business. Here are the questions you should ask yourself:
1. Do I have the necessary technological skills to succeed on Etsy?
It is absolutely essential to have at least a basic working knowledge concerning uploading/editing photos, receiving/sending emails, and navigating web pages and drop-down menus. It is fairly intuitive once you have sold on the site for awhile, but the initial learning curve takes a little work.
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2. Do my products/handmade items fit Etsy’s most productive price-point?
Although there are successful Etsy shops whose average item sells for $50 or more, the majority of top Etsy sellers have an average item price of $50 or below. In fact, out of 15 of the top Etsy sites in 2013, 13 had an average price-point of $50 or less.
3. Am I willing to take the time to do all of the preparation, communicating, and packaging/shipping Etsy requires?
The N.Y. Times ran an article in 2009 featuring interviews with several full-time Etsy sellers who revealed that being a success on Etsy comes with a price. Of the sellers interviewed, none worked less than 13 hours a day and several reported working even longer hours.
Although very part-time, I often find myself packaging pottery, doing inventory, and printing invoices during my evenings when I could be spending time on other aspects of my business. For me, the investment of time is worth it to grow my business. However, the same may not be true for you.
How To Be Successful On Etsy: The 3 Most Important Steps
Doing well on Etsy requires more than just adding items to a page. To be successful, you must do three things:
- Create A Connection With Your Clients
- Have Great Photo’s, Enticing Descriptions, and Plenty of Relevant Tags
- Generate Positive Reviews
Here’s how to do each:
No matter how unique your product, there will probably be others on Etsy selling something similar to you. So, how do you set yourself apart and convince customers to choose your shop over another? The answer is branding.
People buy handmade items because they want to invest in someone’s story. They could get a commercial mug that is just as useful for $5 at any chain store. But that mug would not have a story or face behind it. Tell your story, make a connection, and Etsy customers will respond. This is why developing and establishing your brand is so important.
What sets you and your product apart from other sellers, especially those in your same category?
Creating a Connection in Your “About” Section
Your “about” section is one of the main ways a customer gets to know you. A well-developed “about” section should give the customer a window into who you are, not just what you do.
Tell personal stories and describe your motivation
How did you start developing interest in your craft? What steps did you take to develop your expertise? Is there a story behind how you started? If so, tell it! Try to give your potential customer a little glimpse into why you do what you do.
In my “about” section, I explain how my business began with one small decision to take a ceramics course in college. Then, I talk about why I fell in love with pottery and how I hope my pieces can inspire others to appreciate the everyday moments of their lives.
Share Non Product Pictures
Pictures that give insight into your personal story can also be a great way to establish a connection with customers. Amy Neal, co-owner of one of Etsy’s top Ceramic and Pottery Sellers, Neal Pottery, emphasized this during my phone conversation with her.
Amy explained, “They want to see your studio . . . where you work . . . what your dogs look like, anything that makes a personal connection.”
Be Personal In Your Customer Interactions
Customer service, as I explain more in-depth later in this article, is important for many reasons. Here, I just wanted to add that messages,shipping updates, etc. can be a great opportunity to develop a deeper connection with your customers. Instead of simply answering questions, tell them about yourself as well.
I recently did a custom order for a couple’s wedding registry and when messaging them through Etsy, mentioned that my wife and I had just gotten married several months previously. This simple fact gave them extra insight into my life, prompted further conversation and interaction, and deepened their level of investment in my life/business.
2. Presenting Your Product in the Best Possible Light
In a moment, a bad photograph or boring item description can hijack all the hard work you put into developing your brand. Now that you know how to connect with your clients, the next step is to focus on presenting your products at their best.
Here’s how to do it.
When Etsy asked 5 full-time Etsy sellers for their top 10 marketing tips, “Make Your Photo’s ‘Drool-Worthy’” topped the list. This advice is not surprising. Photographs are one of the only ways a potential customer has to gauge the quality of your products. For this reason, good photographs are undoubtedly the most important aspect of product presentation.
Use your pictures to highlight your brand/style
When deciding how to photograph your product, think of the picture as a tool by which to highlight your brand/style. If your “about” section paints you as edgy, make sure your picture does as well. The goal is to convey a consistent message throughout your shop.
Jim, owner of Barnwood4u, one of the top 50 woodwork sellers on Etsy and one of the shops which I interviewed for this piece, uses reclaimed barnwood to make shelves, furniture, and frames. His style is very rustic, natural, and simple. His photographs are taken against a plain white background and his shelves do not have any decor on them. Jim’s brand of earthiness and simplicity is communicated through his photography.
Ask yourself what makes sense for your product. Some products are actually much more compelling visually when they are in use. If you plan on selling jewelry, including a photo where someone is actually wearing the piece might be more compelling than a set of photos where the jewelry is simply displayed on some neutral background or styrofoam model.
Ultimately, there is no “right” way to present your product. Take some test pictures and experiment on your own or with your photographer until you find a setup that complements both your item and your brand.
Shooting Etsy Photos: Professional vs. Do-It-Yourself
You must decide whether you will hire a professional photographer to photograph your work, or whether you are willing to invest the time and money necessary to do-it-yourself.
If you choose to take photographs yourself, expect an initial trial-and-error period. Good pictures take work. However, if you have the time, taking the photos yourself can allow for much more flexibility and experimentation. If you do not like the lighting, you can tweak it. You can try several different backgrounds until you find what fits your work best. In essence, you get unlimited variation at no upfront per shot/by the hour cost.
If purchasing equipment to take high-quality pictures yourself, expect to spend a minimum of $200 for a point-and-shoot setup, to around $600-$1000 plus for higher-end DSLR setups.
There are several helpful blog resources for choosing cameras and equipment that can be found in this article on Choosing A Camera For Product Photos and Etsy Success: The Right Camera. Also, check out Etsy’s Seller’s Handbook, which has many helpful articles on how to do your own photography.
Hiring A Professional
Professional photographers offer several advantages.
First, hiring a professional ensures high-quality photographs of your work. With professional lighting equipment and a studio setting, your photos will look great and be consistent from batch to batch.
Second, hiring a professional frees you up to focus on other aspects of your business such as production and sales.
Professional Photographer Costs & Resources
Professional photographer costs can vary significantly, from around $7-$10 a shot in areas with a higher living wage, to $2-5 a shot elsewhere.
Interesting and Accurate Item Descriptions
Your item description is the place where you verbally engage potential customers. Approach your descriptions as informative conversation. You want to provide basic information, while at the same time maintaining an engaging and interesting tone.
Provide Specific Information
Customers want to know what size of product they are purchasing. Pictures can often be deceiving in scale. For this reason, it is important to include basic information such as height, width, length, holding capacity etc . . . in your posts. The customer can then find an object of their own with similar measurements to get an idea of the actual scale of your piece.
Demonstrate your product’s versatility
Most items have some obvious use or function attached to them. However, many items have multiple uses, many of which your potential buyer may not think of without your guidance. The more things your item can be used for, the more perceived value it holds in the mind of a customer.
For example, a potential customer may see one of my bowls and think, “I could use that for my cereal in the morning.” However, after reading my item description, they will see that it could also be used as a salad bowl, soup bowl, table centerpiece, or candle holder. With each added function, the perceived worth and value of the bowl increases.
Also, be sure to link to similar items and other sections of your shop in each of your listings to increase your overall shop traffic. I always include two links at the bottom of my listings, one to the broader section in which the specific item is found and one to the homepage of my shop, as you can see here.
Etsy’s search system used to feature those items related to the search keywords that had been most recently added. However, Etsy has now switched their system to highlight items which are most relevant to the keywords or phrases searched, regardless of how recently they have been posted.
What this means, is that the days of posting/relisting items in order to appear higher in Etsy search are no more. Instead, it is more important than ever to have item tags that relate to what buyers are searching for.
Use all possible tags for each item
When posting an item, you have the option to input 14 product tags. Be sure to use all 14 in order to increase the likelihood of buyers finding your item.
Repeat keywords in your item title to increase SEO potential
The more a word is repeated in your listing, the more chance someone searching that word on Etsy will end up at your page. Etsy pages also show up in good searches. For instance, if my item title is “Stoneware Mug with Rueger Pottery’s Variegated Blue Glaze,” I might want to include tags such as “Stoneware Mug,” “Blue Mug,” Blue Stoneware Mug,” etc . . .
If any of this sounds tricky, you might consider trying OrangeTwig, a service that streamlines all aspects of social marketing for Etsy. You can schedule posts, run promotions, edit images and more. Click here to try for free.
Reference all possible uses and think in broad categories
At times, it can be hard to think of 14 things related to your product. This is when referring back to your item description can be helpful. What are all the different ways your item can be used? Include keywords related to those uses as tags. Sometimes, the best method for creating effective item tags is to ask yourself: What words would I use if I were searching for an item like mine? Include tags related to your answers.
It is important to think in broader categories as well. If I am listing a serving bowl, anyone looking for a serving bowl has a pretty good potential of seeing my item. However, if I include broader tags such as “home decor,” “centerpiece,” and “interior design,” my potential customer base increases dramatically.
Also, google has a free tool that can help you know what related keywords your possible customers might be using to search for products similar to yours. It is called Keyword Planner and our site explains how to get the most out of the program here.
Rebecca George, a Certified Etsy Educator, also has a good article on tagging that can be found here. She advises creating longer phrases to tap into Etsy’s “relevancy” search system as well as creating tags that ride the wave of holiday trends/searches.
3. How To Get 5 Star Etsy Reviews
Now that you have built your brand and presented your product at its best, it is time to focus on customer satisfaction and service. The truth is, positive reviews drive sales. You may have a compelling brand and great product presentation, but if your customer is unsatisfied with your communication or feels that you are being insensitive to their needs, they will rarely leave a positive review, recommend you to others, or buy from you again.
Here’s how to make sure your customers are happy and leaving you lots of positive reviews.
Prompt, Polite, and Engaging Communication
Customers are going to send you messages with various questions, offers, and requests. It is important, whenever possible, to respond to these messages within one business day or less. This promptness conveys a sense of professionalism and also assures the customer that you value their time and potential business.
There will inevitably be customers that are demanding or rude. It just comes with the territory. However, responding in kind is never helpful. Instead, assure them that you are doing your best to make their experience positive. Be polite, even if you have to refuse a request or say “no” to some custom order.
In a world with next day shipping and Amazon Prime, customers want their product as fast as possible. Shipping quickly is not hard to do and can make a significant difference in a customer’s perception of your business’ professionalism and efficiency.
Many of the most successful Etsy shops ship same day/next day to ensure their products arrive within several days of the customer’s order. An assurance of fast shipping, especially around the holidays, can be the reason a customer chooses to buy from you instead of another shop which may not be as reliable.
I use Priority Mail with USPS. It is relatively affordable (around $8-$12 on average to ship one of my mugs or bowls), offers $50 of complementary insurance, provides a free tracking number, and generally is delivered to your customer within 2-3 business days of drop-off date. In addition, you can estimate shipping costs and even schedule package pick-ups from your door if you invest in the proper equipment (postal scale, etc . . .).
Our site has a great resource that discusses the pros and cons of several high-profile shipping services that can be found here.
Following Up with Customers
A completed and shipped sale does not necessarily mean your job is done. Following up with customers can be a good way to stay connected and receive some valuable feedback. Several days after I know my product should have arrived, I often send a quick message just checking with the customer to make sure everything is to their satisfaction.
If a customer is satisfied with my product and service, I may ask them if they are willing to submit a shop review for their transaction. Etsy sends messages to remind buyers to leave feedback, but often for me, it is the personal interaction which actually prompts the buyer to follow through and submit a review. However, as Jim of barnwood4u reminded me in our phone conversation, it is important not to come across as pushy. The goal is to walk a fine line between badgering and negligence.
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Putting It All Together
If you have a great product to sell on Etsy and implement the principles outlined in this article, your digital storefront will have a strong foundation upon which to flourish and grow.
If you have questions along the way I am here to help. Drop me a comment in the comments section below.